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This is our weekly theological article.
It is a common complaint of the media that criminals are not given an appropriately severe punishment. An article in The Express, SNP Plot to Scrap Short Jail Sentences Could See Thousands of Criminals Avoid Prison, argues that plans to introduce a “presumption against” sending people to prison will mean that thousands of people convicted of serious crimes will avoid prison. In another article, this time from the Herald Sun, prosecutors in Australia complained that the sentences criminals received were not in line with community standards.
Of course, this represents the common misconception, perpetuated by the media, that the judiciary exists to serve the standards of the community. It does not. Rather, the Justice System exists independently of both public opinion and politics. It bases its decisions on equality before the law and justice for all.
Much of the media’s rhetoric is designed to feed off of our very human desire for revenge based justice. When we read about a rape or child murder in our daily newspapers, often our first reaction is to wish all kinds of cruel and inhumane punishments to be exacted on the criminal guilty of those crimes. Our indignation turns us into barbarians, not civilised people.
In his encyclical, Dives in Misericordia, Pope John Paul II warns of how justice can quickly devolve into cruelty and hatred when it is not tempered by mercy:
“It would be difficult not to notice that very often programmes which start from the idea of justice and which ought to assist its fulfilment among individuals, groups and human societies, in practice suffer from distortions. Although they continue to appeal to the idea of justice, nevertheless experience shows that other negative forces have gained the upper hand over justice, such as spite, hatred and even cruelty.”
God tempers His divine justice with mercy. If He were to judge us purely on our thoughts and deeds we would surely be condemned to hell. But in his mercy and love for us, He allowed his only Son to suffer and die on the Cross so we may be freed from the shackles of sin and death.
St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution; justice without mercy is cruelty.” It is precisely this idea, that justice ought to be tempered by mercy, that should drive the way we treat those who have harmed us. As Isabella tells Antonio in Measure for Measure: “it is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but tyrannous to use the strength of a giant.” We should never forget that the person who has wronged us is a human being who is as loved by God and as deserving of His forgiveness as we are.
This week for our cultural article we will be examining the classic 1957 courtroom drama, 12 Angry Men.
12 Angry Men is based on a television play inspired by Reginald Rose’s (1920 – 2002) real-life experience as a juror on a manslaughter case in early 1954. It was first aired on CBS’ Studio One in September 1954.
It was inevitable that the television play would result in a film adaptation. With Henry Fonda (1905 – 1982) and Rose acting as producers, and with Sidney Lumet (1924 – 2011) acting as director, the resulting film was filmed in under three weeks and made for a paltry US$340,000 (US$2,961,823.49 in today’s money).
12 Angry Men is a small film in every sense of the word. Twelve jurors are locked in a room on the hottest day of the year to decide the fate of a young man accused of murdering his father. As per the law, the vote must be unanimous. Initially, all but one, Juror Eight (Henry Fonda – the only real star in the movie), vote guilty.
It’s not that Juror Eight thinks the defendant is innocent, but that he isn’t sure. He argues that the boy had an inadequate legal defence and that they, the jury, ought to examine the evidence more closely.
Initially, he has trouble persuading the other jurors to change their vote. But, as they begin to examine the pieces of evidence, more and more of the juror’s find room for reasonable doubt. The film ends with a unanimous ‘not guilty’ verdict.
12 Angry Men stands out in an era of sweeping epics and technicolour. It is a small, minimalist, black and white film shot mostly in real time. The mood is created through the creative use of camera angles, camera lenses, and editing.
At the beginning of the film, there are long, unbroken takes filmed from above with wide angled-lenses which give a sense of distance between the characters. They are dominated by the task ahead of them. As the film progresses, the takes become shorter, the camera moves steadily from above to below the action, and the focal length is decreased. This makes the film feel more claustrophobic. No longer at the jurors dominated by the task ahead of them, they are dominated by the force of each other’s personalities. As Lumet wrote:
“I shot the first third of the movie above eye level, shot the second third at eye level, and the last third from below eye level. In that way, toward the end, the ceiling began to appear. Not only were the walls closing in, the ceiling was as well. The sense of increasing claustrophobia did a lot to raise the tension of the last part of the movie.”
12 Angry Men is primarily driven by its characters. Tension arises from body language, dialogue, and personality clashes. The characters represent an almost perfect cross-section of different personality types and temperaments.
12 Angry Men acts as a crash course on the parts of the US Constitution that guarantee a fair trial and the presumption of innocence. It is never stated whether the Defendant is innocent or not but instead asks us to look beyond our biases and arrogance and examine the evidence closer at hand. 12 Angry Men symbolises how well the American legal system can work when people are prepared to look beyond their personal feelings use their integrity for its benefit.
A pro-ISIS media outlet has warned Spanish unbelievers that terror cells remained in the country and that jihad “has not been fought and gone.”
US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, has put Pakistan “on notice“, informing them they will lose their status as an American ally if they don’t stop harbouring terrorists. Tillerson told reporters at the State Department:
“We are going to be engaging with them in a very serious and thorough way as to our expectations and the conditions that go with that.”
