Saturday, December 18, 2010

No Longer Suffering?

On Thursday evening, local police officers went to an apartment to serve a felony warrant.  Having determined from the neighbors that the fugitive was there, they went up and started to enter the apartment.  Someone inside opened fire on the police, hitting one officer in the head.  The police returned fire, got the injured officer out of harm's way, and summoned SWAT and negotiators.  After several hours of failed attempts to make contact with the shooter, the police sent a bomb squad robot with a camera into the apartment.  The shooter lay on the floor, dead of what at this writing appears to have been a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

The officer who received a bullet in the head survived, and is even reported to be conscious and alert.  The dead shooter,  Patrick Green, was wanted for failing to appear at his sentencing on a felony possession charge. The media have interviewed a member of his family who paints a picture of drug abuse and jail time.  The very description of her relationship to him -- her stepbrother is the shooter's father, making her his "aunt" -- hints at a broken home with tenuous family ties that no doubt set the stage for this dissipated life.  "He just had trouble living life on life's terms," she said.

But what really captures the attention is the following, casually tossed out, almost as an afterthought (emphasis added):
She gives her thoughts and prayers to the officer that was shot, and even though she's grateful that Patrick is no longer suffering, she calls the events of Thursday night - a tragedy.
This is an incredible statement.  After a life of drug abuse, criminality, and pretty much doing as he pleased ("trouble living life on life's terms"), capped off with an attempt to murder the police officers who came to pick him up after his failure to appear on a felony charge, and then ended violently at his own hand, what rational basis is there to assume that Patrick is no longer suffering?  What must one believe in order to be able to arrive at such a conclusion?  What must the reporter believe in order to receive and pass on that conclusion so casually?  What must be the state of a society in which such a statement raises no eyebrows?

One certainly hopes and prays for some miracle of mercy for this man, however poor his outlook appears to outsiders: Christ shed His Blood to save him, too.  But salvation requires our cooperation.  What, then, must the aunt believe in order to take it for granted that Patrick Green's suffering is at an end?  It must be one of two things.  Either she believes that there is no  immortal soul, and no afterlife, and consequently, no heaven and therefore no God -- in which case, to what is she directing her prayers for the officer who was shot? -- or, she must believe in universal salvation, where we all get hoisted up to heaven and plunked down at God's right hand, regardless of what we have done and how we have lived.  In that case, nothing we do matters; and if nothing we do matters, then we ourselves do not matter.  Therefore, it was pointless for Christ to shed His Blood for our salvation, since we were never worth it, even in His eyes.  Moreover, a moral order is pointless -- and is not license the true purpose of a belief in universal salvation? 

But how false is a hope that leads us to count on a one-way, non-stop ticket to heaven at the end of a dissolute life.  On the contrary: we will die as we have lived.  We have no right to presume otherwise.  

We must pray for the soul of Patrick Green, who has now been stripped of all delusions, and pray that if he is suffering, it is, by some miracle, the expiating suffering of the saved and thankful. 


  1. "she's grateful that Patrick is no longer suffering"... This nonchalant assumption of the state of the soul of such a person is an attitude of pretty well most people I know. What is it's causation? Poor religious upbringing? Pop culture influence? Why is this attitude (in my experience) so widespread? Many unknowns. It is a mystery.

  2. Well, I hope the man is saved. We are not entitled to assume he is not. But neither are we entitled to to assume that he is.

    Of course, the other assumption that could underlie such a conclusion is that he has simply ceased to exist. I can't decide which is worse.

  3. Anita: Good post.
    TH2: Perhaps the influence of Eastern religions has something to do with Western cultural assumptions about the afterlife. Hindus and Buddhists don't believe that "heaven" ultimately awaits everyone who decides to get enlightened during their unlimited number of lives. Thus, in these religions, morality is relative and death meaningless.

  4. Thank you, Patrick. I think you have a point about eastern religions. They certainly have an influence; and they are certainly appealing for those who don't want to be bound by a moral code.

  5. Whoops. Correction. I meant that Buddhists and Hindus do believe in universal salvation. Of a sort.

  6. Catholics are supposed to be the leaven and the salt for society. This includes edifying funeral sermons, no eulogies.It's in The Catechism, I checked, when it came out, I'd been shocked at first hearing of a eulogy at a (UK)catholic funeral of a family friend early seventies, they said Amchuch had started it before VatII even. M'mother left instructions, no eulogies, just incase.
    "Catholics" will be shocked and "Hurt", according to MSM reports, but the truth will filter out slowly.
    We're fallling down on our job.

  7. The Redoubtable Marcus Magnus, who is having trouble posting comments here for some reason, has this to say (bold and italics are mine, for clarity):

    "We must pray for the soul of Patrick Green [...]"

    To do so would be a charitable act which will not go to waste, but really, MUST we? from First John, with commentary (Douay):

    1 Jn 5:16. He that knoweth his brother to sin a sin which is not to death, let him ask: and life shall be given to him who sinneth not to death. There is a sin unto death. For that I say not that any man ask.

    A sin which is not to death, etc... It is hard to determine what St. John here calls a sin which is not to death, and a sin which is unto death. The difference can not be the same as betwixt sins that are called venial and mortal: for he says, that if a man pray for his brother, who commits a sin that is not to death, life shall be given him: therefore such a one had before lost the life of grace, and been guilty of what is commonly called a mortal sin. And when he speaks of a sin that is unto death, and adds these words, for that I say not that any man ask, it cannot be supposed that St. John would say this of every mortal sin, but only of some heinous sins, which are very seldom remitted, because such sinners very seldom repent. By a sin therefore which is unto death, interpreters commonly understand a wilfull apostasy from the faith, and from the known truth, when a sinner, hardened by his own ingratitude, becomes deaf to all admonitions, will do nothing for himself, but runs on to a final impenitence. Nor yet does St. John say, that such a sin is never remitted, or cannnot be remitted, but only has these words, for that I say not that any man ask the remission: that is, though we must pray for all sinners whatsoever, yet men can not pray for such sinners with such a confidence of obtaining always their petitions, as St. John said before, ver. 14. Whatever exposition we follow on this verse, our faith teacheth us from the holy scriptures, that God desires not the death of any sinner, but that he be converted and live, Ezech. 33.11. Though men's sins be as red
    as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow, Isa. 3.18. It is the will of God that every one come to the knowledge of the truth, and be saved. There is no sin so great but which God is willing to forgive, and has left a power in his church to remit the most enormous sins: so that no sinner need despair of pardon, nor will any sinner persist, but by his own fault. A sin unto death... Some understand this of final impenitence, or of dying in mortal sin; which is the only sin that never can be remitted. But, it is probable, he may also comprise under this name, the sin of apostasy from the faith, and some other such heinous sins as are seldom and hardly remitted: and therefore he gives little encouragement, to such as pray for these sinners, to expect what they ask.