Archive for February, 2013

A Heroic Vision for Ireland’s Churches

On Sunday evening, January 27, Dr. Robert Enright gave two talks in Mullingar, Ireland, one to clergy from a variety of Christian denominations and the other to the townspeople. Rev. Alastair Graham of the Church of Ireland hosted the event and Fr. Thomas Kilroy was the master of ceremonies for the talk with the townspeople.

Dr. Enright addressed a capacity crowd at All Saints Church, discussing what forgiveness is, why forgive, how we forgive, and how we can give forgiveness away to others in home, school, and place of worship. The goal of the meetings was to being a conversation on how forgiveness might form the basis for more unity among the various denominations within Mullingar–primarily Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Christian Fellowship, and Pentecostal. This is a heroic vision because of the historical tensions among Christian groups on the Island of Ireland. Forgiveness might prove to be a central unifying factor.

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Mall Shooter Gets 20 years, Forgiveness

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, LA – An 18-year-old Baton Rouge man received a 20-year prison term and forgiveness after pleading guilty last week in a January 2012 shooting that wounded two innocent teenage bystanders outside the Mall of Louisiana.

The teen victims and their parents said inside the courtroom that they forgive Johnny Williams and pray that he will someday become a productive member of society.

The shooting occurred when Williams fired a weapon into a crowd during an argument with another teen. Caleb Day, 16, was shot in the right arm and chest and suffered nerve damage to that arm. Trenton Miller, 16, was shot in the left arm, and the bullet went into his hip and out his leg, prosecutors said. Day said that despite missing 50 days of school and a year of playing baseball because of his injuries, he holds nothing against Williams. Day’s father, David, said he forgives Williams and prays for him. Miller’s father, John, said, “With our whole hearts we forgive him.”

Read the full story: “Mall shooter gets 20 years, forgiveness”

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Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?

The New York Times – The Jan. 6 issue of The Times Magazine features an intriguing story from Tallahassee, FL, about parents Kate and Andy Grosmaire whose deeply held religious faith led them to forgive the man who murdered their 19-year-old daughter in March 2010. The killer was no stranger to the Grosmaires; he was their daughter’s boyfriend, Conor McBride, who shot Ann Margaret Grosmaire in the head after the two had been arguing for hours.

This story, however, goes beyond a heinous crime, a repentant lawbreaker and a typical punishment. While first degree murder in Florida usually carries a mandatory life sentence or, potentially, the death penalty, the Grosmaires sought to have Conor’s sentence reduced through a a concept called “restorative justice” which considers harm done and strives for agreement from all concerned–the victims, the offender and the community–on making amends. Partly as a result of that process, Conor was sentenced to 20 years in prison plus 10 years of probation instead of receiving a life sentence or the death penalty.

Read the full story and consider for yourself the challenging questions presented by “Can Forgiveness Play a Role in Criminal Justice?”

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I recently read that we should forgive those who not only wounded us but also wronged us at the same time. In my understanding, “wronging someone” suggests that we offer forgiveness to those who not just hurt us but treated us “unjustly”. However, I was wondering about cases where someone hurts the other person by mistake or without any ill intention. For example, think about car accidents. In most cases, a driver wouldn’t intentionally try to get involved in an accident, but it happens and the damage/ injury can be quite serious. Do we forgive or have the right to forgive those who we think that made mistakes but wounded us badly? Thank you very much!

If we are wounded by someone’s mistake, this can still be viewed as an injustice. Let us take your car accident example. Yes, the driver who hits another may have the best of intentions, but he/she might have paid much better attention, given the grave consequences of a lapse in concentration. There are injustices of commission and omission. An injustice of commission occurs when the other intends wrong. An injustice of omission occurs when the person does not intend wrong but at the same time fails in some way, fails to act as he or she should. Not paying attention on the road is an injustice of omission and can be forgiven.

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I’m 16 years old and lately I’ve been feeling guilty because when I was about 8 or 9 years old I lied on my teacher that she choked me. She was really mean and she ran up into my face and yelled at me but she didn’t choke me. I don’t know why I said she choked me. Now I want to ask for forgiveness and I’m trying to find out what her address is so I can send a letter. What should I do?

It is courageous of you to want to ask forgiveness from your teacher. When we seek forgiveness, please remember the “3 R’s” of remorse, repentance, and recompense. Remorse is the inner sorrow for what you did. Repentance is knowing you did wrong and wanting to make it right. Recompense is what you do now in a behavioral sense to make it as right as you can. When you write the letter, please keep the 3R’s in mind. They may help you craft a focused and sincere letter. By the way, the letter itself is probably the recompense in this case.

Regarding finding the teacher, is she still working? If so, send your letter to her at the school. Is she retired? If so, send the letter sealed in an envelope addressed to the principal. Ask the principal (in a separate letter addressed to him or her) to forward your letter to the teacher. Please be sure the letter to the teacher is in its own sealed envelope for the sake of privacy. You can always follow up with the principal to be sure your letter was forwarded to the teacher.

Finally, the teacher’s strong reaction may have been an injustice to you. If you think that is the case, then please work on forgiving her for the strong reaction. Feeling like you were going to be choked may be sufficient grounds for your forgiving her.

Thank you for having the courage to do all of this.

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