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Jun 23 2013

Putting a new twist on going to church

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Catholic priests are prone to Conservative Derangement Syndrome, in which a whole package of weird beliefs get dragged into their brain with one weird obsession. So here’s a Catholic priests claiming they can and possibly should carry a handgun beneath their vestments. One part of his argument I can agree with: priests are just ordinary citizens who have all the same rights and responsibilities as other citizens…so if the law allows Jane Doe to have a concealed carry permit, then so does Father Bumpkin. I always appreciate believers who have glimmerings of that understanding that priests have no special magical powers.

But then he lapses into that typical idiocy of gun rights freaks. He completely mischaracterizes the gun control position.

I can hear some of you know shouting, “But Father! But Father!”… perhaps accompanied by some hand-wringing and spittle flecks starting to shoot from your mouths… “A bishop or priest should never ever carry a handgun! Hand guns SHOOT people!  No… wait… people shoot people… okay.  Still… a bishop or priest should never under any circumstance or imaginable scenario shoot anyone or anything for any reason.  You should all let yourselves and any innocent members of the flock entrusted to you be victimized or killed.  After all, shepherds let their sheep be stolen, wounded or eaten by predators all the time and so should you!”

The question isn’t one of self-defense. Of course you should have the right to defend yourself, and to defend the helpless. I’m all for that.

The problem is that guns are a lousy way to do that. Guns are tools for indiscriminate destruction — a priest opening fire on the one bad guy in the congregation is likely to do more harm than good, and that’s not to mention the risk in carrying around a dangerous device in circumstances where there is negligible external risk. I know how to use a bottle of osmium tetroxide safely, and that doesn’t include putting it in my back pocket and carrying it to the church picnic.

And then there’s the over-inflated sense of his own importance…

I don’t know that bishops or priests shouldn’t defend themselves or the innocent.  As a matter of fact, perhaps we can argue that priests and bishops have an even greater obligation to defend themselves because of the shortage of priests and bishops… well… maybe not so much bishops.  No priests, no sacraments.  This may be a huge issue in the case of a catastrophic collapse of the world as we know it.

If there is a “catastrophic collapse”, I can’t think of anyone more freakin’ useless to have in my hearty band of survivors than a priest. I look forward to the greater decline of the priestly population — I’m sorry to hurt your feelings, Father Full-Of-Himself, but none of you will be missed.

49 comments

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  1. 1
    ludicrous

    Well, if priests and bishops were the only people allowed to have guns there would be fewer young children finding guns and shooting each other. (Obviously the pederasts among them would have to be excepted)

  2. 2
    Hank Fox

    Yes! Guns for altar boys too! So they can, you know, defend themselves.

    It’s cool that a representative of the Almighty should carry a gun to defend his flock. After all, it’s not like there’s some sort of higher power to appeal to … oops.

    New bumper sticker for Catholic priests: “Sure, Pray to God. But When Shit Gets Real, You Better Have a Smith & Wesson.”

  3. 3
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    What?

    PZ: If you don’t have a priest in the mix, who is going to teach your merry band staff-fighting? Or carry you across a river pig-a-back? Or find & liberate the wine whilst everyone else is distracted rescuing prisoners & saving lives? Won’t you think of the poor wine bottles & casks that the human focused among us would otherwise ignore?

  4. 4
    Vene

    I thought they were supposed to offer the other cheek. So, yes, their prophet does say they don’t have the right to defend themselves.

  5. 5
    Zeno

    No, they will none of them be missed. Even though priests and bishops are always thinking about the children!

  6. 6
    anubisprime

    Maybe a crash course in D&D cleric craft would be more appropriate!

    But even when they tacitly admit their hero is not the omnipresent super duper all singing all dancing loving and powerful being that they claim they are great ‘fwends’ with on a one to one basis…they seem oblivious to the fact that they display so very very little actual trust in their own delusion to save their ass.

