When Orlando, Florida newspaper columnist Justin Mitchell visited the Pulse Nightclub memorial this past June, it stirred him to remember the 49 victims who were killed there. It also stirred him to reflect on how gay nightclubs and churches can be quite similar spaces.
Mitchell, writing in the Sun Herald, described his journey as a gay man who was raised Catholic. There were positive moments in youth group when church elevated him in prayer, and there was also “the moment I fell out of love with mass” as pastors criticized marriage equality. There was the progressive church in college that welcomed him, and then the rejection by a former parishioner in his hometown. All of this came back to Mitchell as he watched prayer candles burn at the Pulse memorial. He reflected:
“The point of all of this, though, is that I lit that prayer candle and was brought back to my days in church. Because what many don’t realize is that a gay bar is exactly like church in many ways for the LGBTQ+ community. They both are safe spaces where its members can let go and be vulnerable. They can share their most suppressed feelings, whether it’s holding a man’s hand or praying to the man upstairs. It’s a place where, above all, you don’t feel like anything bad is going to happen to you.”
Many people around the world remembered the Pulse anniversary last month. Catholics lamented one bishop’s decree released on that very day which bans married lesbian and gay people from the most important aspects of church life.
As we move forward, these violations (and others that come to mind) of safe and sacred places are our propellants to work even harder so that there will be places like clubs and churches where all are welcome to be who they are.
“Then they sat down upon the ground with [Job] seven days and seven nights, but none of them spoke a word to him; for they saw how great was his suffering.” –Job 2:13
In moments when hatred and pain coalesce, and violence erupts, like last year’s massacre of LGBT people at Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, year, the shock and grief do not easily leave us. This lingering pain is felt profoundly by those who lost a loved one and by survivors who escaped. Even as we mark the one year anniversary of this tragedy, few words encapsulate well all that is still felt by these mourners, by LGBT communities, and by a shaken society.
The mass shooting in Orlando was not unique, given the regularity of mass shootings in the United States, but it was especially shocking. It reminded us that anti-LGBT violence is not a history lesson. Queerphobia and transphobia still underpin horrific acts. Church leaders silent after Orlando remain silent about such violence despite Catholics’ cries for justice.
Today, in remembering the 49 people killed and 53 people wounded, perhaps it is best we just sit together in community, like Job’s friends, silent before inexplicable suffering and offering prayers of lamentation. I offer this prayer today:
God who is ever with us,
We are hurting today, hurting deeply. Afraid and in mourning, we come to you in prayer because words fail us and justice seems distant. We place ourselves in your embrace, and we trust you because you never abandon those whom you love.
You are God, the Creator. In radiant diversity, you made each one of us like you. Each person is created to be exactly who you made them to be, made so we can share in your divine life by reflecting the glorious array of sexual and gender identities which shine forth from you. May we cherish human dignity, especially the dignity of those who are marginalized and of those people who have caused grave harm.
You are God, the Christ. In Jesus, you dwelt among us. And you were present at Pulse as raw violence shattered lives, just as you have been present when so many LGBT people are crucified because they lived and loved openly. It is only the center of your Cross, in your Sacred Heart, which can hold the world’s suffering when we feel weak before it. Be with us now.
You are God, the Consoler. Pour forth your grace which is our sustenance. Plant within us holy anger at the injustices which compound LGBT people’s suffering: racism, migration justice, ableism, Islamophobia, sexism, economic inequality, and more. Help us cultivate this holy anger with prudence and perseverance such that, through reconciliation, we may help bring about the fruits of justice.
You are God. We are only able to spread love because we know your profound love for us, and even as we hurt, we desire for others to know your presence. God, be with us anew today.
An African proverb says the following, “When you pray, move your feet.” It captures well the reality that prayer is not platitudes, but an act of one’s whole being. Even in his brief tenure, few bishops have lived this truth as well as Bishop Robert McElroy when it comes to LGBT issues in the church.
