Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Restitution Required, or else...

Burning Question I bring you a clarification before I present you the Grand Inquisitor's comment.
October 24, 2006

Clarification: We will not use the numbers of the commandments in this response because the order of the commands is different for people who belong to different religious traditions. We will therefore refer to the specific sins by name and thereby avoid confusion. Thank you.

You all know that Catholics believe that sinful acts against God's wishes can be forgiven by participating in the sacrament of Penance. What is essentially required for this sacramental forgiveness is a truthful and complete confession to a priest, a firm resolve to avoid the behavior in the future and atoning reparation Contrition). The reparation can be a good act or several good acts of varying degrees of "difficulty" or proximity of relationship with the sin(s) for which absolution has been granted. There are however sins against three specific commandments that require restitution to effect complete forgiveness.

Burning Question: Name the three commandments.

First, your answers/comments

When Our Lord gave us life, he placed His Love within our hearts, and through Moses and the Ten Commandments he has shown, or commanded us, the manner in which we are to release and share His Love with our brothers and sisters.
The first three of His Ten Commandments are concerned with the way we express our love for Him, and require restitution to effect complete atonement and divine forgiveness.
I am the LORD Your God you shall not have strange God's before me.
You shall not take the name of the Lord Your God in vain.
Remember to keep holy the Lord's Day.
The commandments were given to Moses, and then to us, in the order of their importance. Therefore, if we adhere to the first three, we should have no difficulty in loving our neighbor, as prescribed in the remaining seven commandments.
(This answer, unfortunately does not address the question)

Is it the 5th (Thou shalt not kill), 7th (Thou shalt not steal), and 8th (Thou shalt not bear false witness) commandments? In murder, one of course cannot bring the other person back to life, but according to the laws of the state, doing prison time and having a complete remorseful attitude would be in order ( to say the least). As you would forfeit all your freedoms in restitution for the one you have killed. In lying, because we are bound by our conscience to tell the truth, we would have to make restitution by admitting our untruth and vow not to do THAT again, (lying). In stealing, giving back the thing stolen, or paying back all the money or goods stolen and again, having a sincere repentant attitude to not steal again.

If the previous posting is correct, my question is how, exactly can one pay restitution for killing or adultery? Stealing, I figure, would be easy enough to figure out, but it's not like you can un-kill someone, or un-sleep with someone. Where in the New Testiment does it say anything about restitution? I thought that Jesus's words to the woman at the well were, "Go, and sin no more" I don't remember him saying how to un-do the sins she'd already committed. I thought that price he had already paid for us. This kind of Church doctrine contradicts the Gospel, and causes me doubt.

The Grand Inquisitor comments: Biblical background

The Catholic faith relationship with God requires that the balance of justice be maintained. Catholics believe that each human being carries the responsibility to strive to become perfect as Jesus was perfect. To Catholics it is reprehensible (bad) to sin and not submit the sin before the Church community and atone for it by spiritual and physical good acts. One of the chief acts of renewing our relationship with Jesus is the confession of our sins to the Church through the priest, who in the place of Jesus, says, "Go, and sin no more." It is important to note that Catholics believe that Jesus conquered sin once and for all by His Life, Passion, Death and Resurrection. He also left us with the commandment of love, mutual support and clean living as a saint in the Kingdom of God. He knew that we would make mistakes, so He left the disciples whom He set aside for service in the Kingdom with the assurance that "whatever they loosed on earth would be loosed in Heaven and whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven." (Matt. 18:18)

What does this mean to us in the discussion about restitution? In the Tradition of the chosen People of God restitution was a very important act. Chapters 21, 22, 23 of Exodus and chapter 4 of Numbers are full of directions and mandates concerning restitution. In fact in those days restitution was to be five-fold the value that had been stolen. The final chapter of Job has a powerful lesson about restitution owed back to God for having subverted His wishes by speaking wrongly about His relationship with Job.

The New Testament is more subtle about restitution, but Jesus does not turn a blind eye to it. In the final comment above there is mention of the woman at the well. The woman at the well in the 4th chapter of John goes to town and comes back and repairs her transgressions of the law by spreading the good news about Jesus. The woman in John's eighth chapter, the one caught in adultery was told, "Go and sin no more." This is a requirement to do two things, make her reputation and the reputation of her partner right again in the temple community, and to bring good and honest behavior into the community. It is also advice to stay repentant because through continued repentance she will return the gift of a clean and renewed soul to God.

