I ordinarily attend daily Mass at Sacred Heart Church in downtown Peoria. Last Monday (March 25), I saw my parents at noon Mass and talked to them after the Mass. My mom told me that it was the 58th anniversary of her consecration to the Mother of God. I knew that she had made her consecration years ago, but I was not aware of the actual date.
As I walked out of the doctor’s office, my mind flashed back to the mid-1980s, when I taught Business Law at ICC. I spent a lot of time preparing for that class, but it was worth it. The young, fresh-faced students were captivated by the stories I told about my experience as a lawyer. To make the class more interesting, I intentionally wove stories throughout the material I presented to them. This made an otherwise boring class into an adventure into the inner workings of our justice system.
One of the things that I taught my students was the four basic elements that are required before a contract can be legally binding between two parties. The four elements are:
1. Offer – a promise to act or refrain from acting.
Last month, Jessica’s husband, Dan Rose, and her mother, Carol Starr, were interviewed on the ABC television show, Good Morning America. Both Dan and Carol said that they believed that Jessica killed herself because of complications that were caused by laser surgery that she had on her eyes in October 2018.
During the interview, Dan stated, “She really knew something was not right within a matter of days. She started to complain of incredibly dry eyes. She had almost no night vision. She had starbursts that she was seeing during the day and at night.”
Carol stated that after the surgery, Jessica lost a significant amount of weight. “I kept saying, ‘Are you eating? Are you okay?’ She kept saying, ‘I’m not eating and I’m not sleeping, Mom. This is worrying me. I don’t think it’s going to get better,’” said Carol.
The surgery that Jessica went through was similar to Lasik eye surgery. The name of the surgery was SMILE, which is an acronym for “small incision lenticule extraction.” With SMILE, a laser is used to make a small opening on the eye to remove a layer of tissue. The removal of the tissue corrects nearsightedness by reshaping the cornea. SMILE surgery is supposed to be less invasive than Lasik.
During the weeks following her surgery, Jessica posted several video diaries on her Facebook page where she talked about complications she was having as a result of the surgery. One of her complaints was that the dryness in her eyes was so bad that she had to use eye drops every five minutes to lubricate her eyes.
When she died, Jessica left behind her husband and two children, a five-year-old and three-year-old.
After her death, Jessica’s family, friends, and coworkers were all in a state of shock. She had never talked about committing suicide. They later concluded that Jessica experienced extreme depression and anxiety about her chronically dry eyes, her lack of night vision, and the starbursts that she was seeing during her waking hours.
Whenever a person experiences chronic pain and/or suffering, there is a possibility that the person will lose hope for the future. This is something that I always talk about when I present an injured client’s case to a jury.
Here’s an example of what I ordinarily say to a jury when I have a client who is experiencing chronic pain and suffering:
The only other thing that I’m going to mention about pain and suffering before I move on is that both pain and suffering interrupt hope for the future. We were all created with a desire for hope.
I believe that one of the biggest shocks we’re going to experience immediately after our deaths will be when God reveals to us what we could have achieved if we had followed His plan for us. The disparity between what we actually achieved on Earth and what He planned for us will be so enormous that we will be completely flabbergasted. What will be most obvious to us is how selfish we were and how most of our thoughts and actions were focused on what we could do for ourselves rather than what we could do for God and our neighbor.
In order to close the gap between who we actually are and what God intended for us to be, we must focus daily on managing and eliminating our pride and our primary fault. We must freely choose to actively resist the tendencies and temptations that favor our pride and our primary fault. At the same time, we must also choose to practice the actions and virtues that are contrary to our sinful tendencies and faults. By doing this, we will be imitating our Savior in a minor but important way.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, while our Lord was praying and anguishing over the suffering and death he was about to endure, He could have easily chosen to flee and never return to Jerusalem or any of the cities surrounding Jerusalem. He had a free will just like you and me. He had the freedom to choose to disappear into the wilderness, or to accept and embrace the suffering and death that His Almighty Father had planned for Him. By freely choosing to follow His Father’s plan, He opened the gates of Heaven for all of us.
