Canon lawyer Edward Peters offered some points of reflection on apossiblepapal pardon being accorded to Paolo Gabriele, which was speculated by some after the pope sent him a book of psalms.
Dr Peters quotes a paragraph from the book-length interview of Peter Seewald with Pope Benedict: "After the mid-sixties [punishment] was simply not applied any more. The prevailing mentality was that the Church must not be a Church of laws but, rather, a Church of love; she must not punish. Thus the awareness that punishment can be an act of love ceased to exist. This led to an odd darkening of the mind, even in very good people. Today we have to learn all over again that love for the sinner and love for the person who has been harmed are correctly balanced if I punish the sinner in the form that is possible and appropriate. In this respect there was in the past a change of mentality, in which the law and the need for punishment were obscured. Ultimately this also narrowed the concept of love, which in fact is not just being nice or courteous, but is found in the truth. And another component of truth is that I must punish the one who has sinned against real love." Light of the World: A Conversation with Peter Seewald (Ignatius Press, 2010) 25-26.
Peters concludes: "Personally, I don’t see the pope’s sending a devotional book to Gabriele as a sign of coming leniency; I see it more as a sign of continuing love. Benedict was the victim of a very serious crime, but he still loves the offender. The pope seeks Gabriele’s personal good but, precisely as pope, Benedict also has the future of the papal office to consider; pardoning Gabriele could well make the next pope’s job that much harder to perform—and who knows better than Benedict how hard it already is to be pope?"
I fully agree with Dr Peters. I work in a boarding school, where I am a member of the board that makes the rules and enforces them too. Infringement of certain rules deserves a punishment. Sometimes this punishment is given with a saddened heart, and the student might also be truly sorry. When the student is punished because of disrespect with a teacher or a figure of authority he usually apologizes before the punishment is applied and we forgive him, but not for that reason do we take away the punishment.
Does not the same apply at home? Punishing our children does not mean that we do not love them. In fact, we punish them not out of retribution, but looking for their greater good out of love. Punishment is part of authentic and formative love. It propels toward perfection. I think that the pope also instructs us how to love authentically. He does love Gabriele, but knows that a papal pardon would not be the appropriate expression of love.
By not talking about important realities (since the mid-sixties), such as judgment and hell haven't we gotten used to a 'nice God', who ultimately does not care what we do, a God that does not demand a virtuous life? May the Lord grant us the grace to understand this formative aspect of love.