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Kevin ClarkeJune 18, 2016
A woman visits a memorial in downtown Orlando, Fla., June 14, that honors the victims of the mass shooting at a gay nightclub. (CNS photo/John Taggart, EPA)

Acts of public mourning and solidarity were observed around the nation and around the world in the aftermath of the lone gunman attack in Orlando that claimed 49 lives and left 53 others wounded. Family members identified and began to bury their lost loved ones this week as expressions of regret and sorrow continued to be issued by faith leaders around the country.

One of the first to express his shock and solidarity immediately after the attack was Archbishop Blase Cupich of Chicago, and in his brief initial statement on June 12, he made a direct appeal to the nation’s L.G.B.T. community. In an interview on America Media’s SiriusXm Radio program “America This Week,” the archbishop spoke with America magazine’s Editor in Chief Matt Malone, S.J., and its managing editor, Kerry Weber. “I wanted to focus my attention on a number of things, first of all the victims, especially members in the gay and lesbian community who obviously were targets here, and I think we had to say that,” he told them.

“You know, 30 years ago the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter describing as deplorable the fact that some homosexual persons, as they put it, have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action, and at that time…they said that such treatment deserves condemnation from the church’s pastors whenever it occurs, so I believe it was important to raise my voice in this moment because this is what the church is asking us to do and has asked to do for over 30 years now.”

Archbishop Cupich also suggested that the church can no longer stand on the sidelines in the debate over gun control but had “to address the causes of such tragedy, including easy access to deadly weapons.”

The bloodshed in Orlando, he explained during his interview, “has to provoke a more fulsome discussion on that issue in our country.”

“We have to look at the root causes of all of this,” Archbishop Cupich said. In the gunman, Omar Mateen, the archbishop sees “a very lethal combination of an unstable personality,” psychic conflict and homophobia, the incitement to violence offered by ISIS internet propaganda and “finally, the idealization of guns as the best means to take out one’s rage on others.” But it was “easy access to guns” that made possible the horrific attack,” he said.

“It’s the spark that allows that explosion to happen.”

Archbishop Cupich quickly followed up his initial statement with a letter that was read in Chicago on June 12 before a Sunday night Mass for the lay organization A.G.L.O. (Archdiocesan Gay and Lesbian Outreach). “Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,” Archbishop Cupich wrote: “For you here today and throughout the whole lesbian and gay community, who are particularly touched by the heinous crimes committed in Orlando, motivated by hate, driven perhaps by mental instability and certainly empowered by a culture of violence, know this: the Archdiocese of Chicago stands with you. I stand with you.

“Let our shared grief and our common faith in Jesus, who called the persecuted blessed, unite us so that hatred and intolerance are not allowed to flourish, so that those who suffer mental illness know the support of a compassionate society, so that we find the courage to face forthrightly the falsehood that weapons of combat belong anywhere in the civilian population.”

The archbishop explained that he has made a point of meeting with members of A.G.L.O. to directly hear of the concerns and experiences of L.G.B.T. Catholics in the archdiocese and “just to get to know who they are as persons.”

“I don’t think sometimes people in positions of leadership in the church really engage gay and lesbian people and talk to them and get to know about their lives.” He explained his personal outreach is an attempt to emulate the example set by Pope Francis.

“The pope constantly talks about those three words: encounter, accompany and integrate. That’s the template for us in our approach to people who feel excluded, whether gay and lesbian or other populations out there. That’s the demand that is before us in this moment, and the Holy Father is taking the lead and I feel the way he is operating is very encouraging, but also very insightful.”

Archbishop Cupich said that integrating marginalized members of the church community can be a source of essential sustenance for struggling individuals, perhaps even someone as spiritually and psychologically conflicted as the Orlando gunman. Was he so marginalized and repressed by his environment that he was “not able to have a healthy way to live an internally free life?” the archbishop wondered.

He agreed that leaders of the church in America have yet to successfully reach out to many gay and lesbian Catholics who feel isolated from the larger church community or alienated by it.

