Statements by US bishops on Orlando shooting

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Several U.S. bishops and archbishops have made statements expressing condolences to survivors and family members of victims of the June 12 shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Following are the full texts of statements of some of the U.S. bishops and archbishops. Other bishops may have made statements. NCR will add to this list as other letters and statements become available. 

Trenton, N.J., Bishop David M. O’Connell

When Americans think of “Orlando, Florida,” their first thoughts are usually of Disney World — happy thoughts of a magic place where children of all ages escape from their ordinary, everyday lives to experience the fantasy and fun that only a place like it can offer.  That all changed in the early hours of Sunday morning, June 12, 2016, when 49 people were brutally, senselessly murdered by a lone gunman and at least that many others were seriously wounded in Orlando.  We awoke to the largest mass shooting in U.S. history that has left us all horrified and numb with grief.

We have become accustomed to such tragedies in other places in the world, Paris and Brussels and Tel Aviv among them in recent months.  It would be just a matter of time for us to join their mortally stricken ranks.  Events like Sunday’s carnage in Orlando leave us reeling, haunted by the questions “When will the violence and killing stop?  Will we ever feel safe anywhere again?” What was once unimaginable has now become increasingly commonplace and all too real.  Every fiber of our humanity strains to find some explanation, some reason for the violence and death that defy our understanding of human nature, so thoughtlessly and carelessly discarded by those who have no regard for human life.  The answers do not come because the experience makes no sense.

The 20th century novelist Mary McCarthy once reflected, “In violence, we forget who we are.”  Those words are so true because violence turns human beings, created in God’s image, into something we were never intended to be.  In violence, we lose our identity as children of a loving, merciful God.

Let us pray for the victims of this latest act of incomprehensible violence in Orlando on Sunday and for their families and friends who grieve their loss.  Let us also pray that we may recover our identity in the face of such violence that wants us to forget.

San Bernardino, Calif.,  Bishop Gerald R. Barnes

Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Today, we are reflecting with great sadness and despair on the tragic loss of life that occurred early Sunday morning in Orlando, Florida at the hands of a violent attacker. Please pray for the eternal rest of those who lost their lives in this tragedy and for the consolation and healing of their loved ones and also those injured in the attack. We place our pain before God and we unite our suffering with the Lord Jesus who shed his blood for us on the cross. 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. 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. We believe in the dignity and worth of every human life and we decry every attack on that dignity that happens in acts of hatred and violence. As we discern our response to this attack as Catholics, let us resolve ourselves to be an unrelenting voice for peace and non-violence in every realm of our society. The evil that is present in these events demands nothing less from us.

Bridgeport, Conn. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano

“Sunday morning’s attack in Orlando 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.

Yesterday’s news accounts have clarified the fact that the gunman who attacked the gay and lesbian patrons of the club in Orlando targeted his victims specifically because of who they were. It is hard to comprehend what fueled such an intense bigotry in the heart of the gunman that could lead him to kill so recklessly and maliciously. It is a question for which we will never have a full answer. No matter what the reasons, the root for all of them was sheer hatred.

How do we respond before such hate? At minimum, all Catholics must raise our voices against such hatred. 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.

Another way to stand against such hatred can be realized in more simple ways. While we strive to create a larger world that is free from hatred, we often have many opportunities in our ordinary lives to break down the walls that divide us. How often have we chosen to do nothing rather than extend a word of welcome or kindness to someone whom we have avoided, precisely because they are different from us? How many times have we failed to correct a racist comment spoken by a family member or objected to a slur spoken by a friend or co-worker against someone who is gay or lesbian? Each of these lost occasions are also lost opportunities to invite the world to conversion, one person at a time.

As we pray for those who died in Orlando, let us pray that we might have the courage to fight against all bigotry and prejudice wherever we may experience it.”

Boston Cardinal Sean P. O'Malley

Before sharing information about my events and activities of the past week, it must be recognized that our nation continues to recoil from the horror of the killings that took place in Orlando.

