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Justice and Mercy Strike

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Oct 31, 2005

As of last month, Micheál Ledwith is an ex-priest. Ledwith, who now lectures for the Ramtha School of Enlightenment in Washington State, was already an ex-member of the International Theological Commission as well as an involuntary ex-President of St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth, the diocesan seminary for all of Ireland. In September he was dismissed from the clerical state on the request of Bishop Eamonn Walsh, apostolic administrator of the diocese of Ferns, where Maynooth is located.

I commented on Ledwith in a column last July which was more concerned to make a spiritual point than to harp on his sins. So I’ll make a spiritual point here as well. The defrocking of Micheál Ledwith is, like all proper disciplinary measures, an act of both justice and mercy. It is an act of justice in that it punishes extreme wrong-doing with a severe penalty, thereby in some sense balancing the moral order. It is an act of mercy in that it provides Ledwith with one more opportunity to reflect and repent. One may hope that he has already repented and is now an ex-pederast as well.

The Ledwith defrocking was approved by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. For the long-suffering Catholic community, left so often in doubt about whether anyone is minding the ecclesial store, this decision is an act of mercy precisely because it is an act of justice. Without being the least vindictive, one may note that acts of justice do bring a certain satisfaction for, by its very nature, justice enhances the common good. Those in authority need to meditate on this fact. At the same time, all of us need to meditate on the mercy intrinsic to God’s justice, each time we feel the rod.

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