We’re All God’s Children

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On April 15, two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon killing three people and injuring 264. This latest in terrorist attacks struck fear into the entire nation, especially the Boston area, for four days until one of the suspected bombers was killed in a shoot-out and the other was arrested. The arrested suspect, Dzokhar Tsarnaev, was severely injured. He was rushed to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center where he was placed in an Intensive Care Unit down the hall from some of the bombing victims. He was cared for by medical professionals who had cared for some of the victims.

What are we to do when someone who has committed such horrible crimes needs help? This was the ethical dilemma facing these doctors and nurses. They are professionally obligated to treat the man, regardless of what he did. According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, some of the nurses went against their instincts and tried to treat him with a cold professionalism. They thought maybe that was more appropriate in this instance. Some of them kept in mind that he has to live to answer for his crimes and to tell authorities what he knew. All of them asked to be unidentified because they were afraid of public backlash.

This is one of those times when Jesus’ commandment to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:43-48 and Luke 6:27-35) is put to the test. We know that the person in front of us likely committed great evil, how are we to treat him?

Our faith gives us pretty clear guidelines. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

1933    … The teaching of Christ goes so far as to require the forgiveness of offenses. He extends the commandment of love, which is that of the New Law, to all enemies.  Liberation in the spirit of the Gospel is incompatible with hatred of one’s enemy as a person, but not with hatred of the evil that he does as an enemy.

These medical professionals were given a solemn duty on the evening of April 19th. They treated the person of Dzokhar Tsarnaev knowing full well what he may have done. We are supposed to separate the person from the deed. The deed may be evil, but the person always has dignity. As St. John Chrysostom writes:

What is it that is about to be created, that enjoys such honor? It is man—that great and wonderful living creature, more precious in the eyes of God than all other creatures! For him the heavens and the earth, the sea and all the rest of creation exist. God attached so much importance to his salvation that he did not spare his own Son for the sake of man. Nor does he ever cease to work, trying every possible means, until he has raised man up to himself and made him sit at his right hand.

And as St. Catherine of Siena agrees:

What made you establish man in so great a dignity? Certainly the incalculable love by which you have looked on your creature in yourself! You are taken with love for her; for by love indeed you created her, by love you have given her a being capable of tasting your eternal Good.

The trauma nurses at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center should be proud of their work. They knew first hand what pain the bombings had caused, yet they still went in to work to treat the suspected bomber. They did the near impossible; They followed Jesus’ commandment of love.

Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan

Bethanie Ryan is a housewife, mother and writer. She recently graduated with a MA in Pastoral Studies from Aquinas Institute of Theology. Originally from Missouri, she currently calls upstate New York home. She writes for several websites including her own, True Dignity of Women.

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9 thoughts on “We’re All God’s Children”

  1. Avatar

    So, if I follow your logic, a young woman gets brutally raped by a pervert, has her throat slit, is on a vent for a month….finally recovers and she is supposed to “love her enemies.” Remember Eccl 3: ..”.a time of love and a time for hate” The logic of this post evades me because it dictates a denial of human feeling and response. If your enemy is the incarnation of evil…you love them? I think this is not exactly what JC meant.

    1. Avatar

      I think St. Maria Goretti is a prime example/response of yes, you are called to love and forgive those who do harm to you. As JC also commented, you hold on to that hope that they held on to a shred of humanity, that they may repent and they have a conversion.
      I don’t think there’s been a saint who has said “I desire to be in heaven, but not if THAT person is there, too.” The more the merrier at the eternal banquet! http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=78

    2. Avatar

      I do not deny human feeling or response. As I say in the article, these nurses were not sure how to act and they were embarrassed to have done the work they did. They had to figure out exactly how to act around him because they had seen the pain he’d caused and, for many of them, their first inclination was to not show up to work. They had to talk themselves into it by saying things like, “He’s got to live to tell the cops everything he knows.”

