Benjamin Franklin, who never dreamed of being quoted in an Easter homily, once said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” We ask for mercy to the degree that we are guilty. But to ask pardon while telling our pardoner why the pardon requested is less than he thought insults his beneficence. It’s like saying, “I’m sorry but not really. Do you forgive me, as if I needed it?”
On the other hand, St. Thomas makes it clear that ignorance, passion, and weakness can diminish sin because they reduce the movement of our wills in the sinful act. To the degree that the upheaval of my concupiscence, the cloud of my stupidity, or the jelly of my spine actually decreased the voluntariness of the moral act, there is in reality that much less to forgive.
How do these authorities, the one ne plus ultra, the other ne minus ultra, find convergence? Perhaps in this, that while God alone knows exactly how much a man does or does not need forgiveness, the sinner in question is well advised simply to throw himself at the feet of Jesus and take the blame for everything. It’s far safer to take more responsibility for our wretchedness before the Divine Mercy than less. Aristotle points out that the magnanimous man likes to be told of his greatness and past favors to others, not favors done to him. And Jesus is the most magnanimous of men, Who most lavishly grants the favors of His pardon on those who take the deepest refuge in Him.