WITH APOLOGIES TO GOD FOR GETTING IN THE MIDDLE – UNLESS THIS WAS YOUR WILL
I ran across this comment on a blog concerning a rather well-known priest, Father Corapi, placed on administrative leave while some allegations are investigated. Though not called guilty, the action implies guilt in the minds of many of us that are conditioned by an “innocent until proven guilty” mindset. I would like to point out the allegations are of improper conduct with an adult female, so this is not a child-molestation case. Also, no criminal laws have been determined to have been broken, which is why all that has happened is administrative leave during the investigation. However, one person commented thusly – and really, it’s a prayer in my mind. I thought I’d take a stab at an answer.
Guilt or no guilt, I care not. Though someone is obviously guilty of lying, we just don’t know who yet. But what I want to know is, how do I become merciful? How do I concretely show mercy and forgiveness towards the guilty person. Someone please come forward and help all of us forward with this kind of response. I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to learn how to do this, myself especially. Could you write an article on that? Someone? Anyone? Please, I mean this sincerely.
Dear [name witheld] I will take a stab at answering your sincere request.
Mercy and forgiveness. These are not ideals to be achieved so much as challenges to be met. I don’t believe we can concretely show mercy and forgiveness without truly understanding what they are and why. And then, quite frankly, I don’t know that we can act like we are supposed to without a fair measure of Grace.
There are a lot of platitudes out there, but I don’t think you want a re-hash of all the things you’ve already heard – “turn the other cheek” and the like. But I will say this concept of unwarranted forgiveness is a very Christian concept.
Mercy is basically not exacting the penalty deserved. Someone does something wrong, and they deserve punishment. Most of us are not in a place to actually mete out the appropriate punishment, so we mete out what we can – derision, hate, abusive language, etc. These are almost instinctive responses and the root of these responses would be quite debatable, but I think it lies in the arena of wanting to feel like we are better than someone else.
What I am suggesting is that we know our own failings, we know what we’ve done that we didn’t pay for, what we’ve gotten away with – in short we know our sins. And when we see a bigger sinner, it feels good, at least on the surface, to stand shoulder to shoulder with others and roundly denounce the bigger sinner. At its core, I’m suggesting it is simply a temporary ego boost.
So, one way to begin to concretely show mercy is to reserve judgment. Another concrete step is to pause and consider our own failings and focus on what we need to do rather than what the other person needs to do. Perhaps we are so excited about the particular incident because we have an issue in the same arena.
I believe this is called taking the log out of our own eyes first. Then, when we can see clearly, perhaps we can see that, in general, it does not fall to us to mete out punishment. We are not the judge nor the jury. And certainly not the executioner. It is not our place.
Forgiveness is something else, though it would seem on face to go hand in hand with mercy. However, we can and often do withhold both punishment and forgiveness. And, we can even punish and still not forgive. It seems to me that many people get caught in that cul-de-sac. I would suggest that not forgiving is a way we withhold ourselves from the person we believed deserved punishment; we are in fact substituting our refusal to love as punishment, whether or not they “got what they deserved”. By not forgiving we are saying, “I have the right to judge you on my own accord, regardless of what anyone else thinks.”
I think a good starting point regarding forgiveness is the Lord’s Prayer: “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” We need to think about what we hope for from God when we stand before Him. And we need to remember, if we ever prayed the Lord’s Prayer, we are asking him to forgive us as we forgave others. Rather sobering thought.
Sometimes we don’t want to forgive because it offends our sense of justice. But our sense of justice is too small. We can never have all the facts, we can never know the heart of the other person.
Clearly, some things are easier to forgive than others. But, at some level I think we want them to know that we are not forgiving them – we want to hurt them at some level. Something that I don’t believe we emotionally understand is the person we are not forgiving may be completely oblivious to the fact we aren’t forgiving them. Either because, in this case with Fr. Corapi, he or the lady involved have no idea who we are so our judgment and desire for them to suffer is lost on them, or because even if they do know who we are, we just aren’t that important to them. They don’t care about our opinions. I think this happens more than we would like to believe.
So, the question becomes, where is the gain in not forgiving? Concretely, what do we profit by holding fast to our puny sense of justice? I think if we spend some time in sober thought about this, we will realize that we gain nothing, and instead simply sap our energies and make ourselves miserable. In short, nothing good comes from not forgiving.
Mercy and forgiveness are deliberate acts of will on our part. Frankly it takes practice, and we will fall down. And lastly, I really don’t think we can be successful over the long run without specifically asking God for the grace to be more Christlike. But when we pray such a prayer, we must remember that implicit in that prayer is the agreement to whatever internal changes are necessary for that prayer to become reality. And that could be painful and hard. Yet, is it not worth the effort?
- Father Who? Why Corapi Matters (patheos.com)
- EWTN Releases New Statement About Dropping Fr. Corapi’s Programs (patrickmadrid.com)
- On The Father Corapi Affair. (mundabor.wordpress.com)
- God Forgives A Forgiving Heart (bibletweets.wordpress.com)