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James Martin, S.J.May 02, 2011

As someone who worked at Ground Zero in the days and weeks following 9/11 I rejoiced to hear that Osama Bin Laden’s long reign of terror, which had dealt death, destruction and untold misery to millions across the world, had finally come to an end.  As a Christian, though, I cannot rejoice at the death of a human being, no matter how monstrous he was.

On the morning of Sept. 11 2001, I was working at my desk at America magazine in Manhattan.  My mother, who lives in Philadelphia, called me to tell me that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  When I ran out of my office and looked down Sixth Avenue, I could see the towers smoldering, inky black smoke pouring out of their tops.  Already sirens were blaring, and men and women were running through the streets weeping, frantically trying to make calls on cell phones to loved ones. 

The next few days were a horrible blur for me, and for all New Yorkers.  For all Americans.  On the night of Sept. 11, I worked at Chelsea Piers in New York, along with firefighters, rescue workers and chaplains.  We awaited survivors who never came.  On the morning and afternoon of Sept. 12, I sat with numbed family members in a large room at the New School in downtown Manhattan, poring through hospital lists of survivors, of whom there were almost none.  Then, on Sept. 13, while working at Chelsea Piers, a police officer offered me a ride to Ground Zero, then called simply “the site.”  There I spent the next few days and weeks, in between my assignments at work, and along with other Jesuits, ministering to rescue workers amid the smoldering and stinking wreckage, in some places still in flames, before the mass grave.  We walked over the awful detritus of the attacks; we prayed with firefighters who had lost friends; we counseled EMTs who had seen horrible things; we celebrated Mass in the rubble; and we emerged covered in the gray dust of Ground Zero every day. 

So I am not blind to the death and destruction caused by Osama bin Laden.

Yet Christians are in the midst of the Easter Season, when Jesus, the innocent one, not only triumphantly rose from the dead but, in his earthly life, forgave his executioners from the cross, in the midst of excruciating pain.  Forgiveness is the hardest of all Christian acts.  (Love, by comparison, is easier.)  It is also, according to Jesus, something that is meant to have no limit.  No boundaries.  Peter once asked him how often he was supposed to forgive.  Seven times?  “Not seven times,” answered Jesus, "but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.”  In other words, times without number.  “Forgive your brother or sister from your heart,” he said.  This is not to negate the place of judgment and justice in God's eyes, for such a denial would mean that we believe in a God who cares not for human affairs.  But judgment and punishment, says Jesus, is up to God.

So the question is whether the Christian can forgive a murderer, a mass murderer, even--as in the case of Osama bin Laden--a coordinator of mass murder across the globe.  I’m not sure I would be able to do this, particularly if I had lost a loved one.  But as with other “life” issues, we cannot overlook what Jesus asks of us, hard as it is to comprehend.  Or to do.

For this is a “life” issue as surely as any other.  The Christian is not simply in favor of life for the unborn, for the innocent, for those we care for, for our families and friends, for our fellow citizens, for our fellow church members or even for those whom we consider good, but for all.  All life is sacred because God created all life.  This is what lies behind Jesus’s most difficult command: “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” 

It is also what lies behind the Vatican’s statement today, which balances the desire for an end to terror with the sanctity of  life, no matter how odious the person: “Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose. In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.”

And it is behind the most Christian of acts by Pope John Paul II, beatified on the same day that Osama bin Laden was killed.  Perhaps the confluence of events is providential.  As someone who lived under Nazism and Communism, John Paul was no stranger to terror or murder.  But he also was a Christian who knew the centrality of forgiveness, even for the most grievous of crimes.  In 1980, he was the victim of an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish ultra-nationalist.  One of Blessed John Paul’s first acts after his recovery was to journey to Agca’s jail cell and offer him the costly grace of forgiveness.   

Osama bin Laden was responsible for the murder of thousands of men and women in the United States, for the deaths and misery of many thousands across the world, and for the deaths of many servicemen and women, who made the supreme sacrifice of their lives.  I am glad he has left the world.  And I pray that his departure may lead to peace. 

But as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, at some point, forgive him.  And that command comes to us from Jesus, a man who was beaten, tortured and killed.  That command comes from a man who knows a great deal about suffering.  It also comes from God.

