Chicago Archbishop Cupich calls for tough gun control laws

Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, named by Pope Francis to that high-profile post a year ago, has issued a powerful call for tougher gun control laws in a move that may push the volatile issue further up the Catholic hierarchy’s agenda than it has been before.

The original intent of the Constitution’s right to bear arms has been “perverted” by a gun industry that is seeking profits at any cost, Cupich wrote in an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune. The founding fathers could not have anticipated the widespread availability of “military-grade assault weapons that have turned our streets into battlefields.”

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“It is no longer enough for those of us involved in civic leadership and pastoral care to comfort the bereaved and bewildered families of victims of gun violence,” he wrote in the column, which was published on Oct. 9.

“We must band together to call for gun-control legislation,” he concluded.  “We must act in ways that promote the dignity and value of human life. And we must do it now.”

In the column, Cupich cited a memorable line from Pope Francis’ speech to Congress during his U.S. visit last month, when the pontiff denounced the profits of the arms trade as “money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.” It is money made off weapons, he said, “sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society.”

The pope’s critique drew a standing ovation from many in the House and Senate, though they apparently saw the blast as directed principally at the international arms trade. Cupich disagreed.

“They really can’t stand and applaud one understanding of that line and ignore the domestic implications,” Cupich said in an interview in Rome, where he is one of 270 bishops from around the world meeting for an intense three-week debate about the church’s approach to family life in the modern world.

In his op-ed, Cupich cited not only Francis’ remarks, but also the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon that took place within a week of the pope’s visit. He also brought up the seemingly nonstop pace of shootings in Chicago itself, a city that has become synonymous with gun violence. In a recent shooting he cited, a toddler was wounded and her mother and grandmother were killed.

Yet while those tragedies were part of the equation, Cupich said he had been thinking about the issue since he was installed as Francis’ personal pick for the influential archdiocese last November.

Cupich said he wanted to take time to assess the local situation, to talk with pastors and civic leaders and law enforcement officials so that when he did speak out he would “at least provoke further action … rather than just saying something that would get a headline.”

The archbishop not only called out gun sellers and “the damage done” by their quest for profits, but he also took direct aim at the Constitution’s Second Amendment guarantee of a “right to bear arms,” a right that has become increasingly sacrosanct for many Americans and the powerful gun lobby.

“Let’s be honest,” Cupich wrote. “The Second Amendment was passed in an era when organized police forces were few and citizen militias were useful in maintaining the peace. Its original authors could not have anticipated a time when the weapons we have a right to bear now include military-grade assault weapons that have turned our streets into battlefields.

“The Second Amendment’s original intent has been perverted by those who, as Pope Francis recently commented, have profited mightily. Surely there is a middle ground between the original intent of the amendment and the carnage we see today.”

With his column, Cupich — whose is seen as mirroring Francis’ pastoral approach to ministry — becomes the most prominent U.S. Catholic churchman to call for greater gun control, and in the most forceful and direct terms.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which comprises the nation’s nearly 450 bishops, has not made fighting gun violence a priority, and officials representing the hierarchy have generally used more measured language on the issue.

In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting massacre, for example, the USCCB called for “reasonable restrictions” that would not infringe on Second Amendment rights.

In an interview on Sunday, Cupich said he hoped his fellow bishops would now consider giving gun control — and the environment, also a priority for Francis — much greater emphasis when they meet next month in Baltimore to revamp their guide for Catholic voters ahead of next year’s election.

Currently, both gun violence and the environment are tacked on at the end of the bishops’ voter guide, called “Faithful Citizenship,” while those issues are clearly at the top of the pontiff’s agenda.

