One way out of the dilemma is to say that whatever happened that night, a Supreme Court nomination should not be derailed by a teenage boy’s behavior some 35 years ago. This argument has real merit, not because sexual assault is all right if you’re 17, but because people do change, and a decent society recognizes that. In the case of minors, whose brains aren’t fully formed, I especially believe in radical forgiveness and radical redemption. Yes, even for terrible crimes — forgiving crimes “except the really bad ones” isn’t forgiveness, it’s an admission that you didn’t care that much in the first place. If you truly believe, as I do, that no one’s character should be summed up by the worst thing they ever did, then people who have atoned and lived honorably for decades should be readmitted to society in full good standing — including even admission to the highest court of the land.

And yet, if Kavanaugh did what he stands accused of, he hasn’t paid his debt. That insults both the suffering of his victim and the majesty of the law. And if he has truly forgotten doing a terrible thing, he’s no longer even capable of forming the sincere repentance necessary for redemption.

Moreover, my views on criminal justice are a micro-minority position, and the democratic legitimacy of this appointment matters. Installing Kavanaugh with the allegations unresolved would further corrode an already tattered civic fabric.