While Bishop Kevin Farrell roundly condemned -- in unusually strong language for a church leader -- a new Texas gun carry law that went into effect this month, other Texas bishops are, metaphorically, holding their fire.
In a statement, the bishop praised President Barack Obama for showing the "courage to close the loopholes in our pitiful gun control laws to reduce the number of mass shootings, suicides and killings that have become a plague in our country."
The bishop's remarks came amidst both a national controversy over enhanced gun control regulations implemented by Obama, despite congressional opposition and the new Texas law, which allows licensed gun owners to display their weapons at public settings, unless confronted by signs placed by store owners and others specifically prohibiting guns. The signs must be clearly displayed and written in both English and Spanish, and have become popular fixtures near large chain stores in the state.
Farrell, in his statement, put the Diocese of Dallas on record as prohibiting toting guns in its worship and meeting spaces. A similar view has been expressed by the Diocese of El Paso chancellor Patricia Fierro, who issued a statement noting that border diocese agreed.
The Irish-born Farrell said the new law is evidence of Texas embracing "a cowboy mentality" and that "it is difficult to see how this new law allowing persons with concealed handgun licenses (CHL) to openly carry firearms can accomplish anything other than cause people to feel threatened and intimidated."
While Farrell's statement enlisted the support of the international Catholic peace group Pax Christi, which featured it on its website, other Texas Catholic leaders were more cautious.
The Diocese of Austin is allowing its parishes to make its own decisions on the matter, according to a local FOX television report. So is the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
"The Archdiocesan policy is that individual parishes will adopt policies that they believe are suitable and appropriate for their parish community," a statement from the archdiocese said.
As of January 13, the nine other Texas dioceses, all contacted by NCR, were still discussing what to do about the new law, if anything.
Editor's note: "The Field Hospital" is NCRonline's newest blog series, covering life in Catholic parishes across the United States and Canada. The title comes from the words of Pope Francis: "I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ... And you have to start from the ground up."
"The Field Hospital" blog will run twice weekly on NCRonline.org along with feature stories and news reports about parish life in the U.S. and Canada. If you have a story suggestion, send it to Dan Morris-Young (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Peter Feuerherd (email@example.com).