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From a drunk-driving tragedy, lessons in forgiveness

Imagine what it took for the parents of the young man charged in the drunken-driving accident that killed Sister Denise Mosier on Sunday to go to the monastery where the nun lived to offer their personal apologies. Imagine what it took for the women who knew and loved Sister Denise to, without hesitation, grant forgiveness. “We wanted to let them know we hold no grudges,” Sister Andrea Verchuck, the sub-prioress, later recalled. The encounter, beautifully captured in a Page One story in today’s Washington Post, is a lesson in kindness and human understanding. And it is one that is sorely needed in these ugly political times.

Indeed, I couldn’t help but contrast the remarkable grace shown by the parents of Carlos A. Martinelly-Montano and Sister Verchuck with the sad behavior that is too often displayed in this country. Behavior such as that of conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who still hasn’t brought himself to apologize to Shirley Sherrod for unfairly casting her as racist and igniting a controversy that cost her her job. Then I wondered if Sherrod might herself, who has talked about suing Breitbart, could learn something from the good sisters about holding grudges and trying to move on.

What occurred at that Prince William County monastery reminded me of the beauty that followed a different sort of tragedy a few years ago. After a gunman opened fire in a one-room Pennsylvania schoolhouse in October 2006, killing five young girls, a traumatized Amish community embraced the shooter’s widow. People do awful things and other people get hurt. How we deal with the aftermath is what defines our humanity.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | August 4, 2010; 4:13 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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The sisters were right to make this about forgiveness, and not immigration politics.

Whether one endorses illegal immigration or not, this tragedy could just as well have involved a native-born driver. And whatever the status of Mr. Martinelly-Montano's parents, it was still a graceful and courageous act for them to apologize this way.

Posted by: Itzajob | August 4, 2010 5:33 PM | Report abuse

If your son or daughter was driving drunk and killed or injured innocent people in another car, would it really take courage to apologize to those your son or daughter injured?

And if the drunk driver wasn't even supposed to be in this country because of previous episodes of drunk driving, shouldn't someone be held accountable? Or should the driver be allowed to continue to drive drunk and kill other innocent people? Would the nuns be OK with allowing this guy to kill others? Should he go unpunished? How far does their "forgiveness" extend?

And what on Earth do Shirley Sherrod or Andrew Breibart have to do with any of this?

Posted by: amazd | August 4, 2010 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"Behavior such as that of conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, who still hasn’t brought himself to apologize to Shirley Sherrod for unfairly casting her as racist and igniting a controversy that cost her her job."
Yes. Mrs. Sherrod was an admitted FORMER racist...

Posted by: amazd | August 4, 2010 6:01 PM | Report abuse

JoAnn, I see the right-wingers have (or at least one right-winger has)already pounced. I'm convinced that the know-nothings have some central HQ somewhere, & assign various members of their tribe to monitor liberal blogs/web sites & load up the Comments section with smart-ass remarks. You'd think they'd have better things to do with their time.

Posted by: bigfish2 | August 4, 2010 7:29 PM | Report abuse

When a person employs the phrase "his own kind" in reference to another person, it is racist. Sherrod is a racist. Perhaps her attitudes no longer govern her actions, but there simply is no denying how she thinks. We can applaud that she may act to help the white farmer, but it doesn't change how she feels. It makes her a human being. Blacks can be and are inflicted with racism.

Posted by: dmt3 | August 5, 2010 7:37 AM | Report abuse

I lost an uncle to a drunk driver and my brother was hit by a drunk driver and survived -broken ribs and broken collar bone. The gentleman that hit my brother had five previous drunken driving citations and he is still driving. At some point in this country, we are going to have to realize that anyone who drives drunk is a menace and more people died at the hands of drunk drivers than are being killed in combat in two wars. Forgiveness is one thing and stopping drunk driving is another. Sadly, the author of the above piece fails to realize this reality.

Posted by: jeffreed | August 5, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I'd be interested to see if Armao looks to the nuns for abortion policy as well.

Posted by: tomtildrum | August 5, 2010 12:15 PM | Report abuse

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