.- The Wisconsin bishops urged non-violence and underscored the need for citizens to be responsible after the state legalized a measure allowing concealed weapons.
“While the Church has always upheld the right to self-defense, peaceful means of reconciling conflicts and differences, both as individuals and nations, is the preferred method,” the bishops wrote.
Over 80,000 people downloaded permit applications on Nov. 1, hours after Wisconsin's new concealed carry law took effect. Republican Gov. Scott Walker approved and signed the legislation this past July.
The new law allows anyone who is at least 21 years old, has not been convicted of a felony and takes at least four hours of firearms training to apply for a permit to carry a concealed weapon from the state Justice Department.
However, concealed weapons are banned in numerous locations, including schools, police stations, courtrooms and at the jurisdiction of private establishments.
In a Nov. 1 pastoral letter, the bishops also asked citizens to refrain from bringing weapons into church buildings “as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces.”
Although the bishops' statement affirmed the right to bear arms as protected by the Constitution, it warned that this right “must be exercised responsibly” and in accordance with applicable laws.
“Both natural law and our constitutional tradition uphold this understanding of individual freedom as an intrinsic human right. This freedom includes both religious liberty and the right to self-defense.”
“True freedom, however, is not license to do whatever we choose,” they stressed.
“Rather, it is the ability to do what we morally ought to do, to build a just society, and to glorify God who is the author of all liberty and the source of human dignity.”
The bishops also noted that Catholic teaching “is committed to non-violence.” They recalled the story of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew when he told his disciples to “to put their sword away” rather than to act violently to defend him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Many Catholic martyrs who “suffered violence and death for the sake of the Gospel,” they added, prayed for their killers as Jesus did on the cross.
The bishops also reflected that the Catholic Church has a long tradition of sanctuary, “allowing people fleeing violence to take refuge in church buildings as a place of safety and protection.”
“Intuitively, we understand that acts of violence, destruction, and murder are antithetical to the message and person of Jesus Christ and have no rightful place in our society, especially sacred places,” they said.
“Bearing witness to the Gospel always presents challenges and opportunities,” the bishops concluded. “We encourage you to embrace this opportunity to live the example of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”