Dear Ones,

Our nation has once again been devastated by the deadly effects of gun violence. It was indeed a stunning collision of time to have this happen as we were in the process of the beginning of Lent, and on Ash Wednesday specifically. One of the most compelling photos of the horror yesterday was a very distraught parent clutching another one, with her ash cross clearly visible on her forehead. Just minutes before she had those ashes placed there, with the words, remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. If she was not awakened by those words, and the touch of ashes on her head, surely she was awakened by just how quickly, randomly, and senselessly those words became true.

As with so many of these all-too-common occurrences, the details are still coming in. We do know that a shooter entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, taking the lives of 17 people, and injuring many more, all of them beloved children of God, making this one of the deadliest school shootings ever.

There have been 30 mass shootings so far in 2018. With so many terrible acts of violence occurring on an almost daily basis, it’s easy to become numb and not let incidents like the shooting in Parkland affect us. We must not, as a society, allow these horrific acts of violence to keep us from feeling the shock and the horror, the pain and the loss.

We are a praying people, and we offer our thoughts and prayer to all those who have been affected by this tragedy. But we also know that our thoughts and prayers are not enough. I encourage you to explore the resources that can be found on the website for Bishops Against Gun Violence, a group of which I am a member. You will find many resources there to help you actually do something. Because, in this mortal life, which Lent is designed to bring us into a closer connection to, it is not our role to sit back with quiet resignation as if death were our only call. It will come for all of us, but my theology has certainly evolved to say, I do not believe this shooting was in any way part of “God’s plan.” It is instead, part of our burden to work to correct.

I would leave you with the following prayer that can be found on the Bishops Against Gun Violence website:

Almighty and merciful God, whose only Son came to preach peace to the nations: Hear us, we beseech You, and comfort us with Your steady Hand, as we come before You in the wake of unspeakable violence. In a world that seems hopeless, help us to remember that our hope rests always in You, and in the resurrection of Your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

5 thoughts on “Bishop Rickel Responds to Florida Shooting

  • February 15, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Dear Bishop Rickel:
    Thank you for your compassionate words following the latest of far too many mass shootings in this year alone.
    I will just say that we are not only a praying people. We are and ACTION people! On Monday, several of us are traveling to the State House in Olympia for a continuing push for sane and responsible firearms laws. We will remind our legislators that we DEMAND ACTION to stem the continuing gun-related bloodshed, and that WE VOTE. We will express our gratitude to those Senators and Representatives who have voted for essential gun-control laws — and we will put recalcitrant legislators on notice that voting against sane gun laws may endanger their political careers.
    Between the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility and Moms Demand Action on Gun Sense, there are a lot of voters. And we are just as determined and focused as members of the gun lobby. And we will keep coming back.

  • February 15, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    Br. Jeremy, a Friar of OSF is the Associate Priest at the parish of St. Mary Magdalen , Parkland FL.
    All of the students from that parish escaped harm, except one: Carmen Schentrup, she was murdered.
    She was an active student at school, of her parish and the youth program of the diocese. Prayers for the
    Schentrup family, their parish, and the Pastoral Care staff that is there for them. Prayer also for our country and our people to protect all of us from the influence of the evil one and the violence.

  • February 16, 2018 at 8:52 am

    Bishop Rickel,

    To target the gun as the problem is a bit simplistic for me. Evil exists – this time it comes in the person of a Nickolas Cruz. The warning signs were abundant, some spoke up, notice was all over social media, even the FBI was was notified. Fellow students were concerned believing he was not out of their school for good. We are surrounded with technology yet no one saw a guy walking up to the school dressed in black, carrying a gas mask, smoke grenades, a rifle and ammo? Where was the security? Cameras? Security personnel? So now we hear we must do something and enough is enough! The answers are in front of us yet the cry is “it’s the gun.” No it’s not…

    Cruz should have been stopped. Too many people were aware he was a danger and disturbed. What about security? Wal-Mart the local convenience store has security why not a school? The school is a “gun free zone” – how is that working out? An armed and trained security person at the school might have prevented this act.

    The gun in no more the problem than was the run away truck slaughtering people in Nice, France. The problem is not the knife that hacked off the head of the clerk in Oklahoma City or the axe used in an attack on a NY City policeman, or a back pack bomb going off in some area filled with people.

    The Nazis had guns the German people did not. That human story and specifically the Jewish Story would be different if Germany of the 1930’s had a Second Amendment – if so every brown shirt or SS thug knocking on a door at midnight faced the possibility of being met by a Jew with a gun. If the potential victim is prepared to push back, to defend himself, his family, his friends or community cowards like Cruz go away.

    It is practice among some to demonize objects, the gun, a nuclear weapon when the problem is the individual, tyrant or dictator who would use them if they believe they can and not suffer themselves. The object is not the problem, the problem is with those who would use the object and also with us who seem unable or unwilling to seriously address the reality of the issue.


    • February 17, 2018 at 12:48 pm

      The following reply is from Bishop Rickel:

      Dear Mr. Spanfelner,

      I appreciate this response, even though it almost seems you did not actually read my post, or at the very least you made a whole lot of assumptions about me and my thoughts on the matter, in order to pontificate on your points. My post says nothing about “blaming the gun.” Of course, I agree with much of what you have to say. It is the person behind the gun, the truck, the bomb, the knife. Of course. Nothing in my statement said otherwise.

      The facts, for those still interested in those, bear out overwhelmingly that reasonable and responsible gun restrictions, those that do have to do with the person behind the gun, the truck, the bomb, the knife, do make a difference in the number, prevalence, and frequency of such attacks. This is where I put most of my emphasis and have for anyone who has read the pieces I have written and spoken on this subject. We will never eradicate all such incidents. A person bent on violence and evil will keep trying to do it. There is still no detector to analyze a person’s soul.

      I actually do not think we will rid ourselves of guns, nor should that be the most fervent aim at this point, but I continue to be baffled by the unwillingness of our leaders to reasonably discuss proven ways to diminish the affects of the violence that comes from the use of guns.

      Finally, I would say perhaps the most stunning and remarkable aspect of your post is the total absence of any condolence or feelings for the 17 people who died in this attack and the countless others who have died in the more than 30 attacks just this year. Many such posts use the tragedy only to make their points about the sacred nature of the gun, with little care or regard for those who die at the end of one. I may have missed a lot in this post, but at least I did not miss that, and that was the main reason for it in the first place.

      The Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel

    • February 17, 2018 at 5:37 pm

      Please forgive an outsider for interjecting comments in a diocesan forum not my own: this line of reasoning — it’s the person, not the gun— is not just wrong on the face of it, it’s now just completely exhausted.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *