Bishops do the Church no favors when they weigh in on public policy debates outside of their competency.
Perhaps the person doing the most damage in this regard is Bishop Blaire of “we are so liberal we’re bankrupt” Stockton, CA.
You may remember Bishop Blaire (with the defacto impramatur of the USCCB) from his ridiculous [some say partisan] criticisms of Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget during last year’s election battle. At that time he called the Ryan budget, which proposed merely cuts to the rate of growth, “unjust and wrong” and asserted that they fail to meet “moral criteria.” These ridiculous statements were hailed by the left as proof that any cut to any program at anytime was against Catholic teaching.
This assertion led Bishop Boyea of Lansing to address a later meeting of the USCCB saying:
“There have been some concerns raised by lay Catholics, especially some Catholic economists, about what was perceived as a partisan action against Congressman Ryan and the budget he had proposed,” Bishop Boyea said in reference to the USCCB committee’s opposition to the House budget plan. “We need to be articulate only in principles, and let the laity make these applications … It was perceived as partisan, and thus didn’t really further dialogue in our deeply divided country.”
“I’m not sure that we have the humility yet not to stray into areas where we lack competence, and where we need to let the laity take the lead,” he added. “We need to learn far more than we need to teach in this area. We need to listen more than we need to speak. We already have an excellent, fine Compendium [on the Social Doctrine of the Church].”
Well Bishop Blaire is back and still in spectacularly bad form. This time, he takes leftist talking points on gun control and pretends they are Catholic teaching.
Banning guns builds a “culture of life” and lawmakers must consider more clamp-downs, not less, said one Catholic Church bishop in California in a written petition to U.S. senators.
“Sadly, gun violence is too common a reality,” said Bishop Stephen Blair, chairman on the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, in a letter to the U.S. Senate that was quoted by Catholic News Agency.
The “violence that occurs daily in our homes and communities should lead us to answer the call of Pope France to ‘change hatred into love, vengeance into forgiveness, war into peace.’”
Of course, this is not Church teaching. The Church rightly opposes gun violence, but not guns or particular gun features per se. I am quite certain there is no relevant commandment that says “Thou shalt not have a folding stock, nor shalt thou have a pistol grip.”
Catholics can and do have legitimately differing opinions on the prudence and efficacy of gun control initiatives. Bishop Blaire’s comments are partisan, pure and simple and not Catholic.
I think that Bishop Boyea’s previous comments apply equally well here. Bishops should articulate Catholic principles and stay out of legitimate public policy debates. When Bishops stray into public policy areas where they lack competency, they undermine their own authority and thus damage the Church.