As noted in yesterdays’ post, the consequences of not understanding the necessity for appropriate punishment can be horrible.
As the Church struggles to reclaim the high moral authority degraded by the filth of the sexual abuse crisis and clarify its recently ambiguous position on just war and capital punishment; the words of Peter can provide some light.
In his recent book, Light of the World: The Pope, the Church, and the Signs of the Times, Pope Benedict XVI responding to a question about the Church’s dealing with the sexual abuse crisis, said:
“The Archbishop of Dublin told me something very interesting about that. He said that ecclesiastical penal law functioned until the late 1950’s; admittedly it was not perfect—there is much to criticize about it—but nevertheless it was applied. After the mid-sixties, however, it was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people.
“Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love.” (pp. 25-26)