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:

We Don’t Belong to Caesar
Do Not Let Yourself Be Robbed of Faith, Hope, Love, Joy
Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (March 4, 2015)
Ten Catholic Things that Caught My Eye Today (Drexel-Inspired You Be that Missionary Edition, March 3, 2015)
  • Sarah Pierzchala

    Okay, what are we supposed to do, other than pray and donate to relief agencies???? Post frustrated comments here or on FB?

    Are we supposed to demand—what from our leaders? Bombings? Sanctions? Another Crusade? Strongly worded-memos? The governments of most Western nations are weak or actively anti-Christian or terrified of the Muslims in their own countries. And our administration has made it clear in word and deed that their sympathies are with the IS.

    What, what , WHAT, dear Cardinal, are we supposed to do???

    • Mike Blackadder

      That’s my argument as well. The problem is that the modern Church is simply WRONG in their stance of committed pacifism. I don’t believe that they have an answer for you except to acknowledge the limitations of their own advice on governance and WALK BACK what has been a slow and steady abandonment of the doctrine of Just War.

    • GSWSyndicate

      Sarah, Very good points. Answer: All of the above. And if that doesn’t work, do it again, and if that doesn’t work again, and again…and if that doesn’t work 500 more times and recruit 500 more to copy and paste your text. I cannot bare to see my Christian brothers and sisters slaughtered same as they have done everything possible to keep mine from being slaughtered (by Hamas) who for 3 decades killed about 10,000 of my people until enough was enough. (am Jewish). And if too much time goes by, the other “team” spins and suddenly you’re the villian, and they are the poor friendly ol’ “freedom fighters” just trying to bring the world together to hold hands and sing Cumbaya. An Islamist group is an Islamist group (not to be confused with Islam). These people are extreme and brutal whether they be ISIS who decapitate, Hamas who hold their own people hostage while they detonate rockets from a tunnel below a basement, or the many many other Islamist groups that, in time, will ALL be ISIS. Don’t be fooled by the various names. All of them want to take over the world and know they can’t do it alone. But ISIS knows if they recruit by charm or by sword all the rest, they certainly can. So be very cautious in supporting Islamist groups. They love that we in the free world love them or hate them but in the end, they ALL feel we look best without heads and will do all they can to make that happen (under various their flags whether they be ISIS, Hamas, Boko Harem, Al Queida, etc etc etc. ) but they will all in reality be ISIS (and associates)

      • Sarah Pierzchala

        Thank you for your message of solidarity. I feel so disheartened when I re-post stories explaining why Israel has the right to defend herself or raising awareness about what’s happening to the Christians and other minorities in the Middle East and Africa….it just doesn’t seem to do any good. People either don’t care, don’t understand, or are so ignorant and brainwashed that they side with the monsters.

        I guess the most effective thing we can do is pray…although I’m even confused as to what our prayer intentions should be when the problems are this overwhelming.

        • GSWSyndicate

          It seems, and in many ways is overwhelming, but believe me it makes a difference if enough do it. And any one person is enough, on forums, blogs, and even letters to the editor and to the actual government of the countries in which it exists.

          ISIS, Hamas, Boco Harem, etc may all be evil but they are not stupid. And the elements of this “battle” are starting to look exactly like pre-WW2.

          Remember, a British leader (beloved) as Neville Chamberlain asked Britain to refrain, that ol’ Adolph was a good chap and only leading a pack of freedom fighters.
          The very hated Winston Churchill saw the writing on the wall and obliterated Dresden, Berlin, and anyone associated with the Nazis (who mostly were NOT Nazis, at least not by membership but by “affiliation”, their supporters.

          Here we see it again. ISIS is evil but not stupid. They are banking on the west splitting and some liking Hamas and some not, and some like another Islamist group and others liking the country they’re in etc etc.
          And until the west gets “another Churchill”, they are going to give Isis/AlQueida/Hamas/BocoHarem etc etc exactly what they want.

          An Islamist group is an Islamist group. They may all may not get along very well or agree on strategy, but hey, the enemy of thine enemy will eventually bring them all together (as that’s the only way, and they know it, they can beat us). Those who support them are known as “their affiiates”. When their upcoming holy war comes, their “affiliates” are on their team.

