The June 12 mass shooting in a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, is a horrific tragedy that leaves every person of goodwill wanting to find an appropriate way to respond as we struggle to make sense of such violence, destruction, hate and suffering.
One of the first ways our Church is responding is by speaking out about how the events go against everything we uphold as community values. A statement issued by the Vatican on behalf of Pope Francis referred to the Orlando attack as “terrible and absurd violence.” It is almost incomprehensible that a country that has seen as many mass shootings as the United States is still capable of having its worst one in our lifetimes, in terms of dead and wounded.
We as a Church are all standing in solidarity with the victims and their families, with the community in Orlando, with our heroic first responders and with members of the gay and lesbian community who were targeted in this deadly assault.
Bishop John G. Noonan of the Diocese of Orlando tweeted in the wake of the attack that the Church prays for victims, their families and our first responders. These tragedies touch so many lives in ways that remind us that we are all one body and that the whole suffers with the individual parts. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said “the merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”
We respect the life of every human person, including Muslims and those in the LGBT community. Violence is terrible enough. Violence borne of extremism and targeting any group is even more repugnant.
We as a Church are praying and seeking ways to serve and accompany all those that are injured and suffering. Many Masses and prayer vigils have already taken place where we have asked God’s intervention to help us heal and now to work to bring light in response to all this darkness. Catholics have stood in line to give much needed blood and to provide direct material assistance to those who are grieving the loss of family members and close friends. We are also ready to help those who are spiritually struggling with making sense of the question of evil in the world and guiding them to see that God is always with us throughout our struggle and that Jesus himself suffered a brutally violent and unjust death.
We as a Church are standing up for the dignity of all human life. We have experienced too many mass shootings in schools, churches, theaters and social gathering spaces. Since we believe that all life from conception to natural death is sacred, our Church leaders have consistently advocated for common-sense assault weapons bans and legislation and enforcement of gun laws to limit the chances that events like Orlando will reoccur. We also work with our community leaders and law enforcement agencies for effective legislation and approaches to limit the possibility of acts of terrorism.
We as a Church are seeking to reconcile and bring peace at a time when some may use the events to divide groups against each other. The Church reminds us that we can be part of God’s merciful healing, choosing to respond to hatred with love, not succumbing to narratives of suspicion and fear.
Editorial Board: Scot Landry, chief mission officer; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor