They died in a shoot-out involving Burgess' efforts to burglarize a New Mexico cabin. Joe Harris was one of two New Mexico sheriff's deputies who were hiding in a cabin, watching houses across the street. Of the thousands of cabins in New Mexico, Burgess chose that one to enter. (ThePressDemocrat)
Sad, But What's That Got to Do With a Catholic Blog?There's quite a grab-bag of topics here, including the propriety of theft (the Catholic Church is against it (Catechism 2408, 2412, 2534)); and whether or not it's okay to own property (yes, according to the Catholic Church (Catechism 2401), but we're expected to use property for the benefit of our family, and of others (Catechism 2404)).
Instead, I'm going to take a superficial look at Joseph Henry Burgess's religious beliefs, Catholic beliefs, and life issues.
The murders that Joseph Burgess is most clearly linked to happened in 1972, in Canada.
"...On June 21, 1972, the bodies of Ann Durrant, 20, and Lief Karlsson, 21, were found in their sleeping bag, shot multiple times in the head at point-blank range on Vancouver Island.I didn't discover which Bible verses had been written and ripped. It does look, though, as if Joseph Burgess had strong, if warped, religious views.
"Burgess was among hundreds of hippies on the island that summer, setting up their tents on the beach, [retired Royal Candadian Mounted Police officer Dan] Creally [who helped investigate the 1972 murders] said....
"...Creally said a woman on the beach told authorities that she had seen Burgess cleaning a .22 caliber rifle and said Burgess had told her he disapproved of Durrant and Karlsson's relationship because they were unmarried. It was not clear what kind of contact, if any, Burgess had with the couple before the killings.
He was gone by the time investigators arrived at the murder scene, but a police dog discovered his belongings, including an identification card and passages from the Bible he had written out, ripped up and discarded nearby, Creally said. His fingerprint was also at the scene...."
2380; Leviticus 18:22-) (The Church's concern for animals doesn't end there: Catechism, 24172418, for starters.)
To hear some people talk, you'd think the Catholic Church was against people having any fun at all.
Murder isn't Nice, EitherAs I've written before, "murder isn't nice, and you shouldn't do it." (July 23, 2009) Not even if you're killing someone who's doing something you don't particularly approve of.
From the looks of it, Joseph Henry Burgess had gotten it into to his head that pre- or extra- marital hanky-panky wasn't right. Okay, I can go along with that.
So he killed at least two - and maybe more - people who weren't living the way he thought they should. No way can I go along with that.
People who don't live absolutely one-hundred-percent-pure, upright lives are still human beings. Which severely limits what I think I can do with their lives.
"Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life...."Yes, the Catholic Church does - in extreme cases - allow the death penalty. But it's far from recommended. (October 2, 2008)
As for 'what's the big deal with life issues?' - in one of the televised re-tellings of Agatha Christie's Poirot stories, a dreadfully soulful person asked Poirot, "if one is not alive, what is one?" Poirot answered: "Dead, madame."
The way I look at it, once you're dead your options - lifestyle and otherwise - get narrowed down rather drastically. So I don't have much of a problem accepting the rather definite teachings of the Catholic Church on human life. (November 2, 2008)
Why Pick These Articles out of the Week's News?What got me looking up Joseph Henry Burgess was the headline: "Christian Drifter May Have Killed Two Couples in Separate Beach Murders, Police Say". I hoped this wasn't the start of another wave of 'Christians as dangerous people' journalism, so I started digging. And, it doesn't look like that's happening.
No "Former Altar Boy" Assumptions This TimeUnlike the old 'former altar boy' news stories (December 26, 2008), Burgess's warped version of Christianity actually does seem to be what motivated him to kill a couple at Vancouver Beach, British Columbia in 1972. There's pretty good reason to believe that he's responsible for another couple's death at Jenner beach, Sonoma County, California, in 2004, and there may be others.
Respecting Life: Even the Life of People Who Aren't Doing Nice ThingsBurgess is what some people apparently believe is a typical Christian: a nut job who reacts violently when confronted with people who don't live according to his rules. Equating Christianity - and sometimes religion in general - with intolerance and ignorance was a none-too-rare belief when I was going through college, back in the seventies; and that 'sophisticated' belief seems to still be with us. (August 5, 2008, in another blog)
Over a hundred years ago, Chesterton wrote: "There are those who hate Christianity and call their hatred an all-embracing love for all religions." (G. K. Chesterton, Illustrated London News (January 13, 1906), via "Quotations of G. K. Chesterton," American Chesterton Society) Looks like things have slid a bit since then.
Anyway, back to life issues.
I'm not glad that Burgess is dead. I don't approve of murder, and it looks like he is responsible for the early deaths of two, probably four, and maybe more people. That's wrong, and a loss for all of us. But God gave Joseph Henry Burgess life, too: and now that gift is gone, along with whatever Burgess could have done with the rest of his life.
I'll freely grant that Burgess doesn't seem to have made the best possible set of choices about what to do with God's gift to him: but that's another matter.
I'm also sorry that Joe Harris is dead. It's quite a bit easier to work up emotions of loss and sorrow in this case, but again: that's another matter.
- "Forgiveness and a Spanish Priest"
(July 23, 2009)
- "Maria Goretti's Killer, Alessandro Serenelli: Sometimes People Change"
(July 6, 2009)
- "Year for Priests Kicks Off Today"
(June 19, 2009)
- "Private William Long, Dr. George Tiller, Two Killings, Two Investigations"
(June 5, 2009)
- "Dr. George Tiller's Murder Link Page"
(June 2, 2009)
- "Sandra Cantu: Terrible Loss; High Emotions; Time to Think and Pray"
(April 13, 2009)
- "The Catholic Church Won't Even Let People Kill Themselves"
(January 28, 2009)
- "Psycho Santa's Slaying Spree - The Catholic Connection"
(December 26, 2008)
- An appalling case where the press could have taken a 'former alter boy' approach: and didn't.
- "Life: It's a Single Issue, and an Important One"
(November 2, 2008)
- "Capital Punishment: Killing Those Who Deserve to Die"
(October 2, 2008)
- " 'Self-Satisfied Ignorance?' Eucharist, Quran, and Atheist Book Trashed"
Another War-on-Terror Blog (August 25, 2008)
- "Christian Drifter May Have Killed Two Couples in Separate Beach Murders, Police Say"
FOXNews (July 24, 2009)
- " 'Cookie Bandit' tied to cold-case killings"
TheStar.com (July 24, 2009)
- "Police Have Break In Couple's Calif. Slaying"
WBNS (January 24, 2009)
- "Deputies pursue New Mexico link to Jenner slayings"
ThePressDemocrat.com (July 22, 2009)
I'm not allowed to pick and choose which Catholic beliefs I like and reject those which don't fit my preferences. While I'm on the subject, roll-your-own 'Catholic' doctrines aren't a liberal monopoly in America. (June 19, 2009)