          It’s time for us to wake up the stupid people who’ve not figured that out yet, or let them remain the “Neville Chamberlains of the world”. Those who support other Islamist groups, but hate ISIS, are in for a shock. They are actually supporting ISIS now, and are not aware. Ask any military science scholar. Naivety is pandemic; and any supporter, today, of any Islamic group, is a future ISIS affiliate. They’ll never believe you (but neither did the “Nazi Affiliates” in WW2. They all became dustworthy thanks to Churchill and several of our own leaders who “figured it out”.

          Thanks for the support, and open minded knowledge/knowledge of history and learning from it so as not to repeat it. Let others know. It can make many angry but so what. So did Churchill and he was the hero of his day.

      • LizardLizard

        Stand up against “political correctness” which deems that Muslim -on-Christian atrocities are not worth protesting, that black-on-black killing is not worth notice, that mistreatment of women in “those countries” is something we don’t mention in polite society, while X and Y (you know who/what I mean) take up all the column space. Call your friends on it; write to your congresspeople, write letters to the editors of your hometown rags, and yes, pass on blog comments. When you catch yourself saying “I am probably the only one here who thinks that; I don’t want to make a scene” realize 1) you are probably NOT the only one and 2) that is precisely the time you should speak up, politely but firmly for your point of view. If people get on your case, ask them if they are in favor of diversity. They will–of course–say “yes”. Then ask them if that includes diversity of viewpoint. Should shut them up.

    • Josh

      BINGO! Is it any wonder the media rarely covers this ongoing systematic persecution and slaughter of Christians and other religious minorities especially in Iraq and Syria, At least France has offered asylum and now Bahrain is coming forward to offer safe haven for 200 Christian families as well! WHERE IS THE U.S. IN THIS???! Answer: ABSENT!

    • Bill Guentner

      “And our administration has made it clear in word and deed that their sympathies are with the I” This is the most ridiculous statement posted here and there are many, many ridiculous statements here.

  • Blaise Pascal

    How did we get to this state of affairs,when there is no concern for fellow Christian’s getting slaughtered? Try fifty years of feckless and empty homilies.How about fifty years of portraying God as a big sugar daddy.

  • Griffonn

    Too many people, not enough things that can be done that actually help

    I would do more if I knew something that I could actually do.

    • Corpus Crispy

      Telling us what we can do and motivating us to do it. I think that’s called leadership. Expressing concern in a short press conference and then heading off to play golf or attend a fundraiser is not leadership.

  • Sonny Of The Meek

    Where’s outrage? Obama made thug Brown into hero & many Blacks attack US Vet in BHO Hero Brown’s name & left media ignore?

  • Mike Blackadder

    True that ‘raising our voices’ is doing something. But is that actually enough? Do we really not propose to DO anything except say that it’s happening and it’s bad?

    The sad truth is that talking about it while remaining committed to the INJUSTICE of PACIFISM does NOTHING except maybe convince SOMEONE ELSE to do what WE as Catholics won’t do. Everybody already knows about this situation. We’ve talked about it to the extent that hardly anybody doesn’t now know that it’s happening.

    It’s fine for the Church to say – we are not telling nations the extent to which they need to invest in military or when to act to maintain peace. But the problem is that we do; or at least some within the church authority do.

  • AT

    How about we all put on “awareness” ribbons? Sheesh, are you ready for a war on Islam yet, rather than a phony war on “terror”?

  • John Albertson

    To his credit.

    Good for Cardinal Wuerl. This is to his credit. Sadly, he has been lax in previous years and consequently the number of his faithful is in free fall. We need stronger men as leaders.

    • intellectone

      Talk about luke-warm!

  • Maggie Sullivan

    No one can take him seriously……..Wuerl does remain silent and even supports politicians who murder babies in the womb. He is silent because he is afraid of a political backlash if he disciplines Catholics who murder babies.

    When it is politically safe to speak against persecutions overseas he does….no one can take a person like this seriously.

