Analysis by Oswald Sobrino, J.D., M.A., who has published in New Blackfriars (U.K.), Homiletic & Pastoral Review, The Catholic Answer, New Oxford Review, CatholicExchange.com, and the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. He is a lay graduate student at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, Detroit. © 2002-06 Oswald Sobrino.
"There is much in Christianity which can be subjected to exact analysis. But the ultimate things are shrouded in the silent mysteries of God." --Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-1988)
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Saturday, February 28, 2004Next Update: Monday, Mar. 1, 2004
Jesus is the Bridegroom
For years, if not decades, modern Christians have been exposed to the writings of those who claim that Jesus did not view himself as divine or that the early Christians came to believe in Christ's divinity only at a very late stage. Some scholars, such as Earl Muller, S.J., of Detroit's Sacred Heart Major Seminary, have done exciting work in the area of Christology, work which, in my opinion, serves to correct the historical critical work of other scholars that seeks to reduce Jesus to a mere teacher, prophet, or just an extraordinarily virtuous man. The title of Bridegroom figures prominently in that corrective work. Without getting into the intricacies of biblical exegesis, it is worth taking a look again at a prominent way in which Jesus chooses to identify himself in the Gospels: as the Bridegroom.
In the Old Testament, the appellation Bridegroom is reserved for God Himself as the only legitimate spouse of Israel. In Isaiah 62:5, God is the bridegroom of Zion and Jerusalem promising that "as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you" (all Scripture excerpts are from the Revised Standard Version or RSV). In Jeremiah, the image of the bridegroom is again used to refer to joy and gladness, the joy that God will restore to a wasted Judah and Jerusalem (Jer. 7:34; 16:9; 25:10; 33:11). The joy of the bridegroom is also referred to in Baruch 2:23.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is presented as the Spouse of Israel so that Israel's betrayals are viewed as acts of adultery. Many of the relevant biblical citations can be found in the book Bible Themes by Thierry Maertens, O.S.B. (Bruges, Belgium: Biblica 1964), pp. 59-60. I will quote only some of the most prominent ones. Of course, the prophet Hosea comes to mind immediately for he acted out the role of the betrayed spouse or bridegroom in his own life. In Hosea 2:16, God proclaims Himself the husband of Israel: "And in that day, says the Lord, you will call me, 'My husband,' and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal.' " Jeremiah chapters 2 and 3 also take up the theme of Israel the bride of the Lord betraying the Lord in harlotry. Chapter 16 of Ezekiel gives a lengthy development of the same theme. In Ezekiel 16:8, the Lord God is the one who says "I plighted my troth to you and entered into a covenant with you . . . ." The theme continues fiercely and vehemently in Ezekiel chapter 23.
In Isaiah 54:5, the Lord says to Zion "your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer." The mercy of God is presented as a husband taking back a cast off wife (Is. 54:6-8).
The Old Testament message is clear: the Lord God who judges and redeems Israel is the Husband and Bridegroom of Israel.
In the Gospels, Jesus appropriates that role to himself and thus clearly identifies himself as God. The identification is most prominent in Matthew, especially when Jesus responds to the Pharisees' questioning why the disciples of Jesus do not fast. Jesus replies: "Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?" (Mt. 9:15). In the Gospel of John, John the Baptist explicitly calls Jesus the bridegroom who must increase while John decreases (Jn 3:25-30).
Probably the most famous Pauline affirmation of Christ as the Bridegroom is in Ephesians: "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior" (Eph. 5:23). There are many other relevant citations, but enough has been quoted to show that in the Old Testament the Lord God was the Bridegroom and Husband of Israel and in the New Testament Jesus is the Bridegroom and Husband of the New Israel. The Jewish leaders in the Jerusalem of Jesus' time appreciated Jesus' claim to divinity and most found it to be blasphemous. The rest is history as is now being portrayed in movie theaters across the land.
Yet, other implications follow. As Muller has noted, the image of the Bridegroom means that the maleness of Jesus must play an important role in Christian theology and makes it more difficult to argue for the ordination of women. To return to the biblical texts themselves without modern secular presuppositions offers a feast of renewal for theology, much like a joyous wedding feast.
