PHILIPPINES: To arm priests or not to arm?

This is interesting from the UK’s best Catholic weekly, the Catholic Herald:

Philippine Church resists calls to arm priests

Church leaders in the Philippines criticised a proposal to arm priests as a protective measure in the wake of recent attacks on clergy members.

Calls have come from several quarters[I wonder who they are.] for priests to take advantage of a 2014 law allowing journalists, priests, lawyers, doctors, nurses, accountants and engineers to carry firearms outside their homes. [An interesting selection of professions/vocations.  Could it be that they are perceived to be so valuable to society at large that they should have additional protection?  It would be interesting to see the list that the law gives.]

The calls come after three recent shooting incidents involving priests.

In the most recent case June 6, Fr Rey Urmeneta, 64, who serves at a parish in Calamba City about 25 miles north of Manila, survived a gun attack by two assailants.

He was the third priest to have been shot since December.

In April, Fr Mark Ventura from Gattaran in the northern Philippines died after being shot by a lone gunman shortly after celebrating Sunday Mass and in December Fr Marcelito Paez was shot dead in Jaen, about 75 miles north of Manila.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, however, expressed strong opposition to the idea of arming priests.

Arming priests is not a solution to crimes against them,” said Fr Jerome Secillano, executive secretary of the bishops’ Public Affairs Committee.  [I’m not sure how he knows that.  Would fewer priests be attacked if their would-be assailants had to wonder if they were armed?  It seems to me that these cowards pick victims whom they think are easy to victimize.  But read on!]

He said there is no need for priests to arm themselves because, like any ordinary citizen, they are also entitled to protection from the government[Ahhh yes.  The government!  Because, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away!]

“If (priests) antagonise other people, killing them is unnecessarily excessive and brutal,” [?!?] said Fr Secillano, adding that priests should never be considered as “enemies.”  [I sense that something is missing.]

Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon said priests get their protection from “angels, not weapons.” [Except when they don’t, at least in the physical sense.]

“I am for a gunless society. We priests are not afraid of dangers. If the public, especially the poor, are exposed to dangers, we cannot be less,” said retired Archbishop Ramon Arguelles of Lipa. [On the other hand, if the ranks of priests decline because they are easy-targets to be robbed and shot, how does that work for the people of God?]

Bishop Honesto Ongtioco of Cubao said a priest’s “vocation and role in the transformation of society” is different from other people.

“Our security is more on what we do, how we interact and live with people,” he said.  [True enough.  However, it only take one nut job to screw up that scenario.]

Meanwhile, Secretary of Justice Menardo Guevarra said he intended to include in next year’s proposed budget for his department funding for the purchase of firearms for prosecutors.

Guevarra said the move is in response to the killing of prosecutors in recent months, especially in the provinces.

He made the announcement following the killing of a prosecutor during a robbery incident in Quezon City June 4.

At least seven prosecutors have been killed in the past two years, according to police.

Prior to the 2014 law, people such as priests and prosecutors, like any other citizen, were required to prove they were “under actual threat” before being issued a special permit to carry firearms.

Now all that is required is that a person passes drug and psychiatric tests, prove they have no pending criminal case punishable by two or more years in jail and have no prior criminal convictions.

An interesting story developing in the Philippines.

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  1. rcg says:

    So where are the Knights of Columbus?

  2. Malta says:

    In ISIS/Syria and other terrorist zones I think Priests should have slung under their cassocks either an AR-15 or an AK-47. I don’t believe in “turning the other cheek” when a terrorist or other murderous type enters a church. In the FBI I could carry a Glock even where all weapons were forbidden: like schools, airplanes, bars in Manhattan, etc. I once asked my training Agent, who was the Principal Firearms Instructor (and a Christian) what he would do if he saw someone robbing a bank. He carried a Springfield .45. He said very seriously that he would walk up to the man and shoot him in the back of the head. You know we Catholics used to be tough as nails. Think of Malta in 1565 where a small band took on an entire army of Islamic invaders, ten times our size. And we won. Where has our manly hood gone, where the steel resolve we as men once had. Now the majority of men are effeminate, even if they’re not gay. My grandfather–a B-17 Pilot–saw his best friend shot down over Germany; my dad saw his good friend killed in Vietnam. I have my own stories. I absolutely think priests should arm themselves.

  3. Malta says:

    And, by the way, some churches said I couldn’t pack. Did I not pack because of a sign–not!

  4. exNOAAman says:

    Well written Malta.
    Is it not a sin to intentionally go into battle unarmed? (Intentionally, I’m saying)
    Think about it.

  5. Anon Seminarian says:

    Malta says:

    In ISIS/Syria and other terrorist zones I think Priests should have slung under their cassocks either an AR-15 or an AK-47.

    Sounds rather… unwieldy. Just carrying a normal handgun under a cassock probably is a much slower draw than a priest concealing under a clerical suit. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to quickly respond with a rifle.

  6. RichR says:

    If I was a priest and they started making public statements discouraging priests from carrying a gun, I’d immediately go and get a gun and get trained because now all priests in the country instantly have become “soft targets”. You have a right to defend yourself.

  7. AndyMo says:

    “So where are the Knights of Columbus?”

    In the United States, because the Knights of Columbus are an American organization.

  8. Amerikaner says:

    After the Sept 11 attacks, I know of one priest that had a loaded firearm on the altar as he said Mass in the event the parish were targeted. Back then no one knew what else might occur and he was prepared to act if necessary (even though I am not sure how that would work if something did happen as I thought the priest must finish Mass no matter what and I’d think that would mean he can’t even temporarily stop Mass if an incident occurred).

