Wednesday, May 22, 2002

Forgiveness and Justice
I heard a story a long time ago about something that happened in northern Christendom sometime about the year 1000. It's a story about Catholic forgiveness.

Way back then, counts ruled the world, or a least their own small corner of it. Some counts were good and some were bad. One particular count was entirely depraved. He had a tremendous sexual appetite for young boys. He kidnapped, sodomized, tortured and murdered his young male subjects. Then he would discard their bodies like yesterday's trash.

There wasn't a peasant family in the neighboring area that was untouched by his atrocities. Eventually, the count was brought to justice and sentenced to public execution. He asked of the Church forgiveness and he received the sacraments.

At his execution, he broke down and wept. He begged the people for their forgiveness. All of the damaged families and bereaved parents, who were present for the occasion, found it in their hearts to forgive him. They even rejoiced in their forgiveness of him. Then they watched him die.

It may be an old wife's tale. I was told that the events actually took place. Either way, the moral of this story is simple: forgiveness and justice don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

There's another lesson. The count had no need of the peoples' forgiveness. He had already received absolution. It was the people who needed to forgive so that they also be saved.

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