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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (ChurchMilitant.com) - The bishops of Tennessee have signed a letter pushing for restrictions on the Second Amendment that is motivated politically rather than spiritually.
The letter, posted on the Tennessee Catholic Conference website, implores Republican Gov. Bill Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly for "peaceful action to address gun violence."
Bps. Mark Spalding of Nashville, David Talley of Memphis and Richard Stika of Knoxville signed the letter. However, it was drafted by a nonpartisan statewide coalition, according to reports.
The letter asks the legislators to "protect our kids and our cherished individual rights" by taking these steps:
Catholic commentators have ripped into the recommendations put forth by the bishops. Lepanto Institute Founder and President Michael Hichborn sees them as feckless, telling Church Militant:
Restricting access to guns is just putting a bandaid on a severed artery. The only solution is to convert the hearts, minds, and souls of deeply wounded sinners. Instead of attacking the moral root of the violence, which is sin and depravity, they blame the instrument.
Hichborn is not the only one to see the bishops meddling outside their sacred job classification. A Chicago priest asking for anonymity tells Church Militant he was aghast at the prelates' letter. He argues they would do better to stick to their priestly jurisdiction.
Tennessee's three Roman Catholic bishops are totally out of their element calling on new gun control legislation in the Volunteer State. As bishops they can only expect obedience from the faithful in Tennessee in matters pertaining to faith and morals. They have no expertise to even talk about public safety. Have any of them ever worked in law enforcement?
The priest went further, noting "the bishops, while addressing the governor in the letter, failed completely in evoking their chief boss — Jesus Christ."
The priest's observation is not without canonical support. Canon 212 §1 states: "Conscious of their own responsibility, the Christian faithful are bound to follow with Christian obedience those things which the sacred pastors, inasmuch as they represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith or establish as rulers of the Church."
The letter comes less than a month after a mass shooting carried out by a transgender person at a Christian school in Nashville. Many Tennesseans are still reeling from the tragedy, which left three children and three adults dead, and trying to prevent future murders from occurring.
Carlie Cruse, a founding member of Voices for a Safer Tennessee, the group that drafted the letter for the bishops, pushes for a kumbaya solution: "By coming together as one, unified voice, we can channel our sorrow into action and advocacy for stronger gun safety measures."
She also insists, "This is not a political issue. It's a public safety issue."
But Hichborn doesn't agree and takes aim at the bishops once again:
These bishops sit in the center of a web of hypocrisy. They refuse to prohibit Holy Communion to politicians advocating for the murder of preborn babies because it's "too political," and yet, they shamelessly push for contentious political solutions to a deeply moral problem! If the bishops were serious about ending the tidal wave of violence plaguing our country, they would aggressively combat the sins engendering it.
The Chicago priest, who noted the bishops do not mention God in their letter, also observed they "seem unaware of the deadly evil powers behind the mass shootings."