Diocese of Dallas

Friday Five: Dallas clergy abuse, God and abortion, Colorado hero, 'Whiskeypalians,' Tenn. execution

Friday Five: Dallas clergy abuse, God and abortion, Colorado hero, 'Whiskeypalians,' Tenn. execution

Here’s your periodic reminder that — from “Save Chick-fil-A” legislation to the Catholic clergy sex abuse scandals — the Dallas Morning News sure could use a religion writer.

When police this week raided Diocese of Dallas offices related to allegations of sexual abuse by priests, the Texas newspaper — to which I subscribe — put a team of reporters on it and produced two front-page stories (here and here).

The team included a projects/enterprise writer, two police/crime reporters and a city hall writer/columnist. A Godbeat pro on the team? Sadly, the Dallas Morning News doesn’t have one, despite the importance of religion in that Bible Belt city. (There’s another Page 1 report today, again by a public safety reporter.)

Ironically, the paper’s initial coverage included an opinion piece (“Why it's good Dallas police ran out of patience with the Catholic Diocese on sex abuse”) by metro columnist Sharon Grigsby. Those of a certain age will recall that in the 1990s, Grigsby founded the Dallas Morning News’ award-winning religion section (now defunct) and oversaw a team of six religion writers and editors.

Those were the days!

Turning from the Big D, let’s dive into the Friday Five:

1. Religion story of the week: Alabama’s passage of a law banning abortion in almost all cases tops the week’s headlines.

Since my post pointing out the holy ghosts in much of the news coverage, the religion angle has received major treatment from the New York Times (here and here) and showed up in The Associated Press’ headline on the state’s governor signing the anti-abortion bill into law.

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

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?

Texas image via Shutterstock.com

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God and guns: Open carry debated deep in the heart of Texas

God and guns: Open carry debated deep in the heart of Texas

The new year brought a new law to the Lone Star State.

As of Jan. 1, licensed firearms owners can openly carry a handgun in most places in Texas, as The Wall Street Journal reported.

However, the law lets places of worship decide whether to allow guns, as the Journal noted before the measure took effect:

First Baptist Church of Arlington, near Dallas, which typically sees some 2,500 worshipers each Sunday, will allow open carry.
Senior Pastor Dennis Wiles said the church came to its decision after discussing the matter with its legal team—in addition to congregants, including police officers who already carry concealed guns.
“We decided it was best to allow responsible people to do this if they choose,” Mr. Wiles said. “We will probably assess the situation in a couple of months to see how it goes. When it comes to a church, I don’t think we’re going to see that much difference.”
In contrast, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas decided to ban open carry in its 75 churches in North Texas, and it is erecting signs explaining the restrictions as required by state law for places of worship, a spokeswoman said.

I've been looking for media coverage of churches wrestling with the issue.

Religion News Service referenced the debate last week — but in a report tilted heavily toward the anti-gun side.

Image via Shutterstock

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