Written July 16, 2006
When I first enrolled at this college three years ago, I thought it was supposed to be a campus full of upstanding Christian young people. I was very conscientious to learn and obey the standards set forth in the student handbook.
I paid special attention to the library policy. When I checked out a book, I always brought it back within the required two weeks. (To be honest, I should say "almost always." On a few occasions, I failed to meet the deadline, was assessed a late fee, and willingly paid the fine.)
Now our president reports that there are hundreds of books missing from the library, borrowed and never returned. They're illegally hidden in dorm rooms and elsewhere on campus, and nothing has been done to recover them.
This is a slap in the face to me and to all the others who have followed the rules, perused our borrowed volumes in a timely fashion, and returned them on schedule. Why are some scofflaws allowed to plod along at whatever reading pace they like, ignoring the rules and hoarding these precious resources for themselves? Anyone who keeps a book for more than two weeks is stealing it from the rest of the community, and if he won't pay the fine he should be kicked out of college.
But it gets worse. Our president should be calling for strict enforcement of library policy, but instead he has proposed something that he calls "amnesty." For the next two weeks, anyone with an overdue book can return it with no questions asked and will not have to pay any fine at all!
The president tries to defend his program on the grounds of practicality. He claims it would be too costly to ransack every dorm room, search for contraband books, and punish the thieves. He says that our goal should not be justice! Instead, he says, our goal should be merely turning the thieves into responsible borrowers while returning missing books to the library shelves. Apparently, reaching that goal justifies the means. The goal, he says, can be met simply by waiving the fines and declaring a two-week amnesty.
Well, the president can call it whatever he wants, but this "amnesty" is nothing but forgiveness! Forgiveness for those who willingly ignored the student handbook, while thousands of good students like me played by the rules.
And we all know how un-Christian it is to forgive those who trespass against us.
In Matthew 19:21-22, we read how St. Peter asked Jesus, "'Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times?' Jesus saith unto him, 'I say not!'"
Or take the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-30. You remember the story. A man had two sons. The younger one left home with his share of his father's wealth. Before long, he had wasted it all on "riotous living" in a foreign country. Broke and starving, he escaped from that foreign pigsty and crawled back to his father's house. But his softhearted father saw the prodigal coming, and felt sorry for him, and ran and kissed him. The father rewarded his son's bad behavior! How stupid can you get? He said to his servants, "Bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and be merry."
After a while, the older son came home and heard all the music and dancing. When he found out what had happened, he was insulted and refused to go inside. His clueless father came out to ask what was wrong. The elder son very properly told off his father for his unfairness. He angrily pointed out, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment. And yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends. But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf!"
As this parable makes clear, it is a grave injustice to welcome lawbreakers while doing nothing for loyal citizens.
It is weakness to give equal standing to those who have broken our rules. We can never forgive those people for what they have done. Even if they promise to be good citizens in the future, the fact remains that they have been miscreants in the past.
They must be expelled! We must not share our treasures with those who do not share our standards.
As members of the family of good people, we cannot allow our lawless neighbors to sneak into our family. They cannot have any of our love, by any name no amnesty, no forgiveness, no brotherly kindness for they will never be worthy to share our world.