Jackson Center Presents “The Ethics of Spiritual Care for the Imprisoned: Nuremberg and Today”

Article Contributed by
Robert H. Jackson Center

The Robert H. Jackson Center, a non-profit dedicated to promoting liberty under law through the examination of the life and work of Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, and his legacy’s relevance to current events and issues, announced that it will present “The Ethics of Spiritual Care for the Imprisoned: Nuremberg and Today,” in its continuing commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trial. Robert H. Jackson Center Executive Director Susan Moran Murphy made the announcement.

The March 9, 2016 event begins at 7:00pm in the Cappa Theater at the Jackson Center, 305 East Fourth Street, Jamestown, NY. This program is free and open to the public.

Seventy years ago, Father Sixtus O’Connor and Pastor Henry Gerecke stared into the eyes of evil and refused to blink. Under the principles of international law, as set forth in the Geneva Convention, these two men of faith heeded the call to provide spiritual counseling to enemies of the state. Ministering to Hermann Göring, Albert Speer, Wilhelm Keitel, Joachim von Ribbentrop, and other imprisoned Nazis -the henchman of Hitler’s nightmare- would prove to be one of the most rigorous challenges humanity would ever face to its core principles. The depth of this challenge is eloquently recounted in author Tim Townsend’s bestselling book, “Mission at Nuremberg.”

Gregory L. Peterson, partner at Phillips Lytle LLP, as well as co-founder and board member of the Robert H. Jackson Center, will open the program by presenting a case study on Pastor Gerecke and Father Sixtus O’Connor (St. Bonaventure University alumnus) who endeavored to “save the souls” of the Nazis by leading them down a spiritual path of repentance and forgiveness, as that story is detailed in the book. By examining what these men of faith faced, not only in the stark prison cells within the Palace of Justice, but abroad, where they were vilified by the general public for ‘fraternizing’ with Nazis. People were outraged that priests would give audience to men who had systematically strived to obliterate anyone of the Jewish faith, all non-Aryans and those who did not unquestionably fit within and accept Nazi ideology.

Fast forwarding to 2016, the program will shift to a panel of four representatives from the three Abrahamic faiths to discuss how different religions deal with incarcerated individuals and the prospect of “forgiveness.” Luke Fodor, Rector of St. Luke’s Church Jamestown will facilitate the discussion with Sam Qadri, Director of Jamestown Islamic Society Community Outreach (Jamestown), Linda Dunn, President of Temple Beth El (Dunkirk) and Maj. Tom Geisler (Prison Chaplain). Can a religious representative provide spiritual care that leads an individual to be accountable for his crimes? What are a religious community’s obligations in caring for those incarcerated? Can human kind be saved from self-inflicted destruction by summoning the courage to value ethics as the safeguard against the abuse of liberty? These questions, and more, will be addressed during what promises to be a very thought provoking evening.

Justice Robert H. Jackson cautioned the world, over sixty years ago, that “[w]e can afford no liberties with liberty itself.” United States v. Spector, 343 US 169, 180 (1952) (dissent). History has proven on countless occasions that, during times of conflict, basic civil liberties are generally the first casualties. Join the Robert H. Jackson Center on March 9, 2016 to explore how society can live up to the ethical standards the Constitution requires to safeguard against the destruction of its underlying principles.

The Robert H. Jackson Center is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization that envisions a global society where the universal principles of equality, fairness and justice prevail. The Center invites and engages scholars, educators, national officials and international dignitaries to analyze contemporary issues of peace and justice through the relevance of Justice Jackson’s body of work.