Wednesday 1 February 2023

God's Lawyer

James Smythe-Harris was a lawyer. He attended Church every Sunday with his wife and usually sat in the same pew at the back. Always distinguished looking, quietly spoken and mostly taciturn and a little distant.

One Sunday in his sermon, Father Ignatius mentioned a case of a poor farm labourer who had a financial dispute with his employer and could not get redress or compensation in Court because he could not afford the legal fees.

After Mass James introduced himself to the priest and offered some advice. Father Ignatius invited him and his wife in the reception room in Parish House. 

"I am a barrister," he said, "and although I cannot take on the case myself I do know of a lawyer friend who does some pro bono work and may be able to help."

"That's very kind," replied Father Ignatius with a smile, "you say you're a barrister. What do you mean, you cannot take the case yourself?"

"Oh, I'm a defence lawyer," explained James, "normally when someone is accused of something and is taken to Court he consults a solicitor. The solicitor then approaches a barrister like me, and I take on the case for the defence. I represent the man in Court."

"I see," mused Father Ignatius, "you defend people. Have you ever defended someone and you had a suspicion that he is probably guilty of the crime he is accused of?"

"Yes, I have often defended people whom I suspected for certain they were guilty," replied James softly.

"But ... how can you be at peace with your conscience?" asked Father Ignatius, "you are a Christian, and here you are defending someone you know is guilty and, I would guess, through your skill and ability you may well persuade the jury to let him free!"

James hesitated for a moment to choose his words properly. He was after all a very successful barrister and not given to talking without engaging his brain.

"Indeed Father," he said, "this has happened on several occasions when a guilty man was set free. But in our democratic society everyone has a right of legal representation. A person may well be a wretched criminal yet unable to prepare and argue his case in Court. My job, and every barrister's job, is to the best of my ability to represent this man and defend him. I cannot let my feelings or emotions get in the way and do a shoddy inferior job because I don't like the man. Christ was a carpenter, and I doubt that he made wobbly tables because He could not care less!"

Father Ignatius smiled at the ethical lesson from this wise man.

"You see Father," James continued quietly, "the alternative to me representing the guilty man would be no proper trial at all. Just bring the accused in Court, his lawyer pretends to defend him, or perhaps no defence lawyer at all, then find him guilty and mete out punishment. Which is what happened to Jesus as I recall."

Father Ignatius smiled again. "I am glad I have met you," he said, "I have seen you several times in church but never had the opportunity to introduce myself after Mass. Thank you for offering to help this unfortunate farm labourer, I'll get in touch with him and contact you."

James and his wife became good friends with Father Ignatius after that fortuitous meeting.


  1. this country, the guilty seems to hire the best lawyers.

  2. Jesus' lack of defence was part of God's plan for without the sacrifice of the unblemished lamb we would not be saved.
    Furthermore, Jesus is our Judge and Advocate: 1 John 2:1-2

  3. We learn more from people that challenge our thought process than from people who are in agreement with everything we believe.

  4. Dearest Victor,
    Your Father Ignatius stories always are the very best—also in your books!

    1. You are so kind to me, Mariette. I try to base my stories on true to life facts I have encountered.

      God bless always.

  5. Many years ago I had a 'temp' clerical job at a law firm. One day I asked that very question concerning one of their clients -- a despicable sort. No question he was guilty as charged. I can't recall ever getting an answer to satisfy my curiosity -- until now. Thank you!

    1. How kind and nice of you to say so, Mevely. The thing is, in a free society we must give everyone a fair chance to defend themselves; however evil they are. In some cases, people are not learned enough to defend themselves, so we have to provide them with the best defence we can - that is fairness.

      God bless you and yours.

  6. An absolutely beautiful story, Victor!

  7. Ahhh I returned at a good time. I think I have read this story and did enjoy it again. Sorry We have been AWOL for awhile, will try to do better. Turning 84 in the winter wasn't a good idea, shoulda done it in June.
    WE enjoy the read and he visit. Take care and stay warm, and thanks for helping FAther Ignatius, he is a good dude!
    Sherry & jack

    1. It's great to see you here again, Jack and Sherry. It's good to know you are keeping well. God bless you both and your family always.

  8. Even the worst criminal should have representation. James is smart and does his job well to the best of his ability. (And i am sure he tries to get the guilty to plead guilty to a lesser crime for a shorter sentence, that's what many of them do here.)

    1. Good point, Mimi. Everyone should have a fair trial.

      God bless.



God bless you.