Orlando Massacre: How have US Bishops Responded?

Politicians across the board have joined LGBT groups in condemning the tragic attack on a gay nightclub, in which over 50 people were killed. What about the Catholic bishops: how have they responded?

orlando shooting

I’ve been searching on-line for Catholic responses, and of course they have been many, typically Catholic reactions. There’ve been calls for prayer, and laments for the suffering and loss of life.  President of the US Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Kurz, for example, tweeted

Kurz response to Orlando

This is obviously welcome, but studiously avoids the important point. This is not just an arbitrary massacre, but quite specifically a massacre of gay people, precisely because they are gay.

By avoiding reference to the gay hatred element of this crime, the bishops are failing to keep to an important element of Catholic teaching on homosexuality.

10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church’s pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law.

(CDF, Letter to the Bishops on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, 1986)

Archbishop Kurz’s statement does call us to a greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person – which obviously includes gay people, but he should have spelled that out. Even if he had done, he should have gone still further. Paragraph 10 of the CDF letter condemns “violent malice” not only in action, but also in speech.  Homophobic language breeds hatred, hatred breeds violence. Many bishops, along with other self-appointed protectors of Catholic sexual teaching, have simply neglected to implement this important element of that teaching, just as they have far too often failed in the parallel insistence in Catholic teaching that gay men and lesbian should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”.

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