Feast of Cornelius the Centurion
I ask that all take a moment and give thanks to God for the example of the first Christian among the Gentiles, Cornelius the Centurion. This feast is especially appropriate in this season of Epiphany as we think of Christ's light to the Gentiles. It was Peter who said of Cornelius, before baptizing him, "Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him."
The Friendly Defender of Justice
By Scott Farrell
©2006, Shining Armor Enterprises
Police officers in many ways embody the knightly ideal of justice in
the modern world. They perform the hard-but-necessary job of keeping
the streets safe by apprehending criminals and miscreants, and
bringing them to justice, even as the knights of old were expected to
With the image of the police officer as the modern-day knight in
shining armor in mind, consider this excerpt from an article that
recently appeared in a local magazine. The piece was written by a
journalist who spent a night on patrol with one of the city's gang
investigation units. The reporter described a brief exchange he
witnessed between an officer and some bystanders:
"(The officer) stopped and chatted with two or three former and
current gang members. 'I get along with almost all these guys out
here,' the policeman commented. 'I treat them right, even when I
arrest them. And they appreciate that.'"
Perhaps that statement raises your hackles a bit. After all, gang
activities are illegal, and gang members are notorious for
perpetrating dreadful, heinous crimes, including getting children
hooked on drugs, running prostitution rings and executing petty turf
wars that endanger innocent bystanders. When a law enforcement
officer approaches such lawless thugs, we might like to think the
officer would become forceful and intimidating, and perhaps even
"rough up" the perpetrators a bit (like they do in TV cop shows) in
order to make them regret the error of their ways.
Of course, such aggressive behavior could hardly be called
chivalrous, but if the Code of Chivalry obliges police officers to
treat pimps, drug dealers and drive-by shooters gently and amicably,
then perhaps this is proof that the principle of chivalry truly is
obsolete in today's world.
That is a compelling argument — but before we summarily divorce
chivalry and justice, consider the rationale behind the notion of
"treating criminals right."
First, there's the purely practical consideration of getting the job
done. Yes, brutalizing a gang member in the backseat of a squad car
might put a halt to a single life of crime; on the other hand,
establishing respectful rapport within the gang community undoubtedly
gives police officers and detectives access to vital information
regarding other investigations. Courteous treatment may prevent or
solve many future criminal activities.
There's also the consideration of how the "rough" approach to justice
affects the crime fighters themselves. People who assume hostile,
antagonistic attitudes in "limited" scenarios (such as police
officers and soldiers, but also managers, teachers, athletes,
politicians or anyone whose job includes the role of an "enforcer")
often find those attitudes can't simply be switched off at the end of
the day. Adopting an outlook of chivalry and courtesy helps the
agents of justice avoid becoming as callous, corrupt and brutal as
the criminals they're fighting.
Lastly, although frequently overlooked, there is the presumption of
innocence that is one of the legal foundations of a free society.
Even if a police officer catches a criminal red-handed, the law does
not give him or her the authority to act as judge, jury and
executioner. In order to truly uphold the principle of justice, a
police officer should approach thugs and gang members with the same
level of respect as little old ladies and lost children.
Knights of the Middle Ages recognized that, as arbiters of the king's
justice, they couldn't go about simply whacking troublemakers on the
head — no matter how much they wanted to. Ramon Llull, author of the
13th century "Book of Knighthood and Chivalry" explained:
"Without justice, chivalry may not be. For an injurious (i.e.,
prejudiced or biased) knight is an enemy of justice; he defeats it
and casts himself out of the noble order of chivalry."
This in no way indicates that chivalry means tolerating violations of
the law, being lenient to criminals, or surrendering the duty to
protect those in peril. But "embodying the ideal of justice" doesn't
mean merely imposing the rules onto others by force, or wreaking
vengeance under the pretext of upholding the law. It means being a
living example of the standards of fairness and integrity you expect
of others — even when others fail to measure up to the high ideals of
the Code of Chivalry.
Readers are permitted and encouraged to share this article with
others as a way of furthering the understanding of the Code of
Chivalry in the modern world. Scott Farrell's seminar "Leadership
Secrets of the Code of Chivalry" is available to businesses, athletic
teams and civic groups throughout the Southern California area; more
information can be found on our website. Please include all copyright
statements and attributions when forwarding Chivalry Today articles.
Copyright 2006 Scott Farrell and Shining Armor Enterprises. Visit our
website at www.ChivalryToday.com .