Making Apologies and Amends

Two things I noticed in recent news.

First, a rather uncharacteristic apology from a celebrity. Why uncharacteristic? Not because of the man giving it. I noticed the refreshingly direct language:

I deeply regret …

I apologize …

I vow …

If you will, it’s a sacramental sequence.

Perhaps Mr Suarez will make good on his vow. I hope so. I’ve written on these pages I’ve admired his work ethic and selflessness for his Liverpool team. My wife was determined to root against him and his team because of his history. Liverpool’s far from being my favorite English Premier League team. But I found it hard to root against the man this past season.

As for the apology itself, I have a miniscule stake in accepting it or not. Mr Suarez has scratched an opponent, but he has damaged himself to the point of humiliation. He has brought a shadow on his nation, his sport, the actual World Cup event, his team (present and future), and perhaps a lesser degree to his family and those who love him and whom he loves.

If he is fruitful in his vow, people will be watching, suspicious and cautious, for many years. It’s what we tutored our daughter in as a young girl: natural consequences for one’s actions. Fair or not, they are inescapable in the long run.

Second, a million-dollar judgment against my former diocese. SNAP celebrates a breach-of-contract and an award of extra money to old victims and survivors. Bishop Robert Finn hits the news with another new headline, and a grave error that doesn’t seem to go away.

According to SNAP:

Victims’ courage and compassion made this contract happen. Now, victims’ courage and compassion are enforcing it.

I hope it’s about people being more than victims. I realize this is lawyerspeak, but there’s not much point in remaining a victim. At some point, one determines that the power others might seek over me is illusory. I will stand up. I will be a survivor. Not a pawn.

Let’s get back to the idea of a settlement and a breach-of-contract award. These are essentially civil-enforced penalties that could be interpreted as making amends. In a sacramental system, the money paid is an act of satisfaction. Saying a specified number of prayers after going to confession involves a payment of time and personal attention. Paying money to people who were harmed by wrong actions is not much different.

What is the Christian, the Catholic stance to paying this award? Does a person examine his conscience and determine he did make a mistake? If he admits the mistake, is his pattern like that of Mr Suarez: regret, apology, and vow?

If Mr Suarez appeals his FIFA-rendered punishment, does that damage the public face he has put on this public contrition?

Likewise, if Bishop Finn and his diocese appeal this ruling and delay payment, does that look Christian? Does it feel Catholic? Is it more congruent with athletes who seek delays, second opinions, and supplemental confirmation for their being poked personally by this punishment?

At what point does a person concede the point, and then move on? Or perhaps you think the litigious nature of modern society acts as a brake against a runaway unfairness. And perhaps everyone is entitled to that appeal, that lengthening of the process, only to have the affair regurgitated yet again at a future date?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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