Subscribe via RSS Feed

How to Love a Mass Murderer

August 22, AD 2012 6 Comments

There were a few words, often repeated in the news coverage of the recent Colorado shooting by James Holmes, which stood out to me like red signal lights: “loner who said little and was easily forgotten”, “kept to himself” and “didn’t seem to have many friends.”

Now, I’m not a psychoanalyst or a criminal psychologist, but I did study what in the Middle Ages was called “the queen of all sciences”: theology.

The Catholic world view for me is best understood with the key word “relationship”. We are thoroughly relational creatures, down to our bone marrow in need of touch and contact with others. God Himself is a relationship of pure love and communion among three persons and He created us for communion with Himself and with each other.

That’s what heaven will be like, and that’s what we’re called to start living here on earth, as a “body” and as a “family” of brothers and sisters. Jesus prays thus to the Father: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:22-23).

So it doesn’t surprise me when I hear that some criminals commit crimes in order to go back to jail because that’s the closest thing they have to a community or a family. It makes sense when I hear from psychiatrist Dr. Weil on Dr. Oz that 10% of all Americans are on anti-depressants and he thinks the leading causes are society becoming more alienated, lack of physical touch and that technology doesn’t substitute relationships.

It also doesn’t surprise me, as apparently it did many others, that James Holmes had a disproportionate gift of intelligence and grew up in a nice neighborhood.

Really? Is that what we’d most like for our children? An abnormal intelligence and a middle-class neighborhood? Do we really think that people who have are necessarily happier and mentally healthier than those who have not?

James Holmes house

Shouldn’t we instead wish for our children to have deep and close relationships, for them to find their vocation or primary “relationship” within the universal family which is the Church, to have strong social skills and be able to form lasting bonds, and for their trust in God the Father to enable them to trust other people, even if those same people sometimes let them down.

A recent Newsweek article by Dave Cullen, “What does a killer think?”, also described the Virginia Tech and Columbine murderers with similar “loner” behavior as James Holmes. The article says,

The official report on the Virginia Tech killings documented Seung Hui Cho’s steady disintegration, beginning in third grade and reaching homicidal ideation by eighth. It listed a dozen pages of ‘aberrant behavior,’ from ‘pathological shyness and isolation’ to stalking women in the dorm. Cho wrote weird, angry plays for creative writing class, which he refused to discuss. He sat silently, spurning eye contact with his ball cap pulled down to shield his eyes.


Most vengeful depressives blame their girlfriend, boss, or schoolmates. Some just aim to kill those targets. But the eventual mass murderer sees it differently: it wasn’t one or two mean people who drove him down, it was all of us. Society was brutal, the whole teeming world is mean. We all need to understand what we did to him; we all need to pay.

In the Catholic world view, evil is really just a degradation or lack of good. Hate is the absence of love. Mother Teresa had a few words on that; she said,  “I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.”

Could it be that James Holmes, other than being classified as “mentally insane” by psychology or “cold-blooded killer” by criminology, can also be classified as a person, our brother, who has a severe lack of love and relationship? And would you join me in perhaps offering a prayer or two for him?

About the Author:

Julie Machado is a 30-year-old wife, mother and Portuguese-American who grew up in California, but moved to Portugal for college and has been there ever since. She has a degree in Theology from the Catholic University of Lisbon and has special interest in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. She blogs at Marta, Julie e Maria.

  • Jim Kearney

    As someone who has witnessed severe possession and has worked as a psychiatric technician I can tell you this man seems to be possessed. Of course they warrant healing and deliverance. But I would caution against sympathy for the devil. Our religiosity can lead us to unwisely avoiding calling a spade a spade or evil “Evil”. There ARE people who CHOOSE evil. As for me, I’ll pray for their victims.

    • Bruno

      Do we not all choose evil one time or another, or maybe even every day of our lives, those of us who are not saints? Even Holmes may yet repent, and if he sincerely did so, would it not be good, and would not heaven delight?

      • Jim Kearney

        Performing an evil act is not the same as choosing evil as a way of life. Someone very dear to me was raised in a family of multigenerational Satanists. This includes being used in Satanic rituals being raped as a baby by multiple adults, and forced to sacrifice infants to shRe in the guilt and having demons driven into them in ritual. She has a very vivid memory of being with Jesus as a baby and promising she would never become them. I do hope they repent, truly repent and turn back to God, BUT I nave no sympathy for them.
        I’ve also had a friend who was in the FBI Behavioral Science unit. The sociopaths, sexual sadists who ENJOYED torturing their victims before murdering them are demons in the flesh. John Douglas had written of his multiple interviews of these monsters in “Journey Into Darkness”. He and author of “Pedophiles, Predators and Rapists” spoke how these evil people play people like you like a fiddle. Like I said, I will save my empathy for the victims.

  • Beautiful! Yes, Julie, I will join you in offering many prayers for James Holmes. And, I pray for the victims, too, Mr. Kearney. God’s Heart is big enough to receive all of our prayers.

  • Joey Gutierrez

    I to will pray for both the victims there families and James Holmes Julie. Mr. Kearney there is a book that i read called “The Boy Who Met Jesus” a quick sum up of the book this boy from africa who was a pagan boy met our lord and saviour Jesus Christ and would have apparitions and he would ask bold questions one’s that most people of better understanding would never dare to ask Jesus. And this is regarding to your comment about sympathy for the devil. The little boy says to jesus why are you contradicting Jesus you say for us to love our neighbor but yet you hate the devil and Jesus tells the boy about his love and mercy and that if the devil were to truly repent of his sins and be sorry for what he has done with all his heart he would forgive him but the fact that the devil is the father of all lies and evil the devil would never repent and that is why he is where he is. So if Jesus is willing to do that to the devil who are we to pass judgement or not forgive James Holmes if he were to do ask for forgiveness. I do not mean to offend you in any way Mr. Kearney but if Love and forgiveness were in more of our hearts for people and we did not pick and chose who to love or forgive this world would be a better place. If you get a chance to read that book i strongly suggest it. It is very powerful a true story

    • Jim Kearney

      I agree that he should be forgiven IF he truly repents. David Berkowitz has admitted trucking with evil as a practicing Satanist and has repented. But he has not ask to be released. He knows his punishment is just. And if we open ourselves to evil and cooperate with it, and in fact sidle with it, we have our rewards. Even Jesus, as he healed the lepers said “Go and sin no more. “. I have no sympathy for Hitler, Stalin or any other who like Marx had written in a poem how he will go into hell cursing mankind. Let God deal with them.