Sunday, May 17, 2015

Boston Bombing Verdict: Death, Life, Consequences

At 2:49:43 and 2:49:57 pm EDT/18:49 UTC, April 15, 2013, two pressure cooker bombs exploded on Boylston Street near Copley Square in Boston.

They were about 210 yards, 190 meters, apart; near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev's bombs killed Krystle Marie Campbell, Lu Lingzi (吕令子), Martin William Richard, and Sean A. Collier.

Dzhokhar said that he and his brother wanted to defend Islam from America. I think their experiences as Chechens and Avars may have been a factor, too.

Don't expect a rant against Muslims, 'foreigners,' Americans, or anyone else. I think it's noteworthy that the imam of a prominent Boston mosque apparently refused to give Tamerlan a Muslim burial. The imam's decision may or may not be justified.

Lost Lives, Lost Limbs

(From Aaron "tango" Tang; via, Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.)
(Less than two minutes after the explosions at the Boston Marathon. April 15 2013.)

Krystle Marie Campbell, 29, was a restaurant manager from Medford, Massachusetts. Lu Lingzi (吕令子), 23, was a Chinese national and Boston University graduate student from Shenyang, Liaoning. Martin William Richard, eight, had been watching the race with his family.

A few days later, the Tsarnaev brothers ambushed and killed Sean A. Collier, an MIT police officer. Boston Police Officer Dennis Simmonds' death, a year later, was most likely due in part to being shot in a confrontation with the bombers after midnight, April 19, 2013.

At least 14 of the 264 folks injured in the explosions lost limbs. Two lost more than one limb. (USA Today)

There is no excuse for this. Murder, killing innocent people, is wrong. I'll get back to that.


Tamerlan Tsarnaev has not been sentenced: and won't be. He's dead, killed during that April 19, 2013, confrontation.

The surviving Tsarnaev brother is still alive, and probably will be for at least a few more years. He has, however, been sentenced to death by lethal injection.
"Boston bombing trial: Death sentence for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev"
BBC News (April 15, 2015)

"A US jury has sentenced Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to death by lethal injection....

"...After 14 hours of deliberations, the jury concluded that Tsarnaev showed no remorse and therefore should be put to death....

"...Massachusetts as a state ended the death penalty in 1984, but Tsarnaev was tried on federal charges, meaning he was eligible for execution.

"After the sentence was announced, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch said: 'The ultimate penalty is a fitting punishment for this horrific crime and we hope that the completion of this prosecution will bring some measure of closure to the victims and their families.'..."
I certainly understand being angry about what happened in Boston on April 15, 2013. I have felt, and feel, a desire to punish those responsible. I'm sure that those who knew the victims feel this desire more intensely.

I think there is no reasonable doubt that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, together with his dead brother, is responsible for intentionally killing several people; and maiming more than a dozen.

But no matter how emotionally satisfying it might be to kill Dzhokhar Tsarnaev — his death will not restore life to those he killed, or limbs to those he maimed.

Do I think he deserves to die? Yes: at least in the sense that he shares responsibility with his dead brother for several unjustified deaths.

Do I think he should be executed? Probably not. I don't think he should be released, either. Anyone who thinks that "defending" his faith means killing innocent people must be restrained.

Safeguarding the common good by imprisoning folks who will kill others makes sense. But a well-intentioned desire to make angry citizens feel better is not, I think, a good reason for killing a prisoner.

I can't say that the death penalty is always wrong. The Catholic Church allows capital punishment: if a society can't defend human lives any other way. (Catechism, 2266-2267)

Life, Death, and Eternity

(From Aaron "tango" Tang; via, Wikimedia Commons; used w/o permission.)
(Boylston Street near Copley Square, about three minutes after the explosions.)

Human life is sacred. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2258)

We're made in the image of God. Each of us is a person: someone, not something; filled with God's 'breath:' matter and spirit, body and soul. That's why it's wrong to kill an innocent person. (Genesis 2:7; Catechism, 355, 357, 362-368, 2258-2262)

Okay — but let's say that someone attack me, and obviously wants to kill me. If the only way to stop that person is killing him: is that wrong?

Let's see what St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
"Nothing hinders one act from having two effects, only one of which is intended, while the other is beside the intention. Now moral acts take their species according to what is intended, and not according to what is beside the intention, since this is accidental as explained above (Question [43], Article [3]; FS, Question [12], Article [1]). Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in 'being,' as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end...."
("The Summa Theologica," Question 64, Article 7, St. Thomas Aquinas) (translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province (Benziger Bros. edition, 1947))
In this happily-hypothetical case, I may defend myself: even if that act results in the death of the attacker. It's not quite that simple, though. My hypothetical attacker is human, too: so causing that person's death is wrong, unless it really is the only way I'll survive. (Catechism, 2263-2264)

Getting back to the sadly-real Boston Marathon bombing, it's remotely possible that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev's lawyers will keep his case in the courts until he dies of old age. My guess is that America's national government will kill him before that happens: legally, after well-documented court proceedings.

I am certain that killing folks at the 2013 Boston Marathon was wrong: but I have no idea where the killers will spend eternity.

Having a conscience means making reasoned judgments about whether my actions are right or wrong is. I can even see what others do, and make similar distinctions, but "we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God." (Catechism, 1778-1779, 1861)

"And Who is my Neighbor?"

Why aren't I ranting about Tamerlan Tsarnaev roasting in eternal hellfire?

The short answer is that I'm a Christian, a Catholic: and I take our Lord seriously. Matthew 7:1 and all that.

The long answer — could fill a book. "Summa Theologica," St. Thomas Aquinas's unfinished discussion of Catholic theology, runs to about 3,500 pages; and that's another topic.

As I've said before, my faith's basics are simple: love God, love my neighbors, see everyone as my neighbor, and treat others as I'd like to be treated. (Matthew 5:43-44, 7:12, 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31; Luke 6:31 10:25-27, 29-37; Catechism, 1789)

The story of the good Samaritan answers the question, "who is my neighbor?" (May 10, 2015; October 26, 2014)

Everyone is my neighbor: relatives, friends, the family across the street, even enemies. (Matthew 5:43-44; Romans 5:10; Catechism, 1825)

Loving my neighbor isn't even close to hoping that my neighbor spends eternity in Hell.

Time to Think

"Love" isn't "approval." Sometimes the loving thing to do is keeping someone from doing wrong. (August 24, 2014; April 26, 2011)

And sometimes it's giving the loved one time to think about what they've done.

Alessandro Serenelli, for example, arguably deserved death for the murder of a young woman. Instead, he was sentenced to 30 years of hard labor.

Six years later, he realized that killing her was wrong. After he'd served his sentence, the community where he'd lived didn't want him back. He eventually died, an old man, in a Capuchin monastery.

Sometimes a murderer decides that what he or she did was wrong: and wants God's forgiveness.

That's why I hope Dzhokhar Tsarnaev gets what his brother didn't: time to think.

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