Two leading U.S. Catholic journals have now published editorial statements about the Orlando massacre — National Catholic Reporter and Commonweal. I'm recommending both of them to you with the following excerpts, and making a note of particular gratitude to Commonweal, which I had initially criticized for its anemic response to this anti-LGBTQ act of mass murder.
The massacre in Orlando was a heinous hate crime, a moment screaming out for moral outrage, for the words to match the horrific reality. What the Catholic community in the United States received from the president of its bishops' conference was a three-sentence serving of sanctimonious boilerplate that, except for the use of the term "violence," might have been referring to a natural disaster or a plane crash.
We appreciate the stronger statements coming from individual bishops -- Blase Cupich of Chicago, Robert McElroy of San Diego, Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., Gerald Barnes of San Bernardino, Calif., Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport, Conn., and Edward Scharfenberger of Albany, N.Y., notable among them. These statements not only called out the country's gun violence but named the shooting a hate crime against the LGBT community and expressed solidary with that community. Some even acknowledged religion's role in fostering "contempt" against gays and lesbians.
The Catholic community, however, does not have to wait for approval or direction from on high to know what to do in this extreme circumstance. Ordinary Catholics as a group were well ahead of the hierarchy in approving the extension of rights to the LGBT community. Catholics consistently poll as among the most tolerant of all denominations, despite some particularly ugly content in official documents and hierarchical pronouncements.
The Catholic community knows a hate crime when it sees it and should do all it can to promote understanding and tolerance.
The survivors of the massacre—including more than fifty wounded people, the families and friends of the slain, and the nation as a whole—are mourning the dead, giving comfort to the afflicted, and trying to come to grips with the deadliest mass shooting in the country's history, one that purposefully targeted the LGBT community. As President Obama noted, what happened in Orlando was both terrorism and a hate crime. It is wrong to downplay or ignore the fact that Mateen's victims were murdered for being gay.
As I listened to President Obama speaking about the Orlando massacre, it struck me as deeply sad — scandalous, really, and in the extreme — that the clear moral articulation of what took place in the Orlando massacre came from our president and not from the top pastoral leaders of the Catholic church.
What an indictment of their pastoral and moral leadership.