Toward resolving that dilemma, he said: “First of all, I think it’s always important to make sure that we describe people in the way that they describe themselves rather than forcing a language upon them.

“That’s a starting point, it seems to me; it shows respect for people.” But getting beyond labels and “getting to know people as they are is very, very important,” he said. That can prevent categorizing and dehumanizing people.

“We’re all different; we all have our ways of understanding ourselves and the way we live our lives and struggle with our humanity,” he said. “That is not necessarily a challenge,” the archbishop quickly added, “it can be a great joy once you get to know people.”

During the Sermon on the Mount, he said, Jesus “looked at a bunch of people who were struggling, who had oppression against them, who were hungering for different things in life. But what did he do? He looked at the crowd and said, ‘Blessed are you.’

“He looked at where the blessings and the graces were happening in their lives, and I think that the church has to do that as well in lifting people up and helping them cultivate the goodness of God’s graces that are in their lives.”

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Pancho Mulongeni
7 years 8 months ago
Hello, my name is Pancho, I am a 30 years of age and I am from Namibia and Bulgaria. I am gay and Roman Catholic. I am a grad student at the University of Cape Town, where I spent my days researching public health and being a hopeless romantic, falling in love with other male grade students with whom I wax philosophical. It is very charitable that a Bishop from the Church in the US condemns the attacks. I am also glad our local priest in Cape Town, South Africa condemned the attack. But I want to say, what I told a fellow member of the parish I went to. Being LGBT and Catholic need not be a struggle. From the article, I gather the Bishop presupposes the natural condition of queer people of faith is a struggle. In my case, my ongoing struggle is how is my love for Christ, who I see in the gay men around me, some of whom are living as couples, part of the larger Church. So my point is, as a gay Catholic, the language I would choose is just Catholic and queer, not struggling Catholic and queer. I post this comment in solidarity with the people in the US. I really want to speak from a place of humility, so I hope this comment does not set off a tit for tat series of comments. These attacks are horrid, and the last thing I want is for any person to feel I am detracting from the attack to make a different point. All I mean to add is to the wonderful attempt to bring LGBT people back into the fold - the aim of the Chicago Bishop. I am just adding my own experience.Peace.
7 years 8 months ago
Thank you for your comments. Peace!
J Cabaniss
7 years 8 months ago
There are several ways to look at the Orlando shooting: as homosexual bigotry, as a gun control problem...or as another act of Islamic extremism. Archbishop Cupich made it quite clear he thinks the first two reasons explain the attack. I think he is mistaken, both as to the reason for the shooting and as to what constitutes Islamic extremism. It is obviously true that those people were shot because they were homosexuals, but that alone does not explain the attack. Christian teaching condemns homosexual acts but could never under any circumstances justify the massacre of homosexuals. Can the same be said of Islamic teaching? Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a British born doctor and Muslim scholar, gave speeches in Orlando in April calling for Muslims to "get rid of" homosexuals. That may be an extreme view of how homosexuals should be treated, but it is based on teachings that are quite mainstream within Islam. Imam Yaseen Shaikh, who Obama met with back in February said about homosexual behavior that it: “is an immoral act, it is a shameful act, it is despised act, it is haram, it is forbidden in Islam, completely, absolutely.." To his credit he also said the purpose of his talk was not to incite hatred, but it is necessary to be very clear about Islam: "Whatever the Koran commands we accept", and based on the laws enacted in Saudi Arabia and a half-dozen other Islamic states, it would seem that what the Koran commands for homosexuals is death. To assert that the Orlando shootings were caused merely by gay bigotry is to ignore the elephant in the living room.
Vincent Gaglione
7 years 8 months ago
One presumes that there would have been from the national conference of Catholic Bishops strong and empathetic statements in reaction to the Orlando shootings, as well as to other past incidents of mass violence. When I visited their website the day after the event, there was only a short prosaic statement, like a press release. The Bishops of Chicago, Orlando, and another Bishop in Florida whom I do not recall, issued personal long and supportive statements expressing sympathy, empathy, calls to justice and decency, and Christian charity. Here in NY, the Archdiocese alleged as the most important in the nation, the best I heard was an item in the prayer of the faithful at my parish Sunday Mass. Though the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith provided instructions to the faithful on how to outreach to homosexuals 30 years ago, it would seem the majority of our nation's Catholic Bishops remain essentially either ignorant of those instructions or deliberately ignoring them. It is just another sign of how broken the Catholic Church in the USA is.
7 years 8 months ago

