Savage lessons of Geoghan’s death

Savage lessons of Geoghan’s death

Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald (paid subscription required) writes today about the death of John Geoghan and draws the startling parallels between the crimes Geoghan committed and the crime committed against him.

He says that just as the Archdiocese of Boston failed to act when warned of the violence committed by Geoghan, so too did the Massachusetts correctional system fail to act when warned of threats against him. And in a macabre turnabout, a man who used his power and position to intimidate young boys, often from broken homes and bereft of their own fathers, into allowing him to practice his perversions upon them was in turn overpowered by a man who himself came from a broken home and may have been molested as a boy.

But Fitzgerald’s main point is that since Geoghan was in the custody of the state, the citizens of this state are accessories to his death.

Situational ethics do not apply here. The fact Geoghan was not a sympathetic victim doesn’t mean he was any less a victim, nor does it reduce the culpability of those who failed to protect him, knowing the nature of his alleged assailant. The commonwealth of Massachusetts was as complicit in his death as the Catholic Church was in his deeds, and for the same reason: Forewarned should have meant forearmed.

Maybe it’s time I re-thought my opposition to the death penalty. Perhaps the prison system really can’t prevent murderers from killing again, and death is the only deterrent, the only way for society to protect itself.

  • Of course, neither does the jailhouse murder of a dope dealer or car thief make it to the front page of the newspaper for four days. It may be just that the attention of the public has been focused on this.

  • Catholics of good will can and do disagree on the applicability of the death penalty. The Church’s teaching is that the death penalty is acceptable if it is the last means of society to protect itself from the worst criminals. While I understand the sentiment (if anyone touched one of my nieces or nephews, I would be hard-pressed to restrain myself), the fact is the vengeance is not a good principle on which to found a justice system.

    By the way, Geoghan was a CONVICTED molester, no longer alleged.