On June 12, Omar Mateen, 29, walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando,Florida, and shot and killed 49 people in the second-worst mass shooting in United States’ history.* The fact that this happened in a gay club has led many commentators to assume it is a homophobia hate crime. But, as a television panellist said, the gay community has “no ownership of horror”, and homosexual people must resist the temptation to make the massacre about them. This is a fair point.
As Orlando resident Mary Jo Anderson pointed out, in a way, homosexuals were the target. Just as, in a way, children were targeted by Islamic fanatics when 186 were murdered at Beslan, Russia, in 2004.
Or office workers were targeted when Islamic partisans flew airlines into the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001. Or music lovers and diners were targeted when terrorists threw homemade bombs at concertgoers in Paris in November 2015.
For the hard truth, Mrs Anderson said, is that everyone is a target. And that’s a problem particularly with radical Islam.
Even the Vatican was a little wide of the mark. According to the Vatican press office: “The terrible massacre that has taken place in Orlando, with its dreadfully high number of innocent victims, has caused in Pope Francis, and in all of us, the deepest feelings of horror and condemnation, of pain and turmoil before this new manifestation of homicidal folly and senseless hatred.”
But, to those who commit these kind of horrific acts, they are not senseless. For those in touch with reality, they may be difficult indeed to understand, but that is different from “senseless”. Omar Mateen behaved in ways that probably were rational according to what he believed.
Catholic Bishop Robert Lynch of Florida has also come in for some criticism. He said soon after the massacre:
“. . . sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people.Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence.”
Joseph Sciambra, who lived a homosexual lifestyle for years before being rescued by Christ, says comments like Bishop Lynch’s are unhelpful. Mr Sciambra says the Church has contributed to the eventual death of some gay men and women, but not in the way Bishop Lynch is suggesting.
He offers an example, of seeking counselling from a priest when he was trying to leave the homosexual lifestyle, and the priest saying, “But why? You are a homosexual man; you should settle down with a man!”
Mr Sciambra wrote: “Unfortunately, some in the Church, like the bishop from Florida, continue to make the same mistakes of the past, by constantly referring to us as gay, lesbian, transgender and LGBT; we are none of those things. We were not born ‘gay,’ and we were not born damaged; we may have been hurt along the way, but, like the rest of humanity, we can recover and heal. We do not belong to an identity, we do not belong to a movement, and we do belong to a group. So don’t talk to us as if we do. We belong to God.”
* The worst Mass shooting in United States’ history is believed to be of Latoka Indians at Wounded Knee by United States Cavalry in 1890. At least 150 Indians, including women and children, died on December 29, and many others died later of their injuries.