It is good to hear Abp. Cupich repeat what the CDF stated 30 years ago: "10. It is deplorable that homosexual persons have been and are the object of violent malice in speech or in action. Such treatment deserves condemnation from the Church's pastors wherever it occurs. It reveals a kind of disregard for others which endangers the most fundamental principles of a healthy society. The intrinsic dignity of each person must always be respected in word, in action and in law."


Yet Abp Cupich stops there and fails to dialogue with the Church on the rest of the CDF statement which elevates the homosexual orientation as immoral, out of God's graces, instrinsically disordered. It is an extremely long flagellation of a condition known to man since creation. This from an organization whose ordained clerics are largely homosexuals. The scandal is graver for church leaders to denounce that which they espouse in the stealth of their private lives. Can we ever have the real conversation on homosexuality and the ordained?

It is curious after more than 2000 years that the Church makes lust the preeminent sin while barely thundering about the other six cardinal sins.

Gluttony. If only the US Bishops, "defenders of the Faith", showed us a better way.
Pride - the father of all lies
Wrath - not a few prelates showed us their animus when Pope Francis visited the USA with a few causing scandal and confusion (e.g. Canon Law) by publicly writing hateful articles in mainstream and religious publications.

We wonder why Catholics barely attend Mass and have lost faith in the Sacraments. Those who still believe are true heroes if not "intrinsically disordered" to borrow a phrase from that august teaching body.

Abp Cupich, please lead our US Church in an authentic dialogue regarding the root of the murders in Orlando: self-loathing homosexuals. Leading such a dialogue by those who parade like Drag Queens wearing Cappa Magnas would be a wonderful start. No offense to LGBT performers.

Tim O'Leary
7 years 8 months ago
Guillermo - A lot of wrath and animus of the clergy in your comment. You call them "largely homosexuals" and drag queens, meaning both as hateful insults. So, you don't practice what you preach. Do you think there are no sexual inclinations that are "intrinsically disordered"? Any strong persistent inclinations to use one's body against its God-given purpose is disordered. It is intrinsic if it is deep-seated, compulsive and very difficult to avoid. It is intrinsic if it is by its nature sinful or leads to sin. These disorders exist among plenty of heterosexuals. Look at the common popularity of pornography, oral sex, S&M or "kinky" whatever. Look at the amount of divorce and infidelity and pre-marital sex, the epidemic of venereal disease and abortion, etc. Christ taught that any sexual activity outside a marriage between a man and a women was sinful (note his condemnation of fornication Mt 15:19) so your problem goes directly to the Lord. Take it up with Him. The Orlando shooter was motivated to kill and die as an ISIS martyr. Given his extensive methodical pre-planning (getting insurance documents in order, selling property to other family members for next to nothing, multiple visits to soft targets like the bar and Disney world, multiple attempts to buy firearms, bombs and protective armor, etc.) after his return from Saudi Arabia, it is clear that was his primary motivation. He may also have been homosexual. He wanted to pick as soft a target as he could and a gun free zone bar of predominantly Latino gays was certainly that. Christians should mourn the terrible loss of life and pray for the eternal souls of those who died, and for those they left behind, and for an end to gun violence, and an end to this scourge of Islamic jihadi violence, and for better protection by our police, and government (who seems lost in weakness and ideological confusion). Those in the bar were our brothers and sisters first, before they were members of an acronym or some ideological group. Christ called us to love the sinner and hate the sin and that is all the Church teaches. If we can do that, we can be saints.

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