A message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., on the death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests and unrest in its wake, and Jesus’ call to love one another, June 1, 2020.
All of us in our Diocese, in our nation, indeed, throughout the world looked with horror at the video depicting the May 25 death of George Floyd, an African American citizen of the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota.
That video has been played over and over again on television news broadcasts, the internet and social media. The ghastly image of this black man in handcuffs, gasping and begging for breath under the knee of a policeman as several of his fellow law enforcement officers looked on, engendered a gut-wrenching reaction on the part of its viewers.
I still do not understand what circumstances could ever possibly have provoked this horrific action in those moments. Neither can I imagine what could ever have justified it. Something deeply wrong occurred. Something deeply wrong continues to occur as the reaction of people in many cities throughout our country over the last several days and nights has erupted in anger and outrage and pain. Peaceful protests in the name of justice have, in many places, given rise to rioting, looting and volatile destruction.
Citizens in our nation have the right to lawfully and peacefully protest those things that disturb their consciences and sense of right. And so they should. Racism, a profoundly sad and all too often demonstrated part of American history, is one of those shameful things whenever, wherever, however it rears its ugly head. Rioting, looting and volatile destruction, however, are neither lawful, just or peaceful ways to respond to social wrongs. Instead of an honest outcry that justice be done, violent destructive behavior only serves to compound injustice.
George Floyd did not deserve to die, and no one should ever have to die the way he did at the hands of the men who caused it. It simply should not have happened.
“Black lives matter,” no human being, regardless of race, can or should deny. Life, every life, is a precious gift from the Creator who, alone, determines its destiny. Why can’t we “get” that fundamental truth of human existence? Why can’t we get it right? Why do these situations repeat themselves so often and tear apart human society, time and again?
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought our country to its knees. Before we could even begin to struggle back to our feet, another national tragedy has heaped upon us yet another sad realization of our human frailty which, in turn, has knocked us down again and torn us apart.
Our Lord Jesus Christ gave us one command: “love one another.” Will humanity ever take him seriously enough to simply do what he asks?
Click here for the statement from the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops.