Thursday, February 1, 2018


Let me preface my few remarks with this truth. You can forgive a crocodile for biting you but you should never place your hand in his mouth again!

Forgiveness does not always mean forgetting nor does it imply that justice should be eliminated. And yes, in this life, there are some people who are destined to hell and we should have no illusions about rehabilitating these kinds of people try as we may in the prison system. Sometimes the death penalty is required to protect individuals and society in and outside of the prison system and Catholic tradition allows for it notwithstanding any speculation to the contrary.

But with both the horrible cases of sexual abuse of minors by clergy as well as sexual abuse that happens in the world, such as the Larry Nasser case, it seems that our society promotes the worst in us in terms of getting even, spewing off and stoking the fires of rage. The Survivor's testimony and the judges condemnation seem to go over the top in this regard.

Our Catholic Faith tells us that we have to be purified of hate, the desire for revenge and that if we are to find ourselves in heaven one day, all and everyone will be forgiven and loved, especially the least of those that we thought would never make it to heaven.

How does the Church promote this in a world consumed with hate and the desire for revenge.

There have been wonderful examples of this kind of forgiveness from our Protestant brothers and sisters toward criminals. I think of the church shooting in Charleston, SC and the forgiveness offered to the perpetrator from surviving family members. It is possible!


Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

The scene that most moved me was the reaction of the Amish Community of Nickle Mines, Pennsylvania, when 5 of their daughters were murdered in October 2006.

"A Roberts (the murderer was Charles Carl Roberts) family spokesman said an Amish neighbor comforted the Roberts family hours after the shooting and extended forgiveness to them. Amish community members visited and comforted Roberts' widow, parents, and parents-in-law. One Amish man held Roberts' sobbing father in his arms, reportedly for as long as an hour, to comfort him. The Amish have also set up a charitable fund for the family of the shooter. About 30 members of the Amish community attended Roberts' funeral, and Marie Roberts, the widow of the killer, was one of the few outsiders invited to the funeral of one of the victims."

"Some commentators criticized the quick and complete forgiveness with which the Amish responded, arguing that forgiveness is inappropriate when no remorse has been expressed, and that such an attitude runs the risk of denying the existence of evil,while others were supportive. Donald Kraybill and two other scholars of Amish life noted that "letting go of grudges" is a deeply rooted value in Amish culture, which remembers forgiving martyrs including Dirk Willems and Jesus himself. They explained that the Amish willingness to forgo vengeance does not undo the tragedy or pardon the wrong, but rather constitutes a first step toward a future that is more hopeful." - from Wikipedia

The Amish are on to something...

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Amish wisdom! They know it is the only way to gain peace and move on.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

I have always wondered about what it is in their faith and their larger approach to life (simplicity) that made and makes this exceptional response so possible - maybe for them, so automatic...

TJM said...

The Amish are imitating the old monastic ideal in the secular world.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

To address the rhetorical question posed by Fr. Kavanaugh regarding what in the Amish and their faith and way of life allows such exceptional forgiveness possible:

I think they don't feed the beast....meaning they don't feed a sense of insult and self righteousness on a daily basis. They practice humility.

I think the Amish attempt not to sin against one another every day, every hour, by way of acts of heroic charity, and when sinned against they readily forgive even in small things, even when no apology is forthcoming. They most likely practice humility by sincerely apologizing when they have sinned against another, admitting their fault. By doing so they train themselves to be forgiving in all their interactions with others, large and small. When something big happens they are able to rely on the deep faith in God's justice they developed over a lifetime, to not allow themselves to selfishly rise up in anger, but to give way to acceptance of God's will, to consider the pitifulness of the offender, to practice " we forgive those who trespass against us...", and taking as an example Jesus Himself in His passion and on the cross

They are mindful of God's judgement. They take the commands and directives of Our Lord very seriously. They are a fine example of lived Christianity.

I expect as outsiders, not knowing the content of their daily lives, we idealize them to some extent, but we do have witness of their heroic charity and forgiveness as was mentioned above.

God bless.

Fr. Michael J. Kavanaugh said...

Bee - I wonder how much their simple way of life enables this. The Amish do not eschew "modern" things because they think these things are evil, but because they believe they cannot maintain their way of life/belief if these things are allowed in. It is the "gift to be simple" which might make it possible to accept the "gift to be free."

Fr. Matthew Kelly writes, "One learns the discipline of service in community. And it is this discipline which in turn opens one to the workings of the Spirit. For a group of men to live together in harmony and peace there must be sacrifice and generosity. The good of the brothers and the interests of others must often take precedence over one's own desires. Selfless service of others is a great school of

I think the last part is what some many of us non-Amish miss "The good of the brothers and the interests of others must often take precedence over one's own desires." Something in the Amish way of life seems to make this central.