Restoration vs. Retribution | Sojourners

Restoration vs. Retribution

Much grace and gratitude to you and Richard Rohr for "Beyond Crime and Punishment" (July-August 2002). It is so great and rare to see such a reasonable attitude of grace on this issue of pedophilia in a public forum—even in Christian circles! It was for solidarity with sinners that the Son of God came to us—even to the point of getting himself crucified. Perhaps the trouble most have with this solidarity is the misconception that it means acceptance of the sin. Is it possible to show compassion and understanding for the perpetrating pedophile without condoning the awful victimization and damaging behavior? Is it possible to offer help for healing to the perpetrator without re-offending the victim? Is showing love, or even friendship, with the sinner a sign of condoning the sin? Was Jesus a "friend to sinners"?

I guess that is part of the mystery of grace and forgiveness. Jesus lived his life on earth as the Son of Man to demonstrate this mystery and to show us how it is done. Just as Rohr says in receiving confessions, he never has direct contact with the victims of the sins he hears. Throughout the gospels, whenever Jesus forgave sin he never once consulted the hurting victim of that offense for that forgiveness. That is the seeming enormity of the fact that "No one can forgive sin except God alone" (Mark 2:7). In confession the extending of grace and forgiveness is an act of God, not an act of the priest. The same is true of the church, in the forgiveness of brothers and sisters in Christ.

Name withheld by request
Gatesville, Texas
The writer is a former minister serving a life sentence without parole for offenses against a child.

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 2002
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