The question is not whether one evil man's reign of terror has ended. Fr. Frederico Lombardi, of the Vatican Press Office writes, "Osama bin Laden - as we all know - was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the death of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end." The question is - how should we respond to hearing of his death?
WASHINGTON, DC (Catholic Online) - "Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead," from The Wizard of Oz, had gained vitality in the past twenty-four hours, expressing the sentiments of people from around the world. In the midst of this celebration the question still remains, "How should a Catholic Christian respond to the death of anyone?" Should we join the conga line or this there another way to look at what has just taken place.
Sunday night as President Barack Obama announced that the Osama Bin Laden, the mastermind of the attacks of 9/11, was dead, the grounds surrounding the White House were filled with thousand of people shouting and celebrating, many shouting "USA.USA!"
The scene was similar in Times Square, as well as Ground Zero in New York and other landmark cities where lives had been taken in calculated acts of terrorism by al Qaeda, of which Bin Laden was both leader and icon of extremism.
In the midst of our nationwide sigh of relief, the question bodes - how should a Catholic respond to such an announcement? Is it right to celebrate a death?
America and allies have been involved for over almost a decade on a war on terror. Bin Laden himself made no secret of the fact that he wanted see America - and particularly the Christian West dead. Last night's reports made it clear that the mission regarding this man was never to catch him but kill him.
On Monday, Catholic Radio programs and online blogs were buzzing with opinions and reactions.
Some said that this was de-facto capital punishment, which the church discourages except in rare cases. They quoted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which states.
"Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
"If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
"Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare, if not practically nonexistent.'" (CCC, 2267)
It would seem difficult to view the situation in such a way since his death did not come as a sentence through a jury trial or military tribunal. It came as the result of a strategic military attack as a part of this war.
Here the Catechism states, "The Church and human reason both assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflict. 'The mere fact that war has regrettably broken out does not mean that everything becomes licit between the warring parties.'" (CCC, 2312)
The actual response from across the Church has been varied.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported, "Some Catholic bishops, reacting to the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, said that although his killing was 'unjustified,' it was a 'big deal' in curbing terrorist violence in the world.
"'Although [his death] is a [form] of violence and no act of violence can be justified... it's a big deal to curb violence,' Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said in a phone interview with reporters on Monday.
"Iñiguez, who is also head of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines Public Affairs Committee, hoped that the killing of Bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon almost 10 years ago, would pave the way for the decline of terrorist activities around the world, which have claimed many innocent lives."
Greg Sisk, professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Law in Minneapolis, MN wrote on the Mirror of Justice blogsite, " while we as Catholics hold every human life as precious, even those of our enemies, Osama bin Laden was no longer a simple man but had become, by his own considered choice, the incarnation of unreasoning terror and the face of atrocity.
"The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of United States was the result of a strike against evil that should be respected. And, most importantly, today's events bring an end, not merely to the life of one man, but to that man's ongoing, personal, and dedicated efforts to kill more innocents."
Father Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, regretted that bin Laden had met a violent death. "The Church never endorses violence or associates with violence. Violence perpetrated by religion is never acceptable to any civilized society."
Dr. Jim West, a protestant professor in Tennessee quotes a Facebook posting from Jeremiah Bailey, which states, "Justice may require the death of evil men, but it never requires our joy at their passing."
Fr. Frederico Lombardi, Executive Director of the Vatican Press Office, was an early responder upon hearing of the death of Bin Laden.
"Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices," and will not create " an opportunity for further growth of hatred," Lombardi stated. " Osama bin Laden - as we all know - was gravely responsible for promoting division and hatred between peoples, causing the death of countless innocent lives, and of exploiting religions to this end."
He went on to say, " Faced with the death of a man, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of each and every one of us before God and before man, and hopes and commits himself so that no event be an opportunity for further growth of hatred, but for peace."
By Randy Sly
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)