Following the massacre at an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, Bishop McElroy was one of less than ten U.S. bishops who acknowledged the victims’ targeted identities. He said LGBT people had been “specifically targeted and victimized,” and called on Catholics to root out anti-gay prejudices in church and in society.
McElroy expanded on this statement in an interview with the Jesuit-weekly, America. He affirmed Pope Francis’ recommendation that the church should apologize to LGBT people and others it has marginalized, saying:
” ‘When I go out and meet with laypeople. . .so many of them have family members, brother and sisters and sons and daughters, mothers and fathers who are gay or lesbian.’
” ‘For them it is a great and painful thing to feel excluded from the life of the church, and for that element. . .we are not moving fast enough.’
” ‘What we need to project in the life of the church is “You are part of us and we are part of you.” [LGBT Catholics] are part of our families. . .[An apology could] create an understanding and a reality in the life of the church that members of the [LGBT] community are welcome, and genuinely so.’ “
Treatment of LGBT issues in the church has been too limited, McElroy said, and too many pastoral workers have felt they must choose falsely between upholding church teachings and caring for marginalized peoples. He continued:
” ‘My own view is that much of the destructive attitude of many Catholics to the gay and lesbian community is motivated by a failure to comprehend the totality of the church’s teaching on homosexuality. . .
” ‘[Sexual activity exclusively in the context of heterosexual marriage is] not a teaching which applies just to gay men. . .It is teaching across the board and there is massive failure on that.’ “
Integral, but often lost in Catholics’ consideration is the Christian call “to build a society in which people are not victimized or violence visited upon them or unjustly discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.” Acknowledging existing Catholic efforts towards this end, McElroy called the church to “step it up.” He said bishops should not only issue institutional apologies, but “seek to collaborate with those in society who are working to banish discrimination and violence leveled against people because of their sexual orientation.”
McElroy also criticized language used in church teaching on homosexuality that is deeply harmful, like describing lesbian, bisexual, and gay people as ‘intrinsically disordered’:
” ‘We are not talking about some group or person who is the ‘other’. . .It has to be language that is inclusive, embracing, it has to be pastoral. . . [What exists is] very destructive language that I think we should not use pastorally.’ “
Bishop McElroy is backing his words with action. He participated in a San Diego memorial for the Orlando victims last night, hosted by Latinx and LGBT organizations. About his participation, LGBT Weekly columnist Nicole Murray Ramirez wrote:
“[McElroy’s attendance is] especially historic as is his statement on the Orlando attack; his outreach and compassion for the LGBT community has touched many of us gay Catholic’s hearts, and given us hope of a better relationship with the San Diego Catholic Diocese.”
[Editor’s note: We will try to provide coverage of McElroy’s participation in this vigil in the next few days.]
McElroy’s prayers for the LGBT victims in Orlando are backed by his movements towards reconciliation. He clearly believes in Pope Francis’ welcoming approach, and is seeking to live it out in the local church which he oversees. We hope his efforts will be received well. and that improved relationships between Catholic communities, LGBT communities, and LGBT Catholic communities will come to San Diego.
Today’s post was written by guest blogger Alfred Pang is a PhD student in Theology and Education at Boston College.
This was my first year attending the Pride Parade in Boston, where I go to graduate school. Partly because of my reserved personality, I’ve often struggled to immerse myself in the spirit of Pride. The extravagance of the celebration overwhelmed me. More significantly, as an international student, I do not share in the history of Pride in the U.S., so I’ve often felt detached. As I watched the parade, I felt I was a foreigner wishing to see a familiar face of a friend, a stranger longing to be home with family.
My first Pride Parade wasn’t magical. The only point of connection I had was with the Pride Festival exhibit booth for three welcoming Catholic parishes organized under the name Greater Boston Rainbow Catholics. Their banner, which people were invited to sign, read, “I am a proud LGBTQ Catholic and I pray the church would love me more.” I wrote on the banner, “I came out as gay because I’m Catholic and not in spite of it.” I was proud to be part of this tradition and identity. When it comes to pride, history and community matters.