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Jason Benefield
13 years 2 months ago
I agree with Father Martin, but he may have to forgive me for celebrating this death as a victory that many have suffered and sacrificed to achieve.
Daniel Horan
13 years 2 months ago
Thank you, Fr. Jim, for your heartfelt and wise post. I agree wholeheartedly with your comments here and with the statement released by the Vatican. As I said last night in my post, "Death of Bin Laden: Not a Time to Celebrate, A Franciscan's Prayer for Peace," I can understand the temptation to be swept up in the fervor of the catharsis experienced by so many U.S. citizens, yet as a Christian I cannot ever rejoice at the violent death of another human being. Either all life is sacred or no life is sacred. And I wish to echo your statement above:

"I am glad he has left the world.  And I pray that his departure may lead to peace. But as a Christian, I am asked to pray for him and, ultimately, to forgive him.  And that command comes to us from Jesus, a man who was beaten, tortured and killed.  That command comes from a man who knows a great deal about suffering.  It also comes from God."

Peace and all good! 
Stephen SCHEWE
13 years 2 months ago
Front Porch Republic (h/t Andrew Sullivan) has a worthwhile perspective on Bin Laden's death from Russell Arben Fox:

The moral plane of the universe is not somehow improved by the killing of a man. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he is overthrown”–the author of Proverbs had it right. I believe all that ... but I still think he deserved it.

Here's the full link.
Stanley Kopacz
13 years 2 months ago
Fr. Martin,

I need help in dealing with my anger with terrorist leaders like Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon who aggressively poison the environment with the collusion of the state and federal governments they control.  They have the power to ruin vast parts of the US like a third world country, doing much greater damage than Bin Laden, but stealthier and more long term.  How does one fight these formidable forces without being overwhelmed by frustration and anger?
Fran Rossi Szpylczyn
13 years 2 months ago
Thank you for every word you said here - there is so much to be pondered and prayed with and the image says it all.
Christopher Kellerman
13 years 2 months ago
Fr. James: Agree with you that the Vatican's statement was very good. The question about when to forgive is an interesting one. Here's what John Paul II had to say on the ''7x77 times'' passage:

''It is obvious that such a generous requirement of forgiveness does not cancel out the objective requirements of justice. Properly understood, justice constitutes, so to speak, the goal of forgiveness. In no passage of the Gospel message does forgiveness, or mercy as its source, mean indulgence towards evil, towards scandals, towards injury or insult. In any case, reparation for evil and scandal, compensation for injury, and satisfaction for insult are conditions for forgiveness.'' - Pope John Paul II (Dives in misericordia, 14)

I found a portion of this quote in Cardinal Dulles's April 2002 McGinley lecture, ''When to Forgive.''


Though I think that John Paul II and Cardinal Dulles are correct in their argument, I agree that we must continue to work for peace and elimination of hatred- and certainly not rejoice at the death of anyone. God bless and thanks for your post!
13 years 2 months ago
I am sure we all hope this man's death will have a favorable outcome.  But he is just one of hundreds every day who die in this struggle.

The reaction by people here in the US was unseemly.  We will see what the reaction is around the world and what the next few months bring.  Few from what I have read so far think it will be positive but let's hope they are wrong.  

Also it is like Emiliano Zapata.  No body means he still lives as some deny it was really bin Laden.
Thomas Rooney
13 years 2 months ago
Thank you Fr. Martin and Br. Daniel.  The circus that this is becoming is dishearteneing to me; from the jubliation at the White House and Ground Zero last night, to the dozens of conspriracy theories that have sprung up at an alarmingly swift rate.  Part of me shares the jubilation, working two blocks away from Groundd Zero on 9/11 and seeing the horror of that day personally.

Part of me is sickened that I share that jubilation.

God give me the strength to eventually forgive...I simply don't have the power to do so right now.
Helen Smith
13 years 2 months ago
Chris Matthews, MSNBC, said it best:

Today is not a time to go to a bar but a time to go to church. (paraphrase)
Amelia Blanton
13 years 2 months ago
Beautifuly put. Simply beautiful.

