I’m intrigued by the hoopla unfolding after the pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan decided to urge his parishioners to attend a parish-sponsored Concealed Pistol License class held on parish grounds. Christ the King pastor, Fr. Edward Fride announced his decision to his flock this past Palm Sunday and recently followed up with a letter explaining his decision.
Whenever I see anything come up in the secular media about a Catholic priest I first cringe and then begin to pray, because it usually opens the Catholic-basher door to those who like to label, judge, and criticize without fully understanding the situation or our Catholic faith. It was no different this time.
I’m still cringing. And, I’m definitely still praying.
Friend and colleague, Kathy Schiffer, also has written on this topic from the perspective of the pros and cons of gun ownership, and so I won’t discuss the same in this post.
What I want to bring to light – lest this be overlooked by other media – it the reason Fr. Fride proposed the class in the first place.
He’s not a gun-slingin’ showdown priest.
He’s a pastor who cares deeply for both the spiritual and physical well-being of his congregation.
What prompted Fr. Fride’s proposal was alarm over:
1) The rising crime rate in the area in which his parishioners lived
2) Budget cuts that have decreased the number of armed police offices on duty and thus reduced protection for Christ the King parishioners and,
3) A recent incident in which two armed criminals nearly made it to the parish high school, which could have resulted in another Columbine-style shooting. Here is what Fr. Fride wrote to his parishioners in a letter explaining his decision regarding the CPL class:
The fact that two active shooters got within yards of Father Gabriel Richard [High School] before they were taken down by SWAT demonstrates that the threat is real. This druggie couple from Detroit stole a car and it broke down at Plymouth and Dixboro. They went through the woods and had almost reached the high school when they were stopped. Because it was a Mass day, the doors were open so the parents could get in to attend the Mass. There is zero security at the high school. Had the shooters got in, we would have had our own Columbine. But what if their car had broken down on Plymouth and Earhart instead? They would have been coming through the woods into our parish center backyard on a day when the parish center was full of kids. What then?
While I did raise my eyebrows at the method Fr. Fride had chosen to protect his congregation, my heart was warmed by the degree of his love and concern for them.
He obviously cares passionately, which is what every good pastor should do.
I do have to point out that the class included only the classroom portion and not the firing range practice customarily included and that Fr. Fride immediately cancelled the class when his bishop expressed his wishes that he not proceed with it.
To me, that shows exemplary humility and obedience.
Perhaps the whole gun-class effort was a mistake, but the love of Fr. Fride for Christ King Catholic Church and its people was not. Is not.
The kind of pastor’s passion demonstrated by Fr. Fride is exemplary and, I hope, contagious.
Image: Basher Eyre, Wikimedia Commons