Gunslinger priests: on consecrated canonical digits vs trigger fingers

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A reader recently asked:

“Not to belabor it, but, did I miss the column where you explain why you (1) feel you need to carry a gun? (2) Don’t the same fingers that hold the Host, hold the trigger?”

(1) “Feel the need.” That’s a strange statement. If anyone carries a gun because of feelings, they should not, must not carry a gun. That’s the definition of psychosis. You’re right to rebel against that, but wrong to put that on anyone who does carry. Feelings are not the reason a sane person carries a gun. Not everyone who carries a gun is psychotic.

At any rate, I have many reasons (forget feelings) why I carry a “carry permit” in my wallet.

  • Is it that I have, in fact, been shot at and had a gun held menacingly in my direction many times in my life, throughout my life? No, that wouldn’t be it. I really couldn’t care less. I’ve lived this long, right?
  • Is it that I’ve had quite a lot of contact with “successful” terrorists these past decades? No, that’s not it either. A gun wouldn’t have been a help or been used in any of the situations in which I’ve been. Well, in one or two situations… Anyway, that’s hypothetical as I didn’t have a gun and I lived to tell the tale, right?
  • Is it perhaps that I have a background that is interesting enough for the State Department to issue me a false passport for my protection, and then put a perpetual protection order out on my behalf? Nope, not that at all. After all, they’re helping me, right?
  • It is that I think I will certainly run into a bad situation in which I wish I had a gun, you know, like Father Kenneth Walker? Certainly not. I mean, most law enforcement officers go their entire careers without ever even once taking their guns out of their holsters except for re-qualification at the target range. It could happen, but…
  • It is that I often am to be found on the most violent roads in Western North Carolina where I’ve faced deadly situations a half-dozen times already? Definitely not it. Those were all once-off incidents.

So, what is it then?

  • Is it that I want to be available for any contingency in which doing this would be helpful for the defense of the innocent when the police are only minutes away? Yes, that’s a reason, as this is always a positive contribution to the virtue of justice.
  • Is it that my legs, a bit crippley, are too unstable to do what young Francesco Possenti (Saint Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows) did in stealing guns from the arsonist / rapists invading his village? Convenience can also be a reason to carry a carry permit.
  • Is it that to be a chaplain for the police in some parts of this diocese one has to go through the FBI course which includes getting trained up in weapons? Yes, that’s a reason. I would say it’s the reason.

(2) “The same fingers.” An attempt at helpful, glorious irony? Or simply a non-sequitur if I ever saw one? Here’s the deal: a positive contribution to the virtue of justice by way of our Lord laying down His life, standing in our stead, taking on what we deserve for our sin so as to have the right in His own justice to have mercy on us is not contradictory to a positive contribution to the virtue of justice by way of defense of the innocent. Justice is justice and one is not to offer some sort of apology for justice.

Stepping up like this will, of course, lay one wide open to getting killed. I don’t see this as contradictory to the statement of Jesus that laying down one’s life for one’s friends is the greatest act of love.

It’s true! I’m not a LEO and I’m not in the military. I’m just a mere citizen. Ah, but that’s the answer, isn’t it?

Just to say: most priests I know have carry permits. Yes, most priests I know are both on the younger and more conservative side of things. But I’ll add a story about perhaps the most liberal priest in this diocese who would throw out LEOs if they came to Mass in uniform, including a full duty belt. Really. He would stop Mass and make a scene until they left. I guess that was a ploy to look liberal, you know, to get praise from the liberal crowd. That priest, mind you, carries a gun himself. I smiled a wry smile when I found that out.

Back to feelings… What if – God forbid – I shoot someone in the justifiable defense of innocent human life? Could I go ahead and consecrate the Body and Blood of our Lord with the same fingers that held the gun and pulled the trigger? Why not? Would feelings be quite overwhelming about having taken someone’s life? Maybe. Even probably. But that’s an occasion to be introduced more deeply to the Sacred Mysteries. Our fallen human nature tends to obfuscate in fear of the deadly seriousness of Jesus’ love for us. But that must be overcome in His grace.

