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Interested Parent sent me a question from her kids about my homily where I talked about the pedophile priest asking for forgiveness at the feet of Jesus.

The young folks picked up on a central theme of forgiveness when they asked about the 47 girls (now women) who were abused by this man. The kids wondered: if the idea is that the girls should want to forgive the priest?

As I reflected on this question the word that kept coming out was ‘WANT’.  At first I thought it might not be the best word for a question like this,  but I found the following definition of the difference between wants and needs – “Wants are often distinguished from needs. A need is something that is necessary for survival (such as food and shelter), whereas a want is simply something that a person would like to have”

I concluded that the word WANT is appropriate for this question.

When we are hurt by another, and the women in this story were deeply scared by the one they should have been able to trust, a priest, it would seem impossible to ‘want’ to forgive the one who has so grievously trespassed against them.

Having spent time with both victims and offenders I have come to understand, at least partially, the wisdom in Jesus’ teaching on forgiving others. Jesus knows that when we choose to hold onto the anger, and hate that follows an offense against us, we will remain stuck in a life consumed with bitterness which may well lead to a sense of hopeless.

Dr. David Stoop wrote a book called “Forgiving the Unforgivable.” In this book Dr. Stoop applies the principles of Christian forgiveness and details how forgiving is  a process much like grief. At some point in this process we will decide to forgive the other and commence re-living our lives, or we will choose to hang onto the hurt and remain crippled and debilitated.

I cannot  in a few words describe exactly why the girls of this story in Simcoe should WANT to forgive  other than to say that it is only through forgiveness that they will free themselves from this terrible event in their lives. Dr. Stoop talks at length in his book that we are not called to forgive and forget and that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different matters altogether.

In this case reconciliation between offender and victim(s) would not be helpful or even possible. Jesus is about reconciliation- we are about forgiveness. Reconciliation may be possible BUT it is not required nor is it always possible.The women will never be able to forget this event and act like it never happened. But they are free to choose to forgive the priest.

In the next post we will discuss the idea that if forgiveness is granted- especially if it is granted to quickly and easily will the offender simply feel free to go and sin again.

I have included a clip below from James E. Faust. I debated whether to include this for a couple of reasons. First Mr. Faust was a Mormon and some of my very Catholic readers will not be happy that I have chosen the words of a member of the Church of Later Day Saints to talk about this important subject. All I can do is ask for their forgiveness.

Second Mr. Faust is quite elderly when he gives this talk. His voice is weak and at times he begins to break down.

In the end, I chose to include it here as there is much wisdom in his message. He speaks to a real life instance of terrible harm followed by an act of almost unbelievable Christian forgiveness.

For any young people reading this  I realize Mr. Faust may seem to be an old, sentimental man, I believe  he died shortly after this talk, but stick with the video for the entire 7 minutes as there is much to learn from this short reflection from an elder.

One Response to “Should we want to forgive someone who has hurt us so badly?”

  1. Lynda says:

    Deacon Mike,
    Thanks for sharing this video with us. There is so much for us to learn from each other about how to live like Jesus. Lack of forgiveness mainly hurts the one who refuses to forgive. Forgiveness facilitates healing.
    God bless.