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July 15, 2004

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David Kubiak

Mr. Shea would be so much more believable on this subject if he didn't show such rage and bitterness towards people who show rage and bitterness towards certain members of the clergy and their enablers. And I don't mean this sarcastically. I think a good Catholic would be perfectly justifed at being full of rage and very bitter when he sees a picture of two men in Roman collars kissing each other, and I don't feel that this reaction need in the least destroy him or his relationship with Christ.

I think Fr. Tucker does a good thing in saying that his blog is not the place for spiritual direction.

Gia

As this site lacks any official status, spiritual direction cannot be conducted here.

Quoted from Fr. Tucker's page.

What has official status got to do with
spiritual direction -- I've taken much direction
from many sites of contradictory persuasions.

I'm seriously concerned about the 'source' of
spiritual direction -- whether given/received.

Steve Skojec

I've got to second David on that (and on the nature of righteous anger). I used to read CAEI on a daily basis, but I got so disgustd by the constant baiting and bashing conducted by the proprieter and frequent contributors that I lost interest pretty fast.

That's not to say that Mark isn't right about God not wanting anger to destroy us. I can't help but feel that it's more than just a little unimpressive though, considering the source.

Then again, I'm an equally angry, cranky bastard, so I'll stop pontificating as well.

Rod Dreher

This is a complicated topic. Here's where I'm coming from.

As anybody who reads the blogs knows, I'm two tics away from volcanic most of the time over all this stuff. I know this is unsustainable -- I mean, I have no doubt that the Church will provide plenty of scandal fuel to feed the fires of anger. What's unsustainable, in an atmosphere of constant anger and bitterness, is the Catholic faith. I'm pretty much to that point now -- so disgusted by the corruption that I find it difficult to stay in the Church, but convinced intellectually of the Church's claims, so I know objectively that there is nowhere else to go. There is nothing else to do but endure. How to do this? I don't know, but I'm finding out.

The problem is knowing how to manage the anger, and direct it toward the good. I am, frankly, revolted by some of the stuff in the Catholic blogosphere by people who carry on like any expression of anger over the ravaging of the Church by its clergy is sinful, a failure of charity, etc. That kind of response is, to my mind, deeply un-Christian. What would they have told fiery Jesus when he came out of the Temple, leaving the moneychangers in his wake? Today, many of our bishops, leaders of religious orders, and their corrupt priests have turned Our Father's house into a brothel. We have not only the right to be angry over this, but the moral obligation to be.

That's because anger is the right response to injustice. It is only through getting angry that we will find the impetus to push for things to be made right again, especially when we face all kinds of pressure to sit down and shut up. There have been so many times I've wished I could put this scandal out of my mind; it brings nothing but misery to me, makes me sit in mass (of late) with my stomach churning, wanting to leave, and brings anxiety and pain to my family. But as I've said recently on this or another blog, I keep thinking about my own two little boys, how vulnerable they are, and how precious, and how it could have been them -- and I find myself absolutely resolute never to shut up or back down until the Church has dealt with this crisis.

It is hard to do this. I hate it. Hate it. I know a victim's lawyer who has had to wade through a river of shit from various dioceses to get justice for his clients. He's a Catholic, and this whole thing has eaten his insides up like a cancer. He told me once, with real heartbreak in his voice, "I just want to go back to my Church." But he can't because he's known around his diocese as The Man Who Sues the Church. A pariah. The burden he carries is one very few of us, and certainly not I, will ever know. But if not for men like him, where would victims be? They'd be shoved aside by the chanceries, intimidated into silence, and the priests who raped them would still be sitting pretty in their parishes, because their bishops see no evil. Before getting to know this guy, I entertained the stereotype that lawyers like him are a necessary evil, that they're pretty much just ambulance chasers. No doubt many are. But that man is a broken Catholic who wants desperately to be reconciled to the Church, yet who knows the work he does is necessary, and can only be refused through cowardice.

Here's a true story, not from this lawyer. A teenage boy from a poor immigrant family is living with his mother while waiting on his father back home in Latin America to arrive. He starts having behavior problems, so the boy's mother takes him to the priests at her parish, and asks them to help her give her son some manly guidance, at least until his father gets to the US. The priests agree to do this, and promptly introduce the boy to gay group sex in the rectory.

When the dad arrives and finds out what these priests have been doing to his son, he goes straight to the chancery, thinking they'll be as outraged and appalled as he. The poor man, who is a laborer, and who speaks no English, meets with an auxiliary bishop, who offers to cut him a check in exchange for his signature on a piece of paper giving the diocese's law firm the right to represent him in this matter. In other words, they were trying to manipulate a poor man angry over the homosexual molestation of his son by parish priests into silence and settlement; as it came out later, the Church had been well aware of sexual problems with at least two of these priests, and had simply transferred them around. Luckily, this immigrant father had enough sense to see what was going on, walked out, found a good (non-Catholic) lawyer, and took the diocese to court. Those priests are, the last time I checked, no longer in ministry. Thank God.

That wouldn't have happened without that father's anger.

I am awfully tired of being angry about this. But more than that, I am awfully tired of picking up the newspaper and reading about gay orgies in seminaries, or bishops and religious orders shipping molester priests overseas to avoid prosecution, or priests being arrested with rubber gloves and Vaseline in their purses, and so forth. If more ordinary Catholics would get angry, the bishops would feel the heat, and move faster to clean up the mess. Jesus commands us to forgive, but are we supposed to do that in the absence of repentance? Does anybody honestly believe the bishops are repentant over this (as opposed to merely regretting that it happened)? Far from feeling guilty over anger in this scandal, I'd say that if you aren't angry, you aren't taking it as seriously as you should.

Then we come back to the problem of how you avoid letting righteous anger destroy your faith. If somebody has an idea, I'm all ears. Seriously. The answer is not, and never can be, to put our heads in the sand, to "offer it up," to trust the Holy Father, or following any of the other sincerely-meant pious nostrums that one way or another, are a method of avoiding the evil in our midst, and our own responsibilities as Catholics to do whatever we can to cast it out.

Speaking for myself, I am not mad at God over this; because I believe in and love Him and Our Lord, and cannot stand what the hierarchy and many of the clergy have done to His Body, I feel all the more compelled to speak out. If we were in the Methodist Church, say, I would long ago have simply packed up and taken my family to another denomination. But this is, I firmly believe, the Church. There is nothing to do but hold one's ground, and fight, and try hard to see Jesus as separate from the mitred pederast-coddlers and pampered exploiters of the poor who wear the legitimate mantle of apostolic authority, as did Judas Iscariot.

st. michael

The interesting thing to me over all of this Austrian seminary thing is how Michael Rose literally comes out smelling like a rose about his book.

He was maligned by the NCRegister, Crisis, and OSV (not to mention a certain priest with a blog who occasionally posts here) and, for all intents and purposes, dismissed as one who was "exaggerating the truth" a bit.

Oh, really?

Have a look at his take on the Austrian seminary thing:

http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/rose-16july04.html

st. michael

The interesting thing to me over all of this Austrian seminary thing is how Michael Rose literally comes out smelling like a rose about his book.

He was maligned by the NCRegister, Crisis, and OSV (not to mention a certain priest with a blog who occasionally posts here) and, for all intents and purposes, dismissed as one who was "exaggerating the truth" a bit.

Oh, really?

Have a look at his take on the Austrian seminary thing:

http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/rose-16july04.html

st michael

The interesting thing to me over all of this Austrian seminary thing is how Michael Rose literally comes out smelling like a rose about his book.

He was maligned by the NCRegister, Crisis, and OSV (not to mention a certain priest with a blog who occasionally posts here) and, for all intents and purposes, dismissed as one who was "exaggerating the truth" a bit.

Oh, really?

Have a look at his take on the Austrian seminary thing:

http://www.cruxnews.com/rose/rose-16july04.html

John Heavrin

What do you want, Rod? Riots in the streets, at Mass? You and others have made the case that this is a huge problem and that it's sickening beyond belief that priests did this and that bishops covered it up.

Now what?

You've judged your anger to be righteous. Others might judge that your anger is more self-righteous than righteous. I also wonder if, as a journalist, the pelt-hunter in you isn't satisfied, and that has you frustrated. I wonder if the editorialist in you is upset that your rage hasn't sent everybody to the barricades.

Are you pissed off because nobody else is as pissed off as you?

You do sound bitter to me. Don't be.

Anne

Anger can be a motivating factor to actually do something to solve a problem. But when anger goes on and on, and feeds itself and others continually, it becomes an end in itself. Pretty soon, the "righteous" anger begins to resemble something very "unrighteous". Vengeance then rules the day and, in the end, more harm and division has occurred.

St. Paul tells us in the Bible that we are supposed to build up the body of Christ with our speech - not tear it apart. I have only been reading this site for a short time, drawn because it was "Amy Welborn's site", but such a spirit of anger and revenge permeates it that I find it impossible to read. There are more "fantasies" of revenge and degradation than honest dialogue. I think my time would be better spent praying a rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet - praying God has mercy on all of our sinful souls.

Rod Dreher

If you want a direct link to Michael's article, click right here.

He calls the St. Poelten seminary scandal "the Catholic Church's Abu Ghraib." He's right about that. As I explained on Dom's blog, we all had reports of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib long before it became an international story. What turned it into a Very Big Deal was the existence of photographic evidence of the malign corruption there. Same thing with the Austrian seminary. We have all heard about gay derring-do in seminaries, but now, apparently, there is ample photographic evidence of the situation in one seminary. I hope many, many more of these photos come out, so at least some Catholics can quit living in denial.

One more thing about the anger thing: if Church leaders had paid attention to its angry reformers early on, so much needless waste and destruction could have been avoided. We wouldn't have had the Reformation, and lost half of Europe to Protestantism, if the bishops and the popes of the day had paid attention to what angry Catholics throughout Europe were telling them about the true state of the Church. In 1985, if the US bishops had simply listened to Fr. Thomas Doyle, who at the time was a straight-up orthodox organization man, and acted on the report he gave to them, think of how different things would look today.

Rod Dreher

If you want a direct link to Michael's article, click right here.