On the day after Pride, news broke about the tragic shooting in Pulse, an LGBT nightclub in Orlando, where 49 were gunned down during Latin Night. As an Asian gay man and a foreigner in this country, the horrific violence inflicted on LGBT persons of color hit too close to home. In my shock and grief, however, I was lifted up by the show of solidarity witnessed at vigils in Boston, from around the U.S., and around the globe, including Singapore, my home country. In light of this worldwide solidarity against fear, I’ve been awakened to a deeper significance of pride.
Pride is not arrogance, as many would typically understand it. For someone who identifies with the LGBT community, pride means to be fiercely unashamed that love is love. As gay and Catholic, pride is to dance with conviction that God’s love liberates us from the shame that diminishes our life as God’s beloved community. It is to “boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:31) whose radical commitment to God’s mercy and justice led this Son of God to be in solidarity with the outcast and marginalized, even to the point of death on a cross.
Pride means to be amazed at the wild creativity of the Spirit of Christ who lives within and breathes among us, beckoning us toward newness in life as a beloved community in the here and now. Jesus’s injunction to us not to be afraid is a call to stand without shame as living witnesses of God’s unconditional love for all. There is no place that God will not go, and it is precisely this widening outreach and radical inclusivity of God’s love that the gospel challenges us to embrace with pride – unashamed.
Yet, in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, the Catholic hierarchy fell short in its witnessing to God’s far-reaching inclusive love. With a few exceptions, bishops, while condemning the violence, have largely been reticent, if not silent, about the gender and sexual identities of the victims. In doing so, an opportunity was missed to lift up the Church’s official teaching that explicitly opposes any form of violence and discrimination against LGBT persons.
More critically, such reticence once again pushes the suffering of the LGBT community into invisibility and furthers their systemic marginalization. Equally problematic is the tendency for church leaders to speak around the victims’ particular identities and conveniently snug them under ‘children of God’ as a blanket phrase. How can LGBT persons be properly regarded as God’s beloved children when church leaders are embarrassed to acknowledge their particular sexualities, even in the face of a tragedy?
My insistence in giving due attention to the gendered and sexual bodies of the victims at Orlando is not to remain mired in identity politics that can become exclusivist. Rather, what is at stake is how we regard the humanity of each other, with all the complexity of gender and sexuality intersecting with race, culture, class, and religion. The shooting at Orlando is symptomatic of a deeper tragic cycle of how we as human beings are actually capable of betraying one another.
Yet, the gospel provokes us to hope against all hopes that love wins because in and through Christ, death has lost its sting (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:55). We as church must allow ourselves to be haunted by this hope to recognize and repent from our complicity in social structures that feed this tragic cycle of dehumanization. I am grateful for the courage of Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Florida, who, in his statement on Orlando, wrote:
“… [S]adly 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.”
Unfortunately, not every bishop shares Bishop Lynch’s sentiments, and herein lies the cause for real lament: that we as church (and the hierarchy, in particular) cannot be unified in at least acknowledging our complicity in the complexities of structural violence, especially that inflicted on LGBT communities. My disappointment is not simply over the dread of sexuality that hovers in the Catholic Church, or the humility lacking in some of our church leaders. Rather, my frustration is in our lack of pride in the gospel that celebrates the radical inclusivity of God’s embracing love for all. Are we that ashamed of the scandalous death of Jesus Christ on the cross that is the cost of God’s unreserved compassion for all and unwavering commitment to justice for the vulnerable at the margins?
If this year’s celebration of Pride in the midst of the pain at Orlando has any influence on the Church, I hope it will be the disruption of the Church’s dominant tendency to domesticate the gospel. Pride invites us to reclaim our identity as God’s beloved children, but in all our particularities and peculiarities that God takes delight in. More profoundly, God’s love must agitate us to be proud of the gospel, to take our encounter with Christ in the gospel onto the streets as ambassadors of reconciliation (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). Taking pride in ourselves as children of God obliges us to be peacemakers (cf. Matthew 5:9). As Blessed Oscar Romero put it:
“Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous,
tranquil contribution of all
to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism.
