Healing & Forgiveness: a Primer

By Diogenes (articles ) | May 19, 2004

Object lesson

A priest convicted of public indecency last year is returning to the ministry next week, the Archdiocese of Cincinnati announced today. ... Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk reaffirmed that the church demands and that he expects priests to live in celibate chastity. However, he noted, the Gospel also calls for healing and forgiveness.


Case A: Say my neighbor's children, not liking the sound of my last name, pitch rocks through my living room window and yell insults. My sons grab baseball bats and start to head out the door to thrash the aggressors. I stop them and remind them that the Gospel calls for forgiveness, and as Christians we should not only forswear vengeance for wrongs suffered but accept injuries as a step toward reconciliation.

Case B: My children, not liking the sound of my neighbor's last name, pitch rocks through his living room window and yell insults at him. When my neighbor comes over to complain of my sons' mischief and asks that I punish them and pay for their damage, I tell him that the Gospel calls for healing and forgiveness, and insinuate that it is un-Christian of him to seek retribution.

Got the picture, Excellency? Now follow me closely here: Case A is GOOD. Case B is NOT GOOD. For a Christian, forgiveness is something the injured party freely offers the man who inflicts the injury, not an obligation the injurer exacts from the man he injured.

Now comes the tricky part, the conclusion few bishops seem able to grasp: if I use my roman collar to gain your son's trust and then rape him, it's NOT GOOD for me to lecture you on your duty of forgiveness and reconciliation. And the same goes for priests who harm the faithful by gross displays of deviant sexuality.

Would a puppet show help make the point clear?

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  • Posted by: - May. 25, 2004 2:16 PM ET USA

    Diogenes, you are so compelling! Did you perhaps omit some details of Case B scenario? How about after "damage" adding "I then punish, correct and treat offender, pay compensation, plead for forgiveness of injured party while declining to destroy the offender's life"? Would you criticize Jesus for his invitation: "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents forgive him"? (He's the one who railed so angrily against scandal). Fr. Pat Dowling

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 9:50 PM ET USA

    I look forward to reading Diogenes every day. However, I'm not sure I would want to see his puppet shows. The expurgated versions, perhaps, but even then...

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 7:20 PM ET USA

    Healing/forgiveness are only one part of the scenario. The innocent must be protected from those with deviant behavior. And proper actions must be taken to ensure that such behavior does not occur again. This is way more complicated than some bishops seem to want to admit and deal with.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 3:21 PM ET USA

    Perhaps Diogenes puppet could be the newest character added to Sesame Street -- since child catechesis is so abysmal, maybe the secularists can do it for us. This message brought to you by the Letter A and the Number One.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 2:41 PM ET USA

    And I thought fencing was a lost art. It appears that that diocese is still bogged down in damage control mode, where meager resources mean rehabilitation is more cost-effective than replacement. Question: What steps have been taken to rehabilitate and improve the credibility of the counseling and psychiatric sign-offs?

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 1:41 PM ET USA

    I've forgiven my father for things that a father should never inflict on his daughters. (He never admitted to any of it.) After living with the anger for years, I was able to see that God is the judge, and found I could forgive him. BUT! No one, least of all the perp, has the right to force someone to forgive. Cliches like "get over it", "get on with life", "forgiveness!" are merely a means for the perp to waltz off with serene conscience.

  • Posted by: - May. 19, 2004 1:25 PM ET USA

    This one definitely goes in the "Best of Diogenes" file if anyone is keeping track. And then he tops it off with the puppet show comment. It's so funny because it's so true. But of course, that's why Diogenes wrote it. Perhaps someone will make a CD of "Best of Diogenes" from this forum and mail copies to all the bishops. I'm sure they'd all enjoy it. It'd need a clever, ecumenical sounding label though to get them to open it.

  • Posted by: leila - May. 19, 2004 12:52 PM ET USA

    Maybe a puppet show would help, but please, no clowns.