“Father … I have a problem with forgiving” said Sonia as she folded the last of the vestments and put them away in their cupboard in the Sacristy.
“What do you mean? A problem with forgiving …”
“I know you’ve always said we should forgive with all our heart … unreservedly … if we want God to forgive us our sins. I understand that … and I try as best I can to forgive wholeheartedly.”
“But …” smiled the priest, “but in this case …”
She smiled back.
“But in this case it is different. There’s this woman at work who has hurt me really bad. She lied about me Father. And as a result I was severely reprimanded by our manager and I was made to lose a day’s pay, which I cannot afford. We used to be friends, but she lied to cover up her mistake and I got unfairly punished.”
“This is terrible,” said Father Ignatius frowning at the unfairness of what he’d just heard. “Is there not some sort of appeal procedure at your workplace?"
“No, ” Sonia said. “The thing is, this woman came to see me yesterday and apologized profusely for what she had done. She cried her heart out and said she could not have been found out to have made yet another mistake. She was on her last warning and another mistake would mean losing her job. That’s why she lied and put the blame on me. She begged me to forgive her, which I did straightaway Father. I told her to think no more about it and that all was now OK.”
“That’s very generous and loving of you, so what is the problem?” asked the priest.
“She wants us to be friends again, as before. We used to visit each other at our homes, go shopping together, or pick up each others’ children from school and so on. She wants everything to be as before.
“I find that very difficult. I just can’t trust her anymore and I want us to keep our distance. I forgive her as I said; but I can’t go back as before. I think I can speak and be nice to her at work but that’s as far as it goes; I can’t be friends again. Is my forgiveness worthless?”
“No … it is not worthless,” replied Father Ignatius gently, “when we forgive someone else, we touch their very soul with the merciful love of Jesus Christ our Lord.
“You’ve been hurt Sonia … hurt and punished unfairly and undeservedly.
“When we forgive people it means that we no longer hold their wrongdoings to account. We no longer bear them any malice or ill-feelings or ill-will. We acknowledge that we forgive them and we let them go their own way free from any fear of punishment or retribution on our part.
“This doesn’t mean however that we forget the pain caused to us. How can we? The hurt is imprinted in our memory and try as we might the chances are that we’ll remember it time and again. It’s only natural. You forgave her and told her so …”
Sonia nodded; holding back her tears.
“And that’s all that is expected of you,” continued the priest gently, noticing that she was very upset at the mere thought of the event.
“We all have a right, a duty even, to protect ourselves and to protect our loved ones. If we feel uncomfortable about a particular situation or relationship, we have every right to distance ourselves from it.
“For very understandable reasons you feel uncomfortable at being friendly with this person as you were before; visiting each other and picking each others’ children from school and so on.
“There’s nothing wrong with that. Tell her politely that you’ve forgiven her and that you feel both of you should leave it at that.”
“But,” Sonia interrupted, “how can that be forgiveness? By keeping my distance implies that I’m still holding something against her. She knows that, you and I know that, and God knows that.”
Father Ignatius smiled.
“Oh yes. God knows that all right; and He knows the reason behind it too.” he said.
“Let me tell you a story. Jesus once taught His disciples and His followers about Himself. He said, ‘whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me, and I live in him.’
“A number of His followers found this difficult to understand. What does He mean? Eat His flesh and drink His blood? Even today, many find this very concept difficult to understand; so you can imagine how it was in those times.
“So a number of Christ’s followers decided to leave and no longer follow Him. What did Jesus do?
“He didn’t call them back. He didn’t say, ‘Wait, let me explain. This is what I meant to say.’ He didn’t compromise His position in any way.
“He just let them go. He even asked His twelve disciples, ‘How about you, do you want to go as well?’
“You see Sonia; Jesus forgave them and let them go. He didn’t curse them and send plagues and pestilence on them and their families for generations.”
She smiled again feeling a little calmer.
“He just forgave them and let them go. Which is what you should also do.” said Father Ignatius serenely.
He was an unlikely assistant basketball coach. To be sure. Wilbur “Shooter” Flatch was a savant when it came to the game of basketball. Shooter would even confidently quip, “I know everything there is to know about the greatest game ever invented.” And so it seemed. He knew the game of basketball, but he was an unlikely assistant basketball coach. That was because Shooter Flatch was an inveterate alcoholic – some would even deride him as “the town drunk”. But in small town Hickory, Indiana, a controversial coach with unorthodox methods saw something in Shooter – something that Shooter couldn’t even see in himself. This struggling drinker would help Coach Norman Dale coach basketball. But only if he stayed sober.
