This just over the transom:
The problem is this. Forgiving unconditionally -- forgiving someone without their apology, repentance, penance, etc. -- seems to amount to little more than condoning what they've done; it's hardly forgiveness but more of an acceptance of the wrong. On the other hand, forgiving on the condition that the wrong has been atoned -- the wrongdoer has apologized, repented, made reparations, performed penances, etc -- seems to be superfluous, insofar as after atonement has been made, the wrongdoer is not guilty of anything any longer and thus there is nothing to forgive, nor would continued resentment be appropriate.
At Luke 23:34, Jesus is reported to have said, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." Note that Jesus is not forgiving his tormenters; he is asking God the Father to forgive them. So this passage is not relevant to our discussion. Besides, there is nothing here about unconditional forgiveness. Jesus could have been requesting his Father to forgive the killers after punishing them appropriately.
Your mention of contemporary philosophers who support your position is just name-dropping. To drop a name is not to give an argument. I would have to see their arguments. Is it unacceptable for me to hold to my understanding of forgiveness according to which it is morally objectionable to forgive the unrepentant in advance of studying the arguments of those you mention? No more unacceptable than holding to the view that motion is possible in advance of studying the arguments of Zeno and his school, or holding to the reality of time despite my inability decisively to refute McTaggart. I might just stand my Moorean ground: "Look, I just ate lunch; therefore time is real!" Similarly with forgiveness: "Look, it is a wonderful thing to forgive, but only on condition that the offender own up to his wrongdoing, make amends, etc."
You also write, I admit that once the miscreant has paid his debt, he is morally in the clear. His guilt has been removed. But I can still forgive him because forgiveness does not take away guilt, it merely alters the attitude of the one violated to the one who violated him. You are forgetting another important aspect of forgiveness beyond the change in attitude, however, namely that it is a way of responding to wrongdoers as wrongdoers. Another way of putting this is that forgiveness is only possible when someone stands before us as guilty for some wrong done and is thus an appropriate candidate for resentment, anger, etc. If someone has atoned for their wrong and is no longer guilty, then there's no ground for resentment and thus there's nothing more to forgive! So the change in attitude after atonement has been made may resemble forgiveness, but it's hardly genuine forgiveness since there's no wrong to forgive any longer.
BV: This is an interesting and weighty point, but I disagree nonetheless. You may be conflating two separate claims. I would say that it is a conceptual truth that if X forgives Y, then X perceives Y as having done wrong, whether or not Y has in fact done wrong. This truth is analytic in that it merely unpacks our ordinary understanding of 'forgiveness.' But it doesn't follow from this conceptual truth that there is nothing left to forgive with respect to a person who has atoned for his misdeed. I say there is: the mere fact that he has done me wrong in the first place. Suppose he stole my money, but then apologized and made restitution. In that case the demands of justice have been met. But there is still something left to forgive, namely, his having stolen my money in the first place. The apology and restitution do not eliminate the whole of the guilt, for the offender remains guilty of the misdeed. After all, his apology and restitution do not retroactively make him innocent. He remains guilty as charged. The fact of his having committed the misdeed can in no way be altered. Though contingent at the time, it now has the modal status of necessitas per accidens.
There is obviously a difference between one who is guilty of an offence and one who is innocent of it. That distinction remains in place even after the guilty party pays for his crime. Your position seems to imply that punishment retroactively renders the criminal innocent -- which is absurd.
Consider this. Forgiveness is commonly thought of as gracious; it is a generous way of responding to wrongdoers that goes beyond strictly what they deserve. How is it at all generous to change one's attitude towards a wrongdoer only once atonement has been made and she is effectively no longer a wrongdoer?
BV: I agree that forgiveness is gracious and not strictly a matter of desert. It is nevertheless generous to forgive even after atonement has been made. For one is forgiving the offender of having committed the misdeed in he first place. I deny that the offender is no longer a wrongdoer after the penalty has been paid. Again, your position seems to imply that punishment retroactively renders the criminal innocent.
Imagine, then, that I forgive on the condition that the guilty one repents, mends his ways, asks forgiveness, and thus would be changed by a new obligation, and that from then on he would no longer be exactly the same as the one who was found to be culpable. In this case, can one still speak of forgiveness? This would be too simple on both sides: one forgives someone other than the guilty one. In order for there to be forgiveness, must one not on the contrary forgive both the fault and the guilty as such, where the one and the other remain as irreversible as the evil, as evil itself, and being capable of repeating itself, unforgivably, without transformation, without amelioration, without repentance or promise? Must one not maintain that an act of forgiveness worthy of its name, if there ever is such a thing, must forgive the unforgivable, and without condition? (On cosmopolitanism and forgiveness, pp. 38-9)
BV: And I continue to maintain, pace tua, that only conditional forgiveness is morally unobjectionable and that conditional forgiveness counts as genuine forgiveness.