He calls the St. Poelten seminary scandal "the Catholic Church's Abu Ghraib." He's right about that. As I explained on Dom's blog, we all had reports of the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib long before it became an international story. What turned it into a Very Big Deal was the existence of photographic evidence of the malign corruption there. Same thing with the Austrian seminary. We have all heard about gay derring-do in seminaries, but now, apparently, there is ample photographic evidence of the situation in one seminary. I hope many, many more of these photos come out, so at least some Catholics can quit living in denial.

One more thing about the anger thing: if Church leaders had paid attention to its angry reformers early on, so much needless waste and destruction could have been avoided. We wouldn't have had the Reformation, and lost half of Europe to Protestantism, if the bishops and the popes of the day had paid attention to what angry Catholics throughout Europe were telling them about the true state of the Church. In 1985, if the US bishops had simply listened to Fr. Thomas Doyle, who at the time was a straight-up orthodox organization man, and acted on the report he gave to them, think of how different things would look today.

Anne

Anger can be a motivating factor to actually do something to solve a problem. But when anger goes on and on, and feeds itself and others continually, it becomes an end in itself. Pretty soon, the "righteous" anger begins to resemble something very "unrighteous". Vengeance then rules the day and, in the end, more harm and division has occurred.

St. Paul tells us in the Bible that we are supposed to build up the body of Christ with our speech - not tear it apart. I have only been reading this site for a short time, drawn because it was "Amy Welborn's site", but such a spirit of anger and revenge permeates it that I find it impossible to read. There are more "fantasies" of revenge and degradation than honest dialogue. I think my time would be better spent praying a rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet - praying God has mercy on all of our sinful souls.

Anne

Anger can be a motivating factor to actually do something to solve a problem. But when anger goes on and on, and feeds itself and others continually, it becomes an end in itself. Pretty soon, the "righteous" anger begins to resemble something very "unrighteous". Vengeance then rules the day and, in the end, more harm and division has occurred.

St. Paul tells us in the Bible that we are supposed to build up the body of Christ with our speech - not tear it apart. I have only been reading this site for a short time, drawn because it was "Amy Welborn's site", but such a spirit of anger and revenge permeates it that I find it impossible to read. There are more "fantasies" of revenge and degradation than honest dialogue. I think my time would be better spent praying a rosary or the Divine Mercy chaplet - praying God has mercy on all of our sinful souls.

Anne

Sorry about the triple post! I only clicked once but my computer went haywire! Peace

deb

Michael Rose does not come out smelling like a rose over his book. There were elements of the book that were amazingly slipshod, he weakened his point considerably by banging the "orthodox" card and pretending that "orthodox" priests or bishops could not possibly be implicated in such things (a stance he's since had to backtrack on - I believe he quoted, for example, Bishop Curtiss of Omaha prominently in his book, Bishop Curtiss who has since been shown to be very hostile towards lay Catholics who bring up evidence of sexual impropriety by priests.)

There was much Rose said that was true, but the fact remains that his book was flawed in exactly the way his critics said it was.

amy

Gee, thanks, Anne

Herb Ely

Rod, there are two questions here; 1) what the anger does to us and how we should handle it's impact on us; and 2) the actions that should flow from our anger. On the second, I think we shouuld heed St. Benedict's admonition to the faithful to act. From rule 64 on selecting an abbot (or abbess, depending on the translation):

“But if (which God forbid) the whole community should agree to choose a person who will acquiesce in their vices, and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity, let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked, and set a worthy steward over the house of God. They may be sure that they will receive a good reward for this action if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God; as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.”

Of course, acting with a pure intention is easier said than done.

for the rule see Rule of St. Benedict

Herb Ely

Rod, there are two questions here; 1) what the anger does to us and how we should handle it's impact on us; and 2) the actions that should flow from our anger. On the second, I think we shouuld heed St. Benedict's admonition to the faithful to act. From rule 64 on selecting an abbot (or abbess, depending on the translation):

“But if (which God forbid) the whole community should agree to choose a person who will acquiesce in their vices, and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity, let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked, and set a worthy steward over the house of God. They may be sure that they will receive a good reward for this action if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God; as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.”

Of course, acting with a pure intention is easier said than done.

for the rule see Rule of St. Benedict

Oengus Moonbones

Rod Dreher “There is nothing to do but hold one's ground…”

For me, Rod, you’re one of the few commentators left, in the this little corner of Blogdom, that has anything to say that is worth reading. The rest of it is mostly chaff.

Herb Ely

Rod, there are two questions here; 1) what the anger does to us and how we should handle it's impact on us; and 2) the actions that should flow from our anger. On the second, I think we shouuld heed St. Benedict's admonition to the faithful to act. From rule 64 on selecting an abbot (or abbess, depending on the translation):

“But if (which God forbid) the whole community should agree to choose a person who will acquiesce in their vices, and if those vices somehow become known to the Bishop
to whose diocese the place belongs,
or to the Abbots, Abbesses or the faithful of the vicinity, let them prevent the success of this conspiracy of the wicked, and set a worthy steward over the house of God. They may be sure that they will receive a good reward for this action if they do it with a pure intention and out of zeal for God; as, on the contrary, they will sin if they fail to do it.”

Of course, acting with a pure intention is easier said than done.

for the rule see Rule of St. Benedict

Donald R. McClarey

Rod is correct that there is a great deal to be angry about concerning the scandals besetting the Church. I share much of his anger. However, I draw a distinction between the sinful men who have committed sickening crimes and the Church, the bride of Christ. It is the duty of every loyal Catholic to aid in cleansing the Church of evil clerics and laity. That is the whole purpose of excommunication. However it is also our duty to love the Church and never fall into the soul damning error of hating the Church because of the sins of her members.

Steve Skoejc

I really think Rod's post about holding one's ground sums up the authentic Catholic position these days. And it goes beyond just the sex-abuse scandal. It's the failing liturgy and the deconstruction of sacraments and canon law. It's the stripping of the altars. It's the loss of belief in the true presence. It's the loss of urgency for the conversion of souls - because we've become, for all intents and purposes, a universalist Church. It's the inability of the Catholic institution as a whole to stand up to the pressuring forces of society - like Catholic pro-abortion politicians. The Church is in incredible crisis, and everywhere you look, you see Christ stripped, wounded, bleeding and crowned with thorns.

His bride has been ravaged by his own apostles. Where there was once only one Judas, now there are many. And because as faithful lay Catholics we believe, really believe in the hierarchy Christ instituted, we are rendered impotent in our ability to effect change.

I actually have quite a good parish, with an exceptional pastor. Our parish is one of the wealthiest in the diocese, but strangely, we were in one of the lowest ranks for donations to the bishop's lenten appeal. Our pastor, despite what his feelings may be for our miserable bishop (who supports gay adoption, among other heinous things), asks us to give money to the appeal. "We've been blessed with three priests in our parish where other parishes are lucky to have one." He pleaded. "Please show your gratitude to the bishop. Your money will not go to settle lawsuits."

I can't speak for the other parishioners, but I can speak for myself. My wife and I argued once on the way to Sunday Mass because she wants to tithe but I don't want my money going to the diocese. I don't care about lawsuits. I don't want my money to be used at the discretion of the diocese. I DO NOT TRUST THEM.

How are we supposed to react? To be silent? To bury our heads in the sand and finger our beads and wait for divine interaction? We must pray, but we must also act. Sometimes I feel that the purpose people like Rod (and I'd like to consider myself in the same category, on a lesser scale) serve is to be like John the baptist, running around screaming, REPENT! People need to wake up! The majority of people I talk to refuse to acknowledge the depth and scope of the problem. "We have to just trust the holy father..." or "We have to remember its not up to us..." or "The most important thing is that we save our own souls..."

I am so FED UP with non-confrontation! We should be passionately in love with this Church, our MOTHER, who is being raped and defiled by her children! By her priests! By her bishops! If your mother was being raped, or beaten, or mugged, would you just cower in the corner saying a rosary or would you try to stop it - even if all you could do was yell "HELP!" until someone stronger than you would come?

I know that at the end of my life, I may stand before God and be accountable for overstepping my bounds, or being too angry, or being too passionate. But at least I can hope that I will never stand before his judgement and be accused of having been given much, and having not done enough.

"I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot. I would thou wert cold or hot.
But because thou art lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will begin to vomit thee out of my mouth."
Rev 3:15-16

Tom

Jesus commands us to forgive, but are we supposed to do that in the absence of repentance?

Yes.

Then we come back to the problem of how you avoid letting righteous anger destroy your faith.

If I were you, I'd go off to a remote campsite for a weekend, with a Bible, a rosary, a bottle of bourbon, two gallons of water, and a loaf of bread. Read the Psalms out loud and ask questions. Pray for yourself, then for your enemies. Thank God before, during, and after.

mikey

Mr. Skoejc,

I think your post speaks for the feelings of many Catholics who love the Church.

The diocesan appeal: I do not know if it is the same in every diocese but it is my understanding that no mater if you give or not, the diocese will get the money it is asking from each parish treasury.

I do NOT think this is right. Much of that money is used for thngs which are.....well, wrong (say like teaching non-married couples NFP via Catholic Charities). It is stuff like this which makes me furious.

What to do?

You are damned if you do, damned if you don't.

jerry

I've read that, proportionally, more teachers abuse children than priests. Knowing that, I don't find myself with my stomach churning at PTA meetings, with pain and anxiety in my family, thinking "it could have been my boys". I don't pay taxes to support the school system thinking that I'm feeding the beast that systematically rapes my children. I've been educated in Catholic schools, gone to Mass for 40 years and I just don't get how Rod can feel that his Mass experience has been poisoned by the situation. The Church has been afflicted by unspeakable evils from within throughout history. But to allow that stain to affect your own participation in the truth and beauty of the sacraments is, at least, an unbalanced reaction. Jesus condemned the actions of the Pharisees and Sadducees but remained an observant Jew, with, I think, His faith unshaken.

Marsh Fightlin

The emotion of anger is part of our God-given human nature. We are supposed to get angry whenever we see justice denied, either to ourselves or to those we care about. The purpose of anger is to ignite us to action which prevents or corrects the injustice.

