Home Bishop's Column ‘With Passion But Without Violence’

Bishop George V. Murry, S.J.

 The Missing Piece
‘With Passion But Without Violence’ Print E-mail
Friday, 06 October 2017 12:54

EDITOR’S NOTE: Bishop Murry, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ad-Hoc Committee Against Racism, gave this statement at a news conference Oct. 2 at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial, with The Knights of Columbus and the W. J. Seymour Institute, in Washington.

Let me begin by offering my sincere condolences to the families and friends of all the victims of the tragic shooting in Las Vegas and to assure them of my prayers. I know my prayers this morning for everyone harmed by this event are being joined to those of millions of others across the nation. May God hear us and bring his consolation and help.

As always in these situations one finds it hard to say things that do not sound like clichés. This is part of the tragedy. We have so much violence in our society that everything we say is beginning to seem tired and repetitive. As a society, we all need to stop making excuses and commit to a movement for nonviolence that involves all of us.

But we need something more – something deeper. It requires true conversion. Each of us needs to restore the love that comes with true friendship. A society is more than a set of people making contracts or sharing in exchange. It is more than a set of people who elect officials together and listen to the same music. It is a community. And unless we recover the sense that we are all in this together, because we are one family, I fear we may not be able to stop the violent trends we are facing.

A commitment to authentic community, what we might call civic friendship, requires a deep personal conversion of heart and mind. A conversion that allows us to see everyone as made in the image and likeness of God and possessing an inherent dignity that deserves not only our protection but our respect, honor and love. This includes everyone – those with whom we work, stand in line, sit next to in church or the movies, sign contracts with, share neighborhoods and schools – as well as those we too often do not see – those in nursing homes, on street corners, in unsafe neighborhoods or in our prisons or recently released from them.

Pope Francis spoke of the Earth as our common home. So it is. And so is a society. It is a home. In order for peace in the home we need mutual care, respect and yes, love.

Pope Francis has repeatedly used the phrase “a throwaway culture” to describe much of our modern life. Such a culture is willing to throw away people. It is easy to speak of human dignity, but in the face of so much violence we have to ask ourselves if we really believe it. Or do we believe it selectively – as applying to some people but not to others?

This is deeper than a policy problem. It is a matter of our deepest convictions. Do we understand the inherent dignity of every human being?

There are signs that we do. The call to nonviolence in the face of injustice – serious injustice – was at the heart of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s vision and work. Nonviolence was a heroic stance in the face of grave sin and it made a difference. Given recent events, it is important to recommit ourselves to this vision.

At the heart of Dr. King’s vision was a commitment to civic friendship – and all that comes with it: forgiveness, patience, mercy, honest and caring correction of each other and a willingness to bear one another’s burdens – and the willingness to take up our own cross and to help our brothers and sisters with theirs. This is the language of the Church and it is the example of Pope Francis.

Speaking in 2014 to a group of men and women from around the world who were working for justice, Pope Francis, as one who has been on the front lines himself, gave advice about how we should face violence and build a civilization of love. He said our efforts: “must be done with courage, but also with intelligence, with tenacity but without fanaticism, with passion but without violence, addressing the conflicts without being trapped in them, always seeking to resolve the tensions to reach a higher plane of unity, peace and justice.”

The Catholic bishops of the United States have recently formed a special committee to address the issue of racism. I am honored to chair that committee and I look forward to sharing with you the national and regional initiatives that we are developing along with our many partners. We are convinced that nonviolence is the prerequisite to hearing each other’s stories and entering into an honest dialogue. Such a dialogue can open roads to justice and reconciliation that will lead to the true communion of civic friendship.

We have a long way to go, but as disciples of Jesus Christ, who has taught us the power love has to change hearts and minds, I look to the future, not with facile optimism, but with hope.


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