Making Reparations

Making Reparations June 7, 2013

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.

So I can, for instance, say I’m sorry I have treated Michael Voris and his defenders with flippancy and mockery.  It was wrong.  I think that, despite our very real differences, Michael is basically on the side of the angels.  I regret the hurt you guys told me you have received from my mouth.  As reparation, here is a link to Church Militant TV.

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.

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  • steve5656546346

    Good article! And not without appropriate humor!

  • vox borealis

    What can I say? This is such an impressive statement, even more so in many ways than the initial mea culpa. We’ve sparred on several issues, to be sure, but I say without irony I am impressed—really, blown away—by what you’ve written here.

  • Devra

    I’m not an offended party, but just wanted to say thank you for these last few beautiful posts and for posting the prayer request for my husband, who is feeling a little better.

  • Zac (and ) are awesome resources, thanks for linking them.

  • Nicholas McLeod

    Hi Mark,

    I read most of your stuff from having you as a friend on facebook. I was actually planning on deleting you because your posts typically just made me feel bad. I have debated with you once when you based all “Traditionalists” because one guy who called himself “radtrad” said evil antisemetic things.

    My full time job is to out on the street and debate abortion with people every day. I am used to heated discussions, especially with angry and wrathful people. However, I resolved after our conversation to not converse with you anymore because again, it made me feel bad.

    I am very please about your change of heart and mind. I mostly agree with many of the things you say, but what makes me feel bad is the HOW you have said them. When we train activists we talk about the three characteristics or a good pro-life ambassador: knowledge, wisdom, and character. All three are integral to success.

    We also talk about how in a conversation you have to speak to both the heart and the head! The pro-life position is irrefutable, but the reason why people who I speak to on the street dont accept it isnt because of the facts, but because of what those facts mean. Their feelings build a wall over their brain. We teach our people to break down that wall by speaking to the persons heart and finding out what the emotional problem is, before we deal with the intellectual problems of their decision. That is how you change minds.

    I am very glad that I no longer have to delete you, because I do find what you say knowledgeable and intelligent. I just dont like how you say it!

  • HermitTalker

    St Augustine’s hate the sin and love the sinner helps us all to never identify the evil conduct or teaching or religious or political views with the sinner. “walk a mile in my moccasins first.”. We can never undo the total damage we do nor can an apology take away the hurt done to us or by us. The old image of the feathers thrown in the wind from the pillow is symbol of that. The 12 Step programme also recommends making amends where it will not harm the other. That is a delicate one. Total forgiveness of the other with Christ’s forgiveness of us as the model is asked of us. Do the hurts and memories leave. As we Irish say, we never forget a grudge even when we get Alzheimer’s, relaxed letting go helps.

  • Geoffrey Miller

    Mark, you’re Irish, right? I came here with the understanding that you would eventually get angry and offend me. 😛

    Anyway, I appreciate the apology, even though I’m not among the aggrieved, and I’ll appreciate the next one too. We’re all human beings here, and what matters is, we pick up and keep going. And you’re an inspiration to me, really, because I’ve got the same problem when it comes to being flippant. You show me that even big mouths like us can do a little good in the world and work up the courage to come clean on our wrongs. I’d like to thank you for that, and also for your wit, which is at its brightest when it is not attacking others but instead presenting absolutely hilarious 12-year-old humor. More of that, please!

    In Christ,

    • Stu

      “I came here with the understanding that you would eventually get angry and offend me.”

      LMAO! You forgot drunk.

      (And before anyone gets offended, I am a Scot which means I too can get angry, offensive, drunk but I am also very “thrifty.” Besides, I love the Irish because they also detest the sassenachs.)

      Hats off to you Mark.

  • Tom

    I honestly hate to derail this, as this has been a most impressive display of Christian behavior by anyone’s standards, but I’ve been wondering on the matter of reparations. I’ve heard that our penance in Confession is enough for satisfaction, I’ve heard that it’s necessary to do what you’re doing here, I’ve heard that any kind of additional prayers or actions can suffice. Does it depend on the situation and the kind of sin?

    On a side note, I checked the Catholic Encyclopedia entry on making reparations, and while it does endorse doing what you’re doing here, I could find no reference to telling the truth after lying. I read through it multiple times, and Ctrl+F’d lying, then checked the page on lying, and found nothing. Any help would be much appreciated.

    • bwallisch

      The catechism is pretty clear that public reparation should be made for sins, especially when they are offenses against the truth.

      Paragraph 2487: “Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. When it is impossible publicly to make reparation for a wrong, it must be made secretly. If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated, he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience.”

      • Tom

        I see. Thank you for the information/clarification.

  • Victor

    Beware or this will turn into a self-serving ego trip. It hasn’t yet, but the risk is there.

  • Stephanie

    While the recognition and repentance of flippant disdain, which is basically a lack of charity, is commendable, the essay almost presents the act of reparation as no more punitive than posting an internet link with one’s apology. Consequently, I am inspired to research the Church’s teachings about and saintly practices of mortification.

    • Stephanie

      I should have just quoted Lewis:

      charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins
      in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence
      which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment.

      Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.”

      ~ The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis

  • Hugh Beaumont

    What’s funny here is that the only time I ever come across Mark Shea is when I’m googling E. Michael Jones.

  • Obpoet

    Wow. People sure know how to kick a dog when he is down. Amazing.

  • Old Guard

    Hi Mark. You don’t owe me any reparations, but I appreciate the spirit of this nevertheless. You’ve always been someone who is incapable of sustaining personal malice despite the Irish bluster. God keep you.- Jeff Culbreath

  • Christine

    Mr. Shea, I can not tell you how happy it made me to read this. I am one of those that got painted with your broad brush and I just wanted to say thank you 🙂 may God bless you and keep you and yours. 😀