Once again, with the high school massacre in Florida, we see the vaunted American notion of exceptionalism has a very deep dark side to it. Equally vaunted, the American right to "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness", is overwhelmed by the “right to bear arms”.
Every country, my own included, has its own murderous history.
However, compare the Five Eyes countries [ Australia, Canada, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States: so-called because their intelligence services cooperate closely] and we find, considering mass shootings as involving the killing of at least ten people, Australia tightened its strict gun laws after the last mass shooting there in 1996; there is no legal right to own a gun in Canada, which tightened its gun laws after the last mass shooting in 1989; likewise New Zealand – 1990 their last mass shooting and the United Kingdom, 1996 the last one there.
Each of those countries emphasizes strict background checks: criminal, domestic violence, mental health of applicants for gun licences.
So, what then, in the United States, makes the situation so different and perplexing for the rest of the world?
It is too easy to presume it is primarily because of the legal right to own guns in a country with virtually no restrictions on the type of weapons, including military type weapons, nor the number of weapons a person may own.
The Second Amendment to the US constitution in and of itself is not the problem.
The lack of restrictions regarding weapons designed for military use, and the lack of strict licencing requirements, such as the mandatory background checks among the other Five Eyes countries, exacerbates the problem of easy access to assault weapons which the deranged can use with such horrific effect as in Florida.
There is, however, a more fundamental issue not discussed in the US, nor in any of the Five Eyes when it comes to violence, to the murder of one human being by another, an issue which in Holy Lent we all should consider for while certainly efforts, real, courageous efforts, should be undertaken in the United States to begin to control the millions of weapons held, and sadly so often used, by the citizenry, all of us must seriously undertake the work of resisting the deepening darkness of the culture of death within each of the Five Eyes, countries whose Christian tradition reaches back millennia, but also countries which have chosen to become post, even anti-Christian.
The Preface for Holy Mass of the First Sunday of Holy Lent reminds us that Jesus “…taught us to cast out the leaven of malice…..”
It is clear, from the details of the first recorded murder in human history, Cain’s murder of his brother Abel, Genesis 4: 1-8, malice is always present when one human being murders another.
Each of us has undoubtedly at some point allowed the emotions of jealously, malice, anger, perhaps even hatred to stir within us, but most human beings are able to, by grace, embrace and be faithful to the commands of Christ to love one another, do good to those who injure us, to pray for, to forgive our enemies. [cf. Jn. 13:34,35; Mt. 5:43-48 & 6:9-13]
We should focus this Holy Lent on the urgent need for each of us to disarm our own hearts, to embrace and live out the Gospel of Life, for as St. John Paul reminds us in his encyclical of the same name: The Gospel of God’s love for man, the Gospel of the dignity of the person, and the Gospel of life are a single and indivisible Gospel. [Op.cit.2.4]
Of all the Five Eyes Canada alone is the most anti-life, having no abortion law whatsoever, hence babies may be murdered right up to the moment of breach, and Canada also allows assisted suicide. The other Five Eyes have varying degrees of abortion laws, none of them allow, yet, assisted suicide.
Quoting the Second Vatican Councils’ document, on the Church in the Modern World, St. John Paul stresses the passage remains relevant today [Op.cit.3.3]: …..whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonour to the Creator. [para.27].
A prayer response then to the mass shooting in Florida, to the culture of darkness and death engulfing the world, is to pray throughout this Lent for the conversion of the entire human family from all forms of hatred and violence, for the healing of the mentally ill and better health care for them, that men and women would choose, rather than murdering their pre-born child, to seek out adoptive parents, that individuals and families will choose hospice care, rather then enabling self-murder.
Meditating anew this Holy Lent, by choosing St. John Paul’s The Gospel of Life, for Lenten spiritual reading, will strengthen our resolve to live the Gospel with our lives without compromise, loving one another, including our enemies, and little by little, we will push back the darkness of the culture of death.
Here, as St. John Paul urges, we turn anew to Our Blessed Mother, for She helps us in the great struggle of life …between good and evil, between light and darkness…[Op.cit.104.3], quoting the Sequence for Easter Sunday the Pope reminds us anew “Death with life contended: combat strangely ended! Life’s own champion, slain, yet lives to reign.” The Lamb who was slain is alive….He alone is master of all the events of history: He opens its “seals” [cf. Rev. 5:1-10] and proclaims, in time and beyond, the power of life over death. [Op.cit.105.1,2]