Fratelli Tutti 241: Legitimate Conflict and Forgiveness

Today, Pope Francis discusses legitimate conflict and forgiveness.

241. Nor does this mean calling for forgiveness when it involves renouncing our own rights, confronting corrupt officials, criminals or those who would debase our dignity.

I think there can be some misunderstanding when ordinary people are confronted with coordinated criminal activity. Or just plain unrepentant boorish behavior.

We are called to love everyone, without exception; at the same time, loving an oppressor does not mean allowing him to keep oppressing us, or letting him think that what he does is acceptable. On the contrary, true love for an oppressor means seeking ways to make him cease his oppression; it means stripping him of a power that he does not know how to use, and that diminishes his own humanity and that of others.

Things that strip power: non-violent non-engagement. Don’t converse. Don’t acknowledge. Don’t buy. Don’t sell. These things might come with a financial cost, but the care for one’s personal dignity is usually worth most modest expenses.

Forgiveness does not entail allowing oppressors to keep trampling on their own dignity and that of others, or letting criminals continue their wrongdoing. Those who suffer injustice have to defend strenuously their own rights and those of their family, precisely because they must preserve the dignity they have received as a loving gift from God.

It is especially important here to be active in defending the rights of others. If we only protest, even non-violently, when we have been wronged, what merit is there in that? Even criminals behave in the same way.

If a criminal has harmed me or a loved one, no one can forbid me from demanding justice and ensuring that this person – or anyone else – will not harm me, or others, again. This is entirely just; forgiveness does not forbid it but actually demands it.

All citations of Fratelli Tutti (which can be found on this link) are © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

About catholicsensibility

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