Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise says he is still struggling over whether to forgive the man who shot him two years ago. “I’ve never, internally, formally forgiven the shooter from the baseball shooting,” he said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with as a Catholic.”
It would be hard for many, including me, to forgive such a transgression. I’m still personally quite bitter over wrongs that happened to me some years back. So I understand the reluctance to forgive.
But what about turning the other cheek, and forgiving one’s enemies as we read in scripture throughout the New Testament? Can we suffocate our bitterness and a feeling that some form of retribution is unnecessary? Does continuing anger and hostility become tantamount to suffocating oneself emotionally? “The effects on one’s health from bottled up anger and resentment can range from anxiety and depression to blood pressure and increased risk of heart attacks,” says professor of medicine Amit Sood at the Mayo Clinic. “Forgiveness, by contrast, allows one to focus on more positive thoughts and relationships. It allows you to free up the real estate in your brain taken up by negative thinking.”
Forgive and forget, so goes much of the conventional wisdom. Move on with your life and just chalk it all up to tough lessons learned. But isn’t it possible to continue with the positive aspects in one’s life, learn from past mistakes, and continue to grow, putting aside the bitter feeling that you suffered a terrible wrong? Simply put, don’t maintain continuing anger, but don’t forget.
In the fall of 2015, Pope Francis sent the body of St. Maria Goretti on a limited U.S. tour. The youngest canonized Saint has a compelling story of suffering and forgiveness. St. Maria was born into poverty and raised in Corinaldo, a beautiful medieval village in central Italy. Maria, whose father died when she was nine, raised her five siblings when she was only eleven while her mother worked in the fields. One day, a twenty-year-old neighbor accosted her and, as she fought him, he brutally stabbed her repeatedly.
Maria died the next day, but her last words were, “I forgive Alessandro Serenelli (her attacker) and I want him with me in heaven forever.” Alessandro was so overcome that he lived the converted life of holiness in prison and eventually became a Franciscan lay brother.
One of the stops on St. Maria’s U.S. pilgrimage was Baton Rouge, where the coffin with her remains was to be displayed in veneration at Lady of Mercy Catholic Church for three days. Crowds of worshipers were expected to visit the Saint from a number of states. The pastor there, Father Cleo Milano, has been a good friend and I called him to see if there was a possibility of any quiet time with St. Maria. He suggested I come by the church close to midnight after the doors were locked down for the night.
As the sanctuary was about to be bolted and the lights were dimmed, I made my way down the center aisle of the church and sat beside the remains of St. Maria. I touched her coffin and prayed for my family. And then, I thought to myself, this beautiful child, now a Saint, was brave and open-hearted enough to forgive the cruel demon that took her life. Although I too was wronged in ways that I felt were so unjust, should I not be empathetic and compassionate enough to forgive those who so aggrieved me?
I thought about it for good while. I guess I even prayed over the decision. After much contemplation, I quietly got up from my pew and walked out of the church. So what was my decision? Could I forgive those transgressions?
Often, your adversaries, by their impertinence, bring themselves down and destroy their own reputations. In my case, nemeses that caused me harm have themselves been damaged and suffered humiliation. So what to do? Forgive them? In my case, I decided just to wait them out. They ended up destroying themselves. What’s the old saying: If you stand by the river long enough, your enemies will come floating by.
I’d urge the Congressman to take his time and be sure that forgiveness is something he really wants to give. If not, just bide his time. After all, revenge is a dish best served cold.
Man has created plenty of inherently evil things: weapons of war like guns and bombs, addictive drugs like nicotine, opioids, and crack cocaine, but none are more evil or responsible for more death than the creation of God.
Religion was the law before the law. It was a means to control populations of peasants and slaves through fear and pain. Egyptian emperors propagandized their godliness so slaves would die building the pyramids that would serve as their final resting places and lasting reminders of their godliness. People worshiped gods and goddesses and continue to do so out of fear or to relieve pain inflicted upon them by authoritarians or unfair economic systems and circumstances.
More wars have been started and more people killed in the name of god than for any other reason. Reconquista, or the Iberian Religious Wars between Christians and Muslims for the Iberian Peninsula, killed an estimated 7 million over 721 years. The Christian Crusades—nine of them—sanctioned by the Latin Church to acquire the Holy Land from Muslims, are estimated to have killed 1.7 million people. The French Wars of Religion between Roman Catholics and Huguenots are estimated to be responsible for the deaths of 3 million people. That’s 11.7 million deaths. The Jewish-Roman Wars push the total over 12 million. The German-led genocides of the Jews and Christian Poles killed another 12 million at least.
