How often do we forgive?


If you’re on Facebook or Twitter, you may have seen the negativity toward the Church in response to Pope Benedict XIV’s retirement. Any time there is major Church news, negativity can come out like this, but, in light of our use of media, how do we respond?

Admittedly, I had declined to publicly comment on the reason for the Pope’s retirement. I didn’t feel it was necessary. But I do continue to share posts and photos relating to my Catholic faith. Sometimes, it’s that simple act, that someone will use to talk trash or remind us of scandal (as if any society has been without it).

How do we respond? More importantly, how does our response characterize how we feel about the Church and her leaders?

Here is the response to someone who wanted to take this opportunity to tell me how he felt about the Pope and his handling of various abuse cases:

“We, as a society, have allowed certain institutions and organizations to handle affairs internally. We do that with the military, with civilian authorities forgoing prosecution in favor of military courts of law.

I’m not saying forget about anything or anyone. However, there are laws and those must be followed. If we don’t like them, then they must be changed with due process. Too often we let our emotions get in the way of true justice when what we are actually seeking is revenge, which is not ours to take.

Should the Church take action? Absolutely. Is it perfect? No. Is this the only place where children get abused? Not by a long shot. But the Catholic Church bears the brunt of it all.

We know what we have heard. Now, it is our individual duty to seek out the truth. Perhaps, legally, there may be nothing that can be done as to criminal charges. But our own legal system provides for that as well in the form of civil settlements and rulings.

If you’re not Catholic, then it’s hard to know what is going on internally because you’re not there.

The point is, we change the things we don’t like to protect people and do what’s right. But to hold on to negativity from the past doesn’t allow anyone, especially victims who are hopefully receiving help, to move on. We get stuck mentally and spiritually. I’m sure that’s not the kind of life we are meant to live.”

Well, apparently that sounded like I was approving the abuse, so I took some time to think about the next response:

“I’m not saying that behavior is okay or that all is said and done (or I should have been saying that if I didn’t).

I do truly appreciate your passion on this particular issue. It’s horrible to think about and I cannot imagine what the victims or the victimizers are going through.

I can only hope and pray that we are all more vigilant in protecting our kids and our faith. It is clear that we must be more vigilant in all areas of safety when it comes to kids, but there are no easy answers to what has already happened.

I don’t think that there’s anything I can tell you that will make you feel better. But I don’t think that’s the point. I think the point is getting it out in the open and not allowing the secrets to stay secret.

Again, I thank you for your passion and thank you for having me put down in words how I am dealing with this in terms of my own faith and how this is affecting others, Catholic or not.”

What was the point in arguing? None. But what is clear is that this person believed the Church is too forgiving. I wondered if that was even possible. Then I remembered the words of Jesus: “Then Peter came to Him and said, ‘Lord how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.'” (Matthew 18:21-22)

It is clear to me, even though we have earthly forms of justice, in the end, we are called to forgive because God has done no less for us. Can we be angry? Sure! We’re human and we have emotions. But after the anger, hurt, and disappointment, then what? You do the of hardest thing of all: forgive.

Pope Benedict XVI greets the crowd as he arrives to lead his final Angelus from the window of his apartment overlooking St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican Feb. 24. He told the crowd he is not abandoning the church. His papacy will officially end Feb. 28 at 8 p.m. Rome time. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.