UPDATE 14 Jan:
At A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics there is an interesting reaction to the Diocese of Dallas’ new policy about guns. A couple of the posts there touch on this topic, as a matter of fact.
One Catholic was irritated by the policy. Here is a photo of the envelope from the Dallas’ Bishops Annual Appeal:
UPDATE 13 Jan:
Another Texas diocese gets into it. There is something odd about this piece, however.
From KFOX 14:
Catholic Diocese says no to Open Carry
EL PASO, Texas – It’s been 10 days since open carry went into effect. Now the Catholic Diocese of El Paso has made its decision on the new Texas law.
Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso Patricia Fierro says the organization hopes to have the decision go into effect by next week.
She says, “Those will not be allowed in our parishes. However, we don’t have the proper signage right now but we are working on that.”
KFOX14 wanted to find out how people felt about the diocese’s decision not to allow open carry.
Harry Sorensen, of West El Paso, says, “I think it’s a good idea on the church’s behalf. That’s their prerogative that they want to do. If they feel comfortable with people having weapons in the church that (is) their business.”
Daniel Fraire, of West El Paso, says, “I don’t think there’s any reason why we need guns in a church. [I sure hope he’s right.]
Although, there have been attacks in a church so I can see why people would want to take their gun in a church in a way.”
The Texas Tribune recently conducted a social media poll about open carry policies. Based on their polling data, 72 percent of people say open carry policies would influence where they shop. [Interesting.]
Fierro doesn’t think their policy will impact whether people still go to their church. [Really?]
“I’m thinking we might lose members if we allow them to bring guns into the church,” she says. [This is a guess… based on… what?]
“But I think they’ll feel more secure if we keep the guns away.”
People have their own theories about the impact the decision could have on churchgoers.
Sorensen says, “They probably won’t go to church if they aren’t allowed to carry but that just depends on the person I suppose.”
“Why not see it both ways?” says Fraire.
He says, “Allow two separate Masses. [Interesting.] Have one where guns are allowed and one where guns aren’t allowed. At least you can divide the people based on that.”
[NB] Some people in the past have told KFOX14 they think people should be able to leave their weapons in their cars before going into church. The diocese tells KFOX14 that will not be allowed. [Ummm… leaving their weapons in their cars will “not be allowed”? I suppose this might depend on whether a car is on a city street or there is a church owned parking lot but… “not be allowed”?]
Perhaps someone can correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t El Paso an area where illegals (- who knows who) are flooding across the border?
This is an interesting topic, to be sure. I find especially interesting the rhetoric chosen by the dioceses in their statements.
UPDATE 6 Jan 1519 UTC:
After a cordial exchange I received this from the Director of Communications for the Diocese of Tyler, which he sent for posting with attribution:
“While we may see a wide range of policies for churches in Texas in response to the open carry law, Bishop Strickland did not feel like the “no guns” approach was the best or practical for the Diocese of Tyler. His desire is to balance the right of law-abiding individuals to defend themselves and their families, with the decorum that is appropriate for the Sacred Liturgy. Naturally, Bishop Strickland’s statement wasn’t intended to be of a juridical nature, but rather a common sense request from the Bishop to his flock as Texans acclimate themselves to the new law.”
Director of Communications
Diocese of Tyler
Thanks and kudos to Mr. Low who took the high road and engaged in a helpful way.
UPDATE 6 Jan 0238 UTC:
There are some good comments in the combox, below, which clarify Texas law. It is becoming a little clearer now what the situation is there. It is a good, useful, and instructive, discussion.
Also, the Diocese of Dallas issued a statement. HERE It is far more legalistic and restrictive. They have gone the way of the lawyers. It is as if they don’t want some people ever to cross the threshold of their churches… sorry… thresholds of “Entity”.
Original Published on: Jan 5, 2016 @ 14:53 CST
Today we heard the First Gay President, as Newsweek dubbed him, again trample on the Constitution of these United States of America through a violation of the separation of powers. POTUS will attempt to impose unconstitutional “laws” through executive fiat. The Executive Branch is not empowered to make laws. Congress has the sole power to legislate.
On the issue of gun rights and gun control, a reader sent a question about whether, in the state where it is legal openly to carry guns, a bishop has the authority to ban open carry of guns in churches.
This was brought up at a different blog. HERE
In some states you can openly carry a gun without a permit, but a permit is required to carry a concealed weapon. In other states you can open carry with a concealed carry permit. Each state has variations in laws.
His Excellency Most Rev. Joseph Strickland, Bishop of Tyler (in Texas), has issued a letter on the website of the Diocese of Tyler. HERE He doesn’t want people to carry openly in church.
Note that the first paragraph explains that the laws in Texas changed concerning open carry. It says that those with concealed carry licenses will also be able to open carry in public places not prohibited by law. In Texas it is not prohibited by law to carry in a church. [UPDATE: check the combox for clarifications on this point.]