Unfortunately, most people don’t think about what God’s plan is for them. They don’t think about or realize that before they can successfully follow God’s plan, they must first diligently work on eliminating their faults. They behave as though they will never have to answer to God for their behavior. Yet they wonder why their lives are so empty. And they blame others for their inability to improve themselves.
If you have read about some of the lives of the saints, you know that they had a daily regimen in which they prayed and assessed where they were in life and where they thought God wanted them to be. They knew the importance of self-management. They also knew that if they were to live up to God’s expectations, they had to develop certain habits and rituals that forced them to regularly review and manage themselves. They weren’t perfect at this, but they were at least 10 times better at it than most people are at managing their lives.
One of the techniques Saint Ignatius of Loyola taught to his students was for them to set aside time each day — early in the morning and again at around noon — to determine how well they had done since the last time they had reflected on how they were spending their time. They were taught to reflect on: (1) how well they had done in managing and overcoming their faults, (2) how well they had done in following God’s plan and the plan they had prepared for themselves, and (3) what God’s plan for them was for the next half day.
In reviewing how well they had done in overcoming their faults, Saint Ignatius’s students were instructed to review what each of them had done to manage and correct their pride and their primary fault. Had they freely chosen to give up the traits that were associated with their faults? Had they freely chosen to practice the virtues that were contrary to their faults?
I want to suggest to you that you immediately incorporate Saint Ignatius’s exercise into your daily regimen. I’m going to provide you with a cheat sheet that you can use to review — in the morning and at around noon of each day — to determine what sinful tendencies you engaged in, and what virtues and virtuous actions you engaged in. Here’s the cheat sheet:
Pride – Defiance, intolerance, vanity, boastfulness, disdainfulness, revengefulness, impatience, unforgiveness, self-centeredness, stubbornness, unbridled ambition, self-aggrandizement, dishonesty, hypersensitivity, conceitedness, haughtiness, touchiness, and blindness to advice.
The biggest obstacle to minimizing our pride is the satisfaction and pleasure we receive when we engage in prideful thoughts and behavior. We enjoy the feeling of being superior to others. We get great satisfaction from being defiant, intolerant, and impatient with others. We like the feelings and emotions that are associated with the belief that we are smarter than everyone else. We take pleasure in getting revenge against people who have slighted or betrayed us.
None of these attributes were present in the holy family. The Son of God was conceived inside the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit and was completely free from all sin. The Blessed Mother was conceived without sin inside the womb of her mother, Anne. (This is referred to as the Immaculate Conception). And according to Catholic tradition, Joseph, the spouse of Mary and the foster father of Jesus, was born with original sin, but after his birth, his soul was cleansed and the stain of all sin was removed by Almighty God.
Even though Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were truly superior to all others, they behaved as though they were less deserving than everyone they came into contact with. They humbly relinquished the freedom they had to be self-righteous and to feel superior to others. They also voluntarily gave up their freedom to be defiant, intolerant, vain, boastful, impatient, unforgiving, dishonest, hypersensitive, conceited, stubborn, revengeful, and blind to advice.
The holy family had every right to be self-righteous, unforgiving, and revengeful, yet they consciously utilized their free will to reject any temptation that may have come their way to engage in one or more of those vices.
Pride is only the first of two steps that we have to take on a daily basis to deal with our limitations, faults, and fears. The second step is to work at overcoming our primary fault. Because of original sin, we were all born with seven root passions: pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, gluttony, and sloth. These are referred to as the Seven Capital Sins, and are also known as the Seven Capital Tendencies or the Seven Capital Passions.
Humanity’s first parents, Adam and Eve, had complete control over their root passions. Unfortunately, as a result of their original sin, they lost the ability to exercise complete control over their passions. Ever since then, original sin has automatically been communicated to and imposed upon all newly created souls. Every one of us — except for Jesus and Mary — inherited original sin from our first parents. Baptism removes original sin and restores sanctifying grace — the friendship of God — within a person’s soul; however, baptism does not remove the stain of original sin or our tendency to succumb to the root passions.
