Theatrical poster for the release of the 1957 film 12 Angry Men, an adaptation of the courtroom drama of the same name. Wikipedia

Speaking Out: Always be true to your beliefs

By  Peter Wilson, Youth Speak News
  • May 19, 2021

Based on its description, everything about the 1957 film 12 Angry Men seems synonymous with the word “boring.”

A quick rundown. It’s shot in black and white, takes place in just one room and the most action that occurs is — well — 12 angry men yelling at each other. Any takers? No? Let me change my approach.

Imagine you are one of 12 jurors selected for a murder trial in the 1950s. A teenage delinquent is accused of murdering his father. The evidence seems to support it. Your fellow jurors are convinced. But you have a lingering speck of doubt. Something doesn’t seem right about this case. You can’t place your finger on why, but your conscience is pleading that the boy is innocent.

The court breaks for the jury to vote on the verdict. To reach a decision, the choice must be unanimous, innocent or guilty. Even if 11 jurors vote “guilty,” one vote for innocent will veto all the rest and force a re-vote. The head juror calls for an open vote.

It comes to a vote. Everyone’s hand goes up except yours. Eleven frowning faces turn towards you. How do you defend yourself? Worse yet, how do you convince them to join your side?

Now, replace the “you” in this scenario with Juror #8, played by Henry Fonda, and you have 12 Angry Men’s premise.

Catholics can take an important lesson from this film. Fonda’s character refuses to “go with the flow,” to blindly follow the trend of thought held by his peers. And he pays the price. He is attacked, blamed for the hung  jury.

For Catholics, this sounds familiar. Often, we are derided for our views and made to stand out like black sheep in the flock of society. We are criticized for stifling social progression because of our “old-fashioned” values. It’s a hard life and dropping our beliefs to follow society’s secular trends can be a tempting prospect.

But Juror #8 provides an excellent model of fidelity. He refuses to give up his stance, enduring the barrage of hateful comments thrown at him and slowly bringing other jurors to his side through his valiant example.

One says he doesn’t care that Juror #8 has no evidence to support his claims. He says, “it’s not easy to stand alone against the ridicule of others, so he gambled for support... and I gave it to him.”

After picking up more momentum, Juror #8 begins to uncover errors in the case. Jurors to whom rational arguments were more important begin to see that they’ve been misled and unanimously vote “not guilty.”   

This film remains ever-so-relevant to Catholics in 2021. You don’t need all the philosophical arguments or fancy rhetoric for God’s existence to convert non-believers. All you need is to make your stance clear and stick to it. You are Catholic and will faithfully follow God’s commandments till death.

Catholics who fight for the truth will inspire others to join them. So be bold for your beliefs. Take a stand. Your Christ-like example will do the rest.

(Wilson, 20, is studying for his Bachelor of Catholic Studies degree at Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.