Cleansing Fire

Defending Truth and Tradition in the Roman Catholic Church


Another Church; Another Shooting

December 29th, 2019, Promulgated by Diane Harris

Approximately two years ago I contacted a person from the USCCB regarding a relatively inexpensive method of providing a security alert for churches (and other sites) concerned about violence from an intruder. My letter was precipitated by the violence in Sutherland, Texas, in which 26 died, and 20 more were injured. Outrageous and unusual as was the event, it has turned out to be one among many. Today’s shooting in Fort Worth is one more, but with deaths fewer than might have been expected, due to competently armed parishioners stopping the gunman.

House of Worship Shootings Excerpted

Here is a selection of the most prominent “House of Worship” shootings from the AP since 2012 until Oct. 27, 2018. Some manipulative language is removed; only geographical abbreviations have been added.

  • Oct. 27, 2018: A gunman entered Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and opened fire, killing 11 and wounding six, including four police officers.
  • Nov. 5, 2017: 26-year-old Devin Kelley opened fire at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, TX, killing 26 people and wounding about 20 others.
  • Sept 24, 2017: Emanuel Kidega Samson, 25, was charged with killing a woman and wounding six other people with gunshots at Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, TN.
  • Aug. 13, 2016:  Imam Maulana Alauddin Akonjee and his Thara Uddin were fatally shot as they left a NYC  mosque. Oscar Morel, 35, was charged with second-degree murder.
  • June 17, 2015:  Nine black worshippers including a pastor were killed by Dylann Roof at historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston, SC.

This morning’s shooting (Dec. 29, 2019) was at West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth, TX.  The Star Telegram reported that Church members acted quickly to take down a gunman who opened fire  and fatally shot two people. He was killed by two members of the congregation’s security team who returned fire. The shooting appeared to happen during communion, according to a livestream video of the service obtained by the Star-Telegram.

See also:

While I am not against properly licensed citizens using firearms to protect lives, churches should not simply wait for something violent to happen before increasing protections. One gets the feeling that nothing is being done, except holding one’s breath to not be involved personally in the next violent event.

The following is streamlined content of the letter I intended for the USCCB to take action, to add deterrence and facilitate rapid response at a relatively low cost in a variety of locations. It seems that after the initial acknowledgement letter, that some actions might have been taken by now, two years and counting.


Today’s crime scene:




Excerpted and annotated letter sent to USCCB  contact in 2017:

“… as a consultant, sometimes I can’t help but think analytically about other people’s problems.  In that spirit I even imagine there might have been sidebar conversations at the recent convocation of the USCCB in which prelates might have expressed to each other their concerns about safety in their churches in this violent age. That question goes way beyond the usual meaning of “safe environment,” and beyond the liability policies for accidental falls or property damage claims. [And, so I assume, the USCCB should be interested in this matter.]

The issue in point is that the recent slaughter in Sutherland Springs, TX shows that it isn’t necessarily the most prominent church which draws such attacks, but any location is at risk which differs from the core values of the perpetrator.  With that understanding, even the smallest or most remote of parishes … has some measure of ‘terrorist’ risk, as do worship centers in any denomination.

My purpose in writing is not to promote or ‘sell’ anything, not even to convince you on a particular point.  Rather, I am just sharing ideas for what could be done that is already technologically feasible and at modest cost.

I will first set aside the gun question, not that I have any problem with lawful use of the Second Amendment.  I remember one pastor who celebrated noon Mass each weekday during Lent, and the police officer who attended in uniform. Before each Mass, he went to the sacristy and ‘checked’ his gun with that pastor under lock and key.  But one-of-a-kind solutions won’t work for all communities; something more useful is needed, beyond “being in the right place at the right time.”

What I am [suggesting] is the following proposal, which I am merely “sharing” with you at this time.  It would involve three aspects: 1) installation of a significant number of, say, flashing blue [or red/blue] lights on the exterior of a church, which would be turned on by a wireless command from within, both to signal police to the location for more rapid response, and even to call police or security if the church [also] uses a monitoring service, 2) a piercing alarm which would create a tumult within the church,  causing some perpetrators to instinctively run away, allowing people individually to decide whether to stay or run, and interfering with on-site communications between perpetrators and their methodical executions, 3) several people (some, but not all, in the sanctuary) with the training and ability to press the wireless command for #1 and #2. [The person pressing a button should be able to do so completely undetected.]

I am confident that ALL the technology is in place today to assemble such a system from off-the-shelf (or nearly off-the-shelf) components and parts. I also believe that such a system would be far less intrusive to those coming to church than many other proposals, including “security guards,” and such a system should be very inexpensive to maintain. Even the blue lights should rarely burn out as they’d hardly ever be used except for an occasional test. The main cost after installation would be a monthly monitoring fee if desired (but not absolutely needed.)

The most likely sources to assemble such a system are providers of private security systems today, with their economy of scale. Such a system would seem to have potential not only for all houses of worship, large and small, but also for other buildings at risk, like schools, theaters, public buildings. A wireless system has the advantage of an intruder’s not knowing who is carrying the wireless device, unlike pulling a fire alarm and hoping to be undetected. Even the thought that a particular target ‘may’ have a device, makes all targets a bit safer, and helps to answer the concern that it is ‘dangerous to go to church these days.’ [My intention here is to provoke discussion and planning, not to ‘lock-in’ any particular system. I would be pleased to brainstorm further with you or your representative, if you believe it would be helpful.]”

For the love of God’s people, let’s give some attention to this matter and not just to salting sidewalks, keeping flammable Christmas trees out of the sanctuary, and peanuts out of the chocolate chip cookies.