The Hickory team and its fans had to adapt to a new style in Coach Dale. Despite a rough start, the team developed a successful winning style with a bright postseason future anticipated, if only they could make it. And so it would come down to a pivotal last home game against rival Dugger. There was less than a minute remaining and the score was 58-58 when Coach Dale did the unthinkable. He stormed up to the referee after a particular call, dressed him up and down and then, in sidelong and secretive fashion, asked to be kicked out of the game. Mystified but recognizing that the coach must have his reasons, the ref assents. Coach Dale is tossed out of the game. Sheepishly, amidst a roar of supportive boos, Coach Dale walked back to his bench, leveled his eyes at Shooter and said,
“I’ve done it again…It’s up to you now.”
It was extraordinary. Coach Dale’s eyes widened and seemingly smiled at Shooter. And then Dale walked off the court. The game, the season and the future of the Hickory basketball team rested uncertainly in Shooter’s hands. If you have seen the 1986 movie, Hoosiers, then you don’t need me to explain what happens next. But I will.
He does... but he does more than that and it's in the more that makes a story already worthy all the more worthy.
“The religious problem is not whether religion shall be free from dogmas or not, because, by the mere fact that a man thinks, he creates dogmas. The real problem is which dogmas are we going to accept, those of hearsay, private wish, or the funded intelligence of an august line of philosophers, saints, and mystics. For the life of me, I cannot see why anyone should accept the authority of the book of Darwin, and not accept the authority of the Book of Isaias; nor how anyone can accept the authority of the latest psychological theory emanating from Vienna, and not accept the authority of twenty centuries of Christian tradition; nor how anyone can accept the authority of H.G Wells, and not accept the authority of Jesus Christ!” ~Archbishop Fulton Sheen (Moods and Truths)
Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as a bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine—dull dogma as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.
Now, we may call [Christian] doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, the words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyranny over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better Man that himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.
. . . . for the cry today is: “Away with the tedious complexities of dogma—let us have the simple spirit of worship; just worship, no matter of what!” The only drawback to this demand for a generalized and undirected worship is the practical difficulty of arousing any sort of enthusiasm for the worship of nothing in particular.
It would not perhaps be altogether surprising if, in this nominally Christian country [Britain], where the creeds are daily recited, that there were a number of people who knew all about Christian doctrine and disliked it. It is more startling to discover how many people there are who heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion of what it is. If you tell them, they cannot believe you. I do not mean that they cannot believe the doctrine; that would be understandable enough since it takes some believing. I mean that they simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting, and so dramatic can be the orthodox creed of the Church.
Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.
It is the dogma that is the drama—not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death—but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world, lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that man might be glad to believe.
You may hate me and hate my Christian values; you may despise the Church and all Her teachings; you may be certain that if only the old-fashioned notions of marriage and sex could be jettisoned, and if God could be adapted to your enlightened, modern sensibilities, then “equality” would win the day and everyone would be free and happy.
But I know you are wrong. I know it because nothing good can possibly come from eviscerating marriage of its meaning, or of distorting and twisting human sexuality into a pretzel of fabricated varieties and initials, or of wrenching innocence and modesty from our children in the name of sexual freedom and autonomy. Nothing good will ever, ever come of the brutality of abortion.
Love will never be found in the sexless manufacture of children, or the selfish denial of their right to their mother and father.
Love is “willing the good of the other, as other” the great saint Thomas Aquinas said. If I love you, I will want and do only what is for your good, even if it costs me. If you love me, you will do the same.
The signs all along the road our culture is currently speeding down do not point to love at all. They point to hedonism, nihilism, and despair. When sacrificial love is no longer the guiding principle, we are hopelessly lost.
The plans and vision you wish to bring about in our country are loveless, empty, and hopeless. You may very well be gaining ground, and you may win a few battles, thanks to decades of a lackluster witness and worse, friendly cooperation from Christians who should have known better, and should have done better.
Even so, the Church will survive you. She has watched as every major world empire has ended up on the ash heap of history. She will survive you. But not arrogantly, and not due to any cleverness or merit of Her own, but only because Jesus Christ has promised that the gates of Hell shall not prevail.
Some are saying I provoked this attack. But to kowtow to violent intimidation will only encourage more of it.
Sunday in Garland, Texas, a police officer was wounded in a battle that is part of a longstanding war: the war against the freedom of speech. Some people are blaming me for the Garland shooting — so I want to address that here.
The shooting happened at my American Freedom Defense Initiative Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, when two Islamic jihadists armed with rifles and explosives drove up to the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland and attempted to gain entry to our event, which was just ending. We were aware of the risk and spent thousands of dollars on security — and it paid off. The jihadis at our free speech event were not able to achieve their objective of replicating the massacre at the offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine last January — and to go it one better in carnage. They were not able to kill anyone. We provided enormous security, in concert with the superb Garland police department. The men who took the aspiring killers down may have saved hundreds of lives.
And make no mistake: If it weren’t for the free-speech conference, these jihadis would have struck somewhere else — a place where there was less security, like the Lindt cafe in Australia or the Hyper Cacher Kosher supermarket in Paris.
