Wednesday, 9 December 2009

A Moral Dilemma

Hello folks,

Earlier today I had a text message discussion with my best friend, which lead to an interesting 20 minute or so debate a bit later on the subject. I've been thinking about it a bit more tonight, and so I've decided to blog about it and see what you guys think.

Let me tell you the full story.

When I was at secondary school, I had a handful of good friends, and then quite a few people who I considered as friends but weren't particularly close to, even though they had been in my friend "circle" throughout school and throughout 6th Form College . One of whom was a lad called Charles, a guy who I sat next to in quite a few classes, shared a love of Afroman with, and generally got on well with. Not best buddies, but friends.

After we finished 6th Form College, and went our separate ways, something happened with Charles. I feel a bit uncomfortable typing it out here, so I'm going to link you to the story itself - as it's out in the public domain, and the court case has finished, I see no problem in doing this:

I have not spoken to Charles since we left college, and haven't seen him either.

So, here's the moral dilemma. He's popped up on my Facebook home page, under a little box saying "People you may know" and inviting me to add him as a friend. I have no wish to do so, and quite frankly I neither want to see him or talk to him ever again. However this little box also tells me that 3 of my Facebook friends have befriended him (you following this?) ie. We now have "3 mutual friends". One of which is my friend I mentioned earlier.

I sent him a text earlier, telling him I was surprised he added him. When he enquired why, I made the point that I could never forgive him for what he did, and getting in touch with him again would, in a weird way, almost be condoning his actions. My friend texted me back with a very eloquent and intelligent text, and here it is, in full:

"I suppose that's the difference between you and me. Whilst I don't condone what he did, it's not like he raped someone or touched up kids. He has been prosecuted and has to live with that shame for the rest of his life. He has never wronged me, and was a good friend to me at secondary school. As a Catholic, it is not for me to cast judgement on him."

I understand his point, but my response was that by his actions, which were deliberate, calculated and methodical, he has put himself up to be judged. We may not like to judge someone, but if we don't than what happens? No criminal would ever be punished. He was a friend of mine as well, but to me that is now irrelevant. And whilst he did not rape someone, or touch up children, he also committed a crime that has led to him being placed on the Sex Offenders List for 10 years. That should signal to everyone the serious nature of what he did.

I've typed all that up because I would like your thoughts. Whilst I'm not religious, should I be "more Catholic", and be quicker to forgive? Should I get in touch with him, and tell him how I feel - although how would that help any? Or should I just continue to blank him out of my life and carry on regardless?

I'd be interested to see what you think, it's an interesting one.


  1. For what it is worth here is my opinion on it all. One of the oddest manifestations of Facebook is people being "friends" with people from school who they are not friends with in real life. There are a million and one motives for this, from not wanting to appear rude to wanting to look popular.

    About a month after joining Facebook I had about 100 "friends" and every time I logged on I was getting updates on their lives. Updates that I didn't want. Who, really, were these people? Over the period of a week I deleted a good fifty people from my friends list.

    We all have very good friends that we lose touch with and Facebook is a wonderful tool for rekindling those lost friendships, but some friendships die with good reason. This Christmas, thanks to Facebook, there will be a school reunion somewhere where I grew up. Wild horses could not drag me there.

    What I am saying is that the conviction is irrelevant. You are under no obligation to be his "friend" anyway. Actually the conviction is not irrelevant because if he was a really good friend you would have forgiven him and helped him back into society.

    Three other points. Firstly the BBC are horribly out of line in describing him as an "overweight loner". Secondly, your friend is right what he did is not bad as rape, and you are right it is still an awful thing to do. The voyeur is in the mindset that what he/she is doing is 'victimless' as long as the person they are watching doesn't find out. They are very wrong but they are also at the extreme of a universal sin. We all stare at attractive people in swimwear, we all slow down at road accidents. We are all voyeurs. Facebook itself is quite voyeuristic, allowing people to spy on each others photos (this may be another legitimate reason for not befriending him) He is not beyond redemption, but you are under no obligation to help him.

    Finally, and I really should keep this to myself as I am only going to upset people. The Catholic church, while having an "excellent" record on not judging child-abusing priests, Nazis and South American dictators is quite happy to judge people who use contraception, homosexuals, Jews, Muslims, athiests, women priests, children abused by priests, etc etc

  2. Ah, my old university. I was a fat loner there too, though didn't stoop to such things.

    Ben's right. The man has paid for his crime and shouldn't be further punished on a legal basis. However, that doesn't mean that you need forgive him or restart a tenuous relationship. He may not feel that deciding to be his 'friend' or not is a judgement on him - depends on how much his actions fill his consciousness.

    Ben's also right about Facebook, the nature of real friendship, journalism and the Catholic church.

    You aren't responsible for his rehabilitation, happiness or reintegration into society. Accept the contact if being in touch with him enhances your happiness. If not, don't, and don't feel bad about it.