Florida parish prays for Osama bin Laden

A couple weeks ago, this exact situation arose in England, and made headlines.  Now it’s happening in West Palm Beach, Florida.


The name of Osama bin Laden appears in the Holy Name of Jesus Sunday bulletin. There’s a cross next to it.

A parishioner made a prayer request for the mastermind behind the 9/11 attack on America.

A church secretary took the Mass intention a week ago. She admitted she thought it was a joke at first. But few are laughing.

“I think it’s totally wrong, he doesn’t belong in the Catholic religion. For what he did to Americans, he doesn’t belong anywhere,” says Lois Pizzano, a Catholic Church member. “It’s unconscionable, it’s sacrilegious,” said Pizzano.

Father Gavin Badway admits many in his congregation are unhappy. But he says the church has never turned down a prayer request before. He says making the right decision isn’t always easy.

“Their hearts are troubled because they’re thinking emotionally about what he has done and he has done a lot of evil. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us, love and forgive,” says Father Badway, who is the church pastor.

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41 responses to “Florida parish prays for Osama bin Laden”

  1. I don’t remember any prayers for Judas Iscariot. Osama is closer to him than anyone else. He died like he lived, violently and rejecting the Christian religion to the end. Only God know where he is now, but I have a strong inkling is not with seventy virgins in the Muslim Eden. Probably seating next to Judas.

  2. God’s mercy is great enough for all of the sins of the world combined, so to think there isn’t enough mercy there for Bin L is just plain silly.

    What might be lacking is/was the receptivity to God’s grace/mercy, which at least is indicated by his actions.

    On the other hand, never understimate the power of God’s prayer or mercy. Sister Faustina had a revelation that Jesus comes to EVERY soul before the soul leaves the body to offer his mercy. It may well be one mass that gave BL the grace to accept it, even if said after his death, as God is not in time consequently, it’s never too late to pray for a “happy death” for anyone.

    All said, God’s justice is also as powerful as his mercy. That should give anyone assurance that expiation for BL’s sins would still be necessary even with God’s mercy, as every sin has to be atoned for in one way or another.

    FYIW, I prayed a Divine Mercy Chaplet for Saddam Hussain as I do for all who get the death penalty at the hour of their death (providing I’m aware of it). It wasn’t my place to “decide” if he was worthy. What I do know is that God wishes every soul saved and it’s our job, as the Church Militant, to help that happpen, in accordance with God’s will.

    Lastly, some day the soul in need may well be one of us, as if not for the grace of God, “go we!” Every prayer, especially the most powerful, the Holy Mass, should always be welcome and appreicated, especailly knowing that God will never waste it if the soul for which it was intended can no longer merit from it.l

  3. Amen, Klaire!
    I have wondered at the venom which good, God-fearing Christians have spewed over this man. He has done great wrong; but we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

    May God have mercy on his soul.

  4. A few years ago we were discussing in a moral theology class the difference between an evil act and the culpability of the person(s) involved. We were particularly discussing the 9-11 attacks. Sure, they were evil and deliberatly committed but there was the possibility that the perpetrators were acting on what they had been taught was the right thing to do; they did not know any better. We find a similar situation with Bin Laden (I do have to add here, though, that he did know that hoarding porn was a grave offense and was caught with a big stash so ultimately justice may come through a different channel).

    In the end, it is our duty to pray for those who have gone before us. If God’s infinite love and justice have them waiting in purgatory, then who am I to confront God and say so and so is not worthy? If the person is busy whailing and gnashing teeth, then the prayers will help someone who needs them.

  5. I understand God’s mercy, but if you reject Jesus Christ in your life to the end you still are saved, then why believe in Christ at all?

  6. Klaire #5 — Amen!

    Rudy #8 — Here’s my take on it. What someone really believes is a matter of fact, not of choice. The questions are whether we try to be sure our beliefs are correct (i.e., avoid culpable ignorance) and whether we follow our sincerely held beliefs. So for someone who has been given the grace to believe that Jesus is Lord, there is no moral choice but to live as a Christian. For one who sincerely believes that Jesus is not Lord — such as a person in invincible ignorance, there is no obligation to be a Christian, although there is still an obligation to try to know the truth and follow one’s conscience. But we know that the saving work of Jesus is sufficient for the forgiveness of all the sins of all people, and we know that God wants all to be saved. Therefore it is reasonable to suppose that he somehow offers salvation to all, possibly through a moment of death illumination which the person can accept or reject.

    That’s the long answer.

    The short answer is that we must not reject the truth when we know it.

  7. Kudos to Fr. Badway. Everyone things the Church’s hard teachings are about abortion and contraception and homosexuality: hogwash! These are just hard for some people in some times.

    The teachings on forgiveness and praying for our enemies: *that’s* the hard stuff.

    As someone said (I think on this blog) after the same issue happened in English: offering a Mass for Osama bin Laden is the absolute antithesis and rejection of everything he stood for and proclaimed. It is about love and peace and sacrifice and the Sacrifice of Our Lord.

