Counting our spoons

Samual Butler wrote of those who “compound for sins they are inclin’d to, by damning those they have no mind to.”

Pause for thought. Who were most guilty in the paedophile scandal: the priests who betrayed their trust and corruptly abuse children, or the bishops and other authorities who concealed and protected their paedophile priests – leaving them free to continue their activities?

Before you decide, just consider your own personal guilt. I am assuming that you find paedophilia a vile and disgusting activity. No punishment is enough to deal with such depravity. But have you never been tempted by your own passions? I don’t speak necessarily of sexual passions, but passions of anger, or the passion for saving your own skin, or the passion for getting your own way – take your choice. Do you know what it feels like to struggle with a temptation so strong that for a minute you forget all your principles and your good intentions? You may even have given way and, perhaps with true contrition, realised your failure – and have received forgiveness.

If you have never been tempted, or never fallen – you must either be very close to God or singularly free of any capacity for strong feelings. If the former your closeness will lead you to search for any way to forgive other sinners – for that is what God does; if the latter, you really have no right to judge those who have been tempted. Indeed the more someone is vociferous in their indignation of others’ iniquities the more I think of Emerson’s remark: “The louder he talked of his honor the faster we counted our spoons.”

If it is true, as I know it to be, that I am capable of sins at least as bad as the corrupt priests, or if I accept that, having had the natural temperament and experience of a diocesan bishop, I might have chosen in good faith and psychological naivety, to protect my brother priest and the good name of the Church –  then at least I am on warning that I too may fail – although it will be in terms of my particular personal weaknesses and my own experiences.

No one is more ready than I to condemn the abuse of the young or to criticise episcopal failure to rush to their defence. But I am not about to throw the first stone — lest it ricochets, and come back to hit me.

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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74 Responses to Counting our spoons

  1. Mike Horsnall says:

    I think what is being put forward hereis something to do with the
    “There but for the grace of God go I” syndrome?
    Apparently individuals who become serial murderers often kill themselvs. Committing unspeakable crimes at the behest of their strange compulsions causes such revulsion that suicide is the only way out. I don’t think my personal failings are in the same category as paedophilia if only because they are not , in the main, illegal or especially harmful to others. As far as I can see paedophilia constitutes both a serious crime and probably some form of imbalance. I don’t want the perpetrator locked up because of their moral failure, no it is because of the crime that the punishment is due. The whole story of crime, cover up, failure, weakness, is eminently comprehensible but none the less an offence because of that..

    • John Nolan says:

      Paedophilia is not a crime; child molestation is. Since it was first identified in 1886 by the psychologist Krafft-Ebing, paedophilia erotica has usually been seen as a psychiatric disorder. More recently it has been suggested that it is in fact a sexual orientation. The Catholic Church would describe it as an objective disorder, not sinful in itself. “Yes, but in popular parlance &c &c…” Not good enough. Remember the enraged tabloid-readers who targeted a paediatrician?

      • John L says:

        This frightens me a little, John. Not that I dispute what you say. It is just that the recent legislation in Parliament shows where tolerance of disordered “sexual orientation” leads. How long before legalisation and celebration of child molestation?

  2. mike Horsnall says:

    Thats a good point John, as you have said earlier ,we use the term too loosely. The issue here I think is that sin itself is not neccessarily crime-mostly isn’t I guess. Personally speaking, being unable to effect righteousness in myself I don’t expect it from anyone else-only that, like myself, one makes the attempt to wade out of the swamp. Crime is different, it demands punishment, punishment need not be vindictive nor vengeful, though of course, it often is.

    • John L says:

      Is crime really so different? Surely, at bottom, like “non-criminal” sins, it exhibits a disregard for the care/welfare/feelings of others, which is my understanding of the root of sin against loving one’s neighbour as oneself.
      In this, I’m as bad as anyone else – for example Quentin cites anger, and I like to kid myself that my anger hurts only me since I do not resort to injuring others in my anger. Whom am I fooling? I can’t help impinging on others. Our Blessed Lord seemed more interested in these personal interactions than in “criminal” breaches of the Mosaic Law.

      • Mike Horsnall says:

        Yes but that is beside the point. We began talking here on this thread about criminal activity, the crime of molesting children. That is a huge stride away from me struggling to control my anger and may be worrying away at confession about it. Yes crime is very different because it frankly and directly transgresses the boundaries of persons in such a manner as to be recognised as wrongdoing-your smouldering inner state is simply not on the same scale. Your anger problem (if you have one) is one thing-if you go and club a granny because of it then that is quite another and I don’t guess Jesus would have much condoned it either.

  3. Vincent says:

    “They know not what they do.” I suspect that there were two elements of ignorance involved. The first was that the bishops at that time simply didn’t know that paedo/ephebophila was a condition or orientation. They supposed that, like other sinful behaviour, repentance and firm purpose of amendment would put matters right.

    The second is that the abusing priests were almost certainly not aware of the potential long term effect of their behaviour – effects that are still present today.

    None of this constitutes an excuse for the dereliction but it may affect the gravity of the sin. We see the bishops as terrible because they endangered other young people, and the priests as terrible because of the deep and long term damage they caused. And what they did was indeed objectively terrible, but was it subjectively so?

