By John Lavenburg
PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Bishop James Golka on Monday afternoon offered his “deepest sympathies and prayers” to all those affected by a mass shooting in Colorado Springs on Saturday, Nov. 19, saying it’s especially troubling that the shooter appeared to target the LGBTQ community.
“Anytime specific members of the population are targeted for violence, we should all be concerned,” Bishop Golka, of Colorado Springs, said in a statement. “As Christians and Catholics, we believe in the intrinsic dignity and value of all human life. We commit ourselves to protecting and defending that human life.”
“We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers for the victims, their families, and friends,” he said.
Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, was identified as the suspect in the shooting at Club Q, a gay nightclub in Colorado Springs, that killed five people and injured at least 18, 17 of whom had gunshot wounds. The motive of the attack is still under investigation, but Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers told NBC on Monday that it has “the trappings of a hate crime.”
In the statement, Bishop Golka highlighted the need to both strengthen gun-control restrictions, and address mental health challenges people face in society. He cited statistics from the Colorado Springs Police Department that it had been investigating 34 homicides since the beginning of 2022, which is a 100% increase in killings from last year. He also noted that Colorado ranks seventh in the nation in suicide rates.
“For years, the U.S. Catholic Bishops have supported policies to strengthen gun-control restrictions, such as universal background checks and limiting sales of high-capacity magazines,” Bishop Golka said. “This is not a political issue, but rather a humanitarian issue that affects innocent lives.”
“But we need more than this. We need to offer support for vulnerable families and for those suffering from mental health issues,” he said. “I believe we also need to continue shedding light on the cultural roots of this increased violence, such as the lack of civility and increased polarization in our country.”
Bishop Golka noted the possible financial hardship people may face coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well, saying that during this time “we must work to ensure that hurting people have help. We must work to ensure that life-giving options become more viable than violence and killing.”
Archbishop Samuel Aquila of Denver said on Nov. 20 that “while the motives are unclear, what is clear is that evil incidents like this have become far too common in our society.”
“The random acts of killing innocent human beings must be condemned by a civil society,” Archbishop Aquila said in a statement. “As we seek to overcome evil with good, we must promote the dignity of every human being created in the image and likeness of God.”
Other organizations offered prayers and support for those affected by the attack, and called on Catholics to stand with the LGBTQ community. Outreach, an America Media initiative that provides resources for LGBTQ Catholics said in a Nov. 20 statement that religious leaders must condemn stigmatizing language against the LGBTQ community.
“Such language leads only to further harassment, beatings, and violence,” the statement reads. “Churches and other religious institutions are called to stand on the side of all who are in any way persecuted, including LGBTQ people.”
Father René Constanza, president of the Paulist Fathers, said in a Nov. 21 statement that “violence targeting our LGBTQ sisters and brothers must stop.”
Francis DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry — an organization that works to bring together the Catholic Church and LGBTQ community — on Nov. 20 called on all bishops to condemn violence against LGBTQ people.
“Such a message can deter future perpetrators, and it also expresses pastoral support to LGBTQ people in their communities,” DeBernardo said in a statement. “We call on bishops and Catholic leaders to join in the many demonstrations and vigils in support of LGBTQ people which will emerge over the coming weeks.”
Bishop Golka concluded his message calling for prayers.
“Let us pray that all our beloved deceased will know the fullness of life in heaven,” he said. “Let us pray and work so that through our actions and attitudes, God may bring peace and healing to our world and to our local community.”