Soon after President Obama’s announcement on limiting gun access, and Texas’ move to expand open carry of guns, Bishop Kevin Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas made a surprising statement. The bishop stated that “the Diocese of Dallas will prohibit the possession of any weapon in any facility owned, leased and operated by the diocese or a diocesan entity.”
I don’t believe this will stop those who feel they need to have their guns for safety. I have already heard many Catholics say they will blatantly disregard the Bishop’s wishes. This disregard is the most important issue to me.
The announcement carries the weight of the Church’s authority, which is frequently the center of much theological and secular debate. The debate on gun control is confusing and multifaceted. For Catholics, such as myself, it is especially difficult. On the one hand, I turn to what the Catholic faith says about violence, and its encouragement to seek peace among all. On the other hand I turn to the Second Amendment and the need for protection. It is difficult to ignore the secular news which seems to cover an endless number of new extremists and psychopaths who wreak unspeakable atrocities, even shooting people in churches.
Ultimately, it is a debate about trying to maintain the balance between citizens’ rights to weaponry and the desire for a world where such weaponry is not required. With all these considerations, it is still difficult to accept what the Bishop laid out so universally. I don’t believe that leaving our guns at home will make us any safer. I also do not believe that a sign saying a place is gun-free will prevent someone with malicious intent.
We can go back and forth all day about whether or not preventing legal gun possession is beneficial or safe. However, in this case, the issue is whether or not we as Catholics will willingly submit to the Bishop’s statement. Bishop Farrell took an authoritative stance that he expects us to follow. Canon Law has numerous explanations of how Catholics should act when faced with a clergy member with whom they disagree, but all the instructions are rooted in two virtues. Those virtues are charity and obedience.
Through our conversations and disagreements, we, as Catholics are called to be charitable. The term charity has two important parameters in this debate. Charity wants the best for a person either in safety or knowledge, and respects the human dignity of others. It is most important to continue the conversation in a way that is understanding and concerned with seeking the Good. While some may have desired a show of support from the Bishop for open carry, there is also an absurdity in carrying weapons into a sacred place.
Will the Bishop’s decision prevent extremists from entering a church and killing innocent people? Probably not. But could the example of Catholics choosing peace and obedience perhaps help bring about better discussion on how to address gun violence? I believe it’s worth a shot.
We Catholics are called to be obedient to the will of the Church. Since Bishop Farrell is the leader of the Diocese, the Church is not the place to be making shows of revolt or political statements.
If you do not agree with the Bishop and cannot talk about it charitably, then I consider looking up the closest churches outside the Diocese of Dallas and going there. In the meantime, I’ll be stowing my gun in my safe while I head off to Mass.