Saturday, March 06, 2010

Feeling Sorry for Jon Venables

Tomorrow's readings remind us that we are all sinners, towers falling on us, being slaughtered by Pilate in the Temple are the normal course of human existence, it is payment for sin. Ttony has a thoughtful piece on the return to prison of Jon Venables. Just to excite the wrath of our local paper, I feel immensely sorry for Venables - as well as Jamie Bulger and his poor mother. We are what we are, it must be horrendous for Venables to wake up every morning and see facing him in the mirror a hated child killer, carrying all the baggage of a corrupted childhood which lead up to murder, and the baggage which followed his conviction.

A wife murderer once gave me the most convincing arguement I've heard for capital punishment, "It would be merciful. Father, you wouldn't have live with the memories and the guilt day in day out".

We are what we are, what our parents, our childhood, our experiences have made us, they are inescapable, we can run away from them into drink, drugs or hedonism of one sought or another. We can pretend to ourselves we are something other than we are, that we are better than other sinners, that our sins are not that important. The whole message of Christianity is that all sin needs the sacrifice of Christ's blood. That alone we can do little about changing ourselves, we are weak and ineffective, it is only when we recognise that, that we can begin to grasp that God alone can set us free.

Say a prayer for all involved in Jamie Bulger's murder - may God heal them.


Michael Petek said...

I've an even more convincing argument for capital punishment from the narrative of the Crucifixion: the fact that Jesus did not rebuke, but promised Paradise to, the man who affirmed that Jesus was innocent but that he and his accomplice were getting the death penalty they deserved.

Antonio said...

Quote from Ttony's blogpot: I don't think it's fair to criticise James Bulger's mother for her relentless campaign to see her son's murderer's locked up: she is at the mercy of her instincts, in a place where no rational call on her to change will get through to her.

I cannot help thinking this is somewhat of a patronising comment, especially from someone who has (by the grace of God) not had to go through the torments that this poor mother has been allowed to go through.

The Catholic church has never taught some concept of misguided compassion to the extent the sinner is always excused. She has taught (not withstanding the personalisms of certain popes of recent memory), in accordance with scripture and Sacred Tradition, that the state has the right to extract justice from the wrong doer. Indeed it is better to be punished severely on this earth than in the next.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

I'm with you on this Fr Ray..

I personally think we're all "murderous" in one way or another. we had the Prodigal son reading this could feel the "murderous" looks of the oh so pious son! Give me the "pig-swilled" penitent any day!

me said...

I have the following written at the top of my blog;

"Let the greatest sinners place their trust in My mercy. They have the right before others to trust in the abyss of My mercy. My daughter, write about My mercy towards tormented souls. Souls that make an appeal to My mercy delight Me. To such souls I grant even more graces than they ask. I cannot punish even the greatest sinner if he makes an appeal to My compassion, but on the contrary, I justify him in My unfathomable and inscrutable mercy." —Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul, n. 1146

Oh, and before anyone thinks I haven't had any harm done to my kids, one was almost murdered in a random attack in Feb 07, he has a titanium plate covering a third of his skull, and residual epilepsy, and my eldest son was partially blinded in one eye, by being kicked in the head in a case of mistaken identity.I know what vengeful feelings are to experience.

I have had to be forgiven, and learn to forgive.Anger just drags you down further, you hand it over on a daily basis. Feelings can and do return, so I am not saying it is plain sailing. I'm also an alcoholic. No reasons to ask why I need Jesus then.

Mind you, I think I had a miracle today, in that particular area (I've blogged about it). Praise God!

Michael Clifton said...

Fr Ray I can see the necessity of forgiveness here but the trouble in this case is that Jon has been accused of a very serious sex offence and it is therefore quite right that he should be back in prison. However he has to be kept in solitary confinement as his fellow prisoners would kill him if they could. He has had the chance to go straight with a new identity and seems to have blown it. I do not know if he has or had any religious upbringing of course.

old believer said...

Well prayer healing is spot on and characteristic of you at your best Fr. Ray.

I remain unconvinced, in general, of more severe and ultimate penalites. Clearly the horror and abuse, in the widest sense, of so many people in childhood leaves indelible scars.

nickbris said...

What a shame there aren't more about like Mr & Mrs Mizen,they are True Catholics and behaved like it when their son was murdered.

Mrs Mizen said that anger & condemnation is no answer and that it was the cause of all the trouble

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am sure forgiveness is important Father, but I was looking conversion and healing, which can come from God alone.

gemoftheocean said...

Yes, we can all be forgiven by God, but it's my understanding we have to be sorry for our sins. -- But Jon Venables should NEVER be let out of prison again. He was given a brand new identity, his name and all "tracks" of him were covered up by the British government to give him a chance to start over (somehow they didn't seem to "notice" that though a 10 year old isn't mentally developed enough to be fully capable of understand 100% their actions, most 10 year olds (and him included) KNOW it's wrong to be cruel as he was -- it's pretty well know that children who torture animals, children smaller than themselves, and a host of other signs are quite likely sociopaths.

