Guns blazing at Texas Catholic churches: The intriguing question facing Lone Star dioceses

The Roman Catholic bishop of Dallas is no fan of Texas' new open-carry law.

In a column that drew the attention of Religion News Service, Bishop Kevin Farrell last week ripped the "cowboy mentality" that he said "permits the open carrying of guns."

In turn, The Dallas Morning News reported this week that Farrell's remarks angered some conservative Catholics — with one blogger asking, "Why doesn’t he just call us a bunch of mouth-breathing inbred hicks and be done with it?"


This was the Morning News' lede:

Plenty of Texas gun rights advocates celebrated 2016 as the year open carry finally arrived. But for some conservative Catholics, it’s another reason to clash with Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell.
The Dallas Diocese forbids parishioners from bringing guns – openly carried or concealed – to their churches. A recent online column by Farrell – described by some as “strident” – has made the Bishop’s critics even more vocal.
“Sadly, Texas has become the 45th state to embrace the cowboy mentality that permits the open carrying of guns,” Farrell wrote in his column. “It is difficult to see how this new law allowing persons with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) to openly carry firearms can accomplish anything other than cause people to feel threatened and intimidated.”
New state laws permit license holders to openly carry handguns in many places, including public college campuses. But private property owners also have the right to prohibit legal gun owners from packing.
That’s created tension from the grocery store to the pulpit.
Charles Cleaver, a North Oak Cliff Catholic and gun owner, described Farrell as a leftist with an Irish-European view of guns that doesn’t have a place in Texas. The Dublin-born bishop came to Dallas from Washington, D.C.
“He just likes to ram these things down people’s throats,” Cleaver said. “I don’t know who he’s [Farrell] trying to appeal to.”

The Dallas newspaper's report gives a voice to both extremes, although I found myself wishing for more nuance. Specifically, are there any Catholics who see pros and cons on people of faith packing heat? Is there room for any gray in this debate?

Another important piece of context missing from this story: What's happening in the rest of the Lone Star State?

Dallas is just one of 15 Roman Catholic dioceses and archdioceses that comprise the 268,820 square miles of Texas.

Of course, the Morning News must focus on the Diocese of Dallas. Duh.

But wouldn't it be interesting — and relevant — to know how other Texas dioceses are handling the question of whether to allow guns in their churches? 

About 100 miles east of Dallas, for example, Tyler Bishop Joseph E. Strickland strikes a far different tone on guns than Farrell:

I respect and support the right that we have as Texans to defend ourselves and our families. As Catholics, we believe the legitimate defense of persons can be not only a right, but also a grave duty.
In the Diocese of Tyler, I strongly encourage those who choose to exercise this right to continue to do so in a prudent and responsible manner. With respect to our communal worship, I believe that openly carrying a weapon is not appropriate during the Sacred Liturgy and may understandably cause great discomfort to some gathered to worship alongside us.
Accordingly, as Bishop, I ask the faithful of the Diocese of Tyler and guests of our churches to observe my instruction that weapons are not to be openly carried during Holy Mass or other times of public worship. Peace Officers commissioned by local, state or federal agencies are exempt from this instruction.
As Texans adjust to this new law, I would also encourage the clergy and faithful of the Diocese to address any questions that may arise with calmness, kindness and respect, taking into consideration both the legitimate feelings and the rights of all involved.

Elsewhere, the Houston Chronicle indicated that the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has not taken a stand:

Area leaders of Catholic, Presbyterian and Evangelical Lutheran denominations said the decision to permit or ban openly displayed firearms will be left to individual congregations.

Similarly, the Diocese of Austin is letting individual parishes decide, according to Fox 7:

"Some of our parishes have schools for example, some of them don't. Some are in rural areas, some in inter-city areas. Many with multiple buildings, others with just a few buildings. So there were some issues that came up in specific questions and we realized that maybe one answer is not going to fit a response in every one of our locations," says Chancellor Ron Walker, Diocese of Austin.
"I think that's perfectly fine. You know, they let the universities decide individually. So I mean, why not the churches?" says Caldwell.

The Diocese of El Paso has said "no" to open carry, according to KFOX-14.

An e-bulletin from the Diocese of Fort Worth notes:

In light of the new state law that enables individuals to openly carry guns, Bishop Michael F. Olson has established a “Firearms and Weapons Policy”. The policy is effective immediately. The policy bans both firearms and weapons which are carried openly and firearms and weapons which are concealed. However, the ban becomes effective only after proper notice is provided and state-mandated signs are posted.

Google failed me as I tried to figure out what approach the Archdiocese of San Antonio and a few other dioceses have taken.

Maybe some enterprising Texas journalist will decide to pick up the telephone and ask?

Make it happen, Lone Star friends.


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