NEW YORK – Now three days removed from a racially-motivated mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket, Archbishop Shelton Fabre of Louisville says the answer to the often asked question “What needs to be done?” hasn’t changed from the last time it was asked.
“We are called by Our Lord ‘to love one another’ as he has loved us,” Fabre, chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Conference Ad Hoc Committee Against Racism told Crux. “We are all sons and daughters of the one God, and we must learn to take care of each other with the utmost respect.”
A total of 13 people were shot on Saturday, May 14, at Tops Friendly Market in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York. Ten of those died. Three others suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Eleven of the victims were Black.
Law enforcement authorities have identified the gunman as Payton Gendron, 18, of Conklin, New York. On May 14, he arrived at the supermarket at approximately 2:30 p.m. dressed in tactical gear and armed with an assault rifle. He first began shooting people in the parking lot before entering the store, according to authorities.
Gendron surrendered to police at the scene and was taken into custody. Later in the day he was arraigned on first-degree murder charges. He pleaded not guilty. Authorities have labeled the shooting a “racially-motivated hate crime,” and the FBI is investigating it as such.
Evidence includes a 180-page manifesto, apparently posted by Gendron, which contains racist statements directed at Black people and mentions “replacement theory” – a belief that U.S. elites are trying to dilute the political and cultural power of white people by replacing them with immigrants and people of color.
Fabre said he laments the occurrence of racial violence and loss of life from the shooting, adding that for any group to be violently targeted because of their skin color is an “affront to our loving God.” He noted that everyone is a part of “humankind,” and therefore needs to practice being both “human” and “kind” with an emphasis on “kind.”
“Until we stop seeing one another as targets of racial hatred, and instead choose to respect the human dignity of each person, we will continue to suffer the detrimental effects of the evil and sin of racism,” said Fabre, one of the few Black Catholic prelates in the United States.
“We must come to terms with the certain reality that true and authentic change will only come from genuine conversion of the hearts of each individual person,” he continued. “While evil exists in this world, it is incumbent upon each one of us to examine our own hearts and to work ever more diligently to recognize and eradicate the evil that may be within us.”
Cardinal Blase Cupich of Chicago also lamented the May 14 shooting, and challenged Catholics not to choose the path of indifference when it comes to listening to those who suffer from racism, and the need to face the challenge of gun violence across the U.S. “by enacting common-sense federal safety laws that help keep firearms out of the hands of irresponsible people and end the flow of firearms across state borders.”
Instead of a path of indifference, Cupich said, Catholics can choose a path of love and see in our neighbors the face of Christ.
“It is in this spirit of family that we must stand in solidarity with the victims of the Buffalo massacre, with the victims of gun violence here in Chicago and across the nation, with victims’ loved ones, indeed with all people who face the threat of racism every day, holding fast to the knowledge that we are beloved by God, not because of how we look or where we or our ancestors were born, but because we are of God, made in his image, and directed toward love,” Cupich said in a statement.
The rampage in Buffalo wasn’t the only mass shooting this weekend considered a hate crime. On May 15, a man opened fire during a Sunday church luncheon at the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods, California.
One person was killed in the attack, and five others suffered critical gunshot injuries.
The suspect was identified as David Chou, 68, who authorities announced has been charged with murder and attempted murder charges. A federal hate crime investigation has also been opened.
Chou, a Las Vegas man, allegedly traveled to Orange County targeting the Taiwanese community. Orange County Sheriff Don Barnes called the shooting a “politically motivated hate incident” at a news conference. Barnes added that Chou is a U.S. citizen from China who “was upset about political tensions between China and Taiwan.”
Bishop Kevin Vann of Orange told Crux in a statement that the diocese is praying for the entire Orange County Christian community and especially those stricken and hurt by the May 15 shooting. He is praying that the wounded have a speedy recovery, and for the family of the slain parishioner.
“It is always difficult hearing of such senseless violence in our country, especially upon the realization that it happened within diocesan boundaries and near one of our parishes, and we must remain ever mindful of the priority to ensure that all places of worship remain safe and sacred places to pray and to see the Lord’s guidance and protection each day,” Vann said.
Through spokesperson Chieko Noguchi, USCCB director of public affairs, the nation’s bishops in a statement offered prayers for and support for all those affected by the two tragedies.
“The bishops again call for an honest dialogue rooted in Christ in addressing the persistent evil of racism in our country,” Noguchi said. “The Catholic Church has been a consistent voice for rational yet effective forms of regulation of dangerous weapons, and the USCCB continues to advocate for an end to violence, and for the respect and dignity of all lives.”
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg