Bishops, others offer consolation, resolve after Orlando shootings

| June 20, 2016 | 4 Comments
A woman writes a message on a cross June 17 in honor of the victims who were killed in a mass shooting June 12 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

A woman writes a message on a cross June 17 in honor of the victims who were killed in a mass shooting June 12 at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. CNS photo/Jim Young, Reuters

Bishops of dioceses which themselves fell victim to mass shootings in recent years were among the flood of Catholic leaders offering condolences and consolation to survivors and family members of the victims of the mass shooting June 12 at a gay nightclub attack in Orlando, Florida.

The mass shooting left 50 people dead, including the gunman, and more than 50 others wounded.

Bishop Gerald R. Barnes of San Bernardino, a city that suffered a mass shooting itself last year, released a statement: “For those of us in San Bernardino, this is especially painful because we also experienced the trauma of an act of public violence in our community not so long ago, at the Inland Regional Center.

“In that sense, we offer our prayers and our tears in solidarity with the victims of this attack, their loved ones, the Diocese of Orlando and the city itself,” said the statement. “Because of the circumstances of this attack, we also make clear our condemnation of discriminatory violence against those who are gay and lesbian, and we offer our prayers to that community.”

Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, which takes in Newtown, where four years ago 20 children and six adults were slain at Sandy Hook Elementary School before the gunman took his own life, said in a June 14 statement that all Catholic must raise their voices against hatred.

The attack in Orlando, he said, “has unmasked once again the evil face of hatred and bigotry in our society. It is an evil that must spur us to rededicate ourselves to fostering a true spirit of unity and reconciliation.”

“How do we respond before such hate? At minimum, all Catholics must raise our voices against such hatred,” Bishop Caggiano said. “There can be no place in our midst for hatred and bigotry against our brothers and sisters who experience same sex attraction or for anyone who is marginalized by the larger society. The Lord Jesus extended his arms on the cross to embrace all people who respond to His offer of salvation.

“Who are we to close our hearts to anyone for whom the Lord has offered an invitation to experience his saving life? As a society and a church, we must do whatever we can to fight all hatred, bigotry and intolerance in all its forms.”

“Yet another lament about the prevalence of guns throughout our society seems a pale response to the horror of the crimes in Orlando,” said Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston in a June 13 statement.

“With each repeated occurrence of mass shootings in schools, theaters, churches and social settings it appears increasingly clear that any hope for thwarting these tragedies must begin with more effective legislation and enforcement of who has access to guns and under what conditions. However, legislation alone will not be sufficient as there are wider and deeper forces at work in these attacks.”

Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of Dallas focused on gun violence in his June 13 statement.

“Our gun laws are an invitation to kill. They would be ludicrous if the situation were not so tragic. ‘By their fruits you know them,'” Bishop Farrell said, quoting the Gospel of Matthew, “and the fruits of our gun control laws are bitter indeed — no, they are fatal.”

He added, “The Second Amendment rightly protects our right to bear arms for hunting, sport, self-defense and other legitimate purposes. There is no legitimate purpose for making this kind of weapon available to the general public.

“It shouldn’t take 49 of our children being mercilessly shot to death for us to recognize our shared humanity, regardless of our lifestyle or paradigm of marriage and human sexuality,” said a June 16 statement by Bishop Felipe J. Estevez of St. Augustine, Florida, north of Orlando.

“When the victims of the Pulse shooting were made public, the world learned that they were predominately young and Latino,” he said. “This should sound familiar to the Catholic Church. We are young and Latino and we cannot fail to be attentive to people, whether they are found in our pews, our neighborhoods or gays and lesbians in our families.”

“We stand in solidarity with all those affected by this atrocity, for regardless of race, religion or personal lifestyle, we are all beloved children of God, called to respond to the mystery of iniquity with love and compassion,” said a June 13 statement by Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone of San Francisco.

In his June 16 column in The Evangelist, newspaper of the Diocese of Albany, New York, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger of Albany said that the objective of the gunman at the nightclub “seemed clear enough: to put a violent end to defenseless members of a class of human beings simply because they existed and he did not want them to live.”

“We must state unequivocally that our respect for the dignity of all human beings includes those who themselves identify or are associated in the judgment of others as members of the LGBTQ community,” he wrote.

“There have always been and will be powers in this world whose design is to divide us as a nation by actions provoking us to respond in kind with hatred and violence,” the bishop wrote. “One thing that can unite us is our trust in God’s patience with us sinners, along with our uncompromised conviction as Americans — whatever our religious faith — that every human being is a being of moral worth, from conception to natural death. And this is so without regard to any class or status assigned us by human custom or judgment, or by personal or institutional convenience. … To devalue one human life is to devalue all human lives. United in the defense of human life we must stand.”

The Sisters of St. Joseph based in the Philadelphia suburb of Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania, posted a statement June 13 on Facebook which said, in part, “In a special way, our prayers are with the LGBT community, their families, and friends, as they mourn the loss of their loved ones. … Together, with all people of goodwill, let us work to eliminate gun violence and to eradicate every form of discrimination, that they peace for which Jesus lived and died may be realized on this earth.”

The mass shooting in Orlando and other such “tragic moments serve add to a culture of fear in our nation that makes us suspicious of anyone we define as ‘other,'” said a June 17 statement from the provincials of the Franciscan Friars of the U.S.

