Should We Pray For The Souls Of Murderers And Terrorists?

Gary Zimak - Prayer for Murderers


A few years ago, upon hearing of the death of the infamous Dr. Jack Kevorkian, I wrote about the importance of praying for his soul.  As you may suspect, I received a lot of backlash.  The recent death of Canadian abortionist Henry Morgentaler provided an opportunity to revisit my article and the results were the same.  Some people agreed with me, recognizing the Church\’s teaching of offering prayers for the dead:

From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.  The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1032)

Others flat out disagreed, claiming that there\’s a good chance he is in hell and our prayers won\’t do any good.  While it is true that prayers cannot help anyone who has been condemned to hell, it is also true that the Church has never declared that a specific individual is in hell.  Why?  Because only God can judge the state of someone\’s soul at the time of death.  With that in mind, I always try to pray for the soul of any \”bad guy\” who passes away, JUST IN CASE he is in purgatory.  Do I want to?  Not usually, but that shouldn\’t make one bit of difference.  While we often find it difficult to pray for people (dead or alive) who commit evil acts, it’s something that we\’re called to do.  With that in mind, here are 5 reasons why we should pray for the souls of Morgentaler, Kevorkian, bin Laden, Hitler and all of the other people who we “don’t like”:

1. Some People Need More Help – It is an undeniable fact that all of these men did some horrible things and are responsible for the deaths of many people. If they are in purgatory, they are undoubtedly being subjected to some serious purification.  They need our prayers BADLY.  Furthermore, the more evil a person is considered to be, the less likely it is that anyone will be praying for his soul.

2.  It’s A Spiritual Work Of Mercy – Praying for the living and the dead is a spiritual work of mercy, as taught by the Church.  We are commanded to pray for \”the dead\”, not just the ones who WE think are in purgatory!

3.  Show Mercy =  Receive Mercy – If we refuse to forgive or show mercy to Morgentaler, Kevorkian, bin Laden, and other “bad men”, then we can’t expect the Lord to be merciful to us.  In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Mt 5:7).  When it’s my time to be judged, I want all the mercy I can get!  It\’s hard to imagine a greater act of mercy than praying for the soul of someone who you despise.

4. They Can’t Help Themselves – We are given a finite period of time to merit the reward of eternal life.  Once we die, the time for proving ourselves is over.  The deceased can no longer help themselves and must depend on our intercession.  In an excerpt from her diary, St. Faustina documents the powerful message given to her by Jesus:

” Pray as much as you can for the dying. By your entreaties, obtain for them trust in My mercy, because they have most need of trust, and have it the least. Be assured that the grace of eternal salvation for certain souls in their final moment depends on your prayer. You know the whole abyss of My mercy, so draw upon it for yourself and especially for poor sinners. Sooner would heaven and earth turn into nothingness than would My mercy not embrace a trusting soul. (1777)

5. The Church Tells Us To – In 2 Maccabees 12:46, Judas Maccabeus made atonement for the dead, in order that they may be delivered from their sin.  The fact that he prayed for them to be “freed from their sin” implies that it’s acceptable to pray for sinners!  Praying for the dead has been a constant practice of the Church as evidenced by the following statement from a bishop and doctor of the Church:

“Let us help and commemorate them. If Job’s sons were purified by their father’s sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.” (St. John Chrysostom)

Let\’s face it, some people are easier to pray for than others.  The Church\’s command to pray for the souls of the deceased has no exclusions.  The fact that some people committed evil acts should not disqualify them from the charity of our prayers.  While there is a good chance that some of these individuals are in hell, the possibility (however remote) exists that they somehow made it to purgatory.  That\’s not my opinion.  That\’s what the Church teaches and, if it\’s good enough for the Church…

© 2013. Gary Zimak. All Rights Reserved.


7 thoughts on “Should We Pray For The Souls Of Murderers And Terrorists?”

  1. “With that in mind, I always try to pray for the soul of any “bad guy” who passes away, JUST IN CASE he is in purgatory.”

    This always comes up when someone who obviously deserves to go to hell dies. The truth of the matter is that when the brain stops functioning, the person becomes unconscious. That’s it. No heaven, hell or purgatory, because there is no brain activity and therefore no consciousness. One simply ceases to exist. Period.

  2. Pingback: Should We Pray For The Souls Of Murderers And Terrorists? - CATHOLIC FEAST - Every day is a Celebration

  3. Excellent blog Gary. I often lament that on Sundays we pray for our soldiers but not for our enemies, even though to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors is what makes us particularly unique as Christians, and distinct from the “tax collectors” (whom we should also pray for, by the way).

  4. A great truth that many seem not to pay attention to. It is not for us to set forth judgement, but the Lord. Only He can do so, and we must have mercy. We ought to put that in our church bulletin, and the time around Morgentaler’s death is as good a time as any.

    1. You’re confused.

      We have a right and an obligation to judge others actions. However, we do not have the ability to pass judgment upon anyone’s soul.

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