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I have worn many labels (Not in any particular order): Catholic, Wife, Mom,Gramma, Doctor, Major, Soccer Mom, Military Wife, Professor, Fellow.

All of these filter my views of the world. I hope that like St. Monica, I can through prayer, words and example, lead my children and others to Faith.
"The important thing is that we do not let a single day go by in vain without putting it to good use for eternity"--Blessed Franz Jägerstätter

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Reconciliation and Redemption

You want to read about God’s grace and mercy? Read this account from Catholic News Service. Father Charles Smith recounts his experiences working with convicted Oklahoma City bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

But Father Smith persevered in his ministry to McVeigh and the convicted murderer, who was a baptized Catholic, began to repent. "He did a lot of things, but in the end we had confession, reconciliation. In the end he asked me a question a lot of people ask me. He asked, 'Father Charles, can I still get to heaven?'"

The priest said he responded, "I am not your judge," but reminded McVeigh that he had told him, "You must submit your will and ask God for true forgiveness. ... You knew there were a lot of innocent people and children in that building."

This reminds me of yesterday’s post. We should never pass up an opportunity to foster reconciliation and redemption. Forgiveness does not mean removal of consequences and punishment. It does mean we seek justice not vengeance.

The death penalty so often seems to be about vengeance. Heinous crimes demand the highest level of punishment. But death seems too high. I really want the perpetrator of evil to repent and turn his soul over to God’s mercy for judgment. Maybe he will and maybe he won’t. But who am I to deny him that opportunity.

(H/T to Amy Welborn for the link)


Lobo said...

I think the priest was right in that he is not the final judge of McVeigh (that's left to God since we don't know all about McVeigh's life) but he still judges what McVeigh did in this case - killed a lot of innocent people he knew or should have known were there.

I think we need to make a distinction between judging someone and condemning. We can condemn the action, judge what the person did (right and wrong) but we may not be able to condemn them to any place. You can't be forgiven if you do not admit you did something wrong. What you did is judged wrong by some standard, rule or law.

The death penalty may seem about vengeance because of some people's attitude, not because of the punishment. Your view that death seems too high is a judgment on the act of killing others under these circumstances. It can be perfectly good when a society decides this is one way to take care of those who have committed heinous crimes against others and society. Just because some people seem vengeaful does not mean the action is so.

The example of Toucky is one case in point. So many people were asking to spare his life and give him a lesser sentence or life in prison because he has done so much good with his books for kids and talks he gave or could do so much more good for the community. Here's the rub for me. When he was being taken to die, there was no repentance or remorse - just defiance and a stiff upper lip with no admission that he did anything to anyone.

Yes death is so final, but death they caused is so final also. In his case, one life given up (his) for several lives he took (his victims and possibly the deaths he may have ordered).

Forgiving others does not mean we donot give the consequences necessary or called for. I think too many times we judge society's actions and group behavior with individual views. When we do something wrong to others, and then we say we are sorry and ask for their forgiveness, we expect to act towards us as if everything is ok, back to normal and they should hold nothing against us any more - we admitted our wrong, we asked for pardon, they gave it so what's the deal?

I don't think it works that way. You can forgive without being right with them right away. We defend the wrongdoer if they do wrong and ask forgivenss and then do wrong again. We give the excuse that 'I'm just human' but we don't give the same slack to the person who was done wrong - we expect them to forgive right away or they are bad; and expoect them to act ok or like nothing is wrong or they are not sincere or are not good. We don't let them be 'human'.

Many systems we use are flawed - we're human and learning. What any person does or feels depends on their heart and intentions which we don't always know.

I head a story once about a Japanese samuri warrior whose master was killed by a rival. The warrior went looking for the rival to avenge his master's death. He found the rival and cornered him and ws about to strike the fateful blow when the rival spit in the face of the warrior. He put down his sword and walked away. Someone asked the warrior why he did not kill the rival. He said - When he spit in my face, I got angry. I cannot avenge my master's death out of anger so I could not kill him then. I must wait until I have no anger when I do it.

Our intentions shape the effects of our actions. It may seem like vengance and for some people the death penalty is for vengeance but that does not mean the law was made for that purpose or some people involved are doing it out of vengance. An eye for an eye was an improvement of the accepted law at that time. Turn the other cheek is more a personal issue. Society must protect its members just as the church must protect the laity from scandals. What's the best way - don't know but this is what we do now. Protecting the seeming guilty exposes innocent others to possible future threats. To me you must lead with the rule or law and then consider the person or circumstances and background. If not, we just make decisions from the feelings we hve at the moment - no way to run a life.

Michelle said...

I agree that some actions can be judged as right or wrong, but I don't agree that we can judge a person since we have no idea what is in someone's heart at the time. For example, we can not determine mental illness or even the influence of the Devil.

This doesn't make blowing up a building and killing innocent men, women and children OK. But even the courts recognize "mitigating circumstances" that lesson the punishment. We can try to determine the extent to which someone is responsible or not responsible for their crime based on facts (abused as a child, drunk at the time, under the influence of a Satanic cult, whatever), but we can't really know, and so then we cannot judge the person.

My husband is vehemently pro-death penalty and I am lukewarm anti-death penalty (meaning I don't think we should do it, but I think there are bigger issues like abortion to fight about). We have some pretty heated discussions about the issue! I just think God should decide when someone has had a long enough time to repent.

But, I completely agree with my husband that the issue really seems to be the fear that really bad people may get released to the general populace. Even if someone seemed to repent, seemed to be working for good, seemed to be headed toward sainthood...even then, I do not believe at all that a person who did something like the murdering of innocent people for their own personal agenda should ever be released from prison. Unfortunately, the courts in this country can not always be counted on to keep these people locked up forever. But that's a problem with the courts, and capital punishment shouldn't be the solution to that problem.

Also, I can not help but doubt that the judicial system is free from error all the time. It's a governmental system and is by it's very nature flawed. That means that somebody at some time is actually innocent, but found guilty. If given a choice between wrongful imprisonment or wrongful death, I would pick wrongful imprisonment every time. At least then there would be the hope of being released if the truth every came out. But you can't take it back if someone is put to death.