Wisconsin bishops urge people to keep guns out of church


MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s bishops have urged Catholics not to take weapons to church even though a new state law went into effect Nov. 1 allowing those with permits to carry concealed weapons.

In a statement issued Oct. 31 to the state’s Catholics, the bishops said they were not mandating that parishes prohibit concealed weapons but advised parishioners to “seriously consider not carrying them into church buildings as a sign of reverence for these sacred spaces.”

The state’s five bishops wrote that natural law and constitutional tradition uphold individual freedom as an intrinsic human right.

“True freedom, however, is not a license to do whatever we choose. Rather, it is the ability to do what we morally ought to do, to build a just society and to glorify God, who is the author of all liberty and the source of human dignity,” they said.

The bishops pointed out that although the right to bear arms is protected under the Constitution, it should be “exercised responsibly and in accordance with applicable laws.”

“We are obligated to use this particular freedom with due respect for others and for the desires of those who welcome us into their homes, places of business, and other public spaces, such as churches and religious institutions,” they added.

The bishops also urged Catholics to reflect on Catholic teaching, which is committed to nonviolence.

“While the church has always upheld the right to self-defense, peaceful means of reconciling conflicts and differences, both as individuals and nations, is the preferred method,” they said.

The bishops asked Catholics to remember that the churches and parish facilities are “sacred spaces” where all come to find peace.

They said the church has a long tradition of sanctuary, allowing people fleeing violence to take refuge in church buildings for safety and protection. They also pointed out that when violence occurs in a Catholic church it must be reconsecrated.

The bishops urged pastors and parish leaders to consider these factors in determining whether to prohibit concealed weapons in parishes and other buildings owned by the church and Catholic organizations.

“This decision should be firmly grounded in our teaching and made with due regard for the pastoral reality and customs of the local community,” they suggested.

Signing the statement were Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee and Bishops Robert C. Morlino of Madison, David L. Ricken of Green Bay, Peter F. Christensen of Superior and William P. Callahan of La Crosse.

Catholic Mutual Group, the insurance provider for more than 100 U.S. Catholic dioceses, recommends that parishes and church facilities bar weapons from their premises. The group is advising its clients that a decision to bar weapons from their buildings will not impact the liability protection or the cost of coverage in the property and liability program.

With Wisconsin now having a concealed-carry law, Illinois is the only state where it is illegal to carry a concealed weapon in public. There is no federal law specifically addressing the issuance of concealed carry permits,

In Georgia, gun rights advocates have filed a lawsuit against the state saying they should be allowed to carry firearms in churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship.

Currently that state’s law bans firearms in places of worship as a violation of constitutionally protected religious freedoms. Other states with similar restrictions, according to The Associated Press, include Arkansas, Mississippi and North Dakota.