By Jim Bowman
Gun control chickens are coming home to roost in churches. Rather, concealed-carry chickens. The law bans them from various places but not from churches. Sen. Dan Kotowski, Park Ridge Democrat, wants to change that, but various ministers of religion do not want it changed.
The issue has been raised in at least one Oak Park church, St. Edmund, where the peace and justice committee -- "dedicated and passionate parishioners," says Fr. John McGivern, pastor -- wants the building posted with state police-approved no-gun signs. The committee already prays monthly after the 5:30 pm mass on Saturday, so that they can "in a visible way exercise [their] imperative to love one another," according to the parish bulletin, Echoes, on Jan. 26.
They want to carry this exercise a step further with a sign at each entrance saying no guns are allowed.
Warned off by the signs would be the church-goer who "has already made the decision that under certain circumstances they are prepared to take the life of another human being," says parishioner John Barrett in an accompanying statement.
Carrying a gun in church, Barrett writes, "will imply that we [parishioners] have decided that violence is a solution that is supported by our faith beliefs." However, "we do not believe that the answer to violence is . . . violence."
Barrett quotes the U.S. bishops quoting Pope Benedict on "our innate vocation to peace" and Pope John Paul II urging us to "proclaim . . . that violence is evil . . . unacceptable . . . unworthy . . . a lie" that "goes against the truth of our faith . . . of our humanity."
"The liturgical task [imposed on us] to be the body of the crucified Prince of peace" will not be "properly" safeguarded by "allowing guns into Church," Barrett adds. St. Edmund church, he says, "is not a depository for weapons of violence."
He closes: "It is the peacemakers who are called to be the children of God. No guns in church."
A bold statement.
However, some questions arise.
* Will police and military be welcome at St. Edmund, the problem being that they are duty-bound to use deadly violence when necessary?
* Do St. Edmund parishioners really believe in non-violence regardless of circumstance? Should they believe it, under risk of proving disloyal to Christ?
* Did John Paul II allow no circumstances where violence is required? Did he mean to say violence is "evil" no matter the circumstances?
* Are people who use violence in self-defense not called to be children of God?
This is a very serious matter. Does this parish want to declare itself pacifist? I've never been in such a parish. To even raise the point is a radical departure. Is St. Edmund ready for it?
It's a test of the efficacy of preaching against undifferentiated violence as such and parishioners' commitment to non-resistance whatever the threat to oneself and one's family, friends, those under one's care, and anyone else whom one can save. A very big order.