A coalition of 60 Catholic theologians, priests, Catholic sisters and others from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops released a statement on Wednesday calling out so-called "pro-life" lawmakers like House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) for refusing to work to curb gun violence after the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

The statement obtained by Faith in Public Life includes retired U.S. Ambassadors to the Holy See from the administrations of President Barack Obama and former President George H. W. Bush. It says that lawmakers who claim to represent family values should also "show greater moral leadership and political courage when it comes to confronting threats to the sanctity of life posed by easy access to military-style assault weapons and high capacity magazines."

"Members of Congress who take pride in their pro-life stance and appeal to family values have no excuse for inaction, and neither do any of us who share a firm commitment to these values," the group writes. "We especially encourage our fellow Catholics in Congress, including prominent leaders such as House Speaker John Boehner, to stand up to the National Rifle Association and other gun lobbyists who choose to obstruct sensible reforms."

"Catholics who earn an 'A' rating from the NRA – including Republicans like Speaker Boehner and Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic lawmakers such as Rep. Joe Donnelly and Sen. Heidi Heitkamp – should not put powerful special interests before the common good," the statement charges. "Gun violence demeans human life and tears communities apart. There have been more than 70 mass shootings since the January 8, 2011, massacre in Tucson, Arizona. More than 900 people have been killed with guns since the Newtown tragedy."

"No single law or set of regulations will prevent all tragedies, but the complexity of this urgent challenge must not be an excuse for protecting the status quo when it comes to regulating the sale and use of lethal weapons," the message concludes.

"President Obama and Members of Congress can honor the memories of those killed in Newtown, Conn., and work to prevent future tragedies by acting now."

[Photo credit: Gage Skidmore]