Law & Order: Catholic Moral Theology Unit

OK, I admit it: I am a Law & Order junkie. I set my DVR to record reruns on TNT so I can watch them in my free time. It’s just a really neat show.

Aside from episodes in which a moral issue (abortion, gay marriage, for example) is handled poorly, from time to time a moral issue pops up that leaves me thinking – like the episode I saw today.

A handgun is discovered that is connected to a 9-year-old, unprosecuted murder. Eventually, the murderer confesses, but a Christian group pays for a lawyer who tries to get the case dismissed “in the interest of justice”. It seems our murderer became a “born-again” Christian after his crime, and in the 9 years since has lived a model life: he left his lucrative job to take a low-paying job working for a church outreach program, he volunteers frequently, he gave away most of his worldly possessions. In short, he appears to have become an earnest Christian (though, not Catholic).

He eventually pleads guilty, convinced that it is Jesus’ will that he pay for his crime.

My question: say a Catholic commits a murder, and later is moved by the Holy Spirit to return to the faith. The only action he has taken to conceal his crime is not to turn himself in – he is never interviewed by the police. He confesses his sin to a priest. Is he morally obligated to turn himself in to the authorities, assuming he does nothing to hide the crime?



i think I saw that episode and was disgusted by the approach.

When we confess our sins are wiped free. However, we still must pay for them. Perhaps in some situations, turning oneself in isn’t necessary (eg if you shoplifted, then sending in the money anonymously with a note), but with something serious like murder, one must make amends. Turning yourself in is the best approach I can think of.

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