Basically, they went down a Lenten repentance hole because I think they were bad for my soul and the souls of others. I dislike Cdl. Mahony. Deeply. Very deeply. But….
After reading the story of the woman taken in adultery this weekend, my conscience got the better of me and I thought, “You’ve had cries for your blood posted on the web. And more than that, they are often perfectly justified cries for your blood. Do you really think it advisable to be baying for somebody else’s blood?”
I took a walk yesterday and spent the time struggling, as is my custom, to pay attention to the Rosary. In the course of my many mind wanderings, I got to thinking about some of the people in the news I’ve been harsh with. These tend to be people I regard as abusive of power entrusted to them at the expense of the weak (think “Mahony and the cops who killed that young man with Down’s Syndrome”). I was praying the Sorrowful Mysteries, it being a Tuesday, and got to thinking about the parable of the unmerciful servant. I thought about my wishing that Mahony was in jail, that the cops were in jail, that the bad guys get there comeuppance and it was sort of like I was challenged to say all that to Christ’s face: to say, “Give them what they have coming to them!” with the full awareness that the measure I use would be the measure I receive.
Long pause. Couldn’t do it. I’m stupid, but not that stupid. I’ve got sins in my own past where I’ve received ridiculous amounts of grace and would not all all like it if I got what I deserved for them. I tried that “I’m just after justice here” feint but it was pointed out to me that I am not charged under law with the task of dealing justice to these or most of the people I sit in judgment about as I blather on from day to day. I’m neither judge, prosecutor, jury, nor jailer. So what is achieved by training myself to wish for judgment to fall on people whom God has not placed me, under law, with the duty judge?
Nothing, unless you account “becoming more eager for the punishment of others and the exemption of myself” an achievement.
So it appears that one of my Lenten projects is going to be to try to find a way to think differently about people I regard as guilty of serious evil. It can’t be to pretend that they are not guilty of serious evil (I don’t do it of myself when I sin–or at least I try not to), but neither can it be the wish they they get their comeuppance. It has to be a hope and a prayer for mercy for them and for the various other people who commit outrages. I’ve received absurd amounts of mercy myself and I don’t want to blow that like this guy:
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. * 23* “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. 24 When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents; * 25* and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26* So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; * and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and besought him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison till he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. 32 Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; 33 and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, * till he should pay all his debt. 35* So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Hard to argue with that.
Same thing goes for Law, by the way. Which reminds me. Last week I posted a link expressing my amazement at a story in the English press asserting that Francis had “banished” Law from his Church. I was skeptical even when I posted it, but I thought I should note the story since it seemed to so flatly contradict my own prophecies of what the new Pope would do (i.e. , continue doing what his predecessors have done in a) canning bishops who have themselves committed grave sins of abuse while b) leaving in place those bishops who were simply idiots) that I though I should acknowledge I might be wrong.
I am, as I have indicated in the past, of two minds about this. Part of me would like to see more butt-kicking. But parables like the one above, as well as stories like the woman taken in adultery–taken, by the way, “in the very act” and guilty, guilty, GUILTY!!! of grave sin and giving absolutely no sign of repentance that we can see in the story–hold me back. When I look at the Church’s mission I find myself thinking “Be careful what you wish for” when I contemplate the demand people like me and others sometimes make of her that she become a punishing and avenging fury for sinners. Do I hope for that for myself when I go in the confessional?
But dammit! Law has gotten *away* with it! Yeah, about that. From all I’ve read and heard about Law, he seems to have tried on multiple occasions, to resign. I know people who have met him and who described him as “shattered” by the experience. No sign whatsoever of the sort of the self-justifying narcissism we see in Mahony behavior. I’m told (if I understand correctly) that he tried to put himself in a monastery. Looks like penitence to me.
“Yeah, but the bastard should be in jail!” Yes. And the adulteress should be dead. Only here’s the thing. It’s not the Church’s job to put people in jail. It’s our job. We laity. The ones with all the guns, cops, judges, juries, and prisons. And we declined to do that (and no, that’s not because “he skipped the country to avoid prosecution”. There was never any attempt to put him in jail.) So what do I want? A *Church* that puts people–people who look penitent to me–in jail? Do I want a merciless Church bent on making penitents pay? Do I–being what I am–want that for me? At that point, my collar starts to feel pretty tight and start thinking I’m maybe not such a smart guy after all if that’s what I’m after from the Church of Christ. For the measure I use will be measured to me.
So: I’m back to thinking what I thought above. I think it’s best I err on the side of mercy, particularly with a guy like Mahony who I frankly detest. Pouring gas on that fire is not good for me, does his victims no good, and does not speed the wheels of justice. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. I will pray God’s perfect justice and mercy be done and then leave it in his competent hands to take care of it. My breathing down the neck of the Almighty and offering helpful hints on how to fix the problem doesn’t seem to really help God in his administration of the universe but does seem to be very bad for my soul.