The Personalist Project

Earlier this month my wife Maria pointed out to me a very beautiful paragraph on forgiveness by Romano Guardini included in one of the daily readings (Meditation for Nov. 12) in the November issue of Magnificat.  Remembering that I had the book (The Lord) in the basement, I searched it out to read further—from Chapter XIII. 

After reviewing the relevant line of the text of the Our Father and some commentary on it in Matt. 6:14-15 (But if you do not forgive men, neither will your father forgive you your offenses), Matt. 18: 21-2 (Forgive 70 times 7 times) and Matt 18: 35 (the story of the king settling accounts with the heartless servant who was forgiven but would not forgive a lesser debt), he begins his analysis.

He points out that Christ himself, earlier in the same chapter of Matthew, discusses what is to be done with someone who refuses to see or to admit his wrongs. Guardini writes: 

It is up to you to straighten him out. If it is you he has injured, you must not simply ignore him in a mood of irritated moral superiority, but must go to him and do everything possible to make him understand and be willing to clear things up.  If you come to him condescendingly, or pedantically, or in the role of the ethically superior, he will only consider you presumptuous.  His opposition to your claims will entrench itself against the real injustice of your Pharasaic attitude, and the end will be worse than the beginning.  Therefore, if you wish to obey Christ, you must free yourself of all ‘righteous’ indignation. Only if you forgive entirely, can you contact the true self of the other, whom his own rebelliousness is holding back.  If you can reach this better self, you have a good chance of being heard, and of winning your brother.  This then is the great doctrine of forgiveness which Christ insists as one of the fundamentals of his message. 

Then he asks what must we overcome in ourselves to be capable of such genuine and complete forgiveness, and proceeds to analyze interior obstacles with a very profound grasp of human psychology.  In my reading of the chapter, he cites four “levels” of obstacles within us hindering our ability to forgive, in ascending order:

1) in the domain of the purely natural—and with parallels even on the animal level—the sentiment of having to do with an enemy, the sense of the something hostile making me vulnerable.  Guardini writes:

This is also true of fallen man, deeply enmeshed in the struggle for existence.  He who injures me or takes something valuable from me is my enemy, and all my reactions of distrust, fear, and repulsion rise up against him.  I try to protect myself from him, and am able to do this best by constantly reminding myself of his dangerousness, instinctively distrusting him, and being prepared at all times to strike back….

On this level, then, forgiveness would mean overcoming these sentiments: a) first by letting go of this response of natural animosity, despite the fact that it seems to be my only sure defense, and b) by overcoming my fear and risking defenselessness in the knowledge that the other cannot really damage my inner self—only I can do that. He acknowledges that it is self-evident that I still must protect myself from further damage from the offender on other levels, but I must find the courage to forgive—“a profound and weighty thing.”  But “its prerequisite is the courage that springs from a deep sense of intimate security,…for the genuine pardoner actually is stronger than the fear-ridden hater.”

2) On a slightly more ‘human’ level, he says, the next obstacle would be the desire for revenge, springing not from “mortal danger,” but from “the danger of loss of power or honor” following the other’s offense or damage to me, which seemed to show that he was stronger than I. The impulse to retaliate seeks to restore my self-respect “by humiliating my enemy. I would rise by the other’s fall.”  Therefore , to genuinely forgive him would mean to “renounce this satisfaction” and requires “a self-respect independent of the behavior of others….”

3) A third obstacle to forgiveness, now “one step closer to spiritual value,” is the desire for justice—the proper ordering of human relations:

When someone does me an injustice, he disturbs that order there where it most vitally affects me, in myself.  This is what arouses me…. [T]he just order is primarily protective.

Here, he says, forgiveness would mean a) first, renouncing the right to administer justice oneself, leaving it to the proper authorities or to providence—i.e., ultimately to God—and this is “the beginning of self-purification;” and b) secondly, going all the way to real pardon, which is “relinquishment of the wish to see punishment meted out at all.” In this second step, he says,

one enters upon the open country of freedom. There too order [i.e., justice] exists, but of a different kind. It is not the result of weights and measures but of creative self-conquest [and] magnanimity…. Forgiveness reestablishes order by acquitting the offender and thereby placing him in a new and higher order of justice.

