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By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 13, 2003

The homepage for the Diocese of Phoenix posts a letter by Bishop O'Brien read (pre-hit-and-run) at all parish masses on June 6-7. My favorite lines:

Although I am a Bishop, with a calling from the Church, I am still a human being with emotions like anyone else.

Although? There's a lot to be learned about his conduct of office from O'Brien's choice of this word. Is that the way you'd begin the same sentence?

When I became your Bishop, I had never heard the word pedophilia. I, like others, didn't understand it was an incurable sickness. I learned -- just as law enforcement and health professionals -- in the worst way by having to face the reality that our learning curve may have come at the expense of innocent children.

May have come. Beautiful.

Wherever I have failed or misjudged, though unintentionally, I must acknowledge my mistake and I must carry the wounds of those who were harmed. I ask God, victims of sexual abuse and you, faithful Catholics, to forgive my imperfections.

How do you forgive an imperfection (or mistake, or unintentional misjudgment)? C.S. Lewis wrote that we (all of us) often pretend to ask for forgiveness when in reality we're asking to be excused. He points out that forgiveness and excuse are almost opposites. When I ask to be excused I direct the attention of the person I injured to the extenuating circumstances -- my ignorance or hastiness or confusion -- so as to suggest that there was no malice in my harm. When I ask for forgiveness I admit the evil I intended to commit, repent of the harm caused, and ask the injured person to let go of his just claim against me. A valuable distinction.

I promise you that I will never forget the past, for it will remain my driving force toward the future.


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  • Posted by: - Jul. 18, 2003 8:07 PM ET USA

    To Diogenes: touche' !

  • Posted by: John J Plick - Jul. 13, 2003 8:38 PM ET USA

    I would beg to ratify a certain part of the statement relating to "forgiveness." Theologically, in the strict sense, there is NEVER any release of the "just claim against the perpetrator." Our sins (when confessed appropriately) are absolved by the most precious of payment, the very Blood of the Son of God. And even more, Catholic doctrine, in contrast to Protestant, DEMANDS proportionate penance. God will NOT be mocked. Catholic doctrine, the very doctrine they claim to teach, is reality.