Like many Americans, I was shocked and not shocked at the verdict in the Casey Anthony Trial. I believe she is directly responsible for the death of her child, Caylee. I do not believe the prosecution was able to adequately prove their case against her and so, as often happens in the world, the guilty become "Not Guilty" - a far cry from innocent, but free to walk the the streets and go about their lives.
So now, as a Catholic, I find myself pondering the idea of forgiveness. Particularly, what is my role in this forgiveness? Does it matter to Casey Anthony if I forgive her? Does it matter to Jesus if I forgive Casey Anthony?
I believe that in order for one to receive forgiveness one must be willing to acknowledge their sins. The Sacrament of Penance requires three acts of the penitent, namely, contrition, confession and satisfaction. Moreover, the satisfaction by which the penitent atones for their sins is a true worship of God.
This is not something I have made up - this is what the Church teaches and it was made very clear by the Council of Trent.
So what does this mean? It means that my forgiveness of Casey Anthony is not enough to wipe clean her sins. In fact, my forgiveness of her does not affect her at all. I am not a priest. As far as I know, she is not a Baptized Catholic. So whether I forgive her or not amounts to what my mother would call 'a hill of beans' which, in case you are wondering, isn't much.
So what does it mean for me to forgive her?
When the Apostle asked Jesus how often one should forgive he or she who wrongs me, Jesus said to forgive that person 'seven times seven' - meaning, over and over and over again. He did not say anything about the person who needs forgiveness asking for it or even deserving it. In fact, I suppose one could argue that He was presuming that the sinner was not repentant simply by telling us we have to forgive over and over and over again. Obviously, true repentance would mean the person committing the sin recognizes their problem and tries like heck to stop doing it. But Jesus did not say the other person had to be truly repentant.
If I forgive her, or my brother, or my sister or any of the people who have wronged me in my life I am freeing myself from the power their anger and hatred have over me. Because, let's face it, one of my character defects is my desire to be loved by those I love, which is exactly what Jesus did NOT do.
Jesus sacrificed Himself for ALL humans, not just those who loved Him while He was here on earth. He sacrificed Himself for St Peter, for Mother Teresa of Calcutta, for Johnny Jump Up down the street, for Hitler and for me. He did not differentiate between those who would walk with Him and those who would outright reject Him.
And I have to admit that while my desire is to be universally loved and admired and to never EVER hit the bumps in the road that come from being rejected by the world, I have tried the way of 'get along with everyone' and it caused me to lose my immortal soul. It was only when I embraced my cross, came Home to Holy Mother Church and said, "Ok..I am going to try this again, one day at a time" that my soul was washed clean of mortal sin and I started to feel at peace.
My prayer for all those people in the world who are lost as I was lost is that they find their way to Christ. I know it is not fashionable and flies in the way of ecumenism, but I truly believe that if they could find their way to the Fullness of Faith they will find their way to true peace. As long as they continue to be their own magisterium, they will be in pain and conflict with those around them.
THE Church (not my church or the church being built across the street) teaches that we are to put on the mind of Christ, the armor of God and walk with Him towards Calvary. It is not easy and it is not always fun, but along that path we find joy and forgiveness and fulfillment.
So I pray, each day, for the repose of the soul for little Caylee and all those children who met death at the hands of those who were supposed to protect and defend them. And I pray each day that those who perpetrated such acts of violence against their children, find their way to the forgiveness that is freely offered by Jesus Christ.
I know what it meant when I received it - and my life, since then, has been second to none.