Michael Sean Winters and National Catholic Reporter Celebrate Bin Laden's Death
Of all the responses in the Catholic blogosphere to Osama bin Laden's death, few have matched the sort of jingoistic and nationalistic bravado that we've seen in the secular media and on the streets of New York City and Washington, D.C. The overwhelming majority of Catholic bloggers have been quite circumspect and reflective upon the killing of America's public enemy #1, soberly asking themselves what is the appropriate Christian response to the sudden, violent death of the mastermind of 9/11.
The most prominent exception to this general rule - the one high-profile Catholic blogger who openly relished (indeed, encouraged celebrating) bin Laden's demise - came from what might seem like a surprising source. The National Catholic Reporter, the newspaper of record for the Catholic left, routinely excoriates the Catholic blogosphere for what it sees as pro-Republican, militaristic, and jingoistic nationalism. And yet, it was the Reporter's most high-profile blogger, Michael Sean Winters, who used his blog, the so-called "Distinctly Catholic", to do a tap dance on the freshly killed body of bin Laden:
... I do not normally take delight in the death of a fellow human being. Nor do I support the death penalty. But, if there was one man on the planet whom it was important to kill, not to just let die, it was Osama bin Laden. You should not be able to murder well nigh to 3,000 Americans and others with impunity. If you commit such a crime, you should fear every moment of every day that U.S. Special Forces will come crashing through the door to bring you to justice. I am sure bin Laden knew better than to be captured alive. (Given the legal nightmare of Guantanamo, thank God he was killed on the spot!) It took a long time to track bin Laden down, too long, and it is impossible not to think that we might have reached this happy day earlier if we had not detoured through Baghdad. But, this is no time for recriminations. It is time to celebrate.I think many Catholic bloggers, upon hearing the news, struggled with feeling happy over the news of bin Laden's death. But, in blogging about it at least, few gave such full-throated approval to the notion of celebrating the macabre as did Michael Sean Winters.
As I write these words, images of young people streaming into the streets in front of the White House chanting “USA” and singing the National Anthem are coming onto the television screen. If it were not so late and I did not have an early morning, I would drive down myself. Vengeance is not a healthy emotion, I know. Assassination is against the law, to be sure. But, better to indulge and go to confession. I am glad Osama bin Laden did not die in his bed, as I am glad Hitler did not die in his bed and as I am distressed hat Stalin and Mao did. Men who commit such evil do not deserve normal considerations of human sympathy or civilized respect. The world is well rid of bin Laden. It is a great day to be alive.
There is much that is disturbing about Winters' piece, but the part that troubled me most was his acknowledging that giving into vengeful thoughts is sinful, but nevertheless stating explicitly that he would go ahead and engage in (and, indeed, celebrate) such thoughts anyway, and then afterward take advantage of the sacrament of confession.
Think about that for a moment. Serious sin. Willfully engaged in. But it doesn't matter because he'll just go to confession later and seek forgiveness for a sin for which he doesn't appear to be the least bit sorry. Presumption. What's more, Winters is presuming upon the Divine Mercy and grace of God for his own sins, while in the very next breath declaring that another of God's children "do[es] not deserve normal considerations of human sympathy" (on Divine Mercy Sunday, no less, which is when Winters wrote this).
Now, earlier in this post, I noted that this piece came from "what might seem like a surprising source". It might seem suprising, that is, unless you know anything about the writing of one Michael Sean Winters. On any topic on which there is a disagreement between Catholics on on a matter of interest to the Church, just find out what the official Democrat Party position is, or which view is more advantageous to the Democrats were it to prevail, and that will pretty much tell you where Michael Sean Winters stands. (You've heard of "Republicath" bloggers who allegedly substitute the Republican platform for Catholic theology and label it as the latter? Well, Michael Sean Winters is the Democath blogger par excellence.) Here, the death of Osama bin Laden is being celebrated by the Obama Administration and the Democrats because it happened on their watch instead of George W. Bush's, so Winters happily joins in.
Suffice it to say, however, had this happened with Bush in the White House, and had the streets filled with people chanting "U.S.A" and other slogans and singing the National Anthem, and had some blogger on the right side of the Catholic blogosphere written a piece celebrating not only the death of bin Laden but the over-exuberant reaction thereto, I feel fairly confident in believing Michael Sean Winters would be singing a different tune. But, as fate would have it, this happened on his guy's watch, so bravado, jingoism, nationalism, and celebrating the death of the enemy is all the rage.
Ironically, it's the folks at The American Catholic, who Winters has at various times criticized as "yahoos" and as being "kookie" (I guess that's like being "kooky"), and who one prominent left-leaning blogger has described as being guilty of "blood lust" and pushing a "theology of violence", and who other left-leaning Catholics have parodied as "fascists", who had the definitive post on the appropriate Catholic reaction to bin Laden's death. Contrast Michael Sean Winters paean to veangence to another Michael's (Michael Denton) thoughtful and charitable post, "The Catholic Response to the Death of a Murderer".