Thursday, September 11, 2008

requiescat in pacem

September 11th, 2001

a day of infamy

As we mark the seventh anniversary of 9-11, it behooves us as Catholic Americans to remember and to practice our faith. Justice without mercy is un-Christian; mercy without justice is irresponsible. We must pray and work for justice tempered by mercy. Justice demands that we protect and defend ourselves and the defenseless. Justice also demands we capture, incarcerate and punish the guilty for their violent attack on the innocent. Mercy demands we pray for our enemies and love those who hate us. The Gospel challenges us to pray for the conversion of sinners and evildoers. Are these not spiritual works of mercy: to admonish the sinner, to forgive injuries, to comfort the mourning, to counsel the doubtful, to instruct the ignorant, to pray for the living and the dead and to bear wrongs patiently? Yet, mercy does not negate nor contradict justice. Good is to be encouraged and rewarded while evil is to be condemned and punished. That is for the common good of everyone. As Catholc Christians, we can and must pray for our worst enemies, the terrorists. That does not mean that no one is to hunt them down and bring them to justice. It means we pray for their spiritual conversion that they repent of their former evil and pledge to live good and holy lives in the present and the future.

The innocent victims from the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the crashed plane in Shanksville, PA, deserve justice as do their surviving families. The brave men and women who rushed in to save people and who died in the process merit our prayers, thanks and respect. The brave members of our military who died in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq deserve our prayers and gratitude as well. Too many innocent people have died at the hands of a few, radical terrorists who pervert religion for their own political tyranny. Anytime evil is done, the guilty need to be identified, found, and punished. As Christians we are not asked nor required to give evil a blank check. Our faith does not even suggest we give carte blanche to al Qaeda or Osama bin Laden. It does ask us to PRAY for these wicked men. Pray for justice and pray for mercy. Mercy in that they repent and stop doing evil and that we protect more innnocent lives.

I remember the nuns telling us in parochial school to pray for the conversion of Russia. We prayed every day one Hail Mary, Our Father and Glory Be for the Communists in the USSR and on mainland China to convert from atheism and to embrace Christianity. We also prayed for our brave men and women who defend and protect us in the military. There was no contradiction then and there is none now. People have distorted mercy into a pathetic pity party where the criminal is given more rights and respect than the victims. They have perverted mercy into a wishy-washy, naive and irresponsible delusion that society does not need penal sanctions to preserve order or protect the common good. Contrition and confession are never enough. There must be firm purpose of amendment and some form of penance.

Others have distilled and reduced justice into a primiaeval lex talionis (quid pro quo) and remove any vestige of humanity, mercy or possibility of repentence and reform. This cold blooded form of justice is not Christian nor is it human. Justice and mercy need to coexist. God practices both and so must man. A Christian nation would still have police and prisons, courts and trials, etc. What our faith adds to society and culture, however, is PERSPECTIVE. We are commanded by God to BALANCE justice and mercy without sacrificing one for the other. This is why denying Holy Communion to unrepentant pro-abortion politicians is not a violation of mercy. It is just in that they are openly defying Church doctrine on the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception and on the immorality of abortion at any stage. It is also mercy in that as an EXPIATORY sanction it seeks a REMEDIAL outcome, i.e., the change of heart of the politician to turn back to being pro-life. Justice demands that wrongdoing be condemned and punished but mercy demands we give the guilty a chance to repent and amend their ways. Our modern culture only sees extremes on either end of the spectrum. Catholic Christianity, however, synthesizes justice and mercy together in the same moral life.

It is not easy and it takes a lot of effort but we have no choice. Peace is NOT the absence of war. It is the tranquility of order, Saint Thomas Aquinas said. Order is the correct relationship between parts. When there is harmony it is a consequence of everything and everyone working properly and doing their appropriate job (work). When we defend and protect innocent life, as in the case of the unborn in the womb or the terminally ill in the hospitals and nursing homes, we are doing the right thing for the right reason. When people kill innocent human life, they disrupt the harmony God intended. When we allow terrorists to spread their hatred, lies and oppression, we are neglecting our duty to defend and protect as well. Loving our enemies and praying for our persecutors (that they repent and amend their lives) is a command from God, not an option. Love does not mean being blind or deaf to evil being committed, it means doing what we can to stop evil, for the sake of the victim and the criminal, both of whom are children of God.


Anonymous said...


Dan L. said...

Fr. T:

You are one priestout there that is willing to teach!

..So many good priests that I know, and have known, are either very tired, or in fear to preach on such as even ABORTION!...God love them, but they are being careful, no doubt.

You, Fr. T, are hanging tough...God Bless you, I will certainly pray for you!

Love, Peace,

--Dan L.

Tom said...


Excellent and also a needed reminder to myself to live out my faith every day, navagating the path that our Lord has laid out me, with the prayers of our Lady assisting me. I love Psalm 85:10 because it lays out very neatly this great truth, "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet;
righteousness and peace will kiss each other." Where did such an embrace take place; Calvary, which because of men like yourself who said yes to God in the privilege to be Christ's priest, we the faithful get to share in everyday. Thank you.

Erin said...

Father John,

Thank you for being a true witness to our faith! This post is very inspiring as are you! Thank you for reminding us of our duty as Christians to live out our faith daily! May God reward you in all you do!

In Christ,

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