Washington D.C., Jul 14, 2016 / 09:35 am (CNA).- In the wake of last week’s horrific deaths of Dallas police officers Brent Thompson, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, and Patrick Zamarripa, there was a loud national cry lamenting the loss of life and demanding that the violence against police “must stop.”
I wholeheartedly share these sentiments, especially since I have family members who serve in law enforcement. However I wonder why some do not lament the tragic loss of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile too?
As Catholics, we believe Alton and Philando are made in the image and likeness of God and are worthy of inestimable dignity and respect. Why then the comparable silence with regard to their lives and deaths? I believe that the national conversation misses the point: nothing about a person negates who they are and whose they are.
They are made in the image and likeness of God. By trivializing, minimizing, and ultimately dehumanizing our brothers and sisters to rationalize or even justify their deaths (a common tactic among abortion advocates, by the way), we fall into a moral trap and may cause scandal. Alton and Philando are not different in this regard.
We must, as Catholics, assert our moral view at these moments even when they may be difficult and uncomfortable. Indeed Imago Dei must be the cornerstone in our national conversations about race, violence, crime, and lethal force. Otherwise we cannot possibly address, let alone resolve, these societal problems. Without our engagement, the current division and hostilities worsen.
For example, why are we silent in examining the morality of lethal or excessive force? Far too often, those asking this question are condemned as anti-police. However, we cannot let fear of these labels deter us from this discussion. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that one actively resists arrest: does the response warrant lethal force? Were non-lethal means available? If one commits an offense during his or her interaction with law enforcement officers, does the offense justify lethal force?
These are legitimate questions arising from the understanding of our faith as it relates to the life and dignity of the human person and its implications for the common good. These are the very questions that should be asked about Alton and Philando.
I sincerely hope that we will continue to pray and mourn for the fallen police officers and their families, but also for Alton and Philando and their families. They deserve a responsible discussion about the morality of using lethal force in a just manner in our society. Recalling their dignity as children of God and asking questions about the circumstances of their death is a hallmark of our Catholic faith and American sensibilities. Our silence in these matters must stop too.
Gloria Purvis, a Cornell University graduate, has served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission on Social Justice and was an Advisory Board Member on the Maryland Catholic Conference's Respect for Life Department.
She is a Board Member for the Northwest Pregnancy Center and Maternity Home in Washington, D.C. She is the creator and host of the EWTN series, Authentically Free at Last, and also the host of Morning Glory which airs 7 to 8 am M - Fri on EWTN Global Catholic Radio. Follow her on Twitter at @gloria_purvis