Now that the Boston Marathon jury has chosen the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev (DT), it is interesting to read the replies to my earlier blog criticizing Sister Helen Prejean for trying to spare his life by finding alleged remorse during her recent five conservations with him—not withstanding his lack of emotion, much less remorse, during the trial. I would expect that the good sister will be called upon by the defense during the appeals process.
One critic observed that some allegedly guilty persons have later been found innocent. True, indeed, but since DT’s own defense team never doubted his guilt, what’s the point here?
Another critic claimed that Sister Helen, as a devout Catholic, has to oppose the death penalty because that is Catholic doctrine. I am not Catholic, but I do recall such minor “incidents” as the Crusades and the Inquisition in which the Church did not exactly oppose murdering untold men, women, and children either for not being sufficiently Catholic or for being Jewish or Muslim. And as for the role of the Papacy during the Nazi regime, the latest scholarship makes clear that the Vatican did not go out of its way to try to save Jews. But of course such trivialities don’t matter, do they?
My point about the good sister’s apparent indifference toward the victims of DT’s actions meant that she manifested virtually no compassion for these persons in her zeal to find goodness in DT’s heat and mind. I never said that she endorsed his actions.
However, I am not overly impressed by the fact that, as someone else declared, Sister Helen “holds strong convictions and is not afraid to act on them.” Doesn’t this describe DT? And lots of other cold-blooded murderers?
Finally, the notion that, like Hitler and Stalin, the US throughout much of its history has murdered countless innocents, beginning with Native Americans and African and then African-American slaves, indeed has an undeniable core of truth. But I reject the idea that this country, for all of its many faults over the centuries, can seriously be compared with the Nazis and the Soviet Union. Nor do I believe that prayer and passivity in the face of authoritarian leaders and regimes are what are required to stop them. How would Hitler and Stalin have treated Gandhi’s passive resistance to evil?
“As an educator, you, sir, are a disgrace,” said one critic. Thanks for enlightening me.