|01-04-2010 - Traces, n. 4
THE facts answer
PERHAPS HE WOULD SAY,
“GO, AND SIN NO MORE”
NOTWITHSTANDING THE INABILITY TO FORGIVE AND THE DIFFICULTIES IN UNDERSTANDING THE LETTER OF THE POPE, THERE IS A QUESTION THAT REMAINS: “WHAT WOULD CHRIST DO?”
One of the many odd things about secular culture is its incapacity to forgive. Tiger Woods is asked repeatedly by journalists what he has to say to those he had wronged.
The implication is that he has sinned against many. But whom, other than his wife and his children, has he wronged? He committed no crime, and what has emerged about his behavior should surely not be shocking to a culture that has celebrated personal freedom for half a century. It is implied that, because he was a “role model,” his serial marital infidelities have caused unspecified traumas to be visited on his fans and those who purchased goods purveyed by his sponsors. The only way he can atone is to give more and more abject interviews to those who accuse him.
I have been thinking of forgiveness in the context of the continuing controversy in Ireland concerning the litanies of abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests and covered up by Church authorities. It is difficult to talk about forgiveness for these sins, which, of course, unlike the misdemeanors of Tiger Woods, are among the vilest of crimes.
Christ made it clear: Let he among you who is without sin cast the first stone. This is a good starting point for any Christian. However, this discussion is not being conducted among Christians, but within the channels of a secular society in which State and civil domain have primacy. Even Christians, in contributing, must adopt the logic of the civil power. To advance an argument from within the logic of Christianity is to appear to be minimizing the crimes of the wrongdoers.
This is why the Pope’s pastoral letter last month was so difficult for Irish society to absorb.
Within the thought processes of the Christian community, everything the Pope said made sense.
But, seen from the secular great outdoors, the important issues had been whether the Pope would render the wrongdoers amenable to the civil authorities, and himself punish those who had sinned. He did neither, but simply asked the wrongdoers to take responsibility for their actions and cooperate with the authorities.
Would Christ, were He to speak now to our culture, be able to put in perspective all the many different aspects of these heartaches? Might He embrace the horror invoked by child abuse and still make visible the humanity of the abusers? Could He do so without equivocation, without seeming to deflect responsibility onto the wider society and its culture? We sense that Christ would have an answer, and that therefore there is an answer.
We do not know what He might say, but we have an intuition, from stories of His treatment of sinners in the Gospels, that He would not see things as we—either as Christians or secularists—tend to do. This, then, is our only refuge in these times: to reflect on what, from what we know of Him, He would say to us now.
Perhaps He would say, “Go, and sin no more.”