Monday, July 23, 2012

Words of wisdom from The One True Church®

I’m going to comment on this post:

Here’s some background on the writer (from his Huffington Post profile):

The Rev. James Martin, S.J. is a Jesuit priest, the culture editor of America magazine and author of numerous books, including The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. He is also the author of My Life with the Saints (over 100,000 copies sold), which Publishers Weekly named one of the Best Books of 2006. Father Martin is a frequent commentator in the national and international media, and has appeared in such diverse venues as NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross, Fox TV’s The O’Reilly Factor, PBS’s The Newshour with Jim Lehrer, Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, as well as in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, the History Channel, BBC and Vatican Radio. Before entering the Jesuits in 1988 he graduated from the Wharton School of Business and worked with General Electric for several years.

Now for his statements:

That is why I believe that gun control is a religious issue.

I agree. Everything is ultimately a religious issue.

 It is as much of a “life issue” or a “pro-life issue,” as some religious people say, as is abortion, euthanasia or the death penalty (all of which I am against), and programs that provide the poor with the same access to basic human needs as the wealthy (which I am for).  There is a "consistent ethic of life" that views all these issues as linked, because they are.

To say the death penalty is analogous to abortion and euthanasia is an argument from analogy minus the argument.

And, historically, the church of Rome supported the death penalty. As far as I know, it was only around the last quarter of the 20C that the church of Rome did an about-face on the death penalty.

All of these issues, at their heart, are about the sanctity of all human life, no matter who that person is, no matter at what stage of life that person is passing through, and no matter whether or not we think that the person is "deserving" of life.

i) That’s another argument from analogy minus the argument. To say killing an assailant in self-defense, or to protect innocents, is comparable to abortion or euthanasia, is morally obtuse. This erases the fundamental distinction between guilt and innocence.

ii) And even Catholicism permits the taking of innocent life in double effect cases­. How much more a homicidal assailant?

The Bible doesn’t treat every life as sacrosanct. Every human being does not deserve to live. You can forfeit your prima facie right to life by wrongfully endangering (or taking) the lives of others.

iii) BTW, this blind moral equivalence is probably one source of the priestly abuse scandal. Treating the sexual predator and his victim as equally deserving of our mercy and sympathy.

These shootings would not have happened if the shooter did not have such easy access to firearms and ammunition.

Is that true? The perpetrator is said to be an exceptionally intelligent, scientifically trained postgraduate student. Surely he’s quite resourceful.

So religious people need to be invited to meditate on the connection between the more traditional "life issues" and the overdue need for stricter gun control. The oft-cited argument, "Guns don't kill people, people do," seems unconvincing. Of course people kill people; as people also procure abortions, decide on euthanasia and administer the death penalty.

What overlooks the obvious fact that guns save lives as well as take lives.

The Christian outlook on this of course has less to do with self-defense and more to do with the defense of the other person. Jesus asks us to love our enemies, not to murder them; to pray for them, not to take vengeance; and he commends the peacemakers among us, not those advocating for more and more and more weapons.

i) Protecting the innocent isn’t vengeance.

ii) Jesus also said Christians have a duty to provide for their family. For instance, when the Pharisees gave Jews a loophole to avoid supporting their indigent parents, Jesus said that violated their solemn duty to honor their parents.

Well, if failing to provide financial support for your indigent parents breaks the commandment, then a fortiori, failing to protect them against a rapist, mugger, or murderer qualifies. And that surely applies to other dependents.

iii) Lethal force in self-defense, or to protect the innocent, isn’t “murder.” The priest is subverting fundamental principles of justice and morality.

iv) If I protect an old woman from a mugger, the mugger is her enemy, not mine.

Was Jesus naïve? I wonder about that. I often marvel how some Christians can say that in one breath, and proclaim him as the Son of God in the next. Apparently, some believe that the Second Person of the Trinity didn't know what he was talking about.

That’s just a defamatory and demagogical strawman argument.

But Jesus lived in a violent time himself, under the heel of Roman rule in an occupied land, when human life was seen as cheap. Jesus witnessed violence and was himself the victim of violence--the most famous person to suffer the death penalty. It was not only divine inspiration but also human experience that led him to say: Blessed are the peacemakers.

Unilateral disarmament wouldn’t save lives. To the contrary, that’s an act of mass suicide. An open invitation to the criminal element to wreak untold mayhem and bloodshed on the defenseless.

This is one more reason not to be Catholic. The church of Rome can’t provide basic moral guidance on an issue this basic. Indeed, it is giving the wrong advice.


  1. This is one more reason not to be Catholic. The church of Rome can’t provide basic moral guidance on an issue this basic. Indeed, it is giving the wrong advice.

    You shouldn't be a Catholic, because a Jesuit favors gun control? Really, this is a reason?

