The Orlando shootings have already generated a great deal of analysis and commentary (no need for links; just look anywhere). There seems to be confusion about the motivation of the killer. Was he a homophobe? Was this a hate crime? Was this Islamist terrorism? Was it planned or merely inspired by ISIS? Was it perhaps all of these things? Does it underline, once more, the necessity of gun control in America? Why wasn’t the shooter identified as a threat before now, despite having been a “person of interest” to the law enforcement agencies on two separate occasions in the past? Was the shooter, as his ex-wife suggests, bipolar or otherwise mentally disturbed? (Her description of him makes him out to be a nasty person, but there is no evidence that he was diagnosed as mentally ill.)
Most of these questions will be followed up in the next few days and weeks, and it is to be hoped that some answers will emerge. At the same time, it is also to be hoped that some assertions, which seem to be based on wishful thinking, will be dismissed. What can be said at present? What is the immediate reaction of a Catholic to this event? Let me try my best to offer one.
The first Catholic reaction is to see this crime for what it is – murder. Every murder has several core characteristics, which are to be seen here, and which are worth dwelling on.
First of all, murder is something that God’s law clearly condemns. I mean the law given to us in the Ten Commandments, one of which clearly states “Thou shalt do no murder”. Against murder God has set His face. Anyone arguing that murder can be somehow or another justified has to get around this very clear manifestation of the Divine Will. Given the long history of human duplicity, we all constantly need reminding of the Law given on Sinai.
Secondly, murderers, whoever they are, arrogate to themselves the right to decide who lives and who dies. They act as self-appointed judges and executioners. Thus the sin of murder arises from the sin of pride. Who gave Omar Mateen, or any other murderer, the right to take a single human life? No one, either in heaven or on earth. He arrogated this right to himself.
Thirdly, the murderer poses an obviously deadly threat to the people he murders, in this case the 49 innocent victims in Orlando, but he also poses a deadly existential threat to all human beings. If he can murder them, he can murder the rest of us too. Given that he arrogates the law to himself, he overthrows the rule of law, and the law is the one thing that protects us from the anarchy of a society where murder is routine. So, of course this was a homophobic killing, in that the victims were in a gay nightclub, but it was also a killing that threatens everyone else as well.
So, what can we do, as Catholics and people of goodwill, in the aftermath of this shooting? We can contemplate the Law of God, given to us for our good. We can fight against the temptation to fall into the sin of pride. And we can do our best to uphold the rule of law, both secular and religious, as the best safeguard for the happiness and well-being of all.