Caution against invoking God’s law at the expense of the rule of law


Sir Thomas More
Sir Thomas More.
In his latest CathBlog, Catholic Diocese of Parramatta Social Justice Co-ordinator Evan Ellis, who is appearing in a production of A Man for All Seasons, reflects on the echoes of Sir Thomas More's words in today's world.

"Sitting back stage during A Man for All Seasons, I have plenty of time to let the dialogue wash over me as I wait for my one scene," Evan writes.

"Written deftly by the playwright Robert Bolt, the dialogue crackles along full of pathos and wit. There is one scene however that always catches me off guard as I sit in the dressing room listening to the dialogue over the little PA.

"It occurs when young Roper, a suitor to More’s daughter and religious firebrand – for different denominations at different times – chastises More for allowing a suspected traitor to leave his house. More is almost nonchalant; having broken no law, why should the man lose his freedom?

"Roper taunts him by saying he would give the devil the benefit of the law and is indignant when Moore agrees. He retorts that he would cut down all the laws in England to get to the devil. The saint’s reply is searing:

"'Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you – where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast-man's laws, not God's-and if you cut them down-and you're just the man to do it-d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.'

"They are Bolt’s words. But the sentiment, from More’s remaining writing and legal career, is his. It’s a telling juxtaposition that the saint is the one who cautions against invoking God’s law at the expense of the rule of law.

"While the play’s own publicity surfs off the wake of the recent Royal Wedding, with the tagline 'Dying to go to a royal wedding. Imagine dying for a royal divorce', it probably has more to say about a dark night in Abbottabad, Pakistan, than the starry nuptials of Kate and Will."

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