It is politically correct to criticize institutions that do not follow the left’s agenda. While the media are sympathetic to so-called oppressed people and movements, they have a deep antipathy for the police forces who restrain violence and disorder.
Thus, violent crime against police is happening everywhere. However, the increase in anti-police violence in the United States has been higher than in most other countries.1
The FBI reports that 50,212 police in uniform were attacked in 2015, and 28% were injured.2 Other sources report that 48,315 police were attacked in 2014. In 2017, death rates for active police increased by twenty percent.3
Recent reports relate that seven police were killed in the first three weeks of 2019 alone.4 Most of these fatal attacks on officers involve cars who run over police officers as they stand beside their cars. One case involved a fatal shot to the head.
In this atmosphere of violence, many police officers are naturally concerned about their security. The chief of police in Bardstown, Kentucky, stated that he is always armed, even when he goes shopping or mows the lawn. When he showers at home, he makes sure first to lock all the doors.5
How a Catholic Officer Should Act
With so much tension, police officers find great solace in religion and have no scruples expressing their faith in public.6
A good many police officers go on duty with both spiritual and material weapons. For example, Sharif Said, a Catholic police officer from Milwaukee, always pins a Saint Michael medal on his uniform. On the reverse side is an image of Saint Jude Thaddeus, patron of hopeless and impossible causes.
According to The National Catholic Register, he credits his faith with keeping him going. He certainly deals with all sorts of rough situations, including domestic violence, drug abuse, gang activity, and other crimes. Thus, he says that “A lot of what we do are corporal and spiritual works of mercy, whether it is giving counsel to those in broken homes, comforting those afflicted by crime or burying the dead.”
Frequent Confession and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament
The same article told the story of Captain Rhett Brotherton, another Catholic, is with the Oklahoma police homicide unit. He notes that his agents need the spiritual strength and consolation of the Catholic Church’s sacraments and support.
He explains that “Officers who practice their faith and rely on the Church’s help, in general, make better officers with better judgment; they also have more compassion and overall better family lives. Living the faith gives them strength against temptations to cynicism and nihilism that can seep into their personal lives and relationships or alienate them from their children.”
Brotherton speaks about his own experience: ”I’ve found that frequent confession and adoration are anchoring points for me so that I don’t become the evil in which I’m immersed.” He added that “I definitely don’t want to be in a state of mortal sin.”
It is crucial that people recognize the sacrifice police officers make and especially thank them for the risks they run. Such gestures represent “little rays of sunlight in a very dark world.”
Naturally, Catholic police officers receive great support from their chaplains, which explains the high demand for chaplains in the police. In the New York Police Department, for example, chaplains have established a special program to help Catholic police officers in difficulty.
A recent Catholic News Agency (CNA) story features Charlie Carroll, a former policeman who worked for ten years with the New York Police Department, says that in his career, he saw a lot of crime that is “hard to imagine,” but he has also seen much good. He also tried to help the homeless, whether on and off duty. “Being a Catholic, I just treat them as Jesus would do,” he said. “That’s what’s got me through my career.”
Mark Byington is a professor of criminal justice at Jefferson College in Hillsboro and a former policeman with almost two decades of experience. He says the Church needs a stronger ministry to officers’ families. He found that divorce and separation rates among officers mirror those of military personnel. Many now recognize that police officers are also dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from their job.
To combat this situation, Byington organizes Saint Michael’s retreats for first responders at the Jesuit-run White House Retreat Center in St. Louis. An essential part of this retreat is to help police officers see for themselves how the Catholic faith strengthens them to fulfill their duty as public servants and to see their duty as a way of living their faith.
The CNA quoted Byington. “Jesus is the shepherd, but we’re not the sheep. We’re the sheepdogs. What we’re called to is service to protect His sheep.”