Do you care about Dzhokar Tsarnaev?


I was simply gripped by the so-called “man hunt” yesterday. I stayed in my office and listened to the police scanner throughout the evening, watching news organizations tweet conflicting reports about the status of a young man named Dzhokar Tsarnaev. I’m proud of our law enforcement and everyone who helped prevent more violence.

I don’t consider myself to be a particularly compassionate person, but I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus’ teachings, Pope Francis, and Mother Teresa as I’ve watched some Christians call out for the US to go “Jack Bauer” on Dzhokar and torture him, and others tweet incendiary things.

What does it mean to be Catholic if we aren’t known for our mercy?

I’m haunted by the parable of the unforgiving servant. A man is forgiven a debt he could never pay back, and a few minutes later begins choking another for a much smaller sum. He didn’t get it. We are shown mercy for our sins against God through his Son’s death on the cross and in the sacraments. Can we show mercy towards this man?

I’m not against justice, I’m not against just war, I’m against the. . . hatred. Will you think hard about whether he should be stripped of his Miranda rights (is there really a clear danger ahead)? Will you protest a death sentence? Will you pray for his soul, and for that of his brother?

Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, and lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy. 


21 thoughts on “Do you care about Dzhokar Tsarnaev?

  1. Thank you so much for this. I’ve felt the same way about this and felt the same way back when we got Bin Laden. We forget that this guy is human too, and that when the Bible says we were created in the image of God, it applies to Dzhokar just as much as it applies to us.

  2. Thank you for your post.
    I believe that the “real and eminent danger” to society is that without information that only this young man can give…authorities have no way of knowing:
    1) How many others are involved
    2) If there are other explosives planted and set to go off in the coming days
    3) If these two men have connections to Islamic Terrorists in foreign nations
    Therefore, “yes”…I do believe that he should be stripped of his Miranda Rights.
    We are a nation at war with Terrorists. This man is a Terrorist who is in our homeland; albeit, a naturalized citizen of the same…he loses his Rights when he becomes an immediate and grave danger to society. They need his information to proceed further and protect ALL citizens.
    When he committed these acts, he became an enemy of this country.
    For this reason, he must be treated as such.

      • I’m not sure. When he committed an act of terrorism in this nation (regardless of the face that he is a naturalized citizen) he immediately became an “enemy combatant” of the United States of America. I think of enemy combatants in foreign war/arenas and, I believe that when such is the case, the “usual” rules of “etiquette” (for lack of a better word as I am typing quickly) for Prisoners of War no longer apply…Therefore, as an “enemy combatant” of the United States…I am not sure if I think he deserves the “usual” Rights that are given to its citizens. Technically, he is a citizen…yes…but, he has committed an act of terrorism against the nation…Thus, I believe my answer still remains that I think it “Just” to strip him of his Miranda Rights. Remember that ALL people who are arrested CAN be questioned WITHOUT having been read their Rights…it is merely a matter of how FAR that questioning goes and what type of questions get asked. I am giving the question you’ve posed some serious thought…but,at this time, I think I still feel as I did in my first post.

      • It’s tricky defining when terrorism becomes terrorism. People who use guns in school shootouts aren’t generally referred to as terrorists–the man in Aurora wasn’t, and he was not denied his Miranda rights. That’s why, I think, the focus is not on how the person is labeled but if there is a present danger (this man knows there are other bombs and they’re going to blow up). From all accounts I’ve read so far, that doesn’t seem to be the case.There are tension though. Politico has an article detailing 5 legal questions on the subject of Miranda and related topics.

      • It has been stated by people who have spoken directly with this young man (prior to his heinous acts) that he has made-known his dislike for Americans/America, etc…other evidence of things that the brothers did/said/were involved in, online…creates an immediate picture of ANTI-America thought/word/deed…thus, making this an act of terrorism against the nation.

  3. Thanks for the comment Ryan! Great quotes today from O’Malley. “Forgiveness does not mean that we do not realize the heinousness of the crime. But in our own hearts when we are unable to forgive we make ourselves a victim of our own hatred,” he said. “Obviously as a Catholic I oppose the death penalty, which I think is one further manifestation of the culture of death in our midst.”,0,5842754.story

  4. Pingback: Do you care about Dzhokar Tsarnaev? | Jean'sBistro2010's Blog

  5. Since Dzhokar is a U.S. citizen so he has miranda rights and should be mirandized. As far as the death penalty is concerned the Church is not against the death penalty. For some reason the Church’s (Popes?) view on the death penalty has changed a bit during previous pontificates. So whether that’s the Popes position or the Church’s position is in question. But the Church has never been against capital punishment. Now, I am not for or against the death penalty in this matter. But as far as justice goes I can accept whatever penalty the jury or judge hands down. Good post. God Bless.

