“I intend to give my brother burial. I'll be glad to die in the attempt, -- if it's a crime, then it's a crime that God commands.” . . . “God and the government ordain just laws; the citizen who rules his life by them is worthy of acclaim. But he that presumes to set the law at naught is like a stateless person, outlawed, beyond the pale.” ~Antigone
In Professional Responsibility this week, we discussed ethical issues surrounding Lieutenant Colonel Vandeveld’s resignation as prosecutor from the military commissions in Guantanamo. Among the many issues, one in particular stood out to me, the tension that LTC Vandeveld expressed over trying to reconcile his faith with his professional obligations. In his words, “I am a resolute Catholic and take as an article of faith that justice is defined as reparative and restorative, and that Christ's most radical pronouncement - command, if you will - is to love one's enemies.”
We don’t know the extent of LTC Vandeveld’s crisis of conscience, but I will say that I do not believe loving one’s enemies and ensuring justice is served are mutually exclusive. Christ also said to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's.” LTC Vandeveld’s declaration is somewhat parallel to Antigone’s struggle in Sophocles’s play, and worth considering in that context. To the extent governing authorities in our lives conflict, which should ultimately prevail? As future attorneys, to what extent should our moral compass govern our zealous representation of a client?
Penn State Visiting Assistant Professor, Gregory McNeal has also posted on LTC Vandeveld’s resignation on his blog, here.