A major turning point in both his spiritual development and his understanding of forgiveness, Enright said, was the death of his wife Nancy from kidney cancer in 2002. That ordeal, which left him a single father of two young boys, taught him the power of redemptive suffering.
"Forgiveness as Redemptive Suffering" is the working title of a book that Enright will be writing with his son Kevin, 23, a recent college graduate who plans to pursue graduate studies in philosophy. The book will be Enright's first major statement of how religious faith has informed and expanded his understanding of forgiveness.
"The Catholic Church and only the Catholic Church can tell us what forgiveness really is in the fullest sense: a uniting of your suffering with Christ's suffering, which we bear on behalf of those who have hurt us, for their salvation," he says.
The church has traditionally emphasized the sacramental aspect of forgiveness as something granted by God, Enright said. But over the last three decades, especially under Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he's seen a growing emphasis on "person-to-person forgiveness."
That emphasis has inspired a vision that Enright calls "The Church as Forgiving Community," which is also the title of a forthcoming book he is editing, with essays by psychologists, philosophers and theologians.