The last thing we need right now is yet another “know-it-all” commenting upon the tragedies in El Paso and Dayton.
So let me start by acknowledging I’m hardly a “know-it-all.”
Like you, I find myself asking “why?” and failing to get many answers.
Yet, I also realize I am consoled and inspired by what I see in our country as thoughtful people respond to this horror, and I thank them for that.
Here are a few examples
One, I notice that, when most people hear of the violence, their first words are, “Oh, my God!” I saw that myself Sunday morning at Shannon airport, returning home from vacation, as dozens dropped carry-ons, looked up at the screens, and exclaimed, “Oh, my God!”
Usually, we ask, “Where is the Lord in this wretchedness?”
Well, He’s right in the midst of it, the first Person whose holy name we utter when the dreadful news hits us.
It’s tough to make any sense of all this even with a sturdy faith; it’s impossible to get through without it.
People wiser than me have observed that the absence of God in our public square has led to what Pope Benedict called a “nihilism,” a nothingness or emptiness in so many lives, or what Pope Francis terms a “hyper-individualism” where we become our own gods.
The deep down, innate cry, “Oh, my God” – uttered by Jesus Himself from the Cross – shows the genuine sense of God in most people’s hearts.
Two, I hear people ask, “How can this evil keep happening?”
Here again is a truth embedded in our souls: this is not the way God intends things.
This is not who we are as a people, as a community, as a nation, as creatures made in God’s image and likeness.
This is contrary to all we are made for, all we’re intended to be!
Such a sentiment is consoling, isn’t it?
Three, I listen as people praise rescue workers, medical teams, police officers, first responders and brave folks who defended and assisted others. In an explosion of hate, love and compassion breaks through.
Finally, I detect resolve: “This has to stop! This can’t go on!”
A culture of death must be conquered by a culture of life.
The dignity of the human person is supreme and cannot be chipped away by racism, bigotry, nationalism or hatred of another.
And the sacredness of all human life must be protected, and reaffirmed when viciously discarded by crazed, diabolical killers. Human life, as Pope Francis repeats, cannot be “thrown away” when it gets in the way.
Yes, I hear wise people say, we must do something, and we start by reaffirming our rock-sure conviction that every person deserves dignity and respect and all human life is sacred.
Thanks for hearing me out. I’m only passing on to you the wisdom I hear from so many of you!
Faithfully in Christ,
Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Archbishop of New York