10 December 2009

HT- Father Z

QUAERITUR: What rubrics to follow at Mass in case of gunfire?
CATEGORY: ASK FATHER Question Box — Fr. John Zuhlsdorf @ 10:23 pm

From a reader:

I have a question for you. Suppose during a EF Mass, a gunman or threatening person enters the church, and opens fire. What can be done within the rubrics to protect the Blessed Sacrament, the priest, the servers, and the congregation? Please keep in mind that the congregation is made up of slow, aging men, who no offense to them, really can’t protect anyone.

Lemme get this straight… what rubrics are followed in case of gunfire...?

I believe there is a little known rubric which calls for the deacon and subdeacon (who in any event should be packing) to take out, reverently, their .9mm and return fire. As I read it, they are to recite the Maledictory Psalms while firing. At the change of a clip/magazine, they may bow, or duck.

In the case of, probability actually… of the mention of the Holy Name, it is still necessary to uncover.

If one crosses the sanctuary, however, honorifics are not to be observed.

In the case of an incapacitating wound, it is permitted for the priest celebrant, or one of the sacred ministers, or any priest in choir, to give the assailant, et al., last rites.

Any bishop present ought immediately place himself in the line of fire between the assailant and the priest celebrant and then begin to remonstrate with the attacker, invoking the help of St. Michael. He is to wave his arms and shout: "in manus tuas commendo spiritum meum".

At the conclusion of the gunfire, it is permitted to sing the Te Deum.... unless it is Good Friday.

Mass (or the service) continues afterward from the point it was interrupted, though it is not necessary to start in the middle of a word; going back to the first word of the sentence is sufficient.

Alternately, if the sacred ministers are not packing, there is no reason why a group of religious could not be formed as a sort of liturgical militia against such an eventuality.

I believe in this case, the gun stock must have a ribbon of the color of the days.

There are different rubrics for when four armored men sent by the King attack troublesome priests with swords during the singing of the office.

Seriously, I don’t think we need to consult rubrics for this.

The basic principle is that the ceremony goes on even during some sort of disturbance, within reason.

If I am a celebrant, and someone is shouting, I will go on, hoping that the congregation deals with the wacko. One good way to do this is for everyone to stand up and sing Holy God We Praise Thy Name at the top of your lungs until the idiot stops. In the meantime, call the police: it is generally against the law to disturb religious services.

If I am a celebrant, and someone is shooting, I will probably hit the deck and get everyone else to do the same.

If there is an earthquake and the church starts to cave in, I think I would probably stop what I am doing and leave to ensure that everyone else does too.

So, the overarching rubric here is common sense.

If you have a chance, try to avoid getting shot and stop the guy who is shooting.


From the old De defectibus:

"32. If, while the priest is celebrating Mass, the church is violated before he has reached the Canon, the Mass is to be discontinued; if after the Canon, it is not to be discontinued. If there is fear of an attack by enemies, or of a flood or of the collapse of the building where the Mass is being celebrated, the Mass is to be discontinued if it is before the Consecration; if this fear arises after the Consecration, however, the priest may omit everything else and go on at once to the reception of the Sacrament."

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