In the case of gross priestly and episcopal injustice against young boys and children, we Catholics, justly angry, have spoken out against the injustice, but the injustice remains.

The normal psychological response to this is to remain angry. The task is to keep this anger from becoming self-damaging or the occasion of sin. It would be poor psychology to try to stifle the anger.

Negatively, we need to refrain from "getting even." This means that, although we must speak out clearly, energetically and as often as necessary, we must speak respectfully, without exaggeration, and only because justice demands it. And, as Rod pointed out, we must avoid confusing the office with the office-holder. There was Judas, there are Judas-priests, and there always will be. One cannot be a Catholic if one cannot deal with that.

Positively, and first of all, we need to do all we can as laypeople to bring this sorry state to an end. But, also, we need to look at the Passion more deeply: In the beginning, Our Lord was angry. He showed this when He was arrested and when He was slapped in the face. His noble bearing then and in what followed needs to impress us.

This can inspire us to "offer it up." I know Rod doesn't look kindly on that practice in this context (the current scandal), but let me explain: It is good, virtuous, and psychologically healthy, to offer up injustices, as long as I am doing all I can to alleviate them.

But can I offer up injustices done to others? It is true that the injustice is done, first of all, to the young boys and children. But we have to admit that part of our anger is a reaction to an injustice against US: We are entitled to have good bishops and, to a large extent, we don't have them. If you doubt this, ask yourself: Would my anger be as volatile if these enormities had happened somewhere else, halfway around the world, and not in the United States?

Cornelius

Anger about the sex abuse scandal is good. The undiscriminating, unrelenting hatred towards ALL bishops that many people show here is bad--both for the Church and those people's souls.

Charles M. de Nunzio

"Jesus commands us to forgive, but are we supposed to do that in the absence of repentance?" "Yes."

Not technically correct. Does God forgive sinners in the absence of repentance? The answer is, obviously, NO. In the absence of sacramental absolution for all mortal sins properly confessed, or else an act of perfect contrition [a grace for which those mired in grave sin are rarely disposed], there is no forgiveness, but instead the liability to eternal punishment. Both our Lord Himself and His Church have made that perfectly clear.

Why, then, should we be held to a higher standard than to which the Lord God holds Himself?

What we are commanded to do, however, is to be DISPOSED to forgive those who have injured us, and otherwise not to disquiet our own souls by doing things like seeking revenge or thinking about the injustice all the time. (Easier said than done, of course.) This is how I understand the clause in the traditional Act of Charity that "I forgive all who have injured me."

But there can be no true forgiveness without manifest prior contrition.

Mark Shea

Rod:

The core of the matter is (as is typical) ably summed up by Tom from Disputations.

You ask:

Jesus commands us to forgive, but are we supposed to do that in the absence of repentance?

and he replies:

Yes.

And he's right. The basic, radical fact of the Christian faith, despite all attempts by our culture to avoid it, is this: "Love your enemies". An enemy is not somebody who means well. An enemy is somebody who, impenitently and with malice aforethought, means ill and chooses to do you harm for the sake of his own selfish purposes. Enemies are not people who mean well, or suffer from poor communication skills. They are people who mean to sin against us and who have not said (and for all we know may never say), "I'm sorry."

Our faith binds us to extend forgiveness to them. And the fact they are impenitent does not give us license to hold on to bitterness toward them. The command is absolute: forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those (everybody, not just the people who have satisfied us emotionally by a serious act of contrition) who trespass against us.

The reasons for this are twofold. First, we aren't God. But second, *because* we aren't God, our insistence on holding on to unforgiveness (which we call "righteous anger") hurts nobody but ourselves and those around us and, a general rule simply gives power to the person who hurts us.

Case in point: the various people here who imagine that somehow or other, suckling at the tit of fury on this list constitutes "doing something" about the Situation. The reality is it does nothing--nothing whatsoever--about getting rid of bad clerics, helping victims, or bringing a single person here closer to God or to the communion of saints. The only actual, practical results are that people are filled with bitterness, feel an ever weaker grip on their faith, "encourage" one another in small (but growing) ways to consider the possibility of schism and nurture an ever deeper cynicism. James is right: the anger of man does not bring about the righteousness of God.

The command of Jesus is to extend forgiveness to enemies. It is not to pretend the sin never happened. It is not to pretend the impenitent person is penitent. It is not to be non-confrontational, or bend over and take it, or see no evil. But it is to forgive nonetheless. It is to wish the good, to refuse to let cynicism master charity, to hope for the best while keeping a firm eye on reality. If we allow ourselves to play the "I don't have to forgive until they say "sorry" game, we have to recognize that we are, nine times out of ten. Only going to punish ourselves, not the evildoer. We are going to be handing our happiness over--for the rest of our lives, mind you--to people who may not even know we exist, much less care. We are going to sentence ourselves to be chained to misery forever and to be slaves of people long dead. It's folly. And it's why Jesus is right. Refusal to extend forgiveness (for justice' sake, as we always tell ourselves) is, I believe, one of the most deadly manifestations of pride in the world. It achieves nothing of what it promises ("Someday that bastard will say he's sorry!") and it ruins not just our life, but typically, the lives of those around us who must suffer our descent into unrequited rage.

That's why I wrote that I don't believe healing will come from the outside--from our circumstances--for anybody embittered by the Scandal. We *think* we will find peace when They say they're sorry. But if we've trained ourselves to be bitter and cynical, we will be stuck there no matter what They say (and who can ever believe Them anyway?) And besides, if one of Them says sorry, there are always going to be plenty more who don't. So we can hold on to our righteous anger in any event.

Nope. Peace does not come from refusal to forgive. Nor does safety and security. Nor does any other good thing. Refusal to extend forgiveness (extend, mind you: it is up to the sinner to repent and receive it) does *only* harm--and primarily to the person who refuses to extend forgiveness.

Bottom line: love your enemies has no qualifiers put on it at all. We have to give up the right to withhold forgiveness or it will destroy us.

Yann The Frenchman

Excellent post Mark Shea!

It is to wish the good, to refuse to let cynicism master charity, to hope for the best while keeping a firm eye on reality

Is then the proper action to foster good than fight evil?

Mark Shea

It not either/or. Both must be done.

Peggy

Mark Shea is extremely right about this. From my own personal experience, I can assure that, as a practical matter, when I am full of hatred, anger and resentment--for years sometimes, I confess, I have hurt mainly myself. It is very hard to consider charity toward those who may not seem to deserve it in our views. That is what is so radical about our faith, as Mark says. Who am I not to forgive, when I am a sinner myself, often seeking others' forgiveness and mercy, even when I don't deserve it? [I did experience a co-worker years ago absolutely refuse to forgive me b/c I did not fully understand what I did to offend. She made no bones about it. Extremely humbling experience.]

Forgiving some one does not mean letting them back in your home or pretending that the sin did not occur.

The only way to address anger is to forgive and do something tangible to change the situation, if possible. I'd consider organizing as VOTF has done, but obviously not with their agenda in mind. When we don't organize in such a fashion, we cede the playing field to VOFT and others. Catholic Citizens of Illinois is a group that interests me greatly. I wish they'd form a chapter in So. IL, from where I hail b/c Call to Action is big there. [I don't live there now, however, and can't do that work. I write letters to the editor of their diocesan paper and mention CCI from time to time. Maybe some locals will look into it.]

So, you're angry. There's a very serious problem in the Church. What are you doing about it?

Mark Shea

Important clarification:

I spoke above of "suckling at the tit of fury on this list". In so doing, I was not speaking of Amy's writing (which has always seemed to me to be an admirable balance of clear-headed plain speech about the realities of the Scandal coupled with intelligent and practical Catholic charity and common sense about what we should do in response to it). I have in mind rather the frequently unbalanced and rage-filled comments both here and throughout St. Blogs.

Steve Skojec

Ok. I know that what Mark is saying is correct - though I find Mr. DeNunzio's thoughts, which are somewhat different, very sensible as well.

But forgiveness is an act that has distinct temporal dimensions. "I forgive you for throwing my dog into the woodchipper last week." What am I to do, however, if every dog I subsequently buy is also tossed into the woodchipper? Clearly, there is an aspect here of forgiving "seventy times seven", but there is also a dimension where something must be done to protect these poor, innocent dogs from the gnashing teeth of death.

If anger is a reaction to injustice, and injustice continues to persist and in fact escalate, how does one deal with this anger? It doesn't just go away. Loving one's enemies is something a bit more and a bit less than we often construe it to be - it is love in the strictest sense, as in willing the good for your enemy. It's wanting him to repent and be saved, not burn in the fires of hell for his heinous crimes. This sort of love has nothing to do with fondness, affection, warm feelings, or even tolerance as far as I am concerned.

In that respect, it feels as though tossing "love your enemies" at people who are angry isn't really much help. It feels ill-suited to addressing the problems at hand. I don't know about anyone else, but there's not a soul out there I don't ardently desire salvation for. That doesn't change the ongoing nature of the offense, however.

For many, the conversations we have with others - family, friends, blog readers - this is where we do the work we know how to do. I'm not engaged in full-time apologetics work. I have a boring 9 to 5 desk job that pays the bills. My chance, my one shot at fixing things, comes in the form of trying to influence those within earshot that something is rotten in Denmark. And as it seems that the Bishops respond only to uncomfortable amounts of pressure, there's this part of me that really wants people to get together and say, "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore!"

Maybe that's not enough. Maybe until I am publishing books and have the ear of the clergy and influencing large numbers of people it won't matter. Maybe it will never matter. But something seems better than nothing. And if we're all doing that, all talking to people and reading books and defending the faith and getting angry - not too angry, but justifiably so - maybe we can start pushing things in the opposite direction.

Maybe not, and our vocation is to sit quietly and blow sunshine at each other and revel in false optimism and be glad when we are thrown crumbs where there should be a feast.

That doesn't sound like what we're supposed to do to me. That's not what the apostles did. They weren't afraid. They shook dust from their feet. They made enemies. But they also built up the foundation of the Church.

If someone has more concrete advice for what the laity should be doing to bring about better things, I'm all ears. But I want to hear more than "pray" or "read" or other obvious suggestions. I don't think that as Catholics we are required to be such bloody pacifists. Maybe I am wrong.