On January 1, 2016, new legislation will go into effect in Texas which allows those with licenses issued by the State to openly carry handguns in places not prohibited by law. We will see our fellow citizens openly carrying weapons in stores, restaurants, theaters, parks, and other public places. [churches] This law revises the current “concealed carry” law but continues the requirements that those with licenses to carry handguns must be at least 21, have passed a criminal background check and have received classroom and shooting range instruction.
I respect and support the right that we have as Texans to defend ourselves and our families. As Catholics, we believe the legitimate defense of persons can be not only a right, but also a grave duty.
In the Diocese of Tyler, I strongly encourage those who choose to exercise this right to continue to do so in a prudent and responsible manner. [However… watch the language…] With respect to our communal worship, I believe that openly carrying a weapon is not appropriate during the Sacred Liturgy and may understandably cause great discomfort to some gathered to worship alongside us.
Accordingly, as Bishop, I ask the faithful of the Diocese of Tyler and guests of our churches to observe my instruction that weapons are not to be openly carried during Holy Mass or other times of public worship. Peace Officers commissioned by local, state or federal agencies are exempt from this instruction. [NB: He doesn’t say anything about concealed carry. Only open carry.]
As Texans adjust to this new law, I would also encourage the clergy and faithful of the Diocese to address any questions that may arise with calmness, kindness and respect, taking into consideration both the legitimate feelings and the rights of all involved.
Please direct any questions that may come up regarding this instruction or the position of the Diocese of Tyler to Mr. Peyton Low at the Chancery Office.
Also, this is to be inserted into parish bulletins or read from pulpits in the Diocese of Tyler.
For the churches of the Diocese, the following statement should be inserted into Sunday bulletins and/or read during the announcements:
OPEN CARRY & HOLY MASS
Respecting the right of Texans to defend themselves and their families while at the same time being considerate of those who may be uncomfortable around weapons in the context of our sacred liturgies, Bishop Joseph E. Strickland has instructed that weapons are not to be openly carried during Holy Mass or other times of public worship. Peace Officers commissioned by local, state or federal agencies are exempt from this instruction. For more information, visit www.dioceseoftyler.org.
If a person who is lawfully carrying a weapon in an open manner enters a church, ushers, greeters and clergy are asked to refer the person to this statement.
As always, if someone is acting suspiciously or if an individual perceives danger to himself or others, call 9-1-1 and follow local security procedures.
Okay… that’s the situation now in Tyler, Texas, where the laws have changed and where new decisions have to be made.
A reader asked me…
Does a diocesan bishop have the authority to ban open carrying of guns in churches (which are public places not prohibited by law)?
I asked a few canonists about this. The general view is, no, not really. One thought that he might be able to. I don’t think so.
He can ask but he can’t require. A bishop seems not to be able to enforce such a thing. The wording of the Bishop of Tyler, for example, expresses a request. He would really like it to be the way he asks. He is asking. He can’t “command” under pain of censure. One could pay close attention to his request and decide on a course of action. People are free to follow his request, or not.
In a diocese, the bishop is the legislator. However, he can legislate only concerning what pertains to his office. He can legislate about indulgence and what to preach and many other things concerning the life of faith. He can’t legislate about things determined by a higher authority (e.g., the Pope) or about things that don’t concern him (e.g, your neckties, the style of your shoes, your gun and its caliber).
There are also questions of how property ownership is set up in the Texas. Is the bishop merely one member of a corporate board of the parish? Is it corporation sole? That might impact this, but I’ll stick to the bishop’s ecclesiastical role. [UPDATE: Be sure to look at the comments in the combox. There is a lot more about this and the Texas law is clarified.]
Mind you, when a bishop says something about comportment in church Catholics should respectfully listen. We are not Sedevacantists or SSPXers who set aside what bishops say or who do not recognize their authority. However, we have to consider also the limits of the authority of bishops and of pastors as well. And ushers.
If people in the Diocese of Tyler do not conform to the wishes of the Bishop in this matter, they may incur the displeasure of the bishop (which is not nothing), but they can’t be canonically censured by him. Or by ushers.
He can excommunicate you for joining the Masons, but not for open carrying in church.
That said, if someone determines to “stick it” to the bishop and, therefore, chooses to open carry in church, because it would annoy the bishop … I’d ask that person to examine her conscience.
Open carry to “stick it to the bishop” might be legal, [UPDATE: Again, check the comments, below.] and the bishop might not be able to do anything about it, but it could be a petty, disrespectful and even sinful thing to do on account of the motive and the sacred character of the person of the bishop, whom you intend to offend.
On the other hand, after carefully weighing the bishop’s words, a decision to open carry for other motives (self-defense, defense of loved ones, etc.), need not be disrespectful.
In any event, no one – NO ONE – should either open carry or concealed carry without understanding the consequences of that decision. Training – lots of training – is the prudent path before carrying. Instruction about all the legal ramifications is a must. Even then, even after training and instruction, not everyone is cut out for carrying a weapon beyond the confines of one’s castle. And you have to be in control of that weapon all the times and alert within your surroundings. This isn’t a game or a matter of frivolous motives. It’s deadly serious.
Moderation queue is ON.