May 4th, 2010 11:10 EST
Should the Sinner Be stoned?
Sordid, scandalous, outrageous, brazen and shocking are some adjectives used to denounce the perverse behavior of some priests, who abused children. `Ban the Church` and `Arrest the Pope` are some of the slogans shrieked by angry protesters. Reams of paper have been consumed and hours of TV and radio time have been taken, in reporting disclosures. Is the end in sight? Like the Pandora Box which releases evil after evil, more and more leaks come out of this box to excite the Media and infuriate Critics. No. The end is not in sight.
Then, why is this article written? To look at the other side of the issue, hoping that some who read this article will stop to ponder.
A crime against innocent children is heinous and deserves to be condemned in the strongest terms. No denying that. But, what about the sinner; the one who committed the crime? His side is the other side of the issue, which we shall try to examine.
When Jesus walked this earth 2000 years ago, he was forced to address a similar situation. A woman caught in adultery was hauled into his presence, not for judgment, but to test his judgment of the sinner. The woman`s accusers had irrefutable evidence against her and the Law was clear - she had to be stoned to death. Jesus was ensnared, with no option but to condemn her, was how they reasoned. Gleefully they waited for him to speak. "Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw the stone at her." John 8:7. Without pointing fingers at anyone, Jesus pointed to the other side of the Law which stated that two blameless people could throw the first stones at the woman. Suddenly, the righteous accusers are turned into the hideous accused. Taunted by conscience, they disperse, beginning with the elders. When all had gone and only the woman stood before Jesus, he asked her: "Has no one condemned you?". "No one, Sir", was her reply. "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again." John 8:11.
It is time we pondered this Biblical happening and its implications.
1) Jesus did not exonerate adultery, but he viewed the weakness and brokenness of the woman with understanding and compassion. Why was the man in the adulterous act, equally guilty, not brought before him? Perhaps Jesus wondered. Returning to the woman, we see that Jesus rebuked her sin by telling her not to sin again, but did not condemn her.
2) Sin is bad, but the sinner is human, like one of us, sharing our weaknesses. Have we stopped to consider our own state? Don`t we have skeletons in the cupboard that threaten to fall out? Perhaps our sins are more serious than the sins of the fallen priests. How would we want to be treated when those skeletons, now concealed, fall out? How would we react to accusing fingers that stab us and lashing tongues that cut deep into our bruised souls? Would we expect a few friends to show us some understanding? When Tiger Woods was exposed of repeatedly sinning against his family, a few known to him chose not to join the mob of accusers, realizing that in that situation prudent behavior was to restore harmony in the family. When we add to the din of accusations against the fallen priests and the Church, we should not ignore the likelihood that we shall become targets of frenzied attacks by unforgiving detractors, when our skeletons fall out. An adage drives home the point: Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
3) The Church has two faces - the Divine Face of Jesus and the Human Face, made up of the clergy and laity. The Pope, Bishops, Priests, Nuns and Religious are part of the Administration. Like us, they hold membership status. The Divine Face will not suffer blemish, but the Human Face is prone to soiling itself, because of temptation and the weakness to succumb. But the Precious Blood of Jesus washes away the stains on the Human Face. The Lord embraces both saint and sinner. The examples of Peter and Paul prove the point. Simon denied the Lord, to repent and become Peter the Rock and the first Pope of the Church, the Lord founded. Saul, persecutor of Christians, repented and became Paul, the staunch defender of the Church. The Indian Poet Thiruvalluvar sang: "The way to punish the wrong doer is to shame him/her by doing something good to him/her in return". The Lord did just that when he forgave Peter and Paul without reminding them of their sins. For the same reason, there is hope that many of the fallen priests will repent and reform.
4) Prophets of doom proclaim that the end of the Church is near. They will be proved wrong. The Church has passed through dark periods in her 2000 year history. She has always come out of those, purified and stronger. She will pass through this dark night to face a bright new day, because Easter Sunday follows Good Friday and The Lord is Mighty and Merciful. Rejoice!
5) A little over 1% of those who live in America, live behind prison bars. That does not make America a land of criminals. No. There are many kind and generous people; virtuous souls; leaders and pioneers;
statesmen and intellectuals. These people have made America the great country she is; a country that I admire for the huge contributions she has made to the world. Using the same logic, a few fallen priests cannot be the reason to castigate Priesthood, or the reason to berate the Church. Thousands upon thousands of priests and religious are serving the Lord and their fellowmen in heroic ways. The vice of some does not negate the virtue of others. And, repentance gives sinners hope of becoming saints.
Certainly, stoning the sinner is not the Lord`s option.