Peace is generosity.
It is right and it is duty.”
As a church, we must find ways to come out with pride and not cower in shame (and disbelief) over God’s scandalous love for all. We must continually be more open to the inclusivity of Christ’s love in the gospel and be moved by the creativity of the Spirit to walk the way of peace with those different from us. We must be fearless and unashamed. We must have pride.
Bishops in the Philippines responded to the Orlando massacre by sharply condemning anti-LGBT violence.. Their statement joins other Catholic reactions to and reflections about the Orlando attack.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) released a statement, signed by Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen Dagupan, that immediately identified the shooting as a “hate crime.” The Conference continued, according to GMA Network:
“First, this was a hate-crime — the murder of persons because of disgust for their sexual orientation. Bearing in the depth of his or her soul the image of the Creator, no human person should ever be the object of disgust. . .
“No matter that we may disapprove of the actions, decisions and choices of others, there is absolutely no reason to reject the person, no justification for cruelty, no reason for making outcasts of them. This is a project on which we, in the Philippines, must seriously embark for many are still forced to the peripheries because the norms of ‘decent society’ forbid association with them.”
Noting the Jubilee Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis, CBCP’s statement said that, “As important as it is to be right, it is far more important to be merciful!” They called for more dialogue, and for the government and all Christians to protect LGBT lives because the unity in Christ outweighs any differences. Their statement sharply contrasts with responses from many of their episcopal counterparts in the U.S. who failed to recognize the Orlando shooting as targeting LGBT people.
Terence Weldon, writing for Quest, a U.K. group for LGBT Catholics, also queried how Catholics can concretely respond, expanding the discussion to include the entire faithful:
“What are we to do, ourselves, to combat the homophobia that is is fostered within some sectors of the Catholic Church and its practice?
“We must never forget that ‘the Church’ is far, far more than just the bishops and priests, but includes all of us. When Catholic teaching tells us to oppose and condemn any form of violence or malice, in speech or in action, against homosexuals, that is a command to all of us, as individuals and collectively, as an organization. How have we responded up to now, to that command? How can we do so, in future? Is there room for improvement, in our response?”
One way the church has responded positively to the massacre in Orlando is through efforts by Catholic Charities of Central Florida to help victims and their families, reported the National Catholic Reporter. Catholic Charities has provided bilingual staff and pastoral care providers who have assisted with translation, immigration matters, burial arrangements, and counseling.
Frank Bruni, a columnist for The New York Times who is gay and Catholic, wrote that now is a time for solidarity with LGBT people. Bruni implored anti-LGBT politicians to act for solidarity, using words that could be equally applicable to the U.S. bishops, whom Bruni criticized in the column:
“Just show up. And by doing so, show that the absence of ‘gay’ or ‘L.G.B.T.’ in your statements immediately following the Orlando massacre. . .isn’t because you place us and our concerns behind some thick pane of glass with a Do Not Touch sign that stays up even when blood and tears pool beneath it. . .You want to show our enemies what America stands for? Then stand with us.”
John Freml, coordinator of the Equally Blessed Coalition, wrote in The State Journal-Register that in his Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, Bishop Thomas Paprocki had been silent thus far. Freml commented:
“The silence of our own bishop, and the refusal of other Catholic bishops to even name the LGBT community, not only contributes to the continuing invisibility and marginalization of LGBT people in our church, but it quite literally results in their deaths. I am baffled at how our bishops can call themselves ‘pro-life,’ when their actions have clearly demonstrated that they do not value all human life equally.”
In the Equally Blessed coaltion’s statement on Orlando, they noted:
“While we struggle against the forces of homophobia in our church and in our society, we must also remain steadfast in our opposition to racism, Islamophobia, and xenophobia in all its forms.”