As the names of those whose lives were taken during the attack were made known and family members and friends shared their grief, our shock at the unprovoked killings gave way to recognition of the depth of the loss. In particular, the gay and lesbian communities in Orlando, here in Boston, throughout the United States and throughout the world were understandably devastated by this targeted assault. The Archdiocese shares in their sorrow and concern. There is no place in the Church or society for hate and vilification of any person or group of persons. All people are created in the image and likeness of God, blessed with the gift of human dignity that calls for our respect and love.

We also stand in solidarity with members of the Muslim community when they are wrongly and dangerously assigned shared responsibility for the attack in Orlando and other violent assaults, simply because they are Muslim. There is no justification for linking their sincere faith and goodwill with these horrendous attacks or for promoting hatred and suspicion of people based on their religious beliefs. At a time when our society is best served by our coming together in shared strength and resolve, such unwarranted appeals to suspicion and isolation threaten the common good. May we rise above these calls to divisiveness and together walk in the light of the Lord.

I’d like to share with you this interview I conducted with WBUR earlier this week, discussing these and other matters related to the Orlando tragedy.

Dallas Bishop Kevin Farrell

Once again, we are attempting to understand an incredible act of savagery that destroyed the lives of 50 human beings and maimed more than 50 others. How could one warped individual inflict so much death and suffering?

Our heart goes out to the families of those who died so violently and to those whose lives have been forever changed. Their suffering is ours.

As we try to wrap our minds around this tragedy, now officially designated the worst mass shooting in the history of our country, we also mourn the ever increasing physical and verbal violence that has permeated our culture. We must ask where and when will it end? As followers of Jesus, we cannot accept it as inevitable and irreversible.

Please join me in praying for the victims of the Orlando massacre and their families, and for the end of violence and the restoration of peace in our nation.

St. Augustine, Fla., Bishop Felipe J. Estevez 

One can have no doubt that this has been a hard week for Florida, particularly for my neighbors to the south in Orlando. First the senseless shooting death of singer-songwriter Christina Grimmie of the TV show "The Voice" on Saturday, then Sunday morning’s horrific mass shooting at the PULSE gay bar, and finally the painful news of a toddler dragged into the water by an alligator at a vacation resort, June 14. Taken together, these stories are a drumbeat of heartbreak and human tragedy. And in their wake, we see the usual messy flurry of human generosity, policy debates, and overall struggle for meaning.

We should pray to remember the perspective this period of upheaval forces on us. Because as a people ever striving toward God, it shouldn’t require such jarring examples to jolt us awake. We should be striving to be better all the time.

The murder of a talented young woman provokes sorrow for the vibrancy and potential cut short. And while this is newsworthy, so many other people’s lives are discarded every day, whether from abortion, addiction, poverty, violence or other means. Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure…?” We should feel a deeper empathy whether the person was known to us or not. As Pope Francis also says, “To be a Christian is to weep.”

Similarly, 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. When the victims of the PULSE shooting were made public, the world learned that they were predominately young and Latino. 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.

It also shouldn’t take a tragedy of this magnitude to yet again reignite the discussion around whether current policy is doing all it can to protect human life. Even the Holy See is beginning to take into account how the killing efficiency of our weapons technology raises the threshold for when it’s morally acceptable to take up arms. If rising violence can put Catholic social teaching on the table, surely the carnage perpetrated by assault weapons can force us to revisit the application of a constitutional amendment written with village militias and single-shot muskets in mind.

With the PULSE shooting and the drowning death of the child, we have seen a profound outpouring of goodness and generosity -- people lined up for blocks to give blood, strangers giving tens of thousands of dollars to the family whose child was taken from them. And as with the murder of the young singer, we should remember people suffer loss and have need of care every day.

We should strive to be a culture of care full time. As Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley noted after the PULSE shooting, “we must be aware of and reflect on how we think and speak about those who are different from us. And we cannot allow ourselves to be defeated by the worst instincts in human nature, by efforts to divide us based on our differences or by an immobilizing fear.”