    • Singalong says:

      Vincent, I think another consideration years ago for bishops was a real fear of causing unnecessary scandal by making these incidents public, when it was thought there was no need to do so, because the offender would change his ways as you say, and the damage done was not fully appreciated.

      There was also an emphasis on a sin which perhaps we do not hear so much about now, the sin of detraction, which is passing on information about real faults and failings to others who do not already know them, if you think there is no pressing need to do so.

      These are not excuses, but they are a part of the context for everyone who wants to consider the situation fairly, and to include some understanding of everything that was involved.

      St. Joseph, it is very heartening to read your Comment, and especially about the healing centre you know.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      But Vincent, who cares what it ‘subjectively’ was? Who gives a hoot? Yes there probably are discussions around culpability and mitigation to be had but in the end it is not a subjective view on this topic that matters-it is the law that matters.

      • Vincent says:

        Surely the law is simply the imperfect way through which we try to ensure the balance between the rights of different citizens. Of course it’s exceedingly important in a practical way, and it does approximate to moral principles. But true guilt does depend on the subjective understanding and intention of the sinner. We can only make guesses, When Jesus said: let he who is without sin throw the first stone, he did not say he who has committed adultery like this woman, but he who is without sin. Are you? Am I? Is Quentin? The law is our civil business, another man’s guilt is God’s business, my sin is my business before God.

      • Vincent says:

        I should have written ‘he who has not committed adultery etc. Sorry

  4. St.Joseph says:

    I wonder how much damage has been done to those who have encountered a sexual experience with someone, and I must add that it would only be by someone who has a mental condition-no one in their right mind would do such a thing to a child-and I will emphasize ‘child’.
    At the age that one is over the innocence of ‘what is what’- I do not understand why that person did not know what the person was doing and did not stop it. After all we say that the age of reason is 7 years old- I would make it 9 years-that is the age we ought to have a conscience to confess our sins to a priest..
    Now on the other hand I am not condoning the sad experiences that one will have suffered through a sexual abuse or any other abuse for that matter!But once the spark was lit then the fire spread and I believe burnt a lot of innocent people amongst the ashes.So I believe it is time that we stopped fanning the flames in the Church.And pray for forgiveness.,because that is how we will be judged.
    I live close to and worship at a place which was for sick ‘priests’ from all over the world, all sorts of abuse including alcoholics self abuse, and I met a lot of them in the past (they are no longer there now) but I can say that the healing power I feel in that place is so very powerful because that is what the Church is about -‘healing’.
    Now is the time to fight the sickness in our society-with the exploitation of young children through the media, TV ,computers, magazines , explicit sex, and explicit sex education in schools, proper dress code for school uniforms,under age sex, under age contraception, I could go on and on.
    While society is looking at the Church, and I understand it is meant to be ‘pure’ by the example of those who are representing Her,and is upsetting people, but that is the problem for those who are outside the Church looking in- who don’t necessarily see the ‘dirt’ that is around them!!
    Maybe it will have made us ‘more’ aware!! And not have the opinion that everyone is entitled to do as they please.Because the dirt sticks and there are a lot of young people who don’t have the parents to protect them and put them on the right road.
    There is more danger from society than there is in the Church!

    • Vincent says:

      You may be missing an important point here, st.Joseph. An important element in abuse is that the priest is powerful while the victim feels powerless. First, he may be disoriented by his former assumption that the priest was a sacred figure, representing the authority of God. Now this very same person is telling him that the proposed behaviour is all right. The victim may also be terrified that the priest will do him harm in some way. And, if he doesn’t already know, the priest will tell him that his story will not be believed and indeed that he will be punished for telling lies etc. He may know that what is happening is wrong but confusion and terror are not a good starting point for making decisions which require moral heroism. Indeed one of the worst consequences of abuse is that the innocent victim often feels guilty — and that guilt may last a lifetime, poisoning the victim’s spiritual life.

      • St.Joseph says:

        We all have to learn how to forgive!
        That to me is where and only where healing begins.

  5. Geordie says:

    All the mitigating circumstances being put forward by us will not have much effect on the general evaluation of the Church’s actions in the past. The Church claimed to be the moral leader but has failed miserably in this role; not just with regard to child abuse but in many others areas. We have lost the moral high ground and it is going to take a lot of prayer and self-denial over a long period of time before we regain any credibility.
    However it is interesting to note that since the Savile scandal burst on to the public stage, all the clever comedians and the so-called intellectuals on the BBC have toned down their criticisms of the Church and their gags about the clergy are much less frequent. They are like Quentin in that they do not want the stone to ricochet and come back to hit them.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Geordie, I agree with what you say, but one consolation it isn’t what the Church taught-even though there are some who don’t practice it or even know what She teaches or can be even bothered to find out.That duty belongs to us.We are responsible for our own failures. We all stand alone on Judgement Day.. and answer for ourselves.
      A collar does not make the man!
      We might believe that if we criticise the Church, we will be given more credibility as laity.

