Bishops on gun license: No, thanks

Paterno R. Esmaquel II
'We get our protection from the holy angels – not weapons,' a bishop says

GUN LAWS. President Aquino signs a comprehensive gun law that elaborates on license requirements and prerequisites. Photo by Rappler/Natashya Gutierrez

MANILA, Philippines – The government considered the welfare of priests – who, for authorities, remain “in imminent danger” – when it allowed them to carry firearms outside their houses under the newly signed Republic Act 10591.

Catholic bishops, however, gave this legal provision the cold shoulder, stressing that priests, as “men of peace,” shouldn’t own firearms.

Republic Act 10591, which President Benigno Aquino III signed last May 29, classified priests as among those “under actual threat” or “in imminent danger.” The law allows only such persons to carry firearms outside their houses.

In interviews on Monday, June 3, however, at least 3 Catholic bishops said priests shouldn’t use weapons for self defense. The bishops said priests should “imitate Christ.”

Their individual views echo previous statements by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), which has asserted that only law enforcers should carry firearms in public places.

“We should not counter violence with violence. Priests are supposed to be men of peace and not war,” said Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros in an interview posted by CBCP News on Monday.

Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes added: “Priests must be non-violent. We get our protection from the holy angels – not weapons.”

For Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco, security takes on another meaning. “Our security is more on what we do, how we interact and live with people.”

‘Law enforcers only’

The CBCP, as early as 1992, called for “the enforcement of the gun ban, so that no persons may carry guns in public places unless they are persons in authority, and, for regular policement and soldiers, wearing their uniform.” The CBCP said this to stress its stand against the death penalty.

Four years later, in its statement on genuine development, the CBCP also urged a “ban on the bearing of firearms in public by other than accredited officers of the law and army personnel.”

Its counterpart in the United States – the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) – has also called for the “sensible regulation of handguns.”

“However, we believe that in the long run and with few exceptions, i.e. police officers, military, the use of handguns should be elimited from our society,” the USCCB said.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, to be clear, does not ban the use of guns per se. It says “those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.”

“Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others.” –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email