Then he gets to the heart of the matter—and takes it very seriously, not sliding over it or taking it for granted in a superficial way:

But why should we act thus? The question really deserves to be posed.  Why forgive?  Why not simply reestablish justice?  Wouldn’t it be better?  One answer is: forgiveness is more human.  He who insists on his rights places himself outside the community of men.  He would judge of men rather than be one of them, sharer of the common fate.  It is better to remain within the circle of humanity and broaden heart and mind.  Prerequisite is an innate altruism….

4) However, here we meet with a fourth obstacle, i.e., false modes of altruism or “charity”—yielding thereby false modes of forgiveness, i.e., sham forgiveness.  He says that if we know people who proclaim or attempt such idealistic behavior “we also know how often it is accompanied by negative characteristics, by weakness, lack of dignity, indiscriminate negligence, disregard for truth and justice, even sudden outbursts of cruelty and vengefulness….”  

Yet, despite all this, despite all the obstacles and false highways and byways, we are still called to true charity, true mercy, and true forgiveness and must not let ourselves be turned away by these false modes.  “Only forgiveness frees us from the injustice of others.”  Guardini concludes:

“[God’s] pardon is pure grace, which is not founded on our worthiness, but creates it. A priori, however, is the opening of the heart for divine magnanimity: our readiness to forgive “our debtors.” If we close it instead, we shut God’s forgiveness out.

Briefly, forgiveness is a part of something much greater than itself: love.  We should forgive, because we should love.  That is why forgiveness is so free; it springs from the joint accomplishment of human and divine pardon.  Like him who loves his enemies, the pardoner resembles the Father….

Pardon reestablishes Christian fraternity and the sacred unity of the I-you-he (God).  He who reasons from this height considers his neighbor’s welfare precious,…and just as God longs to win the lost one back…, the Christian longs to help his brother to return to the community of sacred life.

Christ is forgiveness incarnate. We search in vain for the slightest trace of any reaction of his incompatible with pardon.

And now we touch bottom: God’s forgiveness did not occur as a mere pardon, but came as a result of Christ’s expiation.  He did not cancel man’s sin but reestablished genuine justice.  He did not simply tear up man’s frightful debt, but repaid it—with his own sweat and blood and tears…. [This is] the foundation of our whole Christian existence…. We cannot enjoy the fruits of salvation without contributing to salvation through love of neighbor.  And such love must become pardon when that neighbor trespasses against us, as we constantly trespass against God.

But this means, if we go back to the beginning and re-read the first quote from Guardini above, that the offended one must even reach out to the offender, “not ignore him” but take the initiative and “must go to him and do everything possible to make him understand and be willing to clear things up.”



Comments (30)

Katie van Schaijik

#1, Dec 7, 2012 9:28am

Thank you for this great post, Michael.  I endorse all of it with all my heart.  

His "obstacle number 4", in particular, gets at what I have tried to express in my earlier posts about "unprincipled forgiveness".

So does the earlier part you cite:

If it is you he has injured, you must not simply ignore him...but must go to him and do everything possible to make him understand and be willing to clear things up. 

The false notion of forgiveness that I oppose (and that, in my experience, is very widespread among Christians today) drops the need for the wrong-doer to see and acknowledge what he's done, whereas true forgiveness insists on this for two reasons:

1) Concern for the objective good of the other

2) Desire to restore good relations with him

The false theory of forgiveness treats the insistence on truth itself as self-righteous and vengeful.  It treats the call for repentence on the part of the wrong-doer as itself unchristian.

Katie van Schaijik

#2, Dec 7, 2012 9:36am

I would only make one qualification to Guardini's third obstacle to forgiveness, namely, "the desire for justice".  Here he is plainly referring to justice in a reductive sense (a la the Hatfields and McCoys), not in the full Christian sense, which he refers to later as "a new and higher order of justice."

Justice in that fuller sense is something we must, as Christiansdesire and strive for.  It's not an obstacle to, but a condition for reconciliation.

Justice in that fuller sense entails, as Guardini indicates here throughout, and as I have often tried to stress (though without his eloquence), above all, truth.

Again, in my experience, many Christians act in theory and practice as if the sacrifice of Jesus means the need for justice has been done away with.  They illegitimately impute a reductive understanding of justice (i.e. revenge and punishment) to the one calling for justice, when, in fact, he may have in mind the much deeper and truer sense.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Dec 7, 2012 10:06am

Another point I like, which he implies without elaborating, and which is typically also disastrously overlooked among those who preach and practice "unprincipled forgiveness" is the role of time.

