Two days ago, in Catholic parishes all over the world, we commemorated the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The reasons for this feast are to remember the children slaughtered by King Herod's regime, as he hunted down the Christ Child. In contemporary times, we use this feast to remember all children who've died, whether through accident, illness, stillbirth, miscarriage, abortion, or other causes. Churches will give parishioners the opportunity to light candles, in remembrance of these precious ones.
Many pro-life Catholics look at this feast in another sense. They especially remember the children slaughtered by abortion and pray for the mothers and children sorely affected by this blight on society. They use it as a time to pray for the U.S. government, that we may end this scourge through legal means. However, I've come across other issues that spread the same mentality: that children are disposable. None of these issues proclaims this more loudly than the sentencing of juvenile offenders to life without parole or to death sentences. This issue came to light as I was surfing the Net and came across a Frontline special regarding this. I then read a report put forth by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International on the effects of such sentences on these youngsters.
It broke my heart.
It broke my heart that a country that proclaimed freedom and justice would rather let a child rot in jail than at least attempt to rehabilitate them back into society. It broke my heart that this same great nation would proclaim hypocrisy, using programs that condemn people and prove ineffective, in the name of political gain. Finally, it broke my heart that these same politicians, who proclaim that this is a "Christian nation" would go against the words of the God they believe in and treat young people as if they were disposable.
I understand that young people are capable of horrendous crimes. I believe that they, like their adult counterparts, should be punished. Yet punishment occurs with the hope that behavior will change, which means that a rehabilitation component must accompany any sentence. Also, while young people may know right and wrong, substantial studies prove that they act on impulse, without FULL comprehension of what they're doing. Furthermore, greater societal problems (poverty, illiteracy, minority status, family abuse) seriously impact those who do end up with these drastic punishments, all of which can affect the opportunities for true crime reduction. All of this points to a society where criminals regress in behavior and people are told that they are throwaways.
While these children may not be "innocent" (though there is some debate in some of these cases), the result is still the same: they are treated as if there is nothing of value to them, as if they were only meant for a dumpster. Even worse, it happens to those most neglected by society, in the same way abortion does: the poor, the non-white, the uneducated, those deemed "unimportant". The effects are devastating and the cost to society, both economically and otherwise, is astronomical. In the end, it's the same result as abortion: society's way of cleansing itself of those deemed undesirable. It's quite frightening.
Although this feast is two days past, we would do well to remember it all year round. Let's remember all of our children, innocent or not, who have been banished and forgotten by an indifferent society. Let's pray and fight for true justice to be done.