It’s been about four months since I’ve been at Mass.
I don’t like that. But I see no point in kvetching about the COVID-19 pandemic, or blaming Minnesota’s governor for trying to keep Minnesotans alive, or our bishop for cooperating with the governor.
Mass is important. Vital. It’s the heart of Catholic worship. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1324)
But there’s more to being Catholic than getting to Mass once a week. And this isn’t the first time something’s interfered with our access to the Eucharist. We’ve got procedures for this sort of thing. Like Spiritual Communion. (April 4, 2020; March 21, 2020)
My obligations include protecting human life and upholding the common good. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 2558–2300)
That’s why I’ve been wearing a face mask in public, and avoid being in public except when it’s necessary.
Wearing a face mask during Mass wasn’t nearly as bothersome as my worst-case imaginings. The process of getting the mask off, receiving the Eucharist in my hand, transferring the Host to my mouth and resetting the mask was as intricate as it sounds. But not overly difficult.
Reason to Hope
This Sunday’s first Bible reading was Wisdom 12:13, 16–19. Two things jumped out at me.
“For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke insolence.”
“You taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are righteous must be kind;
And you gave your children reason to hope
that you would allow them to repent for their sins.”
(Wisdom 12:17, 19)
God is large and in charge.
“Our God is in heaven
and does whatever he wills.”
And God is merciful.
“Indeed, before you the whole universe is like a grain from a balance,
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
“But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook sins for the sake of repentance.
Being allowed to repent for my sins? I like that. I like that a lot.
It’s been a while since I talked about sin. And how I’m supposed to live.
By standards that are still widely accepted, kinfolk of the victims should have been clamoring for Lee’s blood.
Killing someone who was at least partly responsible for a relative’s death is, apparently, supposed to make survivors feel better.
There’s arguably some truth in that.
If someone killed my wife, children or grandchild, I might feel like killing the murder. As slowly and painfully as possible.
Emphasis on “feel like.” Emotions are one thing. Decisions are another. (June 6, 2020)
That self-knowledge helps me sympathize with folks who express desires that the avenging sword of justice slay miscreants, malefactors and murderers.
But I think Monica Veillette and other relatives of the 1996 murder victims have the right idea.
Statement by Monica Veillette, relative of a victim, via KTUL
“…’She [Monica Viellette] said other relatives want to witness the execution to counter the government’s argument that it’s being done on their behalf.
“‘For us it is a matter of being there and saying, “This is not being done in our name; we do not want this,”‘…”
(Andrew DeMillo/Associated Press, KTUL News (July 13, 2020))
Life, Death and Justice
Murder, deliberately killing an innocent person, is a bad idea.
I figure many folks would agree with that.
Although I think there’s less consensus on who qualifies as a person and what “innocent” means. And that’s yet another topic.
I think murder is wrong because human life is sacred, a gift from God. Each of our lives matter, no matter how young or old, healthy or sick we are. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258, 2261, 2268–2283)
That’s why I’m obliged to see Daniel Lewis Lee as a person. One whose life mattered.
His life mattered because he’s human. What he did, and what he may have believed, doesn’t change that. (Catechism, 360, 1700–1706, 1932–1933, 1935)
Responsibility and justice matter, too.
I can try helping or hurting others. We all can. And I’m responsible for my actions. (Catechism, 1701–1709, 1730–1738, 2258)
The Catholic Church says killing a murderer is okay. Sometimes. If the killer’s guilt is reasonably certain. And if killing the killer really is the only option for protecting innocent lives. (Catechism, 2267)
America doesn’t have the highest per capita wealth in the world. But we’re not a poverty-stricken nation, either.
I very strongly suspect that keeping a convicted murderer alive, but imprisoned, is possible for at least most American states and for the federal government.
Time and Options
As I see it, a big problem with capital punishment is that it’s final.
Someone who’s convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole may die in prison.
But there’s a chance that years, decades, later someone will notice that the convicted murderer isn’t guilty.
After that, there’s a chance that the courts will decide to let the non-murderer out of prison. Maybe even with a ‘sorry about that’ note.
When someone has been legally killed, the courts can issue a ‘sorry about that’ note. But I’d be surprised if anyone seriously believes that a judge could say “by the power of the United States Supreme Court, arise! Come forth!!”
Actually, a judge could say those words. But they wouldn’t restore life to a corpse.
Aside from lowering the odds that a legal system will end innocent lives, keeping murderers alive but restrained gives them time for reflection.
And a perhaps-remote chance of repentance.
Take Alessandro Serenelli, for example.
In 1902, he was a wannabe rapist/seducer who inflicted eventually-fatal injuries on 11 year old Maria Goretti.
Maria lived long enough to give testimony. And to forgive Alessandro. She was recognized as a Saint in 1950.
Alessandro was tried, convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison. His sentence would have been life in prison if he’d been a year older.
While in prison, Alessandro decided that murder and attempted rape were bad ideas. And that he shouldn’t have done either.
He was released after 27 years in prison, his sentence cut short due to World War I and his exemplary behavior.
Alessandro then begged Maria’s mother to forgive him. Which she did, citing her daughter’s forgiveness as a precedent. Several odd jobs later, Alessandro found a home in a monastery.3
Prisoners and Possibilities
Maybe Daniel Lewis Lee is guilty of murder, and would have kept saying he’s innocent until he died.
Maybe he’s innocent, and would eventually have been released from prison.
Or maybe Daniel Lewis Lee really is a murderer, and would eventually have acknowledged his guilt. Maybe even recognized that murder is a bad idea and that he shouldn’t have done it.
I’ve no idea which of those possibilities is more likely. What’s certain is that he’s dead, which makes the question somewhat moot.
I suspect that many murderers wouldn’t follow Alessandro’s example. Or maybe they would.
I am certain that killing them gives them far less time to think about their actions. And that my country can protect the public without killing prisoners.
Several decades back, while I was living with my parents in Moorhead, Minnesota, a radio announcer read the day’s weather forecast.
Nothing unusual about that. The forecast was another matter. As I recall, the National Weather Service was telling us to expect severe thunderstorms, hail, torrential rains, mighty winds and an occasional tornado.
After finishing the official forecast, the announcer paused before rhetorically asking “what? No burning hail?” Or maybe it was “fiery hail.” Something like that.
Which raises an interesting, if hypothetical, question. If Egypt’s climate was like Minnesota’s, back when Moses couldn’t talk his way out of a diplomatic mission, what would it have taken to get Pharaoh’s attention?
Interesting to me, that is. Your experience may vary.
Same Old Same Old: Storms and Sunshine
Last night’s 24-hour weather forecast told me to expect a bright, sunny and thoroughly nice summer day today.
So far, we’ve had sincerely overcast skies, a severe thunderstorm warning southeast of Sauk Centre; and assurance that the excitement isn’t over.
And now, a few minutes later, the severe thunderstorm warning is south of us. Or maybe it’s a new warning.
Either way, I’m not surprised that yesterday’s forecast and today’s weather don’t match.
This is the Upper Midwest. I grew up in this part of the world, which may explain why I think weather in San Francisco is boring. Beautiful city, though, and that’s another topic.
Now the sun is shining on the corner of South Ash and 9th Street. And folks between Detroit Lakes and Moorhead had a tornado warning.
Minnesota’s weather is not boring. Occasionally lethal, but not boring.
I'm a sixty-something married guy with four kids in a small central Minnesota town. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run a business and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters.
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