Zero Tolerance and God's Mercy equals Oil and Water; They Do Not Mix

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

Last week I wrote a piece about Arthur Flegenheimer aka Dutch Schultz. The notorious bootlegger, gangster and murderer, along with his henchmen, prowled the streets of the Bronx during the 1930’s spreading murder and mayhem wherever he took his negative pride and enormous ego. But the old cliche, “Live by the sword, die by the sword” rang true for the “Dutchman”. On October 23, 1935, he was gunned down in a bar in Newark, N.J. The “hit” was ordered by Lucky Luciano and carried out by members of  Murder Inc. As things would have it,  Dutch did not die right away. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness. Enter God’s Mercy.

Pope Francis brought us into The Holy Year of Mercy on December 8, 2015. But I have come to believe, based on the rules of Zero Tolerance, true mercy can only come from God. Dutch Schultz was a bad guy who did very bad things. He murdered, he stole, he ruined people’s lives. Yet, in the end, the man sought out God and His mercy. And he received it.

Dutch was a converted Catholic and, as he was dying, asked for a priest. He went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church. Dutch Schultz was granted mercy and forgiveness by God through the power given to the priest. What if Dutch had been applying for the job of a part-time school bus driver for a Catholic school? Zero Tolerance rules would NEVER have allowed it.

Therein lies the two edged sword for us Catholics. If God can give forgiveness and mercy to all who truly seek it, how can we, His good people, pick and choose from those doing so? Zero Tolerance, in my opinion, is the great enigma we all face as Catholics. We must always protect the vulnerable (young & old) against the predators out there. But what about the others? I think, especially during the Holy Year of Mercy, we must all pray for an answer to this dilemma.

My article on Zero Tolerance and The Holy Year of Mercy appeared in Aleteia last week. I ask you to refer to that link for more on this topic.

Slogan for The Holy Year of Mercy: “A Time to Heal, to Help, to Forgive”

©Larry Peterson 2016 All Rights Reserved


What Would Have Been the Fate of Dutch Schultz if God Used Zero Tolerance?

IT MAKES SENSE TO ME

By Larry Peterson

This past Sunday two of my grand kids made their First Confession. It is always a beautiful thing when children receive their first sacraments. Invariably, they never forget those moments. I was seven years old when I made my First Confession and I can still vividly remember that day.  I do not remember what sins I confessed because, at seven, the only thing I can remember ever doing was picking on my little sister all the time. And I know I had been punished for that—numerous times.

Last Tuesday they had a penance service in my parish. I was stunned at the large crowd. Eight priests were available to hear confessions and the church did not close up until almost 10 p.m.  I wondered if any of the people who went to confession that evening were denied absolution because what they had done was considered “unforgivable”? Ridiculous, right? Everything is forgivable, isn’t it? And it does not matter if you are six, seven or one hundred and eight.

To give an example of how God’s mercy is ALWAYS available to those who seek it I would like to briefly mention a man by the name of Arthur Flegenheimer. Arthur was born in New York City in 1901. A German-Jew, by the time he was 27 he was known as Dutch Schultz and was quickly becoming one of the most feared mob bosses in New York. The “Dutchman” was a bootlegger (running illegal whiskey), a number’s boss operating in Harlem and a “shakedown artist” within the NYC restaurant industry offering protection while using the restaurant unions as cover.

His main enforcer was the infamous, Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, a brutal killer who did Schultz’s bidding without hesitation. Eventually the “Dutchman” got tired of Coll’s wanting more money. As “Mad Dog” sat in a telephone booth talking on the phone he was machine gunned to death by Schultz’s henchmen. Dutch actually proved to be a more brutal killer then “Mad Dog” Coll. So how does my brain tie Dutch Schultz, the Sacrament of Penance and Zero-Tolerance together? Actually, it is not that hard to do.

Dutch Schultz wanted to kill U. S. Attorney Thomas E. Dewey (Later to be Governor of NY and the Presidential Candidate losing to Harry Truman in the 1948 election). The Mafia Commission told Schultz,  “NO, it would cause us too much trouble.” Schultz refused to listen and decided to  kill Dewey anyway. The mob, under Lucky Luciano, sent “Murder Inc.” after Schultz. They gunned him down in a restaurant in Newark, N.J  on October 23, 1935. Enter the sacrament of Penance and Forgiveness.

When Dutch Schultz was acquitted  on tax-evasion charges he converted to Catholicism. He believed that Jesus had saved him. (He was also trying to impress Lucky Luciano). When he was shot he did not die right away. He was taken to the hospital for surgery and he immediately asked for a priest. He was 34 years  old  and his last thought while he was dying was to  ask Jesus for forgiveness and mercy.  He went to confession, received absolution and was administered the Last Rites of the Church by a priest. Then he died.  Did Dutch Schultz go right to heaven? Did he get to the “pearly gates” and have St. Peter say, “Sorry Dutch, that priest made a mistake. What you did was “Unforgivable. We operate under a strict “Zero-Tolerance” policy. You are not welcome here.” I think not.

Sunday is Palm Sunday. Holy week begins. All over the world Catholic/Christian people celebrate the bloodied, tortured and crucified Son of God, Jesus Christ. Jesus embraced forgiveness for all people and extended love to everyone. This is also what He wanted us to do. This is why he suffered and died for us. He offered Himself to His Father for us. His Father’s gift back to us is the Risen Christ. We all have been saved and we all  can get to share eternal life with the Blessed Trinity. Because of God’s mercy even Dutch Schultz can join in the celebration. It is a beauty beyond description.

The only people who remain among the ranks of the “unforgiven” during the Easter celebrations and all through the year are those who are subject to the man made rules of Zero-Tolerance. This includes  Zero-Tolerance rules as set in place by much of the Catholic hierarchy. But God Himself could never be party to Zero-Tolerance since it would be a contradiction of His perfection. Maybe this Easter the hierarchy of the Church, as they celebrate new Light during the Easter Vigil, should begin re-thinking this intransigent policy called Zero-Tolerance. If it did not apply to Dutch Schultz, well, —-who am I to judge?

                                      copyright © 2015 Larry Peterson