Friday, February 27, 2004The Scandal: Primarily Homosexual, Not Pedophile
The report released today on the sexual abuse scandal confirms earlier reporting that the scandal is primarily a homosexual scandal involving post-pubescent adolescents and not a pedophile scandal. Here is the Catholic News Service story on the report detailing the statistical findings. Here are some excerpts:
Source: "Four percent of priests serving over last 50 years accused of abuse," by Agostino Bono, Catholic News Service, Feb. 27, 2004.
Catholic World News reports that most of the allegations were against priests ordained in the sixties and seventies and also notes that 10% of those ordained in 1970 were targets of abuse allegations (see 6th paragraph of CWN story). The time frame obviously coincides with the rise of dissent in the U.S. Catholic Church and the collapse of orthodox catechesis. Here are the links to the primary sources, the two reports just released on the scandal: Catholic Review Board report on causes of scandal and John Jay College of Criminal Justice-CUNY statistical report.
Update: This headline from the Washington Times says it all: "Gay priests cited in abuse of boys." The Washington Post also confirms the link to the dissent-ridden seventies with this headline: "Report Says Epidemic In Church Peaked in '70s." When both the conservative Washington Times and the liberal Washington Post confirm the conservative Catholic perspective on the scandal, you know the evidence speaks for itself.
The Second Civil War
There is little doubt that the nation is today facing a crucial period of struggle over its self-identity. The first Civil War (1861-65) was about whether the United States was an indissoluble union of one people or a confederation of states that could secede at will. (In my view, the civil rights struggle of the sixties was the final conclusion of the Reconstruction period following the first civil war.) Today's Civil War is fortunately non-violent and purely cultural (although who knows what the future may hold as divisions deepen and leftist demands become more radicalized and intrusive). But it is a civil war nonetheless in which the nation will struggle mightily over whether our society is built on unchangeable moral principles and institutions of the natural law or whether all social institutions are revisable by a court or legislative body.
The gay marriage debate is the opening salvo of this new civil war. It is the Fort Sumter of the new civil war. The abortion debate was merely the prelude. Just as the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision denying legal recognition of African-Americans as persons, the antebellum controversies involving whether new states would be slave states or free states, and the famous John Brown rebellion were preludes to the Civil War that began with the firing on Fort Sumter in 1861, so the abortion debate has been a mere prelude to the new cultural civil war that began with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's provocative and insistent requirement of gay marriage in name and fact on February 3, 2004.
Ironically (or fittingly?), it is again a Republican president who is presiding as the new civil war emerges. Lincoln took a firm stand for the union of one people. Bush is now taking a firm stand for the union of one man and one woman. This new cultural civil war will be decided in elections, in Congress, and in state legislatures. For that we are thankful. But it will be, in my view, just as traumatic and deep a conflict as the first Civil War was. In the new cultural civil war, other battles loom: stem cell research, cloning, the age of consent for minors to engage in sexual activity, legalization of marijuana, the continuing battle over abortion and partial birth abortion, euthanasia, pornography, and sex education. What is at stake is whether a democratic society is based on natural law or whether a democratic society can revise natural law and base itself solely on procedural rules. No culture or nation can survive based on procedural rules only. A nation needs a culture, and a culture needs the natural law. Without the natural law, our national life will continue to slide into moral chaos with honor and integrity increasingly replaced with a society of wolves preying on wolves. As before in our history, these are times that will try men's souls and divide many a family.
Thursday, February 26, 2004House Recognizes Fetus as Crime Victim
The Republican-dominated U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation today recognizing that a fetus is indeed a separate crime victim in addition to the mother when a pregnant woman is murdered. Predictably, the Democrats, including Kerry and Edwards, opposed this common sense legislation. See A.P. story.
Possible Response to Gay Activists: The "Next-of-Kin" Proposal
Below is an article forwarded to me by a reader. The article proposes a creative, simple, and intriguing response to the practical arguments marshalled by gay activists for civil unions and gay marriage. Those arguments raise problems about easily designating someone preferred by a single individual, whether homosexual or heterosexual, to make important decisions when that individual is ill or otherwise incapacitated. While there are already legal ways to accomplish this, legislation that would make the process easier, simpler, and more comprehensive without talk of civil unions or marriage could take the wind out of the emotionally manipulative arguments of gay activists. I myself am not ready to endorse this proposal and will give it further thought, but it does appear to be an important option to consider.
