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Statement of the Most Reverend Christopher J. Coyne on the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida

I didn’t watch the Evening News last night. I couldn’t. The news alerts during the day had already informed me that another mass shooting at another school had occurred early in the day in Parkland, Florida. As of this morning, 17 are dead, numerous others are wounded. I didn’t need to see this tragedy unfold one more time, in one more place, as one more instance of the “latest” of mass shootings. I’ve seen it before.
There is so much to grieve over here: grief for the victims and their families, grief for the students and staff who were terrorized and traumatized, grief for the awful burdens of the first responders, grief for another town, another place, that will never be the same. 
But to this litany of tears, I also add a particular grief over the phrase the “latest of mass shootings.”  We have passed the point where these horrific acts of domestic terror are unexpected. The shootings in Parkland are just one more incident, the “latest,” of what is no longer outside of the normal, but is the new normal. The mayor of Parkland, Fla., echoed this in her own words when she said in response to the shooting, “something like this can happen anywhere.” 
But it shouldn’t.
Yet it can and yes it will happen again until we, each of us, has the will to say, “This must stop. It is not normal. It is a cancer on our society that needs to be excised. This must stop."
We Catholics are a people of peace, a people of good news, a people of hope. But we are also a people of action. I ask each of my Catholic brothers and sisters to not only pray for the victims of the Parkland shooting and their families, but to pray for our country and to call or write or email our government leaders and say, “This must stop. What are you going to do about it?” I am.
  • Published in Diocesan

Bishop Coyne's statement on the recent elections

It has been over a week now since the recent national, state, and municipal elections, a week which has allowed me, and I hope you, an opportunity for prayer and reflection on the outcomes. Out of this, I now write to the Catholic community of the Diocese of Burlington words of encouragement and challenge.

First, allow me to commend the citizens and candidates of the state of Vermont for the positive manner in which the state and local campaigns and elections were carried out. While there was some negative campaigning at times, the general overall tenor of the campaigns was respectful and civil.

However, as we all know, such was not the case nationally. This past presidential election was brutal, nasty, and angry. It has left our country divided and a lot less civil. Last Wednesday morning, I found myself thinking, “What just happened? How did we ever get to this point as fellow citizens of this great country?” Please know that I am not talking about the results of the election. I found both candidates to be an appalling choice. I am talking about the process and its aftermath.

We are now faced with a president entering office with a high “unfavorable” rating. This would have been the case for either candidate. Consider this statistic: 61% of those who voted for Mr. Trump did so because they didn’t like Mrs. Clinton while 61% of those who voted for Mrs. Clinton did so because they didn’t like Mr. Trump. That has never happened before. How does one govern and lead with that kind of a handicap going into office? And what does that do to our national psyche and our trust in government? There is more division, more anger, and more angst in our country then ever before.

That was where I found myself early last Wednesday. But later in the day I found a place of encouragement and solace in the first reading of the Mass of the day – Feast of the Dedication of the Lateran Basilica – in a vision of the prophet Ezekiel. An angel has brought Ezekiel to the temple in Jerusalem where he stands and sees water flowing from the gates of the temple, in all directions, bringing life, healing, and freshness to whatever the waters touch. This vision has been seen within the Church’s tradition as a vision of the Church herself from which the waters of baptism and the gift of salvation flow to all of creation.

I thought of how necessary this vision is now, both communally and personally. We as a Church, the Catholic community in Vermont, need to see ourselves as baptized people who seek to bring life and healing to all of creation. I thought of how I need to see myself as someone who brings “good news” to everyone I meet. I thought of the words from a well-known song, “Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me” and how that needs to be my mantra.

Can we be a people who bring peace, not anger? Can we be a people who stand up for what is right while lifting up what is good? Can we be a people who talk “policies” and not “persons?” Can we be the salt, the leaven, the seeds of goodness in our culture? Can we be “living water” that flows out in words and gestures of healing and charity?

Yes, if we do so united in our faith, supporting each other in prayer and worship, and with the grace of God.

God bless America.

Bishop Christopher J. Coyne

[Statement originally published on Bishop Coyne's blog, Nov. 16, 2016: http://bishopcoyne.org/statement-on-the-recent-elections/.]
  • Published in Diocesan
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