LGBT Catholics Westminster Pastoral Council, an outreach effort by the diocese of Westminster (London), expressed their solidarity in a statement, recalling their own origins as a response to an episode of anti-LGBT violence:
“Having ourselves been born, as a worshiping community, out of the 1999 Admiral Duncan Soho bombing when three people were killed and 83 people injured, we know only too well that such violent attacks on our communities are never far away.
“LGBT targeted hate-crimes must be recognised for what they are: assaults on the precious dignity of each human being as ‘wonderfully created as God’s work of art’ (Psalm 139). We call upon religious leaders of all faith traditions to recognise the reality of the Orlando outrage. We specifically call upon our Catholic leaders to acknowledge how the language of some official documents on sexual orientation can, in fact, incite and support those who commit such violence.”
LGBT Catholics Westminster’s statement called on Pope Francis and the Vatican to respond with concrete actions combatting anti-LGBT violence and discrimination, including “support the global decriminalisation of homosexuality, with an end to the use of the death penalty and torture for LGBT people.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, released a letter to Pope Francis about church leaders’ problematic responses. In the letter, which followed up the organization’s initial statement, Duddy-Burke wrote:
“To fail to explicitly acknowledge [victims’ LGBT identities] strips the victims, the survivors, the injured, the grieving of an essential component of their humanity. It sends a message to their loved ones and families that this part of their identity should not be named, affirmed, and celebrated as they are remembered.
“It also means that you and many other Catholic leaders have missed yet another important moment to explicitly and unequivocally condemn violence directed towards LGBT people. Vague references to ‘respect for the dignity of all people’ or other such phrases are sinfully inadequate, whether in response to the horror in Orlando, or when addressing the persecution faced by LGBT people anywhere in the world.”
Fr. Joseph McShane, president of Fordham University, New York, affirmed in a statement that solidarity with communities affected by the massacre, including LGBT ones, was not only consistent with the University’s Jesuit and Catholic identities, but necessary because of these identities :
“As a Jesuit university (and hence a university whose entire life and mission is inspired by the Gospel and its challenge to live in love), Fordham joins people of good will around the world in condemning the Orlando attack. In addition, however (and precisely because of our Jesuit identity), the University offers its heartfelt support to the LGBT and Latino communities both on campus and throughout the country. It also offers its equally heartfelt prayers to the families and friends of those who died so senselessly on Sunday morning.”
To read Bondings 2.0‘s full coverage of the Orlando massacre and Catholic responses to it, please click here.
Names and photographs for many of the 49 people killed at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando have now been released, coming as we still grapple with the evil that happened Sunday morning and try to respond to these events.
Akyra Murray, an 18-year-old graduate of West Catholic Preparatory High School in Philadelphia, was among those victims killed. Murray “graduated third in her class just last week, and had just signed a letter of intent to play basketball for Mercyhurst University, Erie, Pennsylvania, reported ABC 6. She was in Orlando with family celebrating her graduation. A statement from West Catholic Preparatory said:
“Our hearts are broken, but together we will mourn Akyra’s loss and provide comfort to one another to honor the memory of such a wonderful young lady.”
A closed vigil is planned for this evening, and the school is providing grief counselors all week for affected community members.
Officials in Catholic higher education have released supportive statements and are offering Masses throughout the week for all those killed in Orlando, noting the LGBT identities of the victims. Fr. Brian Linnane, president of Loyola University Maryland, assured the GLBTQ+ members of the campus community that “we stand shoulder to shoulder with them in condemning this crime and advocating for justice. . .today we are all GLBTQ+.”
In a statement, Dr. Lisa Reiter, director of Campus Ministry at Loyola University Chicago, wrote:
“This shooting is a painful reminder of the injustice and prejudice that afflicts our lesbian sisters and gay brothers on a daily basis. . .In light of the spirit of Jesus Christ, and Church teaching, let us examine how we might more fully extend friendship t our LGBT sisters and brothers, inviting them to share their joys and sorrows with us.”
Religious communities have offered statements of prayer and of solidarity with LGBT communities, too, including the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia who shared their solidarity on Facebook.
