St. Michael, Defend Us: On Carrying In Church

Blessed be the LORD, my rock,

who trains my hands for battle,

my fingers for war;

My safeguard and my fortress,

my stronghold, my deliverer,

My shield, in whom I take refuge,

who subdues peoples under me.

— Psalm 144:1-2

By now everyone has heard about the shootings in Charleston: nine dead after a young white man opened fire at a bible study meeting in an historically black church. In a popular video clip from The Daily Show making the rounds yesterday, John Stewart dialed back the comedy to touch on several serious issues raised by this crime, including racism, mental health issues, and the perceived disparity of response to what some are calling an act of domestic terrorism (but which may be “just” mass murder) compared to acts of international terrorism. Stewart claims these acts are all too common — I think they are quite rare, but extremely well-publicized.

The fact that church shootings happen at all, coupled with the fact that orthodox Catholics are increasingly unpopular for holding the line against the masses on a number of moral issues raises a different question in my mind: Are we prepared to safeguard ourselves, our families, and our parish at the Mass — or more explicitly, should we carry firearms in church?

I have thought about this several times over the years since I got my permit to carry. I have never done so, primarily because while my permit-to-carry class was informative, it was not training per se, and I am not practiced enough to have any sort of confidence using a firearm in a large public space filled with people. If a shooter turns up in our church this weekend, my top priority would be getting first my family, then as many others as I can, out the nearest exit. And both my permit-to-carry instructor and this article from Concealed Carry Magazine, entitled Defending Houses of Worship, suggest that’s probably the best bet.

The article raises some important issues for those who think “packing” is as easy as strapping on a gun so you’ve got it when you need it. For example: in most churches of any size, you won’t know everyone, and have no real security or way of knowing who might be armed. Unless those who carry regularly in your church are well known to each other, if someone opens fire during Sunday services and multiple people respond in kind, how do you know the good guys from the bad guys?

I have been negligent in practicing with my firearms and have never had any sort of tactical training or training under stress. And not all training is equal — consider this story, which attempts to blame the trigger, and not the finger, for what sounds to me like rookie firearms mistakes by law enforcement officers. As the old sports cliche goes, “Perfect practice makes perfect.” I need to recommit to training with my firearms, then exercising the right to bear arms. A PCJ pistol league — what do you say?

May there be no breach in the walls,

no exile, no outcry in our streets.

Blessed the people so fortunate;

blessed the people whose God is the LORD.

— Psalm 144:14-15


  1. J. Thorp says:

    Interesting topic — a friend in Michigan sent me this article awhile back, about a priest not only encouraging parishioners to carry, but having the parish host a class: His bishop seemed to disagree strongly with the approach — the priest seems to have quite an impact wherever he goes, and has apparently done a 180 on this issue since his younger days. To me like both approaches (the bishop’s and the priest’s) seem like a stretch…

  2. […] of the prior post from Timshel related to the Charleston church shooting and our responsibility to ensure our […]

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