  7. 7
    mykroft

    Actually, I can understand priests looking towards the collapse of the world as we know it. The collapse of education and secular law would open up the kind of social ecological niche they enjoyed during the Dark Ages. Ignorance, superstition, fear would become prevalent, and the religions would be back in their preferred habitat.

    Then the guns would come in handy to deal with those non-believers. After all, it would be God’s will…

  8. 8
    Pete Grimes

    Maybe one of your more socially aware weapons manufacturers are launching a new range of firearms concealed in religious objects, and this guy is shilling for them?

    I believe guns concealed in bibles were once quite popular, so what’s wrong with a 9mm semi automatic chalice, just in case someone tries for more than their fair share of the communion wine?

  9. 9
    Lofty

    So they’d rather trust a gun than a god? Riiight.

  10. 10
    karpad

    No, this is completely appropriate. After all, I’m sure we all remember how the Lamb if God, Prince of peace did welcome the Romans arms akimbo with dual MAC10s. It’s appropriate for a priest to follow Christ’s example.

  11. 11
    shouldbeworking

    Priest with guns might prevent a repeat of the infamous wafer incident. The bishops can turn the other cheek while they reload.

  12. 12
    Larry

    So I guess priests can now freshen up the game “What have I got beneath my robes” that they play with the altar boys

  13. 13
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I thought all those school shootings were happening because God was taken out of schools. What is Zuhlsdorf suggesting about Catholicism?

  14. 14
    rationalista

    The problem any clergy has is that their “flock” is actually all of humanity, the soul of the person they may shoot is just as important as any in their congregation. In the eyes of god a serial killer is the same as a newborn – “all have sinned and come short of the glory of god”. Also, Jesus didn’t seem like the kind of guy that would support violence.

  15. 15
    The Mellow Monkey

    … a priest opening fire on the one bad guy in the congregation is likely to do more harm than good…

    The beauty of this line is the vagueness of Bad Guy, matching the vagueness in the heads of those who have these fantasies.

    Who is a bad guy worthy of shooting? Someone who walks into your church to shoot others? So you’ll add more bullets into the mix? How many in the congregation might have followed the priest’s example and also have guns for blowing away the Bad Guy? How in the world would anyone know who the Bad Guy was? (Aside from, of course, assuming anyone the priest shoots is a Bad Guy, categorically.) Or will you shoot the shooter before xe starts shooting? In which case, how do you know xe’s not a Responsible Gun Owner?

    I am all for effective self-defense, but these fantasies aren’t it. The people who fantasize about fighting off the Bad Guys are exactly the people who scare me the most.

  16. 16
    abelundercity

    But what if God made you a lousy shot?

  17. 17
    Becca Stareyes

    I know enough about firearms to know that unless I put in a lot of training — the sort reserved for law enforcement — I would do more harm than good if confronted with a gunman in a public place. A bit like PZ’s example of osmium tetraoxide — part of knowing how to use it is knowing when not to use it.

  18. 18
    Julien Rousseau

    “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone shoots you in the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
    Matthew 5:39 updated for the 21st century.

  19. 19
    Felix

    Christians claim that believers who let themselves be murdered without defence or flight are the greatest demonstration of God’s power.
    Now this priest is basically proving that there’s no such thing as God’s power.
    It appears that neither honesty or consistency mean anything to these folks, as long as they get to earn a salary by fooling the gullible into the delusion that the guy in the robe knows anything about any gods. Really it’s a bit sickening.

  20. 20
    Azuma Hazuki

    Also, Jesus didn’t seem like the kind of guy that would support violence.

    …uh…wrong? Jesus was plenty into violence. In fact, he could be said to be into theu;timate violence: eternal, unimaginably painful torture for the majority of all humanity. Even leaving that aside, “I came not to bring peace but a sword,” “Those who would not that I would rule over them, bring them to me and slay them” etc etc etc ring a bell? Pacifist hippie Jesus is a relatively recent invention.