The New Testament also has the story of Zaccheus the tax collector. ( Luke 19; 1-9) This man new the religious law. He knew his Torah. He knew that he had to make restitution for his ill-gotten gains. So before dinner with Jesus, he makes the promise to pay back everyone to whom he has caused financial damage four times more than he took. Further, he promises to give half his goods to the poor. Jesus is happy and declares that "salvation has come to this house today."

Human Conscience / Moral Teachings Based on the Commandments

Restitution is not only a part of the moral code of all human beings, it is also a part of the civil code. It is seen most often when it comes time to sentence criminals who have stolen goods or cash. So actually, there isn't much to say here except that unless a person brings the balance of justice back into the community that has been damaged by this illegal and immoral rearrangement of assets, the sin, even though confessed to a priest, will not be forgiven. The lack of restitution is a sign of lack of repentance. An attitude of this nature will not call down the forgiveness of God and the grace of a continued, uninjured personal relationship with Jesus. Restitution is essential for forgiveness of sins against the divine commandment, "Thou shalt not steal."

Malicious defamation and libel are lies that require restitution if the sin is to be forgiven. Every effort must be made to restore the reputation of the person who has been the topic of the damaging lie. These can also be civil crimes and the guilty party will be held to some kind of restitution, even in civil life. Now I know, everyone is going to read it on the Internet that Jane Trappenclog is going to jail because she defamed her next door neighbor Scott Nosretep. That could be considered sufficient reparation civilly, and maybe even spiritually. The point is, it must be a part of the human reparation if Jane wants to continue walking with God.

I've had so many people tell me, "how can you un-kill someone?" I wish I knew how! If I did, do you think I would be sitting here writing this? This is the toughest restitution of them all because the perpetrator doesn't want anyone to know. You just know that Sheamous Shatterdipikous isn't going to go drop a huge wad at the corner funeral parlor during the pre-funeral rosary. He's on the lam and he knows that he can't un-kill the dude that he iced. But, make restitution he must, even if he never goes to jail. The dead man was supporting someone and had children counting on him. Sheamus therefore has to make restitution for the support that he "stole" from them. If he does go to jail, then restitution in kind becomes impossible and the time in the big house becomes a part of the resetting of the balance of justice.

Many of you have made remarks about how to make restitution for adultery. One comment, as you can see above was, "You can't un-sleep" with your partner. Nope. Right again. And you sure don't want to trot down to the house and drop off a few bucks to make it right, now do you? Oh, that would be sweet! Now, let's get serious and look at it another way. Adultery often results in pregnancy. Now you're talking restitution big time. We all know how long it takes for a child to grow out of Mom and Dad's wallet. Believe me, restitution is essential here too. It is not easy, but it is also non-negotiable. Frankly, now, do you want me to include abortion too? In the Catholic church that will get you excommunicated, yes, even you, papa, if you aid and abet the action. Oh, you can get absolution from it, indeed. Plus, believe me, you will be directed to share in the costs of the action as your penance. This will not be a "three Hail Mary's for the souls in Purgatory" and you're gone.
Under the same heading I include all the damage that is caused by the molesting of minors. It is not morally correct to go to confession, get the priest's absolution and think that you can walk away from the reality of the trauma. Iste, stercus taurorum est. Without restitution, the lion can't sleep tonight!

Guiding Principle -- Impact on the Community

Remember the Communion of Saints. Everything we do has spiritual repercussions. It is not acceptable to abdicate our spiritual relationship with Jesus to damage the spiritual welfare of our brethren. Occasionally we do get caught up in our selfish gratification behavior. Every time we do, we cause damage to the community. Sometimes it's a "ding" and sometimes it is a "CLANG". We have to remember that when the angels all us to the judgment, sitting on the clouds at the right and the left of the Judge, trumpets blaring, the unrepaired behavior is going to the there for all to see. Especially HIM! Yikes! We do nothing alone. We touch the community with our soul every moment. Every moment someone in the community is praying for us. We are occupying someone's spiritual space all the time. We too, carry souls in our spiritual being all the time. When we trip and fall and damage something, we have to repair it. The least we can do it to embrace the spirit of thoe we carry in our prayer life and in our accompaniment of Jesus. When we renew this relationship with Him and them, we are whole again. Even small acts of repentance and atonement are restitution of some kind.

The welfare of the community is of utmost importance in judging what is good and proper spiritual behavior. When the spiritual harmony of the community is damaged, even a slight bit by our bad behavior, we owe it to the communion of saints and to the savior of us all to have enough courage to fix it.
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