  9. Malta says:

    You know this person writing about “angels” protecting priests or faithful probably hasn’t hear of Nyarrubuye, where 20,000 were killed in a Catholic Church, or the mass killings in Catholic churches in the middle east.

    My two favorite saints next to Mary are Perpetua and Felicitas, who were martyrs, and they were young mothers, and will be forever remembered for their bravery as they died. But just on principal anyone who tries to kill me, my kids, etc. is going to get killed. I don’t think the Knights Hospitller in Malta in 1565, totaling 6,000 men, wanted 40,000 Ottoman Turks raping and pillaging that island. So, they didn’t let it happen (cf.

  10. gio says:

    It’s been a while since I posted here. I’m from the Philippines in the Archdiocese of Jaro. There was once an instance here where a bishop packed a revolver while celebrating mass. It happened after the end of the Filipino-American war when a lot of churches were occupied by supporters of the Philippine Independent Church (Aglipayans). In one town the municipal president who was an aglipayan supporter refused to hand over the keys to the new american Bishop Frederick Zadok Rooker. Bishop Rooker forcibly retook the keys from the municipal president and the the aglipayans threatened to set loose a herd of carabaos inside the church when the bishop would celebrate mass the next sunday. When Bishop Rooker came the following week he was accompanied by volunteer americans and clelebrated mass with a revolver beside him in his throne. No herd of carabaos turned out.

    I believe priests should be allowed arms for personal protection as well as protection of their flock. Butbi think packing a rvolver while celbrating mass is a bit overkill.

  11. Yeah, we all have guardian angels, priests included, but that doesn’t mean we can dispense with prudence. Sitting back and expecting miracles as a substitute for using the ordinary means that lie to hand strikes me as tempting God.

  12. Imrahil says:

    There is one thing about the “gunless society” stuff and another thing about the specific question of priests with guns.

    A gunless society in the litteral sense is bovine excrements, if you pardon me; a gunless society in the sense that only people with either an office or a proven need can get weapons is debatable (but presupposes a reasonably strong public authority).

    But in either case, there is something specific about the priesthood. In the old days, priests who had, even accidentally or in undebatably just self-defense, killed a person were irregular for the execution of their office: the priesthood is at odds with the shedding of blood. Ecclesia non sitit sanguinem.

    That does not say they should not have laymen bodyguards. Did I say laymen? Possibly also something of a job for ostiarians or acolytes (okay, they are laymen now).

  13. Egad_Trad_Dad says:

    Just in: Another priest in the province of Nueva Ecija was shot dead while preparing for Mass.

  14. Egad_Trad_Dad says:

    I, an American, took my fourth degree here in the Philippines (a surreal experience, given the principle of the fourth degree), and am active in my lical council. The Knights of Columbus are strong here, perhaps as much or even moreso than in the United States.

  15. Egad_Trad_Dad says:

    The article makes it clear that the bearing of arms is severely restricted in the Philippines. However, most parishes here have at least one armed security guard; hence, there is less of a need for priests to arm themselves, at least in urban centers.

    Out in the boondocks (root: Tagalog, “bundok” = “mountains”), it’s a different matter. A good case could be made for arming priests there, especially given that communist rebels, Muslim insurgents, large landowners, and illegal miners and loggers have few, if any, compunctions about killing or kidnapping

  16. Clinton R. says:

    If being armed was good enough for St. Gabriel Possenti, then for sure the priests of the Phillipines should be allowed to defend themselves and their flock.

  17. TimFinnegan says:

    What about St. Thomas Aquinas claim that the shedding of blood makes a cleric unfit for his clerical duties? ST II-II. 40.2

    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. For this reason it has been decreed that those who shed blood, even without sin, become irregular. Now no man who has a certain duty to perform, can lawfully do that which renders him unfit for that duty.

    I realize the question is talking about war but it seems that Aquinas is arguing that since it is not good for a cleric to shed blood at all, this is a reason that he should not be fighting in wars. How does this play into a priest carrying guns to protect himself?

  18. Malta says:

    This applies to schools too. I think every teacher who can pass a CC class should be allowed to pack. I would love to live in a country like Malta where there is no gun violence, but here the reality is different, and if bad guys have guns, good guys should have guns.

  19. Angelo Tan says:

    From the Diocese of San Pablo, the Philippines, here.

    A 64-year old priest was shot in our city (Calamba). By God’s grace, fortunately, he survived. He was the chaplain before of the Philippine National Police (I don’t know if it’s in the Regional or National Police).

    The question lies here that, given the situation of a negative tenor towards the Philippine Catholic Church, how can our current government protect the clergy? We can’t even claim “sanctuary” under the aegis of this government, and deemed enemies of the State!

    Upon my observation, there’s a recurring pattern of the death of these priests, for they are active in social work such as combating illegal mining. But the recent one was shot yesterday, a few days before a religious debate. But I wouldn’t speculate that that is the reason.

  20. KateD says:

    It takes a looong time to train up a priest….and they are scarce as is. Allow the priests to arm themselves if they chose to, or not if they chose not to. It’s seems like a personal decision to me.

    In certain parts of this country, during the hey day of the KKK, some priests would celebrate the Mass wit a pistola on the altar.

    Personally, I feel safer in states that are will carry.

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