Bishops Respond to Violence in the U.S.

Over the course of the past few months, the news has been filled with stories about violence – from the mass shooting at an Orlando nightclub, to the killing of two men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the subsequent murder of police officers in the line of duty.   

Racial tension has escalated, and protestors have taken to the streets with the Black Lives Matter movement.

In response, Catholic bishops throughout the country have issued statements condemning the latest gun violence plaguing our nation and calling for its end, as well as the elimination of racial intolerance and bigotry, while expressing gratitude for the bravery and support of law enforcement.

“Only love can break the cycle of violence,” Bishop Mark Seitz of El Paso said, and Bishop John E. Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, prayed, “May God grant us true peace rooted in justice.”

The bishops have consistently decried division among racial and cultural groups. Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), delivered a statement on race relations in St. Louis on June 10, 2015, less than a year after the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. At that time, Archbishop Kurtz said, in part:

“In every instance, our prayer for every community is that of our Lord in Saint John’s Gospel, ‘that they all may be one.’

… Here we are in St. Louis where, in 1947, Cardinal Joseph Ritter, who died 48 years ago today, integrated Catholic schools well before the 1954 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education. It shows that the Catholic Church can be at the forefront of promoting justice in racial tensions. It is time for us to do it again. I suggest five concrete ways in which the Catholic community can commit to ending racism and promoting peace, justice and respect for all persons:

1. Pray for peace and healing among all people.

2. Study the Word of God and the social teaching of the Church in order to gain a deeper appreciation of the dignity of all persons.

3. Make a sincere effort to encounter more fully people of different racial backgrounds with whom we live, work, and minister.

4. Pursue ways in which Catholic parishes and neighborhoods can be truly welcoming of families of different racial and religious backgrounds.

5. Get to know our local law enforcement officers. Let them know of our support and gratitude. And encourage young people to respect all legitimate authority.”

The following is a statement from Archbishop Kurtz on the most recent violence in Dallas:

“The assassination of Dallas police officers was an act of unjustifiable evil. To all people of good will, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity. To my brothers and sisters in Christ, let us gather at the Cross of Jesus. Our Savior suffered at the hands of humanity’s worst impulses, but He did not lose hope in us or in His heavenly father. Love overcomes evil.

“The police are not a faceless enemy. They are sons and daughters offering their lives to protect their brothers and sisters. Jesus reminds us, “no one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). So too, the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat. They are members of our family in need of assistance, protection and fairness. When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another.

“The need to place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life, calls us to a moment of national reflection. In the days ahead, we will look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.

“Let us pray for the comfort of everyone affected and that our national conversation will bear the good fruit of healing and peace.”