Who needs a liturgical Beretta when you can have one of these!

We have had a little fun in the past about the proper uses of the Beretta during liturgical worship.

Now I find this photo on the blog Deacon’s Bench.

This was taken during Holy Week 2011 in Iraq.

Can I just say it?

I’m jealous.

A Beretta would be useful, but… Oorah!

I want fully armed deacons during my next Solemn Mass.

Or is the deacon just holding the bishop’s weapon during Communion?  I think a paten is more traditional.

I believe there is a canon which forbids clerics from bearing arms, which surely deals with being in the military and being armed and participating in combat as a combatant rather than as a chaplain …. but I think there are times when it is a good idea to have heat-packin’ deacon near by.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. JohnE says:

    Could come in handy if Pelosi or Sebelius decide to present themselves for Holy Communion.

  2. Andy Lucy says:

    I have a friend I went to high school with. After HS, he enlisted, as a 56M, a chaplain’s assistant. Among many other things, his job was to provide force protection for his chaplain while in hazardous areas. He felt it to be a truly holy calling.


  3. Andy Lucy says:

    FWIW, instead of the M4, you could have a standard M16A2 with a paten installed on one side of the buttstock. It could also be used, if necessary, to deliver a horizontal buttstroke to those who unworthily present themselves for Holy Communion… say pro-abortion politicians making photo op trips to a hot zone….. hmmmmm.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Don’t wish for something or you may get it, plus the circumstances surrounding it.

  5. No, there is no current canon prohibiting clerics bearing arms. (Or arming bears for that matter.) In fact, during WWI there were nations whose Catholic and other chaplains also functioned as combatants. It was only in 1977 that the Geneva Conventions defined chaplains as non-combattants. (Though that had been the practice in most countries since WWII.)

  6. skull kid says:

    Awesome picture.

  7. samgr says:

    Sgt. Angelo Roncalli served the Royal Italian Army as a stretcher-bearer and chaplain in the Great War. He later got a better job.

  8. Philangelus says:

    I’m with Supertradmum. Given the current cultural environment and the rationale given for not letting Army chaplains read their bishop’s letter, I wouldn’t even joke about arming priests. *sigh*

  9. buffaloknit says:

    This is just lovely. This is the type of photo/artwork that should be in schools and ridiculous Church meeting spaces where little boys might see it.

    Speaking of spaces to put pictures, Fr. Z, do you have a collection of pinterest boards? [I don’t know what that is.] Anyone else? This would be a good “theme” for one. [I think that opens a rabbit hole. We can talk about that elsewhere sometime soon.]

  10. Margaret says:

    I think (don’t quote me) it’s US military policy that keeps chaplains unarmed. The priest I know who served as a chaplain in Desert Storm had an armed bodyguard.

  11. Supertradmum says:

    That slab thing behind reminds me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Interesting.

  12. BigRed says:

    Awesome photo, Father.
    Navy corpsmen (that is core-men, not corpse-men, thank you very much Pres. Obama) assigned to the Fleet Marine Force will pack at least a sidearm in order to protect the wounded in their care.
    I first saw this on the wall of Diamond Lou’s in Quantico, VA in 1968:
    Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, for I am the evilist ***** in the valley.

    The chaplain can walk easy when his assistant is the meanest dude in the valley.

  13. TNCath says:

    This might come in handy at St. Peter’s Basilica to guard against some of the naive and not-so-naive tourists who attempt to take the Sacred Host home with them as a souvenir of their trip to Rome.

  14. Andy Lucy says:

    Margaret, it is indeed. According to the Geneva Conventions, chaplains (along with doctors, nurses, etc… ) are non-combatants. The “bodyguard” for your chaplain friend was a chaplain’s assistant (in the US Army, a 56M MOS).

  15. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Optime Pater, fieri non potest quin dissentiam. If they are in the middle of a military camp, there is no lack of personnel to provide whatever armed security may be necessary. If the situation is indeed so bad that the deacon has to carry a gun, the Blessed Sacrament should never be brought there in the first place. With all due respect and honor to our military and their chaplains, this is grotesquely inappropriate. This guy thinks so too:

  16. I want fully armed deacons during my next Solemn Mass.

    I especially suggest it when you’re installed as Archbishop of Kansas City.

  17. Supertradmum says:

    Fr. Martin Fox , Or, Chicago…well, you might need more than one there.

  18. acardnal says:

    Maybe the deacon is just there to make sure they say “Amen” after “Body of Christ” and not “We Are” or some other nonsense.

  19. Paulo says:

    Even though Fr. Erik settled the issue of the canon on his comment above, I am now wondering… “Is there a cannon that makes unnecessary for clerics to bear arms?” (sorry y’all, someone had to make the pun!)

