I think this CNA story offers an opportunity to think about how to apply the principles Katie is articulating.
Arturo Martinez-Sanchez says he had no choice but to forgive the man suspected of sexually assaulting and killing his wife and young daughter in an April 2012 attack that also left him seriously wounded.
“I have to forgive him, to go the way of life,” the Las Vegas resident told CNA in a July 17 interview. “It's in the Bible … I forgive him because I believe in God.”
“The Bible says: You forgive this gentleman, and you are forgiven yourself. That's the way it is,” said Martinez-Sanchez, a lifelong Catholic who said his upbringing and education in the Church impressed on him the need to forgive Bryan Clay.
Martinez-Sanchez recently held a press conference to declare that he forgave the 22-year-old Clay, who is accused of raping Arturo's 38-year-old wife Yadira and their 10-year-old daughter Karla. Both were beaten to death with a hammer by the attacker, who also inflicted severe head injuries on the father"
“I would say, 'I forgive you,'” he responded. “If he kissed me on the cheek, I would kiss him back.”
“I love my Yadira. I love my Karla. I love my sons,” Martinez-Sanchez said at the press conference. “We all love Jesus. Through his strength, we will survive.”
If Clay is found guilty, Martinez-Sanchez expects him to be punished appropriately, with the death penalty if necessary. But this decision, he said, is not his to make.
“My command,” he maintained, is simply “to forgive him.” That responsibility was “something between me and God,” with “nobody else involved.”
After Bryan Clay was arrested, the murder suspect reportedly told police he wished they had simply killed him rather than apprehending him. Martinez-Sanchez says he has prayed for Clay to be able “to know God” and receive the mercy available to all who sincerely repent.
No one, he stressed, is without sin in the eyes of God. And no one, according to Christ himself, will receive his mercy unless they show mercy to others.
“As a believer in Christ, I know that God forgives all the sins of those who have faith in him,” Martinez-Sanchez said in his July 12 “Forgiveness Statement.”
“In this, I am instructed to forgive first. Knowing that God will forgive even murders if there is true repentance, Bryan Clay will stand in judgment before Him.”
His choice to regard Clay with love does not take away his pain, nor does it absolve the suspected killer of his responsibilities before the law and before God.
But for a victim of injustice, “forgiveness is not a choice that God leaves to us,” Martinez-Sanchez said in his July 12 statement. “It is a commandment.
Is Martinez-Sanchez guily of unprincipled forgiveness or an exemplary Christian?
I haven't read all the posts carefully but these seem key questions to me:
1) Whose job is it to see that justice is done? Perhaps not the victim's, at least not solely. Martinez-Sanchez is leaving it to the state and to the Lord. "Vengenance is mine, says the Lord." I am not suggesting that one should not try to get just recompense for harms done to one but sometimes that effort should be let go for other goods.
2) Whose job is it to attempt to convert the sinner? Perhaps the victim has more of a responsibility here, to show God's mercy. Martinez-Sanchez would kiss the killer and is praying for him. Certainly every victim should pray for those who harm him. I think the kiss would help convert the sinner.
3. Another question: Would the kiss signal reconciliation? I think it might. They had no relationship to begin with but have one now. I think reconciliation doesn't have to mean one is forever more obliged to treat those who have harmed one as welcome guests to one's table. But I would think it would mean an attempt to restore friendly relationships to some extent. All sorts of factors would need to be taken into account, especially for harms arising from a family setting. Parents, for instance, are always to be honored and have given us great gifts even when they have done us great harm.
I know a woman who nursed her ex-husband struggling with cancer not because she felt she owed it to him but because he is the father of her children and it was important to them that he be well cared for. I don't use that as an example of forgiveness so much but as reconciliation perhaps even when forgiveness has not happened.
Certainly question of forgiveness and reconciliation in a familial situation are radically different from and much more complicated than questions of forgiveness and reconciliation with complete strangers. But if we can forgive complete strangers who have never benefitted us, how much more might we owe forgiveness to those who have benefitted us?