People embrace outside the headquarters of the Orlando, Fla., Police Department June 12 during the investigation of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando. CNS photo/Steve Nesius, Reuters

Chicago archbishop decries targeting of gays in Orlando attack

By  David Gibson, Religion News Service
  • June 13, 2016

Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich has decried the apparent targeting of gays and lesbians in the Orlando nightclub massacre and called for greater efforts on gun control, the first senior U.S. Catholic churchman to identify a likely reason the victims were singled out and raise the controversial issue of access to weapons.

“Our prayers and hearts are with the victims of the mass shooting in Orlando, their families and our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters,” Cupich said in a statement issued Sunday afternoon (June 12).

His comments came as details emerged about the early morning attack by a Florida man — a Muslim who pledged loyalty to the extremist Islamic State group — that left 50 dead and more than 50 injured.

It was the largest mass shooting in U.S. history and the worst terror attack since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

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

Cupich, whose city faces a scourge of gun violence, also raised the issue of gun control.

After Memorial Day, the number of people shot this year in Chicago was at about 1,500 — up more than 50 percent over last year, according to the Chicago Tribune. Of those, at least 250 had been killed.

The attacker in Orlando, Omar Mateen, 29, who was killed in a shootout at the club with police, recently bought a handgun and an AR-15-style assault rifle, the type of weapon commonly used in mass shootings.

“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,” Cupich said. “We can no longer stand by and do nothing.”

Earlier Sunday, the Vatican released a statement saying that the attack prompted “the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil” in the pope, who called for prayers for the victims and their families.

The statement did not mention the sexual identity of the victims or the mass marketing of weapons — a topic the pontiff raised in his historic address to Congress last September.

The Vatican statement Sunday did say that Francis hopes “that ways may be found, as soon as possible, to effectively identify and contrast the causes of such terrible and absurd violence which so deeply upsets the desire for peace of the American people and of the whole of humanity.”

Cupich has been one of the few U.S. prelates to speak out against gun violence and for gun control, but his mention of the sexual orientation of the victims in the attack at a gay nightclub was unusual as well.

Many Catholic leaders expressed their grief and horror at the massacre, and called for prayers.

But it was rare to find any mention either of the gunman’s apparent motive or the fact that gays and lesbians were targeted.

Indeed, even using the terms “gays and lesbians” is notable, as churchmen tend to prefer the term “homosexuals” or to speak of people with a “same-sex attraction.”

The head of the Orlando diocese, Bishop John Noonan, late Sunday afternoon called for a prayer vigil for Monday evening (June 13) but made no mention of the fact that the attacker targeted a gay nightclub.

Noonan lamented the “massive assault on the dignity of human life” and said prayers had been offered for “victims of violence and acts of terror … for their families and friends … and all those affected by such acts against God’s love.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami also did not mention the sexual orientation of many of the victims but in his statement said: “Hatred blinded the conscience of the perpetrator of these horrible acts, acts no one must be allowed to excuse or justify. The survival of civilization demands zero tolerance towards such acts of barbarism. Hate-inspired terrorism is still a clear and present danger in our world.”

Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik warned late Sunday against “taking out our grief or anger on any group of people” and added:

“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.”

A brief statement from the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Louisville Archbishop Joseph Kurtz, bemoaned the “unspeakable violence,” called for prayers and “ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.”

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.

It remains to be seen if Catholic leaders will become more specific in their comments in the coming days. The American hierarchy is currently gathering in California for a closed-door retreat that is expected to last several days.

Other Catholics have not been hesitant to note the elephant in the room, as it were.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and popular writer, tweeted early Sunday afternoon that while he was not sure about the gunman’s motivations, “church leaders must speak out against hatred and violence directed against LGBT people.”

Comments (1)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Religion kills, again.

Religion killed dozens of innocent gay people in Orlando BECAUSE of the shooter's religious beliefs, beliefs shared by most major religions. The big lie “homosexuality is wrong,” was invented by Religion. That’s what...

Religion kills, again.

Religion killed dozens of innocent gay people in Orlando BECAUSE of the shooter's religious beliefs, beliefs shared by most major religions. The big lie “homosexuality is wrong,” was invented by Religion. That’s what happened. Of course it’s terror and a hate crime, but why

Read More
Andrew W
There are no comments posted here yet

Leave your comments

  1. Posting comment as a guest. Sign up or login to your account.
Attachments (0 / 3)
Share Your Location
Type the text presented in the image below

Support The Catholic Register

Unlike many other news websites, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our site. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.