Shell-shock was a term used during World War I to describe soldiers who were deeply wounded in their emotional, psychological and spiritual health as a result of exposure to the violence and death of war. We no longer use the term shell-shock. People who have the very troubling symptoms described in DSM 5 after exposure to violent and deadly situations, such as war, are now diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Veteran’s Administration now recognizes the effects of moral trauma beside PTSD. Moral trauma is a deeply spiritual disturbance when someone acts, by force or choice, in a way that goes against the very fabric of their religious, spiritual or human beliefs.
The core values of life, liberty, and justice for all are written directly into our Declaration of Independence. These values, while not strictly religious, give us a sense of pride and purpose as a people and are our moral compass. They help us to unite and hold something true that applies to everyone’s life in our, still, great land of the free.
We hear once again of black men being killed by police without any provocation. We then hear of a sniper killing police officers who were doing their duty to protect a crowd’s right to peaceably assemble in a protest march. In the background, we still have the trauma of a terrorist attack against gay and lesbian people at an Orlando, Florida, night club. And, across the globe hundreds have been slaughtered in terrorist attacks in Bangladesh and Iraq. These horrible acts of violence and murder cut to the core of our highest moral calling to love and care for our neighbors. It is worth noting that racist, xenophobic, and hate-filled speech by politicians’ insight the violence we are experiencing as a nation.
I’m reminded of a passage from the book “Night” by Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner.
"One day, as we returned from work, we saw three gallows, three black ravens, erected on the Appelplatz. Roll call. The SS surrounding us, machine guns aimed at us: the usual ritual. Three prisoners in chains – and, among them, the little pipel, the sad-eyed angel. The SS seemed more preoccupied, more worried, than usual. To hang a child in front of thousands of onlookers was not a small matter. The head of the camp read the verdict. All eyes were on the child. He was pale, almost calm, but he was biting his lips as he stood in the shadow of the gallows. This time, the Lagerkapo refused to act as executioner. Three SS took his place. The three condemned prisoners together stepped onto the chairs. In unison, the nooses were placed around their necks. “Long live liberty!” shouted the two men. But the boy was silent. “Where is merciful God, where is He?” someone behind me was asking. At the signal, the three chairs were tipped over. Total silence in the camp. On the horizon, the sun was setting. “Caps off!” screamed the Lageralteste. His voice quivered. As for the rest of us, we were weeping. “Cover your heads!” Then came the march past the victims. The two men were no longer alive. Their tongues were hanging out, swollen and bluish. But the third rope was still moving: the child, too light, was still breathing… And so he remained for more than half an hour, lingering between life and death, writhing before our eyes. And we were forced to look at him at close range. He was still alive when I passed him. His tongue was still red, his eyes not yet extinguished. Behind me, I heard the same man asking:“For God’s sake, where is God?”And from within me, I heard a voice answer: “Where is He? This is where – hanging here from this gallows…"
As we see the images of people senselessly killed broadcast over the TV and internet, should we not ask, “For God’s sake, where is God?” Maybe we don’t ask because the answer could be, There He is: a black man shot dead by a police officer while in the car with his girlfriend and 4 year old child. There He is: a police officer shot by a sniper while doing his job. There He is: a gay man shot dead while dancing the salsa. There He is: our neighbors in Egypt, Bangladesh, and Iraq lying dead after a terrorist attacked them.
May He rise up through us to love all of our neighbors, near and far, so that we can overcome the moral trauma that now infects us.
God help us.
As Bishop of a Holy Trinity diocese for the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, I have been devastated by the Orlando shootings to the point where I have been emotionally unable to respond. As an independent church we have many gay members and clergy as well as parishioners who are gay or allies and very supportive of LGBT. As horrific as the attack was, I have been finding some of the so-called Christian responses even more horrific. How can Jesus' work and teachings be so perverted by people that they take some pleasure in these acts as a sort of retribution? How can any Christian think it is deserved or that God would take delight in punishing?
My heart has gone out to these victims and their families and, of course, we have prayed for them. But this time, I believe our response needs to be more than prayer. We Christians have to do a better job teaching Christ's message of love and inclusion. This past week we saw a beautiful example of that when Jesus let his feet be washed and be anointed by a "sinner." What can we do through the Catholic Apostolic Church to extend that love and inclusiveness?
Right now, in my state of horrified numbness, I can't seem to function at all. Laws need to be changed, but probably won't be. Can we at least try yet again? Sermons need to reverse the damage of bigotry and homophobia and fear of the unknown. Can we be even more effective in our acceptance and celebration of our differences?