The Bible has been and continues to be used to justify slavery and white supremacy, demonize bisexuality, and deny climate science. “The Immaculate Conception” is still used to justify the violation of living, breathing women’s rights—even raped women—in favor of unborn babies. And Pope Benedict XVI actually said the use of condoms could worsen the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, with Catholic Churches telling African children not to use condoms, contributing to the spread of the epidemic.
Organized religion is also responsible for thousands of sexual crimes against children throughout the world. The Illinois Attorney General found that more than 500 priests accused of sexual abuse have not been publicly identified by Catholic Church. In Boston, more than 130 people have alleged former priest John J. Geoghan fondled or raped them over the course of three decades through a half-dozen Greater Boston parishes. From 2001 to 2010, the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years.
Religion has certainly saved plenty, but its track record of evil is well-documented. Religion’s rap sheet is long, which should make you skeptical of its intentions, regardless of whether it’s saved someone you know. Personal experience means very little when considering thousands of years of documented history.
I just finished Netflix’s “The Keepers,” a seven-part, true crime docu-series about the unsolved 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and the following abuse scandal at the Catholic school she taught at. The series is raw and harrowing and shocking. The amount of women and boys that one priest was able to abuse and cover up for decades is almost unbelievable.
Because we’ve seen this kind of scandal before. And we’ll see it again. The Spotlight abuse cover up as reported in the Boston Globe in 2002 and dramatised into an Academy Award winning movie of the same name.
And now comes the Pennsylvania cover up. A new 1356 grand jury report documents that more than 300 priests abused more than 1000 children.
From the opening paragraph of the grand jury report:
“We, the members of this grand jury, need you to hear this. We know some of you have heard some of it before. There have been other reports about child sex abuse within the Catholic Church. But never on this scale. For many of us, those earlier stories happened someplace else, someplace away. Now we know the truth: it happened everywhere.”
Later, it reported:
“We were given the job of investigating child sex abuse in six dioceses .. We heard the testimony of dozens of witnesses concerning clergy sex abuse. We subpoenaed, and reviewed, half a million pages of internal diocesan documents … Most of the victims were boys; but there were girls too. Some were teens; many were prepubescent. Some were manipulated with alcohol or pornography. Some were made to masturbate their assailants, or were groped by them. Some were raped orally, some vaginally, some anally. But all of them were brushed aside, in every part of the state, by church leaders who preferred to protect the abusers and their institution above all.”
Wow. Protect the institution above all.
But, of course - that’s how it’s always been. Or more importantly, “protect all the men.” Keep in mind, this report is only from a single state and covers the last 70 years. Multiply that by 50 states and then don’t forget to add in the previous four, five or ten centuries.
As usual it took the Vatican a few days to respond. Don’t ask me why it took them two bloody days to come up with the words, “Shame and sorrow” but there it is. The rest of us, within seconds of reading the news collectivilly had plenty to say and was probably more along the lines of, “Wow. The sick fucks running the Catholic Church covered up for another bunch of child raping male priest fuck heads! Just like they always do!”
Seriously, that took me all of twenty seconds to come up with. But as usual the Catholic Church waited to see if this recent abuse scandal would blow over and so they bit their tongue and said nothing. (Which is what they are good at).
Here is a video at MSNBC where survivors share their survival stories. One, an elderly man talks about his abuse in 1948 and flat out says incredulously (and correctly), “Who would believe me. A priest abused me? In 1948?”
He was right then. And he would have been right up to until … maybe two days ago when this grand jury report came out. I hate to be a cynic and assume that thing will go back to priests raping children because, after all - the Church has a lot of money to spend on PR and lawyers.
But that’s probably what will happen. Until the people at the top of the Church go to jail for this - things will only temporarily change at the bottom of the totem pole.
I mean, the Pope could do something about it. The Pope could, basically fire the shit out of all top brass involved. But, to be honest, he would have to probably get rid of the vast majority of the Church top brass all over the world. These scandals are just all too common and widespread for most top brass priests to not have their hands dirty at one point or another.
Actually, to be fair, I don’t know if the Pope can “fire” priests. Excommunicate them? Maybe that’s it. Maybe the Pope should just excommunicate 100 percent of all the priests above the level of OT V!
No, wait. That’s Scientology.
Well, whatever, The Pope can fire the shit out of them too.
I hope some justice happens and a lot of priestly heads will roll (metaphorically speaking). Alas, I just expect the Church to throw their endless cash reserves at the problem and it will all go away.
And then the Catholic priests will again, come out, come out from wherever they are.
And finally, does anyone else understand how Catholic priest sexual abuse would drop to about 0.0 percent if all priests were women?