Belize City, BELIZE – A Jesuit priest took to Twitter just 12 hours after armed parishioners in Texas stopped a gunman who opened fire during a church service and appeared to condemn those who would allow guns in church for security purposes.
“Guns in every church! Jesus must be so proud of modern day America,” Father Jeremy Zipple captioned a retweet of a National Rifle Association (NRA) post that heralded “a good guy with a gun” for stopping the shooting spree.
When a follower pushed back and asked the Jesuit priest if it wasn’t a good thing that that armed parishioners were able to stop the gunman, Zipple would not agree.
“I don’t think guns have any place in church,” he replied on the thread.
Zipple, the associate pastor of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church in Belize City, is the former editor of America Magazine, according to The Pluralist.
On Monday, he sought to clarify his position via social media.
“This Fri we’ll bury a 16-yr-old girl gunned down across street from our church. 3 yrs ago our pastor was held at gunpoint in churchyard. But we’ll not permit guns in our church. Some Christians gotta be bold & say no more killing & we trust God enough to take care of the rest,” Zipple tweeted.
“And some will say that’s imprudent and foolish and I’ll say, but where are the fools for Christ? And who said the gospel was supposed to be easy?” the priest asked a few minutes later.
Zipple’s posts were interpreted by many as direct criticism of the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas, where an armed church member stopped a would-be mass murderer on Sunday morning.
“The events at West Freeway Church of Christ put me in a position that I would hope no one would have to be in, but evil exists and I had to take out an active shooter in church,” heroic churchgoer Jack Wilson wrote on his Facebook page Sunday night.
Wilson, a firearms instructor, a former law enforcement officer, and a great-grandfather, is the volunteer security team member at West Freeway Church of Christ who ended the gunman’s attack within six seconds.
“I’m thankful to GOD that I have been blessed with the ability and desire to serve him in the role of head of security at the church. I am very sad in the loss of two dear friends and brothers in CHRIST, but evil does exist in this world and I and other members are not going to allow evil to succeed,” he wrote. “Please pray for all the members and their families in this time. Thank you for your prayers and understanding.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said that Wilson made it a point to prepare himself and others to handle potentially deadly confrontations.
“He was a reserve deputy and had significant training, had his own shooting range, had taught other people how to shoot, had taught many people in this church how to be prepared,” Paxton said during a press conference, according to KDVR.
“He’s not just responsible for his actions, which ultimately saved the lives of maybe hundreds of people, but he’s also responsible for training hundreds in that church,” the attorney general noted.
According to Paxton, Wilson was the only individual who actually returned fire during the attack.
He fired just once, dropping the gunman instantly.
Even as all the details of what happened when the gunman opened fire in the church were revealed, Zipple held fast to his position that using guns to defend churchgoers was wrong.
“We've buried eight parishioners under the age of 30 this year who were all victims of gun violence. I do believe the world becomes more Christlike as swords are turned into plowshares, & as a Christian I'll continue to advocate for that. Hope you can understand my position,” the Jesuit priest tweeted on New Year’s Eve.
Numerous people on Twitter accused Zipple of confusing his religious beliefs with his politics.
“This is not a bold statement. Nor is this a Christian statement. It is your ‘peace testimony’ in which I respectfully disagree. I pray to the Lord that if ever I was in that situation he would guide my aim and give me the courage to stop the evil and save innocents,” Eric Reese tweeted in reply.