WASHINGTON — Catholic leaders have condemned the Nov. 19 attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that killed at least five people and injured at least 25.
Seven of those wounded were in critical condition as of Nov. 22.
The Church leaders — including Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski of St. Louis, the archbishop of Denver, leaders of religious orders and congregations and more — also prayed for those impacted by the attack and urged for an end to hate crimes and use of language that condemns those in the LGBTQ community.
The suspected gunman, 22-year-old Anderson Lee Aldrich, faced murder and hate crime charges Nov. 21, a law enforcement official told The Associated Press, adding that the suspect used an AR-15-style semiautomatic weapon in the attack at Club Q before he was subdued by people at the club.
On its Facebook page, the club thanked the “quick reactions of heroic customers that subdued the gunman and ended this hate attack” within minutes of the alleged gunman opening fire after entering the club shortly before midnight Nov. 19.
It also noted that a drop-in center was set up at a nearby hotel with counseling services available all week. Outside the club, a makeshift memorial was filled with flowers and stuffed animals.
Archbishop Rozanski issued a statement on Twitter Nov. 21. He wrote: “I know I am not alone in feeling sorrowful and frustrated by the shooting in Colorado Springs that left five people dead and dozens injured, some critically so. May those who died, as well as those left to heal, experience the consolation of Jesus Christ, who knows us each by name and grieves for every life taken at the hands of another. I am especially troubled by reports that this violent act may have been motivated by bigotry. I pray that all whose hearts are burdened by hate will come to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters, deserving of dignity, respect and life.”
Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said he was “saddened by this tragic and senseless act.”
In a Nov. 20 statement, he said that “while the motives remain unclear, what is clear is that evil incidents like this have become far too common in our society. The random acts of killing innocent human beings must be condemned by a civil society.”
Similarly, Bishop James R. Golka of Colorado Springs issued a Nov. 21 statement calling the nightclub shooting “especially troubling” since the shooter “appeared to target members of the LGBTQ community.” He said anytime “specific members of the population are targeted for violence, we should all be concerned.”
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops retweeted the bishop’s message and said they joined him and “the community of Colorado Springs in lamenting this violent act and praying for all those impacted.”
Outreach, a new initiative of Jesuit-run America Media that provides resources for LGBTQ Catholics, similarly issued a statement on its website Nov. 20 praying for those who died, those who were wounded and for the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs.
The Outreach statement stressed that while a motive remained unclear, what is clear, it said, is “the effect that stigmatizing language has on the safety and well-being of LGBTQ people.”
“Language that seeks to reject, condemn, isolate, blame or target LGBTQ people should be rejected, especially by religious leaders,” it said, adding that such language “leads only to further harassment, beatings and violence.”
“Churches and other religious institutions are called to stand on the side of all who are in any way persecuted, including LGBTQ people,” the Nov. 20 statement said.
Paulist Father René Constanza, president of the Paulist Fathers, also condemned not only the attack but harmful rhetoric toward those in the LGBTQ community.
“Violence targeting our LGBTQ sisters and brothers must stop,” he said.
In a Nov. 21 statement, he said “rhetoric that dehumanizes and disrespects the inherent dignity of those who identify as LGBTQ is unacceptable, including that espoused by members of our own Catholic Church and other faith communities.”
He also said gun violence “needs to be more seriously dealt with by our civil leaders.”
The priest said it was time for society “to address the anger, contempt, and indifference that fuel violence against all people because of their sexual orientation, skin color, race or religion.”
Likewise, the Redemptorists of the Denver province grieved the loss of life and injuries inflicted and said they extended their prayers “for the well-being of the LGBTQ community in Colorado Springs as it faces the trauma of this attack and the pain it incurred.”
Statement from Archbishop Mitchell T. Rozanski on Twitter
“I know I am not alone in feeling sorrowful and frustrated by the shooting in Colorado Springs that left five people dead and dozens injured, some critically so. May those who died, as well as those left to heal, experience the consolation of Jesus Christ, who knows us each by name and grieves for every life taken at the hands of another.
I am especially troubled by reports that this violent act may have been motivated by bigotry. I pray that all whose hearts are burdened by hate will come to recognize that we are all brothers and sisters, deserving of dignity, respect and life.”