‘We live in a very treacherous world’

At shooter seminar, priest says those with gun license should carry in church

The Rev. Francis Colamaria, pastor of St. Helen RC Church in Howard Beach, said at an active shooter seminar at the house of worship Monday that he encourages those with the legal ability to carry firearms to bring their guns to the pews.

“If you have a license to carry, I would advise you to carry,” Colamaria said at the seminar, adding that the question has been posed to him by parishioners. “We live in a very treacherous world.”

The pastor, who received some applause for the remarks, noted churches and other places of worship have been the target for shooters — and the Islamic State has said the Vatican could be one of its next objectives. The terrorist group has also gone after Catholic churches in the Middle East.

Colamaria noted that “the Holy Father has an army” in the Swiss Guard, soldiers tasked with overseeing the safety of the pope since the 15th century. Members of the guard carry several firearms on them at all times, including machine guns.

On Nov. 5, 26 people were killed at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas when a gunman entered and started shooting at people. Devin Kelly, the alleged perpetrator who later killed himself, was shot at by a neighbor upon exiting the church.

And on June 17, 2015, white supremacist Dylan Roof shot and killed nine worshipers at a black church in Charleston, SC. Roof has been sentenced to death for his actions.

A spokeswoman for the Diocese of Brooklyn said it does not prohibit guns being brought into Catholic churches.

“New York City has very restrictive carry laws. We abide by them,” the spokeswoman said in an email. “If a person, like a law enforcement official or police officer, has a license to carry a concealed weapon, we do not stop them from bringing it to church.”

But when it comes to the gun control debate, the Catholic Church has consistently called for more restrictions.

Following the Oct. 1 shooting in which Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of concert-goers, leaving 58 dead and 546 injured, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, head of the Brooklyn diocese, said in a statement, “Clearly, we need to look at controlling guns in the hands of those who should not have them.”

Following the Sutherfield Springs massacre, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development called for “a true debate about solutions to gun violence.”

“Violence in our society will not be solved by a single piece of legislation, and many factors contribute to what we see going on all around us,” the committee’s chairman, Bishop Frank Dewane, of Florida, said in a statement at the time. “Even so, our leaders must engage in a real debate about needed measures to save lives and make our communities safer.”

The USCCB has historically advocated for universal background checks for all gun purchases, limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and magazines, regulations and limitations on the purchase of handguns and improved access to mental healthcare for those who may be prone to commit violence.

“While acknowledging the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and related jurisprudence, we live in a fallen world with daily advances in modern technology,” Dewane said. “Society must recognize that the common good requires reasonable steps to limit access to such firearms by those who would intend to use them in that way.”

Pope Francis has also been vocal on the issue, saying in 2016 after the Orlando nightclub massacre “It makes no difference where arms come from — they circulate with brazen and virtually absolute freedom in many parts of the world.”

And in 2015, he questioned the “duplicity” of gun and weapon manufacturers who call themselves Christians.