May 19, 2017 at 3:15 pm #22414
My husband and I were watching a show about a notorious serial killer here in the UK – incredibly sad stuff, loss of very young life, and – very much evil acts.
Someone being interviewed said he didn’t believe the killer had a conscience – that the killer simply had no clue of right and wrong, as any “normal” person would understand it.
Ive been wondering about the spiritual state of such people – as well as their ultimate fate? Can someone who has no knowledge of good and evil be held accountable? Can someone do such evil acts and not know they are evil?
Its been on my mind since I watched this show – I need to pray for the victims and perpetrators (although its hard to pray for perpetrators I know we have to)May 20, 2017 at 3:11 am #22425
David W. EmeryKeymaster@David W. Emery
Morally, Catholic doctrine would point to two components: the objective part, which is what the person actually did, and the subjective part, which is the person’s understanding and willing of what he did. If the person does not know right from wrong, or his will is impeded, his guilt could be reduced. But it is not normally given to us to know the inner state of a human being. This is why, as Christians, we do not presume to judge the inner state of others. Morally, we can judge the actions, but not the guilt.
In the case of major crimes, the civil government, acting on behalf of the people it governs, retains the right to judge someone on the basis of his actions alone, since these actions are what affects others and causes harm. But this is a legal judgment, not a moral one, and civil governments are not the arbiters of morality.
Scientists may speak of impairments, as axcelle has laid out here, but again, their judgment is physical, not moral. For this reason, I would hesitate to reason from the size of a person’s brain to his ability to know the difference between right and wrong, then to his inner moral state. Science would then be overstepping its bounds and encroaching on the domain of the moral.
DavidMay 20, 2017 at 3:14 pm #22428
I wish civil governments would remember that they are NOT the arbiters of morality, especially here in Canada, but that is a different topic for a different day. 😛May 22, 2017 at 8:37 am #22462
Thanks for the feedback everyone – it is certainly an interesting topic – and – of course – at the end of the day it is God who knows someone’s heart and their moral responsibility – one thing that bothers me – so many people (after this particular serial killer died a few weeks ago here in the UK) have been on different forms of social media saying they hope hes “rotting in hell” and all of that kind of thing…now – I would NEVER judge the pain and anger of a family member who lost a child in this horrific way – goodness knows, I cant imagine anything worse – but its a bit disconcerting to see people who have not (personally) been victims/family saying all this on social media. I guess feelings are very high – and that’s understandable. People say things when they are upset.June 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm #22681
Steven BarrettParticipant@Steven Barrett
Jennie, I can understand the reluctance many citizens have concerning how much involvement, use of force or other means of persuasion their governments may use to achieve justice for all before lines get crossed. If we can’t legislate laws into existence designed to protect each person from having his or her rights from being infringed upon by social bullies, sexual deviants, defiant drunk drivers, or commit mass theft via keyboards or pens to kite checks (the more “old fashioned way”) . . . how on earth could we count on being able to say we are free people? What else do we elect representatives, members and senators to our respective legislative bodies in the states, provinces, Ottawa and Washington, if they’re not sent to become ” … the arbiters of morality”? The media’s or academia’s leading lights? Some arbiters, and not all very egalitarian. I living in a heavily saturated academic area so I know that leaving our voice in the hands of people who think a piece of parchment entitles them to more rights than a widow who lost her husband in combat, fighting a fire or busting a drug cartel.
Our elected leaders don’t have to be saintly. But let’s not deny the good from having the opportunities to serve their fellow citizens by being able to take a stand against boneless cowardice in the public sphere. If we deny opportunities for good people from participation in public service where they can speak out and prevent legislative evils from becoming law, we might as well hand the keys of all our respective state/provincial and national legislatures over to think tanks, bureaucrats and worst of all, legally authorized foreign bodies to shape our policies.
It’s not just the right of government or our civil servants to act as a “moral arbiters” when it’s necessary to take a stand. It’s a moral obligation to stand on behalf of those who are the weakest, the oldest, the youngest, the poorest, and even the wealthiest who one day rightly find themselves most unfairly targeted simply because they are the fattest targets for shaking down. I’d much rather know my government’s staffed with people who aren’t afraid to take stands than the other kind who won’t rock boats for fear of what or who might not be there to “welcome” them when it’s time to retire.July 5, 2017 at 11:42 am #22942
I’m a little bit late to this thread, but I assume you are talking about Ian Braidy, and I have wondered the same thing. I found the story of David Wood quite interesting, which may give you a possible answer to your question. Two links below – the second one is long but it’s worth the watch.
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