Our worst faults are often completely hidden from us. While the people who know us best can usually see our faults, most of the time we fail to see our own faults because our pride has completely blinded us to them. And, of course, the people who know and love us have given up on trying to tell us what our faults are, because they know we’ll react with anger and outrage if they are pointed out.
Because of our fallen human nature, combined with the individual unique traits we were born with, the environment we grew up in, and our life experiences as children and young adults, each of us developed a primary fault which caused us to become attached to and adept at one of the six remaining root passions — anger, lust, envy, gluttony, covetousness, or sloth. Here are the attributes that are associated with each of these six root passions:
Anger – Annoyance, indignation, rage, wrath, aversion, explosive, vindictive, impatience, revenge, cruelty, vengeance, not at peace, and/or fierce silence.
The Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that a person who is accused of a federal crime has the right to confront witnesses who are against him. This constitutional provision serves three fundamental purposes: (1) it ensures that witness testimony must be under oath, (2) it allows an accused to cross-examine witnesses who testify against him, and (3) it allows jurors to assess the credibility of a witness by observing the witness’s testimony and behavior.
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that no person shall be deprived of “life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
The legal requirements of the fifth and sixth amendments were extended to the states by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Those requirements support the concept that is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution — that a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proving guilt rests with the accuser. We would all be in deep trouble if we could be found guilty of a crime based only on the accusation of another person.
Due Process provides that a person is entitled to (1) appear before an unbiased tribunal, (2) advance notice of the proposed action or the charges that are being asserted against him, (3) the opportunity to present evidence to the tribunal, (4) advance notice of the evidence that the opposing party has against him, (5) the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses, (6) the right to have the final decision of the tribunal based exclusively on the evidence presented, (7) the opportunity to be represented by an attorney, (8) the right to have a record of the proceedings prepared and preserved, and (9) the right to have written findings of fact and the reasons for the final decision.
The above-referenced due-process rights are what Judge Brett Kavanaugh should have been provided in the proceedings that took place in the U.S. Senate. What was obvious to anybody who paid attention to the proceedings was that there were no witnesses presented to support the allegations that were made against Judge Kavanaugh. The woman who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her when she was 15 and he was 17, had no witnesses, documents, or other evidence to support her claim that he had sexually assaulted her.
It was her word against his word. She may have actually been assaulted by someone at a party when she was 15, but because she failed to immediately report the crime to local authorities, no investigation ever took place. There was no information gathered concerning the time, date, and location of the crime. No witnesses were identified and spoken to. No evidence, such as fingerprints and clothing, was collected and preserved.
There may be a good reason why a 15-year-old girl would not report such an incident to her parents or local authorities. She may have feared that she would be severely criticized by her parents because she was prohibited from attending high school parties where alcohol was present. There could also be other reasons that she decided not to reveal the incident, such as a fear that she would be ostracized by some of her classmates or humiliated by relatives or members of her community.
Regardless of why she failed to report the incident, even if it was Kavanaugh who attacked her, the question arises as to whether she was justified in going public with a crime that occurred more than 36 years ago, knowing that her revelation would cause grave harm to the reputation of a family man with an exemplary record of behavior and public service.
The first time I thought about how the claim of sexual abuse was going to permanently harm Judge Kavanaugh’s reputation was when I read a comment from Ana Navarro, a political commentator for CNN: “This is going to be a huge black cloud on top of Judge Kavanaugh’s career, the rest of his life. It is going to be in his obituary, the fact that this allegation came through.”
Judge Kavanaugh’s stellar career and reputation have been forever tarnished. The Modern Catholic Dictionary defines the word “reputation” as follows.
The good name that a person enjoys in the public estimation. Everyone has a right to his or her good name, even the deceased, and moral persons, e.g., a community. If one’s good name is genuine, hence deserved, a person has an absolute right that no one may injure it. One’s right to a reputedly good name is relative and restricted, since the greater common good requires that, at times, even secret faults may be revealed. There is no injury, however, to reputation when the faults or defects mentioned are already publicly known. An unjust injury is committed by every sin of calumny, and by revealing real faults when the disclosure serves neither the common good nor legitimate private welfare.
