Does the Catholic Church Promulgate Anything Specific Regarding Priests and Firearms?
The Church has never promulgated laws forbidding priests from owning firearms. Although extremely rare, I do personally know of a few priests that own firearms and actually go hunting.
If you ever get the chance to read about the life of any early missionary in the great north (arctic) prior to the 1940s, you would understand how necessary owning a rifle is in such a hostile surrounding. Polar bears have no natural fear of man. Missionaries, like the Eskimos and Inuit, survive on eating wild game of one sort or another : usually seal meat. Nothing grows in the north! Early missionaries of the Eskimos and Inuit had an indult to eat meat and animal products all year round. And this was at a time when the rules for Lent were much more severe than nowadays.
From early times, hunting, in one form or another has been forbidden to clerics. Thus, in the "Corpus Juris Canonici" (C. ii, X, De cleric. venat.) we read: "We forbid to all servants of God hunting and expeditions through the woods with hounds; and we also forbid them to keep hawks or falcons." The Fourth Council of the Lateran, held under Pope Innocent III, decrees (can. xv): "We interdict hunting or hawking to all clerics." The decree of the Council of Trent is worded more mildly: "Let clerics abstain from illicit hunting and hawking" (Sess. XXIV, De reform., c. xii). The council seems to imply that not all hunting is illicit, and canonists generally make a distinction between noisy (clamorosa) and quiet (quieta) hunting, declaring the former to be unlawful but not the latter.
Ferraris (s.v. "Clericus", art. 6) gives it as the general sense of canonists that hunting is allowed to clerics if it be indulged in rarely and for sufficient cause, as necessity, utility, or honest recreation, and with that moderation which is becoming to the ecclesiastical state. Ziegler, however (De episc., l. IV, c. xix), thinks that the interpretation of the canonists is not in accordance with the letter or spirit of the laws of the Church. - Canons on hunting
In the past, priests were simply forbidden to hunt with dogs, falcons, hawks and in large groups in order to keep it more in the line of providing food for oneself and not so much as a popular sport!
Dr. Taylor Marshall has the following to say about priests hunting.
There has never been a prohibition against hunting for laymen. However, there is quite a controversial history concerning clerical hunting. The Council of Trent, for example, made the formal distinction between clamorous (clamorosa) hunting and quiet (quieta) hunting. (Session XXIV, 12). “Clamorous hunting” is forbidden to priests. However, “quiet hunting” is allowed.
Clamorous hunting likely refers to the large hunting parties that are sometimes associated with dogs, drinking, and lasciviousness. It is clear that this type of gathering would not be proper for a priest. “Quiet hunting” would be more like laying traps in the woods or going out alone with a deer rifle.
In the “Corpus Juris Canonici” (C. ii, X, De cleric. venat.) we read: “We forbid to all servants of God hunting and expeditions through the woods with hounds; and we also forbid them to keep hawks or falcons.” The Fourth Council of the Lateran, held under Pope Innocent III, decrees (can. xv): “We interdict hunting or hawking to all clerics.” It seems here that there is a worry that hunting and hawking takes too much time for recreation. We imagine modern canons to read “golfing.”
I don’t know where canon law stands today, but I thought you might find the history of the questoin to be rather interesting.
Can Priests Go Hunting? The Council of Trent provides an answer…