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Friday, October 30, 2009

Justice? Perhaps. Peace? Well . . . .

Life, I've found, can get really complicated. And, confusing.

One minute all is well with the world. Next minute, everything has changed.

It can happen in a heartbeat.

Normally, a picture like the one above might inspire a sense of justice being served. The 'perp' has been apprehended. He's in the court room. Guarded. Indeed, surrounded by guards. Chained. Like an animal.

But, that's Jose. Jose Feliciano. The former janitor at St. Patrick's Church and School. Worked there for 17 years. Loved by the parents and the kids. Used to live in the neighborhood with his wife, Marisol, and their kids. Hard worker. Always very kind.

And, he brutally murdered my friend, Fr. Ed Hinds. Stabbed him 32 times with a kitchen knife while they were in the rectory.

I saw a brief news clip of Jose walking into the court room. He looked weak. Fragile. He was shaking. He seemed uncertain when asked if he understood the charges.

"His color's off," I said to Ms. Conroy.

"I'll bet it is," she sniffed.

"No, no," I said, "I think he's sick. Didn't he have kidney problems?"

She shrugged her shoulders.

Turns out, he does. One of my neighbors says that when she talked with him last week, the doctors thought he might have a cyst on one of his kidneys.

She also said that he had just lost his second job at an electronic store and that Fr. Hinds had told him, just the day before the murder, that he might lose his job in the next round of budget cuts.

Indeed, the local newspaper reports that last fact as being in the court documents.

That does not excuse what Jose did. Nothing will ever excuse that. Ever.

It's just complicated, is all. Or, at least, not as simple as it once was.

Turns out, Jose is not who we thought he was. Has used several phony names. Has several social security numbers.

Oh, and he's also wanted on a 1988 bench warrant issued in Philadelphia for an "indecent assault" charge and "corrupting a minor".

Say WHAT? Jose? How could that possibly be?

It's all so hard to get your mind wrapped around.

Evidence. Allegations. Attorneys. Prosecution. Defense. Judge. Jury of your peers.

It's television, right? Not real life. Not our lives.

Home. School. Work. Church. Sports. Love. Kindness. Hugs. Family. Friends.

That's the stuff of our lives, right? How can any of the rest of this be real?

Jose has been formally charged and is being held on $1 Million bail. He has a court-appointed lawyer.

The judicial system is beginning to grind its way through its process.

Justice may be served but, this time, justice will not bring peace.

It can't. Not this time. Not for anyone around here.

Except for Fr. Ed, who now rests in Light Eternal.

That's the promise - the comfort - of our faith.

At least we have that.



motheramelia said...

All in all a very sad story. Sad for all who will miss your priest friend and sad for Jose and his family. Peace will be hard to come by.

Mary-Cauliflower said...

Prayers for all concerned. The worst part of these tragedies is the fact that they have so many dimensions and so many repercussions.

Brother David said...

Not knowing anything about José, I can at least say that it is not uncommon for Latinos in the USA to have at different times used various names and social security numbers. That is not so ominous in consideration of what their citizenship/residency/immigration status might have been at different times in their sojourn in the Land of the Free.

For the sake of José's family, I pray that the parish remembers and has learned from the Christian example set by the Amish families after the schoolhouse massacre.

Lord, in your unmerited love look with mercy on a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming, who in this moment has surely lost his way.

JimB said...

Sue-z and I have been discussing for some weeks the whole question of what justice looks like. Job has raised the issue in our minds. What is just?

I don't know anything about New Jersey criminal law so I do not know if this represents a death penalty case. It would in Illinois. And that disturbs me. As Drew observed recently, 'closure' often is the psychobable word for 'vengeance.' Especially here in Illinois where we face the prospect of "kill them and let God sort them out" prosecutor Jim Ryan as a major party candidate for governor. Had it been up to him, we would have murdered two innocent men for the crimes of Brian Dugan.

So what is just for Chatham? I don't know. But my hunch is that the State wont provide it.

