Message from the President on Recent Mass Shootings
The circumstances and locations have little in common - a shopping center in El Paso, a community festival in northern California, a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a mosque in New Zealand and a grocery store in Kentucky.
Yet these mass shootings that occurred during 2018 and 2019 appear to have a common thread. To varying degrees, authorities have found connections to extremist ideology in the motives behind each attack.
There has been an alarming rise in the frequency of hate crimes across the nation, described as "being motivated by prejudice on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or other grounds." During 2018, hate crimes increased 9% in 30 major American cities, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at UC Santa Barbara, marking the fifth consecutive year hate crimes have risen.
To be sure, there are many reasons individuals perpetrate a hate crime. Family upbringing, mental illness, retaliation for other violent acts and fear that their way of life is being threatened are all factors. Hateful rhetoric, which has also been on the rise on the world political stage and magnified by social media, is also a factor. As world leaders use racist, hate-filled language, it emboldens those who may have an inclination toward violence to act out.
The power of words to hurt and heal is immense. In a recent Catholic News Service article that chronicled policies that led to the holocaust, Chicago Cardinal Blase Cupich stated "The 'calculated stages' the Nazis carried out that ultimately resulted in the Holocaust began with bigoted language against minorities that the majority soon came to accept as credible."
It is incumbent on us all to play a role in fighting bigotry and racism in all its forms. Speaking last year about a rise in "Feelings of suspicion, fear, contempt and even hatred towards individuals or groups judged for their ethnic, national or religious identity," Pope Francis stated that "The seriousness of these phenomena cannot leave us indifferent. We are called, in our respective roles, to cultivate and promote respect for the intrinsic dignity of every human person, beginning with the family – the place where we learn from a tender age the values of sharing, welcoming, brotherhood and solidarity – but also in the various social contexts in which we live and work."
Please join me in praying for victims of violence and their families, for healing, compassion, and an end to prejudice of all kinds.
Linda LeMura, Ph.D.