Some time ago, a reader asked me to comment on impending release of Karla Homolka from prison. I did not do so immediately, simply because my own thoughts on the subject were not particularly organized. To be honest, they still aren’t. But given that Ms. Homolka was released from prison yesterday, and gave an interview to Radio-Canada, I feel now is the time to make at least some sort of comment. I’d like to simply re-iterate a few basic principles of Catholic discipleship with regards to her release.
- The law of God does not permit vigilante action, particularly as a self-decided substitute for the role of law enforcement when such enforcement is effective. Ms. Homolka will be kept on a very short leash, and will have to regularly report to authorities on a whole host of subjects. So no Catholic vigilantes, please.
- Regarding the media coverage, I’d like to remind everyone of the position of the Catholic Church regarding the reporting of news:
It is, however, especially necessary that all parties concerned should adopt for themselves a proper moral outlook on the use of these media, especially with respect to certain questions that have been vigorously aired in our day. The first question has to do with “information,” as it is called, or the search for and reporting of the news. Now clearly this has become most useful and very often necessary for the progress of contemporary society and for achieving closer links among men. The prompt publication of affairs and events provides every individual with a fuller, continuing acquaintance with them, and thus all can contribute more effectively to the common good and more readily promote and advance the welfare of the entire civil society. Therefore, in society men have a right to information, in accord with the circumstances in each case, about matters concerning individuals or the community. The proper exercise of this right demands, however, that the news itself that is communicated should always be true and complete, within the bounds of justice and charity. In addition, the manner in which the news is communicated should be proper and decent. This means that in both the search for news and in reporting it, there must be full respect for the laws of morality and for the legitimate rights and dignity of the individual. For not all knowledge is helpful, but “it is charity that edifies.” (Inter Mirifica, no. 5)
Does the current media coverage fulfill these conditions? I’m not sure. Certainly there is an attempt to be “complete” (or so it is claimed), but I sense very little understanding that “not all knowledge is helpful”. What is the goal of the media coverage? To warn people that “Karla is coming?” We have public authorities for that, through the use of sex-offender registries for example. So if that is the goal of the media, it sounds like vigilante media to me.
- As Christians, we are called to love everyone, and to love someone means to desire their good. And so yes, we are called to love Karla Homolka, and to desire her good. We should not desire that she suffer or be treated with indignity. Quite the contrary, the Christian perspective is that the image and likeness of God in us can be obscured but never erased, and so we should desire that this image (terribly obscured in her case, at least for a time) have the chance to shine. Great sinners can make even greater saints. It has been said mercy is the most scandalous teaching of the Church, and I’d suggest you visit the link to see Mark Shea’s take on what that means.
- If you find yourself harbouring bitterness and hatred in your heart for Karla Homolka — not just for what she did, but for *her* — please do keep in mind the Christian maxim “hate the sin, but love the sinner”. This is not just for her sake, but for yours: if you are bound up in negativity because of the negative actions of another, you have in fact given power over to that evil — power to bind you. Forgiveness and love are what sets us free — not just the other person, but *us*. Of course, we cannot just turn off our emotions, and I would never ask you to be so disingenuous. Perhaps, though, we can begin to pray and fast for Karla. It can be the start of our own freedom.
Let me finally add a request that we pray for all the victims of her crimes, their families, and their communities. May all find the peace of Christ.