"Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live." (Ezekiel 18:23,32)
We learned on Sunday that after 10 years in hiding, the mass-murderer Osama bin Laden has been killed by US Armed Forces. As I quickly scoured through social media posts, I found nothing but rejoicing at his death. Here are the first five posts I found:
"It's a GOOD day to be an American!"
"Yeah!!! Bin Laden is finally dead!"
"I just got the news. Toasting our boys with a scotch."
"So after 10 years of hide and go seek the US wins. Boo-yah, bi***es!"
"It's a GOOD day to be an American!"
"I can and will cheer for the death of this monster. He will be judged and found guilty (I Pray) by the most high God."
On top of these comments were a few videos spreading on the internet from my Alma Mater, the US Naval Academy, where a "spontaneous pep rally" (spontaneous gathering of all students in one place) was held to cheer and celebrate Osama's death. "I believe that we have won," they chanted over and over while jumping up and down, after learning that Navy SEALs delivered the fatal blows.
I'm not trying to defend any of the actions of Osama Bin Laden. They were despicable and evil. He was a mass-murderer and remained a threat to society. I made 2 deployments myself to the Persian Gulf to fight terror when I was in the Navy. I lost a Naval Academy classmate and friend in Afghanistan when he was shot in the chest by an insurgent sniper. I'm definitely not emotionally "separated" from what is going on there.
The Church allows execution in cases where someone remains a dangerous menace to society, and Osama continued to fund and support violence against innocent people. But my question is, why do we rejoice at his death...is it merely out of a sense of vengeance?
The Vatican issued an immediate statement about Bin Laden's death:
"Osama Bin Laden - as everyone knows - has had the gravest responsibility for spreading hatred and division among people, causing the deaths of countless people, and exploiting religion for this purpose.
Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace.”
Get that? We do not rejoice at anyone's death, no matter how evil they are, and even if it is justified. Even in cases of a just Capital Punishment, it is with great sadness that someone must be put to death to protect the rest of society.
Many hope that he will get his "just rewards" from God, implying that they hope he is damned. We should not wish eternal damnation on anyone - even our worst enemies. Remember, God created Bin Laden in the same way that He created us - in His image and likeness - so God loved Bin Laden as a person with His infinite love. He loves each and every one of us in the same way. Instead of rejoicing at this man's death, can't we as Catholics spare a prayer for his soul, which objectively is in need of many prayers? None of us are worthy of God's mercy or the gift of heaven. Let us pray for the forgiveness of all - even those whom we have come to despise.
Some might be offended, but tonight I will be praying for the eternal repose of the soul of Osama bin Laden. No one knows what went through his mind between the bullet hitting his head and death - perhaps his heart turned to God in perfect contrition. Only God knows, so may God have mercy on his soul if He sees it fit.