  20. Titus says:

    No, there is no current canon prohibiting clerics bearing arms.

    I don’t know the current law, but I am reasonably certain that pre-code law prohibited, at least at one point, a cleric from wielding a blade. Since a mace was not a blade, clerics who led more adventurous lives (various prince bishops and the like) carried maces.

  21. Deacon Nathan Allen says:

    Caption: “Diaconus sum, Mustafa!”

  22. gambletrainman says:

    Are you sure the canon doesn’t say the right to “bare arms”? I take it to mean the cleric has to wear long sleeves. Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  23. buffaloknit says:

    This is off topic but I hope-fills in the holes in my previous post! From pinterest.com “Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.” It is basically yet another social media site. A ‘pin’ search for ‘priests’ yields a slightly interesting variety of old black and white photos of Mass, etc. Social media analysts say the site is rather ‘good’ because people have not yet junked-it up with random things, and police themselves as far as vulgarity goes (it is still invitation only, and has very limited features).

    Pinterest has been around for 2 years now, but in the past 3 months has become extremely popular. They also had some bad press in the last few weeks about how pinterest alters affiliate links, so be warned about that! It is something people on the cutting edge should know about, IMO. Finally, I don’t want to open any can of worms! Fr Z, if you (Fr. Z) think you need an invite, let me know!

  24. John Nolan says:

    Odo, Bishop of Bayeux and half-brother to the Conqueror, is depicted on the Bayeux tapestry wielding a club at the Battle of Hastings and captioned ODO EPS BACULU(M) TENENS. In the rite for the consecration of bishops they are invested with a ‘baculum’ so Odo might have gone into battle armed with his crozier.

  25. Paulo says:

    Gambletrainman: LOL! I remember making the same mistake a gazzilion years ago, when the Internet was still, well, “intranet”. I had one of those “under construction” signs in a web site I used to have, and I posted a nice little message explained the situation that ended in… “bare with me.” Ohhh… I still remember the comments… Darned spell checkers! But, eh, just made the “cannon” pun more… explosive?

  26. RichardT says:

    Titus, the supposed prohibition on clerics carrying edged weapons (and so fighting with maces instead) appears to be a myth. The only evidence for it is a picture of Bishop Odo carrying a mace on the Bayeux Tapestry, but since maces were (and still are) also carried as symbols of authority, that may have been a symbol of office rather than a weapon.

    Turpin, Archbishop of Reims, has a sword in the Song of Roland, and no-one at the time seems to have thought that was unusual (although confusingly his sword’s name is Almace).

    The arms of the bishops of Winchester, London and Exeter (all pre-Reformation) all depict a sword.

    The Prince-Bishops of Durham (sadly now Anglican) still have the sword with which Sir John Conyers killed a dragon, which is ceremonially presented to them when they first enter their diocese.

  27. Elizabeth D says:

    A wonderful, kind, good priest who befriended me after I returned to the Church, Fr Victor Mosele, is a Xavierian Missionary priest who served for decades in Sierra Leone and was twice taken hostage for months at a time, by the child soldier using, limb hacking, eye gouging, murdering, raping, pillaging, and obviously kidnapping RUF rebels there. The second time he was a hostage the rebels would sometimes let him and the other priest who was hostage celebrate Mass for the locals, publicly in the mission church (later, amid fears they were about to be sold to rebels in another country where their lives would be in far greater danger, they made a dramatic escape). In his book Fr Victor writes:

    On Sundays Mass was at 9a.m. The small church was always filled to capacity, standing room only, and a number of RUF too would participate, some of rank, such as captains, majors, and colonels. Thank God! Remarkably, none of the higher rank ever came forward to receive Communion. I wonder what our response would have been in such a case. We requested that all rebels who wished to attend Mass leave their weapons outside the Church. They mostly complied!

    Fr Franco and I used to take turns presiding at Mass and delivering the sermon. Both of us used this opportunity to stress how contrary violence was to Jesus’ teachings, and how necessary it was to forgive injustices instead of making them a pretext for more violence. Sometimes the urgings, warnings, and condemnations were quite stern and direct; I would almost say thundering. But, interestingly, and to our relief, no one protested nor showed resentment.

    Also related, after Wisconsin recently passed a “concealed carry” law the Wisconsin Bishops issued a statement all together, urging people to “seriously consider not carrying [guns] into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces” though it was up to individual pastors to decide whether to prohibit guns at their church.

    Now, I do understand it is soldiers in a war situation and that it is possible the deacon in the photograph may be fulfilling some kind of military rule!

