What Does Justice Without Restraint Look Like?

These past days, we witnessed the awful events that surround the untimely death of Mr. George Floyd, a black man who was arrested and yet tragically died at the hands of arresting police officers. As a People of God our hearts and prayers go out to George Floyd and his family as they experience this great loss. We also pray for all those directly (or indirectly) involved and have been affected by what has happened these several days and weeks. So much has been said and so much has been heard, and yet as a leader of faith and representative of The People of God, I thought it important that I also speak in order to bring some faith-based understanding and perspective on what has transpired. There are many ways to look at this, so I apologize if I have left someone or something out.

One question I had as this was happening is: “What does Justice without Restraint look like?” Justice is one of the Four Cardinal Virtues which include: Justice, Temperance, Fortitude, and Prudence. These virtues are good not only for us as individuals but also for our society in order to function in healthy and positive ways. Justice is all about what is fair, what is honorable, what is good and what is right. Justice is part of what the whole controversy surrounding the tragic events of George Floyd are all about. Yet, Justice also needs the virtue of Temperance, and by Temperance I mean restraint, self-control, and responsibility on our part. “Justice without Temperance or restraint can become an Injustice itself!”

We see this in 2 examples. The first example of justice without restraint has to do with what appears to be an abuse of power and force by certain members of the local police force in the arrest of Mr. Floyd causing his death. The second example of Justice without restraint is the “rioters” who came out in protest by simply destroying private property, ruining people’s businesses, setting buildings on fire, looting, and taking away many people’s livelihood or jobs. How did this really serve justice? How did this really help Mr. Floyd’s cause? These kinds of actions are completely uncalled for and even the Floyd family called for ‘peaceful protest’ and not destruction while we call for change. Justice without restraint becomes an injustice itself!

This said, there were also two example of Justice tempered by restraint! One is by the “peaceful protestors” who came out to support the George Floyd’s cause and who came out calling for change. They did so with compassion and yet demanding that some form of justice be served. The vast majority of people who came out into the streets during daylight were good people supporting a just cause. Peaceful protest and freedom of speech is a right that should be protected, and the violence that happened should never overshadow the good voices that should be heard. The second example of Justice tempered by restraint is when police, law enforcement, National Guard, firemen and women handled the rioters and did not allow them to provoke them into even more violence. They had to restrain themselves even while being provoked as they tried to put out the fires and diffuse the situation. Admittedly in some cases the rioters seemed to overwhelm those who stood for law, order and peace.

So, we see examples of both! Justice unrestrained and justice tempered by restraint. The second examples are what we need most! Justice can only be served when we bring temperance into play. I know these are old terms, but they are as valid today as ever. As a People of God, we need to uphold justice and yet pray for all those involved, even those who abuse their power and authority or freedom on either side. We need to pray for a better, more just world through peaceful means and a positive solution even through tragic events. May peace and truth of God always reign in our minds and in our hearts!

Fr. LeRoy Scheierl