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Gun Enthusiast Says Catholic Leaders Aren't Following Bible

By Robert B. Bluey
CNSNews.com Staff Writer
February 28, 2003

(CNSNews.com) - Gun owner and devout Catholic John Michael Snyder has published a new book, "Gun Saint," which he hopes will inspire the Roman Catholic Church to recognize St. Gabriel Possenti as the patron of handgunners.

Snyder, a gun lobbyist and founder of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, has been asking the church to make the designation for 15 years. He used Possenti's annual feast, held Thursday, to assail some Catholic bishops for choosing "political correctness" over their faith.

Instead of following the Bible's teachings on self-defense, Snyder said, some Catholic leaders would rather take a pacifist approach.

"A lot of the Catholic bishops in the United States are out of line on this issue," Snyder said. "They are pacifists up the wazoo. They don't really understand their own faith. They don't understand the religion of which they are officials."

Snyder acknowledged the divisiveness of the issue. By making Possenti a patron saint, the church would recognize him as a guardian over an area of life, just like Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians, Barbara is the patron saint of artillery gunners and Fiacre is the patron saint of venereal disease.

Snyder's efforts received international attention in 1989, but also created a barrage of criticism. Speaking in Washington, D.C., Thursday, he said he would remain undaunted by the challenge.

"I'm going to keep plugging," he said. "There should be a patron of handgunners and I think it ought to be St. Gabriel Possenti."

In his book, Snyder recounts the story of Possenti, a young Italian seminarian, who came to the rescue of a woman who was about to be raped by two men belonging to a band of terrorists. It was 1860 in Italy and the country was faced with strife resulting from fighting over the Papal States.

Possenti, a known outdoorsman, approached the troopers pillaging his village and seized their guns, Snyder said. Possenti fired a shot from the .36 caliber cap-and-ball revolver that hit a lizard crossing the street, scaring away the renegades, Snyder added.

At the time, Possenti was studying to become a Roman Catholic priest. The church later recognized him as a saint. But since Snyder took up the cause to make Possenti the patron saint of handgunners, there has been stiff resistance.

Some church leaders have outright denied that the shooting incident involving Possenti ever occurred, while others have dismissed Snyder's idea. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not return a request for comment.

Erich Pratt, spokesman for Gun Owners of America, called Snyder's idea "refreshing."

"Ironically, if St. Gabriel had done this today in Brooklyn, he would have been arrested," Pratt said. "People who have defended themselves and family members with a firearm are being prosecuted, not for unlawful use of force, but for simply owning an unregistered gun."

Even if the designation does not come during Snyder's lifetime, he said he was encouraged by some young priests who agreed with him on the church's teachings of self-defense.

"Jesus said at the Last Supper, 'The one who has no sword must sell his cloak and buy one,' " Snyder said. "You always have the right to defend yourself, and if you are protecting someone else, you have an obligation to defend them."

© 2014 St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc., P.O. Box 183, Cabin John, MD 20818