Cardinal Seán delivered the following remarks on March 24, 2018, at the start of the Mass for Peace, Justice and Healing at St. Anthony Shrine, Boston, MA:
It is good to greet you as you gather at this Mass for Peace, Justice and Healing. We are grateful to Fr. Tom Conway and the Franciscan Friars here at St. Anthony Shrine for providing this time for prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist prior to the “March for Our Lives” that takes place today on the Boston Common. This local rally, and those in many other cities throughout the country, is connected to a much larger event taking place in Washington DC. At all of these gatherings, people are coming together to address a problem which threatens the common good of our nation; the problem of gun violence.
The prompting for the rallies today is the recent tragedy at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The senseless violence of so many students being killed in the midst of a school day traumatizes all of us and has had repercussions throughout our country and around the world. The catalyst for bringing thousands of people together today has been the reaction of the students in Parkland. They have been devastated by the loss of their friends and classmates, but they have refused to be silent. They are leading our society in an examination of conscience about violence, guns and our laws and policies concerning these matters.
The tragedy of Parkland has taken its place in a painful narrative of violence which has claimed the lives of the young and the old, students in school and families at a concert; people going about their daily lives as citizens, people who left home in the morning with the confident expectation of returning home safely after school or work or an evening of entertainment. Into all these activities of daily life, time after time chaos and killing have erupted – without warning, without purpose, without limits and without mercy.
Parkland, Florida is the most recent, but Columbine in Colorado and Sandy Hook in Connecticut are among the attacks that preceded it. These school shootings have had a galvanizing impact on the public because of the death of innocent young people, even very young children. But the “March for our Lives” call us to also acknowledge and address the national crisis of young people who each day are killed on the streets of cities across the country, including here in Boston. The school shootings have focused our attention and efforts, but we must also address the devastation to families and neighborhoods, often in our poorest communities.
The “March for our Lives” is focused on a critical public policy problem: the way our states and our country regulate, or fail to do so adequately, access to guns, the widespread availability of guns and the kinds of firearms which are far too easy to acquire.
The Second Amendment to the Constitution affirms the right of citizens to own firearms. But any right has its limits; hence all rights require regulation. We recognize that truth with regard to the rights of free speech, free association and the practice of religious beliefs.
Regulating access to guns, defining what is a reasonable framework which recognizes the constitutional right but also recognizes that our public policy concerning firearms, as it currently stands, is failing our children, our schools and our public safety, is the motivation and the focus of the Marches today in Washington, Boston and throughout the United States.
We need strong leadership from public officials and our courts that respects our rights but also protects our communities. These efforts need to be supported by our faith communities, our business and educational leadership and our citizens.
We are rightfully horrified by the attacks that prompt the public gatherings today, but we should not be without hope. The extraordinary role of the students from Parkland in focusing the country on this critical social problem should be a sign of hope for all of us. The manner by which the students have presented their case has already impacted the tone of the debate about guns and violence. They have helped us to realize that these tragedies victimize people from all walks of life, from every class and ethnicity. We owe these students and those who will join them today our support and our gratitude.
Please pray for those who have died from gun violence, their families and loved ones, the men and women of public safety who seek to protect our communities every day, and please pray for our country.
About the Archdiocese of Boston: The Diocese of Boston was founded on April 8, 1808 and was elevated to Archdiocese in 1875. Currently serving the needs of 1.8 million Catholics, the Archdiocese of Boston is an ethnically diverse and spiritually enriching faith community consisting of 286 parishes, across 144 communities, educating approximately 36,000 students in its Catholic schools and 156,000 in religious education classes each year, ministering to the needs of 200,000 individuals through its pastoral and social service outreach. Mass is celebrated in nearly twenty different languages each week. For more information, please visit www.BostonCatholic.org.