My client’s name was Roland. He was 60 years old and was a resident of Peoria Heights. He was charged with Criminal Damage to Property. The “property” was a peke-a-poo dog by the name of Buffy. A peke-a-poo dog is a small “designer dog” that is a mixed breed between a Pekinese and a poodle. It’s the type of dog that some of the famous female celebrities like to buy and show off to their friends and fans. The testimony in the case came from Buffy’s owner, Nancy, and her neighbor, Colette, who testified that she lived two lots away from Nancy.
Colette was familiar with Roland because he was her landlord. He was also Nancy’s landlord. Colette testified that she saw Roland knock on Nancy’s door. She said that when no one came to the door, Roland picked up Buffy by its chain, swung the dog back and forth several times, and then let go of the chain, which caused the dog to come crashing down onto the ground. Colette said that she saw the entire incident because she had a “panoramic view” of the area from her kitchen window.
Nancy brought Buffy to court and the dog sat on Nancy’s lap while she testified. She said that she was not at home at the time of the incident. When she came home, she noticed that Buffy was limping from an injured paw and had a red mark around her neck.
Roland testified that he went to Nancy’s home because she had not paid her rent. He said that when he tried to pet the dog, it ran away and flipped over when it pulled its chain taut. He said that he then reached down thinking that he would still pet the dog. The dog then began running back and forth, so he left it alone.
After Nancy reported the incident to the police, Roland was given a notice to appear in court for Criminal Damage to Property, a Class A Misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. After Roland hired me to represent him, I told him to take pictures of the dog and the area where the incident occurred. I told him that I wanted the pictures to be taken from different angles, showing where the houses were, where the dog was tied down with the chain, and what the view of the area was from Colette’s kitchen window. I knew what the witnesses were going to say at trial because I had obtained a copy of the police report which indicated what Colette and Nancy had told the investigating police officer.
I was appalled that my client was being prosecuted for a questionable case involving minor injuries to a dog, while no one from the local abortion clinic was ever charged with killing unborn children. By that point in my career, I had already represented several different local picketers who had been arrested for Criminal Trespass to Property, because they had picketed on private property that was located in close proximity to the doors of the clinic.
Anyway, during my cross-examination of Colette, the sole witness to the alleged crime, I was able to demonstrate that she was lying because the pictures that I included as part of the evidence in the case showed that she wouldn’t have been able to see what had occurred. The pictures showed that there were two trees and several plants in a garden that were blocking her view of the area where the incident occurred.
The pictures of Buffy that we used as evidence in the case showed that the dog looked like a dirty, shaggy, stray dog. When Nancy showed up in court with Buffy, Nancy was dressed like she was going to a wedding. Her dog looked like a show dog — clean and well-groomed, with a little bow on top of its head. When Nancy testified, she hugged and stroked her cute little Buffy. On a couple of occasions, she referred to Buffy as her “little baby.” She and her dog looked like they had just come from the set of the TV show, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
During my closing argument, I explained to the jury why there was no way that Colette could have seen what had happened. I then held up pictures of the dog and told them that when I saw Nancy walk into the courtroom with her clean, trimmed, well-groomed dog, it reminded me of the hardened criminal who shows up in court, clean-shaven, with his hair cut and groomed, while wearing a well-tailored suit.
I then showed my outrage by holding up one of the pictures of the dog and shouting, “LOOK AT THIS! HERE’S WHAT THAT DOG REALLY LOOKS LIKE. IT’S NOTHING BUT A MANGY LITTLE MUTT. THIS ENTIRE CASE IS BUILT ON LIES AND DECEIPT.”
After the jury came back with its not-guilty verdict, I asked the jury foreman how the members of the jury were able to decide the case so quickly. He told me that it took them longer to select him as the foreman than it took to determine that Roland was not guilty. He said that during the first vote that was taken after he was selected as foreman, all 12 jurors said not guilty. No discussion was necessary.
