USCCB president says violence calls for ‘moment of national reflection’

Erik S. Lesser | Catholic News Service
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WASHINGTON — The shooting of police officers July 7 near the end of a demonstration in Dallas against fatal shootings by police officers in Baton Rouge and Minneapolis earlier in the week "calls us to a moment of national reflection," said the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"To all people of goodwill, let us beg for the strength to resist the hatred that blinds us to our common humanity," said Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., in a statement July 8.

The archbishop described the sniper attack on the Dallas police officers "an act of unjustifiable evil."

He said the "police are not a faceless enemy" but people offering their lives to protect others. He also said "the suspects in crimes or routine traffic stops are not just a faceless threat" but members of families in "need of assistance, protection and fairness."

"When compassion does not drive our response to the suffering of either, we have failed one another," Archbishop Kurtz said.

He said the tragic shootings are reminders of the need to "place ever greater value on the life and dignity of all persons, regardless of their station in life" and hoped that in days people would look to ways of having open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity, and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence.

Dallas Bishop Kevin J. Farrell, who has blogged in the past several months about the escalating gun violence across the country and world, reiterated his call for prayer and peace after the Dallas attack.

"Our first concern is for the families who have lost loved ones in this tragic attack," he said. "We pray for consolation and healing for both the families and those killed and wounded. We are reminded of the ever-present danger to those who are dedicated to protecting us.

"We have been swept up in the escalating cycle of violence that has now touched us intimately as it has others throughout our country and the world," he said. "All lives matter: black, white, Muslim, Christian, Hindu. We are all children of God, and all human life is precious.

"We cannot lose respect for each other and we call upon all of our civic leaders to speak to one another and work together to come to a sensible resolution to this escalating violence," he said. "Let us implore God our heavenly father to touch the minds and hearts of all people to work together for peace and understanding."

The bishop offered a special prayer at an ecumenical gathering at midday July 8 at Thanksgiving Square in downtown Dallas and celebrated a Mass for healing at the Cathedral Shrine of the Virgin of Guadalupe on July 9.

In the following days, rallies and gatherings were held in cities across the country to remember those killed in Minneapolis, Baton Rouge and Dallas. Religious leaders at a candlelight vigil in Brooklyn, N.Y., called for calm and healing for a nation that seems torn apart over race.

"Today, despite all the many advances, our nation seems to remain torn apart over race. The victims are our children, our brothers and sisters, our parents, our friends and loved ones," said Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at Grand Army Plaza in Brooklyn.

On July 12 in Dallas, President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and former President George W. Bush joined Mayor Mike Rawlings, Police Chief David O. Brown, the families of those officers killed and injured, hundreds of other law enforcement officials, and elected and interfaith leaders at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center to remember the "heroes."

"If we are to sustain unity, if we are to get through these difficult times, if we are to honor these five outstanding officers who we have lost, then we need to act on the truths that we know," President Obama said. "And that's not easy. It makes us uncomfortable. We are going to have to be honest with each other and ourselves."

The march on June 7 in Dallas was organized to show support for families of two men killed earlier in the week in officer-related shootings in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and in a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul.

In Baton Rouge, Alton Sterling, 37, was killed July 5 by police during an altercation outside a convenience store after witnesses said that he had a gun. In Minneapolis, Philando Castile was fatally shot after a traffic stop on July 6.

Archbishop Blase J. Cupich of Chicago said: "Every corner of our land is in the grip of terror fueled by anger, hatred and mental illness and made possible by plentiful, powerful weapons."

"It is time to break the cycle of violence and retaliation, of fear and powerlessness that puts more guns in our homes and on our streets," he said in a statement.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Philadelphia similarly pointed out violence is not an answer.

"The killings in Baton Rouge, Minnesota and Dallas have proven that by deepening the divides in our national life," he said in a July 8 statement.

"Black lives matter because all lives matter — beginning with the poor and marginalized, but including the men and women of all races who put their lives on the line to protect the whole community," he said. 

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