I was recently thinking about being an ex-paramedic and my desire to work with mercenaries involved in the rescue of child slaves. Mercenaries rescuing child-slaves is not something only found in the congregations of the Middle Ages like the Trinitarians or the Mercedarians or the Knights Hospitaller. The fact is that today there are Catholic organizations of laymen dedicated to rescue Christians kidnapped by Muslims.
However, due to the corrupt situation found in the leadership in both Church and State, these modern mercenaries must work around the Catholic hierarchy and around European and African governments, not with them. In other words, these Catholic mercenaries fly under the radar of both bishops and Presidents, unlike the happier days of the Church when both would sponsor such high-liability congregations.
To be clear, I have done no work with such groups. But I often wonder if they could use me as an ex-paramedic and someone who can handle a 9mm. It turns out that the former would be helpful, as priests helping such ransom orders in the Middle Ages were indeed trained in medicine. However, it turns out that the notion that priests should remain unarmed is not an effeminate development of modernism since Vatican II. The Catholic Church taught for a very long time that priests should not go into war with weapons. I want to highlight some quotes from St. Thomas Aquinas on this, and all quotes below will be taken from St. Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 40 On War.
The first reason why St. Thomas teaches priests go to war with arms (even in a war declared just by the Catholic Church) is directly from the Gospels: Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to My Father, and He will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?—Mt 26:50b-53
St. Thomas Aquinas then gives some reasons why priests should not bring weapons into wartime situations: “The first reason is a general one, because warlike pursuits are full of unrest, so that they hinder the mind very much from the contemplation of Divine things, the praise of God, and prayers for the people, which belong to the duties of a cleric.”—respondeo in link above.
Perhaps the most beautiful reason Aquinas gives why we don’t carry arms is that we are to represent what we offer every day at Mass, namely, a victim: “All the clerical Orders are directed to the ministry of the altar, on which the Passion of Christ is represented sacramentally… Wherefore it is unbecoming for them to slay or shed blood, and it is more fitting that they should be ready to shed their own blood for Christ, so as to imitate in deed what they portray in their ministry.”
But the most interesting of his answers as to why priests go into war not looking to kill but to save souls is that the priest is minding more important matters than those of the State, namely, the glory of God and salvation of souls. For this reason, St. Thomas Aquinas writes in the above link: “Wherefore those who are deputed to important duties are forbidden to occupy themselves with things of small importance.”
Finally, the reply to objection 1 brings a lot of meaning to why it’s not the worst thing to have been called a “heresy hunter.” St. Thomas Aquinas writes: “Prelates ought to withstand not only the wolf who brings spiritual death upon the flock, but also the pillager and the oppressor who work bodily harm; not, however, by having recourse themselves to material arms, but by means of spiritual weapons.” That is, priests should expose false shepherds who are nothing but wolves in shepherds’ clothing. One thinks especially of Fr. Altman in that line from St. Thomas Aquinas.
So, in times of peace or physical war, the priest remains a spiritual warrior, not a physical warrior. In the Mass, and in his pursuit of the salvation of souls, the priest is called to be teacher, healer and even victim. This would be his calling, even in the most just of wars, for example, when Catholics wage war against those who are trafficking or killing children. Notice that St. Thomas Aquinas in the above section admits war can indeed be just. It is simply, again, that priests should be rescuers, not killers, in such situations. (Maybe this is why I was attracted to EMS years before my ordination.)
Please pray that one day I can join a mercenary congregation of laymen (or celibate clerics) in helping the trafficked as medical and spiritual help. Indeed, the priest is called to be healer, rescuer and victim of souls so that others may live.