The United States Catholic bishops issued a new statement Sunday after the latest shooting incident in Dayton, Ohio, denouncing an “epidemic against life” and extending their condolences to victims’ families and friends.
“The lives lost this weekend confront us with a terrible truth,” the bishops declared. “We can never again believe that mass shootings are an isolated exception. They are an epidemic against life that we must, in justice, face.”
“God’s mercy and wisdom compel us to move toward preventative action. We encourage all Catholics to increased prayer and sacrifice for healing and the end of these shootings,” states the text, which bears the signatures of Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of U.S. Bishops’ Conference (USCCB) and Bishop Frank J. Dewane, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
“We encourage Catholics to pray and raise their voices for needed changes to our national policy and national culture as well,” it says. “We call on all relevant committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to outline a reinvigorated policy agenda and pastoral campaign to address ways we can help fight this social disease that has infected our nation.”
The bishops have carefully avoided adopting partisan rhetoric in their proposals for measures to address the ongoing gun violence, reiterating instead a longstanding policy in favor of “responsible gun laws” while recognizing the complexity of the problem.
“The Conference has long advocated for responsible gun laws and increased resources for addressing the root causes of violence,” it reads. “We also call upon the President and Congress to set aside political interests and find ways to better protect innocent life.”
The president of the USCCB had already seemed to walk back more pointed language used by Bishop Dewane in an earlier statement signed by him alone.
In his July 30 statement following the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, Bishop Dewane declared, “Our legislators must make changes to our gun policy to prevent the loss of life,”.
In an updated August 3 statement after the El Paso shooting, signed this time by both Bishop Dewane and Cardinal DiNardo, the bishops seemed to soften that position in a significant way.
“The plague that gun violence has become continues unchecked and spreads across our country,” the statement read.
“Things must change. Once again, we call for effective legislation that addresses why these unimaginable and repeated occurrences of murderous gun violence continue to take place in our communities,” it said.