Carrie

The basic, radical fact of the Christian faith, despite all attempts by our culture to avoid it, is this: "Love your enemies".

First of all, Mark, you must define love. Love does not permit continued sin. I do not love an abusing priest or an enabling bishop by telling him "That's ok, I forgive you and God will forgive you" when there is no reason to suspect they will repent and sin no more. They have demonstrated that they will do it again, if I let them off the hook. Forgiveness does not include a license to repeat the sinful action, and that is what forgiveness at this point in time would mean. And so we wait for accountability which we thought we had with the Dallas charter, but which has proven to be little more than a pius set of platitudes that can be ignored.

So while I must forgive what I know the priest or bishop has done, I cannot forgive today what the priest or bishop will do tomorrow, or what I will find out tomorrow that they have already done. The laity are descending into bitterness because we can't put it behind us. Day after day we are assaulted with new revelations that must be forgiven.

Forgiveness is not instantaneous. It is not just a simple decision. It takes time and effort. And it cannot take place until we know the extent of what must be forgiven. If it does, it is incomplete and will cause problems in the future.

So we are not yet at the point of forgiveness, and we will not be at that point until we know everything that has been done. Once there are no more revelations, we can then begin the difficult task of forgiving. And the laity will begin it. But not until then.

You can't put the cart before the horse, Mark.

Mark Shea

Steve:

Please re-read this part:

"The command of Jesus is to extend forgiveness to enemies. It is not to pretend the sin never happened. It is not to pretend the impenitent person is penitent. It is not to be non-confrontational, or bend over and take it, or see no evil. But it is to forgive nonetheless."

Carrie:

The practical implication of saying,

"So we are not yet at the point of forgiveness, and we will not be at that point until we know everything that has been done. Once there are no more revelations, we can then begin the difficult task of forgiving. And the laity will begin it. But not until then."

...is that you will never ever begin. For you will *never* know the full extent of sins committed in a communion of one billion people.

I'm sorry, but you are offering an excuse, and a rather poor one, for refusing to begin the hard work of forgiveness. I'm well aware that forgiving is like quitting smoking: you have to do it thousands of times. But the reality is that the bitterness expressed here is for sins we *do* know about, not for sins we don't know about. Whatever "revelations" are to come will not be wildly different than anything we've seen already. Sin is sin. Moreover, to say that your extension of forgiveness must wait till you know "the full truth" is, in essence, a claim that should "the full truth" cross some undefined line then you will not be bound to forgive. Otherwise, why wait? The Lord's command is, I repeat, absolute: forgive those who sin against us. No qualifications. No excuses. No foot-dragging. (And, I may add, no hope of mercy whatsoever for ourselves if we refuse, according to Matthew 6. If you do not forgive, says our Lord, neither will you Father forgive you. Period. End of sentence.) He is gentle and knows how difficult that is. But it is for us to obey, not to make excuses and avoid the task.

Tom

Why, then, should we be held to a higher standard than to which the Lord God holds Himself?

What do you mean by a "higher" standard?

Clearly, no standard is "higher" than God's own standard in the sense of "better" or "more perfect."

If all you mean is "stricter," "Because we're not God" is a sufficient answer to your question.

Cornelius

Steve says we should get angry--"not too angry but justifiably so." If Rod can't go to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and meet Jesus there without anger, that's too angry.

Steve and Carrie: It's a strawman to suggest that Mark is saying we should let any priest or bishop continue to sin. Mark, like the rest of us, wants to stop the sin (using forceful admonitions where necessary), but he is mature enough as a Christian to nonetheless forgive the sinner and prevent THEIR sin from consuming US.

Steve Skojec

Mark:

Yeah, I read that part. The thing is, you can say:

"The command of Jesus is to extend forgiveness to enemies. It is not to pretend the sin never happened. It is not to pretend the impenitent person is penitent. It is not to be non-confrontational, or bend over and take it, or see no evil. But it is to forgive nonetheless."

And that's fine - but I'm looking for something a little less abstract. We all know we have to forgive, and love our enemies. Great. Swell. Chipper.

But how does that take shape? How does that change our actions, our behavior, our feelings? How does it move us to remedy the situation? You say we don't have to pretend the sin never happened - but you often reprimand those who continue to focus on public sins unrepented. You say we don't have to pretend the impenitent person is penitent - but how exactly do you translate that into human action and behavior, when the impenitent go on hurting people and scandalizing the world in the name of the Church? You say we don't have to bend over and take it, but that's exactly why we're having this conversation - because too many innocent people HAVE had to do that, literally. And it hasn't been fixed.

So yeah, you can be Christ and stare into the eyes of your crucifiers and say "I forgive you." Maybe that will change something. But I'm not Christ, and looking into my eyes isn't nearly as impressive as looking into His must have been. And I don't get to knock on the doors of all these bishops and say, "I forgive you", nor would it make any sense if I did - it didn't happen to me. I highly doubt that if they fail to understand the ills of allowing rampant sexual and liturgical and sacramental abuse to go on, they understand the corporal nature of the members of Christ's Mystical body and the way we are affected by the sin of others.

So what is Ok? How do we not take it? How do we see evil for what it is and address it? If not anger, then what? What does an average Catholic, dying for orthodoxy out there stuck in traffic, hearing another report on the radio about some screwed up thing Catholic priests or bishops or nuns have done, do, exactly?

I'm all for channeling my energy into something effective.

Steve Skojec

And just in case I didn't make it 100% crystal clear - I'm down with the whole love they enemies and forgive them thing. I want them in heaven. So lets dispense with that and figure out what to do with all that anger that doesn't go away just because we forgive and love.

Yann The Frenchman

thoughtful post Steve S. ... However, I don't know if we can really obtain a clear-cut course of action. The ambiguity in our terrestrial life results from, among other things, life complexities (just think sometimes about how many consequences to your act there may be). We don't have the brain to know for sure that a particular response is THE appropriate one. That's one we have this one command "love one another" as the guiding _principle_ ... After that we have our God-given talents to know how to best apply it in present circumstances.

Yann The Frenchman

sorry ... typo. The last sentence should read:

That's why we have this one command "love one another" as the guiding _principle_ ... After that we have our God-given talents to know how to best apply it in present circumstances.

Mark Shea

Steve:

For most of us, at the practical level, the way to fix the Church is stunningly prosaic: live a holy life. Love your family. Teach them well and model it. Frequent the sacraments. Try to be a saint and to help others do likewise. Chances are, we will barely ever cross paths with a bishop (or even, for that matter, with an abusive priest (though the odds of that are better since we meet a lot more priests than bishops). Unless you are in a very unusual position, you will not, in point of fact, be able to do much about what the bishops do, humanly speaking (though the prayer of a righteous man availeth much). That's just a fact. Neither you nor I are in the position of being able to sit down with Bp. Krenn and say, "Krenn. Get out." Unless you are a prosecuting attorney or a journalist, your ability to effect direct change on the bureacratic structures of the Church at a global level is effectively nil. That's life in the real world.

However, you can forgive sins done against you. You can live a holy life and help those you actually know do likewise. You can expose evil to light. You can encourage people to charity and hope and discourage schism and despair. And simply doing that is all I'm talking about in *this* post because it is the great neglected, excused, hurried past, overlooked, rejected and soft-pedaled task that we loathe.

Victor Morton

The command to forgive is not unconditioned, because if it were, a priest could not refuse absolution. Yet in at least some cases (as he determines them, but nevertheless ...), the priest is supposed to refuse.

Mark Shea

Victor:

You are confusing sacramental confession with the common Christian demand for forgiveness. Like it or not, the command "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" *is* unconditioned, just as the command to love our enemies is. And it is followed up by the equally unconditional (and dire) assurance "if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Pastors with a responsibility to govern the Church are given latitude by our Lord to exercise discretion in the dispensation of sacramental absolution ("If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." But it does not follow from this that we are dispensed from the absolute duty to forgive those who sin against us.

Fr Phil Bloom

I've been a priest almost 33 years and so far have not "refused" anyone absolution. Just the courage to come thru the confessional door has always seemed to me a pretty good sign of contrition. Granted, some people might need a little more work before they are ready for full absolution, but I always say some prayer of forgiveness over them. That includes the divorced & remarried, those using contraception, Protestants, even unbaptized who somehow show up for confession.

Jerry had a good observation: "I've read that, proportionally, more teachers abuse children than priests. Knowing that, I don't find myself with my stomach churning at PTA meetings..." And Mark's reflection on forgiveness deserves careful reading by all of us.

Mark Shea

By the way, I'm not just making this stuff up:

"CCC 2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master. Forgiveness is a high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God's compassion can receive the gift of prayer. Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin. The martyrs of yesterday and today bear this witness to Jesus. Forgiveness is the fundamental condition of the reconciliation of the children of God with their Father and of men with one another."

Or, as Paul put it: God commends his own love to us in that *while we were yet sinners* Christ died for us. Extension of forgiveness is not the result of an enemy showing penitence. It is the ground or "condition" which makes repentance possible. We are to imitate Christ in this, and go on imitating him even if the enemy *never* shows penitence.

Bottom line: an enemy is not somebody who says he is sorry for hurting us. An enemy is an enemy. And it is enemies we are commanded to love and forgive. No excuses.

Lee

A few comments based on my own struggle ...

1. I asked my spiritual director about forgiving those who are not (and may never be) repentant. He reminded me that I am not the Judge; God is. My foes do not report to me, but to God.
2. The phrase in the Lord's Prayer is unconditional. Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. This is a hard saying.
3. My devotions involve, among other things, saying the Mercy Chaplet and the Fatima Prayer. Saying those prayers with as much focus and intent as I can, helps. When praying thus, I intercede by name for those people and groups of concern to me. (If I am too tired to remember them, I just refer to them as a group: God knows who I intend to pray for). The intercession is brief: for [name of person or group], Lord have mercy.
4. Forgiveness is a long process. It has to be done many times to be completed at the level of the emotions ... and if the injury is ongoing, the beginning comes again and yet again. The first part of the process is not the emotion, which we cannot will away, but engaging the will: choosing to ask God for mercy for the foe, and choosing not to hate the foe, and choosing against vengeance. And then making that choice again and again.
5. I see no contradiction between the foregoing and what I have been writing here and to the survivor list. As Rod says, anger can provide energy for use against injustice. But I think (rightly or no) that the foregoing points cause me to refrain from saying or writing some things that, indeed, ought never to be said or written.