Clearly, in cases of deep and seriousness injuries, and especially in cases where the wrong-doer not only refuses to acknowledge his wrong, but extends and magnifies it by denial, dishonesty, blaming the one he injured, and self-pity, (think of the Legion leadership!) the work of authentic forgiveness is not "an act of the will" simply understood, but a difficult moral task, requiring time and patient application of effort, as well as divine grace.  It is not helped, but hindered, by well-meaning, ill-advised "friends" (like Job's) who stand on the sidelines confidently assuming that they know what's going on and preaching that all that's needed here is "an act of the will".  Lots and lots of us do this.  Alas!

The unrepentant wrong-doer, too, often needs time and space (and more painful encounters with reality) before he's ready to come to terms with the truth about himself.  The effort to "make him understand" (at least by direct address) may have to be suspended, and shifted to silence, prayer and sacrifice.

Michael Healy

#4, Dec 8, 2012 11:08pm

I too thought this article was very comprehensive, including almost all the points we made back and forth in previous discussions--but he puts them into a unity rather than a dissonance. 

We still have our different emphases, but mostly agreement.

I don't think that his third point on justice implies the Hatfields and McCoys, however.  That belongs more to his point two, I believe, having to do with "an eye for an eye" and possible revenge motives (reductionistic justice as your describe).

But I think he offers two stages to point three: 1) a real concern for "the proper ordering of human relations" as a proper goal, and then 2) a higher order of justice having to do with free pardon, not as an overlooking of the injustice, but in light of Christ's repayment--thus a justice spilling over into mercy.  Then, on into point four, the requirement for real love, mercy, and forgiveness, despite all the faulty paradigms that may tempt or distract us, and the call to reach out to the other in love of neighbor in Christ.

Michael Healy

#5, Dec 9, 2012 2:40am

I also thought that your final point about time, extrapolating from Guardini, was very well taken.  Given the real human situation, both sides will often need time to work through serious hurts, offenses, misunderstandings, etc. Ideally, we might wish it otherwise, but great things take time and, as Guardini says, to forgive is "a profound and weighty thing."  If those not immediately involved are pushing for quick resolution in a difficult situation, this is what will sometimes give the impression of superficiality and lack of attention to truth.  Those same people, I wager, would probably never suggest, for example, rushing into marriage--another profound and weighty thing.

Still, the problem with time is twofold (at least!):  (1) it is rapidly slipping away from us and (2) we don't know how much of it we have left.  So, tempus fugit (the first latin words I ever translated as a high school freshman) and "Death comes as a thief in the night."  So, again, while not knuckling under to superficial pressures, there are nonetheless deeper reasons and deeper pressures on us to settle our accounts, including for the offended one, as Guardini says, to reach out in love to the offender--while there is still time.

Michael Healy

#6, Dec 9, 2012 9:18am

When I was five, I lost my mom right before my eyes to a heart attack one saturday morning while watching cartoons.  My sister and I used to argue about exactly which chair she was sitting in (silliness), but we were both there.  Perhaps this sensitized me to loss and time and the fragility of life early on, because it reminds me of an incident three years later and the thoughts that moved me, which I don't think are the "normal" thoughts of an eight year old.

My dad had done something that I considered a horrendous offense and I was very hurt and standoffish.  (I think it was the time he was popping his pants to get the wrinkles out before hanging them up and he caught the wing of my rare and prized model airplane of a Russian bomber and broke it irrecovably.)  In any case, whatever it was, I "swore"--quote marks because my vocab as an 8 year old was very limited--I'd never forgive him.  The destruction of my prized artwork, the pain, the insult was all just too great.  I kept this up for several days--wouldn't hardly speak to him or say goodnight or hug him.

Michael Healy

#7, Dec 9, 2012 9:27am

Then that weekend he had to leave on a trip--only a weekend, I think, for college classes up at the University of Alabama a couple of hours north in Birmingham.  He came into my room that Friday night to again say he was sorry and to give me a hug and a kiss goodnight--I was already in my pajamas and in bed.  I again refused further contact.  He finally had to leave.

