Speaking Of The Dead
They say one should always speak well of the dead. Strangely, you never see the rule applied to Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, or Hitler.
Personally, I follow the rest of the planet and interpret the precept as a guideline asking us to be charitable in our assessment of the human – and generally rather private – weaknesses of the quisque de populo. But there is no doubt in my mind that the rule does not apply to public heresy or public scandal when the person in question was a clearly public figure, because in that case the scandal he gave in life will continue to work its evil after the man’s death.
I have heard it said in my native Country that when a pig is slaughtered he does not become a lamb, he becomes pork. Death in itself is no cause of any improvement. A heretic who dies is but a dead heretic. If he was dangerous in life, he will continue to be dangerous in death. He might even become more dangerous, because once he has kicked the bucket his writings and ideas might acquire a vague aura of prestige, making of him a sort of brave precursor, a sorely missed member of a supposedly glorious avantgarde of oh so beautiful, progressive minds. Rahner, Tyrrell, Martini, and pretty soon Küng are all points in case. But this also applies to non-religious, like public militant atheists, terrorists, and the like. The small list at the top is a point in case.
And yes, of course we pray for the dead. I have said my “eternal rests” even for Bin Laden, and do not regret doing so. But this does not change the quality of the man one bit, nor does it make any difference in the danger he still represents.
The ugly truth is that a bastard who dies is a dead bastard, and many are those considered bastards to such an extent as to merit hell. There’s no escaping the cold logic of the fact. The bastard may now be six feet under, but his ideas will continue to float around like extremely stubborn germs. There is, therefore, no reason whatsoever to not keep calling the dead bastard in the appropriate way, at least until the dangerous germs he left behind are dead and “buried” in exactly the same way.
Furthermore, it is particularly in the case of these public bastards that the public must be alerted to their very probable final destination, and warned about the equally probable consequences of following them. There is no world in which the death of a heretic makes following him less heretical. Rebellion has such a nature, that it does not stop with the death of the rebel. Therefore, the rebel must be exposed as such and publicly vilified not only in life, but also in death. If anyone thinks he does not deserve such a harsh treatment, he may want to consider not rebelling in the first place.
Truth is no respecter of enemies. Shame in life and after death must be the lot of those who willingly choose to defy Truth.
Let your gentle words apply to the poor devil, with his human miseries and his sinful weaknesses.
The public friends of the devil, and their open scandal, have no right to such dangerous regards.