June 16, 2016
In the ministry of reconciliation, we often talk about establishing safe places where truth can be told, hurts can be expressed, and conflicts can be resolved. Among the many articles, essays, and opinion pieces published since Sunday’s horrific terrorist attack at Pulse, the gay nightclub in Orlando, one of the most insightful was by Justin Torres in the Washington Post. Torres, author of the novel, We the Animals, was interviewed on National Public Radio about his essay and he talked about Pulse as a “safe place” for the LGBTQ community.
“Outside, there’s a world that politicizes every aspect of your identity,” Torres writes. “There are preachers, of multiple faiths, mostly self-identified Christians, condemning you to hell. Outside, they call you an abomination. Outside, there is a news media that acts as if there are two sides to a debate over trans people using public bathrooms. Outside, there is a presidential candidate who has built a platform on erecting a wall between the United States and Mexico.” He offers several other “outside” threats against our lesbian, gay, and transgendered sisters and brothers, concluding with this: “Outside, the world can be murderous to you and your kind. Lord knows.”
In contrast to these outside threats, Torres describes places like Pulse as a place where the LGBTQ community can gather to celebrate friendship, love, and life. “Safe space is a cliché, overused and exhausted in our discourse,” Torres writes, “but the fact remains that a sense of safety transforms the body, transforms the spirit. So many of us walk through the world without it.”
The slaughter on Sunday at Pulse has reminded the world again that safe places are increasingly rare on the face of the earth. Schools were thought to be safe and then came Columbine and countless other school shootings culminating in the carnage at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Churches were safe places and then one year ago tomorrow, June 17, 2015, a young man murdered nine people who had welcomed him into their circle of prayer at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC. The most recent terrorist attack of mass murder in this country before Orlando was at a Christmas party in San Bernardino, CA.
In the scarred and frightening face of such violence, we turn to God in prayer. We pray for the victims and for the families and friends who grieve the loss of those they loved. We pray for a change of heart on the part of those who perpetrate such violence. The Lord’s prayer that we voice each day and often several times a day echoes our longing: “Deliver us from evil.”
But as important and essential as our prayer is, we must never use it as an excuse to avert our eyes from the violence that is making our planet an unsafe place for all peoples, but especially those who are on the peripheries and margins of our lives. As a Precious Blood people, it is not enough to take corporate stances as we did again last week at our Assembly when we stood in solidarity for compassionate and comprehensive immigration reform. We must also allow our prayers and corporate statements to become actions on behalf of those who are most affected by the violence that has become a contagion.
Two specific action responses to this violence come to mind. As Justin Torres wrote in his piece for the Washington Post, it is often people of religious faith who are most vocal in condemnation of the LGBTQ community with language that is an abomination. As a province, we established a LGBT committee several years ago because we believe Precious Blood spirituality calls us to be inclusive and compassionate as we recognize the dignity and image of God in each and every person. Our parishes, ministries, and places of worship are to be sacred spaces where all are welcome. In the wake of this horror in Orlando, we must recommit ourselves to be an inclusive community and confront those in our church or culture or community who seek to exclude others because of their sexual orientation. This includes challenging homophobia wherever we find it whether it be at work, at school, or at church.
Secondly, you will recall three years ago, on June 5, 2013, the Kansas City Province took a corporate stand against gun violence. Here is what we said:
Motivated by the Blood of Christ and called to be ministers of reconciliation, we, the Missionaries and Companions of the Precious Blood, Kansas City Province, affirm our belief in the sacredness of life. Present laws making it possible for uncontrolled and unlimited access to weapons and ammunition of any amount and any type do not foster a culture of life. Local, state and national legislators must pass reasonable laws which will curb the culture of violence tearing apart the fabric of our nation. The “cry of the Blood” (Genesis 4:10) demands we do no less. We come together to confront evil manifested by the culture of violence. Bonded in charity, creating a safe environment for our children, we seek to promote a culture of life and peace. We advocate for measures that reflect our founder, St. Gaspar’s message, “try to make every effort to bring everything to a peaceful solution.” Therefore, we will encourage and support the following measures to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to keep weapons out of the hands of those who seek to harm others:
- Require background checks on all gun purchases
- Enforcement of gun trafficking laws
- Pass laws banning assault weapons and high-capacity magazines
- Pass laws to fund violence prevention programs
- Do not support any measures increasing armed guards in schools
- Make gun safety education necessary for owning a gun
Friends, while we pray to God for the victims of violence in Orlando and throughout the country and world, may we also respond to these issues of violence by embracing our civic responsibility and bring our spirituality, charism, and faith to confront the culture of violence that places all of us in harm’s way. Because when we are faithful to our identity as people of the blood of Christ, in our prayer and our action, we help make our world a safer place.
With peace in the blood of Christ,
Joseph F. Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
Richard Bayuk, C.PP.S.
Thomas Welk, C.PP.S.
Ronald Will, C.PP.S.
Mark Miller, C.PP.S.