    Rudy: who knows what happens near the end, what visions one might have, how approaching death might make us think differently? That’s not really up to you or me. Regarding Judas, we have theological reasons to believe he is in Hell, but if you don’t think so then it actually would be reasonable to pray for him.

    To all of those who think bin Laden doesn’t deserve prayers: be careful what you ask for. If we say this to God, He may say, “you think you should get what you deserve too?” and then send us all where we really deserve, Hell.

    It is His Mercy that allows to hope that we get what we don’t at all deserve: Heaven!

  8. “Forgive us our trespasses AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO TRESPASS AGAINST US…”

    We’re PRAYING that God would indeed use the same yardstick on us that WE would use on others.

    Or are those just empty words?

  9. It is proper and right that Catholics pray for and forgive our enemies. Christ forgave those who killed him, one could augue that his prayer included Judas.
    Ben Ladin by most accounts believed in God, even though we can say that he twisted the message.

  10. If you don’t think someone can be forgiven, then don’t pray the Our Father anymore.

  11. Thank you naturgesetz!

    Yes we should forgive and pray for our enemies. But Bin Laden has transcended the sphere of the living and he has now been judge in the Supreme Court of Eternity. There is no question about forgiveness, mercy and hope. But is it proper to pray for a local parish to include prayers for a known violent and murderous man, one who was a sworn enemy of the Christians, one who held a violent hatred of all we believe? Should not forgiveness come from those he injured directly? Isn’t it presumptions for us to be so magnanimous when we were not directly injured? Can we be reasonable assured that Bin Ladin knew enough of Christianity and Christ and he rejected it? I agree to private prayer for his soul (even if he may be damned), but not to the public prayer of the Liturgy.

  12. Take it a step further and recognise that not only are we called to pray for OBL, we are asked to forgive him.

    Nowhere does anyone say this is an easy thing to do however.

  13. Most evil in the world is committed by people who want to get something for themselves. The bank robber and the embezzler want money. The rapist and the murderer want power and control and use others to get it. But terrorism is a qualitatively different thing — terrorism is a rhetorical technique and terrorists are attempting to persuade through their acts of terror by engendering an emotion (terror) in the witnesses of their terroristic acts.

    So the ultimate rejection of a terrorist’s arguments is to stick to one’s own beliefs while rejecting the terrorist’s beliefs. A Catholic praying Catholic prayers for the dead offered for OBL’s soul is an aggressively defensive act. It is similar in character to doing something like wrapping his body in bacon before burying him.

  14. This is a tough call. What if one of the Parishioners lost someone in that attack? I can see making it the subject of a homily – about the challenges of loving our enemies, being called to be a merciful, forgiving people. But to just throw it out there in and of itself. That’s kind of disturbing.

  15. Christ came to save all, but not all will be saved.

    Who knows about Mr. Bin Ladin (even though we can have some strong indications), but there is no Universal salvation, unless one believes in universalism.

  16. Not all will be saved and why this is so is a mystery. We can’t make that call no matter how evil a person’s actions. We can’t just write them off saying that they obviously are beyond Christ’s mercy. Christ can overcome evil if he chooses. Look at our saints. Look at St. Paul.

  17. Rudy,

    In answer to your post at #8, I would refer you to the parable of the owner of the vineyard and his workers. He paid the same fee to the ones who arrived at the beginning of the day as to the ones who arrived at the end of the day. And his response to those that questioned the fairness of that was, to me, so powerful. Who are we to judge the mercy that God pours down upon us?

    Osama bin Laden was responsible for a great deal of evil in this world and he will have to answer for it before God – but we as follwers of Christ are repeatedly throughout the gospels commanded to forgive our enemies and pray for those who hurt us. By our actions will we be known – and the act of forgiveness is one of the most powerful testaments to Christ’s love that we have.

  18. Agreed, but Saint Paul repented and became a great apostle. Osama Bin Ladin never showed any signs of repentance. I agree with C.S. Lewis who says that if you reject God’s mercy (and we Christians that this mercy is the person of Jesus Christ), God will not force you to love him. We condemn ourselves to hell, not God. Is Bin Ladin in hell? I don’t know, Did he repent and believed in Christ in the last split second? I don’t know either, but I think it unlikely. Does he deserve the prayers of the faithful now after his death? I do not think these prayers belong in a liturgical celebration of the Mass along the names of other Christians. Perhaps in another context. Are Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, et al now enjoying the beatific vision? I don’t know either, but I doubt it.

  19. @ Rudy

    You are too rough on Judas. Christ chose Judas. Without him we would not have the Catholic religion. And you were wrong.

    In the end, Judas returned the 30 pieces of silver to the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas’s soldiers and hung himself due to his remorse in betraying Christ.

  20. @ Steve P

    You have misread the intent of the prayer.

    You are required to bury grudges and forgive those who are sorry. No those who are not sorry.

