Can a priest carry a handgun?

There’s certainly no hard and fast rule in any Church documents that doesn’t allow priests to carry guns. Just as there’s not one that says priests can’t carry a bow and arrow either. But prudential judgment is what is called for here.

The question to ask ourselves is, “Does a priest need a gun to protect himself where there is a lot of violence — in an inner city, let’s say?” The further question is, “Would the gun actually cause undue harm in a situation and bring more violence into the situation than is necessary to subdue an enemy or to protect the general public?” In the general state of daily affairs, does the priest need to carry a handgun to defend himself? Probably not. Could carrying one actually do more harm? Perhaps.

A priest friend I know was shot at several times when he served in a parish in Camden, New Jersey, which is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. Had he carried a gun and wielded it he probably would have been killed quickly.

Many folks will point to the scripture verse “an eye for an eye” as proof that God allows us to defend ourselves (and perhaps favors capital punishment) but the law was written to place serious limits on how one might defend oneself. Often people would respond disproportionately to violence in society. Like, taking the life of someone when they merely injured one of their family members. So the law states that we can take no more than an eye for an eye.

And what would the symbol of the priesthood look like if priests openly started toting guns along with their clerical collars? Priests are looked upon as trusted individuals, and therefore carrying a sidearm may indeed disrupt that much needed trust in the priest’s relationship with his flock, which includes everyone in the area, even criminals and prisoners.

All of this said, the right to bear arms in the United States was put forth to defend ourselves against unlawful aggressors, perhaps a government gone seriously awry. The movie Machine Gun Preacher touches on these themes in relation to the suffering of the people of Sudan. The church, at times, has been at the heart of revolution when unjust aggressors prey upon people who are unable to defend themselves and priests have needed at times to take up arms when peaceful methods have not been able to resolve the conflict — such as priests who served as Army chaplains in World War II.

from Mike Hayes and the Busted Halo Question Box.