Letter sent by Committee Members and Parishoners to Legislators and Decision Makers Concerning Gun Violence

I am a parishioner of Our Lady of the Lake Catholic Church (OLL) in northeast Seattle. As a Catholic Parish member, I am writing to you today to express concern about the increase in gun violence in our country, and ask for you to work toward a clearly stated and publicized plan of action in approaching this deadly and intolerable public health crisis.

In today's world weapons that are increasingly capable of inflicting great suffering in a short period of time are too accessible. As early as 1994 The United States Conference of catholic Bishops (USCCB) supported the Assault Weapons Ban. In 2000 the USCCB wrote, "We support measures that control the sale and use of firearms and make them safer (especially efforts that prevent their unsupervised use by children or anyone other than the owner), and we reiterate our call for sensible regulation of handguns." In March 2018 through A Mercy and Peacebuilding approach to Gun Violence the USCCB reminds us of our commitment to promote peace at home.

The Catholic Church is a strong advocate for the reasonable regulation of firearms. For many years, the USCCB has supported a number of strong yet reasonable measures to address the problem of gun violence. These include:

  • A total ban on assault weapons, which the USCCB supported when the ban passed in 1994 and when Congress failed to renew it in 2004
  • Measures that control the sale and use of firearms, such as nation-wide universal background checks for all gun purchases
  • Limitations on civilian access to high-capacity weapons and ammunitions magazines
  • A federal law to criminalize gun trafficking
  • Improved access to and increased resources for mental health care and earlier interventions
  • Regulations and limitations on the purchasing of handguns
  • Measures that make guns safer, such as locks that prevent children and anyone other than the owner from using the gun without permission and supervision
  • An honest assessment of the toll of violent images and experiences which inundate people, particularly our youth.
The USCCB also supports recent proposals to set a more appropriate minimum age for gun ownership, and to ban "Bump stocks." In addition the USCCB supports wholistic measures, such as the promotion of mercy and peacebuilding in our communities through restorative justice policies and practices, ongoing encounters and discussions at the parish level regarding violence in communities.

As a Catholic and person of good will, I ask that you take the real world experience of gun violence in the United States and move to protect individuals and communities by taking strategic and thoughtful action.

Letter from the Committee to the Bishops of the Seattle Archdiocese

May 14, 2018

Archbishop J. Peter Sartain
Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel H. Mueggenborg
Archdiocese of Seattle
710 - 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104

Dear Archbishop Sartain and Bishops Elizondo and Mueggenborg,

We members of the Our Lady of the Lake Justice and Peace Committee respectfully request that you ask the leadership of the USCCB to place on the agenda of their November 2018 plenary meeting an updating of the Nov. 12, 2003 Principles for USCCB Investments, a copy of which we are attaching. A few months ago, our committee began to study this document when we were looking for ways to influence on behalf of Earth Our Common Home. We learned that this is the base document the Seattle Archdiocese uses to direct its investment managers.

While the introduction to this document has some very sound and strong Catholic principles articulated, we recognized that it is out of date. Issues have changed and stronger statements can be found among newer Catholic documents. We would very much like the Seattle Archdiocese to take the lead in raising this important avenue for justice advocacy before the US Bishops! The Northwest has been on the cutting edge of such initiatives in the past, e.g. the 2001 Columbia River Pastoral (The Columbia River Watershed: Caring for Creation and the Common Good). Through your leadership, we would hope that again the Northwest Bishops could take the lead.

In our conversations about this document, the following were areas where our Committee recognized some updating would make these a much better guide for our investment managers.
  • Updating references: The nearly fifteen-year-old document makes no reference to pastoral letters and encyclicals by Popes Benedict XVI and Francis. In this era of rampant climate change, Francis' clarion call for Catholics to care for the earth in Laudato Si must be reflected in principles that guide our Church's considerable investments.
  • Protecting the Environment: Divesting of, or taking shareholder action with, companies producing fossil fuels is basic to human life. Shouldn't Protecting the Environment (#5 on p. 9) be linked to Protecting Human Life (#1, p. 5)?
  • Migrants and Refugees: This topic should be addressed directly in an update of this document. Pope Francis' Apostolic Exhortation issued Apr. 9, 2018, Gaudete et Exsultate, states: "Our defense of the innocent unborn, for example, needs to be clear, firm and passionate. Equally sacred, however, are the lives of the poor, those already born, the destitute, the abandoned." Section 102 goes on to say that for a Christian "the only proper attitude is to stand in the shoes of those brothers and sisters of ours who risk their lives to offer a future to their children."
  • Gender Discrimination: Please consider asking some women to assist in the revision, since men and women must work together in their opposition to gender discrimination. The language in portions of this section is seriously outdated in today's society. In paragraph 32 of the USCCB's Pastoral Letter Economic Justice for All, is the following quote: "At the summit of creation stands the creation of man and woman, made in God's image (Gn 1:26-27). As such every human being possesses an inalienable dignity that stamps human existence prior ro any division into races or nations and prior too human labor and human achievement (Gn 4:11)."
  • Reducing Arms Production(p. 8) In light of recent events, it is important to directly take a stand against gun manufacturers.

In addition to our request that you get the revision of this document on the agenda for an upcoming USCCB meeting, we also want to find out more about how the Seattle Archdiocese has taken or might plan to take a more active role with their investments. What kind of shareholder activism might be possible? What kind of education do those who monitor our investments receive? In the document, we read: "We praise the efforts of dioceses and other religious and ecumenical bodies that work together toward these goals, [and] efforts to develop alternative investment policies," (p. 1).

Our hope is to open dialogue that will lead to clear principles for the investment of our resources, and to strong visible action on behalf of Earth and on behalf of humanity. We look forward to hearing from you in response to our suggestions and questions. Lorraine Hartmann, as chairperson of the OLL Justice and Peace Committee, has agreed to be the contact person for a response. She would be pleased to assist in sharing a written response with the members of the committee, or arranging for a time when we might have a conversation with you.

Members of the Our Lady of the Lake Justice & Peace Committee (see attached 31 signatures)

OLL Justice & Peace Committee's Correspondence with US Catholic Bishops Concerning the War In Iraq

Letters to Elected Officials