But when I heard the car start (an old '49 Ford) and back out of the driveway, the thought suddenly hit me: "What if your Dad dies this weekend?  What if you never see him again? Do you want to leave it like this?"  As I say, I don't think such thoughts are common in an eight year old boy, but I remembered my mom.

So, I leapt out of bed, ran out the door, and hauled down the dark street (barefoot and in PJ's) chasing the car and yelling "Dad! Dad!"  Fortunately, he must have heard me or noticed me in his rear view mirror and stopped. I was so happy to throw open the passenger door and sprawl across the seat to give him a hug.

Michael Healy

#8, Dec 9, 2012 9:38am

Through my tears, I told him I loved him and forgave him and didn't want him to leave without knowing it.  Granted this was all my childish pique, I really didn't want him driving away separated from me.  I've always been so glad that I caught him that night.  I'd have to say it was one of the happiest moments of my life.

In point of fact, of course, he didn't die that weekend--and I could have still forgiven him on Monday. He didn't die until fourteen years later.  But the problem is, you never know....  How much time does he have? And how much time do you have?

"Let not the sun go down on your anger." (Eph. 4:6)

Katie van Schaijik

#9, Dec 10, 2012 10:57am

I didn't know you lost your mother when you were five!  How very sad!

That story you tell of forgiving your father is sweet and touching.

It doesn't, though, quite get at the problem I meant to uncover in my original and subsequent posts on the subject, for several reasons,

1. The offense was accidental, and "contained" (i.e., not magnified and extended by ongoing wrongs).

2. Your father had apologized sincerely.

3. There was no denial, and no "blaming the victim", as in the case, say, of Maciel's accusers.

In this case, the only "issue", i.e. the only thing standing between you and your father and reconciliation was your resentment against him.  The only moral task at hand was yours.  

I don't mean to downplay it.  It's a real task, not easy to achieve.  But it's an unproblematic case from the point of view of the popular Christian understanding of forgiveness.

Katie van Schaijik

#10, Dec 10, 2012 11:09am

If this scenario were to be set up as the basic pattern for all "forgiveness issues," it would incline in the direction of "unprincipled forgiveness."  (I don't mean to suggest you are doing that, but that this is what I frequently find in the "unprincipled forgiveness" crowd, viz., an implicit assumption that cases of estrangement all boil down to an "unforgiveness problem" on the part of the one injured.)

In this case, the burden of reconciliation was entirely on you. But it is not always so.  

Take, again, the original group of Maciel's accusers.  They were estranged from the Legion for decades.  Why?  Was it a problem of bitterness and unforgiveness on their part?  Certainly the Legion considered it so.  Maciel gave out to the world the idea that he loved them as sons and regretted painfully their bitterness and estrangement.  He prayed for them. So did many loyal Legionaires and friends of the Legion.

All those people (I was one of them) were wrong.  And they were adding to the original crimes against those men a new kind of abuse.  The abuse of being falsely blamed for "hating the Church" and "attacking a work of God" and being "bitter."

Katie van Schaijik

#11, Dec 10, 2012 11:21am

Men in their position need (I imagine) heroic love and faith on a daily basis not become lost in hatred and bitterness.  

They need enormous courage just to stand against the lies being told and believed about them.

Reconciling with the Legion, while the Legion was still lying and covering up, is, to my way of seeing things, no part of their moral task.  

Their moral task (which may take a life time) is to rid themselves of all desire for revenge and all bitterness, to achieve an interior forgiveness and a genuine desire for the good even of their abusers.  And to believe the truth (not the lies) about themselves.

No one around them should be pressuring them to drop their charges or to reconcile with the Legion, as if they were in the position you were in vis a vis your father as a boy.

That's what the preachers and practitioners of "unprincipled forgiveness" do.  They say, in effect, it doesn't matter what happened.  It doesn't matter who was at fault.  It doesn't matter whether the wrong has been acknowledged or not, "you have to forgive."  By which they mean: "Drop your charges and move on."

Michael Healy

#12, Dec 10, 2012 3:29pm

The example from my childhood is certainly more straightforward and one-sided--and without all the evil--vis-a-vis the Legionnaires' cases.  

