Not long ago I sat in a restaurant and listened to yet another variation on a familiar theme. A good friend of mine, whom I’ll call Daniel, confided that he had decided to leave his wife after 15 years of marriage. He had found someone younger and prettier, someone who “makes me feel alive, like I haven’t felt in years.”

Daniel, a Christian, knew well the personal and moral consequences of what he was about to do. His decision to leave would inflict permanent damage on his wife and three children. Even so, he said, the force pulling him toward the younger woman was too strong to resist.

I listened to his story with sadness and grief. Then, during the dessert course, he dropped the bombshell: “The reason I wanted to see you tonight was to ask you a question. Do you think God can forgive something as awful as I am about to do?”

Scandalous Grace

Historian and art critic Robert Hughes tells of a convict sentenced to life imprisonment on a maximum security island off the coast of Australia. One day, with no provocation, he turned on a fellow prisoner he barely knew and beat him to death. The murderer was shipped to the mainland to stand trial, where he gave a straightforward, passionless account of the crime, showing no sign of remorse. “Why?” asked the bewildered judge. “What was your motive?”

The prisoner replied that he was sick of life on the island, a notoriously brutal place, and that he saw no reason to keep on living. “Yes, yes, I understand all that,” said the judge. “I can see why you might drown yourself in the ocean. But why murder?”

“Well, it’s like this,” said the prisoner. “I’m a Catholic. If I commit suicide ...

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