Robert Barron: “Even Osama Bin Laden is Our Brother”

Brett Salkeld is a doctoral student in theology at Regis College in Toronto. He is a father of two (so far) and husband of one.

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  • digbydolben

    Considering the frenzied mood of the American public, spooked into becoming a nation of easily-controlled sheep by their government, I think you’re very brave to put this up.

    You’ll probably soon be on one of the “Messiah’s” “watch lists,” though.

    Me, I live OUTSIDE of the “national security state,” and can afford to say THESE things.

    • David Nickol

      Fr. Barron’s position is far removed from your own. He did not criticize the United States for the operation against bin Laden, and he did not even criticize celebrating the consequences of bin Laden’s demise. He very carefully made a theological point, not a political one.

      Considering the “frenzied mood of the American public,” I’d be interested to hear the experiences of others, but aside from the public celebrations I saw on the news, I saw pretty much no reaction at all among the people I know and work with. Many among my co-workers had watched from the windows of the office building that my company occupied at that time as the Twin Towers fell, miles away but quite visible. And yet the death of bin Laden was not even a topic of conversation at the office the day after it happened.

      • digbydolben

        There is no absolute separation between political philosophy and theology–especially not in Islam, but really not so much in classical Christian theology, either. Separation of public and private morality is an artificial construct of bogus American Eighteenth Century anthropology. Human nature is not so divided.

        Just between you and me, though, David Nichol, I’ll say here–on this Catholic blog–that the life and career of Osama bin Laden, who was, by his own lights, a deeply religious man–proves that Islam truly is a terrible and dangerous heresy, and not on the same plane of “divine revelations” as Christianity and Buddhism, for instance.

        The sad thing, for myself–because I know and love certain Sufi poets and philosophers–is that bin Laden’s violent, Messianic form of Islam really IS a legitimate branch of that religion, just as religiously fundamentalist and racist Zionism really IS a direct product of certain unfortunately legitimate interpretations of Old Testament religion.

        There are enormous flaws in religious thought that declines to be “universalist” in the 21st century, and that includes the exclusionary Catholicism of Pope Ratzinger. The pope to the contrary notwithstanding, Osama bin Laden was definitely NOT perverting HIS notion of who and what G_d is; Saladin would have agreed with him 100%, and bin Laden probably died confident of Allah’s grace.

  • Joe O’Leary

    He is becoming an eloquent, even prophetic speaker — perhaps a bridge across the culture-war chasm.

  • Zach

    He’s absolutely right.

  • David Nickol

    If I may plagiarize my own comments from the new web site Catholic Moral Theology, there is something that makes no sense to me about praying for someone who is dead who you believe may be damned. There have been many discussions lately of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins, and a constantly repeated theme in the Catholic discussions is that God doesn’t reject people, but rather they freely reject him. If it is person’s choice to reject God, and if what we have chosen is fixed at the moment of death, it seems to me that the dead person can’t do anything, because his choice is already made, and God can’t do anything, because he (according to Catholic though) is simply honoring the free choice already made by the dead person.

    So given that, supposing one does want to pray for the soul of bin Laden, what precisely can one say if bin Laden’s choice was to reject God? Of course, we can’t know what his choice was, and maybe it makes sense to pray for those who have chosen God but are not already perfect at death. But I don’t see that it makes any sense to pray that someone who has already died be spared damnation.

    It seems to me that Catholic prayers for the dead basically assume the dead to be in Purgatory. I have a very difficult time believing in Hell and hope, if it exists, that no one winds up there. But it seems to me there is nothing in Catholic thought that would support the idea of praying that someone who has died not be damned. Of course, there is nothing in Catholic thought (it seems to me) that permits one to assume someone who has died has been damned. So it seems to me a conditional prayer (“Lord, of Osama bin Laden is not already in Hell . . . . “) for an extremely wicked person who has died is all that is warranted. Certainly we would not pray

    Eternal rest grant unto Osama bin Laden, O Lord,
    and let perpetual light shine upon him.
    May he rest in peace.

    Did Catholics pray for Hitler after he died? Theoretically, it’s not too late to do so now, I believe.

    • brettsalkeld

      I don’t want this to turn into a discussion about hell and purgatory (truth be known I have a post brewing on that and I’d rather save it for then), but I think you’re right. Any prayer for him presumes he is in purgatory. Of course, even if we’re wrong and he is in hell, prayer is good for us. We are much better off praying for him than celebrating his eternal condemnation.

    • bill bannon

      David Nichol….kudos galore.

  • Dan

    Father Barron has spoken powerfully about the Christian witness to non-violence, which (paraphrasing here) is inherent and consistent with what we know about Creation…”In the Beginning…”

    His writtings and commentary about this have opened my mind and heart about this topic and our nation’s propensity for war and our priorities when it comes to the criminal justice system.

  • Ronald King

    I like what Father Barron states. I would like to comment on several points. The first point is, and I am paraphrasing, that perfect love drives out all fear. What are the implications of this? We are to strive for perfect love by recognizing when we do not love perfectly. Celebrating bin Laden’s death is not perfect love, rather, it is the delusional celebration of fear of death being lifted from our awareness. Does bin Laden symbolize how attached we are to this finite material world? If so, what are we to do with this awareness, if we have this awareness at all. Does bin Laden show us how weak our faith is and how we are dependent upon institutions in the world to protect us? Is what we label evil something to spark goodness in us?
    Fr. Barron referred to loving your enemies? Why? It changes connection of fear and hatred which are aspects of the culture of death into a step towards developing a culture of life. What happens in this entanglement of love towards enemies? Both, the giver and the receiver are transformed through the influence of this love into a closer relationship with the source of all love and life, God.
    Fr. Barron states, “Wickedness and evil does not tell the deepest truth.” Absolutely. Bin Laden is a creation of our sins since we are all connected through God we all have an influence on who is labelled evil or good. Frank, this is the aspect of quantum entanglement that flows from the theory that everything in the universe is connected and influences everything in infinite ways.
    Should we celebrate? Only if we want to keep the culture of death alive.

  • Ronald King

    Digby, “Human nature is not so divided.” Along the same lines is the universal ignorance and belief that what we identify as human nature is actually animal nature.

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