Recent Shootings Show St. John Paul’s Warning

The recent rash of shootings in the U.S. is further evidence that secular life is moving in a dangerous direction that demonstrates a lack of respect for the dignity of life. 

In the past two weeks we have seen instances where trivial, everyday events have led to the death. 

On April 15, four people were killed and another 32 were injured in a mass shooting at a 16th birthday party in Dadeville, Alabama. 

On that same night, in upstate New York, Kaylin Gillis, 20, was shot and killed after pulling into the wrong driveway while looking for a friend’s house. 

These killings followed the April 13 shooting of Ralph Yarl, a black 16-year-old who was shot in the head in Kansas City while making the same mistake of going to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers. Yarl miraculously survived his attack. 

The U.S. is on track this year for a record number of mass killings, defined as incidents in which four or more people die. 

All this horrible news led us to remember the words of St. John Paul II and his encyclical, “Evangelium Vitae,” or “The Gospel of Life” and his warning within it of a “culture of death.” In March 1995, he wrote: 

“In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. 

“This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable ‘culture of death.’ This culture is actively fostered by powerful cultural, economic, and political currents which encourage an idea of society excessively concerned with efficiency.” 

In the midst of a culture that congratulates itself on being enlightened and progressive on matters of human rights, he said, we are very much in danger of giving in to a “culture of death.” The pope continued: 

“Every individual, precisely by reason of the mystery of the Word of God who was made flesh (John 1:14), is entrusted to the maternal care of the Church. Therefore every threat to human dignity and life must necessarily be felt in the Church’s very heart; it cannot but affect her at the core of her faith in the Redemptive Incarnation of the Son of God, and engage her in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel of life in all the world and to every creature (Mark 16:15). 

“Today this proclamation is especially pressing because of the extraordinary increase and gravity of threats to the life of individuals and peoples, especially where life is weak and defenseless. In addition to the ancient scourges of poverty, hunger, endemic diseases, violence, and war, new threats are emerging on an alarmingly vast scale.” 

Random shootings and mass shootings are very much a “new threat” in our country. 

We need a renewed commitment to the dignity of each and every human life, or we certainly will be faced with a much more powerful culture of death.