Reconsider hiring college hall out for arms auction says old boy priest

arms auction

A priest who is a former pupil of St Patrick’s College Wellington has asked the college to reconsider hiring out its hall for an arms auction.

The auction features high-powered semi-automatic weapons and military memorabilia adorned with Nazi insignia.

Monsignor Gerard Burns says while the arms auction – to be held this weekend at the Kilbirnie school’s hall – was entirely legal, his argument was a moral one.

He urged all Catholics – including the college – to more deeply consider Pope Francis’ call to look at different ways conflict could be resolved using active non-violent protest.

St Patrick’s rector Neal Swindells said the school had hosted the Militaria auctions for about 25 years without incident or outcry from parents or students.

Police would be present at the auction, which took place on a weekend during the school holidays.

Swindells said the hosting of the arms auction was a non-issue that sent no message at all to students about gun culture.

Education Ministry deputy secretary Katrina Casey said the ministry had not received any complaints about the event, and policies around the hiring of school halls were for boards of trustees to make, in compliance with relevant laws.

Burns made his appeal after attending Tuesday’s blockade of the annual New Zealand Defence Industry Association forum at Westpac Stadium with about 300 other activists.

As well as being the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Wellington, Burns has a lifelong commitment to the social justice movement, to the rights of indigenous peoples and involvement with actions for peace.

For some years, he worked as a priest among the poor in Peru.

He was an official observer at the first free elections to be held in East Timor after the withdrawal of Indonesia.

He has visited Gaza on two occasions, once as a tourist and once as part of an official delegation.

In 2009 he took part in a controversial Wellington protest against Israeli killings in the Palestine territory of Gaza. The protest saw a mixture of blood and red paint spread on an Israeli memorial plaque.

Burns is a Master of International Relations (Victoria University)  and has a Diploma in Te Ara Reo Māori (Te Wānanga o Aotearoa).

He is on the governance board of Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand and President of Caritas Oceania, a member of the Representative Council of Caritas Internationalis.

He has been appointed by Pope Francis to the Executive Board of Caritas Internationalis.


News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

  • Patricia Kane

    I greatly admire Mons Gerry Burns, and am in total accord with his position against hiring a Catholic college’s hall for an arms auction, in the holidays or not. Perhaps there have been no issues with this before, because people in general had no knowledge of it. I had 4 sons at St Patrick’s, and object most strongly to making money from weapons of death. War is the ultimate denial of life and justice. Shame on the Headmaster and the Board of Trustees. This will not be the end of the matter.

  • Jack

    I appreciate the rector taking responsibility for the decision to allow the gun sale to take place at a Catholic college.

    I’m sure he didn’t take the booking.

    No doubt there have also been many people on the Board of Trustees and Board of Proprietors in the last 25 years who share in this responsibility and who similarly have no issue renting the hall for all sorts of functions, including gun sales.

    I appreciate from the rector’s recent comments in the media, the College may not be as morally Catholic as it once was, but none-the-less, as New Zealand’s oldest Catholic boys college, with presumably a pro-life stance, and an important education function, the juxtaposition of hiring out its premises for selling guns is quite beyond me.

    Mr Swindells comment calling the gun sale “a non-issue” is very unfortunate.

    His comment says to me the end of the school year is near and he must be getting a little tired.

    I presume he hasn’t dropped his moral compass, for if he had it would be a very serious matter indeed.

    Mr Swindells, this is not just a matter of merely sending a message to your students. The message you are sending by your comment about the gun sale is way bigger than that.

  • Maurice O’Reilly

    As a Marist Old Boy I am ashamed that St. Patrick’s College should associate itself with the gun culture implicit in such sales. One needs only look to recent events in America to see the danger of such sales.

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