Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is There Perfect Justice? Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Is There Perfect Justice? Bringing a Spiritual Perspective to Daily Life

Article excerpt

The trial of Louise Woodward, the British au pair accused of murdering an infant in her care, obviously sparked controversy.

The jury's conviction and the judge's subsequent rulings caused diverse feelings of injustice, on both sides of the case. Many felt the initial verdict of murder in the second degree was unjust. But when Judge Hiller Zobel later reduced the conviction to involuntary manslaughter and sentenced Woodward to time served, many felt a different injustice had been done. On a broader level, many people saw unfairness in the system; injustices, they said, occur regularly but receive no such attention because defendants, many of them minorities, lack the resources and the public support Woodward had.

Can justice ever be perfect? Most jurors and judges take their obligations seriously. But no one would be likely to claim that human justice is 100 percent perfect. Keeping the impact of the system's imperfections to a minimum is a noble goal. And seeking and securing a higher, more perfect justice invites something from us all. It requires our watchful prayer. There has been progress over the centuries; justice systems in many countries have come far. While now seeming primitive, the ancient standard of "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" was itself an advanced standard of fairness at a time when one person's intentional or unintentional crime might be avenged by wholesale slaughter. Yet, true justice cannot rest on such a basis. The founder of this newspaper, referring to the Old Testament law "whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed," wrote: "... this law is not infallible in wisdom; and obedience thereto may be found faulty, since false testimony or mistaken evidence may cause the innocent to suffer for the guilty. Hence the gospel that fulfils the law in righteousness, the genius whereof is displayed in the surprising wisdom of these words of the New Testament: 'Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.' No possible injustice lurks in this mandate, and no human misjudgment can pervert it; for the offender alone suffers, and always according to divine decree. …

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