The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1915  Wednesday, 18 September 2002

From:           L. Swilley <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, September 18, 2002 17:10:44 -0500
Subject:        Re: C. S. Lewis on Punishment

Geralyn Horton writes,

>I was taught as a child that one did have the moral obligation to "turn
>oneself in" for  crimes, likewise to comply with parking regulations and
>feel guilty about as well as pay any fines levied for inadvertent
>noncompliance, etc.  "Owning up" was "character" and "conscience" as
>well as "citizenship"-- though virtue could also be evidenced by
>principled opposition to unjust laws or intrusive regulation.  In
>criminal matters the cost to fellow citizens (or classmates: confession
>was coerced in elementary and high school by punishing the whole class
>until the perp owned up) of investigating the crime and the harm to
>people wrongly suspected was also laid to the moral charge of the
>unconfessing criminal.etc.

In the perfect world into which Ms. Horton seems to have been born,
perhaps the unaccused guilty do turn themselves in to the authorities
and urge public correction (although, in such a world, crimes would not
be committed in the first place.) The rest of us, I fear, are not there
yet, and are not likely to be anytime soon, nor or we to be chastised
for seeking private reconciliation with conscience/God without public
confession.  Besides, who among us will cast the first stone?
Christianity (and I suppose many religions) accepts the imperfect world
and aims to improve it and to redeem the fallen by changing the
individual in his private relation to his conscience/his God.  For those
faiths that have the sacrament of Confession, the inviolable secrecy of
the Confessional is evidence of its understood privacy and the
separation of the public things of Caesar from the private things of
God.  (Ultimately very practical, the Roman Catholic Church early on did
away with public penance, although even when that was used, the
particular sin of the penitent was not known.)

Should we all run into the street announcing to the public occasions of
our mistreatment of our wives, our husbands, our children, our
relatives?  That we tasted a grape at the grocery store without paying
for it?

Let us stop this nonsense and realize that the very law protects privacy
in many ways - one, for instance, is not required to turn in his or her
errant spouse, nor or we required to incriminate ourselves. The law
wisely deals only with what can be publicly known, then applies its
justice sadly; it does not expect or demand that the unaccused guilty
turn themselves in to the law; it does not find any such further guilty
for having remained quiet about his guilt.  The law accepts the
imperfect world and deals with it sensibly.  Even more so, the
respectable religions.

       L. Swilley

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