Why Brock Turner Needs Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli


There is a reason why justice and mercy go hand in hand. Like the rest of the internet, I was disgusted over the way-too-lenient sentence that Brock Turner received from the judge. While I am devoted to Divine Mercy and advocate forgiveness, I also know that six months in jail is not actual justice. Brock Turner isn’t sorry.

Which is why, instead of screaming “Rape culture” and “Check your privilege,” I am asking Saint Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli to pray over this situation.

Why Maria Goretti?

For those who don’t know, Maria Goretti, like the victim of the Stanford rape case, was damaged by the guy who sexually assaulted her. In fact, she died as a result of her trying to defend herself from her would-be rapist.

I’m already asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession for the victim of the rape case because she needs all the support she can get. In some ways, the victim will have to suffer a lot more than Maria Goretti did because she has to live with the trauma for the rest of her life.

But why does the perpetrator need the intercession of the victim of attempted rape and murder? And how would the man who killed Maria Goretti help?

I’m asking for Maria Goretti’s intercession because the scales of justice and mercy are thrown out of balance. Alessandro got a proper sentence for the murder he committed. He began his thirty-year jail sentence angry and unrepentant. He blamed Maria Goretti for everything and he was very violent around his inmates. Six years later, Maria appeared to Alessandro in a vision. In this vision, she was in a garden picking 14 lilies and she gave those 14 lilies one by one to Alessandro. Each lily represented a stab that Alessandro inflicted upon her. Through this gesture, Maria showed that she forgave her murderer for what he did and what he wanted to do.

I understand that there is no frickin way that Brock Turner deserves forgiveness.  Improper justice was given to Brock Turner. Binge-drinking and whatever the victim was wearing did not cause this rape to happen. Brock Turner chose to rape her. And sadly, he’s not sorry for that particular action. His father and the judge aren’t sorry, either. The victim will probably never forgive them.

Here’s the thing, though. None of us deserve forgiveness. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget what happened, either. Mercy demands justice. The reason I’m asking for Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli’s intercession is because the scales of justice need to regain their balance. I pray that Brock Turner will feel the weight of his actions. I pray that the victim will not be a prisoner of her trauma nor will she be labeled a “slut” for what happened. I pray that people will understand that drinking and going out to a nightclub aren’t to blame here.

People these days feel entitled to have whatever they want. It’s not just a privilege issue because entitlement can be found everywhere. But I’m not here to rage against the fallen state of this country. There are too many people doing that already.

I’m here to ask for justice and mercy to be rendered to everyone involved. I’m asking people to look at each other and see a person and not someone to use for their own means. I’m asking for harsher sentences for rapists and for judges to have a little more wisdom. I’m asking for you to look into what mercy and forgiveness really mean and try and apply that to your life. Most of all, I pray that somehow, someday, all the people involved will learn to forgive each other and to forgive themselves, but to never forget what happened.

If you want to know more about Maria Goretti, read this post I wrote from last November when I venerated her relics. There’s also a video from the Mass that I went to that night. I linked the video to start at the homily:

P.S.: Who wants to bet that Law and Order SVU will totally do a ripped from the headlines episode based on this?

Firefly Month: Loyalty, Justice, and Mercy in Ariel

The episode starts out with a typical day on the ship. The crew is on their way to a core planet called Ariel, where Inara is going to get a checkup as part of the requirements of her Companion guild. Shepherd Book is absent from this episode, spending time with his monastery. All of a sudden, River grabs a knife slashes at Jayne’s chest. Once again, Blue Sun Corporation is to blame here (Jayne was wearing a Blue Sun t-shirt), but again, nobody knows that yet. Jayne gets major paranoid that River could go after any one of them. Mal, however, insists that Simon and River are part of the crew. He decides to put River on lockdown and reminds Simon to keep his sister in check.

Once the crew of Serenity lands on Ariel, Simon comes up with the idea for a job. Simon informs them of the types of medicines they can steal from the hospital, medicine that can be easily restocked, in exchange for getting access to a diagnostic ward that has a 3D neuro-imager. Simon basically figures he can kill 2 birds with one stone: find out what’s wrong with River and actually contribute to the crew outside of just being a medic.

Simon lays out the plan for smuggling him and his sister into the hospital. Jayne, Zoe, Mal, and Wash disguise themselves as EMTs and rehearse an elaborate emergency situation in which Simon and River pretend to be dead. When Simon explains the plan to River, she’s scared, but Simon reassures her that everything will be okay.

Mal, Zoe, and Jayne make it to the hospital and are able to take River and Simon to the morgue without anyone asking questions. Jayne is in charge of making sure that Simon and River are okay, but Jayne takes advantage of the situation to call the feds to turn Simon and River in. The three of them pass through the recovery ward and Simon takes care of a patient on the brink of death due to a bad medication mix. He calls out the doctor on making a rookie mistake while River smiles at her brother with pride.

Mal and Zoe are able to get to the medical supply room without too much trouble while Jayne, River, and Simon make it to the 3D neuro-imager. Simon takes a look at River’s brain and realizes that the Academy attempted to lobotomize River and cut her amygdala out. For  those who didn’t pay attention in biology class, the amygdala is that part of the brain that suppresses emotions. This means that River feels everything without any self control. Add to the fact that she can read minds and has some slight clairvoyance and you basically have a soup full of crazy and wrong trapped inside of the body of a 17-year-old girl. Even Jayne is horrified, but still plans on turning traitor. So when River gets a panic attack, you realize it’s because she knows what Jayne is gonna do and is fearing the worst. And her premonition turns out to be correct: Jayne leads them out of the hospital to get the reward money only for the federal marshal to turn traitor on Jayne in return.

