USCCB president decries massive shooting at Texas Baptist church

| November 6, 2017 | 9 Comments
Sutherland Springs

A man and woman attend a candlelight vigil after a mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. A lone gunman entered the church during Sunday services taking the lives of at least 26 people and injuring several more. CNS photo/Sergio Flores, Reuters

 The U.S. Catholic Church stands “in unity” with the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, and the larger community after a shooting during Sunday services took the lives of at least 26 people and injured at least 20 others.

Those who died ranged in age from a toddler to 72 years old, and included 14-year-old Annabelle Pomeroy. Her father, Frank Pomeroy, is pastor of the church but he was not at the service.

“We stand in unity with you in this time of terrible tragedy — as you stand on holy ground, ground marred today by horrific violence,” said Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

With San Antonio Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, “I extend my prayers and the prayers of my brother bishops for the victims, the families, the first responders, our Baptist brothers and sisters, indeed the whole community of Sutherland Springs.”

Law enforcement officials told CNN that a lone gunman entered the church at about 11:30 a.m. CST while 50 people were attending Sunday services. Almost everyone in the congregation was shot. Sutherland Springs is 30 to 40 miles southeast of San Antonio.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who is Catholic, attends a candlelight vigil after a mass shooting Nov. 5 at the First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs. A lone gunman entered the church during Sunday services taking the lives of at least 26 people and injuring several more. CNS photo/Joe Mitchell, Reuters

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press the suspect was Devin Kelley, described as a white male in his 20s. He parked at a gas station across the street from the church, crossed the street and allegedly began firing as he walked toward the church and then continued firing once inside. He was wearing black tactical-type gear and used an assault weapon, AP said.

After he left the church, he was confronted by a local resident who had a rifle “and engaged the suspect,” AP said, quoting Freeman Martin, who is with the Texas department of Safety. The suspect was later found dead in his vehicle some distance away. It was not clear if he died from a self-inflicted gun shot or from wounds suffered when the resident shot him.

His motive was not immediately known. He had been in the Air Force but was discharged for bad conduct allegedly for domestic abuse and served a 12 month sentence in confinement after being court-martialed in 2012.

“We ask the Lord for healing of those injured, his loving care of those who have died and the consolation of their families,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “This incomprehensibly tragic event joins an ever-growing list of mass shootings, some of which were also at churches while people were worshipping and at prayer, he continued.

“We must come to the firm determination that there is a fundamental problem in our society. “A culture of life cannot tolerate, and must prevent, senseless gun violence in all its forms. May the Lord, who himself is peace, send us his spirit of charity and nonviolence to nurture his peace among us all,” the cardinal said.

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  • Matt Wagner

    There we go again with the nonsensical phrase “gun violence” as if the evil gun is the problem, not the wacko using the gun. Bad guys will always find a way to get guns. They don’t care about laws. It’s already been found that this guy lied on a background check to purchase his rifle. If it’s not guns, they’ll use a knife, or a truck, or insert-favorite-inanimate-object.

    The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Get your conceal carry permit and train to protect innocent lives. Police cannot be everywhere and won’t be there for 10-15 minutes anyways.

    Saint Gabriel Possenti, pray for us.

    • Dominic Deus

      Dominic Deus here. Matt– it IS the guns. Too many, the wrong kind and in the hands of sociopaths acting our their hidden ninja, noble frontiersman, town sheriff, gunman for hire, Navy SEAL, Army Ranger, American patriot, man card carrying, defender of white women and protector against ___________ (Insert one or all: Muslims, Black Lives Matter, Feminists, Liberals, Enemies of the Confederacy, etc., etc.)

      As a retired military officer responsible for hundreds of M-16’s and other even more deadly weapons of war, I strongly discourage responsible gun owners to distance themselves from the pseudo-military obsession with everything from body armor to private militias. It’s not patriotic and it does not define heroes or manhood. It defines those who should be playing video games in the basement.

      The world of sportsman carrying sporting arms is a tradition I miss. The world of weapons of war I do not miss. I am happy to have served for 27 years and proud to tell you that every weapon was locked in a secure armory and never once was one of them put in the hands of anyone other than a soldier and never once used to attack innocents.

      The military knows how deadly these weapons are and severely restricts their possession and use. They have no place in the civilian world.

      • Matt Wagner

        Dominic, I’d also like to hear your explanation about the weapon used. You say “the military knows how deadly these weapons are”… but do you? What is more deadly about a semi-automatic AR-15 223/5.56 round than any hunting round? It was not a fully automatic weapon used like your M-16’s.

        • Dominic Deus

          Matt–I can assure you that the M-16 and it’s progeny are absolutely as deadly as we can possibly make them. ( Ok, put that in the past tense; I am retired from the business.) Every successful variation on the weapon has made it better at doing what a weapon of war does: killing. If there was a better killing weapon for the individual soldier, we would buy it but we don’t because there isn’t. That such a weapon is in the hands of those not involved in the sad business of war and killing worries me. Not all men remain virtuous when they command the power of death over life. That’s why…..it’s about “the gun”

      • Matt Wagner

        Dominic, I am also former military, but I won’t try to use that as a point of posturing in condescension.