Also, check out some posts by Meghan Clark, an Assistant Professor of Moral Theology at Saint Anselm College - http://catholicmoraltheology.com/relief-or-rejoice-reflections-on-the-death-of-osama-bin-laden/

Beth Haile, assistant professor of moral theology at Carroll College - http://catholicmoraltheology.com/should-christians-pray-for-osama-bin-ladens-soul/

AND myself :) - http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/faith-and-values/civil-religion/amelia-blanton/article_722be730-74cb-11e0-a70a-001a4bcf6878.html-
John Donaghy
13 years 2 months ago
Has Osama bin Laden's reign of terror really come to an end? Or will this act of violence feed the spiral of violence?
What is necessary is prayer, forgiveness, and a humble spirit, asking that forgiveness be granted to one and all.
Mary Sweeney
13 years 2 months ago
@ David Smith: "Obviously, there is no single 'Christian response'. My knee-jerk response, though, is that our politicians murdered a human being in our name."

I guess I am not clear here. I would label murder as deliberately taking an innocent life. I will not bother to quibble about "innocent". As I understood the reporting to date, and you may have access to something I don't, Bin Ladin was given the option to surrender. Instead he engaged in a firefight. Whoever ultimately shot him would, from that perspective, be engaged in self-defense. It is true that we went there to capture a person who orchestrated the deaths of many. That is not murder. Did we expect him to surrender? Probably not. Still, that was his choice. The invitation was extended. Do you believe we should have just let it be and give up? Just asking... Life is complicated, but murder does have a definition. I don't think that the events of May 1st meet the standard.
Barry Hudock
13 years 2 months ago
For the past 2 weeks, I've been working my way through All the Way to Heaven, the recently published collected letters of Dorothy Day.  Ms. Day has been very much on my mind during this time, and I've been sort of stewing in her way of thinking about things and expressing herself.  And so when I heard the news on the way to work this morning, accompanied by audio of the celebrations that erupted at Ground Zero, my mind immediately went to how Dorothy, a New Yorker herself, might have reacted. 

I have no doubt that celebration would not have been her reaction to today's news, for similar reasons that Fr Jim expresses.  Even if one does concede that, in some way, justice was done, even if one is convinced that this was the course of action that needed to be taken, celebrating it simply does not seem to be the appropriate Christian response.   
james belna
13 years 2 months ago
Let’s analyze the argument that Fr Martin has made: (1) Christians have an obligation to forgive Osama Bin Laden; (2) Fr Martin has forgiven him; (3) we haven’t; QED, Fr Martin is a better Christian than we are.

What exactly is he forgiving OBL for? As far as I know, Fr Martin was not a victim of the 9-11 attacks in any meaningful sense. He wasn’t killed or injured or even seriously inconvenienced. Unlike Pope John Paul II vis-a-vis Mehmet Agca, Fr Martin appears to be extending forgiveness for atrocities that were committed against OTHER PEOPLE. I am tempted to say that even the Pharisees can do that, but I don’t think that there is any biblical precedent for it at all. Not only is this “proxy forgiveness” the ultimate expression of cheap grace, it is an implicit insult to the actual victims of 9-11 who did not and cannot forgive OBL - because they are already dead.

Christopher Lamb
13 years 2 months ago
What we have to remember is that violence only begets more violence.  Al-Queda is not gone and terrorism is still a very real threat.  Celebration over the fall of the face of terrorism is understandable, but it's fueled by pure emotion.  At the end of the day, no matter how you felt about Osama bin Laden, he was still a human being, and as such what we're seeing in the world right now is a massive spirit of retalitation.

Yes, forgiveness is hard, but as Christians we are taught to love our enemy.  We have been wounded by the events of 9/11 and we, as a whole, are content with simply ridding ourselves of the source, when we should truly be trying to heal the wound.  It's always harder, but it's the life a lot of us chose to live. 
Marie Rehbein
13 years 2 months ago
It's a relief that Osama bin Laden is dead, and I forgive the people who invaded his compound and killed him for their killing of other human beings.

Bin Laden was the mastermind of 9/11 and other acts of terrorism, but the individuals who did his bidding made the choice to do so and were just as guilty as he.  It seems that we do not discuss forgiving them or not forgiving them because they are dead.  Since bin Laden is now dead, the issue of forgiving him is similarly moot, in my opinion.