    • billlang

      It’s so sad but that does seem to be the truth

    • growltiger

      He is asking you to take the *situation* seriously. I don’t think he cares whether or not you take *him* seriously.

  • John Albertson

    Wuerl’s bravado hardly atones for his years of effete misrule. It is easy to challenge villains outside his own reach, but he cannot bring himself to exercise canonical authority over the sheep of his own flock.


  • LOTR

    What an utterly pathetic and self-serving spectacle, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Washington, D.C., the capitol of the greatest power in the world, preaching to the choir of incoming freshman at the so-called “Catholic University of America”. If he really believed what he says, he would have been on the front steps of the U.S. Capitol or the White House or even St. Matthew’s Cathedral. And what practical authority does he have when for his entire time in Washington he has explicitly and repeatedly refused to obey canon law and deny Communion to pro-abortion politicians? The only canonical authority he exercised was removing the faculties and expelling the conservative priest who denied Communion to a publicly self-identified lesbian who challenged him in the sacristy before a Mass to do so and then made a media event of it. Cardinal Wuerl has been silent for years as the LCWR sank into its neo-pagan morass, has taken every opportunity to harrass and oppress traditional Latin Mass Catholics, and even has an LBGT “support group” in his own Cathedral.

    • intellectone

      Could not have said any better than this comment.

      • Lotr

        Thank you. A cardinal-archbishop is not merely a teacher or a sanctifier. He has the fullness of priestly power. He alone can use it, with the same power that in centuries past has raised the dead to life, stopped plagues, and halted armies of barbarians. For the sake of God, he needs to act.

  • 1ray1

    Hope you got the idea that many of your fellow US Catholics don’t hold Cardinal Wuerl in such high esteem. He personifies the milquetoast type leaders that head up the Church of Nice in America. I’d be bordering on sin were I to keep going, but you should have got the drift of how he is perceived by the tenor of the comments to your post.

  • 2001Sacrament

    I did watch the video and felt it stood in contradiction to Ms. Lopez’s depiction. This is not rousing. It is not inspiring. It leaves all the important points unsaid: how does all this evil and suffering fit into our mindset along with a loving and perfect God? What do Christians (ordinary laypeople, young students such as those in his audience) actually DO in response to the evil in the world? How does our sinfulness, our disobedience to authority, our desire for worldly success, play into the suffering in the world? I could go on of course and Ms. Lopez could articulate all this and more better than I but this article is an odd departure from her usual insightfulness.

  • John Albertson

    Rousing alarm? Please! GK Chesterton said he gave up on the integrity of journalism when he attended a Liberal Party meeting at which an uninspired, weak and feckless Lord Spencer made a dull speech: “Next morning I saw across the front of my Liberal paper in gigantic headlines the phrase: ‘Lord Spencer Unfurls the Banner ! ‘ ” I was reminded of that by Miss Lopez’s naive gullibility.

  • Mike McLaren

    Ms Lopez, I hope you don’t just dismiss many of these comments because they may appear to be lacking in Christian charity. But as Benedict XVI said there is no charity without truth. Many of us faithful are disappointed and frustrated beyond description at the lack of courageous and masculine witness in most of our churches “leadership”. It is absolutely proper to call for courageous actions to end the evil going on in the middle east, but he has lost credibility by not exhibiting any courage himself. Cardinal Wuerl cries out for the killing occurring in the middle east but will not do something as easy as deny The Eucharist to “Catholic” politicians who aide in the killing of countless babies. Ms Lopez I ask you to use your platform to share this show of disappointment with the cardinals and bishops in this country.