Fr. Ed is in the arms of God. That at least is just. Your description of him leaves no doubt.


susankay said...

It's amazing how confusing it all it when one actually KNOWS or even "knows of" the "bad guy". Our Parish awoke a few years ago to find that one of our members had murdered someone. I suspect that we SHOULD always find it confusing even when we don't know anyone involved.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think confusion is the only appropriate response. It's so easy to slip into "This is God's will" Or, "This is all part of God's plan". Or, "God's ways are a mystery to us." Or, "God never gives us more than we can handle."

Asking questions takes courage. It also builds faith. I think it also moves us from the temptation to rush to judgment, as Dahveed cautions. We ain't Amish here, but neither are we empty-headed fundamentalists or hard-hearted pious who hide behind mystery and myth.

I am trying to walk through this difficult time with my friends, neighbors and colleagues with courage, faith and integrity - occasionally weeping and singing as we go, like all good and faithful pilgrims before us.

Thank you for your prayers and support.

Brad Evans said...

Asking questions has value to the extent that you can find out answers to them. Banging your head on the wall and asking "Why?" is useful only for melodramas and as emotional release.
If you're asking questions and nobody's answering, probably it means that there's nobody there.

Anonymous said...

You and all the people of Chatham are in my prayers this weekend. God's peace to all at this difficult time.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, Brad - no one banging any heads on any walls. Just asking faithful questions. And, if there aren't any answers, doesn't mean that no one's there - just that more patience is needed. Or, the wrong question is being asked.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Whiteycat

Fr Craig said...

'And, he brutally murdered my friend, Fr. Ed Hinds. Stabbed him 32 times with a kitchen knife while they were in the rectory'

EK, hate to be pedantic, but as a former lawyer, need to advise that you set yourself open to libel charges with this comment. unless he has confessed, which I haven't heard. This is why the news people always say 'alleged.' besides that, truly, know that I am keeping you all in my prayers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Fr. Craig. Good to know someone has my back. Jose has confessed. It's so sad.

Caminante said...

And I keep thinking of another Jose Feliciano... the blind guitarist/singer. Such a difference...

Prayers for all affected continue.

MarkBrunson said...

I'm so sorry, Elizabeth.

Brother David said...

God's strength Madre as you minister to your own little flock and also that of Father Ed.

Padre Tobias points us to the Hobart Lecture delivered by Archbishop Barry Morgan in Dio New York. I have downloaded the pdf but I have not yet read it, however, perhaps even Brad could get something from it.

Says the good friar, "One of his themes was clerical honesty: especially in times of loss and tragedy resisting those pious platitudes that are so easy and attractive and tempting; and which reaffirm those troubling aspects of sentimental and popular religion. What does "He's gone to a better place..." have to do with the Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the dead? As Morgan challenged, is it really at all true that "God never gives us trouble without giving us the strength to bear it..." when we are surrounded by evidence to the contrary?

I commend the lecture to you -- it is good, bracing, reading and touches on this whole question of sentimental religion vs. a faith that can face the facts."

JohnLloydScharf said...

Death is too good for him.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Oh, my JohnLloyd - I'm not even sure which one you are talking about but, either way, I'll pray for your soul.

Kirkepiscatoid said...

I continue to throw prayers your way to all affected. I hear your mental gyrations. As All Saints Day approaches, I tend to go in my "saints/sinners, who's what anyway?" mode, and what has happened in Chatham has added a deeper aspect to it.

Bill said...

There are no answers. There are no explanations. Asking why is just the mind’s attempt to change the past. Why, because we all have problems dealing with it. This is all about life. Bad things happen. That’s just the way it is. You can’t stop it and you can’t legislate against it because the circumstances and triggers are matters of blind chance. The only thing left is how we respond to it. We can scream for revenge or we can try to handle it the way Christ would. All revenge will do is sink you to their level. Revenge is temporary and in the end leaves a void that can’t be filled. Forgiveness is lasting and something you can be forever proud about.