Here is the text of the article as forwarded to me:
"Next of Kin" vs. "Marriage" or "Union": A Pro-Active
Democrats Evade Gay Marriage Issue
What is the Democratic response to the President's support for a federal amendment to ban gay marriage? The only words apt for describing the Democratic response are evasive and manipulative. Both Kerry and Edwards say they oppose gay marriage but support civil unions. Why then don't they also back a federal amendment to ban gay marriage? The answer is inescapable: they in fact will be happy to support gay marriage when the timing is right and the polling data changes. They oppose a federal amendment because they want to leave the door open for the ripe political moment.
Laws passed by Congress or state legislatures can always be later rewritten by the same legislative body. Even more likely, these laws can always be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court or the various state supreme courts. But constitutional amendments can't be rewritten by mere subsequent legislative votes outside the amendment process nor can amendments be nullified by a court. Kerry and Edwards read the polls and won't back gay marriage at this time. But when the moment is right they will be happy to do so. What's the evidence for this analysis?
As to Kerry, we have his own words to the Los Angeles Times last summer:
Kerry believes civil unions “would be more acceptable to the public than marriage for homosexual couples. Kerry indicated he might eventually back gay marriages if a public consensus developed for them. ‘We need to achieve what we can, and then we will see where we are,’ he said.” (Ronald Brownstein, “Gay Issues Get Democratic Field’s Backing,” Los Angeles Times, 7/16/03)
Source: Republican National Committee website (emphasis added).
What about John Edwards? Well, when reporters try to probe his stand on gay marriage, Edwards simply cuts off the questioning, which leads me to infer that he also shares the Kerry tactical view of the issue: now is not the right political moment for gay marriage, but let's oppose an amendment in the meantime so that the door stays open for future developments. Here is the evidence from the New York Times:
Mr. Kerry's principal rival for the nomination, told reporters that he also opposed gay marriage, "because of my own personal view of what marriage is," but added that he supported giving gay couples "the substantive rights that are contained in civil unions."
Source: N.Y. Times On-line, "Democrats Join Fray on Marriage," Campaign 2004 section (2/26/04), by Robin Toner (emphasis added) (free reg'n required).
On the gay marriage issue, the Democrats are playing the public for fools. For the Democratic candidates, the question is not one of principled opposition to gay marriage but a matter of tactical political timing. While they accuse the President of "playing politics" with the issue, it is clear that the ones who are playing politics as a substitute for clarity are the Democrats. The President has taken a bold and politically risky stand that is clear. The Democrats are playing the same game they have done for years on abortion: they "personally oppose" abortion but refuse to take any measures against it. They are using the same paradigm for gay marriage: they "personally oppose" it, but refuse to take any measures to close the door on gay marriage. Gay marriage is indeed a wedge issue and that is good because the wedge brings clarity for voters. On this particular point, talk show host Rush Limbaugh hit the nail on the head. He pointed out that the Democratic candidates don't tell us why they personally oppose gay marriage, and that few reporters follow up with or press that question. The implication is that the Democrats can't tell us why they oppose gay marriage because the only reason for their opposition is the current state of the polling data. They have no principled reason for being against it. In contrast, Bush's remarks supporting the federal amendment to ban gay marriage do give principled reasons for his position. The gay marriage issue is to the first decade of this century what Roe v. Wade was to the latter part of the last century.
