A few years back I wrote an essay which saw me quite ferociously attacked for the position I took and yet the conundrum it presented is surely before us today if conversations I have had are anything to go by!
In it I suggested that one of the ways the world, and the Church too, looked to reduce the numbers of people who were considered to be outside of the law (man's and/or God's) was to remove the status of being 'wrong' (or unacceptable) from certain acts (the world and Church using terms like 'illegal' or 'sinful' respectively).
If we no longer considered the use of certain drugs to be illegal, we could cut the number of criminals in our society at a stroke; these were the words that those who sought to decriminalise Cannabis used at the time. They, and others, continued along the tack that by removing an act or attitude from the statute books then we no longer have people who are guilty of doing whatever the issue is and we don't need to pay to police that area, or inform opinion and work on prevention and, therefore, everyone is a winner. Less crime, less expenditure and less people stigmatised by the label 'criminal'; This I argued was what the path to damnation and the destruction of society and the rule of law; the eroding of moral standards and the decline of society.
Today I have heard someone who has taken the very acts and attitudes I criticised and made them reality and somehow many are shocked and affronted by this. Sadly, others are, apparently, not (and I am stunned in equal measure at both of the groups! The changing the boundaries and modifying attitudes to permit those who have acted wrongly to become right is a step too far and makes me question the moral, not the professional, judgement of Barrister, Barbara Hewson.
I have never been one for 'witch hunts' (my first exposure to this as an art form came in the form of the McCarthy trials) as they invariably leave me feeling that many are the victims of something worse than that of which they are accused; and yet, whilst I understand the desire for some balance and compassion regarding some of the 'old men' she speaks of, caution has to be exerted as we try to balance the scales of justice and walk that very thin line that brings justice and mercy into being.
The problem is that those who speak of justice invariably seek revenge and those who call for action do so as long as it neither visits them or their own. What we need is not a process that causes our justice system to produce 'scapegoats' to satisfy some weird form of bloodlust but one that deals rightly with the sins of the past; this surely is what we, the public really deserve.
The real issue comes down to this: People knew what was going on and they stood by and let things happen and then covered it up.
These same people are those who appear shocked and appalled as if they didn't know what was happening.
Galatians calls those of us 'who are spiritual' to act when they see people who are 'caught in sin' and act accordingly to correct and restore them. If we do not do this then the very people who are 'acting wrongly' are joined by those who have stood by and turned their blind eyes and deaf ears on the situation. But the same passage (chapter six) also warns us that we can fall into error if we are not careful - and this is the reality before us tonight!
Perhaps the real issue is that there aren't enough of those people 'who are spiritual' these days (or then as the many excesses in the world of entertainment and the Church seem to imply) to address the wrongs as they occurred and deal with them.
The Bible has it right, for the desire is not only to prevent people being wrongly acted against but is also to bring about the 'restoration' (we call it rehabilitation these days) of the offender too!
All of us can make a wrong judgement call, this is human. The problem is that some, as operation YewTree has discovered, have been wrong is a serial setting and the response needs to be wider than just acting the people who have been caught, it needs to ensure that it won't happen again.
So let's not seek to satisfy the calls for revenge or the lowering of age limits, removal of laws and the like; let's work together to maintain the laws and set the conditions for the police to police them, for they police by consent not force, in ways that bring about right and proper societal standards.
This has been a tough post to write because the line that needs to be trod is so thin as to almost be non-existent and the cry for vengeance appears to be louder than that for justice.