Today, the start of a section devoted to Memory.
246. Of those who have endured much unjust and cruel suffering, a sort of “social forgiveness” must not be demanded.
Hence the motto, “get over it” is misplaced. The victim or survivor is in control of forgiveness. Third parties wanting to smooth things over can advise or hope to themselves. But active pressure places them in the camp of the sinner. All that said, reconciliation is a great need and forgiveness can be a heroic virtue. But it can take time for even an unoffended human being to exercise mercy on an annoying person. Good to keep that in mind.
Reconciliation is a personal act, and no one can impose it upon an entire society, however great the need to foster it. In a strictly personal way, someone, by a free and generous decision, can choose not to demand punishment (cf. Mt 5:44-46), even if it is quite legitimately demanded by society and its justice system.
Again, society as a whole benefits from efforts like restorative justice. But the participation of the offended is vital.
However, it is not possible to proclaim a “blanket reconciliation” in an effort to bind wounds by decree or to cover injustices in a cloak of oblivion. Who can claim the right to forgive in the name of others? It is moving to see forgiveness shown by those who are able to leave behind the harm they suffered, but it is also humanly understandable in the case of those who cannot. In any case, forgetting is never the answer.
Remembering can be a curse and burden. But there are way to remember without letting it control one’s life, livelihood, and culture.
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