The Catholic Response to the Death of a Murderer
An already busy weekend concluded with the surprise announcement by President Obama that Osama Bin Laden had been killed on Sunday morning, May 1 by a team of American forces in a compound in Pakistan.
There’s a lot to be digested, and a lot of questions for what this means for an already uncertain future in the Middle East. However, as the crowds pour into Lafayette Square with jubilation, it is important to remember how this day began. It began as Divine Mercy Sunday, the Second Sunday of Easter, which this year saw the beatification of John Paul II, an event which marked the holiness of the man. One cannot think about the holiness of John Paul II without recalling his powerful forgiveness of his would-be assassin. For Catholics, this day began as a testament to the powerful force of God’s love and mercy.
So it should it end the same way. Bin laden did much evil. He killed scores of innocents, contributed to the starts of several wars, and used religion to create a culture of hatred. For Americans, we watched as our brothers and sisters were killed, wounded, or separated from their families. If anyone deserved to be riddled with American bullets, it was he.
But “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” has no “but” clauses. The culture of life that John Paul II spoke from womb to tomb; the dignity and beauty of God-given human life is not diminished by one’s sins. God’s mercy and love has no exceptions; as Christians our mercy and love are to have no exceptions.
Simply put, God loved Osama Bin Laden and extended His mercy to him. It is our duty as Christians, as witnesses to the love of God to extend our forgiveness to Bin Laden and pray that he accepted that mercy and that we will be with us in paradise. The celebration around his death ought to make all Christians uneasy; even more so the many declarations that they hope Osama is burning in hell.
This is a difficult teaching to be sure, especially for those who lost a loved one due to Bin Laden. But the Church has never claimed that its teachings were easy. Instead, it has offered the grace and sacraments to live it out, as well as pointed to the examples of extraordinary human beings who lived it out. Today, the Church named a man blessed who knew deeply about the costs of love and forgiveness. So Blessed John Paul II, pray for us. Pray that our country can use this moment to emerge more unified. Pray for the world that we may escape an era of fear and hatred and violence. Pray for us that in this time, we can follow your example and use this moment to witness to the love & mercy poured out by our Savior, Jesus Christ.