I Have Said Elsewhere….
that mercy, in addition to being God’s greatest quality is, when demanded of us, his most appalling one. We love the idea of mercy for ourselves. We hate it and regard it as a travesty of justice when applied to others, especially others whose sins hurt us. I recently wrote that part of the duty of laypeople is, of course, to extend forgiveness to the priests and bishops who have so agonizingly betrayed us. I got complaints back from folks saying, in effect, that we are under no obligation to forgive if they don’t acknowledge their sin. This attitude, in addition to being flatly against the model of Jesus Christ and St. Stephen, who forgave their unrepentant murderers, is a formula for modeling the American Church on that happy land known as the Balkans, where people remember everything and learn nothing.
Yes, the perp may go on living in denial till the day he dies. But if we forgive, we do not have to live with his having endless power over us till the day we die. Refusal to forgive is like taking poison and expecting the other guy to die.
Forgiveness is not, by the way, saying “He meant well” or “It’s not really a problem” or “Let’s just forget about it.” It is handing the person over to God’s mercy (and his judgment, which is the same thing) and letting go of them. It is also not pretending they didn’t really hurt you. In short, mercy is not excusing. Mercy is what is granted when they have no excuses. It’s the hardest–and most liberating–thing in the world. It took crucifixion to make it possible for us.