  28. I have to disagree. If the danger were so great then an armed guard -soldier/Marine – should have been posted. But it is to me totally abhorrent that anyone, Cleric or not who is vested and standing in attendance on the Minister of Holy Communion and therefore in the Presence of the Blessed Sacrament should be armed . It is totally incongruous. It does not appear that the communicants are grounding their weapos before Holy Communion and taking them up immediately afterward, so the danger could not have been immediate and desperate in any case.
    In all honesty , I find it very difficult to see how anyone could treat the thing lightly.The attitude to weapons displayed in some comments is out of place it seems to me.

  29. stilicho says:

    An example of the “Church Militant”?

  30. Andy Lucy says:

    It is not a safe zone. Those weapons have magazines in them. Not saying they are outside the wire, but a FOB isn’t always as safe as some might think.

    The other thing I am wondering about… the deacon’s M4 is not slung. You can see it coming off the buttstock… but it does not go around his shoulder as it normally would, especially if he were security. I don’t know what is going on there.

  31. EXCHIEF says:

    Since all of the communicants are looking away from the perimeter and are hopefully focusing on the Body of Christ they are about to receive I’m thinking the Deacon is the sentry (modern day Knight of Columbus with an M4). Wearing his clerical attire the M4 sling could easily get hung up. Can’t tell for sure but it looks like his right hand may be around an Aimpoint sight allowing him to pull the weapon up to horizontal quickly….I also suspect the deacon/Sentry is left handed.

  32. AnnAsher says:

    I’m sorry to say it but I profoundly doubt that young man is an ordained Deacon. Chaplain assistants carry weapons to defend themselves and the Chaplain they serve. I would be surprised if he is even Catholic.

  33. Ed the Roman says:

    The man in the dalmatic and diaconal stole is a deacon, I’m pretty sure. Neither the Army religious support people nor the Navy’s Religious Programs specialists pretend to be ministers. Heck, a few of them are atheists.

  34. Elizabeth D says:

    A deacon blogger who is a career Navy officer does not like the image at all, “as for myself, I am completely dismayed by this image of a vested and ordained minister of the church armed for combat.”:

  35. Andy Lucy says:

    EXCHIEF, you’re likely right. And the celebrant, as I understand it, is a bishop. He could have a deacon as his 56M… I emailed my friend who was that MOS and am awaiting a reply.

    As to those who are dismayed at the sight of an armed minister… well… it may very well become a more common sight if things keep going the way they have been.

  36. LarryPGH says:

    Ann Archer says, “Deacons that serve the US military are not active duty soldiers.”

    Are you sure about that? The URL you provided doesn’t make that statement. Now, you can assert that Catholic deacons in the US military are not Chaplains, but I’m not seeing where there’s a prohibition against deacons being active duty combatants (which is what I assume you’re attempting to assert). Now, a priest chaplain cannot be a combatant (although, without a doubt, they can be active duty soldiers).

    So, a deacon can be a combatant, and therefore, a chaplain’s assistant.

  37. Maybe the reason some of us find it funny is because we’re facing peril so much greater, and the respite of amusement is very welcome.

    If the times were calmer, the problem of a vested cleric bearing arms at Mass might indeed rouse more concern.

  38. filioque says:

    I will have to be the first to appreciate Fr. Z’s little pun: Beretta for biretta. (Beretta is a gun manufacturer.)

  39. Mariana says:

    “Caption: “Diaconus sum, Mustafa!””

    ….had me laughing out loud.

    But have you noticed, all the Mass-goers are armed, too!

  40. Mariana says:

    I just Pin’d the picture, it is under Things Catholic on Pinterest. My first pin, too!

  41. RichardT says:

    For those who say it is inappropriate for a deacon to be armed, a quote from the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia:
    “According to the Apostolic Constitutions belonging to the end of the fourth century the guarding of the door of the church during the service was the duty of the deacons”

    Clearly therefore it was expected that a deacon would be active in defence of the Mass, if necessary.

    And another:
    “as St. Chrysostom says: ‘if anyone misbehave, let the deacon be summoned’ (Hom. xxiv, in Act. Apost.).”
    I don’t think you’d get much misbehaviour if that deacon was going to be summoned.

    As to his army combat status, could he be a soldier (perhaps a called-up reservist) who also happens to be a permanent deacon? In that case he could be a normal combatant soldier, unconnected with the chaplaincy service, and just offered to act as deacon because he was there.

  42. Kerry says:

    The Holy Mass…and blessing of the M-4’s and ACOG’s?

  43. Imrahil says:

    I guess there is a “never without gun” rule, for both security and (undeniable) psychological reasons, when on combat service (or even when in a training area). These men will store their weapon when safely home.

    Obviously the minister of Holy Communion is excepted.

    A non-combatant may bear arms for self-defense, as medics also do. However, sometimes the military ordinariate (or what takes its place in other denominations) forbids clerics to do so.

