Guns. Blaming Father Terra for Trying to Defend Himself. And Raising Up Psychopaths.

Guns. Blaming Father Terra for Trying to Defend Himself. And Raising Up Psychopaths. June 20, 2014

I’m proud of you.

Public Catholic readers have not gone off the deep end, blaming Father Joseph Terra for the actions of the man who beat him and shot and killed his brother priest, Father Kenneth Walker.

Father Terra, a Catholic priest, was critically wounded when an assailant broke into the rectory in Phoenix that he shared with Father Walker. Father Walker was shot and killed. It seems that the assailant managed to get his hands on a gun owned by Father Terra, and that is the gun he used to shoot Father Walker.

Public Catholic readers have not attacked Father Terra for being a victim, and I’m proud of you. There has been a focus on the gun in our discussions here, which, I think is still a mis-direction. After all, Mr Gary Michael Moran, the individual who has confessed to this break-in/beating/murder was paroled just two months ago and he wasn’t in prison for singing too loud in church choir on Sunday morning.

Mr Moran has a long history of violent assaults. He was paroled for crimes that were quite similar to the one he committed against these two priests.

If we are so intent on blaming someone besides Mr Moran for this assault, we might look past Father Terra and take a gander at the parole board who put him on the street. Or, to dig a bit deeper, how about considering the lawmakers who wrote the laws that allowed the parole board to put him on the street? Or maybe we should blame Mr Moran’s mother/teacher/neighbor/dog for the crime.

Or, then again, maybe we could take a quick look at Mr Moran himself. Does anybody besides me think that he’s the guy who did this and he’s the one we should hold responsible?

Just sayin’.

Public Catholic readers have discussed this intelligently. But what about those other folks, the ones who are all but accusing Father Terra of being the miscreant in this situation?

It appears that the lightning rod in this is the gun. We’ve got a group of people in this country who are a little nutty when it comes to firearms. They consistently make inaccurate connections between criminal acts and the gun the criminal uses rather than looking at the criminal him or herself. You’d think, the way they talk, that guns had minds and souls and the ability to act on their own.

Every time we have another of these random mass murders — and they come along with regularity these days — when someone who is loaded down with weaponry goes to a public place and starts killing everybody he can, we see people denouncing the gun laws. Nobody seems to be brave enough to ask what we are doing to manufacture these killers in the first place.

What we have is a relatively new phenomena which has been escalating over the years until it is becoming a commonplace. The gun laws were actually much more liberal before this phenomena took hold than they are now.

I’ve read grisly stories about mass killings in other countries — one in China comes to mind — with very strong gun control laws that occurred when someone armed with a knife or axe invaded a school or other public place and, true to type, started killing everyone they could. I know people who’ve been in buildings that were bombed by terrorists. I also know someone who was crippled for life in a drive-by shooting where the assailant used a gun made with a piece of pipe.

I know this is going to make people angry, but guns are the means, they are not the reason. Banning guns, even banning them altogether, won’t fix this. Guns are not the problem.

We are.

The problem here is not the implement of destruction. The problem is our unwinding society and the feral young people we are raising up inside it. I’ve said this before to a chorus of “not trues” but we are manufacturing psychopaths in our society. Somewhere back in the not-too-distant past, we changed our methods of raising people and the result has been a growing number of mass murders, and a much larger number of random killings, drive-by shootings and other violence on a more individualized scale.

There have always been murderers. It does back to Cain. But this is different. And it’s international. And it’s getting worse.

How does this apply to the blame-Father-Terra viciousness that’s out there glopping around in the internet hive mind?

The blame-Father-Terra crowd is part of the problem. Their self-righteous refusal to think straight and their vicious verbiage misdirects our energies away from dealing with the situation at hand. I think a lot of it is deliberate so that we won’t have to accept responsibility and change our ways.

The situation at hand is that Father Terra is a wounded individual who has suffered an unjust, unwarranted and totally preventable attack from an individual who should never have been out on the streets in the first place. He is being blamed for attempting to defend himself and his brother priest.