The day after the trial, there was an article about the case in the Peoria Journal Star. You can see the image at the top of this page of the headline that accompanied the newspaper article. Keep in mind that all of this took place more than 30 years ago when the local newspaper had two full-time reporters assigned to the courthouse to report on trials. Today, the only trials that are reported are the high-profile murder cases that generate a lot of publicity.
I thought about my dog case last week when I read about the woman who came out of nowhere and accused a judge who is currently being considered for a position on the US Supreme Court of sexually assaulting her 36 years ago. At the time of the alleged crime, the judge would have been 17 years old and the woman would have been 15.
Despite the fact that the woman was accusing the judge of a very serious crime, she said that she had no recollection of the date, time, or location of the crime. She also said that she didn’t have any recollection of who was at the party where the crime allegedly occurred, other than the name of a guy who was with the judge. After the news of the incident was reported, the guy who the woman named as being with the judge, issued a formal statement that the incident never occurred.
As expected, Democrats, Hollywood celebrities, and women’s rights organizations immediately lined up behind the alleged victim, stating that they believed that she was telling the truth and that the judge had attempted to rape her. Republicans and conservatives immediately lined up behind the judge, claiming that the woman was either lying or was mistaken about whom the man was who sexually assaulted her.
After reading about the allegations, my immediate thought was, There’s no way that based on this lady’s inability to name any favorable witnesses or any specifics concerning location, date, and time, that a jury would ever find that the judge was guilty of criminal sexual abuse.
So here are a few questions that I have for you: Does it matter whether the woman can prove her case in a court of law? What if the judge really did commit the crime, but there’s not enough evidence to convict him? Should he get a free pass? For those who believe that the judge should still be held responsible for the alleged incident even though the woman would be unable to prove her case in court, my response would be: What if your husband, son, boyfriend, brother, father, or grandfather was accused of criminal sexual assault by a woman who claimed that the crime occurred 36 years ago? How would you react if the man in your life vehemently denied the allegation? Would you demand proof? Would you want to hire a lawyer who would do everything in his or her power to defend the man?
There’s another thing that we need to consider concerning the allegation of criminal conduct by the judge, which has to do with our Catholic faith and the teachings of the Catholic Church. That will be the topic of my article next week.
I’ve written before about how I grew up in a family neighborhood that included seven families. My grandparents, Tom and Effie Williams, lived next door to my parents. The other families in the neighborhood were made up of my aunts, uncles, and cousins.
When it wasn’t raining outside, most of the mothers in the neighborhood did not tolerate children being in their homes for very long. If we were in a home watching TV and the weather was tolerable, the mother of the house would usually turn off the TV and make us go outside. My cousins and I spent most of our time outdoors.
There was a huge tree in the neighborhood and for years we competed with each other as to who could climb the highest. We proved how high we were able to climb by carving our initials in the tree at the highest possible point.
All of us became adept at outdoor games such as Hide and Seek, Jumping Rope, and Spud, (a game where players tried to eliminate the others by catching and throwing a ball at each other). We played football, Frisbee, badminton, volleyball, croquet, and Jarts (lawn darts). We set up a baseball diamond on a vacant lot that my dad owned, and two of the houses in the neighborhood had half-sized outdoor basketball courts.
We also spent time in my parents’ in-ground swimming pool. Our favorite games included Marco Polo and Chicken Fighting (where we would get on each other’s shoulders and wrestle until one of us fell into the pool). We also competed with each other to see how long we could hold our breath underwater.
When it was raining, we kept ourselves busy inside, playing numerous board and card games.
When I wasn’t with my siblings or cousins, I kept myself busy by building things out of wood, lifting weights, throwing knives at trees, shooting a bow and arrow, and shooting guns.
Growing up in our family neighborhood was the closest a child could ever get to being in paradise.
Of course, growing up in a family of 17 children also had its own adventures. In a family that size, there was frequent teasing, laughing, arguing, scheming, and manipulation of younger siblings to perform our assigned jobs. There was always so much going on that all of us learned how to thrive in chaos.
Needless to say, our large family and the neighborhood that we lived in provided a very stimulating environment which required all of us to share, get along, cooperate, and create new ways to entertain ourselves.