  6. claret says:

    The more I read some of the comments on here and previous posts on this issue of child abuse by clergy the more I despair.
    There is a mental blockage that somehow still prevents some people from recognising what evil was being perpetrated in their midst.
    I recall one previous post on this topic that spoke of ‘provocative children’ as though the abusive priest was little more than some kind of victim of child sexual provocation.
    Paedophiles have one obsession and that is to satisfy thier sexual desires with children and young adults. This obsession is all-consuming and no obstacle is too great to be overcome if the end result is to give access to children. Hence the priesthood ( and similar occupations,) that give access to fulfilling these desires and provide a cloak of respectability that favours the abuser over the child is well worth perservering with. This means that an abusive priest is a paedophile before becoming a priest, and it should be faced up to the fact that the structures of the Church are such that they are ( were ) attractive to those who would abuse children/ young adults. Indeed the circumstances are such that being a member of the clergy heightened the sexual thrill.
    There is no remorse shown except that of being caught and whilst in prison being deprived of their obsession. Why are these disgraced clergy , like others who abuse, put on sexual offenders registers and denied access to children? It is because they will always seek to re-offend.
    What the Church authorities did was to purposefully ignore where their true responsibility lay. They were under an obligation, renewed at every Chrism Mass, to ‘serve the people of God,’ Instead all too often they chose to serve themselves.

    • John Nolan says:

      Claret, paedophiles may or may not be attracted to ‘young adults’, but what defines their condition is their disordered sexual interest in pre-pubescent children of either sex. If it is indeed a sexual orientation, then I agree it can no more be ‘cured’ than can homosexuality. However, it is possible that an individual might be aware of his or her unnatural proclivities and strive hard to resist them (I include the feminine pronoun because in the US there have been allegations against women religious). A young man may be aware that he is homosexual and become a priest because, by committing himself to both celibacy and sexual continence, he is better able to resist temptation. Also to say ‘there is no remorse’ is like saying ‘once a thief, always a thief’. Sadly, this is all too often true, but some erstwhile offenders have indeed shown remorse (the late Fr Kit Cunningham, for example). As Catholics we must believe that with God’s grace, even a perpetrator of great evil can repent and amend his life.

  7. Geordie says:

    St Joseph
    The laity are as much the Church as are the clergy. We’ve all lost our credibility as Catholics. We weren’t in authority but we accepted the attitudes of the clergy and hierarchy, that we shouldn’t bring scandal to the Church.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Were you around in the 60s 70s and 80s, where were you when we were were fighting the Liberals,they brought the scandal to the Church, not only in sex abuse.
      Maybe I am a little older in the tooth than you and remember it all. That to me is also abuse and did as much damage .

  8. Peter D. Wilson says:

    I wonder how much of what is now categorised as paedophilic molestation by clergy was of a kind that the perpetrator would clearly have recognised as sinful. The only paedophile I have known was quite open in proclaiming her predilection for pre-pubescent boys – but that was many years ago.

  9. John Nolan says:

    Crime (crimen) and sin (peccatum) are not the same thing. I can act perfectly within the law and yet commit a sin which would incur excommunication latae sententiae, for example procuring an abortion. At the same time I am happy to drive up the M1/M6 on a Sunday morning to attend the Birmingham Oratory at 90 mph, although it makes me technically a criminal.

  10. Mike Horsnall says:


    “When Jesus said: let he who is without sin throw the first stone, he did not say he who has committed adultery like this woman, but he who is without sin. Are you? Am I? Is Quentin? The law is our civil business, another man’s guilt is God’s business, my sin is my business before God..”

    I’m still not clear what point you are making. Lets try again. Sin is a universal shared condition, any man who thinks himself without it, even in relative terms, is a blind fool. In this conversation we began by Quentin seeming to want to say that perhaps we should not be so condemning of corrupt priests because we are ourselves corrupt. Well yes, tell me something new!!. The reason I mentioned the term ‘crime’ was simply to make the point that I don’t personally make a big deal of condemning these priests because of their sin-they have their own reward for that , coupled with the possibility of repentance. In fact I don’t really ‘condemn’ those individuals at all though I may dislike what they allow themselves to do. These men are condemned by the law not by me and are, or should currently be, recieving just punishment, today, on this earth. Let the rest be, because vengeance does not belong to us. I do feel that we really should be silent on the issue of condemnation and though the church has a strong duty of care to those it has injured that does not mean we should allow ourselves to revel in their evil.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Sorry, to be clear , the evil I refer to is of course that done to the victims by those who abused – and it is us who should take care not to revel in our moral outrage at the deeds of those abusers.

    • Quentin says:

      ” Quentin seeming to want to say that perhaps we should not be so condemning of corrupt priests because we are ourselves corrupt. Well yes, tell me something new!!.” Perhaps not new to you. One of the most unlikeable distortions of religion is to be able to be cruel and condemnatory while actually feeling justified and God-fearing in doing so. When this tendency arises it must be pointed out. Sexual sins which imply the corruption of the young carry a high emotional charge, and so are particularly susceptible to this wile of the Devil.

      • John L says:

        I agree, Quentin. Surely the “bottom line”, to coin a cliche, is that none of us should condemn a sinner, only the sin?

  11. ionzone says:

    0k, a couple of people have said it so I am just going to rebuke them right now. Acceptance of homosexuality DOES NOT INDICATE THAT YOU ACCEPT PAEDOPHILIA!