Tragically, not all church leaders have responded well. As Bondings 2.0 reported yesterday, only four U.S. bishops referenced the anti-LGBT roots of this crime in their statements. A fifth, Bishop Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, a city which suffered a mass shooting itself last year, released a statement which said:
“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.”
At The Wild Reedblog, Michael Bernard Kelly, who writes on gay Christian spirituality, responded to religious and civil leaders who offered prayers without referencing LGBT people:
“To every politician, and every civic or religious leader, including the Pope, who expressed sorrow and outrage at the Orlando shootings, but so very carefully avoided mentioning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Queer people – YOU are part of the problem. Your words are empty and your hearts are hollow. Get back to us when you are ready to put yourself on the line to support and affirm US in the face of hatred and violence. Till then, hang your head in shame and repent of all that your past bigotry and current silence has spawned.”
Finally, television host Stephen Colbert, who is Catholic, offered powerful remarks about the Orlando shooting before his show Monday night:
“Well I don’t know what to do, but I do know that despair is a victory for hate. Hate wants us to be too weak to change anything. Now these people in Orlando were apparently targeted because of who they love. And there have been outpourings of love throughout the country and around the world. Love in response to hate. Love does not despair. Love makes us strong. Love gives us the courage to act. Love gives us hope that change is possible. Love allows us to change the script. So love your country, love your family, love the families of the victims and the people of Orlando, but let’s remember that love is a verb, and to love means to do something.”
Catholic leaders were initially silent about the anti-LGBT prejudices undergirding the mass shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, which has left at least 50 people dead and more wounded. Four bishops have since released statements acknowledging the prejudice behind these attacks. Other organizations and prominent Catholics have also highlighted the anti-gay distinction, as well as the serious omission on the part of some Catholic leaders who have ignored the LGBT dimension of the incident.
Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego released a statement, saying the murders were “rooted in a counterfeit notion of religious faith and magnified by our gun culture.” He continued:
“The shootings in Orlando are a wound to our entire society, and this time the LGBT community has been specifically targeted and victimized. . .
“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.”
Chicago’s Archbishop Blase Cupich had recognized gay and lesbian victims in his initial statement, and followed up with a letter read at a regularly-scheduled Sunday evening Mass hosted by the Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach ministry. Cupich said in the letter, posted on Twitter by journalist Michael O’Loughlin:
“For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.
“Let our shared grief and our common faith in Jesus, who called the persecuted blessed, unite us so that hatred and tolerance are not allowed to flourish. . .”
Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg responded on his blog, acknowledging forthrightly that Pulse was a nightclub for “Gay, Lesbian, Transgender” patrons. He continued:
“[S]adly 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.”
Bishop David Zubik of Pittsburgh released a statement which said, in part:
“Our Muslim neighbors are grieving over this tragedy as much as our gay and lesbian neighbors. We are all God’s children. May we love, honor and respect one another as such.”
Meanwhile, in his initial response to the incident, Bishop John Noonan of Orlando did not acknowledge the gay and lesbian dimension of the attack. Preparations for his diocese’s Vigil to Dry Tears, which took place last night, had no evidence that the victims were members of the LGBT community.
Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, also ignored victims’ identities about which David Gibson noted in the National Catholic Reporter:
“That statement contrasted with Kurtz’s statement a year ago after the shooting massacre in a black church in Charleston, S.C. Speaking two days after the attack on Mother Emanuel by a white supremacist, Kurtz repeatedly condemned the ‘racism and the violence so visible today’ and called for efforts to combat both, in personal change and through public policies.”
Michael Sean Winters, in a column in the National Catholic Reporter, wrote about Kurtz’s and other bishop’s failure to identify this incident as having an anti-LGBT dimension:
“If you are so [out of touch] that you do not realize that the refusal to refer to people as they refer to themselves is offensive, especially when that same group of people has just been the object of a violent and murderous attack, stop pretending to any claim to moral leadership in the society and just go away.”