Forgiveness of God is one thing, but justice demands he pay the price he owes to society at large. He had that chance, and with these latest sexual cdrimes he must NEVER be given the opportunity to prey on the innocent again.

Locally, this last week, a man who some years back, then in his early 20s was given a relative slap on the rist for raping a 13 year old. He served all of 5 years of a 6-30 year sentence. Did "they" listen to the parole board psychologist who recommended that because the guy showed NO remorse, that he would ALWAYS be a danger to young women? The shrink said "keep the guy in for 30 years."

Result? Last week FBI teams found the body of a 17 year old high school girl, who'd gone for a jog at the edge of a dam in a watery grave -- based on items nearby that the invesitgating teams found link this rape/murder victim to the guy who was allowed to skip out of paying for his crime. Oh, and evidence has also turned up to link him to another rape/killing victim in a nearby area to a 14 year old. And still more evidence links this guy to a woman who'd been visiting our north county area (where the other crimes took place) an attenpted rape, but she got away, having been trained in the martial arts since she was a younster.

And who knows how many more.

If he DOESN'T get the death penalty (AND have it carried out on him) it wouldn't be justice. THe "[powers that be" can not be trusted not to let animals like this back on the street to rape and murder again.

He had his chance, he blew it.

Keep Venables in until he rots. If he "comes to Jesus" then God alone knows if he's really repentant or not. That's between him and God - God's call. But as far as paying for his crime and making sure the public gets justice? He shouldn't be let out - he can be the greatest actor in the world pulling a sob story -- that he's "reformed." Well, peachy if true, but that doesn't obligate society to believe him. Fool me once, shame on you....fool me twice....

Fr Ray Blake said...

Not sure really if that rant fits the Catechism.

On a more serious point though; what does society do with those who have no sense of morality and are a permanent threat to society.

I think Venables is "innocent" in so far as he is and was incapable of choosing that which is right. He is the victim of his upbringing, the product of abuse. Prison is not the right place for him but neither is ordinary society. What do we do with people like him?

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

It's the pain when you see the boy of ten years old. I can't bear to think of losing a toddler in such awful circumstances..i think i would lose my mind but the picture of the boy Venables tears at the heart can only be forgiveness but practically I don't know what. Henri Nouwen writes in his book " The Return of the Prodigal Son" about the L'Arche communities..obviously for the handicapped..but perhaps some kind of 'loving' home for these victim murderers too?

PaulineG said...

"what does society do with those who have no sense of morality and are a permanent threat to society?"

Keep them secure as long as they are a threat (judged with the utmost caution) but in a dedicated unit, not prison. Oblige them to work to contribute towards their costs and incentivise them to behave. Protect them as far as can be achieved from those who would harm them further, physically or emotionally. Ensure that they experience gentleness, compassion and patience: Let them know love and joy in their lives and never deny them hope.

And pray for them.

Can it be done?

gemoftheocean said...

Pauline, what on earth is a "Dedicated unit" if not PRISON?

What do you have to do to make sure these people don't prey on the public? That means you have to keep them away from people. Well, then how do you ENSURE they stay where they are? That means they are locked in. Well, what if they try to break the locks, or dig their way out? That means there have to be jailers. Jailers with guns. Bars. In short, PRISON.

There used to be a time, when prisoners could potentially fear other prisoners. Child rrapists had a hard time in the gerneral prison population. OTHER prisoners, of the banks robbing sort, did not like the thought of people like Venables prey on them.

I suppose Venables needs his 3 hots and a cot, lifetime housing paid for, a nice cozy prison library all stocked up with enough law books so he can look for every obscure case in order to dig for some precident to spring him. Of course, let's not forget weight training rooms so his widdle self can stay "fit" and of course cable TV and access to porn magazines of choice, not forgetting unlimited access to interview him so he can tell of the rotten life HE had.

Sorry. He had his chance with a virtual clean slate given him, he could have made use of getting educational qualifications, job training, had NO visible criminal record to keep him from being anything he wanted, new name, etc.

Nah. He was an ADULT by the time they released him, he never changed. As far as moral culpability of what he was capable of understanding even as an adult - God alone knows.

But the public can't be fobbed off with a "justice" system that would allow this guy out again.

He needs to serve the maximum time for his latest offense. And preferrably he doesn't get a bleeding heart judge and parole board. How about the rights of the PUBLIC for once.

If your government doesn't protect you from known criminals, what good are they?

Dominic Mary said...

Albert Pierrepont - who in one way knew more about Capital Punishment than any other Briton - stated his unhesitating opinion that the Death Penalty has no deterrent effect : and it is, I suggest, most unwise for us to indulge in thoughts of retribution. Prevention, of course, is a different matter; but there, again, it may be that modern techniques can provide options that didn't exist in the past.