However, looking deeper, though my dad said he was sorry, I obviously did not think this was enough until I thought about things from the perspective of impending death.  Until then, I rather thought he was taking the destruction of my prized plane rather too lightly.  He was "sorry" but he also thought I was overdoing it in my response and and thus it was an occasion for me to learn a bit about life and work through my own resentments and misfortune. This of course increased my resentments (as an 8 year old).  But when I thought about him dying without me re-establishing love and unity, I had to swallow my resentment and anger, and humbly run down the street--even though he was the "evil-doer" in my original scenario.

Furthermore, in my heart, though I didn't want to admit it, the misfortune was partly my fault.  I had left the plane on the dresser with one long wing sticking out vulnerably. But it was more convenient to put all the blame on my dad's inattention and not look at myself.

Michael Healy

#13, Dec 10, 2012 3:43pm

Moreover, my points about time remain.  Not only Maciel and his 'excusers', but also those who were sinned against, have only so much time to come to terms with the events (and people) in their lives.  

If we are to be exemplars and re-establishers of love--without which we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals--then as Guardini says we must reach out to those who have offended us in order to try to settle the matter, i.e., reestablish love, even if it means pardon and mercy.  If at first there is still only imperfect knowledge or imperfect repentance in the other for the crime, that cannot be a reason not to begin. (Notice I say "begin"--not implying some quick, superficial "resolution.") Guardini says, "If it is you he has injured, you must not simply ignore him...but must go to him and do everything possible...."  And the point is we don't have all the time in the world.  The days, months, and years are rapidly slipping away and death may come at any moment.  Today may be the last day possible for love.

Personally, I'm very glad I told my dad I loved him on Friday and didn't wait 'till Monday.

Katie van Schaijik

#14, Dec 10, 2012 5:30pm

Michael Healy, Dec. 10 at 4:43pm

If we are to be exemplars and re-establishers of love--without which we are noisy gongs and clanging cymbals--then as Guardini says we must reach out to those who have offended us in order to try to settle the matter, i.e., reestablish love, even if it means pardon and mercy. 

Is this really what you would say to Maciel's accusers (especially before the truth about him was publicly known and acknowleged by the Legion)?  If they were friends of yours, would you be pressuring them to reach out to Maciel?

Would you be urging them to recognize where they, too, were likely partly to blame for the problem?  Would you press on their attention all the good Maciel had done them and the Church?  Would you show no interest in trying to help them get justice—e.g., in making the truth about what had happened to them known?

If you would, then I would put you in the "unprincipled forgiveness" camp. 

Many of the victims of clerical abuse say that this kind of response from people they tried to tell their story to was almost the worst part of their ordeal.  

Michael Healy

#15, Dec 10, 2012 8:22pm

Methinks you've read quite a bit into my musings!  But we've been on this merry-go-round before (of back and forth about heroic love and forgiveness vs. sham love and forgiveness), so rather than leap down that path again, let's just end early this time--where we've ended up before in any case--with "Let's pray for one another."

Michael Healy

#16, Dec 11, 2012 1:14am

P.S. I'm afraid you told a fib in the opening lines of your first comment when you said of this post on Guardini, "I endorse it with all my heart."  It's Guardini who is saying that the offended one himself must reach out to the offender.  I take it he means there's a genuine way to do this (even if heroic and requiring supernatural grace), not just a false way (he speaks of the many false ways too).  

Katie van Schaijik

#17, Dec 11, 2012 9:03am

Ack!  Lost what I had written here somehow.  Shall try again below.

Katie van Schaijik

#18, Dec 11, 2012 9:18am

Michael Healy, Dec. 11 at 2:14am

P.S. I'm afraid you told a fib in the opening lines of your first comment when you said of this post on Guardini, "I endorse it with all my heart." 

I endorse what he said with all my heart. It's wrong for you to accuse me of "fibbing".  You do this a lot.  I mean, you turn a philosophical discussion into an occasion for raising questions about my moral character. I wish you'd quit that.

It's Guardini who is saying that the offended one himself must reach out to the offender. 

I agree with him.  

What I disagree with is a theory of forgiveness that treats all cases as if they fit the pattern of the story of you and your father. 

Another thing I've noticed about the "unprincipled forgiveness crowd": 

They assume that if there is an estrangement, it means the offended party has failed to reach out, as if there is no other possible explanation.  And/or they assume that if the offended party isn't reaching out (to their satisfaction), it must be because they are unforgiving. 

Again all the onus for reconciliation is on the one offended.  

Katie van Schaijik

#19, Dec 11, 2012 9:36am

Michael Healy, Dec. 10 at 9:22pm

Methinks you've read quite a bit into my musings! 

Michael, I read nothing into your musing by asking questions.

You told the story of you and your father.  I said it's a great story, but one that doesn't touch the problem of "unprincipled forgiveness", because it's a straightforward case.  No serious Christian would say anything else than that it was a case of your needing to find it in you to forgive.

Unprincipled forgiveness would only come into the picture if that story were set up as the pattern for all cases of estrangement between persons—viz. as if they all boil down to "failure to forgive."

I raised the case of Maciel's accusers as one that doesn't fit that pattern.  The failure there was Maciel's and the Legion's, not theirs.  You reverted to the case of you and your father.

I asked those questions not to suggest that you believe that way, but to highlight how radically unfitting it would be to approach victims like Maciel's with the moral urgings appropriate in the case of you and your father.

Patrick Dunn

#20, Dec 11, 2012 11:02am

Does Jesus telling Peter the number of "times" he must forgive have any bearing on this debate, in either of your opinions?

Katie van Schaijik

#21, Dec 11, 2012 12:20pm

Patrick Dunn, Dec. 11 at 12:02pm

Does Jesus telling Peter the number of "times" he must forgive have any bearing on this debate, in either of your opinions?

 It does only in the sense that the preachers and practioners of "unprincipled forgiveness" frequently urge it on the attention of their interlocutors, as if anyone who resists their view (not Jesus's words!) must be refusing to forgive, or holding that there is a limit to the need to forgive.

It doesn't matter how often someone who sees things as I do repeats that she agrees that forgiveness is always a demand of Christian life, regardless of how often or how grievously we are offended, and regardless of whether or not our offender repents.  She will still be suspected of harboring unforgiveness and of denying the words of Our Lord.

I don't know of a single serious Christian who disputes Jesus' words.  Do you?  I don't think I've ever come across someone earnestly striving for holiness who would say, "Well, having forgiven seven times, I've done all that can be asked."

Michael Healy

#22, Dec 11, 2012 1:27pm

In point of fact, all the questions you raise in Comment #14 must be faced, even by Maciel’s victims, if they are ever to find inner peace.  Thus while it may be superficial and out of place for outsiders to press such points—especially too early on, giving the impression of trying to quickly sweep things under the rug—the victims must eventually face these questions in their own lives, in the silence of their hearts before God.  Let’s look at the questions. 

1) First, of course, if you really love someone, even if they have hurt you terribly, you will want to reach out to them—not in order to skip lightly over their evil, but to save them from it.  This is love.  It longs for the reestablishment of the true self of the other and of true communion—and is willing to work toward this end by reaching out. So Guardini says, “You must not simply ignore him.”  This is the fundamental obligation of Christian love of neighbor, exemplified heroically time and again in the lives of the saints patterned after Christ. This is real.  It is not some misleading idealistic imagination.


Michael Healy

#23, Dec 11, 2012 1:28pm

However, this is not to discount or downplay or deny the evil. This is the task of love which we all, even victims, are called to.  It is the universal and absolute call.

2) Further, in situations we’ve been involved in, of course we have to ask ourselves whether and how much we contributed to the problem.  This is not just neurotic "stewing" around with false self-blame (although it can degenerate into that), but honest self-evaluation.  Once again, outsiders can't force such thoughts on a victim without seeming artificial and unjust, but those involved, eventually in their own lives (perhaps with the help of counseling), have to come to terms themselves with just such considerations if they are really to settle the matter inside.

Michael Healy

#24, Dec 11, 2012 1:29pm

3) As to whether the other has done any other good in his life, or whether he is just to be identified with the evil he has done you, I think the answer is obvious.  If we love him, we remain in solidarity with the other while rejecting his evil; we certainly try to keep in mind whatever good may be in him, whatever good he might have done in his life, as a way of keeping in contact with the true person, not the evil caricature he’s made of himself and revealed in his sin against us.  This remembrance of the good is not an excuse to overlook the evil—that’s never the case with the true lover.  As C.S. Lewis says the true lover is more sensitive than the man of hate to faults in the beloved.  But the lover never identifies the beloved with his faults and the true lover never stops loving.