Tillerson also didn’t rule out US air strikes on the nation:
“We are going to attack terrorists wherever they live. And we have put people on notice that if you are harbouring or providing safe haven to terrorists, be warned, be forewarned.”
Pay Pal has prevented Jihad Watch director, Robert Spencer (not to be confused with the white nationalist Richard Spencer) from accepting online donations through their service. The organisation has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center due to its “extreme hostility towards Muslims.” Ironic considering Islamic extremists have been known to murder those who don’t agree with their religious and political views, persecute non-Muslims who fall under their control, revile non-believers, pillage, and engage in mass rape and sexual slavery.
A CBS report has claimed that Iceland has virtually eradicated down-syndrome births through their prenatal screening programs and pro-abortion policies.
According to the CBS report, virtually all Icelandic women whose unborn children test positive for down syndrome opt to have their pregnancy terminated. Icelandic law allows for abortion after sixteen weeks if the fetus is found to be suffering from a deformity. This includes down syndrome.
Iceland introduced prenatal screening tests in the early 2000s. While these tests are optional, the Icelandic Government requires all pregnant women to be informed of them. According to the Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, between eight and eighty-five percent of women opt to do the screening. These screenings use the mother’s age, ultrasounds, and blood tests to determine the likelihood a child will be born suffering a chromosomal problem.
Glenn Beck, a conservative political commentator, slammed Iceland’s virtual eradication of down syndrome births as eugenics. “That’s eugenics”, Beck said, “that is Margaret Sanger’s most base dream: get rid of the undesirables. Get rid of people who can’t really work for a living, don’t really have any quality of life.” Likewise, political humorist, Jim Treacher, tweeted: “later in the show, we’ll look at the looming Nazi menace. But first: ain’t eugenics great?” Similarly, Everybody Loves Raymond star, Patricia Heaton, tweeted: “Iceland isn’t actually eliminating down syndrome. They’re just killing everybody that has it. Big difference.”
A counsellor at an Icelandic hospital commented:
We don’t look at abortion as a murder, we look at it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication . . . preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder — that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”
Except that in this case, it is. Aborting unborn babies purely because they have down syndrome (or any other problem, for that matter) is evil. It is nothing more than social cleansing. As Dr. Peter McCarland, an obstetrician at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, commented:
“In Britain, 90% of babies with Down’s Syndrome are aborted before birth. In Iceland, every single baby, 100% of all those diagnosed with Down’s Syndrome, are aborted. There hasn’t been a baby with Down’s Syndrome born in Iceland in the past five years. Denmark is following suit, and is expected to be “Down’s Syndrome-free” by 2030 and these cold and chilling statistics show us exactly where legal abortion is leading the rest of Europe. Legal abortion is leading us to a “Down’s Syndrome-free” world. I can barely type the words. It is utterly heartbreaking. Little wonder that, in Britain, Lord Shinkwin – a member of the House of Lords who has a congenital disability – last week gave a powerful speech pointing out, ‘the writing is on the wall for people like me. People with congenital disabilities are facing extinction’.”
It is morally repugnant to base a person’s right to life on their genetic status or how ‘normal’ they are. Every life is sacred and deserves protection, not just those who have been fortunate enough to born without problems.
A thirty-two-year-old woman has been killed, and nineteen others have been left with minor to life threatening injuries in Charlottesville, Virginia, after a day of protests between white nationalists, calling themselves “unite the right”, and counter-protesters culminated in violence.
The counter-protesters were reportedly celebrating driving the white supremacists from Emancipation Park when the attack occurred. Video footage shows a Dodge Charger accelerating into a crowd of counter-protesters. One witness claims the car was travelling at forty-miles-per-hour (sixty-four-kilometres-per-hour). Another witness, Brennan Gilmore, told NBC news:
“It was very clearly intentional. From the far end of the street, it accelerated, slowed down right before the crowd and then slammed on the gas through the crowd sending bodies flying. And then it reversed back into the street dragging bodies and clothes.”
After the incident, the driver reversed the car at high speed and fled the scene.
President Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and First Lady Melania Trump have all condemned the violence. Speaking at his private golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump stated:
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. There’s no place in America (for this). What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”
Trump also stated on twitter:
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Let’s come together as one!”
Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted:
“I stand with @POTUS against hate & violence. U.S is greatest when we join together & oppose those seeking to divide us.”
First Lady Melania Trump also tweeted:
“Our country encourages freedom of speech, but let’s communicate w/o hate in our hearts. No good comes from violence.”
Governor of Virginia, Terry McAullife, declared a state of emergency around Charlottesville which began at noon. Police, meanwhile, are treating the incident as a criminal homicide investigation. They have arrested the driver of the car, James Alex Fields, Jr., and are holding him on a variety of charges, including second-degree murder and malicious wounding.
McAullife directed a statement to the white supremacists, saying:
“You came here today to hurt people. And you did hurt people. My message is clear: we are stronger than you.”
He went on to say:
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: My message is go home. You are not wanted in this Commonwealth. Shame on you … You are anything but a patriot.”
Police Chief, Al Thomas, has backed this up, stating that “premeditated violence that our community experienced today was completely unacceptable.”