So, why are some people blaming me? They’re saying: “Well, she provoked them! She got what she deserved!” They don’t remember, or care to remember, that as the jihadis were killing the Muhammad cartoonists in Paris, their friend and accomplice was murdering Jews in a nearby kosher supermarket. Were the Jews asking for it? Did they “bait” the jihadis? Were they “provoking” them?
Are the Jews responsible for the Nazis? Are the Christians in the Middle East responsible for being persecuted by Muslims?
Drawing Muhammad offends Islamic jihadists? So does being Jewish. How much accommodation of any kind should we give to murderous savagery? To kowtow to violent intimidation will only encourage more of it.
1. Are you sure members of the Church hierarchy are worse than anyone else?
2. Are you sure your faith life would be better outside of the Church?
3. Are you sure the Church's teachings are wrong?
4. Are you sure the Church's doctrines aren't divinely inspired?
5. Are you sure we don't need the Church?
I particularly liked the answer to question number 2:
Keep in mind that leaving the Catholic Church means leaving the sacraments -- sacraments with real power, which are not available outside of the Church that Jesus founded. If it brings you joy to commune with Jesus spiritually, how much better is it to commune with him physically as well? And how lucky are we to have the sacrament of confession, where you can unload all your burdens, hear the words "you are forgiven," and receive special grace to help you to be the morally upright person you strive to be?
Now, those who are considering leaving the Church may struggle with believing in the supernatural power of the sacraments (in which case I'd recommend checking out these resources). But even if that's the case, within the two-thousand-year-old Church is an unfathomable treasure chest of spiritual wisdom. We have the Rosary as well as all the other time-tested prayers of the Church. Then there are the lives of the saints, countless stories that offer an inexhaustible supply of information and inspiration about how to have a rich spiritual life. And of course we have a worldwide network of monasteries and convents, and all the great religious orders. I suppose it's possible to utilize some of these spiritual resources without being a practicing Catholic, but if you believe that they're good and helpful, why sever them from the source of their wisdom?
I left the Church initially because I was young and stupid. I stayed away from the Church for 40 years because I believed too many lies about her and was too lazy to fact check any of those lies. I now regret the stupidity, the ignorance and the laziness.
Do yourself (and those you love frankly) a huge favor. Don't be stupid, ignorant and lazy. Start by reading Jennifer's entire piece, being sure to follow her links.
Sometime back a troubled Catholic asked me why the Church engaged in official persecution of the Jews. He noted there were official decrees of persecution from Church Councils (for instance, Lateran IV) and asked why, when Pope St. John Paul II apologized for such actions, he only referred to "Christians" who mistreated the Jews, when it was, he said, "the Church which officially engaged in a program of hate and persecution of the Jews." Naturally, this left him in considerable anguish of mind concerning the Church's claim to infallibility.
Perhaps the first thing to realize is that my correspondent misunderstood the Pope's distinction between the Church and her members. By "the Church" my friend meant "the hierarchy" and not "the body of Christ in union with the bishops and Pope in succession from the apostles". Given this false conception of the Church, he naturally began with a mistaken notion that the Pope was somehow exempting the hierarchy from the sin of Jewish persecution when he distinguished between the Church and "members of the Church".
In reality, however, when the Pope spoke of "members of the Church" committing sin, he is not exempting the hierarchy from responsibility for sin, for they are members (that is, body parts) of the Church too. The reason for the Pope's distinction between members of the Church and the Church is not that lay people are sinners and clergy aren't (a fact abundantly attested by the sexual abuse crisis) but that the Church--that is the Mystical Bride of Christ--is in some mysterious sense a full participant in the holiness of Christ and is truly without sin, yet the members of the Church--from Pope to dogcatcher--are still on pilgrimage to full participation in that mystical reality.
This is exactly the paradoxical picture presented by Scripture, where Paul castigates the squabbling and sinful Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11, yet concludes "But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God." Clearly, it is the New Testament, not John Paul II, that is the source of this curious distinction between the spotless Mystical Bride and the quite spotty members who belong to Her. That is why so much Catholic moral exhortation is, curiously, "Become what you are!" What makes the Church holy is not its highly spotty members, but the Holy Spirit, who is the soul of the Church.
The more I learn about the Catholic Church, the more sense the world seems to make. It's as if a multitude of opaque lens are being removed, one by one, and in that removal, things become clearer or minimally, better understood.
All infallibility means is that God won't let the Church define error as doctrine, not that the bishops and Pope are magically given an anti-stupid vaccine, nor that, in matters not having to do with doctrine (such as how to legislate civil arrangements in medieval communities) they will always do the right thing.
1935 The equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and the rights that flow from it:
Every form of social or cultural discrimination in fundamental personal rights on the grounds of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion must be curbed and eradicated as incompatible with God's design.40
The key for me is two-fold. Equality of men rests essentially on their dignity as persons and every form of social or cultural discrimination... must be curbed.