I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that attempts to cover the following story are a mess. The hook is that South Floridian Henry Borga paid the Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church in West Palm Beach $10 to put bin Laden's name on the prayer list there. The name appeared with four others under the mass intentions section in the church's pamphlet, with a cross next to bin Laden's name. You can imagine that this is going over like a lead balloon among many parishioners and observers. But the coverage leaves a bit to be desired. The first story I read was "Prayer request for Osama bin Laden at Catholic Church in West Palm Beach." It's been updated and improved since the first version I read.
The story explains that the Mass intention was made a week ago and gets a few quotes from folks. Borga says that Osama bin Laden "needs forgiveness and compassion from God." Here are a few others:
"I think it's totally wrong, he doesn't belong in the Catholic religion. For what he did to Americans, he doesn't belong anywhere," says Lois Pizzano, a Catholic Church member. "It's unconscionable, it's sacrilegious," said Pizzano.
Father Gavin Badway admits many in his congregation are unhappy. But he says the church has never turned down a prayer request before. He says making the right decision isn't always easy.
"Their hearts are troubled because they're thinking emotionally about what he has done and he has done a lot of evil. Nevertheless, Jesus tells us, love and forgive," says Father Badway, who is the church pastor.
There are some Christians supporting Father Badway's decision to honor the request and pray for bin Laden's soul.
"I can see why they'd want to do that since the Bible does say to love your enemy and pray for those who hate you," says Aaron Wormus.
OK, so I appreciate the quotes from the guy who paid the money and the priest and the various folks with different views on whether this was a good idea.
But particularly if you are not a member of the Catholic church, you're going to need many more details than this, right? The stories keep switching between the terminology of "prayer request" and "Mass intention." That could be clarified. Either way, I had no idea that it was typical to pay money for prayer requests. I'd like to know more about this. I'd like to know more about what prayers for the deceased or Masses offered for the deceased are intended to accomplish. I was reading this piece earlier today in Catholic publication Crisis about how reactions to Osama bin Laden's killing reveal an ignorance of just war tradition. It would be nice to have a bit more explanation of how that tradition clarifies such mass intentions , too. A collection of quotes -- although helpful and nice and better than their absence -- is just not going to cut it.
And then, what about this headline from the NBC affiliate in Miami?
Holy Roller Defends Bin Laden Prayer Request
Holy Roller? What does that even mean? I mean, I know what it means when it's referring to a a member of Protestant sect "whose worship meetings are characterized by spontaneous expressions of emotional excitement." I know what that means. I know the term is used to describe Pentecostal Christians.
But since the man in question is a member of a Catholic parish, I'm kind of confused why the NBC affiliate in Miami thought it would be a good term to use here. Even if the term didn't have derisive connotations.
It's a shame because there's actually a lot of material here for a good story. It just requires much savvier reporting than we're seeing thus far. Let us know if you see better coverage of the Osama bin Laden prayer request.