21 April 2013

The Limits of Human Charity

"'But, hang it all,' cried Mallow, 'you don't expect us to be able to pardon a vile thing like this?'

'No,' said the priest; 'but we have to be able to pardon it.'

He stood up abruptly and looked round at them.

'We have to touch such men, not with a barge pole, but with a benediction,' he said. 'We have to say the word that will save them from hell. We alone are left to deliver them from despair when your human charity deserts them. Go on your own primrose path pardoning all your favourite vices and being generous to your fashionable crimes; and leave us in the darkness, vampires of the night, to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon. Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; means as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came...'

'You say that you could not commit so base a crime. Could you confess so base a crime?'"

-G.K. Chesterton, The Chief Mourner of Marne

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