That said, S. Joseph Cafasso used to make the point that accepting the worst penalty - if you deserve it - clearly works (as Michael notes) to your redemption : and he had enormous success converting condemned men, turning them to penitence so that they went to the gallows resolved to accept their fate in reparation for their sins.

Perhaps voluntary Capital Punishment might be available for those who repent, and are prepared to accept that punishment in that spirit ?

Michael Petek said...

That's a surprising comment, Father. The Catholic Church has always taught that a child acquires the use of reason at about seven years, from which point onwards he is capable of committing formal sin.

Venables' upbringing might have made him incapable in some measure of choosing to do good and abstain from evil. But let's remind ourselves of why he's been in prison.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson deliberately sought out a child to kill. They found a toddler and wilfully took his life. Both boys kicked their victim and hit him with bricks, stones and a 22-pound (10.0 kg) iron bar, fracturing his skull and inflicting on him so many injuries that the pathologist was unable to isolate any of them as the fatal blow.

To hide the fact of murder the boys placed his body on a railway track where it was later cut in half by a train.

These things are far beyond the normal desire of even the worst ten-year-old for evil.

Now, I was brought up properly by married parents. I don't particularly remember them telling me that it's wrong to kill - it just came naturally to me.

I can't believe that Jon Venables was ever taught by anyone that it's perfectly acceptable to murder and mutilate a toddler. So I can't find it other than fanciful that either of these boys were ignorant of the fact that what they had done was very wicked indeed.

Michael Petek said...

Mr Justice Morland passing sentence:

“The killing of James Bulger was an act of unparalleled evil and barbarity. This child of two was taken from his mother on a journey of over two miles and then, on the railway line, was battered to death without mercy. Then his body was placed across the railway line so it would be run over by a train in an attempt to conceal his murder. In my judgment your conduct was both cunning and very wicked.”

“This sentence that I pass upon you both is that you should be detained during Her Majesty’s pleasure, in such a place and under such conditions as the Secretary of State may now decide. You will be securely detained for very, very many years, until the Home Secretary is satisfied that you have matured and are fully rehabilitated and until you are no longer a danger.”

In October 2000 Lord Chief Justice Harry Woolf reduced their minimum sentence by two years in recognition of their good behaviour and remorse shown while in detention, effectively restoring the original trial judge's eight-year recommended minimum.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I am not sure that it is De fide that a child is given the gift of reason as a 7th birtday present, merely that they can distinguish, to some degree, right from wrong, not necessarilly the gravity of a moral action.

A corrupted childhood, being brought up in an environment of morally defficient adults is obviously going to diminish a child's own moral development.

gemoftheocean said...

Fr. You can argue "dimished capacity" and you'd be right, but you can't argue these two were totally "unaware" given they'd tried to concel evidence that they'd done that by throwing the child on the train tracks.

Venables had a chance to grow up, sometihing poor little Jamie never did.

Michael Petek said...

The threshold of seven years is not de fide, Father, but a presumption of Canon 97. But if a child of seven ought to make first confession before receiving First Holy Communion, then it can only be because there is in principle a potential for approaching it in a state of sin.

I'm not suggesting that a ten-year-old can examine his conscience by the advanced number-crunching characteristic of an intelligent adult.

Only that it isn't rocket science for a child of that age to be fixed with the guilt of mortal sin if he wilfully murdered someone.

As for bad parental influence, it would have to take a really extreme case to suppress a child's natural insight that it is wrong to take a human life, especially as gruesomely as in the case of James Bulger.

tempus putationis said...

"I was brought up properly by married parents. I don't particularly remember them telling me that it's wrong to kill - it just came naturally to me".

But how many times during the years of your infancy did your parents tell you that it was wrong to hurt other people or animals, Michael? Don't you think that the understanding that it is wrong to kill is an extension of this? If your parents had never taught you that cruelty was wrong, and had perhaps (I don't know the details -I was living abroad) exposed you to cruelty in a malicious and devious manner, what conclusion would your young mind have arrived at?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Remembering some of what appeared in the newspapers, it appears they took Jamie to play with him, then bully him, then they began to hurt, then to torture him and finally killed him - a graduation of horrors. I am not convinced there was a moral "choice" here, just an inability to stop or turn back on course of action.

It is what we saw at Abu Ghraib. A moral sense also needs the will to put it into effect.

Did Venables intend to kill? Most probably not, only to be bully and be cruel, the problem was that that was unrestrained.

My penitents generally know right from wrong what most lack, including me, is strength of will to effect that which is right and suppress the wrong.

Michael Petek said...

Tempus putationis, it belongs to human nature to know that certain things are morally good and others morally evil. The first principles of natural law impose themselves on the human intellect in the normal course of events.

Original sin darkens the mind and weakens the will, but not to the extent that it makes us moral imbeciles.

