“Christians must promote the right and ability of their persecuted brethren to obtain and use self-defense firearms,” John M. Snyder, a police adviser for the Chiefs of Police Association and founder/chairman of the St. Gabriel Possenti Society, said. “Genuine charity demands no less,” he added.
St. Gabriel Possenti was canonized by the Catholic Church in 1920. He is known for having used handguns in 1860 to rescue villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy, from a violent band of renegades. The St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc. thinks persecuted Christians today could pray to him for assistance and follow his example. It seeks Vatican designation of St. Gabriel Possenti as the Patron Saint of Handgunners.
Snyder said, “In an address Thursday, April 20, 2007, at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Cardinal Donald Wuerl [Archbishop of Washington, DC] noted persecutors throughout the world murder one Christian an hour for his or her faith. Christian leaders such as Cardinal Wuerl, Pope Francis and others should ensure that victims and potential victims of anti-Christian violence be afforded the personal firearms they need for legitimate self-defense.”
A former NRA publications editor, Snyder stated: “Instead, Cardinal Wuerl, Pope Francis and other hierarchs who should know better reiterate politically correct anti-gun propaganda. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops even wants to criminalize civilian handgun possession. This undermines the right and ability of innocents to defend themselves from violent anti-Christian predators such as throat-slashing, decapitating Islamist madmen. It is praiseworthy for prelates to honor Christian victims of persecution for maintaining their heroic, saintly belief in the Divinity of Christ in the face of torture and death. It is condemnable for prelates to oppose individual believers’ use of self-defense handguns. In reality, they’re upending their co-religionists right to self-defense, their right to defend themselves and others from murderous persecutors. Christ himself declared, ‘The man without a sword must sell his cloak and buy one,’ according to Luke 22:36.
“If they really wanted to follow the spirit of charity, Pope Francis, Cardinal Wuerl and other institutional Christian officials would set up an international self-defense fund. Individuals and organizations could contribute to the fund, which in turn would purchase guns and ammunition for distribution to Christians under threat of persecution, even murder. The Holy Father even could initiate a self-defense collection in Catholic churches throughout the world. This would be similar to the annual Peter’s Pence collection. Leaders of other Christian denominations could do the same.”
Snyder noted that, “Two months ago, the international St. Gabriel Possenti Society, Inc. commemorated the February 27 feast day of St. Gabriel Possenti, a Catholic saint who used handguns to save the innocent from the wicked. The interdenominational Society celebrates its 29th anniversary this year.”
“The life of St. Gabriel Possenti shows that a holy person can use firearms to promote peace and justice,” Snyder commented. “Firearms possession and use are compatible with sanctity. Sometimes people need guns to defend life, truth and freedom. Catholic Church leaders and others should realize this.””
In 1860, St. Gabriel Possenti rescued the villagers of Isola del Gran Sasso, Italy from a marauding gang of about 20 renegade soldiers with an outstanding display of handgun marksmanship.
St. Gabriel Possenti freed a young woman from would-be rapists by taking the rapists’ revolvers. He then confronted the onrushing brigands, pointing the revolvers at them. Possenti fired at a lizard that happened to be running across the road. He killed it with one shot. Having demonstrated his excellent handgun marksmanship, St. Gabriel Possenti took command of the situation and ran the now-frightened brigands out of town.
St. Gabriel Possenti performed this feat of courage without causing physical harm to a single human being.
St. Gabriel Possenti died in 1862 at the age of 23 before he was ordained. Pope Benedict XV canonized him as a saint in 1920.
Snyder recalled that some dispute the historicity of the shooting and rescue incident. He stated that, “in response to lizard incident challenges, let me point out that the late Rev. Godfrey Poage, C.P., who wrote about the incident was a Passionist, the same religious order as St. Gabriel Possenti.”
Snyder further noted that, “Fr. Poage was the author of ‘Son of the Passion, The Story of Gabriel Francis Possenti.’ It was published in 1962 by the Bruce Publishing Company in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and republished in 1977 by the Daughters of St. Paul. The book carried the nihil obstat of Frederick Sucher, C.P., S.T.D., Censor for the Congregation of the Passion, the imprimi potest of Walter Kaelin, C.P, Provincial of the Holy Cross Province (of the Passionists), dated February 27, 1962, the nihil obstat of John F. Murphy, S.T.D., Censor librorum, and the imprimatur of Most Reverend William E. Cousins, Archbishop of Milwaukee, dated April 13, 1962.
“The account of the lizard incident, Chapter 7, ‘The Savior of Isola,’ is one of the book’s eight chapters. In the book’s introduction, Fr. Poage explained that, ‘nothing was said that had not been quoted by eyewitnesses, at least in the third person.'”
“When challenged re the accuracy of his report of the lizard incident, Fr. Poage stood by its historicity,” Snyder stated. “Father Poage said that challenges to the accuracy of his writing came from people who didn’t have any evidence to the contrary. Father Poage said this to Mark Pattison of the Catholic News Service on February 10, 1992. The CNS report appeared in The Catholic Sun of Phoenix, Arizona on February 20, 1992. Pattison reported that, ‘Fr. Poage said the episode was witnessed by a ‘lay helper’ at the monastery. The documentation was uncovered during his research in Italy in 1947-48.’
“Fr. Poage, who had been a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, died June 25, 2001. The Passionist Family Circle Newsletter, in its Fall/Winter 2001 issue, stated that he was ‘a man of extraordinary talents and great kindness’ and ‘a trusted servant of God.'”
Snyder stated that, “The Poage account of the lizard incident remained non-controversial for over a quarter of a century. To the best of my knowledge, it was not disputed or questioned. It was not until I began promoting St. Gabriel Possenti as a Patron Saint of Handgunners in the late 1980s that there began a belated attempt to attack the account of the lizard incident.
“It appears there is such bigotry in some quarters against the very idea of a Catholic saint using force and handguns to defeat evil that there is a preference for anti-gun political correctness over historical accuracy.”
The St. Gabriel Possenti Society seeks official Vatican recognition of St. Gabriel Possenti as Patron of Handgunners. In a December 18, 2015 posting of its “Does Catholic Faith Dictate a Position on Gun Control?’ article, the National Catholic Register referred to St. Gabriel Possenti as “the patron saint of handgunners.”