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A Reply to Eric Metaxas’ “Letter to the American Church”

Pope Francis: Ban All Weapons

Today on Twitter, the head of the Roman Catholic Church called for a ban on all weapons. Pope Francis asserted that the mere presence of weapons makes us constantly live in fear of war. 

Other Popes have acknowledged that weapons do indeed create a certain environment of fear. Church leaders have called for bans on certain types on weapons, such as nuclear weapons, but none have called for an outright ban on all weapons. The naiveté of this comment is pretty remarkable for several reasons. Surely, in an ideal world weapons would not be needed as humans would live in peace. But, the Pope's comment, taken alone, neglects to recognize the spiritual warfare that rages in mankind's hearts in the battle against the devil. It is ultimately mankind's failure in this struggle that creates the bloodshed and destruction found in the world today. 

In 1982, Pope John Paul II addressed this two front battle in a speech to the United Nations calling for a peaceful ban on all nuclear weapons. 

From Pope John Paul II:

"To reverse the current trend in the arms race involves, therefore, a parallel struggle on two fronts: on the one side, an immediate and urgent struggle by governments to reduce progressively and equally their armaments; on the other hand, a more patient but nonetheless necessary struggle at the level of the consciences of peoples to take their responsibility in regard to the ethical cause of the insecurity that breeds violence by coming to grips with the material and spiritual inequalities of our world. With no prejudice of any kind, let us unite all our intellectual and spiritual forces, those of statesmen, of citizens, of religious leaders, to put an end to violence and hatred and to seek out the paths of peace."

Sadly, half-baked comments like the tweet today have become par for the course for Pope Francis. Not only is it pretty bad advice, but it actually undermines the Catholic Church's Catechism. The Catechism, the official teaching of the Church, acknowledges there are certain times when war is justified. The Catechism obviously gives principles for avoiding war, but 2309 recognizes self-defense is sometimes needed. 

From the Catechism:

Avoiding war

2307 The fifth commandment forbids the intentional destruction of human life. Because of the evils and injustices that accompany all war, the Church insistently urges everyone to prayer and to action so that the divine Goodness may free us from the ancient bondage of war.105

2308 All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war.

However, "as long as the danger of war persists and there is no international authority with the necessary competence and power, governments cannot be denied the right of lawful self-defense, once all peace efforts have failed."106

2309 The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

- the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;

- all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;

- there must be serious prospects of success;

- the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

Furthermore, how exactly would this ban be enforced? Would the United Nations oversee the destruction of all weapons with weapons of their own? Then would this world power be entrusted to willingly destroy their own weapons? Banning all weapons is such a preposterous suggestion it is not even worth going down the rabbit hole trying to figure out the logistics of it. 

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