I feel much worse about the deaths of Ghaddafi's grandchildren.
Adam Rasmussen
13 years 2 months ago
Nice post, Father. I think you are absolutely right that there can be both jubilation and rejoicing at the blow this will be to international terrorism and the boon it will be for world peace, but we, as Christians, shouldn't rejoice over his death per se. As the Prophet says, "As I live, says the Lord GOD, I swear I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked man, but rather in the wicked man's conversion, that he may live" (Ezek. 33:11).
Michelle Brown
13 years 2 months ago
Thank you Father.  Definately something to contemplate as so many mixed feelings are held.  And to Molly, that is the beauty of our Christian faith; that forgiveness that we are always blessed to recieve. 
Michael Gillman
13 years 2 months ago
The universal jubilation at the news of the killing of Osama (along with others) is a perfect example how the "culture of death" really is a "culture." The default response is to rejoice that our enemy has been killed. That's why it is not just about abortion, and confining the culture of death to that one issue makes us all blind to the effects of that culture on other areas of life.

ed gleason
13 years 2 months ago
Of course we should not rejoice in Usama death...the celebrations were by college students who were in middle school on 9-11.. however that we have posters on this blog [David Smith]and others on Catholic blogs  saying Obama ordered murder .. this is a despicable charge. .
Tom Maher
13 years 2 months ago
Please remeber that Al Qaeda has now been in existance for well over twenty years under the direction and leadership of Osama bin Ladin.  Bin Laden is finally gone but Al Qaeda is still very much alive and well and growing.

People too quickly forgot in the past the extreme persistant evil that Al Qaeda is capable of and we paid an extreme price for forgetting.   Remenber that the World Trade Center was first attacked by Al Qaeda operatives in 1993.  They used a very powerful truck bomb in the sub-basement of the WTC fully intending to topple the tower and cause  massive  casulties.  The 1993 attack by itself should have been suffeicent notice that Al Qaeda was extremely dangerous militant organization and not just another oridinary criminal group.  

But poeple and their political leaders did forget so Al Qaeda was allowed to come back   eight years after the 1993 attack for a second and far more devastating attack in 2001 on the World Trade Center in addition to the destuction of four large jet planes, damage to the Pentagon and the death of thousands across America.

Please remeber Al Qaeda has demonstrated for more than twenty years its intent to casue massive death and destruction worldwide to advance its jihad.  To help in this intent Al Qaeda has repeatedly attempted to acquire nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.  It is a real mistake to believe that because bin Laden has finally been eleiminated as a threat that Al Qaeda will be diminished and their jihadist destruction will stop.  All the destruction of the last twenty years could not have been acccomplished without the help of thousands of dedicated jihadist and tens of thousands of supporters worldwide.  

So there is no need to goat about bin Laden's death.  The war on terror will very much  still go on.   And it took almost ten years to kill bin Laden.   Al Qaeda has not  been destroyed or diminished by bin Laden's death.   It would be to our greatest peril to forget once again after all these years how able and ready Al Qaeda is to cause mass destruction.  The worldwide growth and spread of Al Qaeda still needs to be stopped.   The world can not and will not be at peace with Al Qaeda.
Victor Lemus
13 years 2 months ago
Thanks for posting this article Fr. Martin. It is heartbreaking to see so many rejoicing and celebrating over another human being's death (no matter who it is). May we pray for Osama on this day, and for all who have suffered because of his actions, may they find healing and forgiveness in their hearts.
Theodore Olson
13 years 2 months ago
I do not rejoice in OBL's death.  I DO, however, rejoice in the ending of his ability to perpetrate acts of evil upon the world.
Crystal Watson
13 years 2 months ago
We've spent ten plus years, countless military and civilian lives,  trampled on many of our civil liberties (not to mention tortured people) all to kill this person.   This makes the Wrath of God operation look good.  :(
Mark Harden
13 years 2 months ago
PS Osama was discovered by tailing his chief courier. That courier's identity had been previously uncovered through interrogation...waterboarding...torture.

How does that complicate the moral calculus here? 

See http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=13512344

Helen Smith
13 years 2 months ago
Be it known:

Both Leon Panetta and John Brennan, the two crucial members of Obama's National Security team who planned this operation, are graduates of Jesuit Universities (Santa Clara and Fordham). 
Winifred Holloway
13 years 2 months ago
I do not rejoice at the death of Osama bin Laden, but I am not sorry that he has left the earth.  We are a fallen people by our heritage and our humanity.  There is no right to kill, but there is an obligation to protect ourselves and others where we can.  Dancing in the streets is indeed unseemly and too closely mimics the actions of many of those in muslim countries who celebrated the attacks on sept. 11.  All deaths by human violence are morally suspect, if not outright, immoral.  Ambiguity is often what we are left with when we deal with complex situations.  This is a condition, it seems to me, of our human limitations.  We can't gloss over the ethical issues in our actions and we do need to question and examine them.  Humility is a place to start.
13 years 2 months ago
This evening during our MondayPrayer group gathering, someone suggested we meditate on forgiveness.  We did, then we prayed for Osama bn Ladin.
John Bowar
13 years 2 months ago
I agree whole-heartedly with with Fr. James.