6 Responses to “Another Church; Another Shooting”

  1. avatar TL says:

    I heard that church shootings are caused by clericalism so a security system wouldn’t help.

    But seriously, we could do an online petition asking the USCCB to at least define some norms for addressing the problem.

  2. avatar raymondfrice says:

    Duplicate comment deleted.

  3. avatar raymondfrice says:

    TL :You have to be kidding if you expect the USCCB to do something constructive and effective.

  4. avatar Mary-Kathleen says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf has some excellent points in his posting:

    and one of the comments (by “Diana”) mentions a blog discussing Church security.

  5. avatar militia says:

    I don’t know much about what would work and what wouldn’t, but I do know that anyone who ignores or short-stops such ideas must bear for themselves some of the guilt for subsequent shootings, in which the ideas weren’t available.

  6. avatar christian says:

    Please read my comments in the top post. The trained and armed security team at West Freeway Church of Christ near Fort Worth in Texas are all deacons. While the role of deacon varies among different denominations in our time, in early times, the role of deacon was to take care of the physical needs of the church and to defend the church and its members against all evil and threat with his life. The two men at the church who were killed were both deacons. One (an older deacon) was shot dead after just distributing communion. The deacon on security in close proximity to the shooter, was shot dead as he drew his gun to take down the shooter. The deacon head of security who was a distance away, took out the shooter with one shot to the head within 5 seconds after the onset of the active shooter. It was all over with within 6 seconds.

    The deacon who is head of security, is a former reserve deputy sheriff and firearms instructor. He conducts training for security teams and members of churches for preparation in the event there is an active shooter at their church.

    In an interview with a reporter, he appeared to be defending why he took a head shot at the active shooter. He explained that although the church members had gone through training on what to do if there was an active shooter (not only the deacon security team), there were members who were not following the directive to get down, out of sight, but were still standing around the shooter, blocking any other shot. He stated he didn’t look forward to shooting and taking a life, but it was his duty to stop evil, and that’s what entered their church that Sunday.

    Some church members ran out the door when the shooting began, and there were church members ducked down in their pews, but there were church members that either didn’t respond quickly or were paralyzed with fear. There was a lot of screaming heard on the video of that incident at the church. Screaming isn’t productive and takes away from time and positive action. There should be more concentration on how to react quickly and correctly. If this is how church members react when they are trained for an active trainer incident, I would hate to see how untrained church members would react in an active shooter incident at other churches, like our own churches in the Diocese of Rochester. The fact which is of upmost importance is that most churches don’t have a security team, and if they do, they are unarmed. I think there needs to be serious discussion about having an armed security team in churches, ideally made up of stable, devoted church members.

    The deacon security team at West Freeway Church of Christ already had eyes on the active shooter from the moment he entered the church. The active shooter had attended church there on other occasions and the pastor had personally tried to help him. He was recognized, but on this Sunday he was wearing a wig and a fake beard along with black clothing and a long black trench coat. his appearance raised red flags. The alertness and attentiveness of the security team and their monitoring of the church guest dressed in odd attire probably helped to reduce response time.

    I wonder how well the subject of an armed security team would fare in the Diocese of Rochester where it seems the idea of guns for protection is taboo by many liberal Catholics.

    Regarding militia’s comment about not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t work: -In regard to institution settings, years ago while working at an institution (which will I will not name) someone directly over me verbally enlisted a series of steps they wanted me to take in their absence should an active shooter enter that institution. The steps they verbally relayed to me were not policy, it was just this person’s opinion of what actions to take after they had given it much thought, following an active shooter incident at another institution out of state. -This person told me that I should herd the students from the two small rooms off of the main room, into the main room and put them in the closet. I was told that I should then stand in front of the closet.

    Although I hadn’t given it previous thought, I stated it made more sense to shut the door, turn off the lights, lower the shade on the door window, and lock the door, and then keep the people quiet. -The switch to the lights was near the door. In a matter of seconds, the door be closed, the lights be shut off, the door window shade be drawn, and the door be locked, giving the appearance of the room being closed, locked, and not in use. The main room was on the ground floor and I thought if worse came to worse, the students could always exit out the windows.

    This person directly over me insisted their way was better and I should follow it. (With this person’s way, the lights are on and the door is unlocked and probably still open, and you are standing in front of a closet not only allowing yourself to get shot, but also advertising that you are hiding students in the closet. And the students in the closet are trapped with nowhere to go).

    It was difficult for me to grasp that a person so educated could come up with such a flawed plan after having given it much thought, and then continue to insist their plan was better after hearing mine, which I thought was more efficient and quickly executed, and made more sense, which had come to me immediately because it was common sense. I had already made up my mind that I was going to follow my plan in the event of an active shooter in this person’s absence, as I was in charge and responsible for the well-being of the students.

    Some years later when there was an active shooter incident in Newton, Connecticut in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it was found that teachers who hid their students in a closet (or bathroom) in the classroom and stood in front of it, were shot dead, and almost all of the students were also shot dead. In cases where the inside a classroom couldn’t be seen and the door was closed, and in classrooms and areas where the lights were off, the door was closed and locked, and either the inside of the classroom/area couldn’t be seen, or people were hiding, the shooter either didn’t enter or leave, thinking the classroom/area wasn’t in use.

    In years since, the plan/protocol that I relayed to the person directly over me at another institution years ago, which they rejected, is now protocol -policy and procedure- at other institutions, including another institution where I had been. Windows on doors either have blinds or shades, have translucent/opaque glass which can’t be seen through, or have paper taped in place. In an active shooter drill or the real thing, students are locked in classrooms with lights shut off by professors/teachers, and everyone remains quiet. If you are stuck out in the hallway, you are instructed to find someplace to hide.

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