Michael Healy

#25, Dec 11, 2012 1:29pm

4) Certainly, those victimized by evil need help and support in getting justice and getting the truth out so that the evil can be stopped.  This is an obligation in love as well.  I’ve never said anything against it.  We must have the courage to stand up against evil and stop it’s infestation and spreading.  Pardon as a higher form of justice (Guardini point #3, my comment #4), and mercy as an imitation of divine love (Guardini point #4), have nothing to do with denying justice.  But pardon and mercy are part of our call to love.

These are the questions you challenged me with.  I think they have to be faced. But, if even Maciel’s victims do have to face these questions, then certainly so do the rest of us.  The Maciel situation cannot be used as a smoke screen to avoid facing situations in our own lives which are much more ambiguous.

Michael Healy

#26, Dec 11, 2012 1:30pm

No, I don’t think you’ve accepted Guardini with your whole heart—and it’s quite legitimate to point that out when you’ve made the claim.  This is not impugning your moral character but pointing out a contradiction—and let’s not get hung up on the colloquial use of the word “fib.”  I was not calling you a liar, but pointing out that in my opinion you missed something in Guardini—indeed, the most important thing—and still don’t seem to realize it.

Yet, you have the answer in your own words.  Your excellent conclusion at the end of your post—which I thought was a great post--on Good and Evil in the Human Heart is apropos here:

It's not enough to have ideas and talk about them. One must do. And in doing, the truth outs—the truth of oneself and one's thoughts is tested and proved. Also the truth of one's companions is revealed. Humanity emerges. Illusions are dispelled. Divisions are exposed. Bonds are established. Things get sifted.

I'm hoping that by getting to know each other in actual service…, we'll find our way to truth together. In any case, I mean to try. I'm sick of just having thoughts.

Michael Healy

#27, Dec 11, 2012 1:31pm

And I think both of us are sick of arguing about forgiveness.  Nothing more will be accomplished without action, without reaching out and doing, testing the truth of oneself and one’s thoughts and the truth of one’s companions.  Then perhaps the truth will come out, things will get sifted, humanity will re-emerge, illusions will be dispelled, divisions exposed, and finally bonds re-established.  So, follow your own very wise and impressive advice and reach out and touch someone.

Katie van Schaijik

#28, Dec 11, 2012 5:24pm

Michael, if you are sick of arguing about forgiveness, you shouldn't keep publicly challenging my views, while you persist in misunderstanding and miscontruing them.

You shouldn't accuse me of contradiction and not really holding what I say I hold.  Nothing in what I have written justifies the charge.  

From the beginning, I have challenged not the true Christian view of forgiveness, but a false account of forgiveness and reconciliation (very common among Christians today), that neglects justice (i.e. truth) and illegitimately places all the onus of reconciliation on the one wronged—as if all cases of estrangement between persons boil down to cases of unforgiveness.  They don't.  We should have the humility and generosity of spirit to recognize that.

You respond as if I am denying the necessity of the interior act of forgiveness (even absent repentence), when I have repeatedly affirmed it.  

I deny that we can assume that, if there is an estrangement (as between the Legion and Maciel's victims), it's because the victims must be harboring bitterness and have failed to reach out, and you accuse me of fibbing because I agreed with Guardini on the need to reach out.


Katie van Schaijik

#29, Dec 11, 2012 5:49pm

All those decades that Maciel was lying and the Legion covering up, those men had forgiveness preached by many in the wider Church. (Anyone who sympathized was likewise preached to.)  It was taken for granted that they were motivated by bitterness and hatred of the Church. 

This was wrong.  It was unjust.  It added to their suffering and to the difficulty of the already Herculean moral task facing them.

It was wrong not because they didn't need to forgive.  It was wrong because it took for granted that they were lying.  It took for granted that they were bitter.  It took for granted that they had not forgiven.  It took for granted that they had not reached out. 

They were denied the justice that (besides being called for) may have been crucial to their healing.  They were further victimized by that denial. 

For all we know, they may have achieved heights of interior forgiveness and completeness of surrender to God that we can hardly dream of.  They may have been, day by day, conscientiously doing exactly what God wanted of them.

In any case, the fact that they were estranged from the Legion is no warrant for assuming otherwise.

Michael Healy

#30, Dec 11, 2012 8:08pm

"Sheesh!" really sums it up very well.  My sentiments exactly.  At least we end in agreement!

Sign in to add a comment, or register first.

Forgot your password?