Finding the right words is almost impossible after a tragedy, such as that which occurred with the Oct. 1 massacre at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas. We again stagger before the news. Almost 60 people were murdered and more than 500 were wounded.
It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, but it was not new.
We value consoling words from leaders, such as those Pope Francis sent to Las Vegas Bishop Joseph A. Pepe. We equally welcome the words of Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who said, “At this time, we need to pray and to take care of those who are suffering. In the end, the only response is to do good — for no matter what the darkness, it will never overcome the light.”
Bishop Pepe added his own statement, “We are also very heartened by the stories of all who helped each other in this time of crisis. As the Gospel for today’s Mass reminds us, we are called to be modern-day Good Samaritans. We continue to pray for all in Las Vegas and around the world whose lives are shattered by the events of daily violence.”
So do we.
While we are grateful for the consolation given by the pope, the bishop of Las Vegas, and the president of the USCCB, we also take seriously Bishop Pepe’s reminder to be Good Samaritans.
How? As did the noble people in Las Vegas who aided the victims, we feel a holy inclination to help the distressed. This role of Good Samaritan, coming from the Gospel itself, also summons us not only to bring relief to the wounded and comfort to the grieving, but as citizens, as Christians, and as humane persons to move to halt this chain of deadly events, all of which share the common denominator of easy access to, and reckless use of, firearms.
We are faced with the tough question: Are we hurting enough to want to make necessary changes?
In the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook grade school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, a USCCB statement bluntly called on legislators to support various gun control and gun safety measures, as well as measures to address the role of addiction and mental illness in crime. This call was rooted in an earlier statement of the bishops, “Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: a Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice” (2000), which, though written during a period of declining crime rates, reads as eerily prophetic for us today: “Likewise, we cannot ignore the underlying cultural values that help to create a violent environment: a denial of right and wrong, education that ignores fundamental values, an abandonment of personal responsibility, an excessive and selfish focus on our individual desires, a diminishing sense of obligation to our children and neighbors, and a misplaced emphasis on acquiring wealth and possessions.”
These statements set a basis for action, but action must be explicit, determined, informed — and soon. We need in this country candid, charitable dialogue with one another and with our elected officials to find the best solutions to these appalling, and seemingly unstoppable, atrocities.
We repeatedly have watched “evil prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.” We must commit ourselves to overcoming evil with prayer, but also with the resolve to halt acts of barbarism such as those that occurred in Newtown, Charleston, Orlando, Aurora and now Las Vegas. With God’s assistance, we must do whatever we can do to make them stop.
Editorial Board: Greg Willits, editorial director; Gretchen R. Crowe, editor-in-chief; Don Clemmer, managing editor