Blacksburg Killing

Parish Diary

Father Peter J. Daly




            The wind didn’t stop howling all day. It was a cold, painful, unforgiving wind. 

            Driving up to Washington, DC, a gust almost pushed my car onto the shoulder. Curious about the weather, I turned on my radio. The announcer’s voice said, “Officials at Virginia Tech now confirm that there are 33 dead, including the gunman, in a rampage on the Blacksburg campus.”

            For the second time in a minute I my wheels dropped off the road. I was distracted in stunned disbelief. I pulled over and listened. The news, like the wind, was cold, painful and unforgiving.

            What can faith say in the face of such evil?

            We cannot do much. But what we can do is important.

            No one can rationalize the irrational. We cannot and should not try to explain away or minimize evil.

            The crime of Cho Seung Hui was evil. It was also the act of a deranged, isolated and disturbed mind.

            There will always be such persons. We will not ever be able to perfectly identify them or prevent such acts. To be alive in this world is to be vulnerable to such acts. It has been ever thus. That is the meaning of original sin.

            Religion can offer comfort. We can offer our prayers and our presence. We can Catholics believe that our prayer can assist the dead and comfort the living.

            We can offer hope. We believe that ultimately grace is stronger than sin. That light is not eclipsed by darkness. That goodness wins over evil.

            Beyond comfort and hope, there is not much that people of faith can do. We cannot bring them back the dead. We cannot wipe away the memories or remove the pain.   

            But we can learn. As members of a civilized society, we should try to see how we could minimize the damage from the acts of deranged people and make such violence rare.   

            Any American alive in the last 25 years can recite a sad litany of school shootings: Columbine, Paducah, Jonesboro, and now Blacksburg. There have been many other shootings sin factories, post offices and work places. There have been killings on trains (the Long Island Railroad) and sniper shootings on expressways, parks and streets.

            So long as we live in a culture in love with violence and guns, such killings are horrible, but they are not surprising.

            Only makers and sellers of violent video games can be so obtuse or naďve as to think that turning gruesome violence into entertainment corrode our culture or corrupt our minds. It makes violence acceptable and even recreational. One Virginia Tech student interviewed on television said the shooter, Cho Seung Hui, laughed manaically as he ran from room to room killing almost as if it was a game.

            Only the makers and sellers of guns continue to defend the easy access to weapons in our culture. Unique among the developed nations of the earth, the United States allows someone to go into a pawn shop, show id, do a useless background check, and walk out with a gun useful only to kill people.

            After years of arguing for gun control, I give up. I have no illusions, that despite the will of the majority of the American people, the unholy alliance of money and political influence will win again.

            There will be more such killings. Insanity will always walk among us. Evil will always raise its head. In a culture where we glorify violence and make access to guns easy, it is hardly surprising.

            All we can do is pray, for the dead and the living. This evil wind will not blow forever. But it does have its season.