When parents teach their children right from wrong, they go with the grain of human nature. But there are very many who are fully as depraved as those of Thompson and Venables. However, there are besides these two hardly any - in fact only Mary Bell - who, as children, kill other children postnatally.

For we can't leave out of consideration the many thousands of teenage girls who kill their unborn children by abortion and are not infrequently consumed by guilt afterwards.

Francis said...

Father, well done for having the courage (for the second time in a few days!) to give voice, publicly and attributably, to truths which most people find unpalatable and unacceptable.

Sad to see GOTO joining in the baying lynch-mob. And curious that she seems absolutely certain that the allegations against Venables are true - when the nature of those allegations (as reported in tabloid speculation) is constantly changing. But, whatever the heck he's alleged to have done, he must obviously be guilty of it and should be kept in prison "until he rots". Fair trial, burden of proof etc? Forget it - only "bleeding heart" liberals agonise about that sort of thing.

nickbris said...

Talk about "opening a can of worms" some of these comments give the definition a new twist.

Are these people CATHOLICS ?

gemoftheocean said...

What "lynch mob?" Do I have to spell out the words "if convicted?" every time? That should be a GICEN. Did I say kill him? I wouldn't put a 10 year old on death row...nor if he's convicted of porno, rape, (bad as that it, it doesn't merit the death penalty( but he should be gicen the MAX penalty---not coddled and let off for "good behavior" only to skip and dance his way free again to go on to his next victim.

Red Maria said...

Some of the comments here are deeply distasteful.

I remind you that the adult Jon Venables has been ACCUSED not convicted of a serious crime. Therefore he remains innocent in the eyes of the law unless and until he is proven guilty.

I think we can do without GOTO's peculiar brand of demogogic right wing garbage. I'm sure she can afford to be self-righteous and throw metaphorical stones at people who find themselves in the clink. However, the rest of us realise that we are far from being perfect and that we aren't in the position to get on our moral high horses when we've never experienced youthful incarceration or media hate campaigns.

@ Michael Petek, a ten year old cannot receive the sacrament of confirmation in the Catholic Church. In Judaism it could not be Bar Mitzvahed.

If you think that a ten year old should be held morally responsible for a crime in the same way someone twice their age is, the moral imbecility is all yours.

I find your immersing yourself in the squalid details of the Bulger murder quite disturbing, by the way, as well as the casual way you refer to Thompson and Venebles as "depraved".

shane said...

"Perhaps voluntary Capital Punishment might be available for those who repent, and are prepared to accept that punishment in that spirit ?"

This already is an option. It's called suicide.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Red Maria
Confirmation is given in the Eastern Catholic Church to infants at baptism.

Michael Petek said...

Red Maria, I referred to their parents as depraved.

Red Maria said...

Father Ray Blake,

Yes, I know, as is Holy Communion. I have some Balkan Eastern Orthodox ancestry :-)

@ Michael Petek, I admit that I misread you. But your description of Thompson and Venables' parents as "depraved" is hardly better.

How dare you call them that, to be frank. How do you know that there wasn't some awful trauma in their lives which effected their ability to parent? How do you know that Thompson and Venables' mothers or fathers hadn't been raped, beaten or abandoned?

You don't know. None of us do. You are speculating, guessing and ultimately clambering onto your high horse and indulging in that satisfying sensation of damning them.

You do so without knowing any of the evidence, without having heard the case for the prosecution or defence, without congnisance of what, if any, extenuating circumstances there are. That is the mentality of the kangaroo court, of the primitive lynch mob.

Do you know what that means?

It means that those who indulge in such instincts are surrendering to unreason and the superstitious belief that people are conceived as monsters.

None of that would prevent future instances of child cruelty. What does so is cool-headed reason, scientific observation and measurement and most of all, humility before God, as we accept that each and every one of us is a sinner.

Jackie Parkes MJ said...

Well in our Church you can be confirmed age 9 or earlier if death is close..

The age of reason age 7 is clearly of my daughters attained hers age 6 & made her first Communion & confession at 6 years old..another nearly 9 years old..

i believe some adults haven't reached the age of reason either because of mental handicaps or malformed consciences.

Venables may have been convicted by an English court but in the eyes of God with a malformed, poorly instructed conscience, Almighty God will give the judgement.

I'd prefer to go to Fr Ray for the Sacraments if he can discern spiritually & compassionately & give appropriate penance.

If someone killed one of my children I don't think I'd be able to forgive like Mrs Mitzen..I would want blood & would probably be up for murder..but what good is that?

The alternative to forgiveness is Jamie Bulger's mother eaten up...

Adulio said...

Trust the bleeding heart liberals to cloud their judgement and cry more over the Venables than Jamie Bulger's poor mother...

Fr Ray Blake said...

I don't know if I am a "bleeding heart" or "liberal". I suspect the first part of the phrase comes from a reference to the Sacred Heart, so I hope I am.

