NEW YORK — As thousands marched on Washington and around the country in support of tighter gun control policies, a number of Catholic bishops took to social media to offer support for those participating in the events.
At a Mass for Peace, Justice, and Healing in Boston, Cardinal Sean O’Malley praised the young people of Parkland, Florida — the most recent school massacre, where 17 students and teachers were killed in February, and which set off a new wave of public activism in protest of gun violence. There was a school shooting in Maryland last week as well.
“The extraordinary role of the students from Parkland in focusing the country on this critical social problem should be a sign of hope for all of us. The manner by which the students have presented their case has already impacted the tone of the debate about guns and violence,” said O’Malley.
“They have helped us to realize that these tragedies victimize people from all walks of life, from every class and ethnicity. We owe these students and those who will join them today our support and our gratitude,” he said.
O’Malley acknowledged that the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affirms the right for citizens to bear arms, but added that all rights are subject to regulation.
Throughout the day on Saturday, he took to Twitter to offer commentary on gun violence and used the official hash tag for the event, #MarchforOurLives.
Meanwhile, Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island — who is a new adaptor to Twitter, having only joined last month — posted the following message: “It seems to me that private citizens shouldn’t be permitted to own assault rifles any more than then they can own chemical weapons of mass destruction. How about a little common sense in this public debate?”
Tobin identifies on his Twitter bio as “ardently pro-life,” and in 2013 publicly announced he had switched his party affiliation from the Democratic party to join the Republicans over the issue of abortion.
In San Antonio, Texas, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller also weighed in on the March for Our Lives events, writing on Twitter: “What is a common factor in all those horrible killings in our country? Guns, bombs, arms. Let’s listen to the wisdom of our young people in Washington, Florida, throughout the US. Let’s listen to those affected directly by these crimes. We’ve not been able to solve it. Let’s listen!”
Garcia-Siller has frequently used Twitter to call for greater action on guns, especially following the shooting at a Texas church in Sutherland Springs in November 2017, which left 26 people dead and 20 others injured.
Cardinal Blase Cupich — who recently started his own initiative to end gun violence in Chicago — met with high school students from his archdiocese who were traveling to Washington on Friday to participate in the March on Saturday to offer a special blessing. He also posted on Twitter on Saturday that “I want to assure all our young people that “I am with you” and all those marching in Chicago and around the nation today to #EndGunViolence.”
Meanwhile, Bishop Bill Wack of the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, and one of the nation’s youngest Catholic bishops, applauded the young people marching against gun violence, drawing a comparison to the annual March for Life against abortion.
“It’s good to see so many young people raising their voices against gun violence, just as it is inspiring to see them at the March For Life every year. We must be pro-life in all of life’s beautiful forms and stages. God, give us the gift of peace,” he wrote on Twitter.
Earlier this month, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called on Congress to work together to find “concrete proposals” in response to the “crisis of gun violence.”
“We must explore ways to curb violent images and experiences with which we inundate our youth, and ensure that law enforcement have the necessary tools and incentives to identify troubled individuals and get them help,” they wrote.
The U.S. bishops have long advocated for a comprehensive approach to reducing gun violence that addresses mental illness without stigmatization, which they reiterated in their most recent statement.
They concluded their appeal by noting that in light of the Parkland massacre, it was time for action, instead of mere talk.
“In the words of St. John, ‘let us love not in word or speech but in deed and truth,’” they wrote.