April 19, 2005
-- by Gary Boatwright
In Pope-pouri I made a clumsy attempt to address questions of forgiveness, contrition, pennance and redemption that were raised by Cardinal Law's role in the Pope's funeral mass. Today I'm going to approach the same issue from a different direction.
And if we, some thirty-five years later, still can't get over it, that's our problem . . .
Agree or disagree with her political ideology, embrace or disavow her evolving brand of Christianity, at least Jane Fonda is herself evolving, and is committed to some cause larger than her own. At least she is earnestly searching.
I mean, my God, if the Pope could forgive Mehmet Ali Agca, can't we forgive Jane Fonda?
Doug’s interview, and the response from his listeners raised some interesting questions about contrition, forgiveness and redemption.
I’d like to look past the specific volatile issues of Vietnam, and examine the moral and ethical dimensions Karen Pittman raised. I'll give you an opportunity to discuss the Jane Fonda/Vietnam angle later this week. Let’s assume that Jane Fonda was wrong, which Fonda herself has said, and owes the American people an apology. McIntyre's interview and Pittman’s article suggest the following questions:
(1.) Can Jane Fonda perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to her critics?
(2.) Can Cardinal Law perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to his critics?
(3.) Does personal redemption depend on the opinion of others? As a general rule, redemption is a gift of Christ. Personal redemption for harm done to others is defined as “satisfaction, or the payment of a debt in full, means, in the moral order, an acceptable reparation of honour offered to the person offended and, of course, implies a penal and painful work.”
(4.) Is there any point in either Jane Fonda or Cardinal Law attempting to make a public act of contrition, to critics who can never be satisfied?
(5.) Do Jane Fonda and Cardinal Law's critics have an obligation to examine their own faults in refusing to grant forgiveness under any circumstances? Since contrition and forgiveness are a two way street, do Fonda and Law's critics have a moral obligation to be forgiving?
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I'll just talk about Cardinal Law here. For personal redemption, you recognize your sinfulness, seek reconciliation and accept a penance. Now did Law recognize how his conduct in the pedophelia scandal was sinful? I have no idea and it's between him, his confessor and God. In Catholic thinking, there's no necessity for public contrition. In Law's position of leadership, I believe it was necessary for there to be some public act of contrition. The way he let the scandal drag on, how much he stonewalled and then how complicit he actually was once the depositions became public, there was really no other option but resignation. As a Catholic in the Archdiocese of Boston, I was satisfied with his resignation and move to obscurity. It is the Christian thing to forgive someone if they sincerely contrite. His acceptance of a high profile in Rome tends to make me question whether he was sincere or at least realized the scope of the problem. On the other hand, he didn't seek the office and since Pope offered it, it would be difficult to decline.
Posted by: Jeff at April 21, 2005 10:20 AM
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