Even Bishops are accountable – The Law Prevailed

On the O’Brien verdict, one thought comes to mind. Well, two thoughts. First, my prayers go out to the family of Mr. Reed who died in the hit and run accident and also to the Bishop and the Catholic community for the deep internal struggle of the soul they must be experiencing. Second, one cannot help but stop and make mention of what every American and liberty-minded individual takes away from the first trial ever of a bishop in the United States. We see in this most unfortunate case for all involved that in America the rule of law shall always prevail. Despite the trying times of our diverse communities, the common bond that unites us is our Constitution and the equal application of the laws that derive from it. No individual from the president to our clergy shall ever remain above the law. As the world continues to slouch toward religious divisiveness and conflict, a lay jury of nine Arizonans convicting a leading clergyman of not upholding the law of the land is a most telling metaphor of the time. A metaphor fitting for the lessons on the front lines of politico-religious conflict, whether intra-religious or inter-religious. From this verdict lies a deeper symbolism. An image is now drawn which can etch itself in the minds of those who raise religion in some kind of preeminence over the governed or the legislated in America. An image which penetrates all faiths and all liberty-minded nations. While the jury believed the testimony of Bishop O’Brien, its instructions were to convict based upon the law as it applies to a reasonable person. Nothing more. Nothing less. Along this metaphor, one day, we can imagine soon abroad in Iraq, a leading spiritual Islamic cleric will be tried for a crime by a jury of Iraqi citizens, lay citizens empowered by a free Iraq that now has the rule of law. They, will quickly find in their own newfound orientation an equal accountability of their clerics before the law – a discipline that can be looked upon as a sign of true liberty and separation of church and state. In all societies, our leaders and our citizens will always falter, will err and occasionally commit crimes. It is part of the human condition. But our steadfastness in principle and direction comes from the equal application of the law regardless of that credit earned in the realm of the pious, the spiritual, or the orthodox This column appeared at the Arizona Republic at this link.

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