"And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God"
-- Micah 6:8

"The duty of the prosecutor is to seek justice, not merely to convict."
-- American Bar Association Standard 3-1.2(c)

"There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia."
--Pope Benedict XVI, June 2004

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Patron Saint of Cop Killers?

As I mentioned over at over at Ken's:

According to this blog, Jacques Fesch, a 27-years-old playboy, who was beheaded in 1954 in France for the murder of a police officer following a bungled robbery, is being considered for Catholic sainthood. Apparently, "many Catholics in France now believe that the killer died a saint. Thirty years after his execution, the archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, signed a decree that may one day see him beatified."He admitted to shooting a police officer in an attempt to flee a robbery. After his conviction and death sentence, he underwent a profound conversion. Not profound enough, however, to convince him of the justice of his sentence, which he believed to be excessive since he did not premeditate the murder.

Some folks in the Catholic Church have gone truly batty. We do indeed believe and hope for the repentance and salvation of all, even the worst criminals. But formal recognition of sainthood is reserved for those who constitute a pattern for all Christians on their road to perfection. The Church in her prudence has always hesitated to beatify (see this explanation) people, who while they may in fact have attained great sanctity and gone to heaven, have other aspects of their lives and conduct that are not worthy of imitation.

Hence, in the Western Church, Constantine has never been canonized, despite the common belief that he is a saint in heaven. Why not? Because he waited until his deathbed to become baptized despite his much earlier conversion to the Faith, a practice the Church frowns upon, since it tempts fate, so to speak, to delay something as important as baptism hoping to "slip in through the door" at the last moment.

So with this French cop-killer. I have no reason to doubt that he became a personally holy man before his execution. I hope and pray he did, and is in heaven now. I hope and pray that all who face death will end up in heaven, even Ricky Gray and William Morva.

But to propose him as a model of sanctity? He was a spoiled man who killed another human being while trying to escape robbing a bank. Although he repented, he resisted the eminently just judgment of death handed down in his case. Not a shining example of humble acceptance of responsibility, punishment, and atonement. A truly heroic saint would acknowledge that what he had done deserved this punishment, and been at peace with it.

No, it seems what may really be going on here is the liberal clergy in France trying to make of this guy a backdoor "martyr" to the unjust use of the death penalty. In any event, the wisdom of making a Catholic hero out of a cop-killer in this day and age of incredible violence and lawlessness escapes me.


Anonymous said...

I always found it strange when a killers' expression of (almost invariably Christian) faith is cited as mitigation.

Vir Speluncae Catholicus said...

I wonder exactly how the good folks in France feel about "Saint" Judas Iscariot?

Do we REALLY need to thing about this one?

123txpublicdefender123 said...

I have a problem with any humans declaring any other humans saints. I also am not a Catholic and am not familiar with all of the factors that they consider when deciding on beatification and canonization. However, I would point out that I believe the apostle Paul was made a saint and he was responsible for killing many, many people. And he killed them because they were Christians. So, I don't think having killed someone should automatically make you ineligible for sainthood. I also don't think asking that your life be spared reflects a lack of humble acceptance of your proper punishment. I think he could have sincerely believed that death was an excessive punishment (as many other reasonable people, too) and that he still had much good he could do on earth, even if he did it from a prison cell.

Kate said...

Interesting. So you think St. Paul should not be considered a saint for public emulation? St. Augustine had a pretty long lasting problem with sexual sin that wasn't completely resolved until *after* his conversion - after all, he gave us that great line "Lord make me chaste, but not yet!"

Oh please don't restrict us to plaster saints with perfect lives - us sinners need examples of the transforming power of grace too!

Jay Anderson said...

If I recall correctly, Tom is a big fan of St. Patrick, who I'm sure he knows was a murderer.

But then, I don't believe Tom said that killers can't be saints, but rather questioned whether there was anything to recommend this particular person for canonization. And I'm fairly certain the author of the calumnious post that sent you here knows that.

Or, perhaps, the author of said post was confused by Tom's "casual writing style", which which doesn't require the same perfection from himself that he demands of others. Oh, wait. Were we talking about Tom, or the other guy?

Tom McKenna said...

You may not have read my posting. I acknowledged that guy may well be a "saint" in the sense that he is in heaven. What I have an issue with is proposing for formal canonization a man who was convicted of killing a police officer, and yet resisted his just punishment.

There are many saints in heaven who can be officially recognized as such by the process of canonization. The Church picks and choses among them based on purely prudential considerations, such as whether the way the person attained sanctity and comported himself/herself afterwards is what the Church wants us to emulate.

Theoretically, Osama Bin Laden could have a death-bed conversion, go to heaven and be a "saint." Would the Church feel the need to canonize him? I would hope not.

Augustine and St. Paul had a pretty good track record after converting. Our French killer had little.

Seamus said...

Augustine and St. Paul had a pretty good track record after converting. Our French killer had little.

The good thief on the cross didn't have much, either, but he's honored as St. Dismas.

Jay Anderson said...

"The good thief on the cross didn't have much, either, but he's honored as St. Dismas."

From Tom's 9/6 post in response to Mark's attack against him:

"Does this mean that Dismas cannot be honored as a saint? Or that we cannot acknowledge saints who lived sinful lives prior to conversion?

"Indeed not, and it is a cheap, disingenous straw man argument to bring it up. Dismas was not formally recognized as a saint by the process of canonization, but has always from time immemorial been honored as such by custom. I think we can agree, too, that his situation is somewhat different, since he suffered next to Our Lord and received the guarantee of his salvation from His own mouth. Dismas, incidentally, is rightly called the patron saint of death row inmates, but he, unlike the Frenchman, acknowledged the justice of his sentence, an acknowledgment the Lord did not contradict."