[size=2]The idea for this came to me in the thread on the Synod, but seemed like thread drift. Thought it might be better located here. [/size]
The acceptance/welcome of sinners reminded me of Chesterton’s Father Brown story The Chief Mourner of Marne. I’ll try to give a brief summary without giving away too much of the plot.
The Marquis of Marne has lived in seclusion for many years after having supposedly killed his cousin in a duel. His friends think he is being religiously repressed, wish to bring him out of his withdrawal, and condemn Father Brown for being judgmental in his effort to get them to *“Let sleeping dogs lie, or you’ll unleash all the hounds of hell.*” Their intervention leads the Marquis to confess that the duel was but a sham to cover a deliberate murder. They now detest him and condemn Father Brown’s willingness to forgive.
“You mean to leave him to this living death of moping and going mad in a ruin!” cried Lady Outram, in a voice that shook a little. “And all because he had the bad luck to shoot a man in a duel more than a quarter of a century ago. Is that what you call Christian charity?”
“Yes,” answered the priest stolidly; “that is what I call Christian charity.”
“Father Brown,” said young Mallow, very earnestly, “I generally agree with what you say; but I’m hanged if I can follow you here. A shot in a duel, followed instantly by remorse, is not such an awful offence.”
“I admit.” said Father Brown dully, “that I take a more serious view of his offence.”
Their intervention leads the Marquis to confess that the duel was but a sham to cover a deliberate murder. They now detest him and condemn Father Brown’s willingness to forgive.
… [Father Brown] “You have told me something to-day about Christian charity. You seemed to me to give it almost too large a place; but how fortunate it is for poor sinners like this man that you err so much on the side of mercy, and are ready to be reconciled to all mankind.”
“Hang it all,” exploded the general; “if you think I’m going to be reconciled to a filthy viper like that, I tell you I wouldn’t say a word to save him from hell. I said I could pardon a regular decent duel, but of all the treacherous assassins —— ”
“There is a limit to human charity,” said Lady Outram, trembling all over.
“There is,” said Father Brown dryly; “and that is the real difference between human charity and Christian charity. You must forgive me if I was not altogether crushed by your contempt for my uncharitableness to-day; or by the lectures you read me about pardon for every sinner. For it seems to me that you only pardon the sins that you don’t really think sinful. You only forgive criminals when they commit what you don’t regard as crimes, but rather as conventions. So you tolerate a conventional duel, just as you tolerate a conventional divorce. You forgive because there isn’t anything to be forgiven.”
I particularly like Father Brown’s closing lines:
“You say you could not commit so base a crime. Could you confess so base a crime?”