In case of Catholic politician recovering from shooting, Washington Post ponders forgiveness

What does it mean to forgive?

The Washington Post delves into that question — but maybe not as deeply as I’d like — in a story on a Republican leader who nearly died in the 2017 congressional baseball shooting.

The Post story has ties to an earlier case of forgiveness — involving a Louisiana congregation that was the victim of arson — that we recently highlighted here at GetReligion.

The lede on the latest piece is definitely compelling:

For nearly two years, Steve Scalise has tried to forgive.

For the bullet that tore through his pelvis. For all the surgeries. The months of missed work and the many grueling days of physical therapy. Scalise, the Republican House minority whip, has been trying to forgive the gunman who nearly killed him and injured several others in June 2017.

But he hasn’t been ready.

On Friday, though, Scalise said he was working on it.

The Louisiana lawmaker found a guide more than 1,000 miles southwest of the fractious U.S. Capitol on a recent trip to his home state.

Scalise and Vice President Pence traveled to Opelousas, La., a week ago to visit the pastors of three predominantly black churches that were burned down a month ago in a string of hate-fuelled arsons.

With the charred remains of his Mount Pleasant Baptist Church as a backdrop, Pastor Gerald Toussaint spoke of forgiveness. He forgave the suspect, a 21-year-old son of a local sheriff’s deputy, and members of his congregation did, too.

Keep reading, and the Post characterizes Scalise as “a devout Catholic” — whatever is meant by that terminology. Generally, we at GetReligion advocate that news reports offer specific details to illustrate that someone is “devout,” as opposed to using that label. Nonetheless, the obvious connotation is that Scalise is a committed person of faith for whom forgiveness would seem to be a part of expected religious practice.

But in this case, the newspaper notes that Scalise acknowledges he has found forgiving his shooter — who did not survive the rampage — difficult. The story angle is that the Louisiana pastor caused Scalise to reflect and rethink forgiveness in his own situation:

“I talked to him about that afterwards because I still have to address forgiveness for the shooting two years ago,” Scalise said. “It was good to talk to him and get an understanding of how he got to that point.”

Give lots of credit to the Post for spotting the religion angle and exploring it with Scalise.

Later in the story, there’s this crucial background:

He said he remembers praying — praying that he’d live to see his daughter’s wedding, and to walk her down the aisle, he said last month at the Congressional Prayer Breakfast in Collinsville, Ill.

“God puts people in the right places to take care of us,” Scalise said at the event. “God performed a lot of miracles that day.”

And the relatively concise report ends this way:

Forgiveness is more personal — yet no less difficult.

“It’s something I’ve struggled with as a Catholic,” Scalise said. “Part of my faith is forgiveness, and I’m working to get there.”

But he has some more help now, another man of faith coping with the aftermath of a hateful attack. After they met in Opelousas, Scalise asked Toussaint if they could keep talking, he said. They plan on it.

All in all, it’s a nice story — a timely religion peg that is helpful and appreciated.

So why did I suggest up top that it “maybe” didn’t delve as deeply as I’d like? Probably because I would like to have seen a little more context on Scalise and his faith, and if possible, more introspection by Scalise and those who know him on forgiveness.

Also, I’m curious: Where does he worship? How often does he attend Mass? How do his religious beliefs mesh with his politics?

What the Post reported was fine. I just think the story could have benefited from more details.

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