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Sister Judy Byron, OP, Brings Perspective of Socially Responsible Investment to Panel on Gun Violence

July 15, 2022, Washington, D.C. – As the United States reeled under a series of tragic mass shooting incidents, Sister Judy Byron, OP, brought a unique perspective to a panel discussion exploring gun violence. She spoke of the role of socially responsible investors working with gun manufacturers to encourage them to do their part in keeping society safe from gun violence. 

Sister Judy is the Coordinator of the Northwest Coalition for Responsible Investment in Seattle, Washington, and Consultant for the Adrian Dominican Sisters’ Portfolio Advisory Board (PAB). She was participating in a panel discussion, “After Buffalo, After Uvalde, After Tulsa: Broken Hearts, Broken Nation, Faithful Action,” as part of Georgetown University’s Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life. John Carr, Co-director of the Initiative, moderated the panel discussion.

Sister Judy noted that women religious have, for 50 years, used investments to promote social justice and the common good through their work as members of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR). “We began to notice that whenever there was a mass shooting, every entity would put out a statement, but we never heard from the gun manufacturers,” she said. 

During every shareholder season since 2019, members of the ICCR have brought resolutions to gun manufacturers Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger and Company, asking them to respect human rights and engage in a risk assessment of their products, Sister Judy explained. A coalition of faith-based socially responsible investors led the stockholders of Sturm, Ruger to pass a resolution on June 1, asking the company to prepare a Human Rights Impact Statement on their products. 

Sister Judy also spoke to her personal connection to the shootings as a 25-year teacher. “I’m heartbroken,” she said. When she was a teacher, “we had fire drills and earthquake drills, but the children were happy and safe.” After the mass shooting of students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary Schools, she realized that the adults of the nation needed to do something to prevent gun violence and keep children safe.

On the positive side, Sister Judy spoke of her pride in the response of the Catholic Church to the mass shootings. “The response has been what it should be,” she said. “We have seen our Church at its best.”

Other panelists spoke of their own response to the shootings. Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller of San Antonio recalled his visit to Uvalde, Texas, after the shooting at Robb Elementary School. 

“Something that was very strong in my heart was I need to be there and to connect with the people,” he said. Because the people of Uvalde are so close-knit, finding them was easy, he said. “You got to see suffering, pain, some kind of numbness proper to a shock experience, and a lot of tears.”

He spoke in particular of the need to listen to the stories of the people suffering from the gun violence. “We need to know how to be with the people right there,” he said. “At the level of policy, guns have been idols and we treat them like that – sacred – and with those arms we kill children and [other] innocent people.”

Father Bryan Massingale, Professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University in New York and author of Racial Justice and the Catholic Church (2010), visited Buffalo, New York, after 10 Black people were killed during a mass shooting at Topps Friendly Market grocery store. 

Like all hate crimes, Father Bryan said, the shooting in Buffalo sent a message. “The message we got is that this is a country where our lives are not safe, a country where our lives don’t matter,” he said. “What we see in Buffalo is the end result of years of racial manipulation, the appeal to racial fears, telling white people that their privileged status is in danger.”  

Father Bryan reiterated the message of Pope Francis that Catholics cannot turn a blind eye to racism. “The deepest problem for Catholics is not if we believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,” he said. “The deepest problem for Catholics is do we believe in the presence of Christ in Black and Brown bodies?”

Sister Mary Haddad, RSM, President and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (CHA), visited St. Francis Hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after a mass shooter killed five people. “I was shocked, but this time it was personal,” she said. “St. Francis is a member of CHA.” During her visit, she conveyed the condolences of many people to the healthcare workers, who she described as resilient. 

CHA’s position on gun violence “is informed by faith, but also by our healthcare workers who see the results of gun violence,” she said. “We need to make all institutions safe.” She added that gun violence is a public health issue, which has seen a 49% increase in five years and a 75% increase in 10 years.

Also on the panel was Rhina Guidos, a Catholic News Service reporter who covered the Catholic Church’s response to the shootings. “The response from the Catholic Church is what the pope intended when he talked about the field hospital” – that the Church should care for those who are suffering. “We saw that in Uvalde, Buffalo, and Tulsa.”

The entire discussion can be viewed here.

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