Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Our Tuesday 5:00 PM EF Low Mass was a Requiem for Fr. Kenneth Walker on June 17th. The traditional Requiem Mass is to the point and quite beautiful. I make use of the option of reading the Scriptures in English at the Low Mass--it is a no brainer and should be extended to the High Mass as well, which is technically a Low Mass that is sung, and not to be confused with a Solemn Sung Mass with deacon and subdeacon.

I read the poetic version of the Dies Irae after the Tract. It is stunning and quite beautiful and if only it were mandatory sung or spoken at our Funeral Masses in the Ordinary Form. 

But the point of this post is the dangers of rectory living. Many priests have been murdered in rectories over the past 50 years. Usually it occurs because of burglary. I think too that many burglars don't realize that the rectory is a residence. They think it is an office and that they are breaking into a building after everyone has gone home, not realizing that the rectory office is the priests' home.Some rectories (not mine as it is kept elsewhere) have thousands of dollars available after Sunday Mass collections. This is not lost on criminals.

I had a very close call in my first month as the Associate Pastor of our Cathedral in Savannah. In fact to this day I firmly believe that if I had arrived back at the Cathedral rectory just three minutes later, that I would have been severely injured or killed. 

I had gone shopping for some necessities in August of 1985. I had been at my new assignment less than a month. The Cathedral rectory has a ground floor and three additional stories (four total). I entered the kitchen on the ground floor about 7:30 PM on a Thursday night. As I settled in, I hear loud voices upstairs. I could not make it out. The only other person in the huge rectory was Bishop Lessard. I thought he might be arguing with someone as the voices did not sound friendly at all.

Concerned, I started up a flight of steps that leads to the main floor. At the top of this set of stairs is the door to the Cathedral's sacristy. The rectory is attached to the back of the Cathedral. This door to the sacristy was locked, but it had a reinforced window allowing one to look into it from the rectory without opening the door.

As I began heading up the stairs, about half way, I hear what I thought was an explosion. Then I was showered with glass! I couldn't figure out what in the world was going on. Then I realized that burglars had broken into the sacristy by a balcony door off of the sacristy (which has no stairs leading to it, so they climbed up to get in). One of them, and I think there were two or three burglars, had a crowbar which he used to break the reinforced glass so that he could reach in to unlock the door to the rectory and get in and take what they wanted.

When I realize what was going on, I yelled up and told them to "get the hell out of here, this is a residence." Fortunately for me, I startled them before they entered the rectory and the burglar dropped the crowbar which I heard fall on the floor and they escaped the way they entered leaving the sacristy booty behind.

Now get this, I calmly turned around went to the kitchen again and dialed 911! But guess what in 1985 Savannah did not have 911 yet! I didn't know that. So I get a recording that my number could not be completed as dialed and to check the number I wanted to dial correctly!

I am convinced that if I had arrived at the rectory one or two minutes later, that I would have physically encountered those burglars in the rectory and the crowbar would have used on me. I think I would have been killed or critically injured by them.


Gene said...

Another good argument for Priests carrying…everybody carrying. There has never been a better crime prevention tool than a firearm. You can talk liberal nonsense all you want, but a true crime stopper stops the felon once and for all…no liberal parole boards, no expensive trials, no shortened sentences so he gets out to kill or rob someone else.
Plus, if enough of these scum get killed by citizens, word will get around.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Gene, you do realize that the gun used by the burglar to kill Fr. Kenneth was a gun belonging to the pastor of the parish who had retrieved it from his night stand and the burglar took it from him and killed the other priest! You might want to rethink your simplistic suggestions.

Gene said...

Those things do happen. We do not know the circumstances, but the Priest may have waited too long to shoot. That would be my guess. You cannot allow the enemy to close with you. Besides, the instances of people successfully using forearms to thwart criminals far outweigh the unfortunate events such as this one. When you need to shoot, you need to shoot NOW!

rcg said...

I had heard that the source of the gun. That will cause a lot of distractions. I do not think that changes a thing except that Fr Terra should have practiced more. The thief used what was at hand to beat Fr Terra who lived by luck. The thief had been in prison for stabbing his previous burglary victim repeatedly until stopped by others.

Joseph Johnson said...

I have read the police report and have seen the picture of Fr. Terra's heavily bandaged hands while he attended the Requiem Mass in choro.

Apparently, his fingers and hands were so badly beaten with that piece of angle iron to the point that he could not effectively use the pistol (could pull a trigger) not to mention that fact that he was literally beaten to a stupor and may have not possessed a presence of mind that he needed by the time he got to the gun in his nightstand.

JBS said...

Yes, rectories locate priests in danger zones, and we should take reasonable steps to prevent trouble. However, I think it is a mistake whenever some priests refuse to answer the door for anyone without an appointment, and I'm especially against parishes relocating rectories away from the church.

Anon friend said...

Gene, very few people are military in traing and/or temperament such as yourself. I would be far more fearful of "everybody carrying" than I am of the opposite. Until probationary periods with licensure training and testing are mandatory, there are just way too many pitfalls that turn deadly.
But I do sometimes fear for our daughter who teaches high school. As you know it is all too common for kids to come to school with weapons from a parent's house, or procured without proper background checks. Way too common... Kids raised with constant exposure to violence on TV and gaming, parents exposing them willy-nilly to firearms (we have a neighbor who keeps an arsenal under his bed; his son son got one of the guns and blew a hole through his bedroom wall), out-of-control domestic and societal violence issues, where children learn resentment, etc.

Gene said...

Anon Friend, You and I agree on a lot, but we will nerver agree on this issue.

Anonymous said...

