Osama bin Laden is dead, and since he is with the fish rather than God, why am I bothering to blog on what some religious nutter in Florida thinks about his Christian duty?
The bare bones of the story are this: A West Palm Beach man named Henry Borga has slipped his parish priest ten bucks to include the name of Osama bin Laden in the Mass-intentions for Sunday, May 22nd. Borga says he doesn’t “admire, sympathize or respect Osama bin Laden” but being a devout Catholic he feels it’s the Christian thing to do and that people need to pray for ‘lost sheep that stray from the flock.’
“I’m asking for forgiveness, mercy and compassion for that miserable criminal,” says Borga.
The parish priest, candidly named Gavin Badway (who has become fond of the microphones waiting for him when he pretends to scurry away from a small gaggle of reporters), says that it’s Church policy to accept prayer requests for anyone, though he understands that “it’s an emotional issue.” Thank you father. Tea?
OK, those are the facts. And Sunday, during the so-called “Prayers of the Faithful,” some doody will say (maybe with her eyebrows slightly raised just to let her family know it wasn’t her idea to do this loser of a thing) “We pray for those who have died: Mary Reilly, Joe Vermicelli, Charlie Murphy, and Osama bin Laden. Eternal rest Grant unto them O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon them.” (Clears throat).
There will be a mumble, with some people saying “Hear us O Lord,” or “Have mercy on us O lord,” and a hissing few saying “May the sharks fuck him sideways O Lord.” At the pancake breakfast after Mass, no one will talk to Mr Borga except Mrs Vermicelli who will say, “Thanks a fuckload Chuck for having the world’s worst person mentioned in the same prayer with my Joe.”
Mr Borga will just say that he’s just doing what any good Christian would do. Lost sheep. Flock. Etc. It’s his WWJD moment.
There are a couple of things wrong with this picture, besides its utter stupidity. First, Mr Borga has every right to pray for his enemies, in the privacy of his bedroom. But to insert the name of the world’s nastiest pillock into a liturgical celebration where others can’t opt out, “Christian thing” or not, is really a bad idea. Osama bin Laden is not a lost sheep. He is a wolf, and the sheep have no obligation to pray for the wolf.
Second, the priest didn’t have to do it. Although Catholicism is notoriously lax in terms of the theology of this part of the Mass (the “Intentions”) its orginal purpose is pretty limited: the prayers of the Catholic faithful are for the Catholic “faithful” and the “faithful departed”–a spiritual square dance with no strangers buttin’ in trying to steal a little grace. The standard boring version includes prayers for the pope, the bishops, priests and priestly vocations, the sick, the dying and the dead plus (sometimes) a shout-out of things that don’t make it onto the list. (“Mel’s grandson in Michigan isn’t doing well. Acute Intermittent Porphyria–I thought you’d want to know”). It’s a prayer uttered by the community for the community. And while I haven’t checked, I don’t remember OBL being a regular communicant at the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church. Rule of thumb, however: If you don’t pray for your arthritic Baptist uncle George to lay off the gin, it seems a bit of a stretch to pray for a dead Muslim who killed thousands of Christians, Muslims (more Muslims than Christians) and a few Jews before he packed it–I mean had it packed–in. Aren’t there enough lost sheep in West Palm Beach to make a credible flock? What about Barnes and Noble after midnight?
Like the Ground Zero Mosque, this is a non-controversy fueled by Catholic illiteracy of the Mass, the Church and its traditions. Not to pray for Osama bin Laden isn’t a lapse in Christian charity or a sin against the Holy Ghost or a repudiation of Jesus saying love your enemies. Which I suspect he said under enhanced interrogation techniques.
Jesus never met an enemy like this, or he might have made an exception. And as for Christian charity, there are good reasons why you don’t show it to the devil. If there’s any larger Catholic purpose here, I can’t see it. OBL was not going to Catholic heaven, so the intercession of the Church on his behalf is supererogatory and baseless. If he had dreams of paradise and thought his jihad was the way to get there, he doesn’t need the help of Floridians to locate his virgins among the sharmutahs.
My advice? Take up a collection and take Mr Borga and his family out for a nice post 11-o’clock mass brunch at the inevitable Olive Garden close to the Church. Leave a chair empty in honor of our fallen hero. Talk to the chair. Tell it how sorry you are and how Jesus forgives him and that we need to learn to talk together like God’s children. Offer him him some salad and bread. The wine is all yours.