What I think happened — and this is just a guess — is that Father Terra didn’t have what it took to pull that trigger. He probably wanted to use the gun to intimidate the attacker, not kill him. He is not a killer and he was doing battle with a man who is a killer. I think it was as simple as that.

Good, normal people are always at a disadvantage in these situations where they are savagely attacked without warning. The attacker knows what they are doing, they’ve got the advantage of surprise. Plus, they are bad. Bone deep bad. They don’t mind killing. They’ve come into this situation ready to hurt and to kill.

Mr Moran has a history of hurting people in violent assaults. He’s used to it. He doesn’t mind it. He went into that rectory with that intention. He is practiced at hurting people. He was also awake.

Father Terra was wakened from sleep, and almost certainly intending to handle things without killing anybody. Father Walker just woke up and came to his friend’s aid.

Yet they are the ones we are blaming. Them, and of course, the gun.

Meanwhile, the man who did all this, we’re just kind of ignoring. Because that’s our way. We ignore the offender and blame the victim — or those who try to aid the victim.

You know why? Because facing the real truth of this would mean that we would have to acknowledge that we can’t toss our kids around like things; that children need stable homes and safe families in which to grow up and we haven’t been providing them.

There is also the desire to avoid the other fact. We can’t disarm these monsters once we build them. We blame the victim because we’ve figured out on some level we don’t want to admit that most of the Mr Morans in this world aren’t fix-able. By the time a person gets to the level of repeat violent offender we can’t rewind them back to harmlessness. We can lock them up. Or, we can let them out and then blame the victim when they do it again.

But we can’t fix them.

It seems more productive to blame the victim and the gun, and maybe the lack of an alarm system or the slow response at 911, than to face the very difficult fact that we are manufacturing these guys with the way we raise our kids and that once we’ve manufactured them, they don’t have an off switch.

We can take away every freedom we have and lock ourselves into lockboxes and we still won’t be safe. if we want to stop these things, we’ve first got to face facts. And the fact is that we are building the Gary Michael Morans ourselves. If we want to stop having so many of them, we’ve got to stop building them.

Nothing else will work.

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14 responses to “Guns. Blaming Father Terra for Trying to Defend Himself. And Raising Up Psychopaths.”

  1. I don’t think you can dismiss the fact that there are many people that have access to guns that shouldn’t have that access. Those people are criminals and law abiding citizens.

    I don’t know what the solution is because what I would do if I had my way about the guns isn’t lawful or reasonable so all I can do is pray.

  2. Agree…agree. But I fear for his staying there with no changes to the household at all. And I intuit as you do that one must have the personality that goes with having a gun. Too slow or too quick to use it both end in tragedy. It’s a tightrope.
    As a USA citizen that has a gun and must have one since I’m under threat by a convict I fought on the street who said he’d return with a pistol, outsiders need to know that the US will never really disarm the bad guys here due to search and seizure restrictions and because we can’t keep guns out since we’re not an island like Malta or Iceland or Japan etc. Years ago while working in the Newark ghetto, circumstances got dangerous and my priest told me to leave while a detective told me to carry a pistol illegally and he risked his job in that moment because he cared for me in that situation. And he knew he couldn’t protect me from the guys in question. They have to act first…then the police arrive. We gun owners know we are in a country that will not disarm the bad guys due to search and seizure laws and will not give us police protection ( not their job said the high court several years ago):

  3. I have been wrestling with the issue of guns for some time now. When I read the reports that Fr. Walker was killed with Fr. Terra’s gun, my heart sank. I don’t blame Fr. Terra for the murder, but I simply can’t shake the thought that Fr. Walker might still be alive today if there had not been a gun in the rectory.

  4. Good post. I imagine that Father Terra thought that the commotion that he heard outside that evening might be an injured or sick person looking for help. He didn’t envision that a lunatic with an angle iron would be hiding behind the door, waiting to attack. That’s about as much “blame” as I can assign to him. I’m sorry to hear that others are finding fault with him. May Our Mother Mary comfort him in his grief.

