Off the record – before his speech begins – to the press corps:
“I would ordinarily be enjoying an ice cream cone right now – you know how much I love the stuff; I’ve got a whole freezer full. But I take my Catholic faith seriously, as you know. It’s Lent. I’ve been fasting. – (Laughs ) Yeah, me too! – Can I offer a personal confession? As president, I get briefed on a lot of bad things that the nation never hears about. I have no idea how I’d be able to do this job without the graces that come from prayer and fasting, even outside of Lent.”
Press conference begins:
Good afternoon, fellow Americans. It’s common for politicians to use violence like the horrific crime this morning to attack their opponents for not supporting gun control or assault rifle bans. I am not going to treat this tragedy that way. Because it would be exploitation. About 500 people die in mass shootings every year. While lamentable, a far larger number, 25,000 commit suicide each year with guns. I’d insult you if I said the problem of suicide was a problem of guns.
Another 25,000 are murdered in our cities with guns. Guns make it easier to murder, but for centuries criminals killed with knives.
The colonists all owned pistols and rifles. But mass murders of random people were relatively unknown in our country until recently. One of the first was in 1949, the “Walk of Death” in Camden, New Jersey, by a decorated veteran. He shot 13 at point blank, including children. Since 2000 these incidents have skyrocketed. A bar chart would show a trend going sharply upward.
Guns do not rise up of their own volition, place themselves in people’s hands, and begin firing at school children. They are instruments, for bad and sometimes for good. Our country has a problem romanticizing guns. Surely, it’s easier to ban imaginary guns than real guns, no? I propose this, then: just as we did with cigarettes, let’s ban all guns from movies, tv shows, and video games. Not sure that you’re in favor? Well, until you stop wanting to entertain yourself by watching murders with guns, I won’t take seriously your talk of banning guns.
Let’s be honest that these shootings especially in schools disturb us because we take them to stand for our society as a whole. In economics, we learn that, although each of us has freedom, when numbers are large, individuals will invariably display the motives that to some degree are affecting many. The causes of these mass shootings are likely to be found there.
There are two kinds of mass killers. One hates himself and wants to destroy himself. He often begins by murdering his family and ends by killing himself. Another hates everyone else. Sometimes the two kinds of killers are combined in one. And often a mass killer aims to “make a statement.”
So what kind of society produces citizens who want to make statements like that?
A story in the Wall Street Journal last weekend carried the headline, “America Pulls Back from Values that Once Defined It.” The report begins, “Patriotism, religious faith, having children. . .are receding in importance for Americans.” In 1998, when the survey began, 70% said patriotism was important. Now it’s 38%. Religion used to be important for 62% of Americans; now it’s 39%. Having children was 59%; now it’s 30%. Another statistic won’t surprise you, if you’ve been paying attention to universities: tolerance has declined as a value from 80% to only 58%.
A pollster commented, “these differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America.“ I remind you that these numbers were dropping precipitously over the two decades when mass shootings were rising precipitously. So, that is the first thing I want to say – culture abhors a vacuum. If good recedes, we cannot be surprised if evil asserts itself.
The dramatic differences in that poll didn’t come from just anywhere. In large part, they are the effect of our system of schooling, as many of you learned during the pandemic, when you could inspect your children’s curriculum. Therefore, I am announcing today a whole-of-government effort to support school vouchers and parental choice, and to facilitate homeschooling.
Then there is the ideology of “the unencumbered self.” The Supreme Court in Dobbs overturned Roe v Wade, which was based not on our Constitution but on this destructive ideology of autonomy. Ask yourself: If it’s not so important what we choose, as that we are the ones who choose it – on what basis do we criticize someone’s choice to destroy rather than to build? Why couldn’t malice express a person’s autonomy as much as love?
Culture abhors a vacuum. Although several states have admirably acted to affirm the dignity of each human person from conception, I also announce today a whole-of-government approach to support women in carrying through their pregnancies. I want to see a bipartisan effort to have all medical expenses of prenatal care, birth, and early childhood supported as a public good. And I pledge to you that I will work to take up once again a Human Life Amendment.
Also, henceforth, the executive branch of the Federal government will in no way lend support to transgenderism, which is simply the latest expression of the destructive ideology of the “unencumbered self.”
Following President Washington’s example, I wish to give a warning. I want all Americans to take responsibility for the common good that is our nation’s culture. You cannot change the world. But you can change your own life. If shooting down children in cold blood strikes you as “demonic” – not my words, but what you yourselves say – then reject anything occult and demonic, anything that even hints at it, in your own lives. Have no part in it.
Finally, following President Lincoln’s example, 160 years later to the day, I hereby proclaim tomorrow, March 30th, as a National Day of Prayer and Fasting.
You may also enjoy:
+James V. Scall, S.J.’s Common Good/Uncommon Evil
M.T. Lu’s Naturally Good