The Rights and Duty of Catholics to bear arms

by Br. Alexis Bugnolo

Our Lord Jesus Christ teaches explicitly that Christians have the right to bear arms. Nay, He not only teaches we have a right, He instructs us that it is our duty. He does this on the very night He was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, so as to teach us not to misinterpret His willingness to be Crucified, as an unreasonable renunciation of natural right to self defense or unreasonable submission to unjust authority.

The words of Our Most High and Divine Lord are these, and you find them in the Gospel of Saint Luke, chapter 22, verse 36: I quote from the Douay Rheims translation of the Clementine Vulgate:

But now he that hath a purse, let him take it, and likewise a scrip; and he that hath not, let him sell his coat, and buy a sword.

These words, Our Lord said to the Apostles. Thus they are understood immediately in reference to the Sacred Hierarchy, that they have the right to defend themselves and thus to bear arms. But by extension, since Christ’s sacred representatives should be men of peace and reconciliation, if they have the right and duty to bear arms, then all the more so, all other members of the Church.

This is not why the Church is called the Church Militant. That title refers to our spiritual struggle against the forces of darkness, which as Saint Paul reminds us, are spirits not men.

But this is why, we need to understand rightly how much true Catholic doctrine differs from what the Marxists and Secularists want us to understand it to be. Indeed, the fear non-Christians have of these words of Jesus is evident over at Wikipedia, which has an entire article on Luke 22:36 to attempt to convince you to be a pacifist and interpret the words of Jesus as not having to do with physical armaments. And they laughably try to convince you that Pope Boniface VIII would support such an idea.

The Natural Right to bear arms

Every living thing has the right to defend it’s life. This is a law of nature. It is said to be a law because it is in the very order of the created world, that we can see that living organisms defend themselves. Since non-rational beings cannot sin, their self defense cannot be a sin. And since God endowed them with a means of and or instinct for self-defense, their doing so must be part of the law which He wrote in the natural order of things.

Consequently, since man is a rational being capable of artifice, he can make tools and instruments for self-defense and use them for that purpose. Thus every man, as an individual, has the right to make and bear arms.

I will speak, below, about bearing arms, for brevity sake, but please understand me in regard to the manufacture, bearing and use of arms, since the right or duty to each implies the duty or right to each.

The Natural Duty to bear arms

Every individual human being lives by the gift of God, the Author of all life. This gift of life is a gift, and thus must be protected. We cannot licitly ignore this duty. Thus every individual human being, has not only the right to self defense but the duty to defend himself. And when this requires the use of arms, he does well to use them and is obliged to use them, except in those cases where to testify to the faith, he submits to those who hate Christ so as to win the crown of Martyrdom. Yet this is by special inspiration, not something to be sought out. Because to be a Martyr you have to be willing to forgive your enemies who put you to death. And that is a very rare grace among those who are unjustly put to death.

This duty becomes even more obligatory when a human being has the duty to protect others, such as children, parents, the weak or the innocent who are defenseless. It is also a graver duty when the society to which one belongs is threatened as a community. Because according to the natural law we owe collaboration in self defense of our own, by ties of affinity, blood, society, and alliances.

The Divine Right and Duty of Christians to Bear arms

A Christian, therefore, on account of his membership in the Mystical Body of Christ, by Baptism, is bound to defend not only his own life, but the lives and faith of all Christians, when they are threatened unjustly or out of hatred to the Faith or out of hatred of Christ. This is a fundamental duty of the Communion of Saints here on Earth.

While many Catholics have strong habits of prayer for fellow Catholics and Christians who are persecuted, few of us realize that our duty goes much beyond prayer.

For this reason, the right and duty to bear arms for Catholics regards himself, his family, his relatives, his parishioners, all Catholics everywhere, the Church, the clergy, and all who are persecuted out of hatred of Jesus Christ.

For this reason, it is more accurate to speak of the Rights and Duty, than of the right and duty, because by Faith and the teaching of Our Lord, this Duty encompases many persons and therefore the right to act in each case has its own species of justification.

Those who deny that Catholics have the right and duty to bear and use and manufacture arms are simply heretics, and should be regarded as such, because they deny the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ. They should also be regarded as cowards and mad, since they are attempting to counter common sense and subject the Church to the wicked of this world.

