Friday, 6 May 2011

The Death of Osama Bin Laden: A Franciscan Perspective

Since the night of May 1, when the death of Osama bin Laden was announced, Americans have experienced and expressed a variety of reactions including relief, elation, fear and hope.

In a letter distributed to Holy Name Province friars this morning, the HNP leadership recommends calm reflection on this event in light of a Christian faith.

Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, and the members of the Provincial Council encourage remembering the Word of God: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles, or the Lord will see it and be displeased.”

Read the whole letter here


Jayden Cameron said...

Personally, I believe the US secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, when she said in 2002 that OBL was dead and being kept on ice, and his body would be brought out at the right political moment. The present theatrical display (in my opinion) was a calculated move to incite exactly the kind of jingoistic rejoicing we are now witnessing, no doubt as a boost to a sagging president, contemplating another election campaign. The wise words of the Franciscans still apply, but I believe the present incident is one more example of cynical manipulation of public opinion by government leaders.

jmKelley said...

As a Christian, I agree with everything the friars say, but note they fall short of actually condemning the killing of Osama bin Laden by US forces. Others are condemning bin Laden’s killing as “murder”, and I want to address this latter point especially.

I am not a pure pacifist. There are times when deadly self-defensive measures, by individuals and nations, are legitimate and necessary for the saving of innocent lives. The killing of bin Laden is such a case. He was the major planner of ongoing terrorist acts against innocent civilians.

Further, taking him alive was not an option. Had he been taken prisoner, this would have motivated terrorist attempts to free him -- hostage situations in which bombers threaten to blow up school children unless he is released.

Like the Allied plan to shoot Hitler if he were found alive, the summary execution of an enemy leader in war can prevent his followers from killing even more innocent people in desperate attempts to free him. But I agree that bin Laden’s death should be an occasion of somber prayer, not celebration.

We are called by Christ to pray for those who persecute us, and this includes Osama bin Laden and other terrorists. However, this does not preclude our taking necessary practical actions to defend ourselves. Compassion without wisdom is sloppy agape.

Contemplative Catholic said...

Thankyou for such a thoughtful response to the post. I do wonder however, if what you said above would have justified saving Jesus from the cross. As much as I dislike quoting the "Catechism of the Catholic Church" section 1759 says "An evil action cannot be justified by reference to a good intention" (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. 6). The end does not justify the means.

jmKelley said...

Well, Aquinas’ quote should not be taken out of context because Aquinas himself outlined the “just war” principle. Only a true pacifist can hold that all violent acts, including defensive acts of violence, are equally evil (ie: a police officer who shoots an armed murderer in the course of murdering is equally a murderer). So unless you’re taking a pure pacifist position, you shouldn’t make that argument.

The main point I’d make about the dispatching of bin Laden is that it was justified as a *defensive* action to stop a mass-murderer who was continuing to plot the mass murder of innocent civilians.

Yewtree said...

I was very pleased to hear voices of faith saying that we should not rejoice in bin Laden's death. My instinctive reaction was that it is wrong to gloat. I was reminded of the end of verse 31 from the Tao Te Ching: "Treat victory like a funeral." I also like the quote from Proverbs in the letter.