Is the beloved Pope a hypocrite?
He’s gotten big billing this past week for charging through Latin America blasting capitalism. And he’s received much press for two years with his comments about drones, contraception, the big bang theory, and the role of women in the church. The Pope has proven to be a sound byte machine and he’s created plenty of fans and more than a few haters along the way.
But in last Sunday’s news conference from the papal plane, Pope Francis said he would be opening his ears — and presumably his mind — to hear his American critics. Let me suggest two places he should start if he wants to be taken seriously by the people he’s attacked: weapons and war. The Pope’s critics claim his comments don’t always align with his behavior. They’re right, and he would do well to listen.
At a gathering of young people in Turin last month, the Pope said Christian businesspersons who manufacture weapons were guilty of “hypocrisy” because they “talk about peace and make weapons, or sell them to the two warring sides.” He added, “duplicity is the currency of today . . . they say one thing and do another.” This wasn’t the only time the Jesuit leader has fired shots at these believers. In May, he said that gun makers were complicit in “an industry of death.” And in February, Francis called them “merchants of death” who are “furthering a cycle of hate, fratricide, and violence.”
Pope Francis said weapon makers need to learn “not to trust riches and worldly powers,” but where is the Pope placing his trust when he arms his own guards?
The Pontifical Swiss Guard, a 110-soldier security detail is responsible for guarding the Pope and Vatican City. They are often seen on parade carrying halberds, swords, and pikes, but don’tt be fooled. They are also armed with piles of modern weapons, including SIG P220 handguns, 9mm Glock pistols, and SG550 rifle. The purple suit-wearing Guardsmen closest to the Pope carry an advanced HK MP7 PDW—the same type of weapon utilized by US Navy Seals and the German GSG9. The Pontifical Swiss Guard’s arsenal is so vast that weapon-loving writers at Guns.com recently declared, “Suffice it to say, if the Swiss Guard ever has that clearance sale, we want to get in line.”
Of course, the cold steel donned by Francis’s security detail isn’t the only example of papal duplicity. In May, he urged the United Nations to use military force in Iraq to stop ISIS, though he stopped short of saying exactly what the resistance should look like. And at the same meeting where he called Christian gun manufacturers hypocrites, he also criticized Western countries for not doing more to stop Nazi aggression sooner: “The great powers had photographs of the railway routes that brought the trains to the concentration camps…Tell me, then: Why did they not bomb them?”
The Pope seems to support military action in cases of great injustice, but such actions would be impossible if there were no weapons for those militaries to use. The Pope believes weapons manufacturers are out of step with Jesus’ teachings, but he allowing his own mini-army to stock up on these manufacturers’ best products. What is wrong with this picture?
Hypocrisy is the discipline of inconsistency. It is the act of saying one thing and doing another. It is difficult to say if Christian weapons manufacturers actually fit that definition. It could be that many interpret the Bible in such a way that they believe war can be justified and violence can be redemptive. In that case, we might say they are wrongheaded or even poor interpreters of Scripture. We might say that they should reconsider what Jesus meant when he said, “blessed are the peacemakers” or asked the Apostle Peter to lay down his sword. But we could not call them duplicitous, two-faced hypocrites.
On the other hand, the Pope’s beliefs and behaviors on these matters are quite clear. And if manufacturing arms is ethically problematic–as he states–then purchasing them, carrying them, and firing them must be too. Pope Francis will only be able to convince his critics that they should abandon weapons and war if he is willing to lead by example.
So here’s to hoping you have ears to hear, dear Francis.