    Steve, c'mon. Is it impossible for some particular Catholic to do something wrong or hold a wrong opinion, and for that not to somehow work into a "and THIS, ladies and gentlemen, is one more reason not to be Catholic" move? I mean, would a pro-gun-rights Catholic count as a reason to BE Catholic?

    At this point I half expect you to pull something like "Conan O'Brien isn't very funny. Is he Catholic? Because if so, ONE MORE REASON NOT TO BE CATHOLIC." And to mean it! That level of insanity.

    To the contrary, that’s an act of mass suicide. An open invitation to the criminal element to wreak untold mayhem and bloodshed on the defenseless.

    Also, holy hell. You need some more hyperbole over there? I am strongly in favor of gun rights. I reject idiotic attempts to limit people's right to possess handguns, to force them to register, I'm in favor of stand your ground laws. But this sort of thing is just going over the edge.

    Look at Australia. They passed some draconian gun control laws. They were a stupid plan, and haven't helped much with their crime situation, by their own records. But it didn't turn Australia into a Mad Max style place. It just trampled their rights. You'd be better off saying it's an open invitation to the government to wreak mayhem, if they see fit.

    Really, the guy's argument was easy to take apart, but you blew it because you've got this whole "Man do I hate the Catholic Church" thing going on, to the point where it blinds you. Granted, not to the sociopathic levels it hits Bugay, but still.

    1. Crude -- do you realize that 6115 priests were accused of sexual abuse. These are the ones reported by the Bishops. The accusations were made by 16,324 different victims. Fewer than 2% of the accusations were found not to be credible.

      And yet, as you read such documents as the report from the Philadelphia Grand Jury, they note, "the Archdiocese's 'handling' of the abuse scandal was at least as immoral as the abuse itself. The evidence before us established that Archdiocese officials at the highest levels received reports of abuse; that they chose not to conduct any meaningful investigation of those reports; that they left dangerous priests in place or transferred them to different parishes as a means of concealment; that they never alerted parents of the dangers posed by these offenders (who typically went out of their way to be friendly and helpful, especially with children); that they intimidated and retaliated against victims and witnesses who came forward about abuse; that they manipulated "treatment" efforts in order to create a false impression of action; and that they did many of these things in a conscious effort simply to avoid civil liability….But the biggest crime of all is this: it worked."

      This is an organization that went to the mat to protect itself, come what may. I'm not the one who's the sociopath here.

  2. Crude, I may be missing it, but it seems to me that the reason not to be a Catholic was, as stated, because "The church of Rome can’t provide basic moral guidance on an issue this basic." Thus, sans "basic moral guidance on an issue this basic" we have guys like Martin promulgating his, as you admit, lame and weak arguments that, *were the Church to provide* "basic moral guidance on this basic issue," would constrain Martin from popping off in this, as you admit, morally ignorant and foolish way. Now, assuming I'm right (unless Steve is saying Martin is "the church of Rome"), the argument has a stronger bite than your reconstruction; which perhaps you could have interacted with in an interesting way, but you blew it because you've got this whole "Man do I hate protestants" thing going on—or is it just Steve Hays, or perhaps it's Bugay, and badly misinterpreted the claim. But as I said, I could be wrong . . .

  3. > "And even Catholicism permits the taking of innocent life in double effect cases­"

    Lock down for a wave of combox hits (probably not Crude, I concede, who has his [?] own distinctive take on these things) pointing out that in the Catholic version[*] of double effect, allowing something, even increasing the likelihood of it, is really really really morally different from desiring it, even if you don't lift a finger to increase the likelihood of it occurring.

    [*] True, if the Catholic version of double effect were applied consistently to all areas of bioethics, it would allow practices with the same end result as euthanasia (not, needless to say, called by that name) where the same end is achieved, not by lethal injection, but by placing food and water by a sick person's bed while they are asleep, then taking it away before they wake up.

  4. The fact that the RC has done an "about face" on the death penalty is hand-in-glove with the about face they have done on abortion. The simple fact, documented by several Roman Catholic scholars is that Rome actually supported abortion and was either silent or acquiesced in contraception as late as the 19th century. One has only to read Noonan or Dobrowski and Deltette for the documentation.

    Can diametrically opposed dogmas, promoted by the Magisterium "protected from all error" be reason enough not to be Catholic? It was for me.


    1. Constantine, can you give us some titles on Noonan or Dobrowski and Deltette? Maybe a selection or two?

  5. Anecdotally, here in Sydney there are heaps of hooligans as well as gangs with guns. It's not terribly out of the ordinary to see local news reports of people getting shot.

    Recently police found a massive gun import ring as well.

    And the pro-gun Shooters and Fishers Party (which is a political party akin to Democrats or Republicans) have held or maybe hold seats in Parliament.