A Catholic Call to do some Soul Searching in light of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords

The CNN story below highlights and an issue that should concern us all with regards to the recent massacre by an unstable youth who shot a semiautomatic pistol at Congresswoman Giffords and a group in Arizona during an open gathering for the legislator to meet with her constituents. Thankfully she is still fighting for her life after having been shot in the head at such a close range but tragically 6 others were killed by this young man including a 9-year-old girl and a Federal Judge. I would like to share this part of the story where a Sheriff in Tucson offers his analysis of the partisan environment that resulted in this tragedy. 

Shooting throws spotlight on state of U.S. political rhetoric – CNN.com

via Shooting throws spotlight on state of U.S. political rhetoric – CNN.com.

Here I would like to emphasize a quote from Sheriff Dupnik:

“We need to do some soul searching, It’s the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out from people in the radio business and some people in the TV business. When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government, the anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this county is getting to be outrageous. Unfortunately, Arizona, I think, has become sort of the capital.”

In my opinion the Sheriff is spot on. This attack was not done at random, it is obvious that Congresswoman Giffords was the young man’s target. The analysis provided by the Sheriff reminds us of the divisive and antagonistic language that has been used against people who share a different opinion. In many cases the opinions that are being most verbally attacked are usually from social justice minded individuals who believe that Government does have a social responsibility to the people of this nation. Congresswoman Giffords’s office had been attacked before as a result of her vote on the healthcare Bill. Giffords had also shared here nervousness after being targeted by Sarah Palin as a member of Congress who is in her “Crosshairs.” It is the opinion of this blogger that the tragic incident that claimed the lives of 6 people was a result of a political environment that has led “unbalanced” people to believe that violence and murder is a legitimate way for one to express their political frustrations. This can no longer be seen as acceptable or defended in any way and I for one am pleased with how political officials from all sides are addressing this tragedy, however more will need to be done.

I fully agree with Sheriff Dupnik’s statement calling us as a nation to do some much needed “soul searching” in light of this tragic situation. For that purpose I would like to offer this passage for Catholics from the Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spes #75. Here the Catholic Church offers it own thoughts with regards to political civility. Let us commit ourselves to a practice of Holy Reading (Lectio Divina) whereby we reflect on the meaning of this passage in light of this national tragedy.        

Citizens must cultivate a generous and loyal spirit of patriotism, but without being narrow-minded. This means that they will always direct their attention to the good of the whole human family, united by the different ties which bind together races, people and nations.

All Christians must be aware of their own specific vocation within the political community. It is for them to give an example by their sense of responsibility and their service of the common good. In this way they are to demonstrate concretely how authority can be compatible with freedom, personal initiative with the solidarity of the whole social organism, and the advantages of unity with fruitful diversity. They must recognize the legitimacy of different opinions with regard to temporal solutions, and respect citizens, who, even as a group, defend their points of view by honest methods. Political parties, for their part, must promote those things which in their judgement are required for the common good; it is never allowable to give their interests priority over the common good.

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About jdgonzo73

I am a Catholic lay minister in the field of Christian ethics, Latino theology and Paulacrucian spirituality. I am currently a Doctor of Ministry student at Fordham, an ad-junct professor at Molloy College and St. John's University and the Project Coordinator with the Catholic Roundtable.
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2 Responses to A Catholic Call to do some Soul Searching in light of the attack on Congresswoman Giffords

  1. Sebastian MacDonald says:

    John,
    I commend your dispassionate and balanced reflection. Two problems constantly afflicting such balance are: our American passionate commitment to freedom of speech, and the moral/ethical problem of identifying a mode of behavior with a moral description. The first problem (freedom), while acknowleding the extremes to which it can lead, opens up into the position that, bad as the evils are flowing from such freedom, the evil accompanying restrictions on freedom of speech are greater; and the second problem (labeling or defining something) ensues in the position that, while things such as torture and vitriolic speech are morally reprehensible, such incidents as water-boarding and the language used in political attacks are not, respectively, torture or hate-mongering. While I deplore these “games” with the obvious, they have enough influence to prove persuasive to many people.

    • jdgonzo73 says:

      Thank you Fr. Sebastian, It is recognized that the freedom of speech has its justified limits (eg. you cannot yell “fire” in a crowded space if there is no fire). The issue of vitiolic political speech is not the same as this example and I in no way support imposing any government regulations that limits this freedom. But what I am hoping for through this reflection is that the moderate majority move away from accepting this type of divisive partisan behavious. Believe me, if politicians, media or organizations see that people marginalize those who use this type of gun toting rhetoric then they will stop using it.
      On another note, I would have to disagree with you on the distinction between torture and water boarding. The Catholic church defines its stance against torture as inclunding mental as well as physical. The United States labeled water boarding as torture when the Japanese used it against American during World War II.

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