With plain, piercing words, Bishop Robert Lynch of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg has taken a morally bold stand in honoring the lives of the victims in the Orlando nightclub massacre. His thoughtful remarks, written in a blog post after Sunday's mass shooting, serve as an admirable example of self-reflection and humility by a leader in a time of mourning over the terrible loss of life caused by a hateful act.
Lynch, who at age 75 is nearing retirement, wrote that the victims in the shooting at Pulse, a popular gay nightclub, were "all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that." Free of nuance, Lynch's message is a clarion call for unconditional acceptance of others.
Most extraordinarily, Lynch allowed that the teachings of his own Roman Catholic faith bear some responsibility for the climate that allows gay people to be victimized. "It is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people." Lynch, who oversees a diocese with about 425,000 Catholics in five counties on the Gulf Coast, leaves no room for those who would fall back on Scripture to justify their intolerance.
Lynch also wrote that sensible restrictions on guns are consistent with prolife beliefs and that discriminating against Muslims is "offensive to God's ears." He was able to confront these issues in his official role as bishop in part because Pope Francis has created the space for such honesty and introspection in the church. Religious teachings are often tested as societies evolve — gay marriage is a notable example — and the pope has worked to set a tone of love over judgment.
Amid the calls for unity and support for the victims since Sunday's shooting, Bishop Lynch's words rise above the noise. They reflect what Floridians feel — profound grief and a yearning for change.