When to exercise your Rights and fulfill your Duty

The right and duty to self defense obviously exist at all times, but the actions which flow to fulfill or execute this right and duty arises only when a threat is perceived.

It is important to note that I say, when a threat is perceived, not when a threat arises. This is because when a threat arises, there may not be time sufficient to procure the instruments of your self defense. Of course one must use this principle sanely. A paranoid can certainly fear many things to excess and build himself a military bunker and arm himself to the teeth and think he is justified in that. But his excessive fear causes him to go to an excess, which may actually be dangerous to himself or others, financially as well as physically, even if it must be conceded that he is not acting without or in violation of his rights or in neglect of his duty.

The use of arms, however, can only be in accord with one’s rights and duty when the threat exists and when the use is capable to thwarting the threat and when it is required to do so.

Thus, in times in which the civil authorities or the State are sufficiently controlling the threat against oneself or ones family or the innocent, a private individual has no necessity to resort to the use of arms. But when the government fails in this, or when the civil authorities themselves threaten the lives or liberty of the individual or public or the Church, then an individual and indeed the whole society has the right to use and organize for the use of such rights.

Indeed, it becomes the grave duty of everyone to resist their own enslavement or their persecution for being Catholic or acting or worshiping as a Catholic. For this reason, the mere fact that the leaders of your nation are your legitimate rulers, by law, does not give them the right to enslave you. And any attempt to do so is a grave and imminent threat.

Just War Theory

Under the name, “Just War theory”, Catholics for centuries have discussed the moral question of when it is licit for a sovereign power to begin hostilities. There has to exist a just motive: that is a grave threat of hostilities or the grave violation of the order of justice, already perpetrated. There has to be a good probability of victory. There has to be due use of force, not excessive nor insufficient, directed against combatants, not the civilian population. The Moral Law must be observed in all matters during the conduct of hostilities.

Unlike secular concepts of just war, the Catholic concept allows for pre-emptory actions, because the purpose of a just war, in Catholic teaching, is to restore the order of justice, and as soon as unjust men begin to prepare for war, a Catholic power can intervene to reduce them to submission, because it is never just that unjust men bear arms capable of harming others. Obviously, in such cases, prior unjust actions must have been perpetrated.

But just war theory in Catholic teaching requires a complete understanding of that in which justice consists, for it is easy to justify an action on the basis of a partial review of information, facts, motives or goals. For this reason, while non-Catholic nations are capable of engaging in just wars, they often fail to do so justly, because they ignore the teachings of Jesus Christ in principle and a priori, that is, before all other considerations are made.

For this reason, Catholic teaching would disagree fundamentally with many of the so-called Rules of Engagement used against terrorists. We can see this in the decision by Pope Sixtus V to put to death 5,000 individuals as brigands, who were found in the possession of arms, on Papal roads, after, inan extraordinary decree to suppress brigandage, he forbade under pain of death the bearing of arms on the road. His ban was only for a time, but during that time all who violated were arrested and executed as brigands. Thus, we can see from this example, that sufficient advance notice to all is sufficient grounds to regard those bearing arms in a war zone or terrorist zone, as combatants. An actual, live use of force is not the only rational basis to determine a threat.

Moreover, there can be just wars even by Catholic powers against Catholic powers, not because our Faith has nothing to do with war, but because being Catholic does not guarantee that you are just in all things. Likewise, there can be just wars by a Catholic power to a rebellious province or region, when that rebellion threatens the Catholic Faith or the stability of the state, and is not based on just cause but on brigandage and treachery.

Finally, I have written this essay for the edification of the faithful, not because I am either in favor or opposed to the use of arms, but simply because it is a topic upon which nearly no clergy speak, and in which so many clergy speak contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, or against the natural law.

____________

CREDITS: The Featured Image above is a statue of Saint Louis IX, King of France and leader of the Seventh and Eighth Crusades, for the defense of Christendom against Muslims powers in Egypt and Tunisia which threatened Christians in the Holy Land and Christian maritime commerce and traffic in the Mediterranean.

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