    Seriously guys, this is one of the big big reasons that gays think the anti-gay side is a bunch of assholes, the assumption, and it is an assumption, that homosexuality will lead to the decriminalisation of paedophilia. Let me put this in very simple terms: homosexuality occurs between consenting partners, paedophilia is RAPE. Also, most of the people who engage in it identify as straight.

    I’m sorry if I am coming on a bit strong here, but the fact is this, gays are just as against paedophilia as you are so if you start accusing them or their supporters of encouraging it then you look like bigots who don’t know what they are talking about.

    • John Candido says:

      Well said, I fully agree with you ionzone.

    • Mike Horsnall says:

      Ion Zone:

      “0k, a couple of people have said it so I am just going to rebuke them right now…”

      Said what and where? No comment on this thread seems to suggest that homosexuals are more prone to paedophilia or ebophilia than heterosexuals. As to your assertion about who does or doesn’t do what, how do you know either way? I know hundreds of people yet, as far as I know none condones theft, does that mean I know no thieves or that my accquaintances form a particularly law abiding crew? No, it just means I have a certain view of them. How would you even begin to back up your assertion either way?

    • John Nolan says:

      Yes, Ionzone, but the point I was making was that the term ‘paedophilia’ is now loosely used to describe sex with anyone deemed to be ‘underage’. The age of homosexual consent in the UK at the moment is 16, the same as the female age of consent which was set in 1885 – before that it was 12. Yet we know that the police do not prosecute in cases where the girl is 13 or over, unless she makes a complaint herself. Peter Tatchell originally campaigned for a lower homosexual age of consent. In classical times (and the Greeks were regarded as worse than the Romans in this respect) sex between a man and a boy was tolerated, but consensual sex between two male adults (anal rape of prisoners of war was a different matter) would have been regarded as immoral, and homosexual marriage as absurd. Fellatio by a woman on a man was accepted, but cunnilingus was not; the mouth being the instrument of oratory (os, oris) would have been contaminated by contact with the vagina (cunnus in Latin; vagina is a sword-scabbard).

      The Vatican actually sets the bar higher, regarding anyone under 18 as a minor. Pederasty is an element of homosexual culture, and there is no point in your denying it. Look at the rent-boys at Oscar Wilde’s trial; the fact that he found these fanciable when at the same time married to a beautiful woman shows the gulf between the gay and straight (or normal and abnormal) worlds.

    • John L says:

      OK Ionzone – at the risk of appearing a bigot, or something worse, who doesn’t know what he is talking about, I notice that a piece of irony I used early in this thread could be disregarded as ironic and come under your condemnation.
      My point is that as a (I hope) “normal” heterosexual, I do believe that both Homosexuality and Paedophilia are sexual aberrations. This does NOT mean I equate the two. Nor does it mean that I am trying to be offensive to you. Nor am I failing to recognise that tese states are not (always) voluntary.
      We long ago stopped persecuting Homosexuals. This is, apparently, insufficient. There is a highly orchestrated campaign to impose Homosexuality on the rest of us as a norm of society – see the latest events in Parliament.
      One would hope that Paedophilia would never be accorded the same status – hence my irony, but there is some indication that active paedophile groups seek to have their sexual orientation recognised as “normal”. If, God forbid, it ever was so recognised, the only logical consequence could be legalisation in the interests of equality.
      Yes, of course, this is silly. As you say. Paedophilia is rape. Convince a child that it is “normal” and we have the “consenting” argument in full force.

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        John L – well put. I wonder how long it will be before declaring oneself a “normal” heterosexual becomes an offence in law.

      • ionzone says:

        John L, what you said really does not seem ironic to me. It seems paranoid.

        “This frightens me a little, John. Not that I dispute what you say. It is just that the recent legislation in Parliament shows where tolerance of disordered “sexual orientation” leads. How long before legalisation and celebration of child molestation?”

      • John L says:

        Sorry about that, Ionzone. The last sentence you quote was intended ironically. As for paranoia – well, to me, the boot seems to be on the other foot.

  12. Quentin says:

    For those following this debate.
    Some first class contributions on this sorry episode have been posted under the title of X v Y. They are well worth reading.
    Those unfamiliar with this blog should scroll to the top from here and click on Home. X v Y is the second item listed.

  13. Singalong says:

    In addition to the concern of all Catholics in the issue of clerical abuse, we have had some personal involvement through the participation of one of our children in a group run by a priest who molested at least one of the group, not our son, and who was imprisoned for this offence many years later, when the incidents came to light.

    We do not know all the details, as our son, long since an adult of course, has not wanted to talk about it, except to say that the priest was a really good man, as we had found him. We really valued the work he did, and did not question his motives, or have any suspicions about invitations to visit, or any other activities he suggested.

    We still do not know what to think about him. We think it more than likely that his work with youth was entirely genuine, and that he succumbed to unplanned temptation, but of course we shall never know. We feel really sorry for the tragedy for all concerned, for him as a potentially good priest with a real flair for enthusing young people, as well as for the victims, and the whole group of youngsters who were all affected.

    In particular, we shall never know what part this has played in our son`s subsequent, but not immediate, lapse from the Church. Only God knows if and how far we were all betrayed.

