Are we de-criminalising criminality?

As I See IT . . . 

Have we reached the stage of de-criminalising criminality?

Brian Kennaway, minister of Crumlin, asks a serious question.

We are living in an age of increasing change, change which our forefathers could never have conceived of.  Over recent decades we have witnessed those ‘governing authorities’, whom the Apostle Paul affirms are ‘God’s servant to do you good’, de-criminalise suicide and homosexuality.  We might well ask ourselves – what next?  The answer to that question might well be found in the recent announcement by the Secretary of State, the Rt. Hon. Paul Murphy MP., that the UDA ‘ceasefire’ is to be recognised by the Government.

Of course there has been the hypocrisy of past governments talking to the IRA while maintaining that to do so would ‘turn their stomachs’.  Now we have the spectacle of those whose organisations have equally contributed to the mayhem, being treated like wayward Sunday School teachers.  Have we actually now reached the stage where the ‘authorities’ have de-criminalised criminality?  The evidence of criminality by all the paramilitaries is legion, and has been well documented both by the International Monitoring Commission, the courts and the press over the years.

The government of the Irish Republic do not fare any better with political interference in the judicial process, by contemplating the release the murderers of Garda McCabe, in the expedient interests of the “peace process”.

As all the main Protestant Denominations, whose membership covers two political jurisdictions, we are in a unique position to address both Governments who have political responsibility in this Island, in terms of the morality of their actions in the light of the Biblical revelation.

Why is it that the churches in general are so reluctant to address those in authority on these moral issues?  Why has this obligation been high-jacked by the media who have not been slow to expose such hypocrisy?

Dr. Brian Feeney, writing in the Irish News on 17th November, summed up the disgust of many in the unionist, as well as the nationalist, community when he wrote:-

“Yet the NIO political wizards persist in stabbing local representatives of unionist parties and community groups in the back by rewarding the UDA drug-dealers and racketeers in their midst as if they represented someone or something other than thuggery and gangsterism.”

Lindy McDowell reminded her readers in the Belfast Telegraph on the 19th November that:-

“By toadying to terrorists on both sides, the Government has ripped the rug from under the feet of the democratic process. . . The democratic process is being thrown to the dogs”.

Why, one might ask, given the overtly Christian position of the Secretary of State does he appear to be standing truth on its head, by ‘placating’ rather than ‘punishing’ the wrongdoer, as scripture clearly teaches he should? (Romans 13:4)

Six years after the Belfast Agreement the paramilitaries, on both sides, continue their protection rackets.  The voice of the people in the democratic process has been ignored, because when people voted for peace they voted for an end to paramilitaryism, and that included racketeering.  But worse, the very government who are supposed to be the guardians of the democratic process have now joined in the extortion game by offering funding to deprived loyalist areas.  Are these not the very same loyalist areas, in which these very same paramilitaries have been at least complicit in their deprivation?

No one would challenge the need for funding in loyalist areas – it is long overdue.  But what does it say for the democratic process that this funding is offered on the back of promises to change from criminality to, ‘community development, job creation, social inclusion and community politics’?  Who can guarantee that the money promised to regenerate these areas will not find its way into the pockets of the paramilitaries?

The real issue is how long can Christians remain silent?  Is silence not complicity?  In Northern Ireland we have witnessed over the years ‘protests’ – mass and otherwise – being held to oppose Sunday opening, Sunday games, or the presentation of some offensive arts production.  Why do we distinguish between sexual moral issues and political moral issues?  Is the issue of government hypocrisy less offensive to God?

Is it not time that the Church should be true to ‘the sole King and Head of the Church’, who said of Himself; ‘I am the way and the truth and the life’, and express in a vigorous manner what God expects from government?


This Article appeared in the Presbyterian Herald February 2005