Thursday, January 22, 2015

Revenge...Rehabilitation...Redemption.... Mercy

I have not written about the sad, sad case of the bicyclist killed in a hit and run, apparently by the suffragan bishop of Maryland who was, reportedly, intoxicated and texting.  That she had a previous DUI that was relatively under-known has also led to concern that this was a pattern.

There is no doubt that this is a tragedy on many levels, and many have responded  with reflection.  For example, our Bishop wrote a thoughtful letter to our Diocese calling us to mindfulness and care  while driving, thinking about our relationship to alcohol in the church (and since he's big on clergy wellness, he will also incorporate that  into clergy health and well-being) and about distractions especially while driving.  As he wrote, "As your bishop, I should let voicemail do the work while driving and let driving be my singular work." That is good advice for all of us.

But I have  been shocked at the near-vicious anger expressed on line about this sad event.  Amongst comments  I saw were those that  didn't care if the offending Bishop were impoverished or left without insurance or locked up forever for the evil of her deed.  I think most of us also agree that she is likely ill with the disease of alcoholism, which does not exonerate her of blame but also calls us to mercy.

Without further discussion of this particular case, I want to reflect on how we respond.

Revenge:   the action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.  We want an eye-for-an-eye, but then the whole world ends up blind.  This desire comes from that place of anger and while it is a natural visceral response it is not what or who we are as moral, thoughtful people.  It must be distinguished from

Retribution: punishment that is considered to be morally right and fully deserved.  There is a process that will occur, both legally and ecclesiastically.  It is likely that there will be a substantial prison sentence which is a very grim prospect for anyone, as well as of course losing job and orders is inevitable, I'm sure.   But this is incomplete without

Rehabilitation :  to restore (someone) to health or normal life by training and therapy after imprisonment, addiction, or illness.  As well as punishment, prison time is supposed to rehabilitate.  Shouldn't our goal as a society be to return the transgressor to being a full restored member of the community?  I find it interesting that in other countries, for example, Norway, there is no such thing as a life sentence even for murder (though someone perceived to be a continuing danger can be kept incarcerated due to  mental health reasons).  That means that they must turn their attention to re-incorporating the person into the body of society, accepting they have paid their debt, and achieving 

Redemption:  the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil; clearing a debt.  Redemption requires forgiveness, from inside and outside.  It is not an erasure of the action, but accepting responsibility, and moving forward.  Aren't we all frequent sinners, if you will?  Not one of us is perfect.  Shouldn't our aim be to redeem our fellows and welcome them back to our midst? Shouldn't we aspire to forgive?

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest. It becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.
                            Merchant of Venice, IV:i


JCF said...

Any drunk-driving death is tragic (and criminal).

It was clear to me in the reaction to *this* story, that the fact that the (alleged) perpetrator was 1) an Episcopal bishop, and 2) a woman, created for a whole lot of piling-on by those who dislike TEC in general, TEC bishops in particular, and female TEC bishops most of all. Somehow, a drunk-driving hit&run by ONE bishop-who-happened-to-be-female came to represent EVERYTHING Episcopal. WTF?!

JCF said...

Most of all, RIP Thomas Palermo.

IT said...

JCF, You are exactly right:

"There’s another, more pointedly political angle to this story: the case of Bishop Cook has become a meme in the ideological warfare waged by right-wing Anglicans against the Episcopal Church, including a breakaway denomination called the Anglican Church in North America [ACNA], and groups like the American Anglican Council."

J. Fred Muggs said...

On the other hand, Heather Cook's bail was arranged by Mark Hansen, a defrocked priest who was one of the Connecticut Six, and an old friend of hers from seminary. There's precious little good that will probably come out of this whole terrible situation, but it's nice to be reminded that we can move beyond the liberal and conservative labels and try to do the best we can by our friends when their world comes apart.

8thday said...

While I don’t disagree with what you have written here, I am curious about what seems to be a double standard.

Episcopalians were all over the internet crowing about how they joined marches demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Yet I have not seen even one Episcopalian rallying to publicly demand justice for Tom Palermo.

And now all the TEC sites are calling for prayers and treatment and healing and forgiveness for Heather Cook. Yet I could find no one calling for the same for George Zimmerman, Darren White or Daniel Panteleo.

Why do you think that is?

IT said...

8th day, first, there is no question that there will be justice for Palermo. Cook was arrested following an investigation, and is on bail. There will be a trial, unless she pleads out, and I think we are all pretty sure that if found guilty, there will be jail time. The system is working.

second, I know I feel there is a difference between a sober person choosing to pull a trigger or apply a chokehold, and a drunk driving impaired. THere is a difference in intent. It is the difference between manslaughter, and murder. So there is a difference in how we respond to those events.

Third, I am sure there have been prayers for the names you mention as well. I know our church routinely prays even for those who have committed evil acts. THey certainly need prayers.

dr.primrose said...

"Yet I have not seen even one Episcopalian rallying to publicly demand justice for Tom Palermo."

That isn't accurate. The memorial ride for Tom Palermo started at the Episcopal Cathedral, went by several Episcopal Churces and included a number of Episcopalians. As the local paper noted:

"And so, the ride began near the Cathedral of the Incarnation, in the parking area beside the headquarters of the diocese at the intersection of University Parkway and North Charles Street.

"Clergy and laity, many holding lighted candles, stood outside of the Episcopal churches along the route, which wound up University to Roland Avenue and ended at the crash site in the 5700 block."

In addition, the Diocese of Maryland has set up a webpage dedicated to this incident, which includes a link to fund for Palermo's children.

Is that enough? That's debatable. But to say the Episcopalians have done nothing is just not true.