In a forthcoming book, Pope Francis bemoans the record-setting pace of gun sales in the United States, calling it a symptom of a “violent, unstable society” that threatens to unleash anarchy, authoritarianism, or maybe both at the same time.
The Washington Examiner‘s Nicholas Rowan reports that Francis’ comments are part of a broader warning against the “hyperinflation of the individual” in his new book Let Us Dream: The Path to a Better Future, which is set to be released next month. Ironically, the book’s publisher calls the new manifesto a “call to arms” even as the Pope calls for the voluntary disarming of gun owners.
Francis historically has been critical of gun manufacturing and sales, saying in 2015 that the people who make guns and call themselves Christians may be guilty of “hypocrisy.” Francis in 2019 condemned gun violence in the U.S. after a rash of shootings throughout the country.
Francis, amid reports earlier this year of rising gun sales, on Twitter called for world leaders to “dismantle the perverse logic that links personal and national security to the possession of weaponry.”
“This logic serves only to increase the profits of the arms industry, while fostering a climate of distrust and fear between persons and peoples,” he wrote.
Okay, I realize the ecclesiastical danger in calling the Pope a hypocrite, but I’m going to do it anyway. If Francis truly does believe that world leaders should divest themselves of the notion that the possession of weapons leads to greater security, why are the Vatican’s Swiss Guards still armed to the hilt with state-of-the-art weaponry that civilians in the United States can’t legally own? That guy in what appears to be a clown suit in the picture above? He’s a member of the Swiss Guards too, but not all of the guardsmen wear 16th century outfits and carry around ceremonial halberds.
The Swiss Guard in their function as close protection officers is equipped with the SIG Sauer P220 pistol and the SIG SG 550 rifle. Both weapons are in use by the Swiss Army. As recruits to the Swiss Guard must have passed basic military training in Switzerland, they are already familiar with these weapons when they begin their service. The pepper spray used by the Swiss Army (RSG-2000) is also in use. The plainclothes close protection officers are reportedly issued a Glock 19 pistol and Heckler & Koch MP7 submachine gun.
If you’ve got your own personal protection squad of bodyguards equipped with automatic weapons, you really shouldn’t complain about a mom buying a pistol to protect herself and her children. That’s one of the things that Francis doesn’t seem to get about gun ownership; for many of us, it’s not about the inflation of the self but about our desire to protect the ones we love.
Is it un-Christian of me to put the safety of my children above the security of the guy breaking into my home? I’d say it’s no more sacrilegious than having my own personal army designed to protect me and kill my attackers, which is the primary mission of the members of the Swiss Guards, which have served as the papal protection unit since 1506.
As Dave Kopel, research director for the Independence Institute noted in a piece called “Is The Best Defense A Good Book,” Jesus himself commanded his apostles to sell their cloaks and buy a sword before they set off to spread the gospel. When the apostles displayed two swords to him, Jesus replied “It is enough” (Luke 22:35-38).
Jesus was not setting up a rule that every apostle must carry a sword (or a purse or a bag). For the eleven, two swords were “enough.” The broader point being made by Jesus was that the apostles would, after Jesus was gone, have to take care of their own worldly needs to some degree. The moneybag, the knapsack (generally used to carry clothing and food) and the sword (generally used for protection against the robbers who preyed on travelers, including missionaries, in the open country between towns) are all examples of tools used to take care of such needs.
This passage does show that two of the apostles carried swords while they were following Jesus. And rather significantly, the disciples may have been violating the sword control laws, as many of the earliest readers of the Book of Luke would have known. Roman law forbade the Jews and other subject people to carry swords.
2000 years later the gun has replaced the sword as the preferred means of self-defense, but the principle still remains. As a Christian, I do believe it’s my duty to love my neighbors and even my enemies, but I don’t believe that requires me to turn myself or my family into willing victims for those who would do us harm. I’m a peacemaker by nature and intent, but I’m not a pacifist.
If Pope Francis believes me to be a hypocrite or a sinner because I own firearms for self-defense, so be it, but as long as he remains secure behind men who are ready to kill to save his own life, I don’t think that he’s in a position to cast any stones.