To be totally truthful, when I heard about bin Laden, I was relieved. Then shocked that they had at last found him. Then proud. Then glad. Then, when seeing some of the people gathering places and actually celebrate, I felt uncomfortable, and had to stop and identify why this predictable reaction would make me uncomfortable.
I think it's only natural to have mixed emotions about such a huge event. Something that quite frankly, I think needed to happen the way it did. Not one to give props to the president often (he gives himself props often enough, in my opinion), I think it did show some forethought and planning and good handling of the situation. The 24 Navy Seals did attempt to take him alive into custody, he resisted, using his own wife as a shield, which is despicable, and in the end, was killed. He had been brought to justice at that point - and I am glad about that fact. The part I am uncomfortable with is the actual celebrating. Honestly, and I think this is because I am both a Catholic and an American, I am experiencing some culture clash within my own heart.
Because I am an American, and very patriotic, my heart is glad that a monster has been brought to justice. I think the method was just, the mission was just, and it needed to happen. His body was disposed of in a just and proper manner, in accordance with his faith. In my American opinion, perhaps more than he deserved. The burial at sea, where there can be no shrine or pilgrims, was just. I am proud of the way that was handled - it shows Americans understand basic human dignity even for those who showed no mercy for others. This I can wrap my Catholic heart around.
But the dancing in the streets? The chanting and celebrating? It gives me a moment or two of pause. How does this make us better as a nation? I can understand the need to take a moment, even appreciate what the death of Osama bin Laden means - justice. I hope that is what they are celebrating - justice, rather than death. I hope the celebrations would be the same even if he had been captured. I hope it is a sense of relief, rather than joy, that leads people to celebrate. And I hope they understand that he was only one man. There are others more than ready to take up where he left off. There will be calls now to bring our soldiers home. That the war is over, as the leader of Al Qeada is dead. I think this means we are safer. It does not mean we are safe, and for the time being, we may be in even more danger, as his followers have vowed their "revenge", incited even more, I am sure, by the clips of Americans celebrating.
I'm not sure that any of this even makes sense. So often, as a Catholic, I am called to be counter-cultural. I think this is truly one of those times. I am not at all, not one bit sad that bin Laden is dead. I don't think I need to be, as a Catholic. I think he met his just fate, the result of waging an unjust war against the US. He had to know it would happen one day. It has taken me all day, though, to feel as though I need to pray for the repose of his soul. To abandon the "let him rot in the fiery pit of hell" thoughts, and turn instead to what Christ would have wanted. I think, in my belief, at least, that he is in a moment of reckoning. Christ would not want even one of his lost sheep to face hell, though we know the "fall like snow flakes into hell". Does this man's fate burden Him? I am sure it does. His hatred for Christianity not withstanding, I am sure that the Lord wanted him for His Kingdom. Just as He wants all of us.
So, I have waged an internal war within my own heart today. Part of me thinking "Who are you?! Some bleeding heart liberal??!! Sympathy for a mass murderer who hated all you hold dear?!" To the other half of my soul thinking quite simply, "I am called to pray for this soul. I don't have to be sad that he died, but I have to pray for his soul."
You would think by the time I hit 40, I would know how I feel about things, wouldn't you? I have these same questions about capital punishment, of course, just as many Catholics do. I hold to the church's teaching, that it is not for man to decide - but it's hard. I am an American - I think justice should be served. I think it was in this instance, and now, I need to pray for the soul of the man who finally paid for his actions and his hatred.
From the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a brief statement this morning. Here is an English translation of his statement:
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.