Catholic faithful need not feel guilty about the Orlando massacre—and shouldn’t change their stance of marriage because of it
A few years ago, when I was an unemployed 20-something living with my parents, my dad gave me some great advice: Never apologize for something out of your control.
You see, my dad is the kind of guy who works tirelessly each and every day; the kind of guy who appreciates the little things that can make a Tuesday night of sending after-work emails a little less onerous.
Things like a bowl of ice cream.
Being that unemployed 20-something, I had taken it upon myself to play (among other roles) chief grocery shopper for my parents. And when, through the natural course of the week, we ran out of ice cream, I blamed myself for not paying better attention to my parents and their needs.
“It’s not your fault,” dad said. “You weren’t the guy who ate it all.”
Sunday, June 19, would have been a great time for Catholic leaders to cite my dad’s advice.
The timing—Father’s Day—was certainly appropriate. Likewise, themes espousing the importance of both biological fathers and our Heavenly Father will never become trite for the Catholic community.
Perhaps most important, though, was the question of how Catholics should respond to the events of the week before. Omar Mateen’s methodic killing spree at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was still fresh on the country’s mind, if only for the fact that it had become the issue of the week for the 2016 presidential candidates.
But as my local parish priest slowly began his homily, reading over carefully prepared words that I imagine were typed up the night before, it became apparent that he didn’t share in my father’s mantra.
Quoting Bishop Robert Lynch, the priest proceeded to echo a disturbing and unfortunate line of thinking that has, at best, charged Catholics with complicity in the Pulse nightclub massacre, and, at worst, suggested that Church doctrine regarding homosexuality and gender contributed to the “culture” that contributed to Omar Mateen’s heinous actions.
“Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people,” wrote Lunch, who serves as bishop of St. Petersburg, Florida.
Interesting. Where Lynch could have cited the Catholic Church’s actual teaching on homosexuality, and reminded the country that the Catechism calls for “respect, compassion, and sensitivity” for those in the LGBT community, he instead implied a guilt-by-association mindset on the basis of the Church’s understanding of marriage as between one man and one woman.
It doesn’t end there.
In a move that could have been pulled from the Obama administrations playbook, Lynch avoided mention of Islam, the Islamic State, or the fact that there are several predominantly Muslim countries in the world in which homosexuality is punishable by death. Instead, speaking to a group of American Catholics, Bishop Lynch presumed that the faithful do not comprehend the church’s teachings towards those in the LGBT community, and in doing so, they propagate a society in which Mateen’s actions are a rational side effect.
And in implying these things, Bishop Lynch, as well as my parish priest, provided yet another stone for the secular left to throw at all religions, and in particular the Catholic Church.
The response has been predictable.
Florida attorney general Pam Bondi, who opposed same-sex marriage on constitutional grounds, was grilled by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on national television. The New York Times stooped even lower, blaming conservative states at the forefront of recent efforts to enact religious freedom measures that wouldn’t force businesses to cater to radical gender ideology proponents.
To be fair, Bishop Lynch never endorsed homosexual marriage, nor did my parish priest, in quoting him, espouse an anti-rational belief that gender is a “social construct” held up a tyrannical religious hierarchy (as a current graduate student, I am all too familiar with this line.) However, in ignoring the prime motivations for Mateen’s actions, not to mention faulting guns and citing the usual line about unfairly judging Islam based on the actions of a few, Lynch and other Catholic leaders essentially endorsed the Democratic party’s interpretation of the events in Orlando.
The timing, less than two weeks before the annual March for Marriage, could not have been worse. Likewise, with the presidential election only six months away, and with the Obama administration still ramrodding its policy of coercing the country to acknowledge the anti-rational basis of “gender fluidity” one executive action at a time, the words of Lynch threaten the very nature of religious freedom in America. Truth—in the sanctity of marriage, in the nature of gender—is under assault, and nothing said by Lynch went so far as to defend this Truth while still affirming our belief that people in the LGBT community are children of God.
In the wake of the Orlando massacre, we as American Catholics will hear much about love from the mouths of those conformed to secular society. Undoubtedly, this message should resonate for us. As members of a global Church that has frequently been targeted by ISIS, we can even extend a level of empathy that many in secular society cannot. Make no mistake about it, Lynch was right when he wrote that any “signaling out people for victimization” based on sexual orientation “has to stop.” But the Church cannot speak for the ideological and theological battle raging within Islam, and we, as Catholics and Christians, bear no fault in the creating whatever “culture” contributed to Mateen’s delusions.
If we forget Truth, and if we begin to apologize for it, we will create a society where that victimization will be thrust upon not just the faithful, but all peoples. And as Pope Francis reminds us, “Without truth, love is incapable of establishing a firm bond; it cannot liberate our isolated ego or redeem it from the fleeting moment in order to create life and bear fruit.”
We have, we do, stand for the Truth. We have nothing to apologize for.
Photo: NEW YORK, NY – JUNE 12: A man lays down 50 roses to honor each victim of the gay Orlando night club shooting as people gather outside of the Stonewall Inn as a vigil is held following the massacre that occurred on June 12, 2016 in New York City. A gunman who allegedly pledged allegiance with ISIS opened fired in the gay nightclub in Florida killing over 50 people. (Photo by Monika Graff/Getty Images)