which, of course, poses some problems for American Catholics. Most will, I think, be willing to forgive Law. And most will, I think, mean by this that Law should not face legal consequences. They will, I think, be right to forgive, but mistaken to think that Law should not face Caesar’s punishment should Caesar decide to prosecute him for obstruction of justice or some other related crime. Forgiveness is commanded of us as Catholics. Indeed, I believe we are to extend forgiveness absolutely, as our Lord did to his unrepentant murderers. It is up to God to decide whether the forgiveness has been adequately accepted or not. But we are bound to forgive. And in the case of somebody who is making good faith efforts toward repentance (however feebly) we are commanded to rejoice and to hope for them. But forgiveness does not mean removal of appropriate civil penalties. If Law has to face the legal consequences up to and including jail time, I believe he should not be spared, just as I don’t believe that forgiveness of sins means you necessarily avoid having to pay back taxes, restore damaged property, or avoid Purgatory.
There are, of course, going to be a number of people who are going to say that Law’s words of contrition are a sham, if we was really serious, he would has said all this months ago, a leopard can’t change his spots, etc. I can only say that such an attitude is a fundamental rejection of the Christian proclamation that there is such a thing as conversion and the possibility of grace. My attitude is “Live in hope.” Yes, it’s possible the Cardinal’s words are all just talk (Lord knows we’ve seen enough of it) and that he’s still not serious. But we can’t know either way till we’ve seen what he does in future. From where I sit, as somebody who has had to face some rather ugly things about myself in the past, I know that such repentance not usually the work of a moment and that it can indeed take months or even years before a person can come out and say what the Cardinal said. So I’m willing to take his words seriously but hold them lightly. I hope others do the same, hoping for his repentance and rejoicing that he seems to be making some progress, while at the same time not going all sloppy and saying, “Aw, just forget the whole thing.” Forgive, but let Caesar do his job, if Caesar has a mind to.