Update: As of Feb. 27th, the latest twist in Democratic evasion is the statement of Sen. Kerry to the Boston Globe that he would support a state constitutional amendment prohibiting gay marriage but recognizing that persons in civil unions have all the rights of married couples. Basically, Kerry proposes gay marriage under another label. In the end, such civil unions would be commonly referred to and viewed as de facto "marriages" until such time that society becomes comfortable with codifying the "marriage" label. The crux of the issue is that the unique bundle of rights now associated with marriage should remain the unique accompaniment of the union of one man and one woman, husband and wife. Other legal arrangements, such as the proposed "next-of-kin" idea, can take care of the legitimate needs of single people of whatever sexual orientation without any reference to or requiring a "union" of any kind. So, in the latest incarnation of his spin, Kerry in reality endorses gay marriage and rejects any amendment that does not make civil unions equivalent to marriage. In addition, he carefully limits his potential support for an amendment to the state level. Of course, the U.S. Supreme Court can at any moment overturn a state constitutional amendment under the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution which makes the federal constitution supreme over any state constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court cannot do that with a federal constitutional amendment as supported by President Bush. Kerry will not support a federal constitutional amendment because it closes the door to the judicial activism that he hopes will force gay marriage on the nation, just as it forced abortion-on-demand on the nation. Kerry wants to leave the door open for the gay marriage version of Roe v. Wade that he hopes will eventually emerge from the U.S. Supreme Court.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004Anglican Difficulties
A regular reader from the United Kingdom has brought to my attention a U.K. article on a high-ranking Anglican cleric who is set to be received into the Catholic Church in the near future. The soon-to-retire cleric is Canon Edward Norman, currently chancellor of York Minster, who is described as a leading intellectual in the Church of England. Norman has written an apparently biting book entitled Anglican Difficulties: A New Syllabus of Errors. Here is an excerpt from the article's discussion of the book:
In Anglican Difficulties, Norman blazes away impartially at all the Church's factions. About the General Synod, he writes: "Every disagreement, in seemingly every board or committee, proceeds by avoidance of principled debate. Ordinary moral cowardice is represented as wise judgment; equivocation in the construction of compromise formulae is second nature to leaders."
Source: "Anglicanism is going to tip into the sea," U.K. Telegraph on-line (Feb. 24, 2004) (emphasis added).
The cowardice he describes is not a monopoly of high-level Anglican circles. Norman's words describe the impression made by not a few dioceses and parishes in the U.S. Catholic Church. Let us learn from bad examples what to avoid in our own house.
You can read the entire eye-opening article at the U.K. Telegraph newspaper on-line (free reg'n required).
Tuesday, February 24, 2004Text of Bush Remarks on Marriage Amendment
Here is the text of Bush's remarks today backing an amendment to protect marriage, as found on the New York Times website:
President Bush's Remarks on Same-Sex Marriage
Published: February 24, 2004
The following is a transcript of remarks President Bush made today, as recorded by FDCH e-Media.
Thank you. Please be seated. Good morning. Eight years ago, Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. The act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 342-67 and the Senate by a vote of 85-14.
Those congressional votes, and the passage of similar defense of marriage laws in 38 states, express an overwhelming consensus in our country for protecting the institution of marriage. In recent months, however, some activist judges and local officials have made an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage. In Massachusetts, four judges on the highest court have indicated they will order the issuance of marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender in May of this year.
In San Francisco, city officials have issued thousands of marriage licenses to people of the same gender, contrary to the California Family Code. That code, which clearly defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman, was approved overwhelmingly by the voters of California. A county in New Mexico has also issued marriage licenses to applicants of the same gender. And unless action is taken, we can expect more arbitrary court decisions, more litigation, more defiance of the law by local officials, all of which adds to uncertainty.
After more than two centuries of American jurisprudence and millennia of human experience, a few judges and local authorities are presuming to change the most fundamental institution of civilization. Their actions have created confusion on an issue that requires clarity. On a matter of such importance, the voice of the people must be heard.
Activist courts have left the people with one recourse. If we're to prevent the meaning of marriage from being changed forever, our nation must enact a constitutional amendment to protect marriage in America.
Decisive and democratic action is needed because attempts to redefine marriage in a single state or city could have serious consequences throughout the country. The Constitution says that full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts and records and judicial proceedings of every other state.
Those who want to change the meaning of marriage will claim that this provision requires all states and cities to recognize same-sex marriages performed anywhere in America. Congress attempted to address this problem in the Defense of Marriage Act by declaring that no state must accept another state's definition of marriage. My administration will vigorously defend this act of Congress. Yet there is no assurance that the Defense of Marriage Act will not itself be struck down by activist courts.
In that event, every state would be forced to recognize any relationship that judges in Boston or officials in San Francisco choose to call a marriage. Furthermore, even if the Defense of Marriage Act is upheld, the law does not protect marriage within any state or city.
For all these reasons, the defense of marriage requires a constitutional amendment. An amendment to the Constitution is never to be undertaken lightly. The amendment process has addressed many serious matters of national concern, and the preservation of marriage rises to this level of national importance. The union of a man and woman is the most enduring human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught humanity that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society.
