Filipino bishops hesitant about priests seeking gun permits

Manila, Philippines, Jun 23, 2018 / 06:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- After three priests were murdered during the last six months, Philippine officials say they have received gun carry permit applications from nearly 250 religious workers, including 188 Catholic priests – but some of the country’s bishops have raised concerns about a priest carrying a weapon.

In the Philippines, a person is only permitted to carry a firearm outside of their residence if they are under threat or if their life is in “imminent danger.” Normally, this would require a “threat assessment certificate” from the Philippine National Police (PNP), but certain professions – including priests, rabbis, journalists, and doctors – are exempt from this requirement as their jobs are considered to be inherently dangerous.

PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde said it was uncertain if the permit applications had increased as a reaction to the recent string of murders.

All legal gun owners in the Philippines are licensed, and a license to own a firearm is separate from a license to actually carry the weapon outside of the home.

Despite the obvious threat to the clergy in the Philippines, many Filipino bishops, including the head of the country’s bishops’ conference, are not on board with the idea their priests carrying firearms.

Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao said in an interview that being a priest in the country means being comfortable with the possibility of being murdered on the job.

“We are men of God, men of the Church, and it is part of our ministry to face dangers, to face deaths if one may say that way,” said Valles.

Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan said it was immoral and “unpriestly” for a priest to carry a weapon for self defense. He also said that a priest who wanted to carry a firearm should leave the priesthood and enter the military, as well as receive “serious counseling.” Priests in the Philippines will not be permitted to carry a firearm without the express permission of their bishops.

Archbishop Rolando Tirona of Caceres suggested that worried priests learn some form of martial arts in lieu of carrying a firearm. Even still, Tirona said that these skills should only be learned as a preventative measure.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga will not allow the priests of his diocese to carry arms, saying, “Sacrifices and sufferings are part and parcel of being priests. It is our calling, that is, to carry the cross and even to be crucified on the cross.”

Although concerned priests may not have their bishops’ support when it comes to self-defense, they do have the full backing of the country’s police director general.

Albayalde said that all Filipinos, including the clergy, have the right to own and carry a firearm provided they meet the legal requirements to do so. The PNP is willing to offer training for any priest seeking to carry, Albayalde said, and will offer help with the licensing process.

Nothing in the Catechism of the Catholic Church prohibits protecting one’s life, even if that results in the death of the aggressor.

St. Thomas Aquinas wrote in the Summa Theologiae that it is lawful for a person to kill another in an act of self defense. The doctrine of double-effect would permit this as a person was seeking to preserve their own life first and foremost, not kill another. However, in a reply to an objection in the same article, he notes that while a cleric who kills a man in self-defense committed a sinless act, he is nevertheless irregular.

And elsewhere in the Summa Theologiae, while discussing war, St. Thomas argues that clerics should not take up arms even in self defense, because by nature of their vocation it would be unfitting for them to shed blood, “and it is more fitting that they should be ready to shed their own blood for Christ, so as to imitate in deed what they portray in their ministry.”

Speaking of the carrying out of capital punishment, St. Thomas wrote that “It is unlawful for clerics to kill, for two reasons. First, because they are chosen for the ministry of the altar, whereon is represented the Passion of Christ slain ‘Who, when He was struck did not strike’. Therefore it becomes not clerics to strike or kill: for ministers should imitate their master … The other reason is because clerics are entrusted with the ministry of the New Law, wherein no punishment of death or of bodily maiming is appointed: wherefore they should abstain from such things in order that they may be fitting ministers of the New Testament.”

The 1917 Code of Canon Law (which has been superseded) barred clerics from carrying arms, except in case of just fear (canon 138). The 1983 Code of Canon Law, which is now in force, does not include any such prohibition.

If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.

1 Comment

  1. Great report from cna’s man with the canons. Aquinas obviously wrote so much as to have time to contradict himself. He did that in sex by the way in following Augustine that asking for the marriage debt was venial sin if you did not will children but then he followed Aristotle as early as the Sentences ….that “pleasure in a rational activity is itself rational” which 6 centuries later helped Rome to explicitly endorse the natural rythymns in 1851 which overcame Augustine and Aquinas on venial sin being present…since repeated venial sin is dispositive to mortal sin per Aquinas himself citing scripture….” he that contemneth little things shall fall little by little”.
    Here with clergy and guns, is another loosening happening? Very complex because the old no guns tradition was seeing the clergy as uniquely metaphorical of Christ’s literal journey of non resistance. But what if a priest is sheltering women and children from ISIS in his rectory. Isn’t not defending them with guns tantamount to requiring that they become a metaphor of Christ’s journey. Then why invite them into the rectory in the first place? They would be better protected by men with guns…or women with guns. I understand both kinds of Bishops but I’m inclined to the ones with sig sauers in their desk. If the Pope can be protected by Swiss guard with sigs and Heckler and Koch submachine guns, I think women and children facing ISIS deserve the same from their pastor or someone he enlists.
    Can a priest carry whereas Christ didn’t but Christ obviously did not divest several of the apostles from carrying swords who in effect could defend him from muggers. Peter in Gethsemane was resisting temple soldiers in a way that was later forbidden by just war theory…ie he had no hope of success in context….a no no in just war theory. I once escaped an entire pool room whose gang members were yelling for my head…and I was far from the door when the chanting began. Talk about rejection. I requested a grief counselor at the time. Just kidding. A felon who served time for using a pipe on a victim’s head tried to rob me by pulling a pool cue on me but.,.get this…he was threatening me with the skinny end.
    I pulled a cue and threatened him with the fat end. He caved and then no gang members would help him anymore if he was going to cave. I walked down dead center through all of them into the night but knew human nature and once around the darkened corner, I ran for miles out of their territory. Once they started talking, they probably went to find me but I was long gone…passing buses and eventually passing Usain Bolt who was fleeing another pool room that night…lol…that last part is fiction. I wish the rest were but that was all true….and before God knocked me in the head.

    nteresting that the latest canons break at least by silence on the no guns for clerics tradition.

1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Filipino bishops hesitant about priests seeking gun permits - Mama Mary - Our Loving Mother

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.