Canon law forbids a man to be ordained a priest if he has ever murdered anyone, perhaps forgetting about Saul (later Saint Paul) and Saint Stephen. But killing is not necessarily murder. Also, shooting is not necessarily killing, as you never shoot to kill. You shoot to stop the threat. I’m sure there are many “Buts” to be answered. It’s a discussion worth having. Am I upset with the question? No. Not at all. There has to be a way to begin the discussion. Distinctions are to be made. We learn together.

Look, no one ever wants to pull a trigger. But there are certain prosecutorial tricks used to convict someone, but none of them are true:

  • You have personal defense rounds which stop in the person you’re shooting, meaning you intended to kill, wanted to kill. /// No, that’s not true. You simply don’t want the round to go through the perp, wounding but not stopping, and then through an innocent bystander, and another and another, as can happen with full metal jacket.
  • You had a trigger job done, meaning you intended to kill, wanted to kill. /// No, that’s not true. You simply want to be as accurate and quick as possible in order to save lives. That’s what it’s all about.
  • You do target practice a lot, meaning you intended to kill, wanted to kill. /// No, that’s not true. You simply want to be ready to face serious untowardness appropriately, knowing well the tool you have to bring deadly imminent threats to naught.
  • You carry a gun because of feelings, whatever they are for whatever reason they are there, and the conclusion must be that you intended to kill, wanted to kill. /// No, that’s not true. See above… etc. etc. etc.

Now, having said all that, my joy in life is not to carry a gun. Instead:

  • My joy in life is to use my consecrated hands to consecrate the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus, gracious as He is to this sinner.
  • My joy in life is to use my consecrated hands to absolve sins in the confessional, or out of it for that matter, though I am not as joyful then as I am when I myself am absolved from my own sins.
  • My joy in life is to use my consecrated hands to pick flowers and give them to the Immaculate Conception: it’s what Jesus would have me do always in all circumstances. And we don’t need consecrated hands for that. More on that joy in another post. But for now…

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7 Comments

Filed under Guns, Priesthood, Vocations

7 responses to “Gunslinger priests: on consecrated canonical digits vs trigger fingers

  1. pelerin

    Humble apologies Father but we in Europe are astonished to learn that Priests in the US carry guns.
    Archbishop Lebrun of Rouen, France said in Cracow on learning about the tragic killing at the altar of the elderly Priest in his diocese:
    ‘L’Eglise ne peut prendre d’autres armes que la priere et le fraternite entre les hommes.’
    It appears that it is not just the Pond which separates our two continents.

  2. Father George David Byers

    Pope Francis has armed security, the best.

  3. nancyv

    The clarity of your reasons is stunning :)
    ‘The Church cannot take weapons other than prayer and the brotherhood between men.’ (I had to take that to the translator!)
    Jesus used his hand with whip in hand as he drove out the moneychangers. and Judas used a kiss to betray. Intent.

  4. As a woman who has a concealed carry license, one thing that I was reminded of by the Sheriff Captain who taught the licensing class, is that Evil exists in the world and sometimes it crosses our paths in potentially violent ways. The Church recognizes an individual’s right to self-defense. I carry a gun with the intent of STOPPING someone if they make the decision to become a threat to my life or another innocent person’s, or intend to do serious bodily harm to myself or another innocent person. My intent is to STOP the serious physical threat, but in stopping that threat, the person perpetrating it could possibly be killed. I don’t want to kill, but I do want to STOP the serious physical threat. Why shouldn’t a priest have the same right to defend himself or another innocent person if need be?

  5. sanfelipe007

    Well done, Father. The words “why do you feel…” almost always make me bristle at how one pretends to know, not what another may think, but what one might feel with such certainty! Of course it is nothing more than a cheap ploy to place the queried at a disadvantage when answering a loaded question.

  6. sanfelipe007

    Way off topic, but since I was “triggered” by the term “gunslinger,” I just happened to catch an episode of Longmire on Netflix, where a character exclaimed “cheese and rice!”

  7. elizdelphi

    I can understand that Europeans think we are strange. I disagree with priests (and most other people) carrying guns–though I can understand getting a permit if it is a requirement for being a police chaplain. I have commented at various other times and in various places so I think that is all I will say except that while I don’t like priests to carry guns I am very judgmental (the deacon at church told me this at me one time, I don’t know if he still thinks so) and I judge Fr George to be much better than myself (I am told I should not compare myself with others, but I am still working on that fault) and I have the greatest liking for his mind and heart.

    “Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

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