Burying Tamerlan Tsarnaev

It’s been nearly a month since the bombings at the Boston Marathon and suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev has finally been buried.

The AP reports about 100 people outside of Massachusetts had offered burial plots for him, but community leaders continuously denied permission. One offer came from a retired teacher in Vermont. The teacher – Paul Keane – said Tamerlan could be buried in his family’s cemetery plot at Mount Carmel Burying Ground in Hamden, Connecticut. Keane offered the spot on the condition that the burial is done in memory of his Christian mother who taught him to “love thy enemy.”

Burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy…so I was curious why it seemed no Catholic cemetery had offered to bury Tamerlan.

When I looked into it, I found Catholic cemeteries are only available for those baptized into the Christian faith. I also found out that notorious sinners who die before expressing remorse for their crimes are similarly barred from burial in a Catholic cemetery.

I was still curious, so I contacted a canon lawyer who told me that a bishop could actually give permission for a non-baptized person to be buried in a Catholic cemetery. So, the issue with burying Tamerlan likely had less to do with canon law and more to do with practicality. The canon lawyer told me his first consideration was the danger of Tamerlan’s grave becoming a sort of shrine that would disturb the peace of the cemetery.

“It’s not so much the burial of this individual, but the effect of the burial on the cemetery…if it were to become some sort of shrine or attract undue attention,” he said.

In other words,

“The burial of the dead is a Christian virtue and an obligation. On the other hand, you don’t want to foster undue attention on an individual who caused so much pain and suffering.”

In the end, Tamerlan was buried in an undisclosed location.