There is one Catholic Church in Uvalde, Texas. It is Sacred Heart Catholic Church. In the last two weeks it has held funerals for the 19 children and two teachers who were murdered at Robb elementary school. The funerals were scheduled to take place over two and half weeks with the last one taking place on the 16th June. How such a small parish in such a small town will cope with this tragedy is impossible to know. The priests who will say the funeral mass will never, ever have expected to assume the burden of saying funeral masses and burying 19 children massacred at their local school. Even media outlets usually hostile to the church have acknowledged that Sacred Heart Catholic Church has provided comfort and sanctuary to the devastated town.
What happened in Robb elementary school was demonic and diabolical. It must have been the devil himself that seduced the shooter over a course of months into carrying out what in its very essence was a massacre of the innocents.
The shooter did not live with his father and had a “difficult” relationship with his mother. There were reports that as well as threatening young women online he was cutting his face towards the end. To me it is telling that he attacked his own face before destroying the faces of little children. I suspect that haunted by his own feelings of hatred he targeted the most innocent – a classroom of fourth graders. He life was joyless so he wanted to extinguish their joy, their innocence, even their very bodies. The injuries these children suffered were so grotesque that parents had to give DNA samples to help identify the dead. The victims’ bodies were tended to by embalmers specialised in facial reconstruction so their parents could “see their little babies one last time”.
In the wake of this horrific shooting of children, in the small border town of 16,000 people, America has once again collapsed into its usual bi-partisan bickering of what to do, or what not to do. Christians sometimes, but certainly not always, find themselves on the right in such bickering – calling for an end to the culture of death, in particular the attack on the innocent unborn in the womb. Catholics should be asking themselves whether they can hold such a position and also support the second amendment right to bear arms. Is there any point in overturning Row v Wade, only for young children to be shot dead in their classrooms?
Several U.S. bishops spoke out against the easy accessibility to guns in the US in the aftermath of the shooting. “Don’t tell me that guns aren’t the problem, people are. I’m sick of hearing it,” Bishop Daniel E. Flores of Brownsville, Texas, tweeted. Chicago Cardinal Blase J. Cupich in a tweet on 24th May said the right to life trumps the right to have weapons and that “the Second Amendment did not come down from Sinai”. Pope Francis also said, “It’s time to say ‘Enough’ to the indiscriminate trade of weapons!” and encouraged all to be committed in the effort “so that tragedies like this cannot occur again”.
The arguments against gun control include that the United States was built on the right to hold weapons, the right to self-defence, and that other failures cause mass shootings such as the collapse of the family, the poisoning of the culture (the celebration of violence in main stream culture), and that other solutions such as securing schools and “arming and training” teachers would provide better protection for school children. Many point out that as there are more guns than people in the US, nothing short of confiscation will stop future destruction of life – and that will never happen without a second civil war.
Some see the attack on these children as part of the culture of death, part of a culture that attacks babies in the wombs. In both cases their precious bodies are destroyed. So, what is a Catholic to do?
Although I have great sympathy for those who point out how this culture of death, the collapse of the family and the poison on the screens have been caused by those most hostiles to life and Catholic values, for now we are stuck with this culture of death. All Western nations have suffered these calamites but their children are not shot down in school.
It is only in the US that this occurs. It is only in the US that a teenager, lost to the darkness, can purchase a weapon so easily and destroy an entire community in a single day. Nor do I think it is appropriate to expect school teachers, often young women, to accept that along with teaching, caring and nurturing their young charges, they also must be trained to take on AR-15 wielding madmen. Turning the schools into high security fortresses is also a terrible idea. Schools should be places of learning, not places of fear. Surely then limiting guns and and putting tighter controls on those who can purchase and own guns must be a Catholic value?
So, we pray for the souls of the children murdered in Uvalde, Texas and their devasted families. We pray for the priests of the town saying 21 funeral masses in the course of two and a half weeks. And we pray America falls out of love with its gun culture, for the love of its children and their right to go to school in the morning, and return safely that same day.
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