  • Elijah fan

    Sorry…bad speech…Hitler was not stopped by non silence…he was stopped by men giving their lives in battle….by bombs which Pope Francis wouldn’t commit to on the plane trip back from Korea. It started with St. John Paul II calling the death penalty “cruel” in 1999…( God gave about 34 death penalties just to the Jews and one to the gentiles in Gen.9:5-6 repeated in Rom.13:4). Then Pope Benedict stated in section 42 of Verbum Domini that the ” prophets…challenged every form of violence ” ( totally inaccurate…Elijah killed 552 men, Eliseus cursed 42 boys who were killed by bears, Samuel killed Agag, and Jeremiah warned the Chaldeans to kill the Moabites as commanded by God….Jer.48:10 ” Cursed are they who do the Lord’s work carelessly; cursed are they who hold back their sword from shedding blood.”)
    Then we had Pope Francis say that we should “stop”… “I do not say bomb”… ISIS. So the new thing is now raising your voices as a substitute for actually killing ISIS as Judith killed Holofernes. Yaaah….if ISIS hears raised voices, that’ll make them stop executing all non ISIS on earth. Voices…documents…meetings…declarations…ISIS is shivering at our ability to talk loudly. The entire world should be demanding the raising of a world army to kill ISIS OR IMPRISON THOSE WHO SURRENDER… but they are all waiting for the US to do it and the CIA still hasn’t delivered guns to Pesh Merga ( Iran did) and that will save all the other nations lives and money and internal security problems. 16% of France is sympathetic to ISIS. ISIS will grow in this pacifist talk as courage milieu…then she will do terror in Manhattan, Rome, Paris, London, Madrid, Beijing….then the world will revisit this….maybe.

    • Josh

      If I’m not mistaken, Pope Francis was saying that ISIS should be stopped (by military forces on the ground e.g. Iraqi forces or UN troops) instead of just simply dropping bombs. Bombing has never accomplished stopping an advancing ground force (like ISIS), but will simply increase both the number of innocence dying and destroying homes/buildings/infrastructure whether intentional or not. Pope Francis is begging the world to protect the victims of this scourge – ISIS!
      Your last few sentences are quite right! If we just ignore the threat are distant or vague – the terrorist will take full advantage and visit with devastating results! WE NEED TO WAKE UP IN THE WEST NOW!

      • Elijah fan

        You are filling in for the Pope words he never said…check his actual words which were brief. He wanted the UN to decide about stopping ISIS not the USA deciding but emergencies don’t permit of UN slowness…the yazidis would have been overrun had we listened to Pope Francis. LOL….over 40 UN armed…armed forces were just kidnapped near Syria…by Al Nusra….in the past several days near Golan. Had those same armed UN men let themselves be ” kidnapped” by ISIS, they would be dead now as anyone has been who surrendered rather than die fighting them.
        Christ consulted no one when He saw the moneychangers in the temple. Not all situations permit of days of talk. Bombing stopped the ISIS forces at the base of Mt. Sinjar where there was no danger of civilians being with them. Bombing repeatedly has destroyed their armored vehicles. To send men to the base of Mt. Sinjar rather than bomb at the base of Mt. Sinjar would have gotten some of our men killed, paralyzed, or amputated…bombing is always better than that outcome but is expensive. No innocents are traveling with ISIS in combat advances. Bombing by us is the reason ISIS can’t transport huge numbers to Baghdad in a convoy.
        If we hit Mr. Baghdadi’s headquarters with a cruise missile and some innocents are there, that is the principle of double effect. If you were in a plane seized by ISIS and aimed by them at Manhattan skyscrapers for max kill numbers, our jets should shoot you and them down by that same principle. Samson did that principle of double effect rather than suicide. He was the innocent killed virtually, not simultaneously, virtually at the same time that hundreds of Phillistines were killed by his pushing the two columns outward which held up the temple involved. PS….that was the third hidden symbol of the crucifixion I know of in the OT. As he pushed the two close columns…one to his right and one to his left, Samson was then in the shape of a cross just as Moses was during the battle against the Amalekites when he held his staff with each hand far out to the left and right….such that two men had to help him hold his hands up after time passed. Shape of cross again as in Samson case.
        In addition, US airstrikes just enabled Iraqi ground forces to break the seige around Amerli where thousands of Turkmen Shiites would have been slaughtered by ISIS:

        Check todays ny times on that too.

