I realize that priests are busy. I also realize that they are human -- and that humans forget. We are clumsy and wayward and all of us are just trying to feel our way through this dark world.
My world, and the world for so many others, was very dark on Sunday with the loss of nearly fifty lives, and the impact on countless more whose lives will never be the same, at the now well-known shooting in an Orlando gay bar. Tragedy drags my heart down often, regardless of who the victim or victims may be, but this one struck home. These were my brothers and sisters in the gay community -- targeted specifically because they were gay.
Writing this still now puts knots in my stomach. The youngest victim was 18, and had only recently graduated high school. Several of the deceased died with their partners, and one of the deceased was not herself gay -- she was the straight mother of a gay son, and she had beaten cancer twice and had ten other children (her son survived, by the way). Many were college students. Some were full fledged adults. All are loved by God.
Each of these people had a story -- one that was still being written, which was far from seeming over. Each was created in the image and likeness of God, and each was on Jesus' mind and in his heart as he hung on the cross. They loved and were loved. They had hopes, they had dreams, and they had plans for the next day.
This attack has been ceaselessly named the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. And yet, somehow, I have lost count of the LGBT people I know, in small towns and huge cities, who went to Mass or a non-Catholic church service on Sunday seeking solace from the fear and sadness only to hear no mention of the shooting -- let alone that the victims were targeted for being gay.
I know and understand that several Catholic and other Christian public figures have decried the massacre, and condemned violence. This is wonderful. And yet, it seems that I have heard very little from Christian circles -- be it clergy or laypeople -- specifically mentioning that this was a crime against gay people because they were gay.
Certain public figures -- whom I will not name -- insist on avoiding referring to the victims as gay or belonging to the LGBT community, opting instead to call them "Americans" and to state that they are mourning as Americans who have lost Americans.
This is all well and good. But why is this shooting unique from other shootings? What makes these victims Americans who need no other designation while victims of other mass shootings are referred to as students, black churchgoers, children?
Perhaps it is that people genuinely think they are doing the LGBT community some sort of service by not referring to their being members of the LGBT community. This is possible, especially in a Christian climate that fears the word "gay" and fears even more its implications.
But please -- please -- don't mute our existence. LGBT people -- my people -- were targeted by the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Not because we are American. Not because we are people. The victims in Orlando were targeted and killed because they were gay.
To say so is not politicizing. It is stating a fact. It isn't succumbing to liberal ideologies. It's recognizing the reality before us. Again:
The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history targeted LGBT people because they were LGBT people.
It is more than okay to say so. God is not offended by the truth. Please, I beg you, say so. And once you've said so, condemn it. Condemn homophobia. Condemn violence against gay people . Condemn violence in the name of God and proclaim for all to hear that God loves gay people.
If you haven't, please do. Please don't be afraid to talk about it. Please don't be afraid to say the victims weren't "just gays" as a friend of mine was told by his grandfather. Please don't be afraid to confront this mess with the love of Jesus Christ and the compassion and mercy which the Gospel requires of us.
And lastly, if you have gay friends or family members, ask how they're doing. They'll more than likely be relieved to know you care.