In a diocese with a large population of immigrants and refugees, I can attest to the destructive impact of rhetoric that irresponsibly foments alienation and a sense of threatening otherness. As a refugee from Cuba myself, I can also attest to the enormous potential that can be unlocked when refugees find a welcoming, nurturing home in a new land. It has been a hard week in Florida, but the light always breaks through the darkness. And it has shown that we still have, in the words of Pope Francis in Amoris Laetitia, “the capacity for generosity, commitment, love and even heroism.” I am grateful to God to call this country home.

Bishop Estévez wrote this commentary for Our Sunday Visitor

Albany, N.Y., Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger

How much more violence does it take?

Do we need any further reminders than what our nation has just witnessed: the evil of any way of thinking or acting that treats any class of human beings differently, as inferior or less worthy of God's love and mercy than any other?

By what conceit does any individual or group of human beings presume to substitute their own rage or self-anointed design for the mercy of God's patience?

What follows below is but a flawed attempt to find a path toward the healing of a grave wound that we have all sustained in our common humanity. The God of infinite love and patience, whose mercy is never spent, is the only path I know.

It is to that one, true God that I appeal in prayer for all of us, especially the victims and their family and friends, living and deceased, of last Sunday's massacre in Florida. As Christians, we unite with them all.

At this writing, it is too early to form any sound conclusion about the state of mind, motivation and malicious associations of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. - let alone to weigh all possible ideological, theological and psychogenic factors inferable from the still-accruing evidence.

But whatever -- or whoever -- possessed this man last Sunday morning to enter the Orlando nightclub Pulse, described by its owner as "a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community," Mateen's objective 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.

Our Christian faith, by contrast, teaches us that God loves all human beings without exception, even those whom we may not particularly like, understand or find convenient. It affirms, based on God's love and the goodness of our common humanity, the unconditional and irrevocable dignity of every human life -- without distinction by class or status -- from conception to natural death.

This, in turn, compels us to love and respect every human being, regardless of how we might personally value his or her thoughts or actions. This conviction is lived out, in practice, by our respect and care for the most vulnerable lives of unborn humans, as well as those in the final stages of their lives, however compromised their mental or physical condition may be due to age or illness.

We also uphold the dignity of the lives of those whose physical or mental conditions may be considered compromised or "handicapped" in any current socio-cultural consensus.

Respect for all human lives includes those who experience the mystery of their sexuality differently from others of their identified gender.

Our call is always to accompany, not abandon, all our human sisters and brothers throughout their life journeys, especially when they are in pain or experience exclusion or persecution because of their class or status.

At this time, 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, a class whose vulnerability to acts of terrorism was graphically and shockingly exposed at the massacre in Orlando. As Christians, we can unite with them -- for, just as we have seen Christians targeted for violence and death in the Middle East with the advance of ISIS simply because they are Christian, now we see another class of human beings singled out for a terrorist act simply because they exist.

Not all vulnerable human beings who are targeted because they are hated, unwanted or simply deemed as "useless lives" (the Hitlerian term) by others, are destroyed so luridly and sensationally. Yet countless human lives are disposed of every day in facilities and institutions in our nation under the guise of medical or "therapeutic" interventions, masking what is really going on: the direct and intentional termination of human lives.

No more than we can tolerate the elimination of the unborn or the vulnerable elderly because they are deemed inconvenient or difficult to manage can we devalue the lives of those who do not easily fit in to our ideals of a perfect humanity.

Only one who equates himself with God -- or believes God takes all his orders -- can take it upon himself to end the life of another simply for being who they are. Is this not the ultimate blasphemy: to claim to honor God by destroying God's created image?

Can any of us honestly say that we have never given in to the temptation to diminish or exclude some class of persons by stereotypical or hateful thoughts or actions? Every human being with the use of reason, regardless of his or her status, is prone to sin. Jesus famously confronted a crowd eager to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery (her accomplice was never apprehended) when He turned the tables on them, saying, "Let anyone without sin cast the first stone."

Thank God that God is infinitely more patient with us sinners than fellow sinners are with one another! Yes, the unspeakable word, "sin," rears its ugly head from generation to generation in all societies and cultures. Indeed, God hates the sin, but never the sinner, our biblical faith tells us; and existence is never in itself a sin, never an evil to be eradicated by any human device or design.

We rightfully decry the hatred and violence of terrorist actions such as those seen in the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, or the genocidal conflicts we have witnessed in recent decades in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. Can we afford to ignore the growing intolerance for freedom of speech, religious expression and conscience rights in our own country, which threaten human dignity and lead to intolerance and oppression, eventually breeding violence?

We have seen the brutality of ISIS in its outright persecution of Christians, ethnic minorities and of people identified as gay in the Middle East -- or has that been too far away to notice? The blindness of the media has been deafening. Now, we see an act of unspeakable violence closer to home and by one individual - who reportedly claimed an association with ISIS -- against another group of human beings belonging to a class that he patently despised.

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. 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.

Simply said, to devalue one human life is to devalue all human lives. United in the defense of human life we must stand.

Chicago Archbishop Blase J. Cupich

June 12, 2016

Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

We are grateful to the first responders and civilians who heroically put themselves in harm’s way, providing an enduring reminder of what compassion and bravery look like--even in the face of such horror and danger.

In response to hatred, we are called to sow love. In response to violence, peace. And, in response to intolerance, tolerance.

The people of the Archdiocese of Chicago stand with the victims and their loved ones, and reaffirm our commitment, with Pope Francis, to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons. We can no longer stand by and do nothing.

San Diego, Calif., Bishop Robert McElroy

Monday, June 13, 2016

Once again our nation has been murderously rent by hatred and violence, rooted in a counterfeit notion of religious faith and magnified by our gun culture.  The shootings in Orlando are a wound to our entire society, and this time the LGBT community has been specifically targeted and victimized.

It is all too easy when faced with such wanton slaughter and human suffering to reach for a solution which is itself founded in hatred, prejudice and recrimination.

But our Catholic faith demands that we reject such a pathway and embrace with ever greater strength the solidarity of all people who stand as the one family of the God who is Father of us all.

We pray for the many victims in Orlando who were targeted for death simply because of their sexual orientation, and we grieve with their loving families and friends.  This tragedy is a call for us as Catholics to combat ever more vigorously the anti-gay prejudice which exists in our Catholic community and in our country. We pray for the Muslim community in our nation, who have acted in unanimity to deplore this act of violence and to reject hatred rooted in a distortion of Muslim faith.  We pray for the first responders whose courage and suffering are a witness to the spirit of sacrifice that ennobles American society.   And we commit ourselves to a pathway which seeks true security for our nation not only in efforts to identify those who would do us harm, but far more importantly in building a culture which truly embodies and fortifies the equal dignity of every woman and man.

St. Petersburg, Fla., Bishop Robert Lynch


June 13th, 2016

Today I write with a heavy heart arising from the tragedy which occurred in the early morning hours yesterday at a Gay, Lesbian, Transgender night club in Orlando, our neighbor to the east. 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 once again have some thoughts which 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 at 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 them on innocents.

Second, 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. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that. Without yet knowing who perpetrated the PULSE mass murders, when I saw the Imam come forward at a press conference yesterday morning, I knew that somewhere in the story there would be a search to find religious roots. While deranged people do senseless things, all of us observe, 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 also.

Third, responding by barring people of Muslim only faith from entering the country solely because of their stated faith 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 morning rest in peace, and those recovering from deep wounds heal, help and hope.

Orlando, Fla., Bishop John Noonan

All life is sacred as each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God. We cherish each person as a child of God.

We pray for victims of violence and acts of terror ... for their families and friends ... and all those affected by such acts against God's love.

We pray for the people of the city of Orlando that God's mercy and love will be upon us as we seek healing and consolation.

Every time we look at the Cross, we see how God has forgiven us in Christ -- with a love that bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things; love never fails.

We dry the tears of those who weep and mourn as gently as Veronica wiped the Lord’s bleeding face on the Via Dolorosa.

May the Peace of Christ dwell within our heart.

Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz

President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

WASHINGTON — Waking up to the unspeakable violence in Orlando reminds us of how precious human life is. Our prayers are with the victims, their families and all those affected by this terrible act. The merciful love of Christ calls us to solidarity with the suffering and to ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.

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