Miami archbishop faults rush to blame Catholicism for Orlando shooting

Credit: Grey World via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).
Credit: Grey World via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

.- In the wake of the Orlando mass shooting, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami has countered another bishop’s claim that religion, including Catholicism, often “breeds contempt” for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.

“Christians who support traditional marriage did not kill 49 people. Omar Mateen did,” Archbishop Wenski said in a June 19 homily.

“In our confusion and in our anger, we must be careful lest we make truth another casualty in the aftermath of this lone-wolf terrorist attack. And to blame a particular religion or religion in general for this atrocity would do just that.”

The archbishop spoke at the Church of the Little Flower in Coral Gables, Florida for the local launch of the Fortnight for Freedom, the U.S. bishops' annual initative supporting religious liberty leading up to the Fourth of July.

He was reflecting on the June 12 attack at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, in which 49 people were killed and more than 50 injured. The club has a predominantly gay clientele.

“Religion and freedom of religion did not enable the killing and the maiming that we witnessed last Sunday,” the archbishop stated. “An evil ideology which is a corruption of Islam did.”

The shooter, Omar Mateen, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State during the attack. He was later killed in an exchange of gunfire with police.  

FBI investigators could not substantiate claims that the gunman himself pursued same-sex relationships, CBS News reports. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has said she does not want to rule out any particular motive.

Archbishop Wenski cited several reactions to the Orlando shooting. CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper rejected Florida Attorney General Pam Biondi’s expression of sympathy because she did not support recognizing same-sex unions as marriages. The New York Times' editors claimed that the Orlando victims were “casualties of a society where hate has deep roots,” meaning the United States.

“And one bishop who should know better even opined, and I quote: 'It is religion, including our own which targets…and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgendered people.'”

The Archbishop of Miami rejected this idea.

“Where in our faith, where in our teachings – I ask you – do we target and breed contempt for any group of people?” he asked in his homily. He cited the second reading at Mass from St. Paul:  “Through faith you are all children of God in Christ Jesus. There is neither Jew nor Greek… there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Archbishop Wenski commented: “Our faith, our religion gives no comfort, no sanction to a racist, or a misogynist, or a homophobe.”

The unnamed bishop whose remarks Archbishop Wenski criticized was Bishop Robert Lynch of Saint Petersburg, who celebrated his 75th birthday last month. Bishop Lynch, whose diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Miami, had written a blog post June 13 reflecting on the Orlando shooting which was re-printed in the Washington Post.

Bishop Lynch had written, “sadly it is religion, including our own, that targets, mostly verbally, and often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.”

Archbishop Thomas Wenski’s June 19 homily was at the Mass launching the Fortnight for Freedom in the Archdiocese of Miami. The event hosted relics of Saints Thomas More and John Fisher, who held to the Catholic faith rather than recognize Henry VIII as supreme head of the Church in England.

The archbishop said the two saints rejected the pressure of their time to go along with the king.

“At first cajoled and tempted with bribes, then imprisoned and tortured, they refused to break away from the Church founded by Jesus Christ on the rock of Peter,” he said.

The archbishop noted the religious persecution facing the estimated 150,000 Christians now dying for their faith every year around the world.

Archbishop Wenski found cause for concern in trends in the United States and other liberal democracies, where “people of faith are being increasingly subjected to a soft despotism in which ridicule, ostracism, and denial of employment opportunities for advancement are being used to marginalize us.”

“We see this when butchers and bakers and candlestick-makers are being put into the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs,” he added.

A “new religious intolerance is being established in our country,” in which Christian pastors face stalking and threats, academics are expelled from universities for their findings, and charitable organizations and religious schools face harassment if they take their religious morals seriously and require their employees to support their mission, the archbishop said.

He said Catholics must continue to give witness in spite of growing intolerance.

Archbishop Wenski cited Pope Francis’ words for the 2015 observance of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul: “Authentic witness… is one that does not contradict, by behavior or lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others.”

“If we honor the memories of Thomas More and John Fisher, if we invoke their intercession today, it is because they would not contradict, by behavior or lifestyle, what they preached and what they believed,” the archbishop said.

Tags: Archbishop Wenski, Catholic News, Omar Mateen, Bishop Lynch