USCCB Committees Call For Action In Response To Newtown Tragedy

December 21, 2012 By Public Affairs Office

WASHINGTON—In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedyin Newtown, Connecticut, the chairmen of three committees of the U.S.Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a joint statement to decry violencein society. The bishops repeated the call from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of NewYork, president of USCCB, who expressed on the day of the horrible tragedy,deepest sorrow for all the victims and a call to work for peace in our homes,streets and world. They called on all Americans, especially legislators, toaddress national policies that will strengthen regulations of firearms andimprove access to health care for those with mental health needs.

"AsCatholic Bishops, we join together with the President of our Conference,Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed hisprofound solidarity with and prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, andcommunities whose hearts have been rent by the loss of a child or loved one," saidBishop Stephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City,and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Thebishops are chairmen of the USCCB's Committee on Domestic Justice and HumanDevelopment; Committee on Communications; and the Committee on Laity, Marriage,Family Life and Youth, respectively. "Sacred Scripture reminds us time andagain to 'be not afraid.' Indeed, we must find within ourselves thefaith-filled courage to address the challenges our nation faces, both in ourhomes and in our national policies," they said.

Theyalso addressed the need for healthcare policies that provide support to peoplewith mental health needs, and called on the entertainment industry to addressthe proliferation of violence and evaluate its impact in society.

Fulltext of the statement follows:

Callfor Action in Response to Newtown Tragedy
BishopStephen E. Blaire of Stockton, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, andBishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend
December21, 2012

TheLord Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, teaches us, "Blessed are thosewho mourn, for they will be comforted," and "Blessed are the peacemakers, forthey will be called children of God" (Mt 5:4, 9).

Inthe face of the horrific evil that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School onDecember 14, 2012, as people of faith we first and foremost turn to God andpray. We pray for those whose lives were robbed from them. As Catholic Bishops,we join together with the President of our Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan,who on the day of the horrible tragedy expressed his profound solidarity withand prayers for the families, friends, neighbors, and communities whose heartshave been rent by the loss of a child or loved one. No words can capture yoursuffering. We look to Christ, his words and deeds, and ultimately to his Crossand Resurrection. It is in Jesus that we place our hope.

TheSandy Hook tragedy has caused great anguish for parents and others who attemptto safeguard our children. In addition to the outpouring of prayers and supportfrom around the nation, understandably this tragedy has given rise todiscussions about national policies and steps that can be taken to foster aculture that protects the innocent and those most vulnerable among us. It istime for our nation to renew a culture of life in our society.

SacredScripture reminds us time and again to "be not afraid." Indeed, we must findwithin ourselves the faith-filled courage to address the challenges our nationfaces, both in our homes and in our national policies. These challengesencompass many areas with various complexities. Here, we offer particular wordsregarding the issue of the regulation of fire arms, the standards for theentertainment industry, and our service to those with mental health needs.As religious leaders, we are compelled tocall on all Americans, especially elected leaders, to address these issues.

Withregard to the regulation of fire arms, first, the intent to protect one's lovedones is an honorable one, but simply put, guns are too easily accessible. TheVatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, in their document, "TheInternational Arms Trade (2006)," emphasized the importance of enactingconcrete controls on handguns, for example, noting that "limiting the purchaseof such arms would certainly not infringe on the rights of anyone."

Secondly,our entertainers, especially film producers and video game creators, need torealize how their profit motives have allowed the proliferation of movies,television programs, video games and other entertainment that glorify violenceand prey on the insecurities and immaturity of our young people. Suchportrayals of violence have desensitized all of us. The massacre of twentylittle children and seven adults causes each of us to reflect on our ownunderstanding of the value of human life. We must improve our resources forparents, guardians and young people, so that they can evaluate entertainmentproducts intelligently. We need to admit that the viewing and use of theseproducts has negative emotional, psychological and spiritual effects on people.

Wemust also reflect on our own fears as we grapple with our prejudices towardthose with mental health needs. Our society must provide health services andsupport to those who have mental illnesses and to their families andcaregivers. As a community we need to support one another so no one feelsunable to get help for a mentally ill family member or neighbor in need.Burdensome healthcare policies must be adjusted so people can get help forthemselves or others in need. Just as we properly reach out to those withphysical challenges we need to approach mental health concerns with equalsensitivity. There is no shame in seeking help for oneself or others; the onlyshame is in refusing to provide care and support.

Theevents in Newtown call us to turn to our Lord in prayer and to witness moreprofoundly Christ's perfect love, mercy and compassion. We must confrontviolence with love.

There are glimmers of hope in this tragedy. Manypeople, including some of the victims, made extraordinary efforts to protectlife. In particular, the teachers, the principal, the children, the firstresponders and other leaders showed tremendous courage during the tragedy. Somesacrificed their own lives protecting others.

Intheir memory and for the sake of our nation, we reiterate our call made in2000, in our statement, Responsibility,Rehabilitation and Restoration: A Catholic Perspective on Crime and CriminalJustice, for all Americans, especially legislators, to:

1.Support measures thatcontrol the sale and use of firearms

2.Support measures thatmake guns safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use bychildren and anyone other than the owner)

3.Call for sensibleregulations of handguns

4.Support legislativeefforts that seek to protect society from the violence associated with easyaccess to deadly weapons including assault weapons

5.Make a seriouscommitment to confront the pervasive role of addiction and mental illness incrime.

As welong for the arrival of the Prince of Peace in this Advent and Christmasseason, we call on all people of goodwill to help bring about a culture of lifeand peace.

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Keywords:violence, firearms, guns, legislators, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,USCCB, Bishop Stephen E. Blaire, Bishop John C, Wester, Bishop Kevin Rhoades,legislation, congress, mental health, life, culture of life, peace

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