An understanding of reconciliation

Dear Editor, Reading Fr Rolheiser’s article ‘On not being stingy with God’s mercy’ (IC 19/6/14) was a real occasion of breakfast heartburn because of its deficient sense of reconciliation. It was Jesus himself who said “those whose sins you forgive they are forgiven, those whose sins you retain they are retained” (Jn 20:23) when he instituted the sacrament. For reconciliation between God and us – or indeed between any two people – to be authentic, then three fundamental conditions are required.

Firstly there needs to be sorrow, like Peter’s tears of contrition.

Secondly there needs to be a purpose of amendment, such as when Jesus exhorts the woman caught in adultery to “go and sin no more”. (John 8:11)

Thirdly there needs to be some good-faith intention to make restitution like Zacchaeus who cheated in his tax collecting (Lk 19:8). God’s unconditional love does not excuse a penitent from collaborating with divine mercy.

I believe that a deficient understanding of reconciliation had no small part to play in the child abuse scandal in which perpetrators were allowed to commit serial offences with impunity. It also contributes to sham culture in general.

Fr Rolheiser’s sense of reconciliation lacks support in any fair reading of Scripture and mainstream Church teaching.

It is dismissive of the need for genuine repentance in our lives and almost presumes universal salvation.


Yours etc.,

Anthony McMahon,


Co. Kerry.