  21. 21
    Pierce R. Butler

    The Packin’ Padre’s arsenal won’t do him a bit of good until he bows his head and prays to Gabriel Possenti, the Patron Saint of Handgunners.

  22. 22
    FossilFishy (NOBODY, and proud of it!)

    Fuck I hate these hero fantasies. There’s a reason that those who are authorised to use deadly force are highly trained, or should be. The thing that people who’ve never been directly involved in violent confrontation don’t seem to realise is just how fast it all happens.

    As an adult I’ve been robbed five times at work, four of those at knife point. I was bashed from behind when walking in broad daylight once. I’ve been subject to a mugging that turned into aggressive pan-handling when it became clear to him that despite the cast on my arm I wasn’t going to give in, and that Ms. Fishy wasn’t going to sit idly by either. As a teenager I was in two fistfights with bullies that left me with minor but permanent injuries.

    I don’t say all this to tout my manly cred, but to point out that I have some small experience in what it’s like when the world turns violent. In every one of those incidents I had no time to think.* My reactions were purely instinctual, and unless you’ve spent some serious time training that’s all you can expect. The idea of calmly picking off an assailant with your gun is fucking fantasy.

    *That’s not completely true. During one of the bully beatings I had time while I was curled on the ground to wonder I’d he’d stop kicking me before I was dead.

  23. 23
    Marcus Ranum

    Maybe the US Army would donate a spare tank to the pope. It’d make a bitchin’ popemobile!

  24. 24
    Marcus Ranum

    Nothing says “christian love” like a Beretta 9mm.

  25. 25
    tsig

    Pray to god, believe in Smith & Wesson.

  26. 26
    sundiver

    Wait a minute. Didn’t that asshole in VA, Cuccinelli say it’s okay to have a concealed weapon in church? Maybe the black-frocked yahoos copped the idea from VA’s lovely example, although why anyone would think they’d need a firearm in church is beyond my imagination. Maybe to defend one’s church from those Methodist/Baptist/Episcopalian/Catholic/Jewish heathen across the street? Humans are fucking weird.

  27. 27
    Sastra

    I don’t know that bishops or priests shouldn’t defend themselves or the innocent .. No priests, no sacraments. This may be a huge issue in the case of a catastrophic collapse of the world as we know it.

    Uh oh. So this guy thinks priests really, really need guns because of an immanent “catastrophic collapse of the world as we know it” which involves the loss of “sacraments.” We know what this means, don’t we?

    It means that the real enemy of peaceful churchgoers isn’t a mad man bursting into a church with a gun. The REAL enemy is “creeping secularism.” Creeping secularism and the loss of faith which follows; innocence abused.

    From this high vantage point an atheist is more dangerous than a psychopath. Even an atheist sitting quietly in a pew, going to church for nefarious purposes such as … well … to report, mock — and maybe then put nails through holy consecrated wafers. Hypothetically, this is possible … and hypothetically, a priest might need a gun to defend what is more precious than the life of the body: the survival of the Soul.

    The World as They Know it needs protecting … with deadly force and God’s blessing.

    Um. I thought at first that PZ was relaying another one of his “I went to church today” sermon reviews. Good thing he wasn’t.

  28. 28
    anteprepro

    Father McFeely was clenching his perpetually clenched teeth more than usual. Drinking bourbon, smoking the finest cuban cigar, drinking whiskey, and shaking his head while reading the morning newspaper, Father McFeely felt a deep bitterness in his soul. The world was going to shit. Heathens and criminals and foreigners everywhere. Political progress being made despite Republican filibuster. Sin everywhere, not nearly enough goodness and holiness, and such a profound deficit of hypocrisy that it chilled him to his very core. The Father burnt the paper with his lit cigar, spitting on the ashes, and proceeded out to make sure that the choir had their shotguns loaded.

    The congregation was pouring in, filling the pews, merrily waving around their rifles and handguns, some polishing them on their way to make the gun look its Sunday Best. Well, at least there is still some good in the world, McFeely mcfelt deep in his soul, while dipping his handguns in holy water. He began the service, reading from the Gospel According to Eastwood.