    We were very unimpressed by the apparent lack of compassion for the priest from diocesan safeguarding personnel whom I spoke with about the matter when the case was with the courts.

  14. claret says:

    Scripture reminds us that we have all sinned and therefore fall short of the glory of God ( Mary apart of course, according to Church teaching,) and therefore we are all subject to the charge of hypocrisy if we condemn sin in others but there are always counter-arguments to be found in scripture ( if your brother offends you/ take him to court etc.) So there are dilemmas but unless we are going to go around like St Thomas More clothed in a hair shirt and subject ourselves to flagellation then what are we to do in the face of sinfulness?
    Just keep quiet and so possibly compound the wrong doing or do we speak out ( if the latter then this would seem to be a wile of the devil if I read Quentin’s proposition correctly.)
    The phrase of ‘being between a rock and a hard place’ comes to mind.
    There is probably no real answer but in criminal law there is the offence of ‘assisting an offender’ (which may have an ingredient of keeping quiet about a known/suspected offender,) and to prosecute this offence ( or any other offence for that matter,) does not require an unblemished personal record of the prosecuting lawyer.

    • Quentin says:

      Just to avoid misunderstanding. Of course we should speak out, using sensible discretion, to protect those who have been harmed or may be harmed by an abuser. What I have suggested is that there are those who react with a level of horror and an eagerness to blame the clergy which suggests that their motives are holier than thou. The more indignant they are the more righteous they feel. There is a clear distinction between the evil of an act, and the harm it can do, and the degree of guilt which God, not us, attributes to the sinner.

      • St.Joseph says:

        I wonder how all the unnecessary publicity has made the subject of abuse worse than what it is-not that it isn’t bad enough,but it may have caused innocent people to suffer blame, through unthinking comments from those who may revel in the opportunity to pull the Church down.And there are plenty of those .
        I think also how many have been forgiven in Confession and years later it came back to haunt them.
        How many parents were to blame for not believing their children in the first place.
        It is interesting on the Sunday programme Radio 4 this morning where a lady was speaking about the abuse in Ireland in a Home, and commented that how she was able to get over it by forgiving and was sorry that she may have caused them hurt now by speaking out now.

  15. Mike Horsnall says:

    But this is precisely my point, particularly where you have added in the idea of compounding ‘wrong doing’ Wrong doing is wrong doing, wrong being is wrong being. We are all involved in wrong being, where wrong being leads to a wrong doing then it should be challenged. For example I suspect a member of my extended family to be wrongly making a benefit claim-it is my duty to challenge them and I have done so. Its not up to me to loudly bemoan the state of selfishness or the willingness to steal- it is my duty to challenge the act. So with the corrupt priest- if you knew of actions which could be deemed criminal then those actions should be challenged, reported and acted upon. But there would have to be an unlawful act and not just some failing/ weakness/predeliction you might have yourself and thus despise in others- or fancy yourself miles above. When we all line up for confession in a reconciliation service there’s little point in despising your neighbour for his sinfulness. If on the other hand your neighbour is carrying a knife, throttling a cat or punching the sacristan then that is a completely different matter. Of course sin and crime will shade into one another but that is not the issue we are addressing here- as far as I understand it that is.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I somehow thought we were discussing how much we forgive our neighbour as we all hope The Lord will forgive us.
      Or is it only when the crime or sin is from those who ‘trespass against us’?

    • claret says:

      I think I must be in a state of degenerative misunderstanding as I cannot get my thought processes to relate to your point and that of Quentin’s.
      It seems to me that no matter how we approach this subject then we don’t get too far before we come across a series of contradictions.
      I am at a loss to how a person would identify a ‘failing, weakness or predilection’ without some evidence to support it.
      I return to my point that the prosecutor does not have to be beyond reproach themselves before they can challenge unlawful behavior in others. If such were the case then the law abiding would need to be locked up and the offenders left to run riot. outside the prison walls.
      It is not just a co-incidence that the criminal law and sinfulness are often bed mates.

      • mike Horsnall says:

        Perhaps its me…in fact its just that we have wires crossed somewhere without meaning it. So for example a man has a roving eye for women, he struggles with it privately. One day he commits adultery and the subsequent fall out destroys his marriage.. You hear about it and think:
        “There but for the grace of God go I. I’ve been married 20 years now, I have a decent marriage myself but am strongly attracted to so and so myself and I think they are keen on me-so I know what it is like to be strongly tempted”

        So you share the mans weakness and his failing-but you do not yourself go down the same path. He pays a heavy price both financially and emotionally which you are glad not to have to pay; you don’t envy him but you have a certain solidarity of understanding with him because of your own situation so you don’t go round trumpeting his details to everyone and you don’t try and make emotional capital from his situation nor do you paint yourself as whiter than white because you are aware of your own struggle.
        I guess we could take this example and apply examples of it to money,power, greed, lust etc of all kinds.

        As to the state of the prosecutor-of course you are right. It doesnt matter what the prosecutor is like in terms of predelictions etc -only that the prosecutor is not himself a criminal,which state would debar him from office. This is because the prosecutor isn’t judging sin, the prosecutor is judging crime-actions deemed worthy of punishment. Of course predeliction to crime and concupiscence are likely related since you can’t really have the one without the other, but that is a different story.

