Part of apologizing for sin is to make reparations. The trick, of course, is figuring out how to do that. Reparations are supposed to, in some way, signal and incarnate a willingness to undo damage done by the sin. Sometimes they can consist of something obvious (“Give back the bike you stole”). Very often, it has to be a token act of reparation since the possibility of “full reparations” is not possible. You cannot dig up the old man’s grave and tell him you are sorry you wished he was dead when you were seventeen. That ship has sailed. But you can do something–like tell your son you love him–that makes amends.
So it’s a stretchy concept. In the case of the business with Live Action I think that since my principal sin was against the people of Live Action, it naturally follows that Live Action and I should talk and they should let me know what an appropriate sort of reparation should be. To that end, I’ve written Lila and asked that we might speak. Till that happens, I don’t think it will help anything for me to continue to talk about Live Action publicly, nor to run around inventing some penance for myself that may either help nothing, or worse, exacerbate the problem. Some readers have written to prescribe various penances on behalf of LA, all of which I politely decline on the theory that is the person affected by my sin should make that call, not a crowd of strangers.
In addition, as I have learned in the past, internet mea culpas are moments when some people take the occasion of your admitting to sin in some area to try to force a confession that everything you have ever argued for, particularly against them, is wrong. I also decline to do this. I repent the sins I confessed here (as well as others I confessed in the sacrament that are none of your business). I do not repent opinions I did not confess to be sinful and my refusal to do so does not constitute impenitence but conviction. If I have refused to acquiesce to your demand that I renounce my views of, say, torture or gay “marriage, that does not mean I offered a fake repentance. It means that I don’t repent of things I don’t think are wrong, such as my opinions. If I thought I was wrong, I would not hold that opinion.
Finally, as I noted in my apology, what I said was intended to stand as an apology to many people over the years to whom I have been bitter or treated as means to ends or otherwise dealt with unjustly, not just Live Action:
Finally, those patterns have played out repeatedly in other arguments over the years: take your pick, you guys know better than I do. Again, the point is not who was right or wrong about the point being argued, it’s that I have been wrong in the way that I argued, very often reducing people to means. Again, mea culpa.
Most people, looking back over their lives, can have a general sense of “Things I wish I’d done differently” and try to make amends in the case of specific incidents. But most people are not generally in a position where literally dozens and dozens of people they do not know from Adam and Eve will show up in their mailboxes, demanding all sorts of reparations for things they have no memory of and no confidence are related to anything like reality. I do. I have angry strangers show up in my comboxes and mailbox all the time, demanding reparations for everything from my imaginary support for Islamic terrorists, to my sympathy for Jewish Masonic conspirators and their nefarious plans to destroy the Church, to my censorious refusal to allow them to hold forth on what a disgusting fat pig I am. The other day I got an email, along with a bunch of other people, declaring me under judgment because somebody at the Register apparently said something nice about Fr. Andrew Greeley. No idea. I have people mad at me about lots of stuff–some of which are real grievances about real sins I have committed. I can make a good faith effort to try to cover the bases and say “I acknowledge the grievance you have” but there is absolutely no way I am going to “make reparations” satisfactory to every person out there with an ax to grind.
I can say that I’m sorry for allowing my distrust and disbelief of the Medjugorje “seers” spill into flippancy and contempt toward those who find the phenomenon nourishing. I’ve known many very good people who have benefited from it and I regret hurting you with my flippancy and know that my words have hurt you because you’ve told me so. As reparation, here is a link to a fine musical Rosary sung by my friend and fellow parishioner Donna Cori Gibson.
I can say I’m sorry for the hurts I’ve inflicted on Traditionalists over the years and that I forgive them the hurts they have inflicted on me. As reparation, here is a link to Corpus Christi Watershed to bring a little liturgical beauty into life.
I am sorry for the hurts I have inflicted on conservatives and liberals over the years. Here is a link to Chesterton’s What’s Wrong with the World, which sees and honors all that is best about both philosophies and supplies what both philosophies seek in ways that I failed to do.
I can say I’m sorry for the mockery and flippancy I have directed at people like Bob Sungenis, E. Michael Jones, and those in their circle. I deeply and profoundly disagree with some of the things you’ve done and said, particularly with reference to your comments about Jews, but that’s not an excuse for treating you with contempt. I’m not sure what an act of reparation should look like since I cannot, in conscience, recommend your work. So I will remember you in my evening prayers.
This is a necessarily rough stab and overlooks (because I don’t know what to do) about people I just don’t remember, as well as people who just, well, hate me and for whom no act of reparation will ever effect repairs.
As to the rest, I ask you to remember that there is just one of me and thousands of you. I have to do life and can’t spend it tracking down the reality of every single angry demand that I get from somebody claiming I offended them and owe them reparations. I’m doing the best I can.
Finally, your prayers. That’s really all. Nothing more to add.