    “Blessed is the Peacemaker, a truly marvelous weapon.
    The meek shall inherit the Earth, and then die out because they are too weak and naive and not armed enough.
    Turn the other cheek, and then when they are offguard, shoot their friggin’ head off.
    Jesus may have died for your sins, but you all must live for making sinners die for their own sins…”

    McFeely stopped there, for he saw him. A man coming into the church holding a gun. Oh, sure, everyone had a gun. It was required. But he could tell that this was an Evil Man, wielding an Evil Gun. It was insufficiently polished, and he was wearing black, with facial hair just slightly more untended to than his own. He knew evil when he saw it. He squinted at the villain, and he squinted back. A tumbleweed blew across the church and an altar boy ran after it. The organist begins playing “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”.

    McFeely continued his sermon, always staring at The Latecomer. He baptized a newborn, dipping it into the baptismal font until its puny little hands touched the handgun at the bottom of it and thus had its first contact with The Divine. The congregation cried out in joy “Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!” He continued by reading from the Gospel of Heston. But then came communion. The Good Guys came up without event, eating the bacon bit body and Jack Daniels blood of Christ. But, McFeely then saw him in front of him. The Latecomer. He grinned an evil grin, hands stretched out. McFeely squinted, clenching his already clenched teeth. “Make my day” he said, handing to the evildoer the bacony eucharist.

    The Latecomer grinned more widely, with shining teeth that matched only the glean of Lucifer hisself. And then the Latecomer ran, bolting for the doors. McFeely clenched even clenchier. It was worse than he thought. He wasn’t going to kill mere congregation members, he was intending to kidnap and murder Christ himself. McFeely knew that this was his moment. He let the Power of Christ compel him, he let all of his divine, holy might, his blessed powers given to him by the Holy Spirit, guide his hand as he swiftly drew his Desert Eagle and shot the diabolical fleeing man square between the shoulders. And he did it with one hand, with no recoil, as a Miracle from the Lord.

    McFeely went over to the man, rudely bleeding all over the nice carpet.
    “You may have won this round McFeely….but there will be others.”
    McFeely clenched his already twice-clenched clenched teeth. He then grabbed his trusty bottle of scotch and poured it over the dying man’s body.
    “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, motherfucker. When you get to Hell, tell them McFeely sent you.”
    He drops his still lit cigar onto The Latecomer and watches him scream and burn. He puts on his sunglasses and lights a new cigar.
    “Church dismissed”

  29. 29
    Godric von Falkenrath

    I guess someone just discovered Firefly.

  30. 30
    Godric von Falkenrath

    28: Brilliance. I want to print that out and put it in my bookshelf.

  31. 31
    yoav

    You would think that possessors of such powerful magic like priests would have better ways to defend themselves than some gun made by evil secular science. they could go Elijah and hit their attackers with holy fire or maybe they can modify the holy water spell so it also melt guns not just vampires, however the coolest thing would be to cast the transubstantiation spell backwards and turn the attacker into a cookie.

  32. 32
    LykeX

    I imagine a scenario of an old priest, stumbling around in the graveyard; drunk on communion wine and shooting bottles off the top of tombstones.

  33. 33
    Louis

    Why do I get the feeling that this guy is a hair’s breadth from “Shoot ‘em all and let God sort them out!”?

    Louis

  34. 34
    WhiteHatLurker

    Like the Shepherd Book reference above.

    Questions arise from “should carry a handgun beneath their vestments” – How long would it take to draw it from there? How often would the gunhandler shoot himself?

  35. 35
    anteprepro

    Questions arise from “should carry a handgun beneath their vestments”
    How long would it take to draw it from there?
    How often would the gunhandler shoot himself?

