Church members took the high road in attack
"The quality of mercy is not strained," Portia tells Shylock in the first scene of Act IV of Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice."
"It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven on the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes. ... It is an attribute of God himself ..."
Members of Annunciation of The Lord Catholic Church displayed that quality this week in asking District Attorney Bob Burrell and Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler to show mercy on defendants who pleaded guilty to criminal mischief charges in connection with an Oct. 2, 2005, attack on the church during Mass.
"We (church members) met, and it was a consensus that they should be shown mercy," said Denise Hill, an attorney and parishioner. "That's who we are: Christians."
It would be understandable if the church members sought more severe punishments for Adam Joseph Turgeon, Lisa Marie Wagner, Emily Loughman and Loughman's husband, who was certified as a youthful offender. The four, all of Hartselle, entered the church during Mass that Sunday morning; two screamed that Catholics worship idols and attacked the altar just before communion. One of the men shoved the altar, smashing it.
The disruption understandably disturbed many in attendance. Parishioners could easily have sought a harsh sentence for the offenders, who pleaded guilty.
Instead, at the request of the church members, Mr. Burrell recommended a split sentence for Mr. Turgeon and Ms. Wagner so that one of the two can be with the couple's infant child while the other serves time. Ms. Wagner will serve 60 days in jail, with the remainder of her sentence suspended. Mr. Turgeon will serve 18 months, with the remainder suspended. Ms. Loughman has applied for probation. She will be sentenced in May.
By displaying mercy, as Jesus encouraged his followers in the Sermon on the Mount, by "turning the other cheek," church members displayed the true nature of their faith.
They put into practice what is so often preached, but much more difficult to live. They exemplified the message of the Peter Scholtes hymn:
"And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes they'll know we are Christians by our love."