Lee

Charles M. de Nunzio

Me: Why, then, should we be held to a higher standard than to which the Lord God holds Himself?

Reply: What do you mean by a "higher" standard? ... If all you mean is "stricter," "Because we're not God" is a sufficient answer to your question.

I don't think so. There is nothing the Lord God demands of us that He does not do Himself. If He intended us to forgive without regard to the offender's contrition or lack thereof, He Himself would do the same thing (as indeed all stripes of liberals and Modernists assure themselves that He does). But this is not at all the case.

It makes no logical sense whatsoever (and all sound theology must ultimately rest on sound philosophy and logic!) to hold that because God is Goodness Himself, He can demand those offending Him to be sorry for their offenses and yet we, because we are sinners, cannot make such a demand.

Otherwise, what is the point of teaching our children to say "I'm sorry" — or to say it ourselves #&151; when we've offended someone. The logic of this assertion is that no mere human being ever owes us apologies for anything! What we must do is bring mercy and justice into harmony with one another as God Himself does perfectly. Justice without mercy is abhorrent, but likewise, mercy without justice is cheap, worthless, and ultimately, meaningless.

When our Lord walked the earth, He was able to say (apparently gratuitously) to certain souls, "Your sins are forgiven," for as Divine, He could read their consciences and wills, thus there was no need for them to externally manifest their contrition to Him. But these souls did have that contrition interiorly.

Rod Dreher

Jerry had a good observation: "I've read that, proportionally, more teachers abuse children than priests. Knowing that, I don't find myself with my stomach churning at PTA meetings..."

As soon as teachers begin standing in persona Christi, and as soon as PTA leaders are given authority over my immortal soul, then I'll start sitting in PTA meetings with a churning stomach.

Some of you folks keep forgetting that it's not really the abuse itself that is so outrageous and despair-inducing. The worst part of it is the bishops who knew better letting it go on. The worst part of it is bishops to whom God has given solemn responsibility for the governance of the Church allowing sex criminals and freaks like Fr. Lastiri (on the thread above) continue in ministry, to the degradation of us all. The Church is not a sacrament factory, despite how they treat it, nor does it exist for the pleasure of the clergy.

Yann The Frenchman

Jerry had a good observation: "I've read that, proportionally, more teachers abuse children than priests. Knowing that, I don't find myself with my stomach churning at PTA meetings..."

That would be only valid if the Church was only institutional, but It is much more than that ...

Carrie

Moreover, to say that your extension of forgiveness must wait till you know "the full truth" is, in essence, a claim that should "the full truth" cross some undefined line then you will not be bound to forgive. Otherwise, why wait? The Lord's command is, I repeat, absolute: forgive those who sin against us. No qualifications. No excuses. No foot-dragging.

Perhaps I haven't been clear. The revelations that have not yet come out cannot be forgiven until they do come out. What's more, we have to assimilate them before we can forgive them. We can't forgive something we know nothing about. And when we do learn about them, we are rightly scandalized, a state of mind we must get beyond. Which takes time.

I think, Mark, that what you are aiming at is not so much forgiveness as a return to tranquility. So long as scandals are daily headlines there will be no tranquility.

I don't like it any better than you do, but disliking it will not make it go away. I do believe that what you are proposing is much closer to whitewashing evil in the name of peace, than it is to forgiveness. We can't do that.

JohnMcG

I guess I have an advantage Rod and others who do this for a living do not have -- I can turn off my TV, take a fast from the Catholic blogs, and not see all the things going on.

I understand that anger has its place, and is appropriate in some cases.

What I don't understand is what good it will do for me, an American Catholic, to cultivate anger towards European bishops.

I mean, are we looking into what's going on in Austrian seminaries out of concern for the people there, or to feed and justifyour anger at "the bishops," and justify our witholding money from them? Does Bishop Kremm really pose a threat to our children? In this case, could it really "be them?"

Anger can be justified, but is not a destination, or a desirable place to be. It's not wrong to be angry at injustice, but I think it is wrong to try to keep ourselves in an angry state.

I felt this way about 9/11, when commentators were saying we should keep showing gruesome images, and I feel that way now.

Mark Shea

Charles:

It is precisely *because* we cannot know the heart that we are commanded to extend forgiveness unconditionally and leave the judging up to God. The teaching of the Lord's Prayer is perfectly plain.

Rod:

Despair is ultimately and always a choice that is up to us. However, the sins of others may hurt us and give us excuses, in the final analysis, it is we who are to blame for the sin of despair.

JohnMcG

"Advantage" was a poor word choice. What I meant was that it's easier for me not to get angry than it is to for someone like Rod, who has to look at the news of the Church to make a living.

I did not mean to imply that this gives me moral superiority, or anything like that. I was just acknowledging that there are avenues for me to deal with anger that are not always available.

JohnMcG

Victor,

"Let He who is without sin cast the first stone."

It seems pretty clear to me that not only is Jesus giving us sinners a stricter standard, but is doing so in exactly the way Tom describes.

Carrie

Lee, your points are well taken. Giving an offense to God instead of passing judgment myself is a technique I've used on many occasions, and it is generally successful.

On one occasion it took me ten years of praying for someone every day before I could forgive. In this case I'm not even sure the person knew of the offense, and I had no desire to confront.

It is harder to forgive those who do not acknowledge their wrongdoing. It is impossible to forgive today the offense that will be committed tomorrow. When evil is ongoing forgiveness cannot be completed. When there is no justice, forgiveness becomes a process of enabling.

Mark Shea

Carrie:

We do not forgive revelations. We forgive persons of sins. You are saying that you won't start doing that till "everything" has been "revealed". That remains nonsense. What else do you need to know about, say, John Geoghan or Cardinal Law? There's enough to work with now. And what is the point of refusing to extend them or anybody else mercy till you have all the "revelations" about Bp. Krenn or Bp Humptifratz of Belgium whose sins might not come to light for a year (if ever)?

It is simply false to say that extending forgiveness to sinners is "whitewashing in the name of peace". Your refusal to extend forgiveness to a sinner neither reveals one iota of truth about the sin, nor helps the sinner to repent, nor even helps you. It simply places you in direct and dangerous disobedience to Jesus Christ in a matter of utmost peril to your own soul. And your public advocacy of same encourage others to imitate you in endangering their souls by disobeying one of the most gravely serious commands our Lord gives.

"If you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."

"CCC 2844 Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies"

Read. Obey. Stop making excuses and, worse still, accusing those who are pointing out these cold hard facts of revelation of being bent on "whitewashing".

Mark Shea

When evil is ongoing forgiveness cannot be completed.

But it can be, and must be, extended. No excuses.

Carrie

A question...

When we group "the bishops" together, are we failing to forgive the person of each and every bishop or are we condemning the activities associated with the office? Is it even possible to forgive bishops as a group? And further, are we even called to forgive evil done in official capacity?

We may find it in our hearts to forgive Charles Manson for murder. But do we forgive murders for murder? We may forgive a specific doctor for an abortion, but do we forgive abortionists for tearing babies apart? Also that issue of whether we can forgive when we have not been the victim is still up in the air.

Charles M. de Nunzio

I'm not interested in getting into an "I'm right and you're not" tussle over this, nor am I advocating that we would be right to carry perpetual grudges unless and until an offender manifests contrition.

But volunteering to approach the uncontrite enemy unsolicited and declare, "I forgive you," crosses the line on the other side. The obliteration of rightful considerations of justice in the name of "mercy" would be, surely in certain situations, "to whitewash evil in the name of peace" as Carrie suggested above.

I would nevertheless be interested to see if Mr. Shea's read of CCC 2844 and St. Paul can be corrobrated with the writings of the spritual greats down the centuries, specifically addressing my contention that extending mercy without prior manifest contrition mocks the rightful demands of justice.

Chris-2-4


Charles:

It is not a matter of a "higher standard" as you put it. It is a "different standard". God's forgiveness includes a freedom from the "penalty" of sin, which is clearly "higher" than what human forgiveness is about. Human forgiveness has more to do with freeing ourselves not the one being forgiven.

Tom

There is nothing the Lord God demands of us that He does not do Himself.

Sure there is. He demands we refrain from judgment and from vengeance -- two activities not unrelated to forgiveness.

It makes no logical sense whatsoever (and all sound theology must ultimately rest on sound philosophy and logic!) to hold that because God is Goodness Himself, He can demand those offending Him to be sorry for their offenses and yet we, because we are sinners, cannot make such a demand.

Sure it does. We are not God, therefore that God can do something does not imply that we can do it.

The logic of this assertion is that no mere human being ever owes us apologies for anything!

That is not the logic of the assertion. Quite the contrary, it is only when we are owed something that we may forgive what we are owed.

Justice without mercy is abhorrent, but likewise, mercy without justice is cheap, worthless, and ultimately, meaningless.

Sorry, but who said we aren't to be just?

Charles M. de Nunzio

P.S. What one may do, particularly if there is some chance that grace may touch one's enemy, and provided one really means this, is to go to the uncontrite enemy, unsolicited, and say, "I am willing to forgive you." For there is no dispute that we must work to place ourselves in such a disposition.

On one hand, it looks like a distinction without a difference, but in fact, it is a significant difference. As I said before, the notion that we must actually, unconditionally extend forgiveness means, logically, that we have no claims of justice whatsover on any mere mortal, nor would anyone else on us.

What's the good of being forgiven if we never need to be sorry?

chris K

It is we ourselves who hold the key to opening the door to God's mercy. His mercy is always there, but He respects our free will to make the decision. It's our own pride that can prevent us from making the necessary move towards Him. We can even move further away by starting to believe that WE are the ones to decide our own worthiness and thus we begin to place ourselves above God in justifying our delay. If we continue to hold something against another sinner we may be the constant reminder to him of the barrier he placed between himself and God which can serve to discourage him from approaching God and asking for and receiving His mercy. We may even find pleasure in that fact and thus relish a self centered and continuing revenge. When we are constantly reminded by one we've offended of our sin, it is then harder to move on, experience the fruits of repentence and grow in a better love through conversion.

