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Abuse and Who is Worthy of Forgiveness

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The Catholic Church is an institution. It is composed of individuals acting in service to the institution. Some people within the global institution are guilty of abuse of children and others within the institution are guilty of hiding the abuse and enabling the abusers to go unpunished and sometimes, go to another country.

I question the Catholic Church as a whole based on its history and when repetitive abuse occurs all over the world I grow disappointed. Catholicism and other religions are benevolent to some in that they provide spiritual relief and explanations, but obviously detrimental to others. Religions are beneficial to institutions as they provide stability in controlling belief and thus the logic and critical thinking of those believers.

One foundational belief of Catholicism is forgiveness. This is applied to institutions and individuals in mostly the same manner, but with differing results. Individuals should be granted forgiveness and this is a compassionate notion when there is a transgression of law or morality by an individual. Compassion is the notion behind forgiveness and it should be promoted. But institutions are not individuals and are not worthy of forgiveness, even religious institutions, even religious institutions that promote forgiveness.

When a group of individuals act together as an institution and then abuse people in any capacity, let alone children, let alone physical abuse of children and then conspire to hide the abuse from people, the compassionate act is not forgive, but to root out all those involved, no matter the shaking of the institution. When institutions act to hide transgressions of state law or God's law, they are doing so to protect the institution. Individuals with beating hearts are worthy of forgiveness, out of compassion. Institutions without hearts are not worthy of forgiveness, out of compassion.

In this situation of child abuse and cover up by global institution the only compassionate thing to do is go to the table and turn it upside down. That is to say, do what Jesus would do. Offer no forgiveness to institutions and their representatives when something reprehensible is done and then hidden. Offer forgiveness to individuals, but offer no forgiveness to global institutions, even those who are based on forgiveness, even the church or temple. Jesus forgave everyone, but wrecked shop when he saw institutions taking advantage of individuals.

The story of Jesus and the moneychangers (link at bottom) reflects his position when it comes to differentiating individuals and institutions. The story goes that Jesus cursed a fig tree on his way to the temple and when he arrived and saw the moneychangers and dove sellers linked within the temple. The Prince of Peace then tossed over their tables, but hurt no one. Today Jesus would do the same thing when an institution, even a temple, even his temple, performs criminal and sinful acts. Jesus taught compassion and forgiveness among all individuals and we all can be inspired by that no matter our beliefs. Jesus also taught intolerance to institutional wrongdoing, likely out of compassion for the individual, something we can all be inspired to practice as well.

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About Ethan Indigo Smith:

Activist, author and Tai Chi teacher Ethan Indigo Smith was born on a farm in Maine and lived in Manhattan for a number of years before migrating west to Mendocino, California. Guided by a keen sense of integrity and humanity, Ethan's work is both deeply connected and extremely insightful, blending philosophy, politics, activism, spirituality, meditation and a unique sense of humor.

The events of September 11, 2001 inspired him to write his first book, The Complete Patriot's Guide to Oligarchical Collectivism, an insightful exploration of history, philosophy and contemporary politics. His more recent publications include:

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.

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