WASHINGTON (AP) — Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican leader, said Friday he still struggles to forgive the man who wounded him and four others two years ago in a shooting at a congressional baseball practice .
In a briefing with reporters about the week’s events in Washington, the Louisiana lawmaker detoured unprompted to his battle to absolve his attacker. Scalise said it came up last week, when he and Vice President Mike Pence visited the leaders of three predominantly black churches near his congressional district that were badly burned recently by an alleged arsonist .
After one pastor said he’d already forgiven the man accused of the church burnings, Scalise said he and the pastor discussed his feelings about his shooting.
“I still have to address forgiveness for the shooting two years ago, so it was really good to talk to him and kind of get an understanding of how he got to that point,” Scalise said.
Scalise, 53, was rushed to a hospital near death. He recovered but has needed multiple surgeries, still undergoes physical therapy and walks with a cane.
“I’ve never internally formally forgiven the shooter from the baseball shooting,” he said. “It’s something I’ve struggled with as a Catholic. I mean, part of my faith is forgiveness and I’m working to get there.”
An aide identified the pastor as Gerald Toussaint of the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas, Louisiana, which Scalise and Pence visited. Scalise said he and the pastor agreed to talk again.
“His faith is surely helping me in my faith,” said Scalise.
The three churches, each over century old, were hit by fires earlier this spring. Authorities have charged Holden Matthews, the son of a local sheriff’s deputy, with the attacks. He has pleaded not guilty to arson and other charges.
Scalise and four others were wounded in the June 2017 shootings in Alexandria, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C., as Republicans practiced for an annual benefit game against Democrats. The gunman, James Hodgkinson, died from wounds inflicted by police officers at the scene.