Catholic Bishops Call for ‘Full Strength’ of the Church to Fight Gun Violence

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, center, speaks during the first day of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops annual fall meeting, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019, in Baltimore. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins

As the 2020 election season heats up, leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops opened their annual fall meeting (Nov. 11-13) in Baltimore, Maryland, by calling on clerics to be “courteous” to combat political polarization and to advocate for certain public policies, such as legislation that could limit gun violence.

Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston in Texas, presided over the conference Monday morning (Nov. 11), one of his last official duties as outgoing USCCB president.

In his final presidential address, DiNardo called on his fellow bishops to care for immigrants, oppose abortion and stand up for the abused. He said recent votes by bishops to combat sex abuse in the Catholic Church should be seen as the first steps down a long road to reform.

“The measures we approved last June are a beginning of this renewed striving, but they are only a beginning — more needs to and will be done,” he said. “(The book of) Sirach reminds us, ‘if you strive after justice, you will attain it …’”

DiNardo also echoed earlier remarks from Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who bemoaned “the polarization gripping this nation.”

“God is always courteous,” DiNardo said. “Let us be courteous.”

The Texas Cardinal expanded on the idea at a press conference later in the day, telling journalists that while bishops can’t “order” other Catholics to avoid vitriol, they can “show it” in their own behavior.

Bishops will likely be tested on their ability to debate politics civilly throughout the week, as they are also slated to vote on supplementary materials to “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship,” an official document distributed to Catholics outlining their political responsibilities.

The opening session also included a lengthy presentation on gun violence by Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice, Florida. He said the USCCB already advocates for several federal policies designed to curb gun deaths, such as an assault weapons ban, universal background checks, limits on large-capacity magazines and laws pertaining to gun trafficking.

Even so, Dewane called on his fellow clerics to combat the scourge of gun violence by utilizing the power of the Catholic tradition.

Dewane listed mental health as an issue impacting gun violence but pointed out that “research does not support the notion that persons with mental illness are more prone to violence (than) the general population.”

He added: “If persons in a suicidal crisis can be denied access to guns, the odds of saving their lives dramatically increase.”

Dewane later told Religion News Service that mustering the “full strength” of the Catholic tradition to prevent gun violence could involve a number of strategies, such as invoking Catholic social teaching and preaching about gun safety in church.

He also suggested that bishops could divest church resources from companies involved in gun manufacturing, just as they have with other groups.

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Source: Religion News Service