Religions and Spirituality

What Really Matters? Grief and Individual Rights

Rev. Anthony Randazzo is pastor at Notre Dame Church in North Caldwell Credits: Notre Dame Church

Living with the regulation of a right does not compare to living without a child killed by gunfire.

Bereaved parents, grandparents, and godparents in Newtown, Connecticut are now slowly leaving the stage of numbness and shock. Horrific flashbacks and sleepless nights are part of their “new normal.” These good people have asked every question to God and man. They are probably back to work and shouldering, with dignity, the profound depth of their loss.

Opinions on gun control legislation are being exchanged by the best and brightest. Lawyers and lobbyists are working hard to either strengthen one’s constitutional right to bear arms or radically regulate that right. The average person out there realizes the lethal combination of untreated mental illness and access to firearms. Spouses of law enforcement officers fear the “bad guys” might get the upper edge. Trauma surgeons have to tell parents that they did their best to save a young life torn apart by gunfire.

What must be done to curb gun violence, and media violence; violence ultimately creating grief for all?

Grief changes lives. The time has come to approach our future not from argumentation and rights protection. Grief teaches us about life. What has grief taught us as a community about the right to bear arms?  After 9/11, what did our collective grief as a nation teach us about war and peace? The Newtown tragedy traumatized a fearful nation; what are we learning about protecting the common good as we hail an individual right?

Changing laws based on preventing grief may engender anger. Whose anger is more justified -  the one whose attitude on gun control may have to change, or the anger of a bereaved parent in a violent culture?

Religious leaders must step up to the plate in future months on behalf of what I’m calling the “Grief Clause for Life.” We are obliged to defend life from the womb to the tomb. As the late Cardinal Bernadin of Chicago (check death by gunfire in this city) taught in the “seamless garment metaphor,” all life issues are interrelated.

Declan Sullivan of Notre Dame University was killed in 2010, not by gunfire, but when an aerial lift he was standing on to videotape a football game collapsed because of high winds. His exemplary family transformed catastrophic grief and established the Declan Sullivan Memorial Fund, its slogan, “Honor one life, Impact Hundreds.”

In a recent New York Times article by Greg Bishop, Declan’s brother Macartan validates the “Grief Clause for Life:” “for the most part, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter who’s ‘to blame’,” he said. “What matters is my brother isn’t here.”

After listening to the journey of grief for many years, I am convinced that the lessons learned from grief will change the course of history in the United States.

A Pro-life/ Student of Grief as Teacher, Fr. Anthony

Rev. Anthony Randazzo is pastor at Notre Dame Church in North Caldwell.

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