Rushing to Judgment about Madeleine McCann's Disappearance

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Portuguese police have resumed search efforts for Madeleine McCann.

This is good news for Kate and Gerry McCann who had been named suspects in the alleged death of their 5-year-old daughter. The McCanns have defended their innocence vigorously and have pleaded with police not to abandon the search for Madeleine.

The Times of London reports today that a source close to the Portuguese public prosecutor, Luis Bilro Verao, says the case against the McCanns has come to an “impasse.”

Little consolation, I imagine, for Kate and Gerry. They know their names will never be cleared until Madeleine is found — doubt will always linger. It’s the way we’re wired.

Do you remember the moment you heard the news about their alleged involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance?

I do. I saw it come over the news wires …

“Mother to be named suspect in case of missing British girl, Madeleine McCann.”

My heart dropped. My mind raced. I assumed the worst. What motive could she possibly have had? Did she do it to get back at her husband for something? Did she have a terrible case of post-partum depression?

Simultaneously, I recalled everything this couple had done over the last few months to get the public on their side. They even went to the Vatican to ask Pope Benedict for prayers. “If they’re guilty,” I thought, “they are disgusting.”

Most journalists were careful not to declare a verdict, but as the days went by and Portuguese prosecutors became more public about their suspicions, bloggers and commentators began to voice worst-case scenarios. Among other things, I heard speculations about the McCanns' possible involvement in elaborate money schemes and child prostitution rings.

How quick we are to believe negativity and scandal!

But today the public prosecutor — the same one who made public his suspicions against the McCanns — says the case against them is at an impasse.

That sounds like a fancy way of saying there is not enough evidence against Kate and Gerry to accuse them of a crime.

What? Tragic! In such a high profile case, did the prosecutor have to name Kate and Gerry official suspects when he did? Could he not have gathered and examined more evidence before he took such a public stance? Did he take into consideration how hard it would be for them to clear their names if his suspicions were wrong?

I put my concerns about the prosecutor in question form because I don’t know for sure he could have acted with greater prudence. But for justice’s sake, these are questions that should be asked.

Beyond the issue of justice for Madeleine and her parents, the proceedings of this case can teach us a great lesson — accusations wield power of their own. If you throw enough mud at a wall, some of it will stick. We can’t hear scandalous news, even in the form of allegations, without believing some of it or harboring doubt.

In reference to rumor and innuendo, I try to follow this little rule: believe all the good you hear and only the evil you see. Oh, and this one too: speak about people as if they were listening in.

God bless, Father Jonathan
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