        Look at the terrorist attacks of late. There was a semi-truck used in Nice, France to run-over people. There was just last week in NYC, a rented pick-up used to run-over people. Just last fall in St. Cloud a man ran through a shopping mall stabbing multiple people. The Boston marathon bombing a few years ago used pressure cookers. Multiple times per week in cities throughout Europe there are knife attacks.

        If not guns, the bad guys will find other means. And you can’t tell me that they are not as deadly as using guns. There were more people killed in the Nice, France event than in the Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs shootings combined.

        In all of those situations the thing that stops the attack is a good guy with a gun — whether that good guy be in uniform or not, it doesn’t matter, a good guy with a gun stopped the attack lest more people be killed.

        Trying to frame the problem as “gun violence” and thus blame guns is an attempt to disarm the people. That affects good people who want to defend themselves and their family. You would be living in la-la-land to assume that police will always be there to protect you. The police can’t be everywhere. In my town of ~20k there is a force of about 10 police officers. If I lived in the country, the ratio would be even less and it would take even longer for them to show-up to help me out against bad guys invading my home.

        There is nothing “uber deadly” about an AR-15 rifle as compared to any other semi-automatic rifle. And note, an AR-15 is not an M-16, and there were no M-16’s used in any of the attacks lately.

        An AR-15 is an effective tool for self-defense, easy enough to shoot by any family member because of its low recoil and simple operation. There is no way my wife can handle a 12ga shotgun, even a 20ga is a lot.

        • Dominic Deus

          Matt–thank you for your reply. Without this exchange of ideas we will never relieve our nation of the scourge of innocents dying by the gun.

          GUN VIOLENCE?

          Yes, I believe it is best defined as “gun violence” because that’s what it is. It is true that people are slaughtered by other means–lynching comes to mind as does the carnage caused by drunk drivers, and the terrorist in a rented truck as well as the sociopath with a van full of explosive fertilizer who has been thoroughly indoctrinated against his own government by conspiratorial whisperers and antigovernment extremists and decides to blow up a federal office building. But none of that is at issue here.

          The issue is those many churchgoers, elementary school children and others who die by the gun, wielded by a self-deluded often self-costumed culture warrior who becomes the lead actor in his own tragedy.

          The script is always the same. Tell me if this sounds like a Greek tragedy, fantasy movie or video game.

          **** Paramilitary fantasies of god-knows-what drive the sociopathic hero to make his plan, visualize the performance and plan to execute it with ruthless efficiency, using, of course, the true warriors weapon, the weapon of the chosen few, the elite. He comes on stage at first unnoticed. Then, with a twitch of his finger, the supporting cast plays it’s role, falling to the ground dead or wounded. The dark hero departs the scene on/in his noble steed, knowing that he, too, must die and preferably by his own hand. Thus he speaks the last word before the curtain falls. “It was all tragic but all necessary. Unless you are like me, you could not understand.”

          THE END

          Except it’s not the end for the living who will suffer in greater or lesser degree their entire lives, asking again and again, “Why.”

          There is an answer to that question and it is that we allowed a narrative of heroes with guns to flood our social conversation, to go untested by reality. We allowed an entire arms industry to produce countless weapons of war so curious citizens could actually own one and then marketed them on a platform of patriotism, manhood, and the Second Amendment. The arms industry became rich, the flood of weapons insured that some of them got into the hands of the darkly sociopathic. The myth of the dark hero, the story of the good-guy-with-a-gun, was created by the NRA and that was the final piece that the secretly obsessed needed to go prime time.

          They had the myth, they could buy the costuming online and the script was in their heads. All they needed was “the gun” and getting one was just a matter of using a credit card.

          So, that Matt, is why it’s about the gun. Without the gun, the sociopaths would have been what always have been: shunned. Sad but true. Still, they didn’t kill school children so I guess there is something to be said for that.

          And the gun? It’s the AR-15, M-16 and the subsequent improvements, copies, knockoffs, variations and customizations. That’s *the gun* and it needs be banished from the non-military world. It has no place in civilized society and deadly not just because it kills with great efficiency but because it calls out to the darkness in the soul of those who will sacrifice their lives and the lives of others for some strange sense of redemption. Ironically, in the end, they’re proven right because we are not like them and we cannot understand.

          It’s the guns.

  • Dominic Deus

    Matt – – I just want to finish by saying I appreciate your observations on this. My remarks are in no way intended to imply otherwise. To the contrary, I just spent this morning listening to an avid shooter discussing his enthusiasm. I think in order to find a solution to this problem we have to recognize that there are the vast majority of gun owners who can be counted on to secure their weapons, Follow the law, and participate in a lawful transfer and tracking of fire arms. I also read a suggestion just today from a shooter who recommends that the NRA get back to what used to be one of its principal missions—Firearm safety.

    • Charles C.

      Dear Dominic,

      If you are indeed finished then feel free to ignore this. Otherwise I could use some help.

