Archbishop Robert J. Carlson is urging Catholics to offer prayers and support for victims and families of the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, the first weekend in August. He also is asking people to continue to raise their voices and advocate for “responsible local and national policies, legislation and culture change.”
In a statement released Aug. 5, Archbishop Carlson called the shootings “terrible crimes” and cited the need to pray for healing and urged efforts to address the root causes of violence.
“The loss of life, pain and fear brought about by these senseless and horrific acts of gun violence in our communities and society, once again, call us to confront and condemn all forms of hate — and violence associated with it,” Archbishop Carlson stated.
“We must ensure that our efforts are driven by the best interest and safety of our citizens and systematically address the root causes of violence in our communities,” Archbishop Carlson stated. “As shepherd of this archdiocese, I ask Catholics and people of good will to join me in praying for healing during these difficult and painful times in our human family. In faith and solidarity, we know and trust that our prayers and actions on behalf of the common good will yield positive societal transformation.”
“The loss of life, pain and fear brought about by these senseless and horrific acts of gun violence in our communities and society, once again, call us to confront and condemn all forms of hate — and violence associated with it.”
Pope Francis joined Catholic Church leaders expressing sorrow after the shootings that left at least 31 dead.
After the Angelus prayer in St Peter’s Square on Aug. 4, the pope conveyed his spiritual closeness to the victims, the wounded and the families affected by the attacks. He included those who died a weekend earlier at a shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California.
“I am spiritually close to the victims of the episodes of violence that these days have bloodied Texas, California and Ohio, in the United States, affecting defenseless people,” he said.
On Aug. 4, after the second shooting, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the chairman of the bishops’ domestic policy
committee offered prayers, condolences and urged action.
“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth. We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face,” said Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, USCCB president, in a statement issued jointly with Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings. We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” the statement continued.
We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.”
Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr, who heads the Cincinnati Archdiocese, which includes Dayton, said it was “with a heavy heart” Catholics turned to prayer this Sunday. “As tragic and violent shootings continue in our country,” in El Paso and now Dayton, “I ask for everyone of faith to join in prayer for the victims and their loved ones.
On its website, the Diocese of El Paso announced Aug. 4 that Masses would take place as scheduled on Sunday but canceled “out of an abundance of caution” a festival-like celebration called a “kermess,” which is popular among Catholic Latino populations, that was scheduled to take place at Our Lady of the Light Church.
The diocese also asked for prayers and said Bishop Mark J. Seitz would be participating in an Aug. 4 interfaith evening vigil for the victims. In a statement announcing the vigil, the faith leaders said that communities need to console one another.
“Today we stand in horror and shock at the devastating loss of life and heartless attack on our border community. Tomorrow we will mourn, dry tears, offer
our sacrifice of prayer and brace ourselves for the work ahead. Because even now the borderlands will stick together and the borderlands will stand together,” they said in the statement released by the Interfaith Alliance of the Southwest and the nonprofit Hope Border Institute of the El Paso Diocese.
New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, in a video posted on Twitter Aug. 5, said: “Like the rest of you, I’m trying hard to figure out some type of meaning and get some consolation for those who are suffering from the terrible tragedies over the weekend in El Paso and Dayton.”
The cardinal said he is inspired by the reaction people have to such tragedies, from the initial shock that this shouldn’t be because: “We know deep down this is not the way God intended it.” This is followed by the reaction of love and compassion to those who have been wounded, which he said is followed by a “commitment to bring some type of reform and renewal.”
The Sisters of Mercy of the Americas posted to their website a prayer called “Let the shooting end.” They called on lawmakers to enact guns laws “to protect all in our society.”
Immediately after the news of the El Paso shooting, they tweeted: “Our hearts break for the families of those killed and wounded in today’s mass shooting
in El Paso. A school, a movie theater, a church, a shopping mall: All places where we should feel safe, all places that have experienced senseless tragedy because of guns.”
Cardinal DiNardo and Bishop Dewane said in their Aug. 4 statement that the bishops’ conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence and called upon the president and congress to set aside political interests “and find ways to better protect innocent life.”
Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput also spoke from his own experience. In a column posted Aug. 5 for CatholicPhilly.com, the news website of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, he repeated some of his remarks from his testimony 20 years ago before the U.S. Senate about the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, which at the time was the worst high school shooting in U.S. history.
In his testimony then, he said the problem of violence stems from “a culture that markets violence in dozens of different ways, seven days a week. It’s part of our social fabric.”
He said the recent shootings, including the July 28 shooting in Gilroy, California, which left three people dead, are “just the latest in a long pattern of mass shootings; shootings that have blood-stained the past two decades with no end in sight.”
Archbishop Chaput also said the “usual aftermath” would soon begin in response to the recent U.S. shootings, which he described as: “expressions of shock; hand-wringing about senseless (or racist, or religious, or political) violence; bitter arguments about gun control; heated editorials, earnest (but brief) self-searching of the national soul; and eventually — we’re on to the next crisis.”
The archbishop said he “saw the human wreckage that gun violence leaves behind” when he sat with parents whose children were killed in the Colorado school shooting. “
That experience taught him, he said, that “assault rifles are not a birthright, and the Second Amendment is not a golden calf.” He added that he supports thorough background checks and more restrictive access to guns but said that wasn’t the only answer.
He said his experience after the Columbine shooting also taught him “that only a fool can believe that ‘gun control’ will solve the problem of mass violence. The people using the guns in these loathsome incidents are moral agents with twisted hearts. And the twisting is done by the culture of sexual anarchy, personal excess, political hatreds, intellectual dishonesty and perverted freedoms that we’ve systematically created over the past half-century.”
Reiterating what he said 20 years ago, he added: “Treating the symptoms in a culture of violence doesn’t work. We need to look deeper. Until we’re willing to do that, nothing fundamental will change.”
Review staff reporter Joseph Kenny contributed to this report.