Details, via NCR:
A retired Catholic school teacher is protesting how a small Catholic church in rural Wisconsin has been the site of an annual gun show that includes the sale of assault rifles and handguns.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Muscoda, Wisconsin, is one of four communities that make up the Corpus Christi Parish in the Madison Diocese. An unused school building owned by the church has been the location of the village’s annual Muscoda Gun Show.
According to Brent King, director of communications for the Diocese of Madison, the event was started “a number of pastors ago.” NCR found online advertisements for the event going back to 2016.
The gun show has angered Paul Wysocki, a local Catholic, who argues it counters church teaching against violence.
Wysocki, a retired Catholic school teacher, learned of the event a few years ago through a bulletin posted in a restaurant. Wysocki told NCR he “couldn’t believe it” when he realized church property was being used to sell firearms.
In the years since, Wysocki has sent letters voicing his concern to multiple bishops around the country and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“When a Catholic Church hosts a gun show, what is the message that is being sent from that Catholic Church and the Catholic Church in general?” he wrote to the bishops’ conference in 2017.
A few readers on social media took objection to this event. It’s interesting to note that Catholic moral teaching is silent on the issue of gun ownership. CNA offered this story last year:
Fr. Thomas Petri, OP, a moral theologian and professor at Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception at the Dominican House of Studies, told CNA that the issue of gun control is one that is not definitively settled in Church teaching, in terms of exactly what practical policies to enact.
“It’s important to say that firearms…are something relatively modern in the life of the Church and the history of the Church. The Church tends to think in terms of centuries and not in years,” he said.
While Church teaching does not explicitly spell out exactly which gun regulations should and should not be enacted, Petri said, the Church does give Catholics some principles to take into account when they are considering or voting on gun control policies.
One of these principles is the principle of self-defense, he said.
“This is part of the Church’s moral teaching, that you have a right to defend your life and to defend the lives of those under your care,” he said, such as one’s family or anyone else one has been entrusted to protect.
“If it ends up being that you, inevitably, must kill an assailant to protect your life or the life of those under your roof, then that is a moral choice you can make. That would be a legitimate choice,” he said.
Dr. Kevin Miller, a moral theologian and assistant professor at Franciscan University of Steubenville, told CNA that self-defense falls under the Church’s teachings about the respect for life.
“You are commanded to respect the life of others,” Miller said. “You are also commanded to respect your own life – love your neighbor as yourself. So out of love for your own life, you’re allowed to protect your own life.”
There is an important distinction to be made in intent, both Petri and Miller noted. The Church teaches that one must never intend to kill someone as an end, or as a means to an end.
It is only morally permissible to apply lethal force when someone intending to defend themselves or their family must apply lethal force because it is the only thing deemed reasonable to stop the assailant.
“Out of protection for your own life, if the minimum amount of force that you can reasonably judge in the heat of the moment is such that it is also likely to cause the death of the other person, then you’re allowed to do that,” Miller said.
Paragraph 2264 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.”