(for a non gun related comment)

“ . . . if only [the Dies Irae] were mandatory sung or spoken at our Funeral Masses in the Ordinary Form.

Our Latin Mass community—which supports both the EF and OF in Latin—is currently planning a sung OF Latin Requiem Mass celebrated with all the traditional options—ad orientem, black Roman vestments, etc. The choir will chant the ordinary and proper antiphons, and the Dies Irae after communion (but no congregational hymns). For funerals like this we supply the congregation with copies of the Ignatius Press OF Latin-English booklet

ironically entitled “The Mass of Vatican II” to sing the Ordinary and responses, and follow the Order of Mass, and also the Latin-English propers leaflet Defunctorum.pdf

(just like those typical at an EF Mass) to follow the propers and chant the antiphons. After such a Mass, someone typically comments that they really loved “the old Mass like this back before Vatican II ruined it”. I always wonder whether they opened their booklet without noticing the title “The Mass of Vatican II” printed conspicuously on the front cover.

Anon friend said...

Gene, I'm fine with that. Total agreement is an illusion I don't indulge.

Anonymous said...

So the gun that killed the younger priest belonged to the older pastor?

So it wasn't the younger priest seeking a weapon, but the older one?

Given the savage beating the surviving priest endured by blunt trauma, it looks like the robber intended to kill them both regardless of the means.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

The older priest was able to run and get his gun but his hands were severely injured in holding his hands up against the metal object used against him. The burglar evidently took it from him when the young priest came to see what all the commotion was and then was fatally shot. I don't know why the older priest was shot unless the younger one intervened in the fight.

JBS said...


You just don't understand the reality. I drove by a house today that had bricks bordering the flower beds, with children playing right next to these potential weapons! Can you believe that level of carelessness?

Bricks, poles, rods, handles, pots, pans, stakes, not to mention darts, cigarette lighters, cups of coffee and rolls of coins can all be used to stun a victim, who can then be killed with a few feet of wire or rope, or even an unattended plastic bag. What you need to understand, Gene, is that all these potential weapons need to be outlawed, because they cause otherwise law-abiding citizens to kill their neighbors.

Were it not for guns and other weapons, we would all love each other, greeting each other with a kiss.

Paolo Perspicacitas said...

What a harrowing experience! I'm glad to know the incident concluded with relatively minimal consequences.

I suspect such particularly vile transgressions are not uniquely endemic to the last generation or two. Individual perceptions have often demonstrated to be a notoriously flawed foundation for making broad or statistical conclusions -- which should become evident when one simply expands one's outlook beyond personal experience and the immediate environment. A cursory glance of history will quickly reveal how our ancestors were at least equally capable and just as willing to summarily inflict unspeakable atrocities on the clergy and church property, as during:
- - 1936 Spain
- - 1901 France
- - 1535 England
- - 10th Century Slavic and German territories

Please don't get me wrong. My intent here is not to diminished the heinous events of present-day Phoenix or the recent past of Georgia. On the contrary, it seems to me that any wise course of action will require cooler heads and a reliably clear grasp of the situation.

-- Paolo P.

John Nolan said...


I think I have made this point before, but the Missa Cantata is not technically a sung Low Mass; it is a High Mass celebrated without deacon and subdeacon because there are not enough clerics to perform these roles. In England and north America it was recognized that few parishes had the resources to provide sacred ministers, so they were allowed to celebrate the Missa Cantata with lights and incense. John XXIII extended this permission to the universal Church.

SP allows, in a Low Mass, the Epistle and Gospel to be read in the vernacular without first being read in Latin; this might at a pinch be extended to the Last Gospel (although there would be little point since it is almost invariably John 1:1-14). It does not apply to the other Propers, including the Sequence, which have to be in Latin.

Gene said...

JBS, Indeed so. I just went warm and fuzzy from your
statement about how we would all love one another if it just weren't for them nasty ol' guns!

Anonymous 2 said...

JBS and Gene:

Brilliant! You have solved the gun problem at a stroke -- As these items are evidently equivalent to guns, ban guns and interpret the right to bear arms in the Second Amendment as the right to carry pots and pans.

Paolo Perspicacitas said...

I think Fr. Terra may require greater attention and support from us (prayer especially) than initially anticipated.

Let us set aside for a moment our self-serving musings on the what-ifs and could-haves of the case. What remains is the stark reality that actually transpired last week in central Phoenix, most especially: a gun kept by a pastor solemnly professed in a Catholic religious order was used to kill a newly consecrated life under his charge.

From such a perspective, the incident has great potential to haunt any person, let alone a man bound by public vows to examine his conscience at least once daily.

May the Lord grant Fr. Terra the grace to resolve and recover fully from any mental burden stemming from the rectory break-in.

-- Paolo P.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...


Pater Ignotus said...

Pack a Gun - Prevent Crime.

Pack a Gun - Get a Young Priest Shot to Death.

Choose which is factual.

Paolo - From the FSSP website: "The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter is a Clerical Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical right, that is, a community of Roman Catholic priests who do not take religious vows, but who work together for a common mission in the world."

An FSSP priest is not professed in Catholic religious order, nor is he bound by public vows.

Gene said...

Ignotus, what kind of silly non sequitur is that supposed to be? LOL!

Paolo Perspicacitas said...

Thank you, Pater. Very instructive . . . to me, at least. I am still learning about distinctions within the clergy. So... FSSP is similar to diocesan in that in they are both secular (i.e., saecularis)?

Regardless, even if revise my earlier statement with something appropriate to secular clergy, the main thrust of my point remains intact. Fr. Terra likely has a very difficult road ahead, physically AND mentally.

-- Paolo P.