Letter to Bishop Gumbleton

November 1, 2001

Dear Bishop Gumbleton,

I am writing to you today to offer support and encouragement for what I hope will be an ongoing discussion among the bishops.  My brother, William Hill Kelly Jr. was killed on September 11th at the World Trade Centers.  There is no scale on which my family can begin to measure our loss.  Nor are there any words to adequately express our sorrow.  My family is quite clear however that we would never want another family, whether Afghan or American, to feel the way we do now.

My family runs the spectrum from pacifist to Marine, but we have tried to listen very carefully and respectfully to one another these past two months.  We all agree on the need for justice:

  • The perpetrators of this evil need to be apprehended
  • The Taliban must relinquish its absolute power and address its human rights abuses
  • Millions of starving Afghans should be fed and housed

It is hereafter that our opinions begin to diverge.  My youngest sister feels that in the face of this horrible evil, the only way to change people is to show them love, not more evil!  Christ-like?  Yes.  Foolish and naïve in human terms?  No, not when you really think.  I have other family members that feel the bombing of Afghanistan is now appropriate.  They feel this is the only way to remove the oppressive Taliban in order to send humanitarian aid; some innocents may die in order for many others to live.

Personally, I adamantly oppose the bombings.  I have no other argument other than it is not “Christ-like”.   I do not know what Christ would do in these current times, but I am certain he would not advocate the bombing of anyone.  The deepest, truest part of our collective heart knows this truth.  You and I and my family live in a very human world however.  So how can we reach this true place?

One stumbling block seems to be the lack of choices given the American public concerning our response to September 11th.  Our country sees no other way because we have been presented with no other way.  This is my urgent requests of the bishops.  Can you begin the discussion of the other way, Christ’s way?  Could you help provide moral guidance to a majority that is voicing support for a bombing campaign, but with reserve and ambivalence?  Could you open a dialogue of alternatives, concrete ideas leading to Christ’s truth in our hearts?  Could you pray that we may all be open to God’s difficult and sometimes divisive message?

On a final note, I want to thank you for your bravery and outspokenness on many issues.  It gives me great comfort to know there is Catholic leadership speaking out strong and clear against violence.  I read with great interest parts of your August 19th homily on transforming fire.  I could not help but think of my brother trapped on the 106th floor of Tower 1.  Although I know my brother’s death will never be in vain, it helps me to think of Jesus’ transforming fire and all that he wants for our world: justice, peace, love.  In the end there is nothing but love.

 With love,

Colleen Kelly

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