Today I write with a heavy heart arising from the tragedy that occurred in the early morninghours of Sunday at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the neighbor to the east of my Diocese of St. Petersburg.
Yesterday, the best I could muster was to send these words by text message to my brother, Bishop John Noonan, bishop of Orlando: “John, I am so sorry. With love to and for all.” Today, with a new dawn, I again have some thoughts that I wish to share.
Our founding parents had no knowledge of assault rifles, which are intended to be weapons of mass destruction. In crafting the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which I affirm, they thought only of the most awkward of pistols and heavy shotguns. I suspect they are turning in their graves if they can but glimpse what their words now protect. It is long past time to ban the sale of all assault weapons, whose use should be available only to the armed forces. If one is truly pro-life, then embrace this issue also and work for the elimination of sales to those who would turn the weapons on innocents.
Second, sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and 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. Those women and men who were mowed down Sunday were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.
Even before I knew who perpetrated the mass murders at Pulse, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search for religion as motivation. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe and judge and act from some kind of religious background. Singling out people for victimization because of their religion, their sexual orientation, their nationality must be offensive to God’s ears. It has to stop, too.
Third, responding by barring people of Muslim faith from entering the country solely because of their stated religion until they can be checked out is un-American, even in these most challenging of times and situations. There are as many good, peace-loving and God-fearing Muslims to be found as Catholics or Methodists or Mormons or Seventh-day Adventists. The Devil and Devilish intent escape no religious iteration.
Will we ever learn? I hope so. But until the above three points are taken seriously by society, sadly, tragically, we can expect more Orlandos. May the souls of those faithful departed who met their God early Sunday rest in peace and those recovering from deep wounds heal, help and hope.