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home : bishop : columns

6/16/2016 9:00:00 AM
BISHOP'S COLUMN
In defense of human life
On the massacre
in Orlando, Fla.

BY BISHOP EDWARD B. SCHARFENBERGER


How much more violence does it take?

Do we need any further reminders than what our nation has just witnessed: the evil of any way of thinking or acting that treats any class of human beings differently, as inferior or less worthy of God's love and mercy than any other?

By what conceit does any individual or group of human beings presume to substitute their own rage or self-anointed design for the mercy of God's patience?

What follows below is but a flawed attempt to find a path toward the healing of a grave wound that we have all sustained in our common humanity. The God of infinite love and patience, whose mercy is never spent, is the only path I know.

It is to that one, true God that I appeal in prayer for all of us, especially the victims and their family and friends, living and deceased, of last Sunday's massacre in Florida. As Christians, we unite with them all.

At this writing, it is too early to form any sound conclusion about the state of mind, motivation and malicious associations of Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people June 12 at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla. - let alone to weigh all possible ideological, theological and psychogenic factors inferable from the still-accruing evidence.

But whatever -- or whoever -- possessed this man last Sunday morning to enter the Orlando nightclub Pulse, described by its owner as "a place of love and acceptance for the LGBTQ community," Mateen's objective seemed clear enough: to put a violent end to defenseless members of a class of human beings simply because they existed and he did not want them to live.

Our Christian faith, by contrast, teaches us that God loves all human beings without exception, even those whom we may not particularly like, understand or find convenient. It affirms, based on God's love and the goodness of our common humanity, the unconditional and irrevocable dignity of every human life -- without distinction by class or status -- from conception to natural death.

This, in turn, compels us to love and respect every human being, regardless of how we might personally value his or her thoughts or actions. This conviction is lived out, in practice, by our respect and care for the most vulnerable lives of unborn humans, as well as those in the final stages of their lives, however compromised their mental or physical condition may be due to age or illness.

We also uphold the dignity of the lives of those whose physical or mental conditions may be considered compromised or "handicapped" in any current socio-cultural consensus.

Respect for all human lives includes those who experience the mystery of their sexuality differently from others of their identified gender.

Our call is always to accompany, not abandon, all our human sisters and brothers throughout their life journeys, especially when they are in pain or experience exclusion or persecution because of their class or status.

At this time, we must state unequivocally that our respect for the dignity of all human beings includes those who themselves identify or are associated in the judgment of others as members of the LGBTQ community, a class whose vulnerability to acts of terrorism was graphically and shockingly exposed at the massacre in Orlando.

As Christians, we can unite with them -- for, just as we have seen Christians targeted for violence and death in the Middle East with the advance of ISIS simply because they are Christian, now we see another class of human beings singled out for a terrorist act simply because they exist.

Not all vulnerable human beings who are targeted because they are hated, unwanted or simply deemed as "useless lives" (the Hitlerian term) by others, are destroyed so luridly and sensationally. Yet countless human lives are disposed of every day in facilities and institutions in our nation under the guise of medical or "therapeutic" interventions, masking what is really going on: the direct and intentional termination of human lives.

No more than we can tolerate the elimination of the unborn or the vulnerable elderly because they are deemed inconvenient or difficult to manage can we devalue the lives of those who do not easily fit in to our ideals of a perfect humanity.

Only one who equates himself with God -- or believes God takes all his orders -- can take it upon himself to end the life of another simply for being who they are. Is this not the ultimate blasphemy: to claim to honor God by destroying God's created image?

Can any of us honestly say that we have never given in to the temptation to diminish or exclude some class of persons by stereotypical or hateful thoughts or actions? Every human being with the use of reason, regardless of his or her status, is prone to sin. Jesus famously confronted a crowd eager to stone a woman caught in the act of adultery (her accomplice was never apprehended) when He turned the tables on them, saying, "Let anyone without sin cast the first stone."

Thank God that God is infinitely more patient with us sinners than fellow sinners are with one another! Yes, the unspeakable word, "sin," rears its ugly head from generation to generation in all societies and cultures. Indeed, God hates the sin, but never the sinner, our biblical faith tells us; and existence is never in itself a sin, never an evil to be eradicated by any human device or design.

We rightfully decry the hatred and violence of terrorist actions such as those seen in the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, or the genocidal conflicts we have witnessed in recent decades in parts of Africa, Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe. Can we afford to ignore the growing intolerance for freedom of speech, religious expression and conscience rights in our own country, which threaten human dignity and lead to intolerance and oppression, eventually breeding violence?

We have seen the brutality of ISIS in its outright persecution of Christians, ethnic minorities and of people identified as gay in the Middle East -- or has that been too far away to notice? The blindness of the media has been deafening. Now, we see an act of unspeakable violence closer to home and by one individual - who reportedly claimed an association with ISIS -- against another group of human beings belonging to a class that he patently despised.

There have always been and will be powers in this world whose design is to divide us as a nation by actions provoking us to respond in kind with hatred and violence. One thing that can unite us is our trust in God's patience with us sinners, along with our uncompromised conviction as Americans -- whatever our religious faith -- that every human being is a being of moral worth, from conception to natural death. And this is so without regard to any class or status assigned us by human custom or judgment, or by personal or institutional convenience.

Simply said, to devalue one human life is to devalue all human lives. United in the defense of human life we must stand.

(Follow the Bishop at www.facebook.com/AlbanyBishopEd and on Twitter @AlbBishopEd.).



Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, June 16, 2016
Article comment by: Rob Schrader

I think this article needs to be shared around the world but also to a few people that have shows on Immaculate Heart Radio. I think sometimes they fall short of the message they are trying to convey by continuing to slam those of us with shortcomings in living the perfect Catholic faith that they claim to live. I think that Catholics everywhere could learn from this article. Thank you so very much for writing it. God bless



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