Jamie's mother is actually the secondary victim of Thompson and Venables. I don't think anyone should underestimate her pain and her righteous anger, nor her desire for revenge but justice is not primarily about revenge. That is why in civilised societies we tend not allow the victims of crime to be judges or to be the ones to pass sentence.

RJ said...

Pretty much in agreement with you, Father, with due acknowledgement also to the point that children may be capable of grave sin (though it would depend on individual development as to whether they really appreciated what they were doing).
Re capital punishment: unless we think of capital punishment as some kind of retribution which we are entitled to inflict (but, I suggest, we are not), then its sole purpose is to protect the public (in extreme circumstances), and if that purpose can be served by imprisoning the offender, then emprisonment seems the only justifiable option. In our society, we can protect the public effectively by imprisoning offenders. Therefore, that is the only justifiable option in our circumstances, whatever our understandable feelings of anger.
If I remember rightly, the Catechism would support this position. I seem to remember John Paul II saying something that would also tend in this direction.
(BTW: I find liberal theology entirely repugnant)

Adulio said...


The comment was not in reference to you but some commentators who while accusing others of being on their "moral high horse" do exactly the same thing themselves by vilifying those who express outrage at what Venables and Thompson has done.

In our society, we can protect the public effectively by imprisoning offenders. Therefore, that is the only justifiable option in our circumstances, whatever our understandable feelings of anger.

And yet imprisonment has shown that this is not the case. I think I couldn't express myself better than by quoting what Gerald Warner (a practicing Catholic) has to say:

"In 1965, when capital punishment was abolished by cross-party liberal consensus, against the known wishes of the British public, weasel assurances were given that a life sentence would really mean that and would therefore be, in some respects, a more appalling prospect than execution. As ever, the politicians lied."

gemoftheocean said...

RED Maria, if it's "right wing garbage" to expect any half way decent government to protect the PUBLIC from thugs who've killed people and have an attachment to porn by putting said thugs behind bars, then I stand convicted.

The fact remains that Venables should not have been unleashed on the public so soon, especially given that it was obvious no shrinks were able to see them show any signs of remorse, sorrow, etc.

It's not "self righteous" on my part -- it's perhaps a concept which is throughly alien to you - judging by your vicious unwarrented attacks on me, but the concept is called JUSTICE.

Look it up sometime -- though you may be uneducable on the subject.

And frankly, Father, as regards "Abu Grave" little Jamie got far worse treatment -- would that he have gotten pink underpanties on his head instead of a death sentence.

And where on planet EARTH to much older children grab a much unyounger child, unknown to them to "play."

Sureeeee --- happened all the time when I was a kid, at age 10 or so, another friend and I would always go down to the mall to kidnap a toddler to "play with."

C'mon, father -- compassion in the confession is one thing - you've got to give the person the benefit of the double that they are sincere, I understand that. But don't let your compassion cloud reason that these two little thugs were completely unaware of what they were doing, that they merely wanted to "play" with Jamie. They wanted to do him harm from the outset. Yes, such minds DO exist. They are called sociopaths.

RJ said...

Hestor: I think what you're objecting to is that prison sentences are not long enough to protect the public. That may well be so, but that is an argument for making sentences longer or even life-long, not a proof that prison is ineffective or that capital punishment is necessary.
I found the quote from the Catechism, which is:
2267 ... the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.

Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity "are very rare, if not practically non-existent."

I suppose one could argue about the practical necessity. It seems to me though that prison is sufficient if appropriately applied.

Red Maria said...

@ Hestor: Neither the good ole red tops nor certain blog commenters have merely "expressed outrage" at the ten year old Venables' crimes; they have condemned him precipitously for something he as an adult has been accused, not convicted of and have heaped all sorts of contumely at him and his family.

The red tops at least have an excuse for this: commercial imperatives. They stick Venables' mug-shot together with hysterical copy on their front pages because they know it sells. I note in passing that this relationship between power and mob hysteria is nothing new; Tsarist authorities allowed the Black Hundreds to run rampage in turn of the century Russia. Capitalism always needs its er, distractions.

Blogger bigmouths denounce child criminals out of ignorance. They flatter themselves that they are "expressing outrage" at terrible crimes, in fact that they they are being manipulated by cynical press barons.

What's interesting about this "debate" is the way it feeds into despairing narratives about the contemporary criminal justice system, the widespread view that criminals are not sufficiently punished for their wrongdoings and that the law-abiding are at the mercy of powerful liberals who prioritise their famously bleeding hearts over the maintenance of law and order and the common good. Jon Venables is the scapegoat for all these social anxieties.

The outrage expressed on this comments box and elsewhere is less to do with Jon Venables himself and more to do with what he represents in the popular imagination. Hence Hestor quotes Gerald Warner on capital punishment. I doubt that Hestor would call for the supreme penalty to have been applied to Venables and Thomspon any more than s/he would call for cats to be publically executed for capital crimes. This clearly isn't about Jon Venables.

