In Good Faith

Question: Pope Francis has said that domestic violence offenders should be forgiven. Do you think he’s right?

Bruce Coriell - Earth-based Christian

Bruce Coriell served as an interfaith chaplain in colleges and universities for over 35 years. These days you are most likely to find him off wandering rivers and mountains.

TESSA, our local heroes who support those who experience domestic violence, state on their website that… YOU DESERVE TO BE SAFE. Call them at 719-633-3819 if you need help. Answering a question about forgiveness differs greatly depending on whether you are asking for forgiveness or offering it. Let’s set aside the question of what someone who has been assaulted, injured, betrayed or harmed should do? That isn’t a question for me to answer. I find it more helpful to explore how living with sadness, anger or pain is affecting a person who has been hurt by a domestic partner. Would forgiving your partner help you release your rage or hate? Then do it for your own well-being. In all things, be kind to yourself. 

Ahriana Platten - New Thought-Unity

Dr. Ahriana Platten is founder-executive director of In Good Faith, leads Unity Spiritual Center and speaks around the country on the topics of interfaith and intercultural understanding.

There are two levels to this question for me: personal and spiritual. I experienced domestic abuse and have not yet found a way to forgive the person who caused me physical harm. Unfortunately, what happened deeply impacted my life, affected my children, and greatly reduced my sense of safety. I am grateful that my sweet husband has helped me recover. Our human judgment is different than any notion of judgment by a higher power. I do not believe in a judging god, which means I do not believe in a forgiving god. I understand Divine Presence as potential. Within that field, we’re all interconnected and one — meaning everything that happens is part of us. Each time we forgive others, we also forgive imperfections in ourselves.

David Gardiner - Buddhist

David Gardiner is an associate professor in the Colorado College Religion department, specializing in Buddhism and religions of China and Japan, and is co-founder and director of BodhiMind Center.

I think forgiveness needs to be applied to all people, regardless of how heinous their crimes. However, in the case of someone who has suffered great trauma due to another’s actions, lots of inner work is needed; forgiveness can take time. It’s important not to confuse forgiving with condoning. We should decry behavior that intends to harm others and should make an effort to prevent its future occurrence. In my view, the aim of forgiveness is to release and heal the victim from the toxic force of hatred and revenge by replacing these with an understanding of the common humanity shared by saints and sinners alike. The Buddha taught: “Hatred is never overcome by hatred. It is only overcome by love. This is an eternal law.” 

Nori Rost - Unitarian Universalist

Rev. Dr. Nori Rost is the minister at All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church downtown and has been a community activist in Colorado Springs for 20 years.

Forgiveness is a major tenet of many religions, especially Protestantism and Catholicism. As a Unitarian Universalist, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human. However, to act like nothing has happened when a spouse hits you, or a parent molests you, isn’t forgiveness. It’s denial of your own inherent worth and dignity. People who commit criminal acts need to be held accountable to the laws of the land. If the victim wants to offer forgiveness, that’s up to them, but it doesn’t mean the perpetrator gets to continually abuse them. That type of forgiveness doesn’t serve the perpetrator. Holding them accountable with a grace that allows room for healing and change for the perpetrator honors the inherent worth and dignity of both.

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