    1. Good Guys always draw faster.
    Priests are the Goodest Good Guys.
    Ergo, priests have super gun-drawing speed.
    They could carry it around in a personal gun safe and still outdraw the pesky varmints that come into their church looking for a showdown. But they also wouldn’t need to because…

    2. Never. This isn’t a thing that happens. Nope. And when it does happen, it is only to people who deserve it. Stupid people. Evil people. Definitely not priests in the house of the lord! And if it did, well those priests were No True Priests/Gunwielders.

  36. 36
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    Don’t these priests read their own holy book? The truly faithful get badass bear summoning powers for even the slightest insult. Why would you want a wee little gun when you could have 600lb grizzlys instead?

  37. 37
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    I believe guns concealed in bibles were once quite popular

    You may be thinking of Beecher’s Bibles, which was only a metaphor.

  38. 38
    Bronze Dog

    I like a point PZ made in a post a while back: If you need a gun to defend yourself, you’ve already lost. It means all the other lines of defense that make a safe society have failed.

  39. 39
    unclefrogy

    If priests should be allowed to carry a gun why is it necessary to conceal it under his clothes? If the priest thinks it would be a good idea let him wear it out in plain sight in a nice leather holster maybe hand tooled with ecclesiastical decorations like a cross or prying hands or what ever.

    uncle frogy

  40. 40
    barbyau

    My most uncharitable attitude towards the church comes out in this comment:

    The young boys and girls must be starting to resist their sexual advances.

  41. 41
    barbyau

    Also, I recall reading the Catholic Church is heavily invested in one of the largest arms manufacturers in the world. I know the LDS owns the biggest online gun selling site.

    It’s always so funny watching Christians mock Islam about being a “religion of peace.” Pot, kettle, and so on.

  42. 42
    David Marjanović

    I know how to use a bottle of osmium tetroxide safely

    *shudder*

    What?

    PZ: If you don’t have a priest in the mix, who is going to teach your merry band staff-fighting? Or carry you across a river pig[gy][...]-back? Or find & liberate the wine whilst everyone else is distracted rescuing prisoners & saving lives? Won’t you think of the poor wine bottles & casks that the human focused among us would otherwise ignore?

    So full of win! :-)

    however the coolest thing would be to cast the transubstantiation spell backwards and turn the attacker into a cookie.

    What I just said! :-)

    with ecclesiastical decorations like a cross or prying hands or what ever.

    Prying hands… prying a gun out of cold, dead hands… :-)

  43. 43
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I wonder how the ‘eternal church’ would spin this one? Weapons in a church, other than for a specific ceremony, was frowned upon during the 9th and 10th centuries. But, then again, the church saw no need to bless a marriage until the end of the 10th. Or even stop priests marrying (or having concubines). So I guess that the eternal and unchanging church would just claim that this was always the one way.

    Or am I just being cynical?

  44. 44
    some bastard on the internet

    I am all for effective self-defense, but these fantasies aren’t it. The people who fantasize about fighting off the Bad Guys are exactly the people who scare me the most.

    This. I have a brother-in-law who loves to post pictures of his paper targets after going to the range, he’s a big time gun nut. Sometimes his dick gun waving gets so annoying that it takes every ounce of self-restraint I have to tell him how useful he’d really be when the targets shoot first.

  45. 45
    LykeX

    In the words of Bruce Lee

  46. 46
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Perhaps arming priests is a good thing. There was that movie Priest, from last year (?) Involving a priest fighting supernatural forces. Perhaps priests should be ready for the collapse of civilization…from World War Z…

  47. 47
    JohnnieCanuck

    dihydroxylation can proceed with enantioselectivity

    What? Who, me? What makes you think I just had to go look up OsO4 over at Wikipedia?

    I like the part where its name is based on its strong smell and then later it mentions that it is lethal at concentrations too low to be able to smell it.

  48. 48
    Cynickal

    Got mit uns!

    What?

  49. 49
    Worldtraveller

    Priests don’t need guns in church. Seems to me, the only church shooting I recall is a doctor who performed legal procedures that just happened to involve something the church doesn’t like.

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