The mass this Sunday, May 22, at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., will be offered on behalf of five people. Only one of them is a recently deceased head of a global terrorist network.
Parishioner Henry Borga requested the Mass intention on behalf of one Osama bin Laden. It is a long-standing tradition in the Catholic Church to offer Masses for souls in purgatory or to remember someone who has died or to honor someone still living. Borga told a local television channel that he placed the request for bin Laden because “he needs forgiveness and compassion from God.”
Not all of Borga’s fellow congregants agree, although Holy Name of Jesus’ priest has agreed to the Mass intention. Since bin Laden’s death on May 1, many of us who follow a religious tradition have wrestled with the question of how to respond. We are taught to view all humankind as children of God. But surely that doesn’t include people like bin Laden and Hitler and Timothy McVeigh, right? Instead of praying for their souls, shouldn’t we celebrate their deaths?