Thursday, September 8, 2011

'Freedom' without justice? Impossible

Earlier this week the Pittsburgh area witnessed the sentencing to death of Richard Poplawski, the troubled man in his mid-20s accused of gunning down three Pittsburgh police officers in April 2009 and found guilty at trial earlier this year.

A quick review: What urged him to ambush those cops was a fear that, after President Obama was inaugurated less than three months earlier, he would "take his guns away" -- a common refrain of the political right in those days. In that context, of course, a gun is a symbol of "freedom."

That's the wrong way to look at it.

The world soon learned that Poplawski suscribed to a mentality that the "state" doesn't have the right to exist, even though Biblically speaking it has the God-given function of making and enforcing laws -- even at the point of a gun if need be. Resentful because it tramps on your "freedom"? Tough. That's the price you pay for living in an ordered society, and the function of government regardless of level is to maintain order and administer justice.

Moreover, Poplawski used his "freedom" to commit an unjust act -- the murder of three men, leaving not only families but also friends, a department and even the city itself in perpetual mourning. Did he think about that? (I won't call it purely cold-blooded because he was operating out of fear.)

So let's not fool ourselves into thinking that Poplawski was defending his freedoms by going on that rampage. Progressive Catholics have a saying, "If you want peace, work for justice" -- that is, if you want things to be "cool," first make sure that they're right. Because, ultimately, there's no freedom without justice.

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