        But rarely do we, as individuals, find ourselves in the state where our individual action regarding a persons conduct mattters much-unless we know them personally or are related to them professionally, mostly we are not prosecutors or judges, mostly we are onlookers and mostly we can find some solidarity in our hearts with those who have fallen and allowed their internal lawlessness to manifest outer chaos.

        Sometimes it may be impossible for us to find any solidarity, I can find within myself utterly no solidarity with those who sexually abuse minors- but I can find solidarity with those who have struggled against disordered desires and lost the battle…but this solidarity has nothing to do with the process of the law being applied to such a person or the outcome-only to the way I conduct myself in my reactions to the incident, whatever it may be, when I read about it in the newspaper ….or discuss it on a blog!

  16. St.Joseph says:

    Mike, that is so true what you say.
    One can be attracted to someone else even in marriage,but I don’t consider that to be ‘lust’
    or adultery of the mind.. But it is only through the grace of God that we are able to control these feelings.It is unfortunate when those who are not able to resist it -that is when the harm is done and children are involved and as you said in an earlier comment ‘there for the Grace of God go I’.
    We can place ourselves in the other person whose marriages are on the rocks through alcohol,violence etc.How easy it would be to fall. The situation may be that it would be best for the children if a husband or wife are a danger to them that they separate. A lady I know she ended up more times than one at midnight with her children in my house -when her husband would come in drunk, and smash things about. Through prayer after years he no longer drinks, and is a different person now. Returned to Church, and a granddad now..And children all practice their faith, and have good marriages.
    People can change,and I have seen so many having a Guest House and a Public House,people in trouble and marriage breakdowns.Life can be messy, all we can do is support them and hope that the little we do to help in there downfall will not add to it by criticism.People can change.
    One could call my husband a soft touch-he got many out of trouble when they fell through money problems,but he nearly always was repaid.
    One time I was really annoyed when a man with 6 children on his own came in to our pub with a turkey for us to raffle-he had received from the DHSS ,he wanted the money for ‘booze’as he said,
    But he was out of luck-we did draw a line when it came to things that were immoral.
    I could write a book on the thoughts of a ‘Landlady’.
    I wouldn’t be lost for words-I can hear someone say!!!

  17. John Candido says:

    Let’s all hope and pray that this good news gets out to the broader community eventually.

  18. mike Horsnall says:

    ST Joseph,

    “Mike, that is so true what you say.
    One can be attracted to someone else even in marriage,but I don’t consider that to be ‘lust’or adultery of the mind.. But it is only through the grace of God that we are able to control these feelings.It is unfortunate when those who are not able to resist it -that is when the harm is done and children are involved and as you said in an earlier comment ‘there for the Grace of God go I’.”

    I’m pleased that you don’t attach culpability to the state I describe. I speak of course from experience, once falling hopelessly in love with a student of mine despite being happily married. It was the classic mid 30’s girl and older man thing. I never intended my heart stray as it did and for about three years I found myself in a state of complete disarray in that it was impossible to deny my feelings yet I was not willing to act on them. I still don’t know the rights or wrongs and think that most probably there were none. The mechanism that draws you to your spouse doesn’t die when you marry and tends to resurface from time to time only directed at someone else. It is too simplistic to say that all attraction is based in lust because it isn’t. Had I been 15 years younger then my marriage would have almost certainly been lost because I would have lacked the self control, the devotion to my faith and the tangible sense of loyalty to my family, which takes a long time to truly build.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike thank you for your honest reply.
      I am sure that most marriages will relate to some of the things you said at some time in their married life.
      And as you say as I believe it is not always lustful to be attracted to someone else.
      Obviously there are situations when this does happen.But then it is casual sex!!.
      “25 years ago when I was 25 years married the Diocesan newspaper had a page on married couples and two couple were chosen,my husband and I one of them.
      In the interview my husband said when asked’ what is it that kept your lasting 25 years’
      His reply and it was said in the paper ‘the glue that kept it together was our children’.
      As much as I appreciated it, then to me it sounded that he stayed faithful because of them ,and I was upset. And then started asking questions.He was not a catholic,but did have good Christian morals and did respect my beliefs on contraception(that must have been difficult for him.looking back. But however when he fully understood the sense of knowing ones fertility and understanding about abortion,it changed his life.And became a wonder worker for both.We lost 3 children so I understood his difficult to at the time to reconcile himself to what he thought was a very uncharitable Church and Pope etc, but I don’t know where he received the grace from ,but he was always good to the Church and came so it must have been the Holy Spirit
      Our marriage could have failed ,especially after that little disclosure to the Catholic paper-to which I was shocked-but then realised that even if he didn’t love me enough ,he loved his children and would have given up his life for them.And I mean that he would have done.
      Sorry this is long drawn out but it could not be said -in all what I have said-it is a lifetime experience. May he RIP. a catholic-The Church got him in the end. And didn’t he fight for it all his married ‘life’ .Up and down the ladder’ but I never pushed him up only supported him when he went down a rung. ..