Tom

I would nevertheless be interested to see if Mr. Shea's read of CCC 2844 and St. Paul can be corrobrated with the writings of the spritual greats down the centuries, specifically addressing my contention that extending mercy without prior manifest contrition mocks the rightful demands of justice.

St. Augustine, for one, seems to say the same thing Mark does. He even writes of forgiving a financial debt you are justly owed, without implying this mocks justice: "For the man who refuses to pay you the money which he owes, when he has the means of doing so, sins against you. And if you do not forgive this sin, you will not be able to say, 'Forgive us, as we also forgive;' but if you pardon it, you see how he who is enjoined to offer such a prayer is admonished also with respect to forgiving a money debt."

JohnMcG

I think Tom hit on what is an underlying assumption, in that in order to offer a just punishment we must be angry. I think the fear is that if we give up our anger, we won't be able to inflict the punishment that justice demands.

Anyone who's ever been goaded into a fight with someone he did not really want to hurt knows that it's a recipe for disaster.

So, we stoke our anger. We look at the videos of the planes crashing into the buldings over and over. We demand that the news broadcast the decapitation of Charlie Berg. When the American bishops seem to have straightened things out, or at least are getting better at hiding the bodies, we look across the ocean for more tales of episcopal wrongdoing.

And it's understandable. We've been hurt before. We assumed these were good people and got burned.

Can we be vigilant without anger?
Can we deliver justice without anger?

I think that's the fundamental question in play here. If the answer is "no," then efforts to keep our anger burning may be justified. If the answer is "yes," then they're not.

In my opinion, the Gospel points to an answer of "yes." Justice and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive.

This teaching, as Mark likes to say, is more scandalous than any of the secual teaching (or the teaching that Friday is a day of fasting and penance, which runs directly into the current of our culture.)

David Morrison

Not to throw more oil onto this mess, but does anyone know how Scranton came out in the recent review which was supposed to insure that these things no longer happened?

chris K

JohnMcGI think the fear is that if we give up our anger, we won't be able to inflict the punishment that justice demands.

All authority is given by God. Thus, when handing down a sentence of judgment the giver of the sentence cannot be in the state of anger. Anger can blind one to any ameliorating circumstances which may lessen the weight on one side of the balance of justice. One's own personal anger is not necessarily the exact measure of the crime committed and no one would wish such an emotion filled judge in his own case, but would rather have any possible excuses be weighed in the worth they objectively deserve.

mizznicole

Forgiveness from the life of Fr. Jerzy Popieluszko:

http://annball.com/books/look2.shtml

With tears in his eyes, his voice breaking, the priest directed the congregation, "Repeat after me," as for the third time he spoke the line from the Lord's prayer, "as we forgive those who trespass against us." At last, the line was repeated with enormous force by the voices of the congregation at the packed vigil at St. Stanislaw's church in Warsaw. It was October 30,1984, and the death of their beloved Father Jerzy Popieluszko had just been announced.....

Panic, grief, and shock followed the finding of the battered corpse of the priest. The body was pulled from a reservoir on the river Vistula, about eighty miles northwest of Warsaw. The priest had been tortured, and the body was beyond recognition. A sack of rocks had been hung from the legs, and the body had been tied with a nylon rope so that if he had resisted Father Jerzy would have strangled himself. The corpse had been gagged, and the body was covered head to foot with deep, bloody wounds and marks of torture.....

"One must suffer for the truth. That is why I am ready for anything," Father Jerzy had written to Pope John Paul II. At his last Mass, a special Mass for the Working People in the provincial town of Bydgoszcz, Father Jerzy preached a final sermon that exemplified all he stood for, "Overcome Evil with Good." His last words to the congregation were, "Most, of all, may we be free from the desire for violence and vengeance." In the spirit of these final words of the valiant priest, the congregation at his vigil prayed, "as we forgive those who trespass against us." On the day of his funeral, ten thousand steelworkers in hard hats marched past secret-police headquarters. One of the slogans they chanted over and over was "We forgive."

chris K

JohnMcGI think the fear is that if we give up our anger, we won't be able to inflict the punishment that justice demands.

All authority is given by God. Thus, when handing down a sentence of judgment and punishment the giver of the sentence cannot be in the state of anger. Anger can blind one to any ameliorating circumstances which may lessen the weight on one side of the balance of justice. One's own personal anger is not necessarily the exact measure of the crime committed and no one would wish such an emotion-filled judge in his own case, but would rather have any possible excuses be weighed in the worth they objectively deserve.

jerry

Rod, of course my teacher abuse analogy is not perfect, but the example of abuse of a child by a teacher, who stands, in loco parentis if not in persona Christi, and has authority over our children, still makes my point. Millions of Catholics like myself have been led along a spiritually nourishing journey by our clergy. We have no personal experience and do not know anyone personally who has been abused. I take it as a given that in our world the abomination of child abuse will happen in sports, education, and religion --- wherever children are put in the charge of adults. There will also be foolish, cowardly, and even evil people who will seek to cover up the crimes and knowingly allow children to be exposed to predators. I want justice to be done. However, I remain a proponent of amateur sports, schools, the Boy Scouts and the Roman Catholic Church, recogizing the essential goodness of the institutions despite the horrors that have occurred in all of them.

Of course, the Church is the Body of Christ and an institution like no other. How much more imperative, then, not to let the inevitable stain of human sin distract us from the divine perfection.

PMC

Tom and Mark are right. Those guys should start their own blogs.

PMC

I also thank Tom for expanding a bit more than usual on the "prayer and fasting" concept. I figured that he had bread and water in mind, but the bourbon caught me off guard.

Mark Windsor

Rod -

You MUST NOT internalize this. It will destroy you. Then whose will have you followed? It's already impacting your ability to sit through Mass and your family. Is that an action of the Spirit? Is anger consuming you something that the Spirit has willed for your life?

Fr Phil Bloom

I agree w/ Rod that "The worst part of it is the bishops who knew better letting it go on." Here in Seattle we had a quite liberal bishop (Archbishop Hunthausen) who did recognize the problem and took effective action. His successors (Abs. Murphy & Brunett) followed his policies and we have not had a new case since the late eighties. I believe many other dioceses can say the same. For the life of me, I cannot figure why all dioceses did not take similar sensible steps.

And I agree with Rod and others that we priests should be held to higher standards - even tho we obviously share the same fallen nature as everyone else, as well as somewhat different temptations because of the situations we are in. What does strike me as *anti-clericalism* is that more widespread abuse has been exposed in our public school system - and the general reaction has been a big yawn.

Mark Shea

Tom:

Thanks for the quote from Auggie. That, the passage from Matthew 6 and the CCC reference are awfully solid evidence for the truth this teaching of the Church. There's not way around this that I can see. And thank God for it. The Almighty practices hard medicine here, but if he didn't we would sink our teeth into bitterness and never let go, even as we congratulated ourselves for our Righteous Anger.

The hard part isn't finding out what the Church says we must do. The hard part is doing it. It's not complicated. It's just extremely difficult. Ask for liberal amounts of grace, then roll up your sleeves and begin. Re-apply for grace as needed.

Rod Dreher

Good grief. I can't possibly begin to reply to everything that's been written today with anything approaching specificity. So please don't think I'm trying deliberately to ignore anybody.

The hard task of discernment is trying to avoid what Bonhoeffer called "cheap grace." Here are a few lines from Bonhoeffer explaining himself:

That is what we mean by cheap grace, the grace which amounts to the justification of sin without the justification of the repentant sinner who departs from sin and from whom sins departs.

Cheap grace is not the kind of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin. Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.

In this thread, I keep hearing what sounds to me an awful lot like an appeal for cheap grace. Do y'all really think that Church leaders are repentant over this scandal? That they've done what's necessary to repent and reform for the evil they've allowed to flourish in the Church. Honestly, gang, I don't see how that's remotely plausible. +Wilton Gregory assures us that the scandal is "history," but only the gullible believe that.

As I said early on in this thread, anger is a necessary catalyst for promoting authentic reform. It seems to me that the episcopal and clerical malefactors here are counting on Catholics to shower them with cheap grace, despite that fact that these people have destroyed lives and destroyed the trust so many people had in the Church. They are counting on us seeking (as someone said above) tranquility rather than persisting in the painful task of securing justice. They are counting on us giving them a pass, while they do not one thing more than they absolutely have to to reform the Church.

Do you really think, for example, that Bernard Law is owed forgiveness? Me, I don't sit around thinking about him. But I think it is a scandal that he got a golden parachute, given all the pain and damage he caused. If Law had excused himself to a monastery to spend the rest of his days in prayer and penance, one would have been hard-pressed not to be generous with him. But I don't think he believes he did a thing wrong. He surely perjured himself in his testimony, and the Holy Father has not had him pay any kind of penalty for his deeds.

Forgiveness? Maybe. But if by "forgiveness" we mean that we let bygones be bygones, and go back to business as usual, then I have to say that "forgiveness" in this case is a danger to the Church, for precisely the reasons Bonhoeffer mentions, specifically "the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance."

To me, authentic repentance would mean ceasing and desisting with the protection of these nasty priests. It would mean the Holy Father meeting with victims of these priests, and unambiguously and publicly calling the bishops to do everything in their power to turn from these corporate and personal sins, and to make restitution. It would mean cleaning out the seminaries (no more Sankt Poeltens). It would mean lifting the stones in some dark and dirty places, and cleaning out the slimy critters hiding therein.

Until I can believe that that process is underway, I don't have it in me to forgive, because I would feel that I was betraying my duty as a Catholic and a father, and a man, to do everything in my power to stop the evil and bring justice to the victims. I really do take this seriously.

Look, I was bullied in high school so badly that I lost all love for my hometown, and never want to move back there. Yet I don't spend any time thinking about the people who were so cruel, and on the occasion when I'm home visiting, and I run into one of them, I can be perfectly and genuinely pleasant. That was all a long time ago, and those people have no power over me anymore. I honestly don't believe they even remember what they did, and if I pointed it out to them, I'm sure they'd be mortified, and truly sorry, just as I would be and would do if someone came to me and reminded me of something cruel I'd done to them in high school.

