USCCB president says violence calls for 'moment of national reflection'

IMAGE: CNS photo/Erik Lesser, EPA


WASHINGTON (CNS) — The shooting
of police officers July 7 near the end of a demonstration in Dallas to protest
fatal shootings by police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota earlier in the
week “calls us to a moment of national reflection,” said the
president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“To all people of goodwill,
let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common
humanity,” said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, in a
July 8 statement.

The archbishop described the
sniper attack on the Dallas police officers “an act of unjustifiable

He said the “police are not
a faceless enemy” but people offering their lives to protect others. He
also noted “the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a
faceless threat” but members of families in “need of assistance,
protection and fairness.”

“When compassion does not
drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one
another,” Archbishop Kurtz said.

He said the tragic shootings are
reminders of the need to “place ever greater value on the life and dignity
of all persons, regardless of their station in life” and hoped that in the
days ahead people would look to ways of having open, honest and civil dialogue
on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic
opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.”

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of
Chicago said: “Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror fueled by
anger, hatred and mental illness and made possible by plentiful, powerful

“It is time to break the
cycle of violence and retaliation, of fear and powerlessness that puts more
guns in our homes and on our streets,” he said in a statement.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of
Philadelphia similarly pointed out violence is not an answer.

“The killings in Baton
Rouge (Louisiana), Minnesota and Dallas have proven that by deepening the
divides in our national life,” he said in a July 8 statement.

“Black lives matter because
all lives matter — beginning with the poor and marginalized, but including the
men and women of all races who put their lives on the line to protect the whole
community,” he said.

Other bishops have also
responded with statements to the recent fatal shootings.

Pittsburgh Bishop David A. Zubik
said: “If someone does something violent, it is imperative for us to reach
out to each other in kindness and with respect and refrain from blanket
condemnations. We must build bridges. We must tear down walls. We must break
the cycle of violence.”

He also called on people to
recognize that each person is an individual. “We must not judge any person
based on their race or color, their national origin, their faith tradition,
their politics, their sexual orientation, their job, their vocation, their uniform.”

Bishop John E. Stowe of
Lexington, Kentucky, said the shootings should cause us to ask God “to
show us the way to peace and how to live in harmony with each other.”

He urged Christians to be
“people of hope promoting reconciliation in a very violent world” and
asked: “How much more killing must we witness before sensibly and
rationally addressing the prevalence of guns, the inequalities in access to
justice and the violence found in human hearts?”

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne of
Burlington, Vermont, and Episcopal Bishop Thomas Ely of Vermont issued a joint
statement as “faith leaders whose hearts are aching” over the violent shootings
in Dallas, Louisiana and Minnesota.

“We value the hard work and
faithful commitment of those entrusted with public safety in communities
throughout Vermont and beyond,” the prelates said. “Those who serve the public
in dangerous situations are to be commended for their service. Violence
directed against police officers in the line of duty has no place in our

“At the same time,” they added,
“we deplore the sin of racism that so often manifests itself in acts of
prejudice, discrimination and violence toward people of color in our country.
This too has no place in our society.”

Here are excerpts from other
bishops’ statements issued about the shootings:

Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of
St. Louis: “Our nation is in considerable pain as we continue to witness the
toll of violence and intolerance on the people of God. On too many mornings
over the past several weeks, we have awakened to fresh tragedy and renewed
horror (over shootings in Orlando, Florida; Louisiana and Minnesota; and now
Dallas). Already, dangerously irresponsible voices are calling for more hate
and violent retribution, adding darkness upon darkness. We stand with the church,
all Christians, members of all faiths, and people of goodwill in calling for
love, peace, justice and reconciliation. ‘ Only in the total and unyielding
love of God can true and lasting peace be found.”

Archbishop Gustavo
Garcia-Siller of San Antonio: “The families and colleagues of those killed
and injured (in Dallas) are foremost in our thoughts at this time of heartbreak
and profound sadness. We stand in solidarity with the peacemakers and those who
risk their lives daily to ensure our safety. We collectively mourn as a
country. The inexplicable violence we have experienced the past few days -–
from Dallas to Minnesota to Louisiana to Orlando -– have sown seeds of mistrust
and enmity between people and groups that threaten to tear the very fabric of
our society apart. It may appear ironic that in this Jubilee Year of Mercy
called by Pope Francis, evil seems to have currently gained the upper hand. Our
nation has been buffeted by so much tragedy recently that we might feel
overwhelmed and hopeless, with many wondering ‘What’s next?’ and possessing a
powerful temptation to just turn away, instead of embracing one another.

However, it is precisely at
these moments that we need to turn to God ‘ seeking the will of Our Father in
deep and profound prayer and reflection.”

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston: “The
assassination of five members of the Dallas Police Department last night was a
heinous crime that is rightly condemned across our country. ‘ These killings
stood in stark contradiction to the spirit of the event, which brought hundreds
of citizens to an assembly of peaceful protest in Dallas, similar to other such
events around the country. The Dallas Police Department was there to provide
protection for those who were peacefully exercising their constitutional right.
The purpose of the protest was to raise awareness of and call attention to a
problem which cuts across the country. We are now in the second consecutive
summer of turmoil linked to the deaths of African-American men in circumstances
which often cast a pall over some methods of law enforcement. Each case must be
evaluated on its merits and generalized statements often risk being mistaken. But
to deny the existence of a problem is to miss an opportunity to address it. ‘ The
means and methods of addressing the problem will require the best of our civil
servants and the best of our citizens.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of
Galveston-Houston: “The shooting of police officers in Dallas last night at the
conclusion of a demonstration by peaceful protesters is deeply distressing. I
pray for the souls of those who were killed and for their families as well as
for those wounded and their loved ones and for all the citizens of Dallas. Recent
events of violence against African-Americans by police in Minnesota and
Louisiana are most concerning and these tragedies call for our prayer for
healing and for change. It seems as though at times our hearts are stony and
paralyzed. We need God’s spirit of mercy to melt them and reopen our hearts to
the beauty of human life and to rebuilding human communities.”


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