Thursday, 19 March 2009


Josef Fritzyl - the face of evil ?

The conviction in Austria today of Josef Fritzyl for locking his daughter in a cellar over 22 years, fathering seven children with her, and causing the death of an infant son, raises some questions about the nature of and our attitude to evil in our world.
The tabloid frenzy in this case dubbed Fritzyl a ‘monster, and words like ‘depraved’, ‘sadistic’, and ‘horrific’ were used to hammer home the point that he was not like one of us. We are comforted by this distancing of his truly awful acts from the decent ordinary lives that the rest of us supposedly lead! But the only hitch in this scenario is that Josef Fritzyl is 'one of us', just as Hitler and Stalin and a whole gallery of ‘monsters’ down through the ages were also 'one of us'.
Fritzyl’s lawyer really threw a spanner into the simplistic black and white, good and evil world of the tabloid press when he said that, “Fritzyl has a heart and a mind which drive him and needs which destroy him. But he wants to change, there’s good in him.” And this is the rub, is someone who does wicked things all bad or can there be something good in him ? And conversely is somebody who appears right and wholesome ,hiding a darker and more sinister nature ? Strangely many so called ‘good living’ people would be outraged at either suggestion while the Bible, the book that purports to speak for God actually says time and time again that both scenarios are true. Yes, though evil and disobedient (to Gods Law) we still have the capacity to become children of God ! And no, even though we may appear wholly upright and true, there is a nature within that leads us to wrongdoing and wickedness.

Detail from Michelangelo's Last Judgement
The Bible pulls no punches when it describes the human heart as being ‘deceitfully wicked’, and neither does it shy away from our true potential when it promises a new heart and a new start for everyone born of God’s Spirit. Our original Divine blueprint was for perfect goodness but through disobedience that plan was scuppered and we stepped out of our fellowship with the Father. Since that ‘Fall’ we are wired towards evil and only through Redemption can we be restored to Grace and friendship with our Creator.
Even Fritzyl with his litany of heinous deeds, can through Gods Grace become redeemed and renewed. If we deny him that possibility we deny it for ourselves. The Bible is explicitly clear, declaring, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (1) , and equally emphatic when it extends to all Gods own invitation : “ Come let us reason together and though you sins are red as scarlet I will make them white as snow” (2)
At the end of the day Josef Fritzyl stood before a judge and jury and to everyone’s astonishment admitted his guilt and expressed his sorrow for what he had done. We might be sceptical about his sincerity, but the more pressing issue for each one of us is that we are not deluded ourselves, into overlooking the depraved and sinister intent that can underpin even our most ostensibly noble actions.
For Fritzyl the sentence has been passed and he will spend the remainder of his days on this earth deprived of his liberty and like you and I , he will soon face the Divine Arbiter who will pronounce an eternal sentence. Like the thief crucified beside Jesus we can turn towards the Saviour, acknowledge our wrongdoings and ask Him to remember us. How sweet then to hear those words, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise (3)
Gerard O'Shea
(1)...Jeremiah 17:9 (2)...Isaiah 1:18 (3)...Luke 23:43


Antoin said...

I visited Auschwitz this year and was deeply moved by what I saw and read about. The scale of the place shocked me. The apparent brutality. One had to ask how could ordinary people perform such hideous acts on innocent fellow humans? While there I also had the sinister awareness that I could easily have been one of the Nazi guards just doing a days work. I know this is in me and fed with the right doctrine would product similar deeds. Looking back at my life I am shocked by some of the things I have done, some are even difficult to dwell on. Yes the “Heart” can be terribly wicked and therefore the writer of Proverbs tells us to "Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life." and to "Keep my commandments and live, And my teaching as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; Write them on the tablet of your heart."
It is what we put into our Heart we become.

Cathy said...

Jesus used his strongest language to criticise the pillars of society in his day, the Pharisees. On one occassion when He was surrounded by 'sinners and tax collectors' and the Pharisees were muttering about His poor choice of associates, He said “You like to appear righteous in public, but God knows your hearts. What this world honours is detestable in the sight of God." (Luke 15)

Deirdre said...

If I was his daughter I don't think I would fogive him, He is a Monster! Her life has been ruined, by her FATHER!! Its easy to speculate about forgiveness form your armchair. No I don't think I would.

Dew of Hermon said...

I think you're right in saying that his daughter will find it hard or impossible to 'forgive',but I never said that she should or should not.. How she deals with the horrors he inflicted on her and the children is, of course her perogative and I cant pretend to stand in her place. My point is that the evil done by Fritzyl stems from the same 'depraved' heart as our own, only of course to a much greater degree,

Joy said...

Your words pack a hard punch Gerry. I was musing similarly myself this week about our "secret" sins and the fact that ALL sin is sin - there are no degrees of sin in God's eyes. A big challenge to me as I pondered it was the standard that Jesus set down in His model prayer "forgive us our sins AS WE FORGIVE those who have sinned against us". 'AS' equals 'in the same manner in which' we forgive! Unforgiveness hurts no one but ourselves when we hold onto hurt and pain. How wonderful and merciful is our all-holy God who forgives us when we say sorry (1 John 1v9) even though we don't deserve it. Praise God for Jesus who has opened up the way for us to come back into relationship with Father.

Deirdre said...

Gerard, Some of us act out of what is in us and some of us don't! We are not all the same!