Tonight, while in Canada visiting my father on his 95th birthday, I will pause to go to a vigil service in downtown Windsor to honor those murdered. Somehow it doesn't seem enough. But I want everyone to know, as a gay man myself, I share their pain, their horror, their grief, their fear, and especially their anger at a world where hate is allowed to reign. God bless us all.
Bishop Ronald Stephens
Holy Trinity Diocese
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
The following Pastoral Response was read at all parishes of the Catholic Apostolic Catholic Church in North America (CACINA). The Pastoral Response to the Bishop of Rome’s discriminatory statements against the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Community is from the Presiding Bishop of The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America on behalf of the College of Bishops of CACINA.
December 30, 2008
Who is It Who Speaks for Us?
(Quisnam est is quisnam fatur nobis)?
By divine institution Holy Church is structured and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another” (Rom. 12:4-5). Therefore, the chosen People of God is one: “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5). As members, they share a common dignity from their rebirth in Christ. They have the same filial grace and vocation to perfection. They possess in common one salvation, one hope, and one undivided charity. Hence, there is in Christ and in the Church no inequality on the basis of race or nationality, social condition or sex, because “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither male nor female. For you are all ‘one’ in Christ Jesus: (Gal 3:28).
+ To All People of Good Will:
The Grace and Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, The Love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all!
The Catholic Apostolic Church of North America (CACINA) is greatly saddened by the recent remarks made by the Bishop of Rome regarding our brothers and sisters who have been hurt by the Vatican’s less than Christ-like pronouncements about a dimension of our community who are already oppressed in our society, and are now again made more vulnerable to sanctioned discrimination by the inflammatory opinion expressed by the leader of the Roman Catholic church.
We the CACINA Catholics declare that Rome does not speak for every Catholic and we of CACINA as Catholics reject the recent statement from the Vatican, which seeks to divide the Church of Christ even further from her mission to all people. In the name of Catholicism, Rome often assumes that she speaks for all who claim the ancient Tradition of Catholicism. She does not. We of CACINA also represent a voice of Catholicism, which contrary to Rome’s opinion, has experienced the value and richness that diversity brings to our individual, communal, and most importantly our ecclesial life.
CACINA, like Rome, derives her authority from Jesus Christ, her Apostolic authenticity to Teach on matters of dogma, faith, and morals from the Apostolic succession of Duarte Costa, and is guided by the Holy Spirit to be a healing and loving witness to the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ in this time and place.
We are reminded by Christ, who after he fed the five thousand told us: “to gather up the fragments, so the nothing might be lost” (Jn. 6: 1-14). These words of Christ have no explicit or implied admonition to only feed those who are like us or who love the way we think they should love. No, Christ only tells us to feed my lambs!
We are guided by the Holy Spirit to remind our Roman brethren of that astonishing moment in the history of the Roman church when the Spirit of God inspired the church to proclaim at Vatican Council II:
Thanks to the experience of past ages, the progress of the sciences, and the treasures hidden in various forms of human culture, the nature of man himself is more clearly revealed and new roads to truth are opened. These benefits profit the Church, too. For, from the beginning of her history, she has learned to express the message of Christ with the help of the ideas and terminology of various peoples, and has tried to clarify with the wisdom of philosophers, too.
We of CACINA are guided by the Holy Spirit to make conscious for ourselves and all who hold and teach the Catholic faith, that we will be judged by every word which proceeds from our mouth. “For God’s Word, by whom all things were made, was Himself made flesh so that as a perfect man He might save all and sum up all things in Himself…”
We the bishops of CACINA, compelled by our experience of the all inclusive love of God, Incarnate in Jesus Christ and living in His Church do not accept our Roman brothers discriminatory rhetoric, which lays a theological and ecclesial foundation for acts of discrimination and violence to human beings everywhere.
Finally, we the bishops of CACINA in the name of other Catholics offer our deepest apology to all who have been hurt and ostracized by a theology so limited that it attempts to have us believe that God’s powerful expression of love in his Church could be so diminished by our love of each other.
The Proclamation of this Pastoral Letter from the CACINA College of Bishops is to be read in all the parishes of the Church, is given under Our Seal and Signature on this 31 Day of December, the Feast of ST. SYLVESTER I, POPE, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, in the United State of America.
Most Reverend Anthony Santore, FCR
Presiding Bishop of the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America
 Abbott, Walter .M. S.J., ED. The Documents of Vatican II, New York: Herder and Herder Press, 1966, pg. 58
 Abbott, Walter .M. S.J., ED. The Documents of Vatican II, New York: Herder and Herder Press, 1966, pg. 246