I think it's extremely important to make a distinction between having a strong appreciation for everything that our government does in an effort to portect us, and rejoicing that a man has just been killed. Taking out Bin Laden was a good thing for the U.S. to do... and that's too bad. It says something about how bad of shape our world is in that the best option was to kill him. If Jesus could forgive his murders from the cross, then we as Christians need to be able to forgive Bin Laden and his people. 

Fr. James, thank you so much for your words of wisdom! May God bless you abundantly!
Vince Killoran
13 years 2 months ago
The papers this morning report that the crucial information was gathered during routine questioning, not the torture techniques so beloved by many.
Matthew Pettigrew
13 years 2 months ago
Regarding Mark Harden's comment at No. 32, other news sources are saying that the torture did not work. They say that the prisoner did not reveal the name of the courier until much later in his captivity while he was undergoing non-coercive interrogation. Don't know which version is true, if either, and we may never know.
13 years 2 months ago

As a few posts have intimated above, the more profound question for me is not whether I can forgive Bin Laden, but whether the dead, his thousands of victims, can? Are we to assume that these souls are celebrating even now, “resting easier,” with his death and assumed torment for eternity in Hell? If so, what hope can we have that the spiral of retribution will ever end?
Failing my own capacity or willingness to forgive, my prayer is that God grants Bin Laden and his victims a meeting, where he will face the full truth of his actions in the light of their once-anonymous faces. If repentance and love of enemy is not conceivable on this side of death,  may God grant us all (in the words of Trappist monk and martyr Dom Christian de Cherge) a “space of lucidity” on the other, where we might finally experience the wonder, and painfully purifying truth, of our shared humanity and kinship in God.
13 years 2 months ago
The death of Osama bin Lauden eliminates a hero of hate.  The culture of hate from which he sprung suffers only a little from his loss.  The time to rejoice is when this world has more plows than weapons.  As a christian I have to believe that no sin is beyond the Forgiveness of God. " God I believe, help my unbelief" , is a prayer that precedes the ultimate simple prayer FIAT.
God expects the personal pain of 911 to be directed at Him and He forgives that too. When I willingly kill my enemy a piece of me is dstrroyed too. A friend of mine who lives in constant pain suffered a hang-over which he says was worth it. Amen
Molly Roach
13 years 2 months ago
Maybe when Jesus prayed, "Father forgive them because they don't know what they do," it was a moment in which he himself could not forgive and he asked his Father to do it for him.  
13 years 2 months ago
Is it legitimate to rejoice that, while the means may be imperfect, that fact that some closure (for lack of any better prhase at the moment) to the 9/11 tragedy has been achieved? Perhaps this sense of relief, rather than the death of a man, is the source of some of the spontaneous emotional reaction?  It seems odd to me that my faith would ask me to stand apart from this moment in...what exactly? Sadness? Emotional equivalence?  Denial?
Mark Harden
13 years 2 months ago
"we have posters on this blog [David Smith]and others on Catholic blogs  saying Obama ordered murder .. this is a despicable charge. ."

Actually, the Obama administration has stated that the military earlier sought a bombing of the compound to kill Osama bin Laden, but Obama nixed it...because he wanted a dead body for identification and was concerned a bombing would destroy that evidence.

So, Obama most definitely ordered the killing of Osama bin Laden. The morality of that order might be debatable, but not the order from Obama. 
david power
13 years 2 months ago
"Be it known:

Both Leon Panetta and John Brennan, the two crucial members of Obama's National Security team who planned this operation, are graduates of Jesuit Universities (Santa Clara and Fordham)."

