By Sister Regina Siegfried, ASC

My neighbors and I recently learned that three sex offenders live among us on our block, a quiet, well-maintained urban neighborhood in St. Louis.

Of course, it came as a surprise, but it shouldn’t have. Sex offenders, drug dealers, and similar folks may be closer than we imagine. By law, sex offenders must register their address with local authorities, who share it for safety reasons with the public.

We met to discuss this troubling discovery, armed with information from various websites including their names and the nature of their crimes as well as the names of the property owner and landlord who house them.

We’d seen two of the men shuffling up and down the block, or lugging bags of groceries from the bus stop, and appearing mentally compromised and passive.

We discussed this situation calmly, perhaps because having the facts dispelled our fear. We know we need to be vigilant and call the police at the slightest hint of suspicious behavior. We will make sure the kids on our block keep a healthy distance from strangers and monitor their every activity outdoors.

But here’s the other thing: While the safety of our children is paramount, what, if anything, do we owe these men?

  • Were they at one point in their young lives a victim of sexual abuse?
  • Should we feel pity or scorn, compassion or revulsion?
  • They have to live somewhere. Are we big enough to extend our hospitality to three troubled men?
  • Or is that expecting too much? What is the right balance?

Being compassionate means looking reality squarely in the face – even that of a troubled soul — and working for the common good.

It means being aware and cautious, looking out for innocent children and treating everyone – even those who frighten us – with dignity.