That's not the case with the Catholic Church. This is the Church. I've got to live in it for the rest of my life. I'm raising my children in it. I do not want my sons to reach middle age, and have to live through the same world o' crap that we've all had to live through for the past two years. Worse, I don't want them to live through the same world o' crap that Catholics had to live through until finally the dam broke in Boston. (Michael Rose told me over dinner a year or so ago that he was "the happiest Catholic I know." How come? I asked. "Because we can finally talk about all this stuff; it's finally coming out," he said.)

I deeply and sincerely believe that we owe it to our children and our children's children to hand over to them a Church that's holier than the Church that was handed to us. If I have to be everybody's asshole so my sons and their children can be free from these anxieties, and worship as Catholics in an atmosphere of sanctity, integrity and joy, then fine, I'm willing to do that. I couldn't live with myself if I bought personal peace at the cost of refusing to see what was in front of my eyes, and raise my voice in protest, and to keep raising it until those with the power to make it right did what God put them here to do.

Mark Shea

When we group "the bishops" together, are we failing to forgive the person of each and every bishop or are we condemning the activities associated with the office?

Generally, we are simply indulging ourselves in unfocused rage and speaking in generalities. If we then proceed to move from that to saying something false about a particular person, or using our unfocused rage as an excuse to refuse to extend forgiveness to a specific person for a specific sin that affects us, we are, in fact, refusing to obey Christ.

Is it even possible to forgive bishops as a group?

No. It is possible to extend charity to each bishop and to will their good. But "forgiving them as a group" makes no more sense then condemning them as a group.

And further, are we even called to forgive evil done in official capacity?

Of course. There is no sin that is exempt from the command to forgive our enemies and love them.

We may find it in our hearts to forgive Charles Manson for murder. But do we forgive murders for murder?

No. As I said, forgiveness is a personal act. It is done to persons, not abstractions. We are called to extend forgiveness to persons guilty of the sin of murder. We are not called to bother with some abstract called "the class of murderers".

We may forgive a specific doctor for an abortion, but do we forgive abortionists for tearing babies apart?

Each one against whom we hold any anger? Yes. If somebody merits my outrage, they have sinned against me sufficiently for me to be obliged to forgive them insofar as they have hurt me.

Also that issue of whether we can forgive when we have not been the victim is still up in the air.

Sorry Carrie but this looks an awful lot like more attempts to dodge the obvious and plain teaching of Jesus. If somebody's action hurts you enough for you to feel anger or outrage at them, then it is particularly bogus to hold on to, cherish, and even stoke the outrage, but claim "I'm not the victim, so I don't have to forgive." If they hurt you enough to anger you, they hurt you enough for you to be obliged to forgive them.

No excuses. "If you do not forgive, you shall not be forgiven". Period. End of sentence.

Mark Shea

Do you really think, for example, that Bernard Law is owed forgiveness?

No. I don't think *anybody* is owed forgiveness. Unconditional love is, by definition, undeserved. Grace is grace, not something we deserve.

However, I *do* think that we are solemnly commanded by Jesus Christ himself to extend forgiveness to absolutely everybody who sins against us, whether they ever repent or not. And I think so for two reasons:

1. We're not God and
2. It will kill us if we don't.

Rod, you can be filled with outrage at Law till the day you die. You can let it eat you up inside. You can refuse to let him get away with it and refuse to forgive him. You can be pissed off in perpetuity at the Pope for giving him the assignment in Rome. The actual, practical, real world result of this will be:

a) Law will not even know you exist.
b) JPII will not even know you exist.
c) 99.999999% of the rest of the Church will not even know you exist.
d) When Law and JPII go to their eternal reward, they will continue to have the power--for the rest of your natural life--to fill you with frustrated and largely impotent rage and a sense of powerlessness.
e) Not one person will suffer God's judgement, find God's mercy or experience an ounce of good from the refusal to extend forgiveness to a man who does not even know you exist.
f) *All* that will result will be that you will be consumed with bitterness and the people around you will have to endure it--forever. Real people. People you love and who love you. No actual practical good will be done whatever.

It is false that clinging to anger will somehow empower us to Do What Needs To be Done. It won't. Anger is indeed a spark. Once the spark has ignited action, the spark should go, not be fanned into a raging conflagration that consumes everything. And, in particular, *any* anger that attempt to stand in the way of Jesus Christ's *absolute and unconditional command* to love our enemies and forgive all sins against us is and dangerous, evil and sinful and will destroy us.

That is not "cheap grace". That is one of the most fundamental facts of the gospel. We must extend forgiveness, not pretend it has been received when it hasn't. We must seek to cultivate hope and love for those who sin against us (a lifelong work and very hard, with many stumbles for all of us). The main trick for most of us is simply to begin and stop making excuses for our refusal to do so. But begin we must if we have people in our lives against whom we cultivate bitterness. Or the bitterness will--absolutely guaranteed--destroy us and stands a very good chance of infecting those around us. And we *will* be held accountable for that just as surely as the one who has sinned against us will be held accountable.

That's the Tradition. And it's the most repellent part of the entire gospel. But also, I think, the most necessary.

Kevin Miller

Regarding the notion that anger is a necessary catalyst for reform: I think John Paul II actually stands as perfect evidence against that. He has brought about a tremendous amount of reform, folks - in Poland; elsewhere in the world, especially in the East; and - yes - also in the Church (whether or not one thinks he's done what he should vis-a-vis The Situation - he has also confronted other things - I can see the difference between the Church now and the Church of 25+ years ago!). Know what? He hasn't done so via anger.

As to his role in The Situation: 1. We don't know, as Mark once pointed out, who he has or hasn't met with. 2. We know he has given the bishops their marching orders - not only vis-a-vis The Situation specifically, but also regarding their more general mission. 3. For the umpteenth time, there are solid theological reasons to think that a mass firing of bishops who stall in implementing those orders would amount to destroying the Church in order to save it, which doesn't work. (And as I said on HMS - anger is ESPECIALLY problematic when it's based - not entirely, but somewhat - on false premises, like that the pope has somehow failed us. Then it's not only uncharitable, but also deeply unjust.)

Mark has sufficiently responded to the rest, I think, including the notion that forgiveness before evident and full repentance is somehow "cheap grace" (i.e., that it necessarily has anything to do with not expecting subsequent repentance) or generally that Scripture and Tradition allow us any such wiggle room as people are proposing.

Rod Dreher

Mark, I'm sending "respectfully disagree" vibes your way, so please don't think I'm trying to flame you or anything. But what you say honestly makes no sense to me. I'm not trying to be thick. It's just that it seems too dismissive of the excruciating reality captured in this post from a guy named "Sinner" on Dom's blog:

When people put in charge of the spiritual (and other) welfare of dioceses NO LONGER EVEN KNOW THAT IT’S WRONG TO PLACE CHILDREN IN DANGER, it’s time to act. The Pope has not. And he has not acted for a very long time. The people who did not know what every parent in the world knows are still in charge.

You know why I’m so angry?

Because I FEAR for my children.

Every Sunday they hear total heterodoxy - it’s not necessary to go to Mass. Homosexual acts aren’t bad, if in a ‘loving’ relationship. The virgin birth isn’t real, because if it were, we wouldn’t understand the ‘holiness’ of sex. Jesus Christ really didn’t perform miracles.

My two sons missed a rapist priest by a couple of years. They were exposed to a homomolestor deacon. Priests from the monkery at my son’s high school were soliciting teen boys for sex. My bishop had teen boy sex going on in his beach home. At the local ‘Catholic’ univeristy, they welcome abortion lovers in open arms, and the former head of the university is off buying sex from 14-yr. old boys in Toronto.

And the arrogance (and the silence) shown from the Vatican on down with regard to all if this is breathtaking.

My older son read the Catholic blogs and such. He just read (not at my wanting) about the thing in Austria. It’s wearing him down. He wonders if what we tell him is true - that this IS the Church of Christ. I can see in his eyes the doubt forming. My wife and I fear his loss to the faith.

In the end, if my sons ever be safe in this Church - from spiritual garbage and from homo priests - it will be because of some future Pope.

Many good and holy Catholics I know have left the Church. Why? Because they cannot meld together the Church’s claim to be one, holy, Catholic and apostolic with the worldwidespread rapes (spiritual and physical) of kids.

We Catholics have zero power with regard to the administration of the Church. We are supposed to rely on those ‘above’ us. Those ‘above’ us treat us, in general, like dirt.

You are right that reform will begin with us (since it’s not coming from above). But the first part of that is to bravely confront the truth of things - however horrible they may be.

Many of my best Catholic friends no longer go to Mass - because they are too sickened. They were the ones who would help reform the Church. I encourage them to come back and help. But many will not. And they were the good ones.

What is this poor man supposed to do? What do those of us who share his (or her -- it may be a woman) supposed to do? Keep our heads down and think of our own sins, and offer cheap grace? Meanwhile, the Church, what Anne Muggeridge called "the Desolate City" almost 20 years ago, becomes ever more a place of desolation?

No.

Rod Dreher

HEY -- what does Amy have to say about all this?

Mark Windsor

Rod,

Why are you not able to forgive while still pursuing the vile critters that live in the slime? Are the two - forgiveness and justice - mutually exclusive?

Mark Shea

Rod:

Absolutely nowhere have I ever said or implied that forgiveness means "keep your head down, think of our own sins, and offer cheap grace".

From my own experience (and it is ongoing) of having to deal with impenitent people who I am absolutely bound to forgive, forgiveness does mean (for bare starters), handing the sinner back to God for his judgment and trying, wherever possible, to let go my grip on my dislike of them. Placing my hope in God and not men. Not holding my peace and joy hostage to the fact that a jerk refuses to admit he's a jerk. Not chewing the cud of bitterness, making sure to note every detail, real and imagined, of the sins of those who have hurt me. Not cherishing bitterness. Not fantasizing about the triumphant moment when I get to tell that bastard off and a crowd of people applauds me. Not filling my time with offhand cynical remarks. Not wishing to see him suffer and having my peace held hostage when he prospers instead.