Today, however, gun control “is a point that needs to be raised” by the American hierarchy, Cupich told Religion News Service, “with the impetus not just what I said, but what the pope said.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Sheila Dierks
2 years 2 months ago
We in America killed 28,000 children (newborn to 19) between 2001 and 2012. We are on track to reproduce that number by 2022. This cannot be the mission to which we are called. Who can imagine that our founding parents meant massive destruction of our children by guns in the hands of individuals? Every bishop, every priest, every teacher, every parent, should be embracing this issue. Sheila Dierks
Robert Hugelmeyer
2 years 2 months ago
What law would have stopped any one of these murders? I would suggest none. We should be up in arms, no pun intended, over the 55 million pre-born children who were killed in the womb of their mothers since Roe vs Wade 1973 poorly decided decision to deny pre-born children the right to life. They were put through agony when aborted after 20 weeks which constitutes torture and then killed at their early stage of human development. They were denied by law the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as written and guaranteed in our Declaration of Independence. How long will our Father in heaven allow these intrinsically evil acts to continue to be codified in our laws?
William Atkinson
2 years 2 months ago
Sheila, the subject was ARMS, your comment is like difference between Apples and Oranges. Your concern over Americas Killing Fields is great, whether its by automobile, guns, abortion, capital punishment, police targeting blacks, or lack of good medical attention to all people living in America; and also mission of ministers of gospel is salvation.
Robert Hugelmeyer
2 years 2 months ago
I am a Catholic law abiding citizen who has applied for and received a permit to carry. I disagree with the Archbishop in that the second amendment gives us the right to bear arms and that the strictest laws short of confiscation of all guns would not make any difference to a criminal who is hell bent on murdering someone. The facts are ignored by those who feel and I mean feel that laws will be the deterrent to rival gangland killings. To deprive others of their rights while foolishly attempting to prevent or even curb violence with guns is a fool's errand of mercy. It's a right and always has been a right which was upheld by the SCOTUS. With the influx of radical Muslims, other home grown terrorists, and random killing by people who are mentally ill, weapons owned by private citizens, are more important than ever. Until the fires are no longer fueled by our leadership who uses class warfare (rich/poor, male/female/ Black/White etc.) to divide and conquer in this country more and more law abiding citizens will want to own guns and be trained to use guns for protection for themselves and their families. We need a leader in the WH to bring us together, to motivate, and give us hope for the future. Finally, government on any level should never outlaw guns or confiscate them. We have seen the result of confiscation in Cuba, Germany, Venezuela, and elsewhere. It's the first act of a dictator.
Patrick Murtha
2 years 2 months ago
Some colonial misconceptions: the colonists did have "military grade" weaponry for the weapons in the hands of the common man was often the weapon in the hands of the common soldier; the Second Amendment was actually drawn up after a military force was used as a police force; the Second Amendment was drawn up after the streets of America ran red with the blood of the British and the American. The writers of the Second Amendment wrote, saying a very relevant thing: the individual man has the right to defend his person against the tyranny of an individual and the tyranny of a government. It must be agreed, then, that if man has a particular right to a particular thing, he must also have the right to the tools. Take, for example, the greater and grander example of the Church. A man has a right to heavenly happiness--which stems from the right of man to love and do the will of God and the right of God to be loved and obeyed by man--therefore man cannot be denied the tools to acquire this happiness. The only way that right to the tool can be denied is if man abuses the tool--such is the case of the divorcee receiving communion. Christ made it clear that a man who divorces and marries again commits adultery. Therefore, communion to a man who is in the state of mortal sin is itself an additional mortal sin, a sacrilege, so for the sake of the Sacrament, who is God Himself, and the sake of the soul, who has rejected God, communion must be denied to the abuser. Nevertheless, back to my point, the necessity of the tool must be determined not by the grade but by the use. A man has no right to a jack-hammer if he means to merely pound in a nail; but a man has a right to more than a hammer if he means to knock out a street. If a weapon is chosen for hunting, we must ask, "What is sufficient for hunting?" If a weapon is chosen for self-defense, we must ask, "Against what am I defending myself?" And that question then must be who is the aggressor. The tools of defense are often based on the strength of the aggressor, and as Shakespeare writes in the mouth of the King of France, "And princes, look you strongly arm to meet him."
Frank Bergen
2 years 2 months ago
"The writers of the Second Amendment wrote, saying a very relevant thing: the individual man has the right to defend his person against the tyranny of an individual and the tyranny of a government." I quote the Second Amendment: 'A WELL REGULATED MILITIA, BEING NECESSARY TO THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE, THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED." It would be well to read, digest, meditate on, pray over these words -- and to keep in mind that it was December 15, 1791 when they became the law of our land. I submit that there is a leap from those words in the context of 1791 to the statement I quoted to begin my comment. And I think it is a leap of wishful thinking, not a leap of faith.
Frank Bergen
2 years 2 months ago
"The writers of the Second Amendment wrote, saying a very relevant thing: the individual man has the right to defend his person against the tyranny of an individual and the tyranny of a government." I quote the Second Amendment: 'A WELL REGULATED MILITIA, BEING NECESSARY TO THE SECURITY OF A FREE STATE, THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO KEEP AND BEAR ARMS, SHALL NOT BE INFRINGED." It would be well to read, digest, meditate on, pray over these words -- and to keep in mind that it was December 15, 1791 when they became the law of our land. I submit that there is a leap from those words in the context of 1791 to the statement I quoted to begin my comment. And I think it is a leap of wishful thinking, not a leap of faith.
William Atkinson
2 years 2 months ago
I agree for flint loaded pistols and flint loading rifles (the weapons of 1791) one should being a member of a militia, be able to own responsibly (register, license, tax, insure same) these weapons of 1791. Registration, licensing, taxing, insuring does not infringe ones right to keep and bear arms.
William Atkinson
2 years 2 months ago
All gun and weapon owners need to become fully responsible for their ownership, this does NOT stop them from owning weapons, but makes everyone fully responsible. Like a Automobile owner, Like a home owner, even like a person with family and other responsible needs, you register a automobile, home, even yourself, you insure an automobile, a home, yourself; so should you do for weapons. Small guns, small registration fee, small tax, small insurance policy, Large weapons, large registration fee, large tax, large insurance policy. Extremely large weapons, extremely large registration fee, extremely large annual tax, extremely large insurance policy. Example, Assault rifle,, bazooka, 50/70MM mounted weapons costing 7,000, license registration fee 10% $700, annual tax, $700, annual insurance policy $1400 and bigger thee weapon the higher registration, license, tax, and insurance policy. Like everything else being responsible to family, fellow Americans, community and life in our country is an American way of Life. You want to own an airplane, hotair balloon, boat, all kinds of big toys, even weapons everyone should be responsible. Let's register, license, tax, insure these killing devices (Guns primary design, manufacturing, sales, ownership and use is for killing) and be responsible for same.

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