Massacre in Orlando: "Homicidal Folly and Senseless Hatred" (Pope Francis)
It was American Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr who famously declared that the Christian teaching on original sin is "the only empirically verifiable doctrine of the Christian faith."
While it might be debated that original sin is the "only" empirically verifiable Christian doctrine, there can be little doubt that there is plenty of evidence to validate the Church's teaching about the fact and consequences of original sin. Just read the papers and view the evening TV news. And, if you dare, look into the mirror of your own conscience.
The tragic slaughter of 49 people in Orlando, and the life-threatening injuries suffered by dozens of others - to say nothing of the heartache caused to the throng of victims' loved ones - is irrefutable evidence of several realities: of sin, of our good but wounded human condition, and of the power of evil the proportions of which are otherwise unexplainable. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, "Any attempt to ignore it (original sin) or to give this dark reality other names would be futile" (CCC 386). As St. John Paul II said in his 1995 encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" ("The Gospel of Life"), we live in a world that includes, among its many cultures, a growing "culture of death." Think Orlando, ISIS, abortion, assisted suicide, war, on and on.
As we work to build a civilization of love, we ask God in His mercy to embrace all of the men and women who were savagely murdered and injured in the Orlando attack. We also offer our condolences to the homosexual community, which clearly appears to have been the target of this hateful crime.
Religious Freedom Still At Risk
We have been observing recently the Fortnight for Freedom, focusing again on St. Thomas More and St. John Fisher - two 16th century martyrs and witnesses to freedom, who showed such courage and conviction in the face of government persecution. Both were executed by King Henry VIII because of their steadfast defense of the Catholic faith.
The U.S. bishops have placed a high priority on the issue of preserving religious freedom, primarily out of concern about the way the federal government has mandated that most religious employers must cover immoral procedures (abortion-inducing drugs for example) in their insurance plans, even if those employers are in conscience opposed to that coverage. This should not be perceived as a Catholic issue. If the government can violate conscience rights for one group, no others are safe either. There are grave consequences to this threat to our religious freedom as it can cripple our work in the public square. Our ministries with the poor, refugees and migrants are just a few areas of our social ministry that would be threatened. We dare not forget the even more alarming threats to religious freedom in the Middle East, China, Pakistan and elsewhere.
Dear brothers and sisters, please stay informed about all of this, and speak out and act whenever and however you can. Remember, religious liberty is our first, most cherished freedom. It is about a lot more than our freedom to worship, as central as that is to our Catholic lives. Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, pray for us.
Farewell to Rick Franusiak
As you may know, this July edition of the Western New York Catholic is the final one for Rick Franusiak, who has been with the paper since 1984. Rick's dedicated work led him from reporting and photography duties to his current role as managing editor. I congratulate Rick on his 32-year career with the WNYC, which has been greatly enhanced and strengthened during his tenure. I know that you all join me in thanking him and promising our prayers for the years ahead. May your retirement be a time of much peace and joy, Rick!
A Bit of Summertime R&R and World Youth Day
As is my longstanding custom, I will take the first two weeks of July as vacation time. Back to Massachusetts I go, to spend restful days with loved ones and friends there, catch up on reading and reflection, walk my Lab Timon along the beach, and do some writing. Later, I will join our diocesan pilgrims and head to Kraków, Poland, for World Youth Day with Pope Francis. I was honored to be chosen by the Holy See as one of 13 U.S. bishops to give catechesis and celebrate the Eucharist in Poland with English-speaking pilgrims from around the world. Please pray for us as we will for you!