“We, of course, join our voices to the chorus of those offering thoughts and prayers for the victims in Orlando. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our LGBT brothers and sisters as they grieve and try to make sense of this tragedy. To them we say clearly: We stand with you,” the statement said.

The provincials also urged universal background checks and other common sense reforms to help reduce “the violence of a gun culture run amok in the U.S. It is time that we stand up as a people and say enough is enough.”

Prayer services took place around the country in cities large and small to remember the Orlando victims.

A prayer service in the Skaggs Catholic Center grotto in Draper, Utah, drew more than 100 people June 13, less than 24 hours after the calamity. They prayed a decade of the rosary in memory of the victims of the Pulse shooting. They also prayed for the victims’ families. The prayer service was organized by officials of Juan Diego Catholic High School, one of three schools in the Skaggs Catholic Center.

William Flanagan, a Juan Diego senior who was among those who led a decade of the rosary during the prayer vigil, said the shootings saddened him, and that he hoped the vigil “helps get all those innocent souls into heaven and with that said, I hope it helps the families, too.”

“A good response to a tragedy like this is prayer,” Galey Colosimo, Juan Diego Catholic High School’s principal, told those gathered in the grotto. “Whether you’re Catholic or not, it doesn’t matter. I think we’re all here in solidarity together tonight. Just pray for so many things: the victims and their families, certainly, and for our country, and for our world.”

Contributing to this roundup was Marie Mischel in Draper.

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  • Charles C.

    How wonderful to see American bishops showing resolve. I mean that seriously.

    next step, or lesson to be learned from Orlando, is that bishops and
    our political leaders should show some resolve to deal with the issues
    involved, and not their pet projects. Their statements are only
    slightly more relevant than saying, “The Pope has called on us to
    respect the environment, people are part of the environment, therefore
    the Orlando shootings show us we have to be more concerned with global

    So, what are the bishops calling for? Gun control and
    more support for “Gays.” Oh, and they also want Catholics to know that
    it’s at least partially your fault that those 49 are dead.

    Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, wrote
    in a national editorial: “sadly it is religion, including our own, which
    targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays,
    lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women
    often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead
    to violence.”

    When you go to confession next, seek absolution
    for being Catholic. It might confuse the priest, but you can pull out
    Bishop Lynch’s editorial. Please report on the penance you receive.

    control? There is no Constitutional gun control law on the books, or
    even being contemplated, that would have made any difference here.
    Mateen wasn’t on any watch list, he passed the government required
    background checks, and attended the required training. What, exactly,
    do the bishops propose? They won’t tell you, but it involves banning
    the ownership of guns from anyone the government doesn’t want to have

    Does anyone see the irony in a gun ban enforced by men with guns?

    Did you also notice that there is no use of the words Terrorist, Muslim, Islam, ISIS, Jihad, or even the shooter’s name, Omar Mir Seddique Mateen? He told the world what his motivation was, to follow the tenets of Islam by punishing homosexuals. Yet our bishops seem to be neglecting the responsibility of the killer, and trying to pass it on to society.

    Afghanistan, where Mateen’s father comes from, is one of the 10 nations in the world which allow the death penalty for homosexual acts. All 10 are Islamic, by the way. And the bishops think there is serious antipathy towards homosexuality here?

    Yes, the bishops have condemned many things which deserve condemning, such as the deaths in Orlando. But if they want to be taken seriously by anyone who doesn’t already agree with them, they’ll have to get their ecclesiastical eyes on the ball.

    Oh, and who already agrees with them? A recent Gallup poll indicates that 29% of Democrats believe Orlando was a terrorist attack, while 60% believe it was an example of gun violence. Go ahead call for more limitations on the Constitutional rights of citizens. Once you’ve done that, remember the Boston Marathon bombing and demand a solution to Cookware Violence. The underwear bomber will provide an excuse to identify Foundation Garment violence. Spin in circles all you want, but when you’re tired and people are still being killed, identify the real problem and look for a solution.

  • Maggie18

    The real issue that is at hand is the fact that this was a false flag operation with all the crisis actors playing their part. You aren’t aware of this? Then you have a lot of research to do. The American people have to stop being so ignorant as to what is really going on.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Maggie18,

      Against my better judgment I’m going to assume that you’re being serious. Would you please, without going into Sandy Hook, the Jesuits, the Vatican Conspiracy, etc. explain this one particular event?

      Who ordered the shooting? The president? The Pope? Chick-fil-A? Why did Mateen have to kill so many? Who benefits from all this? But most importantly, what evidence do you have?

      I don’t mean stuff like “Well, the government has done bad things in the past, so obviously they’re responsible for this.”

      Frankly, I don’t believe you have anything in the way of evidence that this was a false flag operation. I could be wrong, but to change my mind I’ll need to see something substantial.

      (And if you had anything solid, why haven’t you gone to every press outlet in the country and on the Internet? They are not all under government control.)

      • Maggie18

        So…….you would like me to do your research for you. From your last paragraph, you believe the narrative from the media you are listening to. I guess I would ask you to expand your sources of information. It is huge, from whistleblowers, investigative reporters and alternative media, who actually have the truth along with proof.

        If you watch this subject without knowing anything, why did ABC news show a clip of four guys carrying a fake injured toward the Pulse, not away? How did one man stand in the Pulse with an AR-15 and a gun while talking on the phone and texting. Really believe this would happen? Why is the first news article written at 8:30 pm, June 11th when this event occurred at 2:00am June 12th? Oh, there is a lot more but you must do your own research.