We Sin. God Saves.

Alice Camille, writing about what it means to say that Jesus saves," summarizes the Bible in four words.

"We sin. God saves."

That line came to mind while reading Cathleen Falsani’s column about Tony Hendra, author of the best-selling memoir, “Father Joe: The man who saved my soul.”

Father Joe, which Andrew Sullivan described as "first tier spiritual memoir" tells how Hendra was rescued from a life of “serial sex and drugs and rock and irony" by Father Joseph Warrilow, a lifelong friend. Father Joe, says Sullivan, helped Hendra surrender to “God who refused to let go.”

Helped by Sullivan’s review, Father Joe became the surprise religion book of the year.

Then all hell broke loose last week, when Jessica Hendra, Tony’s adult daughter, told the New York Times that her father sexually abused her.

Tony Hendra denies the allegation, and the Times piece garnered criticism from Sullivan , Richard Cohen of the Washington Post, and even New York Times public editor
Daniel Okrent
, who questioned whether the piece should have ever been run.

But Falsani, who has interviewed "dozens of victims of childhood sexual abuse," says that Jessica Hendra’s allegations sound credible.

The memories she describes are not vague. There are times, places, and graphic descriptions of abuse. Her mother--who divorced Hendra in the 1980s -- corroborates at least one of her daughter's stories, according to the Times report.

Several friends, therapists and other confidantes told the paper of hearing Jessica Hendra talk consistently over the years of the alleged abuse she suffered at the hands of her father.

Then Falsani adds this twist. A reader recently wrote her, anguished that a priest who was his spiritual mentor had been accused of abusing children. The priest denied the allegations, and the reader believed him.

He also asked Falsani, "But -- oh, God -- what if they were true?" Did that mean that everything he had ever learned about God was a lie?

Here's her response

No, I told him.

Indeed, if the abuse really happened, it's horrible. Even unforgivable, at least to us. But it's not to God, as I understand it.

And the sin -- the evil acts -- don't invalidate the blessings and the good acts that were perpetuated by the same person.

She points out the example of former televangelist Jim Bakker: he was a “cheat and a fraud. But somehow that didn't stop God from working through him," Falsani says.

Then she makes this point.

The story Hendra tells, despite the subtitle of his book, is not really about how his own soul was saved.

It's about how every soul -- no matter how damaged or how pure -- needs redemption. And can be redeemed.

By grace. Untempered by what we've done, or may do in the future.

So, read Father Joe. Read it with the allegations of abuse in mind, whether you believe them or not. Pass judgments if you like.

But please see the moral of the story for what it is.

If God can save David Berkowitz , God can save Tony Hendra. No matter what he’s done.

It’s the same old four-word story.

We sin. God saves. And, as Father Joe reminds us, God never lets go.


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