In the video included in this New York Times report, listen to the voices of the pope promising a pastoral letter about pedophilia to be issued tomorrow and that of the Irish cardinal apologizing for what he did wrong.
In a brilliant move on the chessboard of Catholic Church politics, Cardinal Sean Brady, the Primate of All Ireland, has, on St. Patrick's Day, asked forgiveness for personally botching the management of pedophilia and said that he will resign only if the Pope asks him to do so.
This is a brilliant move because if the Pope doesn't ask him to resign, it will deflect responsibility, bouncing it back to Rome and making Benedict look arrogant and anti-victimish. If the Pope does ask him to resign, his own performance as Archbishop of Munich would be grounds for his own resignation. Damned if he does....
Let's talk about forgiveness, and if it is possible in this situation and in our own lives and personal relationships.
Most of us have made some mistakes about which we feel badly and want forgiveness from the people who are most important to us. Maybe we said something wrong. Maybe we did something wrong. Maybe we hurt someone we love. In sorrow and with every intention of never doing the same thing again, we ask forgiveness from the person(s) wronged. Let's use the old-fashioned word for those misdeeds or bad words. We used to call these sins.
When we ask for forgiveness, we are asking the injured person to overcome what we have done and to trust us again. Unfortunately, once you have been seriously wronged, it is close to impossible not to see the "sinner" in a new and less favorable light. No matter how hard we try. Memories are not erasable. They are with us forever. If a spouse who has promised exclusivity cheats and then asks for forgiveness, sex is never quite the same for the wronged partner. If a friend knifes you in the back with cruel words or gossip, you can plaster over the memory with the stucco of kindness, but you and he/she know that the offensive text is always just beneath the whitewash. This is a fact of human nature, and our skill at forgiveness is anindicator of our quality as an adult.
Time is our ally when we ask for forgiveness because what seems mortally painful and injurious on Monday is less terrible when Friday rolls around. Wounds heal. But can victims of priestly abuse ever go back to Mass and hold out their hands to receive the host from a priest? Should they be expected to cultivate a virtue strong enough to make them be shepherded again by a man in a white collar? Can they bind themselves to the teaching authority of a church that has raped them? Even if they could, why should they? The clergy is a proven stumbling block on the road to God over which they can easily jump to safety. And let no pope dare say to those victims that without the sacraments administered by a priest they will be denied heaven and the grace of God!
I just don't know what we must demand from the Catholic Church before we can get back into bed with her. I do know that the words of Cardinal Brady seemed heartfelt whereas B16's careful "advance test marketing" of the idea of a Pastoral Letter seems insincere. This situation makes me feel very bad for the good priests who are careful selfless shepherds and must pay the price for their brothers' sins. It also makes me wonder how much more of this nonsense the gay clergy will swallow before jumping ship. Are they not yet sufficiently disgusted with being thrown under the bus? A bus driven by a pope who is shifting gears into reverse and will probably run them over again soon. Maybe tomorrow.
How do you all manage forgiveness in your own lives? Where do you draw the line between forgiveness as a value and self-respect in the face of victimization? This is not an easy question.