Anglican Samizdat

August 24, 2009

Forgiving other people’s enemies is easy

Filed under: Anglican Church of Canada — David Jenkins @ 9:38 am

As Stephen Hough notes in the Telegraph:

The whole world is buzzing again about Lockerbie, and in particular about the early release from prison of convicted terrorist, Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi.

I watched the BBC programme Newsnight on Thursday last week and heard the Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill’s statement and subsequent interview with Gavin Esler.  Something struck me instantly which I’ve not yet read in any of the other reports flooding the media at this difficult time: the profound Christian overtones of MacAskill’s words – “compassion … compunction … mercy”.  I think what he did was a mistake, but perhaps for different reasons than some other commentators.  The problem here is that, theologically speaking, we can only forgive someone who offends (sins against) us.  “Forgive your enemies” … not your neighbour’s enemies: “If someone asks for your coat give them your tunic as well” … but not Mr Jones’s tunic.

The same tendency is seen – ironically enough – in churches, many of whom are preoccupied with giving grovelling apologies on behalf of their forebears. Anglican Church of Canada Primate, Fred Hiltz loves to apologise for sins he did not commit  hoping, one assumes, that it will divert attention from those he did. The compassion he shows for Indigenous Canadians is apparently boundless. In contrast, the rapacious greed he exhibits in the various lawsuits in which the ACoC is engaged in its attempt to grab property, is also boundless.



  1. I think Hough’s logic is flawed, because MacAskill is in a position of leadership. The release was not a matter of forgiveness, it was a matter of compassion. I know, you’ll say, where was the bomber’s compassion when he planted the bomb? If we treat the bomber the way he treated his victims, we become like the bomber.

    Another thing I wonder, is – would a less infamous murderer have been granted compassionate release under the same circumstances? If so, then MacAskill’s decision is less problematic.

    Comment by Kate — August 24, 2009 @ 12:51 pm

  2. Amen. I have had the displeasure of hearing Fred Hiltz speak on several occasions; he is absolutely farcical. He is certainly not apologizing on my behalf — how dare he? Did he get chosen as Primate because he is that way, or in spite of it?

    Comment by Ann — September 25, 2009 @ 11:37 pm

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