A Spanish Monk On Imperfect Human Justice

What does a Spanish monk have to say about Breonna Taylor, the police who killed her, and imperfect human justice?

When Spain sent armed conquistadors to explore the New World, the native peoples thought they were being attacked and defended themselves against an invasion. The conquistadors in turn thought they were being attacked and fought back.

That’s when a Spanish monk named Francisco de Vitoria realized that there are often times when both sides of a violent conflict believe they’re acting justly based on their limited knowledge and perspective in the moment.

According to the grand jury report, police officers legally entered Breonna’s home with just cause supported by a lengthy and legal investigation. If we believe them, from their perspective, they were shot at and defended themselves.

According to Breonna’s boyfriend (and witnesses), police did not enter her home legally. If we believe him, from his perspective, he lawfully defended himself during a home invasion.

Two very different and very limited perspectives. Two sides – if we choose to believe them both – certain they were acting justly in the moment. With their perspectives, would we have acted differently?

The Church accused de Vitoria of defending the attacks by indigenous peoples on Spanish conquistadors. Reason isn’t welcome in tragedy. But if we only welcome reason when there’s a break in tragedy it will never be welcomed in this world.

de Vitoria continued to insist that great tragedy and horrific violence are not always brought about by people who knowingly behave unjustly. Sometimes our intentions are just but our perspective is limited.

Therefore, we must consider all perspectives, de Vitoria said, question our own perspective harshly, and strictly limit our own use of deadly force.

Breonna’s death is a tragedy that should have never happened. God, comfort her family, friends, and community. God, comfort the officers who shot her. Bring the whole truth into the light, expose any liars and lies, bring the guilty to repent, and dispense justice without favor or discrimination to all. Please, give us your perspective, compassion, wisdom, creativity, and will to prevent this from happening again. Where do we even start? Your kingdom come.