I was losing hope in the Jesuits and they once again go and prove their worth.
Who wept for Hitler? The question is can we pay the fees that come with the higher moral ground?I have yet to meet the man who can.
"Sono tutti bono a far froccio cor culo del altro" This is too risque to translate but it sums up the postings of many on the internet ,especially in Europe. 
There are and will be many situations when America is in the wrong and people should save their scruples for those.
Osama had 72 good reasons for not fearing death and those who believe this is such a tragedy should consider if we really believe Jesus is the God of the Living or the dead.  
Tonight I have kept my memories for those firemen who went rushing into the towers.     
God bless Obama,the Navy seals and in the most crass Hollywood tradition God bless America!   

Jim McCrea
13 years 2 months ago
Scenario: the SEALS go in, capture OBL after a firefight when X people on both sides get killed. As the remaining tem and hostage(s) are departing extensive fighting takes place and all are killed.
Result: Obama, like Carter, is history. His US enemies would have been all of that result like flies on you-know-what. Political career ruined. US further damaged as being ineffective. OBL becomes an even bigger martyr than he will after this happened.
Military operations such as happened can often be the lesser of evils. Would people have been happier if OBL lived out his live as a breathing icon of al Qaeda resistance to The Great Satan? Why not the hue and cry when the US went into Afghanistan to capture OBL? Did not most people object to our going into Iraq because that had nothing to do with 9-11 and OBL?
As someone who spent some time in the military and saw some of the results of combat, all in all, I think there are more positives to what has happened than negatives.
As far as giving the guilty SOB a fair trial and then hanging him, who do we think we would be kidding? Would there be a snowball’s chance in hades that whatever court would try him might possibly declare that the preponderance of evidence did not warrant a guilty verdict? After being declared guilty, then what – life imprisonment @ Sing Sing? How about turning Alcatraz into a one-man high security prison and letting tourists view the man in his cage?
There’s always the “hie thee to a nunnery” approach, I suppose.
Ann Riggs
13 years 2 months ago
But how do we know that the "reign of terror" engendered by bin Laden will in fact come to an end? How do we know that the news videos of Americans dancing in the streets will not stir up passions against the U.S., as did the similar videos of Muslims dancing in the streets at the fall of the Twin Towers?

Isn't there at least some aspect of forgiveness that is tactical - it refuses to continue the unending cycle of violent responses to violent responses?

But somehow we all manage to think that OUR violence is different; OUR violence is against a REAL evil, whereas the violence against us is never justified.

There is a rabbinic tradition that the angels were beginning to celebrate the death of the Egyptians in the Red Sea; but God told them to stop, saying, "Weren't they also my children?"

Lamentation is what I feel, not at all a sense of joy, or even relief. Just a profound sense of sorrow at the unremitting violence of it all. We killed far more people - including our own troops - in response to the 3000 killed on 9/11.
Janet Claussen
13 years 2 months ago
Ironically, the topic I had planned for the high school juniors in my peace and justice class today was the Consistent Ethic of Life. The reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden made for lively discussion as we wrestled with the concept of  the sacredness of life womb to tomb.   Fr. Martin's article could not be more timely.
Bryon Gordon
13 years 2 months ago
Jim Belina (#18) ". . . I don't think that there is any biblical precedent for it."

Exodus 20: 13; Deuteronomy 5: 17 (Notice, repeated twice in the Torah.); Proverbs 24: 17; Mat. 5: 44; Luke 6: 27, 35

These are not extant in Holy Scripture, but it is a start from our biblical sources for which everyone can reflect and more importantly do.
Matthew Pettigrew
13 years 2 months ago
An additional note on torture: not only did it not work, it apparently resulted in lies. It appears that useful information was obtained only when "normal" interrogation techniques were combined with old-fashioned intelligence gathering.
Mary Colvin
13 years 2 months ago
Fr. James Martin has put it as well as or better than any. I must say that, in the wake of this news, I'm relieved to find so many people-Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, and atheists alike-reacting carefully, logically, and delicately. I know there are many who do not see the harm in figuratively putting Osama's head on a spike and parading it through the marketplace. We can only pray for and advocate lives built on forgiveness-something with which we all struggle-in our world.

As a Catholic, though, I find it especially poignant to consider the dignity of all human life and to think about Osama bin Laden as I think of all people whom I might find myself hating, looking down on, or begrudging in some way: God, our universe's only Creator, made my enemy, and He made him with the same love, deliberation, and attention to detail with which he made me, with which He made all people. Matthew 25 also seems to be a relevant passage to meditate at such times as these. God bless.
Thomas Hickey
13 years 2 months ago
     I certainly appreciate Fr. Martin's “response to the death of Bin Laden.” It reflects a reaction that would be consistent with Jesus’ teachings as well as a respect for the expected reaction from the street. However (if I didn’t have a “however” I wouldn’t be the product of a Jesuit education)  I appreciate that Fr. Martin had very little time and column space to get his thoughts in order. I think there’s a lot more to the discussion than he has written.

