An Atrocity Happens. We Remain Silent?

This is no ordinary opening of an academic year, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., said toward the end of Mass for my alma mater’s academic year. “Atrocities happen because there are people who commit them and because there are people who simply choose to remain silent,” he said at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, adjacent to the Catholic University of America.

He said that we cannot ignore that there are today “brothers and sisters of our faith and of other faiths in a part of the world where there is clearly an effort to eliminate them.”

Pointing to Iraq and Syria, he said: the “displacement” of children and women and men “is the least of the things happening to them.” And that it “is something that we really are not free to ignore.”

He said of himself: “I don’t want to have on my conscience that I was complici[t] in something as horrendous as this simply by being quiet.”

From our nation’s capital, Cardinal Wuerl pointed to our obligation to “raise our voices” in “solidarity” with these persecuted people, who Christians, by Baptism, have a particular obligation toward. He asked:

Where are the voices?
Where are the voices of parliaments and congresses?
Where are the voices of campuses?
Where are the voices of community leaders?
Where are the voices of talk-show hosts and radio programs?
Where are the voices of the late-night news?
Where are the voices of editorial columns?
Where are the voices of op-ed pieces?
Why a silence?

“Each one of us has at least the power to raise our voice in solidarity with people distant from us … part of our human community,” the Catholic cardinal said.

You can watch his rousing alarm here:

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