Self-Defense and the Beatification of Pope John Paul II

By John M. Snyder

Believers in the right of self-defense, of the right to life itself rejoice in the beatification of Pope John Paul II.  So do proponents of the acquisition and use of arms for self-defense.

My wife Ling and I have personal as well as theological reasons for rejoicing.

In the autumn of 1999, we were members of a small papal audience at the Apostolic Palace. We were the only Americans with a group of Poles.  When Pope John Paul entered the reception room, he immediately exclaimed, “Who are the two Americans!”

This Pope with whom we had the audience in his writings displayed an appreciation of the right of self-defense.

Today, your right to defend your own life is under attack.  On the theological level, we regard Pope Benedict XVI’s beatification of Pope John Paul II as a spiritual torpedo.  This spiritual torpedo moves against those, especially alleged Catholic theologians and prelates, who oppose the use of firearms in self-defense.

In his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae, His Holiness cited the Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2265 that “….legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the state.”  Pope John Paul stated, “Unfortunately, it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life.”

Preceding the late Pope’s Catholic Catechism citation is Catholic Catechism # 2263.  This proclaims “the legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing.  ‘The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one’s own life; and the killing of the aggressor…the one is intended, the other is not.’”

Catholic Catechism # 2264 states “love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality.  Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life.  Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow.”

There is an affinity between the right to self-defense and the right to life.  Blessed John Paul personified this affinity.  Let us pray to him.


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