Giving grace to people who violate (and don’t recognize their sin)

Sep 19, 2010Family Uncaged, Find joy today, Heal from the past

I’m thankful to have a blog post up on The Washington Post about the Belgium Catholic Church scandal. You can read When Sex Abuse Isn’t Taken Seriously here.

I can’t describe how angry I get when I hear about victims being ignored or shunned or silenced. Something akin to a holy roar rises up inside me. I remember a time in my life when a well meaning friend excused a man who may have been perpetrating (we couldn’t prove it). “You need to offer more grace,” he said.

I did not agree. Since when is it okay to give grace to an adult who has a choice to offend or not, particularly when that adult hurts a child? Shouldn’t grace be extended more freely to the young victim who had no choice in the matter? I’m not talking about an adult who comes out and realizes what he/she’s done is wrong and seeks to ask forgiveness and pay restitution (and/or serve time). I’m talking about having a culture of community where we fear the adult, give preference to the offender, because to get involved and help a child is just too hard, too sticky, too risky, too much work, too much stress.

Giving grace to the unrepentant offender is simply called cheap grace.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ.”

Real grace is that which forces sin out into the forefront, calls it the hellish thing it is, and applies redemption in healthy doses to it. It’s calling sexual abuse what it is: heinous, violating, dehumanizing. It’s bringing it to the light, no longer shoving it in the back room of hushed conversations. Grace happens in that sort of vulnerable, real light.

Some will say that folks who offend can’t help it. But I know from personal experience that’s not a viable excuse. I was violated as a child, yet I don’t violate. There are millions of victims out there who grow up, heal, and do not perpetrate. And as long as we turn our eyes away from those who inflict harm on vulnerable children, we, in a sense, validate the abuse as okay.

It’s not okay.

It’s sin.

And it must stop.

How about you? What do you think?