All that abruptly ended for me in August 1975, when I went away to college. I attended undergraduate school at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois. It was the first time that I had ever been on my own, away from home, for an extended period of time.
While I was excited about the new challenges that I was facing, I was extremely lonely. The loneliest day of each week was Sunday, the day that our family had always been together. While I was growing up, on Sundays, we attended Mass together in the morning and then got back together for dinner later in the afternoon. In the evening, we usually made popcorn and sat together in the family room to watch The Wonderful World of Disney.
During my first year of college, there were a lot of days that I wanted to quit and go home. On Sundays, to get my mind off of how lonely I was, I would take long walks and imagine being with my family, cousins, and friends, doing the things that I had always enjoyed doing with them.
During the spring semester of my freshman year, we had a guest speaker in one of my classes who told us about a program that he was in charge of. The program was designed to teach children basic skills that those of us who grew up in stable families took for granted. After his presentation, the speaker asked us to consider signing up as volunteers for his program, to teach underprivileged children the basic skills that were necessary to function normally in society.
I’m not sure why, but I signed up for the program. After that, every Friday, I drove to the facility where the program was taking place and did whatever the supervisor told me to do. My first assignment was to work with a 12-year-old boy who was from a poor, single-parent home. My job was to teach him how to identify and count money.
The boy that I worked with was a good kid with normal intelligence. I was shocked when I learned that he didn’t know what a penny, nickel, dime, or quarter was. He was aware that the coins represented money, but he didn’t know the names of the coins, their value, or how they were used for purchasing things. I didn’t know where to start. How do you explain to a young, inexperienced boy what a quarter is?
I had trouble identifying with his situation. When I was 12 years old, I had my own paper route and a checkbook that I reconciled every month, when the bank statement came in the mail.
As I worked with the boy each week to teach him about money and to help him develop his math skills, an amazing thing happened. I stopped feeling sorry for myself and being lonely. Why? Because my mind was now focused on how grateful I was for what God had given me. Instead of thinking of myself, I thought about the boy I was helping. I also thought about all the underprivileged children who were destined for a life of uncertainty and struggle, because they were not fortunate enough to grow up in stable families where their parents and the other people around them taught them the basics that they needed to grow into mature, productive adults.
After going through the experience of teaching the boy how to identify and count money, I realized that one of the formulas for dealing with loneliness was to reach out and help others who were less fortunate than I was. The very act of helping others who were in desperate need forced me to stop thinking about myself and to focus on the people I was helping.
There’s something magical about reaching out to others who are in need. It’s magical because of the way that God created us. He created us to personally benefit when we voluntarily provide assistance to others who are in need. Reaching out to help others creates spiritual electricity that lights up our emotions and our sense of well-being. Without the spiritual electricity that is created when we help others, our emotions and sense of well-being can easily drift into darkness and despair.
Several years after my experience of teaching the boy how to identify and count money, I realized that the Catholic Church already had the formula that I had discovered for conquering loneliness. The name of that formula is the “Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.”
As a reminder, the corporal works of mercy are: feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. The spiritual works of mercy are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, bear wrongs patiently, forgive offenses willingly, comfort the sorrowful, and pray for the living and the dead.
Today, any time that I meet somebody who is hyperfocused on their own depression, loneliness, victimhood, or despair, I try to encourage them to join an organization where they can do volunteer work for people who are less fortunate than they are. I tell them that it’s always best to start with an organization that has a structure in place for helping others, rather than attempting to figure out on their own how they can consistently and predictably help others who are in need.
For those people who are devout Catholics, in addition to doing volunteer work, I try to persuade them to seek out and assist others who are in need of their guidance, friendship, and prayers.
What I’m suggesting here is contrary to our fallen human nature, which favors selfishness and the avoidance of people who are in need. But such behavior is in direct opposition to one of the primary purposes for which we were created — to love our neighbor as ourselves.
This is a very valuable formula for conquering loneliness, depression, and despair. I hope you will use it and teach it to others, which is in and of itself a spiritual work of mercy.