Forgiveness Isn't Easy, Cardinal Says, but Essential to Healing

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [St. Louis MO]
June 21, 2003

ST. LOUIS--After a day of prayer and reflection with his brother Roman Catholic bishops Friday, a reflective Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, talked about the difficulty and necessity of forgiveness.

Sitting in an empty hotel ballroom after closed-door session of the semiannual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in St. Louis, George pondered the nature of forgiveness--both human and divine.

"You can't have healing and people can't be freed unless they themselves decide to forgive," George said. "You can't demand it. It has to be freely given. It's a dangerous thing to forgive. You can get hurt again if you forgive.

"But on the other hand, if it isn't given, then healing isn't possible either. So people are stuck. That's where some of us are now."

During a daylong, closed-door session where the bishops met privately to talk about myriad challenges facing the American church today, George delivered a talk about communicating faith in modern culture.

Later, George said he was trying to focus on "the challenges behind the challenges."

As the bishops head into the last day of their semiannual meeting today, where their Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse is expected to report on progress in implementing a new national church law on the handling of allegations of clergy sex abuse, none believes the crisis is over, George said.

Advocates for victims of clergy sexual abuse took a break from protesting the bishops' meeting earlier Friday to thank a single bishop they say is a model for handling the sex abuse crisis they wish other bishops would emulate.

The Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP) chose Bishop Paul Bootkoski, head of the Diocese of Metuchen in central New Jersey, as the sole bishop in the United States whom they consider an ally.


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