USCCB committees call for action in response to Newtown tragedy

Mourners watch as the hearse containing the body of Sandy Hook Elementary School student James Mattioli drives past on the way to St. John's Catholic Cemetery in Darien, Conn., Dec. 18. The 6-year-old first grader was among the 20 schoolchildren killed D ec. 14 in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. His funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newton. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)
Mourners watch as the hearse containing the body of Sandy Hook Elementary School student James Mattioli drives past on the way to St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Darien, Conn., Dec. 18. The 6-year-old first grader was among the 20 schoolchildren killed D ec. 14 in one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history. His funeral Mass was celebrated at St. Rose of Lima Church in Newton. (CNS photo/Lucas Jackson, Reuters)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — The chairmen of three committees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a joint statement Dec. 21 stressing the need for gun control, improved services for the mentally ill and a critical examination of the violence in today’s movies, videos and television shows.

The statement was released in response to the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that left 20 children, the principal and five teachers dead.

The bishops said they joined New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the USCCB, who in a Dec. 14 statement expressed his “profound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one.”

“Understandably this tragedy has given rise to discussions about national policies and steps that can be taken to foster a culture that protects the innocent and those most vulnerable among us. It is time for our nation to renew a culture of life in our society,” said the committee chairmen.

They are Bishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Calif., Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, Committee on Communications; and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind., Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth.

The bishops called on all Americans and elected leaders in particular to have “faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in our homes and in our national policies.”

They noted that “guns are too easily accessible” and cited a 2006 document by the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace that stressed the importance of enacting concrete controls on handguns and noted that “limiting the purchase of such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone.”

They also reiterated some of what the U.S. bishops said in a 2000 statement on “Responsibility, Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and Criminal Justice.”

The statement urged U.S. legislators to support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make guns safer. They also called on sensible regulations of handguns and limited access to assault weapons. The bishops also said legislators should confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness in crime.

In responding to the Newtown tragedy, the bishops also urged entertainers, particularly film producers and video game creators, to recognize the extent of violence in movies, television programs and video games, which they said have “desensitized all of us.”

“We need to admit that the viewing and use of these products has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people,” they added, stressing that parents, guardians and youths need resources to “evaluate entertainment products intelligently.”

The bishops said the tragic shooting also points to the need for society to “provide health services and support to those who have mental illnesses and to their families and caregivers.”

“Burdensome health care policies must be adjusted so people can get help for themselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those with physical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equal sensitivity,” they continued. “There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the only shame is in refusing to provide care and support.”

The bishops also noted the “glimmers of hope in this tragedy,” pointing out those who made extraordinary efforts to protect life. They said the schoolteachers, principal, students, first responders and other leaders “showed tremendous courage during the tragedy.”

A Dec. 20 statement by the Leadership Conference of Women Religious similarly noted how the school shooting calls for gun control and efforts to change the culture of violence in the entertainment industry to prevent further tragedies.

“There is much to mourn, but mourning is not enough,” the statement said, noting that “gun regulation is an imperative.”

“This is also a time to restore civility to our world and work to change the pervasive culture of violence found throughout this nation, and especially in the entertainment industry.”

The LCWR statement urged the organization’s members to “stand up and speak out for the sacredness of the lives of these children and all people everywhere.”

They urged women religious to tell elected officials of their support for responsible gun legislation and for a federal ban on assault weapons as well as for better care for those with mental illness and steps to steps to address the growing use of violence in entertainment.

The statement also had called on sisters to participate in the nationwide effort Dec. 21 to remember the 26 people killed in the Newtown school as monasteries and churches tolled their bells 26 times at 9:30 a.m.

Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, Alberta, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, wrote a Dec. 17 letter to Cardinal Dolan expressing “heartfelt prayers and deepest sympathies” to the families and community of Newtown, the Diocese of Bridgeport and the parish of St. Rose of Lima.”

“Canadians join with Americans and the rest of the world in lamenting this tragic moment. It is not only the local community of Newtown or your own nation which is experiencing such great loss and sorrow, but also the whole of North American society,” the archbishop wrote. “Our culture has become mesmerized and exploited by violence in its many dehumanizing and senseless forms.

“Its victims are not only the dead, the wounded, their families and the citizens of Newtown. Each of us has been injured and hurt: every heart by the images of human suffering, every soul by the malice and cruelty at work in any act of violence.”

In response, Cardinal Dolan thanked the archbishop, saying the support “as our northern neighbor comforts us and reminds us that the Catholic community is a single community, not divided by rivers and mountains, but united in the one family of Jesus.”

“We shall continue to work together,” he wrote, “so both our nations discover a rebirth of love and a renewed appreciation for the gift and value of each human life and every human family.”


  1. Once again these cloistered few have missed the target. Amazingly, they are calling on the Government to disarm US, thereby destroying the 1st and 2nd Amendments to our Constitution. This is the same Government that has launched a violent attack on the Catholic Church and all people of faith, to destroy US and force religion underground.

    Where were these voices of concern when our Government was homosexualizing the American military? Why have their cries been silent while military chapels have been transformed to dens of sodomy by our Government? Why do they ignore the efforts of our Government to force Christian and Jewish Chaplains out of the military because they refuse to betray their faith?

    Where was the outrage when our Government forced obamacare on US, a law that mandated free abortion, funded by US through our tax dollars; a law that mandated review of care by death panels, to force euthanasia on the sick, the lame and the elderly; a law that ordered Catholics to provide free contraception to the masses?

    Where are these pious few when the Government is forcing family businesses to close, because they won’t allow homosexual orgies on their Christian premises? Where is the indignation when pro-life people of prayer are arrested and thrown into jail by the blasphemous false witness of abortionites? Where are these men of cloth when Catholic colleges and universities are courting politicians of death to their once hallowed halls, and sending the police to arrest Catholics who protest? Their faces are not to be seen in public while these Catholic educational institutions are creating gay clubs, blaspheming the Virgin Mary, and castigating students who remain faithful to the Church.

    Interesting that they will enter this public fray, clamoring for change, when their various committees are under public scrutiny for giving hundreds of millions of Catholic dollars to pro-abortion, pro-mandatory contraception, anti-Catholic activist groups around the globe. Might this have something to do with their sudden visible clamor? Could they be desirous of diverting Catholic attention from their own secret activities?

    The Constitution was created to protect people of faith (including Catholics) from forced extinction. Would somebody please read it to the USCCB clergy & staffers? Please?

  2. Instead of saying things like “The tragic shooting also points to the need for society to provide health services” bla-bla-bla… Why not say, “Our nation and the world including the Muslim countries need to get down on our knees and repent and beg Christ for His forgiveness.” And add, “Instead of gun control, how about demon control? Satan is well and alive, our culture loves the glamour that evil brings, and we pity the pathetic eternal souls for those that out of their hearts came murder.”


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