  5. I don’t understand your hostility to gun control. I don’t have a problem with responsible gun ownership; numerous people in my family have guns. But does the right to bear arms mean I get to own a shoulder-fired missile launcher? A tank? Obviously, we’ve got to draw the line somewhere. I don’t think private citizens need military-style arsenals. If Adam Lanza had entered the Sandy Hook School with a knife, the principal and teachers almost certainly could have overpowered him before he killed more than 1-2 children. He had guns — not the kind of guns someone who wants to defend their home needs, or the kind of guns that a hunter needs — he had guns whose sole purpose is to inflict a maximum of casualties in the least amount of time possible. And he fired over 140 bullets in less than four minutes.

    This is obscene. I know you to be a sincere, thoughtful Christian. I don’t believe that pointing out that some weapons have no purpose but to kill, and to kill quickly, is the same thing as demonizing all guns or all gun owners. (I don’t have any problem with the fact that Father Terra owned a gun whose purpose was presumably self-defense.) I’m not saying gun control is the entire solution or the only solution. Believe me, I’m all for strengthening families and bolstering mental health services. I cannot on any level, however, as a Christian or a citizen, feel that it’s appropriate for private citizens to amass huge, military-style gun arsenals. I’m not usually a big fan of the Onion, but this headline pretty well sums it up:,36131/.

  6. How does one blame Father Terra for what happened? He was, as you said, trying to defend himself and his fellow priest—but the table was turned on him by a man who, as you said, has a history of inflicting pain and suffering. I’m not a fan of guns—they scare me. No one in my family has owned one and I hope I never find it necessary to think I need to buy one.

  7. On the radio just yesterday, I heard a woman blame Jared Padgett’s father for having alcohol and guns around the house, unsecured, for the shooting at Reynolds High School. Even my wife blames that shooting on the recent divorce of his parents.

  8. Becky, a few facts: you can’t own a grenade launcher, either. You can own a machine gun, if it was made before 1933. Enough hyperbole.
    The guns used in Sandy Hook were not “military style assault weapons.” As a matter of fact they were not allowed for deer hunting as they were not powerful enough. If one person had been allowed to carry a gun at that school the deaths would have been much fewer. In mass shootings, the “average” number of victims is 12 in a gun free zone. Where even 1 person has a carry permit that is reduced to less than 2. The whole gun free zone thing is just a “take aim here” notice.
    Finally, this is a problem of how we deal with dangerous, mentally ill people.

  9. This brings up, yet again, the way we deal with the dangerous, mentally disturbed. Keeping this man in a facility for the criminally insane would have avoided this and many other such situations.
    Psychiatric facilities were first opened in the US in the mid 19th century because of a number of mass murders of family members. Their first purpose was to protect the family and public from the deranged, violent ones.

  10. I was under the impression this guy was mentally deranged. If he’s simply bad, he should not have been out of jail, then. That’s what you said, isn’t it?

  11. Are you taking to me Anne?

    On the assumption you are, that’s pretty much what I said. From his photo, he appears to be on drugs. As for insane, there’s no indication of this that I know anything about. I subscribe to the legal definition of insanity: Does not know right from wrong, i.e. does not know what he’s doing. If he thought the priests were giant spiders attacking him, that’s a defense. If he just grew up hard, nope.

  12. Hi, Rebecca, I was talking to you. I was using more he psychiatric definition, personality disorder or just deranged. Insane is a legal definition.
    I agree. You shouldn’t be able to say you were sad and that’s why you do these things.

  13. Were I able, I would get rid of all federal firearms laws, including
    the National Firearms Act of 1934 (the very first) and the Gun Control
    Act of 1968. I am firmly of the opinion that people should be able to
    own and carry (keep and bear) whatever weapons (arms) they want.

    like gunfight expert Massad Ayoob, I would also counsel anyone who ever
    expects to use any firearm for defense, to make up their mind
    beforehand that if presenting a firearm to a threat (i.e., they draw and
    aim) does not result in prompt flight or surrender, that they will then
    shoot for center mass until they are no longer threatened, and if that
    kills the threat, they should hold themselves blameless. I do not think
    Fr. Terra had so made up his mind.