I argue that it should be and that we should apply reason here and not give into primitive superstitions. I say again, it is reason which will save us from criminality, not fear and loathing.

Andrew said...

GOTO came out with this stream of consciousness:

'Forgiveness of God is one thing, but justice demands he pay the price he owes to society at large. He had that chance, and with these latest sexual cdrimes he must NEVER be given the opportunity to prey on the innocent again.'

Two points:

1. Prison sentences in this country are set by judges, not the victims or the families thereof. The Lord Chief Justice set a tariff, it was completed and both Thomson and Venables were let out on licence. There are some for whom justice's demands will never be met - which is why the courts do it for us. One of the biggest ironies of the Bulger trial, terrible though that crims was, was people banging on the van crying 'baby killers should hang', or words to that effect; obviously irony was lost on them. But I digress; formally, then, justice's demands have been met, whether individuals may like it or not.

2. Venables has not been found guilty of a sexual offence, or even accused of one - and there is still a presumption of innocence in this country, regardless of a person's previous convictions.

It is remarks such as GOTO's that led to the injunctions being imposed preventing any identification of Thomson and Venables, precisely because there is an element within our country who interpret justice's demands as their own personal demands.

Jamie Bulger is at peace; his parents will suffer for the rest of their lives, and I feel deeply sorry for them. This terrible crime shocked the entire United Kingdom and its perpetrators have paid, and will continue to pay a terrible price, but I do not think that the common good would be well served by denying Venables a fair trial and unleashing vigilantes on the streets of Britain.

Isobel said...

I completely agree with the points that you have made and am glad that someone else can see here Venables is a victim of his childhood and the labels he constantly faces.
I think that society should leave him alone, he served his time for the crime that he committed. The terrible crime is in the past and it should be laid to rest. I think, considering his upbringing in the first 10 years of his life, then serving 8 years in a secure unit and then having to deal with the problems of changing identity, that he has coped rather well since his release 9 years ago! He has, after all only been recalled to prison once! It is obvious that he feels remorse, guilt and regrets it all from the fact that he cannot come to terms with a new identity. Maybe he feels that because of the public's opinion on him, he will only be accepted into society as a criminal.
Please let justice run its path, we are not talking about the same crime that Venables committed in 1993.

Red Maria said...

@ Andrew: You're absolutely right.

The vigilantes are already out and hunting Jon Venables down.

Earlier this afternoon I was sent an anonymous text message giving Venables supposed new identity as well as where he is said to have lived and what he is said to have done.

I haven't forwarded the text message onto anyone else, neither will I do so. However, I'm sure that I have been far from the only recipient of this repulsive anonymous text message.

There are two things to say about the hounding of Jon Venables. First, I think some of it springs from a desire to turn the clock back on the awful events of 1993 and bring James Bulger back. However, some things are beyond our control. We can't bring James Bulger back and hounding Jon Venables isn't going to help.

Second, the vengeful screaming that Jon Venables should be locked up and the key thrown away by people who are not privy to all the information springs from the same tradition which gave us show trials and kangaroo courts. These people don't want even-handed justice, they want a Vyshinksy haranging the accused.

Michael Petek said...

RJ, the only justification for punishment of any kind is retribution. If the retributive indication were not present, it would be unjust to punish anyone, whether for deterrence or in order to make him a better person. Where it is present, the punishment has to be in the range within which it fits the crime, whether protective necessity is there or not.

The death penalty is academic, as James Bulger was murdered by boys younger than the age of 18 years.

What they did to him was so gruesome that Jon Venables' solicitor still has nightmares about it. That is the main reason why I said earlier that this murder is far beyond the normal desire of ten-year-olds for evil, no matter how badly brought-up they are.

Otherwise, murders such as this would be a good deal more common.

gemoftheocean said...

Andrew, please ask someone in your local government to check the lead levels of your water. There's a strong possiblity that the allowable levels have been exceeded.

Was there somewhere where I said JV should NOT be given a fair trial? Did I approve of people calling for his death penalty some where?

What is with bleeding heart liberals who start having auditory hallucinations that they "hear voices?"

I would never advocate giving anyone under 18 a death sentence (nor would the same apply to people who'd had obvious deminished mental capacity.)

This kid had a chance, with a clean slate as far as having to ever report anything to any future employer about his past -- he blew it. But for merely suggesting that if perhaps [since I have to spell everything out for you and red maria] that he is found convicted of child porn offenses he ought to be made to serve MAX TIME for the offense.

