We are still reeling from the vicious attack in San Bernardino, Calif., on Dec. 2. This terrorist-inspired attack at the Inland Regional Center, a state-run facility for developmentally disabled people, was perpetrated by Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik.
As this editorial is being written, ISIS has applauded the attack, although it cannot be verified that it was instrumental in its plotting. In any case, this attack is an act of terror and is deplorable. It is an example of a truly evil act: 14 people killed and another 17 seriously wounded.
The headlines of the New York Daily News suggested that we can’t just pray this situation away, and, in fact, the Daily News is correct. Many people felt this was a headline against prayer. It was a political statement against Republicans, as the News is wont to do. But we must pray; we must pray for the victims, for their families, for those injured, for law enforcement, and yes, even for these murderers. We must pray, commending the souls of the departed into the loving arms of He who is the Divine Mercy.
But we also must act. What should be the Christian response to all this? We suggest three things.
First, let’s not seek revenge. Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia, ever a voice of reason in the Catholic Church in America, said in a statement: “each innocent life lost” in the shooting was precious. “Each was intimately connected through family and friendship to many others, who now survive them and bear a burden of unearned suffering…” and perhaps more importantly, “(P)ursuing justice in this matter is in the hands of law enforcement. Our task as Christians is to pray for those persons whose lives were ended by the inexcusable cruelty of others.”
This is not an act committed by all Muslims. This is an act committed by barbarians who have twisted the ideals of Islam and who will be judged by Almighty God for their horrific acts. No one should blame any innocent people for the actions of these monsters. However, we call again for all Imams and leaders in the Muslim community to clearly, continually, and unequivocally condemn the actions of ISIS in the world as not being authentically Islamic. We can’t blame all Muslims for this act any more than others can blame pro-lifers for the shootings near Planned Parenthood in Colorado.
Second, let’s not politicize this event. Politicians on all sides of the aisle are lining up, seeking to blame the other political party. It’s not about the “blame game” now; it’s all about the healing that is necessary for families, a community, and a nation. It’s not about using this tragedy to court votes or to fan the flames of an anti-immigration movement.
Third, let’s act. There is too much violence in America. For whatever the reason, we are a violent society. We need to find out why and remedy the situation. We recognize the Second Amendment right to bear arms but we don’t believe the Founding Fathers had AK47s in mind when they penned their words. Let’s campaign to restrict access to guns to those who are on “no fly” lists.
We urge each parish to offer a Mass for these poor victims from San Bernardino and to pray explicitly in the Prayer of the Faithful for an end to gun violence in the U.S. America has been the leader of the world in all matters; she has set the tone for all things. May she regain her leadership and rally the world’s nations in the promotion of peace, security and sanity for all peoples.