      The example you give hits home to me as a hospital chaplain. Of course, I would not expect a woman in that position to wake right up and forgive the pervert right off the bat. Ultimately, it would likely be for her own good to forgive, as carrying an angry heart is difficult, but it would have to be on her own time, on her own terms.

      The crime does not in anyway make the pervert less of a human or less of a child of God. No one is the “incarnation of evil.” Evil does not have that kind of power, only God does. The pervert grossly violated her dignity, but that does not eliminate his. God made her and He made him. Only God really knows why the guy did what he did (maybe he has some chemical imbalance, maybe he was abused, maybe he’s just messed up…). But no actions erase our primary identity as children of God.

      As a commenter below states, you can love but not condone. Let’s see if I can come up with a more everyday kind of example. Say you have a sibling who is addicted to drugs. You hate the fact that they use drugs, but you don’t hate your sibling because, hey, they’re your sibling. You love your sibling even though you don’t love their addiction. Similarly, this “pervert” is still our brother in Christ, even though he did these horrible things. You can appreciate him as a brother in Christ without supporting the fact he did what he did.

  2. Avatar

    > If your enemy is the incarnation of evil…you love them?

    A human cannot be the Incarnation of Evil. Evil is not a “thing” so much as a defect.

    Yes we are called to love even the horrible people.

    1. Avatar

      Jeffrey Dahmer (serial killer cannibal), Kohneini, Idi Amin, Pol Pot, Vlad III, Adolph Hitler, Josef Stalin, etc. Love is a force for creation, evil is a destructive force. Indifference is force worse than evil.

      Evil is not a simple defect, it is the apex of the antithesis of all that is god-like and life producing.

      I am sorry there are some people who are evil, degenerate and inhuman. Yes, I know love the sinner not the sin, but there are certain primates whose behaviors are far beyond the simple notion of sin. Evil is not a defect, pride is a defect. Serial rapists and murders of children are evil incarnate (made flesh). They are not deserving of love because they gave forsaken all that is human within themselves. There is a line to be drawn….Harming the little children and tying a millstone around their neck, is hardly JC’s definition of love.

      Luke 17:2 “It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin.” Hardly a call to love evil….

      1. Avatar

        Don’t take my name in vain. 🙂

        More seriously though, we still have to love the multiple-rapist or the serial killer, not for what they do but for the fact that even they may retain a shred of their humanity, and even they may repent. Some of them do repent. But to love doesn’t mean to condone. One of the most loving things we can do is pray for a person, pray for his repentance and his conversion–or perhaps pray for our own ability to forgive them, which may in some ways be harder still. It is indeed Christ’s definition of love to do this, which He demonstrated when He prayed for his persecutors, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

      2. Avatar

        Defect is meant in the sense that evil the the twisting of good. Evil is like a parasite. It feeds off of the good that it consumes. The serial rapist seeks pleasure (a good) and happiness (also a good) through evil means. One cannot not want a good. What makes evil evil are the actions used to find this good.

      3. Avatar

        “What makes evil evil are the actions used to find this good.”

        Or, more generally, the extent to which a greater good is sacrificed to a lesser good.

      4. Avatar

        Yes, but Jesus isn’t asking us to tie the millstone around his neck. If he does not repent, he will have the millstone tied around his neck in the next life. Loving someone doesn’t mean coddling them or not punishing them. Actions still have consequences. Society still needs to be protected from people like the ones you mentioned. I don’t think anyone is saying that the Boston bomber shouldn’t go to jail. LOVE DOES NOT EQUAL SUPPORTING ACTIONS!

        There’s a quote I ran into a while back that I’d like to share: “There is no other subject on which the average mind is so much confused as the subject of tolerance and intolerance…Tolerance applies only to persons, but never to principles. Intolerance applies only to principles, but never to persons.” – Fulton J. Sheen

        I think that quote can be expanded. Love and acceptance applies to persons, not ideas or actions. Hate can only be applied to ideas or actions, never persons.

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