Just what is the Catholic teaching on guns & gun control?

Although there was a time when the old men at a local gun club used to flatter my dad by telling him that I was a better shot than any of the boys in my 4-H club, I am not a gun enthusiast.

Nevertheless, as a Catholic theologian, I am troubled by accounts suggesting that Catholics who don’t support the U.S. bishops on gun control are akin to Catholics who disagree with fundamental moral teachings like contraception, abortion and marriage.

Read more here.


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  • Michael F.

    Dear Pia,

    I read this article at the NCRegister as well. I think it’s very well done. But I have one concern.

    You wrote, “I am troubled by accounts suggesting that Catholics who don’t support the U.S. bishops on gun control are akin to Catholics who disagree with fundamental moral teachings like contraception, abortion and marriage.”

    What evidence do we have that “the U.S. Bishops” are unified on this position?

    I ask because I spent a fair amount of time correcting the misimpression that “the U.S. bishops” had condemned Paul Ryan’s budget before the election last year). In fact, “the U.S. Bishops” did not condemn that budget. It was essentially one U.S. Bishop and a committee of non-bishop involved. Later, other bishops came out in defense of Ryan.

    Thank you.

    • Pia


      I think you raise a very good point. I doubt every US Bishop supports/ed the legislation, but the US Conference of Catholic Bishops was speaking as if they represented all the Bishops; do note this piece by Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, spokesperson for the USCCB in the WAPost.

  • Michael F.

    Dear Pia,

    The same could be said of the USCCB’s letter criticizing the Ryan budget. And with all due respect to Sr. Mary Ann Walsh, she has no real authority, either. You’ll even note that the document to which she referred is entitled, “Testimony Submitted for the Record On **behalf of** the

    United States Conference of Catholic Bishops”

    The reason I’m still pursuing this with you is because when by describing a letter from the USCCB as being the teaching “of the U.S. bishops” you’ve imbued that document (and the USCCB in general) with an authority that it does not actually possess. The USCCB is not synonymous with “the U.S. bishops”. It has no magisterial authority unless what it teaches is either a) unanimously approved by the U.S. bishops or b) formally approved by 2/3 of the U.S. bishops and then receives a recognition of the Apostolic See.

    When the USCCB issues a document like this, it’s also important to remember that individual bishops may tend to reflexively support it initially. But when pressed to consider it more carefully and fully – as they would have to when being required to actually *vote* on it – they may come to a different conclusion.

    JPII taught the following in Apostolos Suos about bishops conferences:

    “In order that the doctrinal declarations of the Conference of Bishops referred to in No. 22 of the present Letter may constitute authentic magisterium and be published in the name of the Conference itself, they must be unanimously approved by the Bishops who are members, or receive the recognitio of the Apostolic See if approved in plenary assembly by at least two thirds of the Bishops belonging to the Conference and having a deliberative vote.”


    “No body of the Episcopal Conference, outside of the plenary assembly, has the power to carry out acts of authentic magisterium. The Episcopal Conference cannot grant such power to its Commissions or other bodies set up by it.”


    And here is what Cardinal Ratzinger taught on the subject:

    “The decisive new emphasis on the role of the bishops is in reality restrained or actually risks being smothered by the insertion of bishops into episcopal conferences that are ever more organized, often with burdensome bureaucratic structures. We must not forget that the episcopal conferences have no theological basis, they do not belong to the structure of the Church, as willed by Christ, that cannot be eliminated; they have only a practical, concrete function.” (The Ratzinger Report, 59-61)

    As such, it would be very helpful to make this clear in your article. The way you are describing the teaching from Bishop Blaire and his committee helps to imbue the error you’re trying to correct with more weight and authority than it actually possesses.

    God bless.