Mal and Zoe make it back to the refurbished space ambulance with Wash and realize that something is wrong. Kaylee checks the space version of the police scanner and finds out that Jayne, Simon, and River are captured. Jayne and Simon fight off the marshals while Mal and Zoe go looking for them. Unfortunately, reinforcements come in. Remember the two men wearing blue gloves AKA the Hands of Blue from an earlier episodes? They’re back and they’re armed with sonic transmitters that have the power of literally blowing people’s brains out from the inside. Jayne, River, and Simon make a run for it, with River leading the two men to an exit, where Mal and Zoe are on the other side waiting for them.

The team makes it back to Serenity with some minor scratches. Simon thanks Jayne for helping them escape the feds. However, Mal is smart enough to realize that Jayne was the reason that Simon and River got flagged by the feds in the first place and knocks Jayne out, leaving him in the cargo bay airlock in the sci-fi version of what is called “keel hauling.” Jayne confesses to Mal and asks Mal why he’s taking it so personally. Mal reminds Jayne that if anyone turns on the crew, it’s considered a mutiny for him. Jayne begs Mal for mercy and Mal thankfully does so, telling Jayne that the next time he decides to turn traitor to not act as a coward. The episode ends with Simon giving River medicine.

There are 3 major themes in this episode: the concepts of loyalty, justice, and mercy. Simon wants to prove his loyalty to the crew of Serenity by giving them a mission that has a big payoff. Jayne learns how there is no honor among thieves, or in this case within the Alliance. He also learns that loyalty isn’t an individual thing.

That end scene with Jayne getting “keel hauled” by Mal is a perfect example of justice and mercy working together. Some people might think that Jayne got off too easy, staying alive and all. But he has to live with Mal constantly questioning his loyalty and the fact that he betrayed a man who’s trying to figure out what’s wrong with his sister, who is not in full control of her actions. It was right for Mal to warn Jayne not to do what he did again and it was also right not to let Jayne suffocate. It’s also interesting that Shepherd Book wasn’t in the episode because he and Jayne have an odd friendship and if anyone has the right to absolve Jayne of his sins, it’s the good Shepherd.

Justice is rendering to someone what they’re due and mercy, as pointed out by Mal earlier, is the mark of a great man. Mal showed to Jayne why he’s the captain of the ship. Since Shepherd Book is absent, it’s up to Mal to distribute the justice and the mercy that Jayne deserves and needs.


The Tale of Three Popes: Pope Francis, Justice, and Temperance

I love Pope Francis. I love Pope Francis so much, I’ve marked my calendar for the day of his visit to the United States. I’m counting down the days until that day comes and still want to go to World Youth Day in Poland.

So far, in the past few years, Pope Francis has shown himself to be a pastoral pope, in the sense that he treats the whole world as a parish. If Pope John Paul II was a pope of fortitude and Pope Benedict was a pope of prudence, Pope Francis is a pope of justice and a man who can inspire us to practice the virtue of temperance.

Justice isn’t always about superheroes and lawyers. According to the Catechism:

Justice is the moral virtue that consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and neighbor. Justice toward men disposes one to respect the rights of each and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and to the common good. the just man, often mentioned in the Sacred Scriptures, is distinguished by habitual right thinking and the uprightness of his conduct toward his neighbor. “You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” (CCC 1807)

Pope Francis chose his name to remember the poor. He visited towns and countries where poverty is prominent. He is open to meeting anyone who asks and doesn’t care what people think. He’s talks about the current issues, but refuses to get political about them, although that might change when he gets an audience with the US Congress. He advocates for peace during times of war, but acknowledges that the danger does exist. He cares for the world and has compassion for everyone.

So what does Pope Francis have to do with temperance? Well, it’s more that we should practice temperance when it comes to him. The major problem with Pope Francis isn’t with the man himself, but with everyone having an extreme opinion of him. The media spins him to be this borderline liberal while conservatives buy into that lie and say that the apocalypse is coming and the Catholic Church is going to become modernized. According to the Catechism:

Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates the attraction of pleasures and provides balance in the use of created goods. It ensures the will’s mastery over instincts and keeps desires within the limits of what is honorable. the temperate person directs the sensitive appetites toward what is good and maintains a healthy discretion: “Do not follow your inclination and strength, walking according to the desires of your heart.”72 Temperance is often praised in the Old Testament: “Do not follow your base desires, but restrain your appetites.”73 In the New Testament it is called “moderation” or “sobriety.”  (CCC 1809)

Temperance is usually associated with moderation of food and drink, but in the case of Pope Francis, I think we should exercise temperance of the tongue. We need to master our paranoia and fears of the Catholic Church becoming something it’s not. Most of all, we shouldn’t gossip or start creating conspiracy theories.

I think it’s been a long time since the world had a pope who was so bluntly honest about everything. Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict both chose their worlds carefully and thoughtfully. Pope Francis is more of an improv actor, speaking in idioms and off-the-cuff remarks. He’s basically like a bartender: open to serve, a great listener, and honest to a fault.

Whenever I hear the panic of Pope Francis having an audience with someone people consider to be scandalous or “not belonging in society,” I recall the Pharisees judging Jesus for hanging out with tax collectors and prostitutes. I remember that instead of choosing the best and brightest of his society, Jesus picked 12 clueless morons with working-class jobs that always argued with each other. Mostly, I recall the parable of the Good Shepherd.

One part of being pope is that the pope is an example of Christ on Earth. And like Jesus, Pope Francis is reaching out to all the lost sheep of the world as a form of justice. However, this justice is not in the form of punishment or condemnation, but of mercy and compassion in the hopes that they will bring themselves to God and that God will change them.

I hope that we can all practice the virtue of temperance in our lives, especially when it comes to our opinions.