No-gun signs in church doorways

Oak Park's St. Edmund has a proposal

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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.

Email: Twitter: @BlitheSp

Reader Comments

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Eva Cagle  

Posted: June 20th, 2015 12:37 PM

Does anyone remember the scripture where the Disciple drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of the guards? The Disciples were armed against robbers on the road even though Jesus was with them..


Posted: January 28th, 2014 2:36 PM

Just a little history. The reason church's are not included on the list of banned places for carry is because the lawsuit that led to the new CCW law was brought by a woman who was viciously attacked in a church. She owned a firearm and had training and permits to carry in several other states...but was not allowed to in Illinois. I think the "no guns" signs does the opposite of making feel safe. Signs like these can make people feel there is something dangerous about the spot

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 2:02 PM

Either or both churches posting really isn't the issue. The parish has every right to choose to post or or not to post. What I find interesting is that St. Edmond is allowing information to be published in the parish bulletin that contradicts the beliefs of the Catholic church. The effects of which Mr. Bowman stated at the close of his article.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 1:24 PM

Oh, and cue "Bill Doogan" with his predictable tripe about "NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde". Geez, "Bill" you truly are a one-trick pony. I hope my black helicopter doesn't bother you.

OP Resident # 545 from Oak Park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 1:19 PM

One more thing that justifies my long ago decision to leave St. Edmund. These "peace & justice" committees, while well-meaning, are really little more than old leftists bringing forth even more symbolism over substance. This effort will achieve very little except costing the parish & archdiocese lots of $$ in legal fees. If the parish decides it doesn't want guns in church, that's fine. Simply state that to members. No state-sanctioned sign is needed. More insignificant nonsense.

Violet Aura from Still in the Artic Upscale Tundra of OP  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 1:12 PM

@Michael: But what about tigers and mountain lions? Put up a sign forbidding them to come to Ascension, too! Otherwise, God knows what could happen!!!!!

@Ray Simpson  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 12:59 PM

While Ascension does have the signs, it does not make it against the law. It is just a request. The law currently does not cover churches. And as I stated, it is just one more reason why I went to Ascension. Not at all the only.

MichaelO from Oak Park  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 12:40 PM

For crying out loud. The pastor doesn't want guns in his church. What's the problem? I don't want to go to church where some wannabe Rough Rider in the next pew feels a need to pack a piece. Bowman threw in Barrett as a straw man to rile up the militia.

Bill Doogan  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 12:31 PM

Since NRA lobbyist Todd Vandermyde put CRIMINAL penalties of Class B misdemeanor (6 mo. jail) or Class A misdemeanor (1 yr. jail) for all violations of the concealed carry act, plus Duty to Inform, any cop or police impersonator can demand ID from an armed citizen, then have an excuse to shoot them on sight for "resisting arrest." Why do Chris Cox & Chuck Cunningham at NRA/ILA pay this scheming traitor to sell out the people he is supposed to represent? Because bad laws create lawsuits for NRA

Violet Aura from Artic Yuppie Tundra of OP  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 12:28 PM

This reminds me of those genius signs in OP that declared it to be a nuclear-free zone, as if the dreaded missles would bounce off the town like it was encased in a radiation-proof bubble. I have seen signs on Pace buses that have a gun with a line through it. A bit comically disconcerting to even imagine that it would be needed but there you go!

Uncommon Sense  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 12:12 PM

I'm still trying to figure out the logic of posting a "no guns" sign. Who is this sign for? If criminals already purchase guns illegally, why would they pay attention to a sign? I can't imagine they are going to come to church. So is the church afraid of law abiding CCW holders? I'd like gun responsibilities people to put a "this house is gun free" sign in their front yard to show their support. I'll even pay for them.

Ray Simpson from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 9:30 AM

@ Former - check out the Ascension School doors - "No guns" signs on every one of them.

Former Parishoner  

Posted: January 28th, 2014 8:56 AM

Just another reason why I have returned to Ascension. The uber-conservatism of Father McGivern certainly does not make me feel welcome. And I am not applying for a CC.

Q from Oak Park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 11:30 PM

Dominick Ahrens, then you must be defending the right for all card carrying gun toting people to have the right to carry their heater anywhere they want. But as it is, guns are prohibited in certain places, and there is no reason why St. Edmund's can not post a no guns sign.

Dominick Ahrens  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 11:14 PM

As a practicing Catholic I have to ask who "parishoner John Barrett" is to speak for the parish, much less all Catholics? This behavior seems to be predominant in Oak Park. I have taken an Oath to protect and defend the Constitution twice. Why would I be welcome in uniform but not in plain clothes, much less any of the law abiding citizens who have passed background checks, taken classes and paid (hefty) fees to be able to defend themselves when those same people are not the ones causing the calamities in our streets around our country today?

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:50 PM

2266 and 2267 deal less with legitimate defense and more with punishment. either way they are worth a read as well. here is a link to the text if anyone wishes to read it for them-self.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:46 PM

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:45 PM

2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one's own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow: If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful... Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense...

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:42 PM

It seems a bit odd to remind Fr. McGivern of the catechism, but i'll 'take a stab at it'. Legitimate defense 2263 The legitimate defense of persons and societies is not an exception to the prohibition against the murder of the innocent that constitutes intentional killing. "The act of self-defense can have a double effect: the preservation of one's own life; and the killing of the aggressor... The one is intended, the other is not."

joe from south oak park  

Posted: January 27th, 2014 5:27 AM

issues of religious dogma aside, this also interesting because concealed carry in Illinois came about as the result of a ruling by the 7th circuit court in Moore v. Madigan. One of the plaintiffs in this case is Mary Shepard who, along with two others, were savagely beaten by a man who robbed the church.

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