Church organizations and prominent Catholics offered statements about the shooting in Orlando as well. Fortunate Families reacted to “an act of terror and an act of hate” with a statement which said:
“Our children have the right to live, work and celebrate without fear, to create families of their own and worship in peace. We stand in solidarity with our children and all parents of LGBT+ persons as we remember those lost and those in pain. We are deeply saddened by this event, since we abhor violence of any kind, and we hold in prayer all children of God victimized by hatred – both perpetrators and victims.”
Marianne Duddy-Burke, executive director of DignityUSA, contrasted the violence with Pride celebrations and said further in a statement:
“This cruel attack will make many LGBTQ people feel unsafe and experience anxiety. For many, it will awaken memories of the days when gay bar patrons were frequently the targets of violence. . .[W]e hope and pray that our nation will come together to reject violence against LGBTQ people in the strongest possible ways.”
“This shooting directed towards the gay, lesbian and [transgender] community which resulted in injury and massive deaths, is of grave concern to Pax Christi USA. . .No amount of bigotry, fear, anger or hatred ever justifies the senseless taking of lives.”
Across the Atlantic, in London, England, the city’s LGBT Catholic Community, which was gathered for its regular 2nd Sunday Mass at Farm Street Jesuit Parish, responded promptly in prayer by adding the following petition to their liturgy: “We pray for the 50 people who lost their lives this morning in the terror attack on the gay night-club in Florida, for the injured, and for their families and loved ones.”
Jesuit Fr. James Martin released a powerful statement about the Orlando shooting, saying that this time of grief and fear for LGBT communities was a moment for Christians and Catholics to stand with them. Martin criticized the bishops’ silence, saying church leaders would express solidarity if this massacre happened to a particular ethnic group or religious denomination. That so few bishops expressed solidarity with LGBT communities is, in his words, “revelatory.” Martin continued at America:
“This is revelatory. It reveals how the L.G.B.T. community is invisible to much of church. Even in death they are invisible. For too long Catholics have treated the L.G.B.T. community as ‘other.’ But for the Christian there is no ‘other.’ There is no ‘them.’ There is only ‘us.’
“This is a moment to end this ‘us’ and ‘them.’ For there is no ‘them’ in the church, because for Jesus there was no ‘them.’ He consistently reaches out to those on the margins, bringing all people in. Those who are invisible to the community are seen by Jesus. By seeing them, by welcoming them, by loving them, he makes the ‘them’ an ‘us.’
“Catholics are invited to make every person feel valuable and visible, especially at times of loss. Jesus asks us to do this. The church needs to stand in solidarity with all of ‘us’ in Orlando.”
You can watch Fr. Martin’s full statement in the video below or by clicking here.
Finally, another Jesuit, Brendan Patrick Busse, offered sharp words against church leaders who he said “have an allergy to the word ‘gay’ in their statements of condolence.” He wrote on Facebook:
“Something ‘intrinsically disordered’ revealed itself again in Orlando today and it was armed with bad religion and an assault rifle. I fear our government is complicit in one of those causes and our Church in the other. To speak around the particulars of this violence – its inspiration and its target – is to perpetuate it.
“Defending the ‘dignity of all’ in public means very little if we can’t bring ourselves to defend the dignity of our LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, and Queer – family members in particular and in pride.
“Praying for Orlando is prudent. . .Praying for Pulse is prophetic.”
In yesterday’s statement from New Ways Ministry’s Executive Dirctor Francis DeBernardo, he noted that by the end of Sunday, Cupich was the only bishop who had mentioned gay and lesbian people in his reaction to the massacre. It is a relief to know that at least two other bishops have joined him, and that other Catholic leaders are recognizing the glaring omission on other bishops’ part. May Catholic leaders increasingly pray not only for Orlando, but by clearly and proudly naming the LGBT identities that have been targeted, pray for Pulse and by extension all affected LGBT people too.
We will continue to post more about Catholic reactions to and analyses of the Orlando massacre in the coming days.