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Exercising Charity: The Catholic Campaign for Human Development

November 12th, 2012by Mary Anne Bressler

I have come to realize that it is far easier to expect forgiveness from others than to grant it. This has occurred to me often when I am driving. I always expect that others will understand that I have a good reason for  slowing down to ten miles an hour when looking for a street sign or needing  to change lanes at the last minute because I realize that the lane I am in is not the one I should be in. Yet, I seldom extend that courteous patience to others. I am annoyed that they are slowing me down or cannot believe that they need to correct course.

Recently I have become aware that our justice system is not very forgiving either. Our society has placed a high premium on punishment but disregarded the possibility of rehabilitation. This truth has been brought home to me through my work on an archdiocesan task force on criminal justice reform. I have gotten to know a number of young men who have paid for their crime through the justice system but continue to be punished through the legal system. A criminal sentence casts a very long shadow indeed.

It seems to me to reflect a basic attitude of hopelessness to believe that a person who has a criminal conviction cannot be trusted to hold a job, have a driver’s license or even exercise the basic American freedom to vote. One single conviction can lead to a life of denied opportunity. When we shut the doors to legal options, can we really expect people to reject the temptation to engage in crime? Are we really following the teaching of Christ to forgive?

In November we are asked to contribute to the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The Campaign is based on the idea that people are not lost causes. CCHD funds groups such as the HELP Program that work to change unjust systems and allow all people the opportunity to provide for themselves. Charities provide important assistance for immediate needs, while CCHD seeks solutions to the complex, deep-seated roots of poverty.  I appreciate that our bishops have seen the need to be not only charitable but prophetic.

Mary Anne Bressler

Mary Anne Bressler is a parishioner and Pastoral Associate at St. Anthony Church in Madisonville and an adjunct faculty member at Xavier University.