    • intellectone

      Saint John Paul II never ever said that it was wrong for the United States to have entered the war to protect the Catholics and Jews against Hitler. He never was against the death penalty for people that were a menace and dangerous against a free society and human-life (if he was not able to be held in prison.). He was talking about keeping a murderer behind bars, because he felt that in today’s society they could handle that and give a man or woman a chance to redeem themselves in prison.. Neither Saint John Paul II nor Benedict XVI are pacifists. Had the Germans not followed their bad leader, that they themselves put into power, the horrfic tragedy of WWII would not have happened. The Popes try to tell the world (to all peoples) not to be so stupid as to disrespect human- life. That is their Job to call for Peace on Earth and Goodwill to Men!

      • Elijah fan

        A. I never talked about John Paul II and Hitler.
        B. He was against all death penalties after 1999 in St. Louis where he called them “cruel and unnecessary”. Ergo he called cruel something that God gave in Rom.13:4 while the Roman Empire had life sentences ad metalla…in the mines.
        Brazil and Mexico ( no death penalty) are the two largest Catholic populations on earth and both have murder rates 20 times higher than all of East Asia which has death penalties and has millions of poor people. Largely Catholic Central America ( no death penalty ) has a murder rate 30 times higher than East Asia. Do you think it would have been good for these recent Popes to at least have looked into that? They give no evidence of having done any research on comparative murder rates nor do they cite research anywhere they speak about the topic. Catholic Popes from 1796 til 1850 who also had the job you cite…executed 500 criminals in the papal states which at that time were large…most of central Italy. Research it…google ” papal executioner Bugatti”.

        • intellectone

          Saint John Paul II never said that he was against ‘All’ death penalties after 1999.. Also, where did he say that it was “cruel and unnecessary” Was that your translation? When, and how did he say this. Let us not just have some excerpts to satisfy what you are accusing him of saying.

          • Elijah fan

            You’re making no sense. You could google the incident in a minute. Here he is in the first par. at the usccb site:


            I got that in 10 seconds which you should have done on your own. Nothing in your posts requires even googling.
            You’re like the opposite of a researcher…which is guessing.
            Don’t post to me unless you do research work first. I’m done with your off the top of your head approach.

          • intellectone

            The has a way of twisting the Pope’s words. Just like they do when it comes to the voting for the politicians. Their voting guide is so convoluted you cannot trust a word they say. Where are the quote marks? What speech in Saint Louis did Saint John Paul II make this statement.?.

  • Yankeegator

    How about Cardinal Wuerl start by not silencing and persecuting his Orthodox Priests for doing the right thing and protecting The Eucharist from sacrilege…

  • Josh

    “Rousing?” Hardly! In fact I would call this “thought” that the cardinal wanted to share with us . . .rather measured – as if political. Unfortunately, I feel like I’m hearing another politician and not a strong moral leader who speaks out passionately for others like the vulnerable – the unborn, the persecuted, THE MARTYRS! Are those who give their lives for Christ “measured” or are they passionate in mind and heart in the hour of their trial (and very likely death) when called to stand?

  • MaryT

    I don’t want to be too critical here, because better late than never, but it seems like our bishops have LONG had their voices silent while America has fallen into spiritual stupor. Glad the cardinal is speaking up, but we need more passion and some solidarity among the BISHOPS in raising their voices against the moral decay here. When he asks us where our voices are, I want to ask him, where have the bishop and priests voices been? I have long heard silence from them about contraception, sexual morality, etc.

  • chrisinva

    Thank you so much for this Ms. Lopez! And thank you Cardinal Wuerl, for focusing on a fundamental human issue that unites us, instead of political issues like immigration that divide us.

  • intellectone

    What took Cardinal Wuerl so long to bring these atrocities to the ‘pew sitters’ attention from the pulpit?.Why didn’t Cardinal McCarrick, his predecessor, bring this to the Catholic Community’s attention? ( Perhaps too steeped in Political Correctness instead of Authentic Catholicism) They should have been aware of this for years ,at least since President Bush’s address to the joint session of Congress and the nation in 2001,. (that is (13) Thirteen Years of total silence) Also, the rest of their friends in government knew about these atrocities, such as, the Clinton’s, Obama’s, Pelosi, and Biden. All cowards and all a bunch of phoney’s.