In 1999, in the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings, Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver Colorado, penned an article which has been reprinted in the Denver Catholic Register following the tenth anniversary of that terrible event. Part of the article reads:
‘As time passes, we need to make sense of the Columbine killings. The media are already filled with “sound bites” of shock and disbelief, psychologists, sociologists, grief counsellors and law enforcement officers – all with their theories and plans. God bless them for it. We certainly need help. Violence is now pervasive in American society – in our homes, our schools, on our streets, in our cars as we drive home from work, in the news media, in the rhythms and lyrics of our music, in our novels, films and video games. It is so prevalent that we have become largely unconscious of it. But, as we discover in places like the hallways of Columbine High, it is bitterly urgently real. The causes of this violence are many and complicated: racism, fear, selfishness. But in another, deeper sense, the cause is very simple: We’re losing God, and in losing him, we’re losing ourselves. The complete contempt for human life shown by the young killers at Columbine is not an accident, or an anomaly, or a freak flaw in our social fabric. It’s what we create when we live a contradiction. We can’t systematically kill the unborn, the infirm and the condemned prisoners among us; we can’t glorify brutality in our entertainment; we can’t market avarice and greed … and then hope that somehow our children will help build a culture of life.
We need to change. But societies only change when families change, and families only change when individuals change. Without a conversion to humility, non-violence and selflessness in our own hearts, all our talk about “ending the violence” may end as pious generalities. It is not enough to speak about reforming our society and community. We need to reform ourselves.’