All of these things are, I repeat, not sinful but a complete waste of time. They achieve nothing whatever. They only hurt us. They do not help anybody, including the person whom we refuse to forgive and release to God's judgment.

Giving up all this does not, in the least, keep us from pursuing justice, speaking truth, even rebuking the sinner against whom we are angry. Indeed, giving it up often makes doing these things easier and more effective.

As to the person that wrote the email: obviously there are different practical steps that might be taken. But it is nonetheless absolutely false and forbidden by Christ himself to say that, somehow, there is some threshhold of sin past which we can safely tell him, "It's okay. You've suffered so much, you don't have to forgive. Go ahead and cultivate bitterness instead." What needs to happen is the practical steps (whatever they may be) not the bitterness. If one lives in an urban area, there is the possibility, for instance, of switching parishes. That's what we did. I've got kids too and they are fully aware of the reality of the evil in the Church. But they are also fully aware of the fact that the Holy Spirit is at work and connected to actual groups that are doing that work. If you feed them endless bitterness then, sure, they will learn the lesson that there is no hope. But it's simply not true that there is no hope. And so it always remains possible to show them where the hope is--if we really want to.

There will, till the end of time, always be sufficient evidence at hand that the Church is going to hell in a handbasket and that Christ is working to save it. Always. It will always be up to us to fight hell in the Church while refusing to let it conquer us with bitterness and despair. And if we do let it conquer us we will always have a measure of responsibility for choosing to let it do so. If that battle is not won first, any battles we win in reforming the Church will be a pyrrhic victory and a tragedy.

Mark Shea

Oops.

"All of these things are, I repeat, not *only* sinful but a complete waste of time."

jerry

I'll say it again. This "I fear for my sons" stuff is hooey. My experience and that of my Catholic friends does not match up with Rod's hysterical/paranoid friend's ranting about buggerers waiting in the rafters of every church, waiting to pounce. Yes there are evil men in the Church. They are a small minority. Look at the stats! Take the same care with your kids as you do when entrusting them to your local school, hockey league, or boy scout troop, and you'll be just fine.

Cornelius

Good posts today, Jerry. The "I fear for my sons" argument that Rod et al. use to stop all arguments really is hooey, and it's just an excuse to let them hold on to their anger. Today is a perfect example. Rod has never really responded to Mark's clear explanation why forgiveness is required even for the unrepentant. Instead, he falls back to his "I fear for my sons" mantra. (Incidentally, I too have young children, and I don't fear for them in the Church any more than at school.)

So Rod, please respond to Mark directly. Do you still think that you need not forgive the unrepentant? And please, no straw men. Forgiveness of sin does not equal allowing it to continue.)

Ashley

Mark, thanks again for your consistent, sane witness to the truth of Christ and his gospel and its radical command that we love one another as He loves us, weak and sinful though we are.

Joe McFaul

My thanks to Fr. Bloom for taking the time to read and post here.

Carrie

Mark, (1:41 p.m. post) I must still not be saying it right.

Let's call the priest "Donald" and use him as an example. Fr. Donald has committed several sexual offenses which his bishop has helped him to cover up. A victim seeking justice brings Fr. Donald to court. His offenses against the victim come out in court testimony, make the headlines. Now I know that Fr. Donald has committed these offenses.

My first reaction, especially if I happen to know Fr. Donald, but even if I don't, is outrage that the man who represents Christ has done these things. Once I've expressed the anger, I can put Fr. Donald's offenses into the past and let go of them. But three weeks later Fr. Donald is back in the news. Now he returns from the past into the present with new offenses that must be forgiven. Meanwhile Fr. Edwards. and Fr. Flood, and Fr. Giengrich are also making the headlines and also must be forgiven. .

After a few rounds of this, it is no longer Fr. Edwards or Fr. Flood. or Fr. Giengrich. who invade my thoughts about priestly scandal. It now becomes "priests" who are there in my thoughts, because there are too many of them to keep straight.

"Priests" cannot be forgiven as easily as Fr. Donald can be forgiven, because while eventually we will know all of what Fr. Donald has done and can then put it behind us, there is no end to what "Priests" have done so long as the headlines keep appearing. Forgiveness under these circumstances is not possible, first because there is no one "person" contained in "priests" anymore. The object of forgiveness has become a category of nameless individuals. As long as priests continue to make the headlines it is not possible to get beyond our depressing circumstances. And I haven't even touched on bishops.

Mark Shea

It now becomes "priests" who are there in my thoughts, because there are too many of them to keep straight.

Then you must think clearly and hit this thought on the nose every time it rears its unjust head. Because, of course, the truth is that it is not "priest" but a small minority of priests who are doing such things. If you choose instead to cultivate the vague notion "priests" then you have just tarred a very large number of completely innocent men with crimes they did not and would never commit. That is why you must focus on being specific and concrete.

Secondly, you should ask yourself, "Is any actual real concrete good done by poring over news stories of priests in some faraway place where I both do not know anybody involved and about whom I can do nothing whatever besides stoke the fires of rage?" Much of what we congratulate ourselves about ("I'm not rubbing raw my hatred. I'm Keeping Informed!") is, I think, frankly bogus. We don't have to be ostriches, but we also don't have to obsess over things about which we can do nothing whatever. If we like, there is enough evil in the world to drown us in hopelessness. But if we choose to feed ourselves on bad news, hopelessness, and outrage and to steadfastly ignore the things that God tells us to focus on, we will have nobody but ourselves to blame if we finally succumb to despair and loss of faith. Come judgement day, some clergy stand a very good chance of hearing "Depart from me!" But that will not save our own sorry butts when God looks us in the eye and says, "So what if your bishop was a loser? I tried repeatedly to speak my word to you and give you hope and you turned me down with a load of hooey about how you were Keeping Informed. You shall have what you chose: eternity with a computer monitor reading all about how terrible things are."

As long as priests continue to make the headlines it is not possible to get beyond our depressing circumstances.

This, being translated is: "I refuse to take responsibility for my choices. Somebody else's choice determines whether I will have a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. And since there will *always* be a scandal somewhere in the Church, I can refuse to do the hard work of forgiveness forever. I choose to be miserable and I will pretend that my choice is somebody else's fault." It's a fool's game, Carrie. Especially when God is standing there saying, "Enter into the joy."

Carrie

I have a challenge for all of you.

Find the passage in Scripture where Christ forgave the Scribes and Pharisees.

Carrie

I have a challenge for all of you.

Find the passage in Scripture where Christ forgave the Scribes and Pharisees.

Mark Shea

Carrie:

In your struggle to avoid the clear command of Jesus Christ, you are now playing mere word games and fundamentalist proof texting. There is no passage where Jesus tells a Pharisee "I forgive you of your sins" to an unrepentant Pharisee because the implication would be, of course, that it was possible for a sinner to profit from the mercy of Christ without receiving it.

But that does not mean that Christ did not *extend* that mercy to the unrepentant Pharisee.

"God commends his own love to us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5 is your proof text, along with essentiall all the rest of the New Testament. "All day long I hold out my hands to an obstinate people" is another such text.

Unless you wish to contradict the dogmatic teaching of the Church and say that Christ died only for the elect and not for every human being without any exception whatsoever (including the scribes and Pharisees) then you have to face the fact that Christ's whole *life* was an extension of mercy, even to those who plotted his murder and never ever repented. That they did not receive the mercy makes no difference. He nonetheless offered it and he commands us to imitate him.

Stop making exuses and attempting to avoid the clear teaching of Christ and do as he commands. If you have nobody against whom you are bitter, then stop trying so hard to give as many excuses and escape hatches for disobedience as possible to those who do.

amy

This thread is resting for the night. It's tired.

amy

It's awake again.

Peg

Rod

"... so disgusted by the corruption that I find it difficult to stay in the Church, but convinced intellectually of the Church's claims, so I know objectively that there is nowhere else to go. There is nothing else to do but endure. How to do this? I don't know, but I'm finding out."

I hear your hurt and anger; I have it as well, but I will try to remember to pray for you (and all of us hanging in there)every day that God will guide and comfort you in a special way.

Steward Robbins

1. The Catechism of the Council of Trent says: The remission of sins seems to bear an exact analogy to the cancelling of a pecuniary debt. None but the creditor can forgive a pecuniary debt. Hence, since by sin we contract a debt to God alone ­­ wherefore we daily pray: forgive us our debts sin, it is clear, can be forgiven by Him alone, and by none else.

I certainly agree that our lives will be miserable if we are consumed by even righteous anger. However, Jone's "Moral Theology" states: "We may wish our neighbor evil, even death itself, if we do so for his own good or for some equally great advantage, e.g. that a frivolous youth not be led astray and be eternally lost..."

Pre Vatican 2 sources are much clearer and more direct!


Tom

Rod:

You ask, "Do you really think, for example, that Bernard Law is owed forgiveness?"

But you see, forgiveness isn't something someone can be owed. If Cardinal Law entered a monastery, "one would have been hard-pressed not to be generous with him." But that's not forgiveness, at least not Christian forgiveness. That's a mercantile exchange: generosity in exchange for demonstration of repentance. Forgiveness, if it's anything more than a social convention, is in exchange for nothing.

You speak of cheap grace. It seems to me that what is really cheap is forgiveness that is only offered after sufficient reparation has been made. Do not Gentiles and tax collectors do the same? Do you think Jesus had to include "Forgive others who have paid you back" in His description of how we should pray?

If you don't have it in you to forgive in this way, you don't have it in you. St. Augustine allows for that case, too. In his Enchiridion (no 73), he writes that "so high a degree of goodness is not possible for so great a multitude as we believe are heard when, in prayer, they say, 'Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.' Accordingly, it cannot be doubted that the terms of this pledge are fulfilled if a man, not yet so perfect that he already loves his enemies, still forgives from the heart one who has sinned against him and who now asks his forgiveness. For he surely seeks forgiveness when he asks for it when he prays, saying, 'As we forgive our debtors.' For this means, 'Forgive us our debts when we ask for forgiveness, as we also forgive our debtors when they ask for forgiveness.'"

By the way, I am serious in my recommendation of a bourbon-and-breviary retreat. (And yes, PMC, one may fast on bourbon, although of course here virtue lies in the mean.)

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