     First, Fr. Martin’s response is a Catholic one but, depending on one’s religious flavor, not necessarily a Christian one. While I endorse the great virtue of forgiveness, I also must emphasize that forgiving Osama can be conflated with forgiving what he did. The latter I do not accept; nor do I think that most people, be they “Christian” or atheistic, would accept it. We cannot allow the practice of a virtue to encourage further sin by those who are not sensitive to the distinction between forgiving the person and forgiving the act.
     Next, I believe that Fr. Martin is way out of touch with reality when he writes,“In other words, times without number.  ‘Forgive your brother or sister from your heart,’ he said.  This is not to negate the place of judgment and justice in God's eyes, for such a denial would mean that we believe in a God who cares not for human affairs.  But judgment and punishment, says Jesus, is up to God.” 

     Here he takes “judgment and punishment” out of the hands of human beings. I believe just the opposite: human society requires the ability and the power to both judge and punish if we are to have a “society” as opposed to having billions of people free to indulge in their whims, wants and impulses of the moment without fear of having to bear responsibility to their fellow human beings for the consequences of their acts or omissions. If we had to wait for word to come back from heaven that the miscreant had been roundly thrashed for his misdeeds, I’m afraid that we’d have a Blade Runner world on our hands.
     Finally, I find invoking right-to-life issues to cast a negative light on Bin Laden’s killing (murder, assassination, homicide, execution or whatever else one might call it) disingenuous and irrelevant at best. If one can raise that argument, then we have to get into killing in self-defense as well. Otherwise why praise our soldiers for their courage and gallantry in killing “the enemy”. Was not Bin Laden the enemy?  I find doubly disingenuous bringing the beatification of John Paul into the discussion given the scant attention that the up-and-coming saint paid to the abuse of countless thousands of children by the sexual deviates over whom, as God’s representative on earth,  he had the power and the duty to both judge and punish. Where was the respect for life there? That failure alone should disqualify John Paul from beatification, not to mention sainthood. Bringing the late pope into a discussion of the moral acceptability of killing Bin Laden is, at best, a distraction.
emel winters
13 years 2 months ago
The Archbishop of Canterbury said what I have been thinking. "the killing of an unarmed man is always going to leave a very uncomfortable feeling because it doesn't look as if justice is seen to be done..." Others also, like Tom Wright have called into question the we have taken the law into our own hands.
I know this is not an ideal world but I know that violence is extremely contagious and there must be another way for us to defend ourselves and use our resources more creatively
Richard Bell
13 years 2 months ago
Misunderstanding Jesus' command leads Fr Martin to lay additional burdens on people who love Jesus and try to obey him.  First, as Fr Martin's quotation of Jesus makes plain, Jesus commanded that we forgive our brothers and sisters.  Who are they?  They are just others who are also children of God by adoption, in virtue of their faith in Jesus.  I doubt that bin Laden was my brother.  Second, we are not commanded to forgive the unrepentant.  Indeed, God does not forgive the unrepentant.  I doubt that bin Laden repented of any of his offenses against me; actually, I am sure that he was glad he committed them and would gladly commit them again if given the chance.  So, the assertion that Jesus asks us to forgive bin Laden, or any other like him, is false.  I wish I understood how the command to forgive came to be misunderstood as a command to let go every offense of every offender, and how it came to be misunderstood as a command not to be angry; Jesus sure did not respond to every sin with a placid shrug.  (Maybe Jesus does not forbid us to forgive bin Laden, and maybe prudence would counsel doing so, but that is another matter.)
emel winters
13 years 2 months ago
well put Richard Bell.
My problem is not with forgiving him. My problem is with killing him. That will not bring peace. We - officially as a government -  have just entered the same dark zone as the terrorists, using the same means, just more "powerfully" more professionally...
Christian Janson
13 years 2 months ago
Evil is to be overcome by good.  Osama bin Laden has called the USA and the World to a new level of goodness.  Achieving that level of goodness is at the heart of the bin Laden question.  Forgiveness and justice are related issues.B

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