No wonder western societies have become hell holes with bending over backwords for young thugs who terrorize and know they can literally get away with murder, and if there are enough bleeding heart judges they can get a tap on the rest and be set free to make society the hell hole where smirking "poor ickle Johnny, his mother didn't toilet train him right" creeps get to roam free with their depravities. It't really too damn bad if Jon V. didn't get the right treatment, slide through the system, etc... but the fact remains that he has to be separated from decent people in order to see justice served for people who DON'T kill, or do violent bodily harm on innocent people. He needs to serve the max term [and because liberals seem to have an attention span of 2 seconds, I'll add the phrase "if found convicted" just for you and Red M. so you don't have any more hallucinations.]

BTW, it IS possible to multi-task. Praying that JV has a real "come to Jesus" event, does not mean you still don't protect the public. The two aren't exactly mutually exclusive.

francis said...

Good grief, GOTO, you really are staggeringly un-self-aware. Even in the next breath after denying that you are hastening to judgement, you write:
This kid had a chance, with a clean slate as far as having to ever report anything to any future employer about his past -- he blew it. [my emphasis] No ifs or buts or qualifications (no, not even in your succeeding sentence, which is about legal process rather than the facts of the case.)

In your previous posts, you wrote in just the same terms:
He had that chance, and with these latest sexual cdrimes he must NEVER be given the opportunity to prey on the innocent again.
He had his chance, he blew it.
or how about
He needs to serve the maximum time for his latest offense.

Please don't go trying to kid us (or, indeed, yourself) that you have an open mind on the subject. Your comments leave no possible room for misunderstanding: you are clear in your own mind as to the truth of the matter, and the formality of a trial is just a tedious necessity, with the proper verdict a foregone conclusion.

"You will be given a fair trial and will be found guilty" was the (possibly apocryphal) comment of a judge during, I think, Stalin's Reign of Terror. You seem to have taken it as your personal motto.

Red Maria said...


Where on earth do you get this idea that I'm a liberal from? Total invention. I am not a liberal. I am a SOCIALIST. Got that?

I'm not here to defend liberals. They can shift for themselves. But I can't help pointing out the glaring inconsistencies in your argument.

This kid had a chance, with a clean slate as far as having to ever report anything to any future employer about his past -- he blew it.

How do you know?

Notice that word, know.

I am not interested in what you assume, or presume, suppose, guess or speculate. How do you know that Jon Venables has blown it?

Never mind Western societies, the end of civilisation as we know it, or any of the other millenarian anxieties to which you subscribe, you tell me why, precisely, a ten-year old's actions determine what they are going to be like for the rest of their lives.

And while we're about it, tell us also where the basic Christian belief in redemption, forgiveness and reconciliation are in all this.


The tabloid's treatment of this story has been appalling. Jack Straw has stooped to the occasion by feeding, not starving the frenzy, effectively confirming certain details which should not ever have been in the public domain. Venables' right to a fair trial has been compromised by this atrocious spectacle.

I'm pleased to see that not everyone agrees with this. From a very good peice by Philip Johnston at the Telegraph blog, through a brilliant editorial in this week's Socialist Worker, to our very own Father Ray Blake, we have also seen that there are brave people who are prepared to make a stand for humanity and compassion.

And yes, I do feel sorry for Jon Venables as well as poor Jamie's parents. But I don't think we are defined by our actions as ten year olds. If we weren't able to change, to feel remorse and have a firm purpose of amendment not to sin again, there would be no Christianity, no Catholicism. But there is and it is what I believe in.

Andrew said...

Dear GOTO, with all sincerity I think that you are totally unhinged.

1. Isn't it funny how you presume that I (and everyone who deigns to disagree with you, for that matter) am a 'liberal'. I am not - I vote Conservative, I just do not happen to be a neo-Con and think that the world is a much less safer place due to neo-Con political orthodoxy. I also happen to believe in redemption (people can change and good comes from evil) and justice (giving each person his due). People do bad things - true, pace Venables and Thomson. People say stupid things - that's also true, pace your commens passim.

2. Did I state that you called for him to have received the death penalty? No. Do I think that you have acted as prosecutor, jury, judge and executioner? That is obvious by your comments. Francis has it right when he states that you 'you are clear in your own mind as to the truth of the matter, and the formality of a trial is just a tedious necessity, with the proper verdict a foregone conclusion'. It is perfectly obvious that you wish to see someone who has ALLEGEDLY committed criminal offences banged up with the key thrown away. I love your concept of redemption and rehabilitation.

3. As for having 'heard voices', if that is how you wish to render the phrase 'informed judgment', then fine, so be it.

I am not a bleeding heart liberal, and I do believe that if you have committed a criminal offence you should be punished (retribution and rehabilitation), for your sake and for society's sake (deterrance and re-integration, etc.). However, judges have to weigh a number of things in the balance when passing sentence - the will of Parliament, the circumstances of the offender, the nature of the offence - and I am sure glad that you are not on the bench. I think that the decision to release these men on licence for life after their internment was reasonable; there is no evidence that Thomson has committed further offences, and Venables was recalled to prison when it was suggested that he had. The Government has already ordered an investigation, although I do not doubt for one minute that its results will blow open the doors of your mind whatsoever.

