Thursday, July 18, 2013

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

I think that one of the great harms in our society done by our lack of virtue is that our noble principles become empty words. The principles don't really work unless they are practiced habits of mind and will that we come back to in the face of emotion.

Let me get to the point: If your friend were accused of something horrible, wouldn't you want the people involved to practice this habit? You see, Fr. Jiang is my friend. He was also my confessor almost exclusively for the first year I was in the Church. A man who encouraged me like he has could not do these things. A man who does these things does not speak so warmly of Jesus like Father Joseph does. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong, and he would need much more prayer (and a different kind) than someone like Judy Block-Jones is willing to offer the person Fr. Joseph Jiang. Have you prayed once for Father? Have you prayed once for the Archbishop? Because even if all these allegations were true, they would need our prayers.

I do know that I have prayed for this girl and her family. I don't know them, and I don't know the circumstances of this case. But it is my habit of mind to assume the best of all parties, unless and until I know otherwise.

Innocent until proven guilty is really a principle of charity. Love. The highest of the theological virtues we cherish as Christians. Do you see charity in the comments? Is it charitable to assume the Archbishop--the figure of Christ among us--covered things up? Are we Catholics, or do we play-act at church sometimes to achieve some other goal? How about it, SNAP?

Sexual abuse of children is a horrible crime. I think all people of good will agree that we all should do whatever we can to root it out. But I am a Christian; I do not attack the very Body of Christ in my zeal for justice. If there is evidence of any of this, bring it forth. This trial has been delayed multiple times. Why? Let the truth come out! We will not know how to help anyone until we know the truth.

I do say also that if these accusations were offered in bad faith, it is as grave a sin as anything that has been alleged.


Timothy R. Butler said...

I agree fully we should assume innocence until guilt is proven. However, I would say the Church -- and I use the "C" in the Protestant way, so I'm not just accusing the Catholic Church, mind you -- has done a terrible job of stewarding the position of accountability it has over men who have abused the collar to do terrible things. Thus, the world is far less likely to assume innocence than it once was, in no small part because we have often sought to cover up the clergy's sins.

Some people will trump up charges, but we must also recognize the terrible mental anguish involved in accusing the clergy, the ostracizing, etc. If the person accusing is faithful at all, I can assure you the person doing the accusing needs no reminder of the gravity of charging... the accuser only needs comfort for the alleged wrongs inflicted.

You know my story and the mental abuse I faced under a pastor. Everyone in the church was perfectly willing to assume his innocence and far less willing to assume mine. Many of them were his friend and couldn't imagine he could do anything but love Jesus and people. They sought to protect him, but not me. They, on the other hand, were happy to remind me of what a grave sin I was committing if I were being false with my charges (which I was not).

I say that to say we should be cautious to speak of the potential sin of the accuser. The church is too good at attacking the accuser and circling the wagons around the accused. Of course, when the accused is a personal friend, this makes the waters muddy and I don't know how one best handle this. I certainly don't think we should go with "guilty until proven innocent."

I just know we need to be careful. To accuse an overseer falsely is a deep wrong. But, those who teach ought to be judged stricter, as James notes. To abuse one's ordained position is far graver.

Jason said...


I agree completely. But I know more than I said here.

Timothy R. Butler said...

Yes, I'm sure you do. I certainly understand the specific case can be complex. I pray all will go well.