In the wake of the recent horrible Texas church massacre, I now have several email conversations going on – with laity and clergy – about having a concealed firearm in church.
This is an issue which needs sober assessment by everyone, laity and clergy alike.
One person wrote…
Is it correct that a Catholic ignoring his bishops policy on firearms would be committing a sin of disobedience ? Is it a good idea for those with specialized permits and training to write a respectful and humble letter requesting a change ? (please drop my name if you feel its good to post this)
First, I don’t think it is necessarily a mortal sin to ignore the local bishop’s policy, unless there are other, attendant circumstances. It might be a venial sin. And venial sins are sins.
It seems to me that ignoring a “No Guns” posting is not grave matter, a requisite for commission of a mortal sin. Why? I’m pretty sure that in most places, should the owner of location which is “posted” note that you have a gun, and if you refuse to leave after you are asked, the violation would be only a misdemeanor. Civil law doesn’t identify this as being a serious violation, such as a felony. Review the laws where you live. As far as the spiritual dimension is concerned, bishops and priests cannot tell you what to wear or carry about your person. They can ask you to leave a church if what you wear or carry is outwardly blasphemous or obscene or immodest or it would disturb a service or cause scandal. Guns are not, in themselves, blasphemous or obscene, etc. If they are concealed, they don’t disturb or cause a scandal. Guns are not, in themselves, evil. They don’t violate the sacrality of the church, which is itself a sacramental, a sacred place.
Bishops and priests can, however, set policy according to the civil laws for the property the have under their charge. If the church property is “posted”, pay attention to the local civil statutes! Just because it probably isn’t a mortal sin to ignore such postings, that doesn’t mean that I think it is right to ignore them. If it is even a venial sin, and it could be, should it be committed purposely?
Next, is it a good idea to write to the bishop? I guess so. People have the right to express themselves to their pastors in a respectful way. I suppose that if enough people wrote to the bishop, that might make a difference. However, both sides can do that. And I suspect that a bishop who would impose such a policy is probably ideologically committed to the point that a reversal would be highly unlikely.
Moving on, a priest wrote, on a lighter note, but not really light, since we are all concerned about violence in churches…
You often post about firearms, keeping oneself safe, etc. I have carried a concealed weapon for a few years (having received requisite training).
I have worn my firearm during Mass before, but always on the waist. Because of my vestments, this isn’t the ideal location to carry on my body.
Do you have any advice re: where to locate a concealed weapon for a priest at Mass?
After one is tied up with amice, cincture, and chasuble (at least my chasubles are secured with a cloth tie), the only option is the traditional, “Joe Friday” armpit-style holster. One could easily have an opening cut in an alb near the heart for access.
I would say this, Father.
First, if you have done some training, get even more training.
Next, make sure you attend to the civil laws and diocesan policies where you are.
Moreover, you should read my response to the use of the beretta at Mass. HERE I opined that perhaps the firearm could be carried by an altar boy on a silver salver covered with a white linen.
Alternatively… perhaps a good number of firearms could be positioned on stands about the sanctuary so that one is always near to hand? After all, some sanctuaries are filled with lots of useless clutter, large pots of frondy plants, etc. If with lots of clutter and plants, why not with lots of guns? Racks of AR-15s?
Then, how might the priest carry at Mass…. not easy. Having one’s weapon under all that gear isn’t really practical. The alb with the slit in it might work. Perhaps one might experiment with an old, worn out alb, slated for burning.
That said, remember, Father, that the holster and firearm are not yet officially approved liturgical vestments. They shouldn’t be exposed to view as if they were.
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are countering. “Those awful microphones aren’t liturgical vestments, but priests and – especially bishops – clip them on all the time! They also cause loud noises and they make some preachers truly lethal. If a microphone, which is a tool that often causes spiritual harm – far more serious than physical harm – can be worn openly during Mass, why not open carry your gun? We all know, don’t we! YOU HATE NEHEMIAH 4:18!”
I don’t hate Nehemiah 4:18! As a matter of fact, that is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture, along with John 21:3.
Okay, let’s work with this.
I suppose that, when celebrating ad orientem, one could molle the holster to the underside of the front of the Roman chasuble. It could be helpful to have the holster in the liturgical color of the day. Perhaps several weapons should be available in the sacristy safe, cerakote treated in the liturgical colors, including cerulean for those blue pontifical sets where they are used. One could also arm the deacon and subdeacon: dalmatics are copious and concealing. Just so, the weapons would be occasionally visible, but discrete.
Let’s say that the liturgical Beretta (and its variations, the sacred Sig, the glorifying Glock, etc.) were to be carried openly and at the waist. Since there is now a vesting prayer for the microphone – HERE – we might have another prayer.
Off the top of my head, after the stole but before the chasuble:
Domine, scutum noster et salvator, firma manus meas ad debellandas inimici insidias et digitos meos doce ad proelium contra omnes diabolicas potestates.
Perhaps we can come up with something better, but that could do for now… unless that one receives immediate ecclesiastical approval from a competent authority.
Tracking back to seriousness, everyone should engage in situational awareness at all times. We never want to read of such a church shooting incident ever again.
I warmly encourage anyone who considers carrying to review local laws and to seek even more training. In fact, I think everyone should seek the training, even if you know you will never carry: it is extremely useful. Pay attention to local laws. I hope also that all law enforcement officers will be always armed and especially vigilant during every church event and act of liturgical worship. Perhaps let their pastors know who you are and discuss with them what precautions might be taken to secure the sacred precincts… always in good cooperation.
And finally, Father…
Prudence. Prudence. Prudence.
The moderation queue is ON for ALL comments right now.
At the risk of making this longer, this next bit is merited.
From a priest friend (with my usual):
Apropos of the discussion about concealed-carry at Mass, let me tell you a story. I ask, however, that all identifying information be redacted. [Of course!]
Last Sunday, in the wake of the shooting in Texas, I realized: if it could happen in rural Texas, it could happen where I am, in a rural part of my state. So I thought about it, and resolved to contact a parishioner who I know has all the proper expertise and good judgment. I called him and set up a meeting for later that week.
The next day, another parishioner stops by my office. He has the same thing on his mind. He suggests I contact the very same person; and he offers to help.
The next day, the fellow I originally contacted comes to me with a pretty well thought out plan — helped by input from the other gentleman — which calls for recruiting 12 or so men of the parish who have both a CCW permit, and a sufficient level of training. The thing is, these aren’t 12 who have to go GET the permit and training; THEY ALREADY HAVE IT. The folks I needed were already there. All I had to do was ask. And all the people suggested are solid, level headed men. We don’t want any loose cannons, pardon the pun.
The policy of the diocese is that I must give specific authorization to individuals — not a blanket authorization. Three of those letters have been sent, and more will come in the next few weeks.
We discussed the merits of calling attention to this, versus keeping a low profile. My decision was that it would not help to be a CNN story; the bishop would not like it, and why take a chance that pressure on him would result in a different policy? So we are not telling anyone about this; but if questions are asked, we will just say, “we have a plan.” My guess is that people will know what that means.
That’s one approach. Thoughtful. I recommend considering additional professional training for teamwork, etc. Surely it is available.