EDITORIAL | Healing only comes after the truth

Lisa Johnston | lisajohnston@archstl.org

Amid the strife in Ferguson, the word "execution" has been prominent, as though Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson drove up to unarmed Michael Brown, who sat down in the street, raised his arms in surrender and was shot dead.

The version officials offer is that Brown struggled with Wilson and fought for Wilson's gun. As Brown walked away, police say, he turned and rushed Wilson, who shot and killed Brown to protect himself.

These are vastly different versions of the same event, an event in which the facts have been minimal.

What we know as true in this case is limited: a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed African-American in the center of Canfield Drive a little after noon on Aug. 9. According to a private autopsy, Brown was shot six times, including twice in the head. The position of his arms at the time of death was uncertain, whether they were up in surrender as some say, or at his side or in front of him in rushing Wilson as police say.

Brown carried with him a box of cigarillo's apparently stolen from a nearby convenience store about 8 minutes before; police say they found it at the scene. Surveillance video, released by police, appeared to show Brown taking the box and manhandling a much smaller store clerk. The attorney for Brown's family confirmed that Brown appears to be the man in the video.

According to Ferguson police chief Tom Jackson, Wilson didn't know of this crime or that Brown was a suspect when he initiated contact with Brown for walking in the middle of Canfield and obstructing traffic.

Beyond that, we know little. And that may be part of the tension.

In time, we hope, the truth will surface. Independent investigations and autopsies should reveal more fact. By weighing fact, we pray, genuine justice will be served and peace will be restored.

Unfortunately, much of the chaos that has ensued in Ferguson is fueled not necessarily by truth, but by perception and mistrust from both sides.

Standing trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus proclaimed that He "came into the world, to testify to the truth ..." (John 18: 37).

But, Pilate answered, "What is truth?"

Truth, our Church teaches, is "the virtue which consists in showing oneself true in deeds and truthful in words, and in guarding against duplicity, dissimulation, and hypocrisy" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2468).

In some cases, we find our patience for truth to be tried. Autopsies and investigations take a time. Due process -- critical to justice -- takes time. Healing takes time.

But the Truth of His Gospel and the justice and peace that come through Him are here, now. Through Him we not only find healing but can lead others to healing.

When we march with Him for justice and peace -- every day, with our humanity to unite us and no social differences to divide us -- we will find healing through truth, even if the truth isn't what we want it to be.


Read all stories on the unrest in Ferguson at www.stlouisreview.com/ferguson.

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