Noting that the law allows churches to prohibit the carrying of open or concealed weapons on their premises, he announced 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, except as specifically permitted by diocesan policy.”
This policy, he said, “is rooted in the belief that our churches, schools and other places of worship are intended to be sanctuaries – holy sites where people come to pray and participate in the ministry of the Church.”
Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler had also responded to the Texas law the preceding week. In a Dec. 31, 2015 statement, he said that “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.”
In his capacity as Bishop of Tyler, he asked the faithful of his diocese “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.”
He added that peace officers of local, state, or federal agencies are exempt from the 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,” Bishop Strickland wrote.
The bishop also directed that a statement conveying his instruction be inserted into parish bulletins and/or read during the announcement at Mass.
Bishop Farrell's blogpost concluded by exhorting: “Let us pray that our legislators will see this as a human and not a political concern so that gun violence can be mitigated through appropriate legislation that allows us to live in a safe environment while respecting our Second Amendment rights.”
Photo credit: Kirill Demchenko via www.shutterstock.com.