Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thinking about Forgiveness

I read this story in The Washington Post about an order of nuns who lost one of their members to a drunk driver on Sunday. I expected it to be a typical story about nuns and forgiveness. In some ways, it was. In some ways, it wasn't.

The drunk driver, who is in jail, didn't show up at the monastery where the nuns live. His parents did. They came to ask for forgiveness for him. I understood the impulse while at the same time shaking my head. The person who did the wrong has to show up to apologize. At least, that's what Lutherans believe.

I understand the guilt that the parents must feel. The story talked about all they had done to try to keep their son with a drinking problem from driving. But he found the hidden car keys after everyone had fallen asleep, and off he went. I understand how the parents might feel they need forgiveness. But what more could they have done?

There are also public policy elements to the story. Again, a familiar note: the man had numerous incidents in his past, incidents which led to him having a record.

But here's the surprising twist. It's not clear that the man is in the country legally. How could he have broken the law so many times in the past and still stay in the country? I have the same questions about deadbeat parents who aren't legal citizens. If you flout the laws of our country by not paying your child support, you should be shipped back to your home country. But that's a subject for another post.

Deportation was in process for the drunk driver, but had been delayed. And now, this tragedy.

The nuns, of course, show us the way to behave. They showed a hospitable forgiving face to the parents. They have organized themselves to sit around the clock with the injured nuns who survived the accident and are in the hospital. They offer comfort to the former students of the dead nun who call in hysterics after hearing of her death. They have not commented on immigration issues. They know their priorities.

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