Marriage cannot be severed from its cultural, religious and natural roots without weakening the good influence of society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all.
Today, I call upon the Congress to promptly pass and to send to the states for ratification an amendment to our Constitution defining and protecting marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife.
The amendment should fully protect marriage, while leaving the state legislatures free to make their own choices in defining legal arrangements other than marriage. America's a free society which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens. This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions.
Our government should respect every person and protect the institution of marriage. There is no contradiction between these responsibilities. We should also conduct this difficult debate in a matter worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and good will and decency.
Bush Openly Backs Amendment to Protect Marriage
Here is the Associated Press story. CNN has shown video of Sen. Kennedy of Massachusetts on the Senate floor calling the President's call for an amendment a "shameful proposal." Kennedy has not waited for the bishops to act. He has for all practical purposes excommunicated himself. What does the other "Catholic" senator from Massachusetts, whose campaign is populated by Kennedy operatives, think of the proposed amendment and the vehement remarks of his leading political supporter?
What Happened to the Courage?
Today's New York Times (reg'n required) runs a piece celebrating the military heroism in Vietnam of likely Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. I certainly have no information that would put in question the portrayal by the New York Times, and I certainly have no intention of questioning anyone's military service. But I do have a question for John Kerry: what happened to the courage?
Courage is knowing when to take risks for a worthwhile cause in spite of great danger. On the battlefield, it seems to me that individuals are put in a high pressure situation where their lives and the lives of their comrades are at immediate risk and where bold action for many is an instinctive, adrenalin-driven response to immediate threat, much like an individual whose life is threatened by criminals on an American street. The latter scenario is certainly one that I and other non-military combatants can readily identify with based on our personal experiences.
Dangerous situations bring out boldness and daring that usually and appropriately lie dormant. But there are other situations, not involving immediate physical danger to oneself, that also elicit courage, boldness, and daring: situations of grave injustice. There are some situations in which it is intolerable to play the bystander or spectator: an assault on a child, an elderly person, a disabled person, or a woman. Regardless of danger, it seems to me that most males and probably even most females would intervene in some dramatic fashion in such provocative situations. The situation would call for courage, and I think the adrenalin would drive most of us to show courage in some form in such situations. Sometimes our own courageous reactions may surprise us most of all. I think I speak for many parents when I point out that anyone threatening any of our children would find a bold, daring, immediate, aggressive, and highly courageous response worthy of several congressional medals of honor. Parents will intuitively know that this statement is no idle boast.
Like the hypothetical attacks on vulnerable persons, the killing of unborn children and partially born children is a similar situation of grave injustice, except that the mutilation and cruelty are hidden in antiseptic clinics with Orwellian names like "Planned Parenthood." The outrage is hidden so that the impact of the cruelty lacks the provocative immediacy of a battlefield threat, a criminal threat, or an open assault on a vulnerable person. Yet, we all know the cruelty against the innocent and vulnerable is there. In this case the courage demanded is not driven by adrenalin or self-defense or immediate provocation. In the case of abortion, the courage demanded is, I submit, more deeply reflective of character, deliberation, and judgment. I submit that this type of "cooler" courage is rarer than the courage driven by the provocation of immediate danger to oneself or others. This "cooler" courage would not be afraid to face the grave and likely mortal political danger that being pro-life poses for a Democrat seeking the presidency. My question to Senator Kerry, the battlefield hero, is where is that type of "cooler" courage, a courage that in my opinion is more reflective of the cool judgment and character that is more relevant to presidential leadership, in contrast to the courage driven by danger and immediate provocation on the battlefield. Even war heroes and veterans have to face and answer questions about this other form of courage, especially if they freely choose to run for president and are asking for our votes. In the end, the one who will ask each of us about that kind of "cooler" courage will be a Judge whose questions cannot be evaded by press releases or even by past military service. That Judge will be the most courageous man who ever walked the earth and who never served in the military and who was never a war hero.
