Dear Pope Francis,
I appreciate that you have expressed “horror and condemnation” and recognized that it was “senseless hatred” that led to the massacre in Orlando. I, and many others, share these feelings. However, you, and most of the bishops in the U.S. who have responded to this tragedy, have failed to name the reality that those who were killed, injured, and traumatized in the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history were patrons of a gay nightclub, and that nearly all identified as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
While we still don’t exactly how this fact played into the murderer’s twisted thinking, it is clear that the sexual orientation and gender identity of those at Pulse is the reason these people were victimized. To fail to explicitly acknowledge this strips the victims, the survivors, the injured, the grieving of an essential component of their humanity. It sends a message to their loved ones and families that this part of their identity should not be named, affirmed, and celebrated as they are remembered.
It also means that you and many other Catholic leaders have missed yet another important moment to explicitly and unequivocally condemn violence directed towards LGBT people. Vague references to “respect for the dignity of all people” or other such phrases are sinfully inadequate, whether in response to the horror in Orlando, or when addressing the persecution faced by LGBT people anywhere in the world.