  19. John Candido says:

    I have just seen a television report that Pope Benedict XVI has resigned from his position as Pope due to the frailty of his health. His resignation will come into effect on the 28th February 2013 at 20:00 hours.

  20. mike Horsnall says:

    Quick John, send in your CV!

  21. John Nolan says:

    Quentin, can we now expect an article from you on succession management planning and how this could be applied to the Church?

    • Quentin says:

      No need, John, if you take up Mike’s suggestion to apply, we’ll all vote for you.

      I gather from the BBC news this evening that Pope Benedict has done his own succession planning — making sure that all his key people are in the right places. However the Holy Spirit may take a hand, although many years ago, as I think I have mentioned before, Ratzinger said on Bavarian radio that the choice could not simply be at the behest of the Holy Spirit since so many cock-eyed choices had been made in the past.

      I’m all for a non European, non North American pope.

      • John Nolan says:

        I think Mike meant the other John! Are there any outstanding non-European, non-North American cardinals? Pell has to count as European; Malcolm Ranjith represents a country which is predominately non-Christian. Madariaga? Too lightweight. Arinze? Too old. Turkson? His Christian name is Peter, and we don’t want the world to end just yet. After 35 years I would expect the next bishop of Rome to be Italian. Scola is tipped, but I would put my money on Bagnasco (right age, doctrinally sound, dignified presence, not afraid to speak his mind, even though he got death threats when he opposed same-sex unions). There is no clear front-runner as there was in 1939, 1963 and 2005.

  22. claret says:

    Back to the subject in hand ( the next Pope can wait !) but just to thank Mike for his detailed and thoughtful reply.
    Contradictions though remain. Jesus spoke of the ‘unforgiveable sin.’ and of ‘whose sins you shall retain….’

    • St.Joseph says:

      Would you say that the ‘unforgiveablel sin’ is the one where the person guilty of it has no remorse-or the one who is offended can not forgive?

  23. Singalong says:

    The Unforgiveable Sin, blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, caused me great anxiety as a child. It was explained as Final Despair, completely giving up all trust and hope in God, but many questions and complications remained.
    Fr. Ronald Rolheiser has written more helpfully about it:
    “Whose sins you shall retain etc.”, I thought would be where there is no real contrition and repentance, and no willingness to make any restitution or amends that are possible.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I wonder if when Pope John Paul 2nd went to visit the person who shot him in prison and forgave him, it helped that person to repent and confess, maybe saving his soul.(the man who shot him)
      That is why I believe as difficult as it is to forgive someone we really have pray about it.
      How difficult it would be if someone ‘murdered ‘ a child especially for the parents.
      We really must pray-pray and pray.

      • Singalong says:

        Si. Joseph, in the context of this Post, how difficult must it be to forgive a priest, of all people, who has abused one`s child. Even the effects of being on the periphery, as I described in my earlier Comment, are very hard to cope with. The law breaker must be punished as other contributors have spelled out, but we must also forgive the sinner and try and understand, which is very difficult while we live with the damage he has caused. The media on the whole do not understand this, but we have to, when we pray, Forgive us our trespasses, AS WE FORGIVE those who trespass against us.

        There are endless examples of heartrending wrongs which people have managed to forgive as Christ did Himself on the Cross, Father forgive them, they know not what they do. Stories of Holocaust victims are unbelievably inspiring, and the Siberian Gulags. A dreadful scenario for me would be how to forgive a daughter who who had an abortion, or as you say the murderer of one`s child, but people have done this after atrocities in Northern Ireland for instance.

  24. St.Joseph says:

    Our Lady of Fatima asked the children to pray for poor sinners who had no one to pray for them,and showed them Hell where the poor sinners go who had no one to ‘pray for them’
    She being the mother of Jesus who saw Him suffer as She must have
    suffered under the Cross-so if She asked for this it must be important to help those to bring them to Eternal Salvation.She was human too.We too have been given the power of Grace to use for others not only for ourselves-we are the ‘believers’ We must do our best.
    We live in this world-but ought to remember the Life hereafter..
    The Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Hail Mary also the prayer to St Michael -there are plenty of prayers to make it easy for us and the Rosary as Our Lady asked.
    These can help in difficult times when those who can not pray-we can offer it up for them and ourselves. It has great power against Satan..

    • Singalong says:

      Thank you St. Joseph, very salutary, especially at the beginning of Lent.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Yes, but sometimes I think words are cheap, and it would sound very sanctimonious if we did not know that in the end God will judge everyone – then it makes things much easier for me to accept ,as He will deal out what is due.And no stone will be left unturned, the evil that is in us will be given its just rewards, one way or another.
        And then I can sleep at night and pray knowing He is the Boss!

  25. claret says:

    I sometimes wonder if a period of unforgiveness can properly preclude an act of forgiveness. The phrase to ‘forgive and forget’ is an impossible one to fulfill because a person can choose to forgive but cannot opt to forget. To then forgive a wrong that goes to the very heart and soul of a victim and is pondered on and thought about is a difficult one to deal with.
    The passsage of time and indeed fresh hurts from another direction can then dull one’s initial feelings and be replaced by a decision to forgive but it may well take some time to get to that point. I don’t see how it can be an instant decision unless the hurt is a small one and a person can recognise their part in bringing the situation about.