    The missing element is the transgressor must ‘ask for forgiveness’. Refer to Matthew 18:23-35

  21. Here’s what caught my eye: from the bulletin, it looks like they are taking more than one intention per Mass. By Church law, the priest can only take one offering per Mass. I wonder if each intention paid the stipend. If they did— the extra stipends MUST be donated to charity.

  22. Klaire is right. We are very mistaken when we ever believe that one’s sins are greater than God’s mercy.

  23. IMO, ObL was doing his version (the extremest) of his faith when he ordered the 9-11 attacks as well as all the other things he was responsible for. He thought he was right. I would expect he had no fear of death—he knew what happens after death in his belief system—and he was comforted by it. As for prayers—he’d probably cringe at the thought of Christians praying for him—they are the enemy.
    The world is a much better place without him in it. Since he is “swimming with the fishes”, no more worries about him personally as a threat.

  24. What was Hitler’s, Stalin’s and Mao excuse since neither believed in religion, much less in Christianity? Together they probably kill up to 100,000,000 plus the resulting slaughter of the wars they provoked.

  25. TomKumar:

    How right you are. Looks like a little simony and trafficking in sacraments going on besides a less-than-prudent Mass offering.

    I myself have said a prayer for the soul of OBL, so I don’t dispute the necessity of prayer for such an evil man. Nonetheless, publicizing such a Mass offering wasn’t the brightest idea: a “special intention” would have been a lot more sensible.

  26. HItler, Stalin & Mao needed no religion to do what they did. They were gods in their own minds. :o)

  27. Klaire, I don’t think I have ever before agreed with something you’ve said in this combox, but I want to thank you (sincerely) for what you wrote in #5 above. Amen, amen.

    May God have mercy on each of us, sinners all; each of us a son or daughter whom God loved into existence.

  28. I don’t know, George– Jesus asked the Father to forgive those who crucified him. This was AS THEY WERE DOING IT, prior to them even expressing any remorse (if indeed they ever did). I acknowledge that they may not receive that mercy unless they at some point open themselves to it, but that did not preclude Jesus praying for it nonetheless. Nor should it keep us from loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors. And what greater love can we offer than to pray for and will the good of another? That is not asking God to reward what OBL did, but we extend forgiveness IN SPITE OF what he did.

    Most of us have no clue as to the depth of harm our sins cause, even if they seem like “victimless crimes”. I need God’s mercy, and I don’t deserve it. I will ask for it nonetheless, and I am responsible for extending, to the best of my ability, forgiveness toward those who have wronged me. It may just be that MY act of forgiveness is what softens the heart of the transgressor, moving him to repentance, and asking for God’s mercy.

    This is taking things a little bit further, but if I wait around for him to feel bad, he may never do it. In a sense, I may be withholding the very thing that may have moved him toward Christ. That’s why JP II’s forgiveness of his attempted assassin was such a powerful witness. Like it or not, we are held to a higher standard. That’s part of the scandal of the cross.

    (BTW, I think you may have misread the parable– it’s not an instruction for us to hold out our forgiveness until someone begs for OUR mercy. It’s the Father (the Master) saying, “Look, I’ve already forgiven YOUR entire debt (that’s you, Steve, and you, George)! Are you seriously going to go out and demand satisfaction from your brother when I’ve already treated you with such compassion?” Forgive as you’ve already been forgiven. Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.)

  29. Wow ! $10 for a prayer request and four others can be in on it. Who said there aren’t any bargains out there these days.?

  30. George,
    Jesus said of Judas “It would have been better for him if he had never been born”. Pretty condemning words.

    I think what Jesus is referring to was Judas’ unwillingness to ask for and accept mercy and forgiveness. He must have known Jesus well enough to know it would have been given. Even though he was remorseful, he in essence made his sin greater than God’s mercy which is a twisted form of pride. Contrast Judas’ betrayal with Peter’s. Both were horrible but Peter was able to accept Jesus’ forgiveness and get past his sin. That takes faith and humility. We are shown the same duality by the story of the good thief and the bad thief crucified with Christ.

    When Christ died He took away our sins. But, we have to repent and accept that forgiveness.

  31. I am an Arab-American Christian and I do not agree that we pray on the soul of such a barbaric and terrorist person who murdered thousands of innocent people and was willing to kill other thousands if he had the chance to do so. The priest of this church should be suspended for good. And one other question, would the Jews accept that we pray on the soul of Hitler? What will their reaction be if that same priest holds a special prayer for Hitler?

  32. Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t there a parable about a ruler forgiving a person of a huge debt, and then that person goes out and refuses to offer forgiveness to one who owes him?

    It seems to me that forgiveness is more about the soul of the one offering it instead of the one to whom it is offered.

    But please, don’t let me interrupt the collective venting of spleens. Please continue

  33. John: #39: You post an excellent question—“—-would the Jews accept that we pray on the soul of HItler?”

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