Sunday, October 08, 2006


I’ve been avidly following the news coverage of the Amish schoolhouse massacre. I’ve been intellectualizing it as an American gothic tale—like something straight out Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allen Poe, or Stephen King. Considering the facts about the perpetrator and the victims, this was a case of almost pure evil versus pure good.

The Fox News station has had the most extensive reporting of the incident, with Greta Van Susteren doing most of the on-the-scene coverage. I’ve long found Greta to be intriguing. She is a lawyer and a Scientologist. She has a unique look, and she always comes across as acting like her true self.

In the first hours of the coverage of the incident, Greta appeared very tense, as well as shocked and horrified, like everyone. She said that she wants to hate the man who did this, but said, with a look and tone of perplexed, emotional disorientation, that the Amish want to forgive the man who did this, as well as want forgiveness and compassion for his family.

On Fox News, the Amish forgiveness and compassion have become one of the bigger elements of the story. The grandfather of the two Miller sisters who were killed told the widow of the perpetrator, “We will forgive you.” And several news stories reported that the Amish community will be helping to support her and her children.

Believe me when I tell you, as someone of 51 years of age, forgiveness is one of the most difficult things for a person to do. Through my Catholic education and my devout Catholic mother, I was taught to forgive also. If you were to ask me when I was much younger, say 30, I would have said that I forgive easily and that I always forgive. I also noted that it seemed that many Catholics were not willing to forgive. However, as I got older, say in my forties, and I experienced and observed more of life’s hard experiences, as well as developed more self-knowledge, I learned how difficult it is to forgive. Even as I objectively understand that forgiveness is the only complete emotional therapy, even as I understand that scripture and the church command and counsel forgiveness, I have serious doubts that I would be able to forgive someone who did harm to me or anyone close to me. I’ve learned that forgiveness is a very difficult place to get to.

Yet, this past Friday night on Fox News, I heard Greta say that she, like the Amish, wants to forgive the man who did this.