    • Singalong says:

      You have put that so well, and in some ways one does not want the hurt to dull down too much, even when one forgives, as in a way that feels like making it less serious and important. People say that time is a great healer, which has some truth, but the deed has still been done, and one does not want to think that familiarity with the facts can lessen its impact.

    • St.Joseph says:

      I would think that Judas didn’t take long to be sorry for what he did, he went out straight away and hanged himself!

      • John Nolan says:

        Judas did repent of betraying his Lord, and was assumed to be damned on account of his suicide. Now that the Church gives the benefit of the doubt to suicides, we can speculate that Judas might be saved.

        Are we required to forgive an unrepentant terrorist who kills innocent people?

      • Peter D. Wilson says:

        John N – Many years ago I answered that question in the affirmative, and was sharply reminded that it wasn’t for us to give or withhold forgiveness; that was the privilege of those who had suffered from the terrorist’s actions. Any requirement on ourselves is presumably to pray for all concerned.

  26. St.Joseph says:

    I don’t know John, hence my post above. I just pray for all sinners and leave the rest in the Lords hands.
    Some of the terrorist’s believe they are doing God Will. But that proves nothing.
    Just listening to the Radio this morning-discussing Dresden bombing-over 25,000 or more innocent people women and children killed in Germany-by British bombs how can that be justified.
    By saying it was a just war.
    My grandad was killed in the Somme-my grandmother was never pacified,and led a miserable 55 years a widow because she couldn’t forgive.I learned a lesson from that at a very early age.

  27. Geordie says:

    Forgiveness is an act of the Will and not a suppression of feelings. The feelings of hurt may never subside but forgiveness is given in spite of the damage that has been done. It’s never going to be easy but God expects us to forgive so He will help us. Often we can forget some hurts for a time but they come back to us, especially in the sleepless early hours of the morning. But Our Lord didn’t say forgive and forget; He just said ‘forgive’.

    • St.Joseph says:

      My grandmother never forgot and didn’t forgive, as I remember meeting a German girl I was 14 whilst staying with her on holiday in Ireland . I took her back to my grans house but she would not let her in and asked me not to see her again as the Germans killed my granddad, how sad is that.!She would get the brass box from the drawer with his medal and telegram etc- many times and yet I loved her dearly. A bit of a hermit-but when she died in 1962 practically the whole town came to her funeral and all rushing to touch her coffin. It taught me not to be bitter!! On the other hand she was very religious.
      It doesn’t make sense really.

  28. Iona says:

    John Nolan – “Are we required to forgive an unrepentant terrorist who kills innocent people?”
    Perhaps it depends on whether (and in what sense) he knows what he’s doing, – as in “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”

  29. Mike Horsnall says:

    “Forgiveness is an act of the Will and not a suppression of feelings. The feelings of hurt may never subside but forgiveness is given in spite of the damage that has been done. It’s never going to be easy but God expects us to forgive so He will help us. Often we can forget some hurts for a time but they come back to us, especially in the sleepless early hours of the morning. But Our Lord didn’t say forgive and forget; He just said ‘forgive’…”

    I think this starts to get to the heart of things. In many ways we bleat such nonsense about forgiveness when we have no cause to. I do not have to forgive a person who has sinned against someone else-for they have not sinned against me. Much of what we chatter on about around the topic of ‘forgiveness’ is in fact abstract. At the outset of this thread Quentin mentioned the casting of stones, I haven’t been sinned against by an abusing priest or a terrorist, nor will I ever sit on their panels of judgement, mine is simply not to cast stones and to pray for Gods will in the situation if Ithink that particular situation is one I should pray about.”Thy Kingdom come”
    Once we had a convicted murderer in our church (pre catholic days for me) This person wanted to take part in childrens work. Huge furore as you can imagine, the issue got on to TV. During the debate a church goer made the point that they had forgiven the person their previous sin -the response was that forgiveness needed to come from the victims parents-who had been genuinely sinned against -rather than from an uninvolved churchgoer who had not.

    So I think we expend a lot of effort- which could simply be used in prayer- worrying about what we should or should not do when mostly we are dealing with simple emotions of personal outrage. I know it could be said that abusing priests for example do in fact sin against us in the wider sense-but I do not agree to that-I am not harmed by them and my ‘reputation’ is not a thing I should be unduly concerned with. Hurts that I have been dealt personally or have dealt to others do come closer, most of them to come down to acts of the will in forgiveness and to pleading for Gods help in times of personal anguish. In my own experience the use of prayer as a method of ‘temporary forgetting’ is the best course of action until time does heal the emotional trauma. When lying awake at 3 am in misery-get up and find your rosary.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Mike Horsnall
      You put that perfectly. A priest in a homily one time explained it as Gods Love flowing through us to our neighbour and flowing back to Him. It is only understanding the power of Gods Love,,that we can move in that circle.
      I believe God understands that we can not forget but maybe that is a good thing to be aware and responsible that once a person has done something seriously wrong like child abuse or intentional murder etc, and that without knowing Gods Love they may do so again.And I believe this is another reason to pray for sinners and forgive,but always try to put our trust in them and give them a chance to reform.Even in prison because healing of mind heart and soul can begin anywhere.

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