As we have all heard now, Navy Seals brought about the end of Osama bin Laden’s time on Earth. According to the White House, the terrorist and coward even used one of his wives as a human shield in a failed attempt to save his life. UPDATE: The White House is now backing off the claim that Bin Laden used a person as a human shield.
In response to the news, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi, S.J., issued the following 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.”
I certainly try to think and act like a Christian in all things. When I heard the news of Osama bin Ladin’s death, I felt at first a sense of relief that finally he had been caught and that, thank God, he will not be able to murder anymore people.
After that initial feeling, yes, I admit that I felt a surge of pride that American intelligence and dedication brought about this justice. I give credit not just to our military but to President Obama, who waived off simply bombing the house back in March but called for a special forces attack so that we could confirm the kill. (Quite the risk to take if it had failed, but he made the right call.)
But am I “rejoicing”? Am I excited like I am on the Fourth of July? And if I am, is that wrong? Should I really be happy that someone is dead?
Well, I am happy that Osama is dead.
I don’t consider myself to be “celebrating” this fact. But I am happy. When someone is a mass murderer, like Hitler or Chairman Mao, I would hope that they would repent before their death. (They would still face justice on Earth, of course, but God wants all sinners to reconcile.) But if they remain unrepentant and continue trying to kill more innocent people, then yes, I will be happy when their blood-killing days are over.
To use another example, if a life-long pornographer were to die, I would not be excited at this person’s death. I would be very sad that he died before repenting because I fear God’s justice. Not because I am better. After all, I am a sinner, too. But selling pornography as bad as that is, doesn’t even compare to being a mass murderer.
Back to bin Ladin. Is it possible that Jesus froze time for us all except Osama as the bullets were right before him so that he could offer this terrorist one last chance? As we know, Christ is an ocean of mercy and he certainly could offer that to him. And if anyone is given this last chance, I hope they take it. For this reason, St. Teresa of Avila even prayed for Judas Iscariot.
But when someone is happy or relieved that a unrepentant mass murderer dies, they are not celebrating or “rejoicing” death. They are first saddened that this person chose such wicked evil, but they are also happy that they can commit no more.