Early Fathers & Doctors on Forgiving One Another

St Augustine

Letter 211

Quote:14. Quarrels should be unknown among you, or at least, if they arise, they should as quickly as possible be ended, lest anger grow into hatred, and convert "a mote into a beam," Matthew 7:3 and make the soul chargeable with murder. For the saying of Scripture: "He that hates his brother is a murderer," 1 John 3:15 does not concern men only, but women also are bound by this law through its being enjoined on the other sex, which was prior in the order of creation. Let her, whoever she be, that shall have injured another by taunt or abusive language, or false accusation, remember to remedy the wrong by apology as promptly as possible, and let her who was injured grant forgiveness without further disputation. If the injury has been mutual, the duty of both parties will be mutual forgiveness, because of your prayers, which, as they are more frequent, ought to be all the more sacred in your esteem. But the sister who is prompt in asking another whom she confesses that she has wronged to grant her forgiveness is, though she may be more frequently betrayed by a hasty temper, better than another who, though less irascible, is with more difficulty persuaded to ask forgiveness. Let not her who refuses to forgive her sister expect to receive answers to prayer: as for any sister who never will ask forgiveness, or does not do it from the heart, it is no advantage to such an one to be in a monastery, even though, perchance, she may not be expelled. Wherefore abstain from hard words; but if they have escaped your lips, be not slow to bring words of healing from the same lips by which the wounds were inflicted. When, however, the necessity of discipline compels you to use hard words in restraining the younger inmates, even though you feel that in these you have gone too far, it is not imperative on you to ask their forgiveness, lest while undue humility is observed by you towards those who ought to be subject to you, the authority necessary for governing them be impaired; but pardon must nevertheless be sought from the Lord of all, who knows with what goodwill you love even those whom you reprove it may be with undue severity. The love which you bear to each other must be not carnal, but spiritual: for those things which are practised by immodest women in shameful frolic and sporting with one another ought not even to be done by those of your sex who are married, or are intending to marry, and much more ought not to be done by widows or chaste virgins dedicated to be hand-maids of Christ by a holy vow.


St. Leo the Great

Sermon 49

[quote]V. Forgiveness of our own sins requires that we should forgive others

But because, as it is written, "in many things we all stumble James 3:2," let the feeling of mercy be first aroused and the faults of others against us be forgotten; that we may not violate by any love of revenge that most holy compact, to which we bind ourselves in the Lord's prayer, and when we say "forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors," let us not be hard in forgiving, because we must be possessed either with the desire for revenge, or with the leniency of gentleness, and for man, who is ever exposed to the dangers of temptations, it is more to be desired that his own faults should not need punishment  than that he should get the faults of others punished. And what is more suitable to the Christian faith than that not only in the Church, but also in all men's homes, there should be forgiveness of sins? Let threats be laid aside; let bonds be loosed, for he who will not loose them will bind himself with them much more disastrously. For whatsoever one man resolves upon against another, he decrees against himself by his own terms. Whereas "blessed are the merciful, for God shall have mercy on them :" and He is just and kind in His judgments, allowing some to be in the power of others to this end, that under fair government may be preserved both the profitableness of discipline and the kindliness of clemency, and that no one should dare to refuse that pardon to another's shortcomings, which he wishes to receive for his own.[/quote


St. John Chrysostom

Homily 4 on Second Corinthians

Quote:2 Corinthians 2:7

"So that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with his overmuch sorrow."

He bids them not only take off the censure; but, besides, restores him to his former estate; for if one let go him that has been scourged and heal him not, he has done nothing. And see how him too he keeps down lest he should be rendered worse by the forgiveness. For though he had both confessed and repented, he makes it manifest that he obtains remission not so much by his penitence as by this free gift. Wherefore he says, "to forgive  him and to comfort him," and what follows again makes the same thing plain. 'For' says he, 'it is not because he is worthy, not because he has shown sufficient penitence; but because he is weak, it is for this I request  it.' Whence also he added, "lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." And this is both as testifying to his deep repentance and as not allowing him to fall into despair.

But what means this, "swallowed up?" Either doing as Judas did, or even in living becoming worse. For, says he, if he should rush away from longer enduring the anguish of this lengthened censure, perchance also despairing he will either come to hang himself, or fall into greater crimes afterwards. One ought then to take steps beforehand , lest the sore become too hard to deal with; and lest what we have well done we lose by want of moderation.

Now this he said, (as I have already observed,) both to keep him low, and to teach him not to be over-listless after this restoration. For, not as one who has washed all quite away; but as fearing lest he should work anything of deeper mischief, I have received him, he says. Whence we learn that we must determine the penance, not only by the nature of the sins, but by the disposition and habit of them that sin. As the Apostle did in that instance. For he feared his weakness, and therefore said, "lest he be swallowed up," as though by a wild beast, by a storm, by a billow.


Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Thank you SO much, ecclesiastes! You went to a lot of work to help me out; I appreciate that!

(03-05-2014, 05:49 AM)Vox Clamantis Wrote: Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! Thank you SO much, ecclesiastes! You went to a lot of work to help me out; I appreciate that!

You're welcome.
The following summary of points is taken from McHugh and Callan's Moral Theology: A Complete Course, Based on St. Thomas Aquinas and the Best Modern Authorities, vol. I, sec. 1148-57, 1198-1204; pp. 457-462, 475ff.):

"Whether an offender asks pardon or not, one is obliged to forgive the offense - that is, to put aside all aversion, indignation and hatred. . . .  But granting that one desires salvation for the offender as for others, shows the common signs of charity, and is not prompted by hatred, the following are not required: (a) that one so pardon the offense as to take the offender back to the same special friendship as may have existed before; (b) that one overlook an injury so as not to require satisfaction; and © that one renounce restitution or reparation for damage done one. . . .  There are cases, however, in which charity requires one to forgive a debt of satisfaction or restitution, namely, when this would impose too heavy a burden on the offender, compared with the benefit that would be derived therefrom" (sec. 1201f.).

"Outside of cases of necessity, one is bound to be willing to love an enemy in particular, if the necessity should arise."
-- Common signs of charity are to be shown to all men (e.g., greetings).
-- Special signs of charity are to be shown to an enemy if he belongs to a group to whom one bestows benefits (e.g., inviting everyone except for that one guy you don't like); in these situations, special signs become common.
-- Higher or more urgent duties can require one to omit showing common signs of charity to an enemy.
-- If it's customary to give greetings, then it'd be a sin against charity to refuse greeting an enemy; if it's not customary, however, then one need not do so.
-- Common signs of charity can be denied by reason of justice, whether as a punishment or for the protection of one's own rights.  With all of this said, however, internal charity must be had all the time and for all people (i.e. desiring the Supreme Good for all others as fellow creatures of God with the same end).

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