  44. Titus says:

    Turpin, Archbishop of Reims, has a sword in the Song of Roland, and no-one at the time seems to have thought that was unusual

    Hmm, I had quite forgotten that. How embarrassing. I do admit that I haven’t ever seen an original source document stating the prohibition on edged weapons, although I feel like I should have come across it in college while researching the crusading orders. Perhaps it is a myth.

  45. AnnAsher says:

    Yes I am absolutely certain of what I stated. The military does not enlist Catholic Deacons, nor do they commission them. They are only ever utilized, without pay, on loan. Therefore they are also not even hired as GS or contractors… Would not be deployed… Most certain as h377 not issued weapons. I would be surprised if someone did some digging and didn’t learn that he is merely a chaplains assistant … By the numbers, probably not Catholic. They do this garbage all the time on stateside installations – dress some soldier up and put him on stage. Or don’t dress him up … And put him on stage. No training, no verification that they are Catholic much less in good standing. Just – hey let’s use a soldier as altar server, emhc, lector .. Volunteers?! Hands go up – up they go. Not hooah. Not at all. Ann Asher – Luke 3:16

  46. AnnAsher says:

    Deacons may be hired in a GS position not as Deacon. They may be hired as a Catholic coordinator ( I’ve only seen lay women). But still neither of those jobs would get him deployed to Iraq and issued an ak47. No he isn’t holding someone else’s weapon. He’s holding it off shoulder because slinging it would mess up his costume.

  47. irishgirl says:

    Wow, an awesome picture, Father Z! OORAH, indeed!
    But I had fits of the giggles with all the puns about ‘bearing arms’….and Big Red, that verse in Quantico almost had me in a loud burst of laughter! Leave it to the military to ‘tell it like it is’!
    Regarding Bishops bearing military arms in the past, remember that, before he was made Archbishop of Canterbury, St. Thomas Becket wielded a sword and led troops (don’t know if he was actually in combat, though).

  48. Art says:

    I do believe that even Don Camillo did end up having two tommyguns once.

  49. S. Murphy says:

    They’re called T-Barriers, and they’re set up around buildings, not just on the perimeter of the FOB, to minimize damage in rocket or mortar attacks. The offset slab right behind the deacon just protects the entranceway – you have to go around it to one side or the other, so there isn’t a wide-open gap in the wall.
    Ann Asher, I’ve never seen a Navy RP vest as a deacon, although I’ve seen an occasional one help as an altar server or EMHC. I’ve seen the RP be there to help with set-up and be the chaplain’s bodyguard, but NOT take an active role in the Mass often enough that when I do see them acting as altar server, I assume they’re Catholic. I will take your word for it that you’ve seen it done otherwise on Army installations.
    The picture is an Army scene – you can see by the uniforms, and almost all the Marines were out of Iraq by the beginning of 2010, so maybe your interpretation is right. But it’s still possible that the gentlemen in question is actually a permanent deacon. He’s not enlisted or commissioned as such, but he could be a reservist, mobilized for whatever his MOS is, but having gone to the chaplain and offered to help out. Don’t know how he’s helping if he’s holding his weapon, though.
    Maybe that so many people showed up that the bishop called an audible and moved the communion line outside, and then Deacon Grunt had to take his weapon with him rather than leave it unattended. (FYI, the weapon’s an M4, as noted by others.)

  50. Adam Welp says:

    AnnAsher: “The military does not enlist Catholic Deacons, nor do they commission them.”

    I understand AMS’s policy regarding deacons as chaplains, but what you state above does not make sense to me.

    So, if I were a permanent deacon and decided to enlist in the Army as a chaplains assistant, are you are saying that the Army would refuse to let me enlist? Conversely, what if I were in the reserves and decided to become a permanent deacon while on reserve status, would the Army then discharge me from the reserves?

    I’m not discounting anything you say about “dressing up” someone to be “on stage.”

  51. FidelisV says:

    I´ve posted this same picture on my blog in Brazil when Us troops left Iraq last December


    Several brazilian sites commented about of the gun with fun or angry. It raised a lot of polemic

  52. cathdeac says:

    The weapon was given the deacon by a soldier who was attending Mass and the deacon was going to place the weapon in a secure location. Before he could place it there, somebody took a picture.

  53. cl00bie says:

    “Excuse me. Please consume that now, or give it back to me!”

  54. John Nolan says:

    I have always held that neither police officers nor women should be entrusted with firearms. After seeing this picture I shall have to add deacons to the list. The next thing will be gun-toting EMHC – “get off your knees and stick your hands out!”

  55. Phil Steinacker says:

    I know I come late to this discussion – and no one may see this – but I was wondering if that is Army surplice the deacon is wearing?

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