Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Fr Z and his guns

A well regulated militia
Now, I'm a fan of Fr Z's. I'll happily sit and read his insightful and often witty commentaries which clearly come from an ordinary man living out an extraordinary vocation and a man who cares not only for his immediate flock but for all Catholics across the world. Fr Z is a good egg.

Last night I was strolling around Facebook and came across Piers Morgan using the worn journalist tactic of interviewing not only a nutter on his CNN programme last night, but a moronic nutter called Alex Jones and presenting the ensuring charade as the extent of reasoned debate from the gun lobby. There seems to be some debate as to who won the argument. If anyone is really wondering, Piers Morgan did. Jones came across precisely as mental as he is, egged on by Morgan. His threats of insurrection if legislation was passed to confiscate his guns, his panic at being quoted statistics, talking about great white sharks and chimpanzees, his infantile immitation of Morgan's accent and, at Morgan's behest, his promotion of 9/11 conspiracy theories. As a Brit, used to unarmed police officers, I don't understand all this love of violent weapons or why the USA haven't long got rid of a piece of legislation whose consequences can so clearly be horrific whilst bearing such little benefit. I understand nutcases like Jones supporting it, but not Fr Z who seems determined to defend the largely free availability of leathan weaponry despite his iron strong and profoundly rooted faith.

The second ammendement to the US constitution states
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
The first thing to note of course is that it is an ammendement, that there's nothing intrinsically wrong with changing the constitution. The second thing to look at is what it actually says, it's justification for permitting weapons is that it is necessary for the defence of the State to have armed civilians. It goes without saying that there is no need for a militia in the United States today and The Economist points out that civilian militias are not a viable means of defence anyway and that historically when they could have been used they simply did not form. I am assuming that Fr Z is not a chaplain to such a milita and if he were presumably he would the non-combatant role appropriate to his state of life. The second amendement has been amended before by the ruling in District of Columbia vs Heller (554 U.S. 570; 2008) in which your Supreme Court found the membership of a militia to be unnecessary.

If we may now turn specifically to Fr Z and glace at the Code of Canon law
Can. 285 §1.Clerics are to refrain completely from all those things which are unbecoming totheir state, according to the prescripts of particular law.
§2. Clerics are to avoid those things which,although not unbecoming, are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state.
And taking the Hermeneutic of Continuity to heart, one must look backwards to the 1917 Code to establish what those things might be, notable amongst them being
Can 138. Clerics are to refrain from all things that are inappropriate to their state, specifically: ... they may not carry arms, except when their is just cause.
My latin's not great so I'm very open to correction. I do not think that there are yet places in the US where there is just cause to carry a life preserver, that is to say a place where you are more likely than not to have your life put at risk. I know there are plenty of examples of clerics bearing weapons, Bishop Odo at the Battle of Hastings notable amongst them. If one accepts that it was appropriate for Odo to ride into battle, the obvious difference between him and Fr Z, who is applying for his concealed carry license, is that Odo was riding into battle and Fr Z is walking down his local street. In one situation there is an immediate and present danger of death and so there is just cause, in the other there is this low level, largely perceived rather than actual, danger of street violence. I'm not saying there's no danger in the latter, but it's far from being just cause.

Bishop Odo not strolling down Hastings High Street
If it is enemies from within Fr Z is afraid of, such as a government bent on oppressing religious liberties, we in the UK know all about that and celebrate the failure of Catholics in taking up arms against their oppressors each year on November 5th.

Of course what this really has little to do with the good father's clerical state, but his life as a Christian. Jesus was clear on what he expected of his disciples. We can wrap ourselves up in discussions of Canon law and the historical precedents for or against this, but at the end of the day, the line that "guns don't kill, people do" is a nonesense and therefore people should not be allowed to carry guns.

In this country we had the Dunblaine massacre and that shocked us into legislative action. In America, time after time we witness murder on a scale that should make one stop and do something, but each time the gun lobby demonstrate the sinfulness of laissez faire capitalism as they pour their great wealth into stopping any legislation for reform. The current proposed legislation to ban high calibre large magazine assault weapons does not go nearly far enough. That those sorts of weapons are permitted demonstrates blatant disregard on the part of the lobby funded legislators for the safety of their people. If the reformers thought it stood a chance of getting through a vote, I'm sure they would like to take the sensible step of confiscating all weapons from more or less everyone apart from farmers like we have in the UK. I have not quite a handful of friends who own firearms and every single one of them went to the same school and it is unusual that I know as many people who own firearms as I do. They use them for recreational purposes, ie game shooting, but they have a police officer visit them each year to inspect the gun, its secure cabinet and their continued suitability to own such a weapon. They are not allowed to own concealable weapons and the most rounds their guns can fire without reloading is two. We don't have a big gun crime problem in the country.

Piers Morgan last night quoted a figure of 35 gun murders last year in the UK, which scaled up to the population of the USA is around 174.1. In the USA, there were in fact (according to Alex Jones) 11,458 gun murders. Eleven thousand four hundred and fifty eight. In 2010 the UN Office on Drugs and Crime calculated that the 67.5% of murders in the USA were perpetrated with firearms. This isn't a small problem. When discussing abortion with people, I often end up asking them if they think a parent's right to chose their lifestyle trumps the unborn baby's right to life. Now I don't know how Americans derive their right to bear arms now that the necissity of a militia has vanished, but does their supposed right to do so trump the right to life of those many thousands of people who are murdered each year as a result of the proliferation of firearms in that country?

Incidentally, Fr Z is masterminding a campaign called the @Pontifex Tuesday Project, whereby each Tuesday he invites us to share our prayers for the Holy Father on Twitter. Well worth joining in considering all the abuse being flung at him there. Also, credit where it's due, the canon law references were borrowed from a comment by "ZadoktheRoman" on Fr Z's blog.

Oh. And surely. Surely. There are better reasons to deport Piers Morgan than his stance on the Second Amendement. Surely.


  1. I don't like your comments calling people nutters, which is not Christian. Nor do I like Fr. Z's post on his day with the SWAT team. I find it disturbing that a Priest would post such an item on his blog and I wasn't the only one who felt this way. God bless you.

    1. Thanks for the comment. Did you get a chance to look at the video? "Nutter" may not be the most charitable term, but that is the way he comes across.