    • Hi Teresa,

      Thanks for your comment. As I understand it, and John Paul II articulated it, the Church is only for the death penalty when the people cannot otherwise be protected–if, for example, you didn’t have a prison where a person could be reliably kept. Because that’s not the case in the U.S., the Church, generally speaking, is against the death penalty.

      • @EvangelicaltoCatholic

        Here is an article which outlines the Catholic’s Church’s view on the death penalty and how it has evolved –

        Actually saying the Church is “generally against the death penalty” is falacious since that would mean the Church would have changed Her position on capital punishment, which would mean that the Church is fallible, which is impossible. My husband and I had been planning on writing a post on the Church’s teaching on the death penalty so hopefully we will finish it soon.

    • The Catechism of the Catholic Church actually says that the Church is only in favor of capital punishment if the person is an imminent danger to self and society, at-large, and there is no way to place that person in a secure, solitary place…in other words…if there is no way to place a person in prison, in solitary confinement…THEN capital punishment can be considered…but, as we all know, in modern times, there is never a reason that this imprisonment would not be available. Thus, the Church is ALWAYS on the side of preserving the human life (so that that person has a chance for redemption/atonement/contrition/Salvation).

  6. @Judy You are off with your wording and interpretation of what the wording in the Catechism says on the death penalty. It does not say “imminent danger” as a qualifier for justifying capital punishment. Plus, you need to take into account the position that the Church has taken over centuries, throughout history. Previous editions of this catechism included an additional justification for the death penalty “the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.”The Church has NEVER been against capital punishment. The pope was trying to apply certain principles in modern times. The death penalty is NOT immoral per se and is NOT considered the equivalent of abortion since abortion is ALWAYS immoral. The death penalty when considered on a case by case basis is a matter of prudential judgment. The Church is in favor of human dignity but that doesn’t necessarily mean preserving human life when it may contradict justice. Yes, we want the human person to be given the opportunity to repent but giving the person an opportunity to repent doesn’t necessarily mean excluding the death penalty. What better to nudge a person to repent for their sins then knowing they’re dying or going to die?

    • I was paraphrasing…not quoting…didn’t claim to be quoting. But, thanks 🙂
      What you’ve placed here from the Catechism is correct; yet, not in full context…you left out the entire section to which I was referring; which explains that the death penalty should only be enacted when there is no other possible way to keep the prisoner and society safe…which,again…we all know, is non-existent in this day and age…there is always a way to keep that person removed, for the rest of his/her life.

  7. Sorry…but, must just make one last comment according to your last conjecture…”What better to nudge a person”…what you have written is merely your personal opinion…it has no Scriptural or Catechetical foundation. The Church teaches that God is the sole giver and taker of life; which is why suicide is a grave sin. We are never to threaten a person’s life in order to call them to repentance. If one considers Satan, who began as Lucifer…one sees that here was a Spirit who HAD the entire Beatific Vision already before him and he STILL chose to disobey…Thus, I find your argument invalid…for, if a Spirit, already in heaven would reject Jesus Christ…then, “nudging” by threat of death would scarcely do more, I imagine.
    Anyway, to the original poster…thanks…this has been an interesting discussion 🙂

    • There are no prison breaks? I choose to take into account all of the Church’s history on the death penalty, not just the post-Vatican II Church position. I wasn’t quoting from the same edition of the Catechism which you are referring to. Either way neither edition says anything on “imminent danger” as being a justification for the death penalty. This is the rest, “If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority should limit itself to such means because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.”

      Who decides what is considered to be “sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons?” The State. Here is a good read –

      God Bless. Thanks for the discussion.

      • Actually, your quote IS in the exact Catechism to which I was referring.
        And, again…I did not claim “imminent danger” as a quote from the Catechism.
        “Defend human lives against an aggressor and protect public order” is tedious…translation:
        “imminent danger” 🙂

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