      I have heard it said (even from a US Senator) that what people are calling “assault rifles,” or “assault style rifles” are simply “semi-automatic hunting rifles in costume.” Are the weapons you’re objecting to more dangerous than those hunting rifles? Is your objection to any rifle with a magazine?

      The FBI reports that rifle homicides have fallen each year from 2011 through 2015. In 2015, they were involved in 1.9% of the homicides.

      Handguns were used in 47.9% of the killings, knives in 11.5%, kicking and hitting with the body caused 4.6% of the deaths, and blunt objects were used in 3.2% of the cases.

      It also struck me as interesting that strangulation and asphyxiation were the weapons used in 1.6% of the homicides, only 36 fewer than rifles. In Chicago in 2015 there were 468 murders. In 2015, nationally, there were 252 rifle murders.

      If there really were a large number of people living out their fantasies
      and responding to the “evil” inside them, I’d certainly expect more
      rifle deaths than there are.

      Are “assault rifles” a significant problem compared to other homicide issues? Or are they simply the easiest firearm to go after and ban? After all, they look scary and a shooter with a rifle gets a lot more press than a gang member with a pistol, even though they both shoot as many rounds as quickly. Banning semi-automatic rifles might be useful symbolically, and it might create a crack in the Second Amendment, but is it the best move to reduce murders in the US?

      Oh, the NRA?

      “The NRA’s current stance on gun control is to enforce existing laws more
      aggressively. In 2008, in response to the Virgina Tech shooting, the
      NRA helped to pass the “NICS Improvement Act”
      which would provide increased funding and grants to states to report
      vital information to the National Instant Background Check System
      (NICS), such as mental health. The NICS is used for background checks of
      potential gun buyers. Unfortunately, the system has been woefully
      underfunded (receiving only 5.3% of the authorized funding) and reporting has been lackluster.”

      That lackluster reporting is how the shooter in this case was able to get a gun. The Air Force failed to report his domestic assault conviction to NICS, so he was able to pass the background check. That same type of failure enabled Dylan Roof, the Charleston killer, to purchase his gun.

  • Dominic Deus

    Dear Charles,

    Your responses are always worthy of a reply and I feel privileged to do so! I would prefer to keep my responses on this site to matters of faith and religion but you are correct in demanding we address issues like this directly. I will do my best.

    “What people are calling “assault rifles,” or “assault style rifles” are simply “semi-automatic hunting rifles in costume.”

    The part about being in costume is correct. The assault rifle is *the* essential piece in the evil cosplay of the dark gunman come to set matters right, to settle once and for all, to rip apart the facade of “civilized society,” to sound an alarm for the naive, the oblivious, the soft and unhardened in order that they realize conspiracy against our very nation, indeed, God Himself and the sacrifices that must be made in blood to redeem our sins. He of course, is willing to die for this cause and your willingness to do so is simply not a part of his opera.

    They are worthless as hunting rifles because they violate any ethical principal of fair chase, game taking, food and clothing, hunter skills or spiritual communion with the hunted prey. As an only partial aside, any hunter with a gun or bow, spear or fishing pole who does not understand the spiritual connection between the hunter and his prey is not qualified to be a hunter. Just a reminder: I came here from Alaska.

    The NRA in conjunction with gun manufacturers came up with the “modern sporting weapon” (MSF) as a marketing ploy years ago and it was such an embarrassing flop they abandoned it. Some individuals still take a swing at selling it once in a while but it fails miserably.

    For example, shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre of elementary school children, a gun dealer in Texas remarked that the asset rifle in question served a legitimate purpose in shooting feral pigs in Texas. “Once you shoot one, all the rest scatter,” he expounded. In a post at the time, I pointed out that “The same thing happens with second graders.” He did not respond.

    “Are “assault rifles” a significant problem compared to other homicide issues?”

    In my opinion, yes. These mass shootings represent the culmination of a series of tragic errors on hour part an they are precisely the place to start walking back the cult of the gun. As I have said before, there is no legitimate need for this weapons of war in civil society. Once we love the problems of mass shooting, then we can look at what other reasonable measure can be taken to support the recreation use of firearms and even legitimate needs for self defense. Mass shootings are about none of that.

    “Handguns were used in 47.9% of the killings,” referring to FBI statistics on homicides in general.

    Yes, you are right. Handgun violence is a terrible problem but I believe we can address it after we address the mass shooting/assault rife monstrosity.

    “The NRA’s current stance on gun control is to enforce existing laws more
    aggressively. In 2008, in response to the Virgina Tech shooting, the
    NRA helped to pass the “NICS Improvement Act”

    Sadly, not so. The NRA tells that story but it’s a lie. Their “enforce the existing laws” story has been going on since the 1960’s and used as a foil to *every* attempt to pass new legislation. To the NRA, there are no good gun laws. They crippled NICS. The states are under no obligation to use it and more than half don’t report to it. In addition, NICS allows states to do their own background checks. Imagine the lunacy of this in a state that does not report it data.

    In reality none of this is all that relevant. In reality, we have an epidemic of mass shootings and the preferred weapon is a military style weapon designed for the purpose of killing people. One that doesn’t belong here. Lets get rid of it and see what happens. It’s an easy target because its an obvious one.