I do find it sad when someone who obviously prides herself on her Christian faith does not understand such fundamental concepts as redemption, reconciliation and rehabilitation, but that is life.

Crux Fidelis said...

My great grandfather, whom I never knew, was a prison warder and spent a lot of time with condemned men. No 'bleeding hear liberal', he was nevertheless convinced that the death penalty was both barbaric and futile. His experiences together with a deep and abiding faith led him to this conclusion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Father Blake for your brave post.

These last days it seems like the baying mob are the only voice and the press are pandering to them, feeding their anger. So much hatred has been published, something which I find depressing.

Your post is a breath of fresh air.

RJ said...

Thanks for that, Michael. My account was lacking something.
I think I would concede that there is a retributive element, but I have the strong impression from the Catechism (which doesn't seem to mention retribution in this context), that retribution would not be sufficient justification in and of itself for punishing someone (not sure whether you are saying that). Here's the quote: (Catechism 2266) "Punishment then, in addition to defending public order and protecting people's safety, has a medicinal purpose: as far as possible, it must contribute to the correction of the guilty party." Here, I take defending public order (= deterrence? – see the previous part of the paragraph in the Catechism - and possibly restitution of due order, which could involve retribution) and protecting people to be necessary conditions and correction to be a desirable but non-necessary condition. It seems then that defence of order/protection and possibly retribution are jointly necessary for punishment to be justified.
Perhaps the source of my unease was the thought that only God could inflict retribution, but maybe the Lord concedes a certain (limited) retributive role to human authorities.
Remember though, the Catechism does say "If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means"

Fr Ray Blake said...

Aquinas, forgive me for not posting that, it might be assumed you were a parishioner.

Christ's words, "Father forgive them come to mind". Not even attrition there.

Unknown said...

Father Blake is right, where is the forgiveness and compassion in todays society? As a Christian, it's always been my belief that God forgives ALL sins, if we repent, and that includes murder, however horrific it is to us as humans, with our limited understanding. I too feel deeply for Jon Venables, and that's NOT taking away from what he did, but I get the feeling nobody could punish him as much as he's punishing himself. I wish I could let him know that he does have some people who are praying for him, we're not all after his blood, and I truly hope he finds the love and forgiveness of the Lord.

Moses said...

I have read your comments here Fr. Ray and you sicken me.

btonchav said...

Feeling sorry for jon Venables ? It is surely about COMpassion which Fr. Blake is conveying . As a Buddhist there is no such thing as revenge and hatred . Jon Venables is capable of exercising great compassion as much as the awful act he perpetrated to a small child . I see Jon Venables as a tortured being because of his actions . Fr. Blake is absolutely correct in his teachings . All actions have consequesnces and the negativity will torture Jon Venables for a long time . Jon Venables deserves Happiness in his lifetime as much as anyone else .

The Lotus Sutra teaches about turning poison into medicine of which all of us are capable of doing .

I do not see the Christian religion as a religion of revenge , hatred and punishment . Christ taught forgiveness in the hour of his extreme suffering and death .

Elizabeth said...

Father you are so right. Everyone deserves a second chance, the problem with us humans is that forgiving is so difficult and forgetting impossible.
As Alexander Pope wrote "To err is human, to forgive Divine"
I recently read a brilliant book called from 'Resentment to Forgiveness' by Francisco Ugarte. He states that forgiveness is a difficult matter and it is very hard to live this virtue in practice. However it is one of the most important resources for the attainment of happiness as it can resolve the principal obstacle to happiness which is resentment. There are some situations that can only be forgiven with divine help because forgiving them surpasses human strength.

Elizabeth said...

Jackie Parkes, I agree that we're all "murderous" in one way or another.

We should all take example from Mr and Mrs Mizen.

But we have to work on forgiveness, in my case, it certainly does not come naturally. But it is the devil that thrives on our resentment, and it is a battle being fought in the spiritual realm, not just in our minds and hearts.

Elizabeth said...

James, if the comments of a Holy priest like Fr Ray sicken you then you need to get down on your knees a beg for Divine guidance.

Richkid said...

I want to know what JV is thinking. I want to know exactly what is going through his head. I can't form a proper opinion based on hearsay and biased press reports.
This is another side-effect of the identity mask. Its going to make it impossible to have a nice cold sensible chat with him.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I have had a number of comments in the last hour which all seem to be from the same person - though with different names attached - I am sorry I have rejected them.

But just to remind the writer, this post is actually a commentary provoked by the readings from the the Lectionary - read it again!

Torgny said...

I am so glad that in this society where "being our brothers keeper" is so often forgotten, we hear the message of compassion and forgiveness.

I think the idea of revenge has much to do with - we often tend to think that other people are sinneers, but that we are not sinning ourselves.