The following is from an article published in the September 2016 edition of Central California Catholic Life by Fr. Jim Rude, SJ, Co-Editor:
I’m getting to be an old man, brushing the mid eighties, and I find that in these past few years, I have been doing a lot of reminiscing, thinking of people, places, events.
I remember the theology we were taught in the early days, a theology that was rather simple, and in a way, rather sad. For there was not a great deal of explanation. I went to Mass every Sunday with my family, wouldn’t miss it, but it meant nothing to me religiously; it was just something we did. I made my Confirmation when I was in the eighth grade, but all I can remember from it was the Bishop slapping me — and all the others as well.
Being a Catholic was simply fish on Friday, confession on Saturday and Mass on Sunday. And those confessions were rather sad, for there were usually mortal sins mentioned, but looking back on it I believe that there were never any mortal sins.
There were never mortal sins because I was only 15 and had no clue what a mortal sin was. Unfortunately there are still some Catholics among us who also do not understand. A mortal sin is not simply some evil action, an action which is truly evil, but it is one that has to be done with the deepest understanding of God’s relationship to the doer’s situation. The doer has to understand who God is, his ultimate and eternal love, and the doer has to be saying to himself, “I know who God is and what He should mean to me, and I don’t care. Away with God! I’m going to rob or hurt or sex no matter what.”
But also the doer has to act with full freedom. I look at articles in the news these days, like the 12-year old who killed an 82-year old priest while he was saying Mass, and I wondered what the kid was really doing, what he was really thinking. As horrible as his action was, I simply have a hard time believing that the kid committed a mortal sin by Catholic standards. And I look at people who grew up with horrible abuse during their childhood or poverty or continual gang experiences, and I wonder if they are really free to act in such an evil way.
I reflect on those most incredible words that Luke tells us were heard coming from that Man on the cross when He was suffering incredibly intense pain, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
Those words give me joy.