Monday, February 23, 2004The Quality of Mercy
In yesterday's gospel reading, Jesus says, "Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful" (Luke 6:36). Luke presents Jesus addressing these words to the same audience who is hearing the Beatitudes (at least in the Revised Standard Version and in the New Jerusalem Bible translations): "a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon" (Lk. 6:17) (RSV). So the crowd includes the apostles (just selected out of his disciples in verse 13), the larger group termed "disciples," Jews from Judea and Jerusalem who are not disciples, and probably Gentiles, again non-disciples for all we know, from the Gentile areas of Tyre and Sidon. It is, apparently, quite a diverse crowd: observant Jews, probably non-observant Jews, Gentiles, committed disciples, and the newly selected apostles.
There is no mention of Pharisees or Sadducees, although we have no reason to believe that some were not also present among the Jewish members of the audience. Our usual assumption is that this sermon about mercy is focused on the figure of the self-righteous Pharisee so thoroughly and devastatingly dissected in other gospel passages. I submit that the audience is broader: certainly it includes the hypocritically self-righteous, but also the whole gamut of sinners, not just the classic religious hypocrite. That gamut of sinners could certainly include tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, robbers, and murderers. There is no reason to think that the call to indiscriminate mercy is focused only on the prim and proper Pharaisacal type who would never engage in robbery or adultery or be a tax collector.
Yet, we tend almost unconsciously to limit the audience to that Pharaisacal type. By doing so, we unnecessarily narrow the scope of the call to mercy. People are quick to grasp the offer of mercy, especially in our culture which is so adept in making excuses for and sanitizing the most heinous behavior. (In contrast, Aquinas lists such "presumption" of God's mercy as a sin against the Holy Spirit!) But the obligation of mercy is not just for those condemning an exposed sinner: the public or exposed sinner himself or herself also has an obligation of mercy. Jesus does not limit his intended audience.
Later in Luke, we have the parable of the Good Samaritan in which a neighbor is defined as one who shows mercy (Lk. 10:37). As we all know, in the parable, a man "going down from Jerusalem to Jericho" was brutally beaten by robbers and ignored by a passing priest and a passing Levite. Then came the Samaritan. But let us, for a moment, imagine that one of the robbers who participated in the brutal robbery and beating repented of his participation in this evil action. What if that robber's sincere repentance led the robber to ask for and receive the Father's mercy. Then, let us imagine that the same robber passes by and sees his victim still on the ground half dead. What would the repentant robber do? Would he just pass by like the priest and the Levite or would he stop like the Samaritan? Certainly, a repentant robber would do the same as the Samaritan. If he did not, he would surely lose his claim to God's mercy as Jesus taught in his sermon in Luke 6.
Why tinker with the parable? The reason to give some further thought to the parable is that in today's society the claim to "cheap mercy" is very common. The idea is that no matter how heinous the act the victim is obligated to "let go" of his anger and move on, however difficult that may be. The victims can even be an entire nation. So we had the national spectacle in the late nineties of a president (Clinton), a national role-model, who insulted the nation by his personal behavior in the Oval Office yet who made no honorable amends for his actions and certainly never seriously considered the honorable option of resignation. As we all know, our judicial and school systems and the media have a great tendency to excuse perpetrators of evil while ignoring the victims of evil. Yet, the perpetrator is also called to mercy, and that mercy must include coming to the aid of his victim, just as our imaginary repentant robber would have aided his victim in the parable.
Victims need help and aid. They may need such help and aid for a long time because of the very injuries we have inflicted on them. Their needs may be quite demanding and even irritating to others. Yet, we as perpetrators who have received mercy are obligated to offer that mercy untiringly to our victims. The quality of mercy is mutual and reciprocal. The forgiven sinner must show mercy to his victims.
That appropriately brings us to an issue which is again receiving anguished and anxious attention in Catholic circles with the upcoming release of statistics on the number of priestly sexual abusers. Those abusers who are sincerely repentant (which includes a resolution not to sin again) have of course received the merciful forgiveness of God. Yet we as a Church, even the large majority of us not directly involved in any way with this great evil, must continue to incessantly show mercy to the victims. We cannot put a statute of limitations on the pleas for help made by the victims of priestly sexual abuse. Serious evil has been done, and we must continue to be merciful to those who are forever haunted by the evil done to them as children and teenagers. Let the Church continue to show, as she has done thus far, that perpetrators and the institutions associated with them are called to show demanding mercy to their victims. Let us continue to set the example for a society in which perpetrators presume too much on God's mercy and seek to pass by their victims lying half dead on the road.