In Pope-pouri I made a clumsy attempt to address questions of forgiveness, contrition, pennance and redemption that were raised by Cardinal Law’s role in the Pope’s funeral mass. Today I’m going to approach the same issue from a different direction.
Doug McIntyre had Karen Pittman on his show McIntyre in the Morning the other day. Karen wrote an article for Newsmax.com, Fonda Jane, which was not your usual Newsmax.com fare:
And if we, some thirty-five years later, still can’t get over it, that’s our problem . . .
Agree or disagree with her political ideology, embrace or disavow her evolving brand of Christianity, at least Jane Fonda is herself evolving, and is committed to some cause larger than her own. At least she is earnestly searching.
I mean, my God, if the Pope could forgive Mehmet Ali Agca, can’t we forgive Jane Fonda?
Doug’s interview, and the response from his listeners raised some interesting questions about contrition, forgiveness and redemption.
I’d like to look past the specific volatile issues of Vietnam, and examine the moral and ethical dimensions Karen Pittman raised. I’ll give you an opportunity to discuss the Jane Fonda/Vietnam angle later this week. Let’s assume that Jane Fonda was wrong, which Fonda herself has said, and owes the American people an apology. McIntyre’s interview and Pittman’s article suggest the following questions:
(1.) Can Jane Fonda perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to her critics?
(2.) Can Cardinal Law perform any act of contrition that would be acceptable to his critics?
(3.) Does personal redemption depend on the opinion of others? As a general rule, redemption is a gift of Christ. Personal redemption for harm done to others is defined as “satisfaction, or the payment of a debt in full, means, in the moral order, an acceptable reparation of honour offered to the person offended and, of course, implies a penal and painful work.”
(4.) Is there any point in either Jane Fonda or Cardinal Law attempting to make a public act of contrition, to critics who can never be satisfied?
(5.) Do Jane Fonda and Cardinal Law’s critics have an obligation to examine their own faults in refusing to grant forgiveness under any circumstances? Since contrition and forgiveness are a two way street, do Fonda and Law’s critics have a moral obligation to be forgiving?