A Message from the Bishop – Let our actions show that life is sacred

A Message from the Bishop – Let our actions show that life is sacred
Women hold candles during a June 13 vigil in Los Angeles for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people early June 12 at the nightclub. CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Women hold candles during a June 13 vigil in Los Angeles for the victims of the mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. A lone gunman, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group, killed 49 people early June 12 at the nightclub.
CNS photo/Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

The shocking and horrifying shooting of the men and women in the Pulse nightclub in Orlando floods our minds and hearts with questions and disbelief about who could create such carnage and why.

Our initial response to that slaughter must be that of people of faith. We turn to God and commend the dead to their Creator. May these victims of violence and hate rest in eternal peace. We believe there is eternal life after death and these dead await the resurrection of their wounded bodies. We pray for their loved ones, their survivors who mourn them. May they be comforted in their great loss by their faith in God and may they be consoled by the concern for them by people of good will.

As the authorities continue their investigation and uncover information about the shooter, we see a complex story, which is a reminder that in the midst of our outrage and prayer, we need patience. We need to suspend judgement and allow time for the truth to emerge, lest we cast suspicions of the deranged actions of an individual onto entire communities of people. We need to remind ourselves where Jesus would be in the midst of such a tragedy, tending the wounded, comforting the distraught and imploring for peace and love. From first responders, to long blood donation lines, to an outpouring of response from around the world, we have seen again that love and compassion are the ultimate response to hate and violence.

Just as heart wrenching as the deaths themselves, I am troubled that the victims were specifically targeted because of their sexual orientation. No human being should ever suffer the hate of others. Hate is an affront to God.

As Christians we are subject to the Law of Christ. “Love one another as I have loved you.” This is His new commandment. “One another” includes gay people. A Catholic who demonstrates hate toward a person — because of his or her sexual orientation, religion, or the color of his or her skin — needs to seek the forgiveness of God. From where does such hate originate? And, why are homosexual persons too frequently its victims?

Our LGBT sisters and brothers are as much made in the image of God as I am. Their sexual orientation does not make them less in the eyes of God. As someone who is loved by gay relatives and friends, and who loves them equally, I fear that they too could be victims of such hatred.

As frustrating as it is horrific, this attack is another example of our gun violence crisis in the United States. A reality that we see in the news almost daily, as young people die on the streets of Camden, Philadelphia, and throughout the Northeast Corridor. Both single victim gun-related murders and mass tragedies need to be seen through the same light.

The time for waiting is over. It was over after Virginia Tech, after Charleston, after Sandy Hook, after San Bernardino, and again now. How is it possible that these violent weapons can be purchased with such ease by people who have previously demonstrated signs of being a danger to others? And just as importantly, should these weapons be so easily and quickly purchased by anyone?

This madness must stop. Our politicians need to get serious about this issue. The frequency of these events is a concern for all of us, we are just as likely a potential victim as anyone else. I call on the collective wisdom of our elected officials, law enforcement and mental health professionals to find ways to mitigate these kinds of tragedies from occurring.

So, yes, in the face of the carnage in Orlando we pray and turn to God because we are believers. Our faith teaches us how to treat one another, even those with whom we may disagree. And, our faith calls us to act, to develop intelligent policies and controls for the sale of guns so that they should never get into the hands of those whose only goal is to do harm. We profess that every life is sacred, let our actions show that the right to life is assured.

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