Category Archives: Theology

The Seventh Deadly Sin: Sloth


-by Br Francis Mary Day, OP

Saint John Chrysostom tells us that, “It is not so much sin as sloth that casts us into hell.” How can this be? Sloth is not the most serious of sins, but in the Christian life, it can be the most dangerous, for to sloth is to anticipate damnation. Saint Thomas Aquinas considers sloth a major factor in the “sin against the Holy Spirit” that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures (ST II-II q. 14, a. 2):

And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. (Mt 12:32)

[ Ed. Sloth is a sin of omission, in contrast to the other deadly sins which are sins of commission.  It is the most difficult sin to define, and to credit as sin, since it refers to a peculiar jumble of notions, dating from antiquity and including mental, spiritual, pathological, and physical states. Saint Thomas Aquinas defined sloth as “sorrow about spiritual good” and as “sluggishness of the mind which neglects to begin good… [it] is evil in its effect, if it so oppresses man as to draw him away entirely from good deeds.” (ST II-II q. 35, a. 1) According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness.”(CCC 2094)

Sloth includes ignoring the seven gifts of grace given by the Holy Ghost (wisdom, understanding, counsel, knowledge, piety, fortitude, and fear of the Lord); such disregard may lead to the slowing of spiritual progress towards eternal life, to the neglect of manifold duties of charity towards the neighbor, and to animosity towards those who love God. (Manning, Henry Edward (1874). Sin and Its Consequences. London: Burns and Oates. pp. 40, 103–117)]

What is sloth but a final resistance to the gift of grace? It is the radical decision of a soul that no longer wishes to share the life of God, but desires to spend its life, and its death, in a state apart from Him. God respects our free will, and He will not violently force Himself upon a soul. This is why Jesus says that a sin against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven in this life or the next.

That being said, this description of sloth can sometimes seem so radical and so intense that it would be impossible to commit. Short of some tremendous personal or social crisis, it can be hard to imagine ourselves falling into the sin of sloth. On the other hand, sloth is often the fruit of another sin that is much more subtle: acedia. Acedia is sometimes understood as the capital sin of sloth, the implication being, as a common phrase goes, “For Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do. Satan is the god of sin, the underworld and all things evil.” (“Against Idleness and Mischief“(1715) -by Isaac Watts (1674-1748)).

Josef Pieper, one of the most prominent Catholic philosophers of the last century, describes acedia as “a kind of anxious vertigo that befalls the human individual when he becomes aware of the height to which God has raised him” (On Hope, 55). In an apparent paradox, acedia is sadness over salvation, even though we do not desire to obtain salvation. Pieper tells us, “Man flees from God because God has exalted human nature to a higher, a divine state of being…[a man fallen into acedia] expressly wishes that God had not ennobled him, but had ‘left him in peace’” (On Hope, 56).

This kind of sadness can often lead to discouragement and various levels of inactivity, which is why acedia includes within it what we typically think of when we consider sloth. Acedia can also result in a state of overwork, whereby we try to ignore or bury our nagging guilt and sadness with pointless exercises. This is why acedia is traditionally considered as a sin against the third commandment; it is the inability of the soul to rest in God. Genuine leisure and healthy labor can only come about when a man is at peace with himself and with God.

Sloth is often a result of acedia, but there are other results that accompany it. Acedia may result in a sort of uneasiness or restlessness of mind called evagatio mentis. This is a fancy way of describing something altogether too common, often manifested in observable phenomena: an inability to stay in one place, a lack of purpose, loquaciousness, excessive curiosity, or a lack of quietude. One is reminded of a quotation from the Pensées of the French philosopher, Blaise Pascal: “All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Other effects of acedia include torpor, which is an indifference to salvation; rancor, which is hatred of anything that reminds us of the divine good; and malitia, which is the inner decision to favor evil.

None of these things start off as something entirely obvious, but they are the logical results of a soul (or a society) that wishes to flee from God. Acedia can only be overcome, St. Thomas says, by vigilant watchfulness. Once you can recognize the temptation to acedia, the war is half won.

Love,
Matthew

Aug 29 – Beheading of John the Baptist & free will


-“The Feast of Herod”, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1531, oil on panel, Height: 81.3 cm (32 ″); Width: 119.7 cm (47.1″), Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT (please click on the image for greater detail)


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“Today is the memorial of the Passion of John the Baptist, who was killed by the corrupt King Herod for condemning the monarch’s illicit marriage (Mk 6:17-29). For John, this was the culmination of a life of sanctity announced by an angel even before his conception (Lk 1:11-17). (Ed. Freed from sin by the Magnificat, John leapt in his mother’s womb.)  This divine decree presents a curious paradox. God, being all-powerful, was able to determine the course of John’s life before his birth (ST I q. 23, a. 6), but at the same time, God respected John’s free will (ST II-I q. 6, a. 4, ob. 1). How is it that God can determine what we will freely choose?

Modern thinking often seems to suppose that freedom of the will means that our choices have no cause other than the will, as if the will depends on nothing. Thomas explains instead that the will is free because it proceeds from an interior principle, namely knowledge, that allows us to act for an end which we know (ST II-I q. 6, a. 1, 4). God did not ‘force’ John the Baptist to give up his life; rather, by his grace he enlightened John the Baptist so that he would understand the good of preaching the truth even when it endangered him.

As a rather crude analogy, consider how a parent can teach a child to make good choices, not by compulsion, but by education. Keep in mind also that some knowledge is abstract, as when a smoker who is trying to quit knows that his habit is bad for him, but rationalizes that away each time he smokes. John’s knowledge was entirely practical; he knew clearly that in his situation the only thing worth doing was to tell the truth. He saw clearly the disappointment inherent in every other course, and so he was free to act for the sake of the truth.

Furthermore, there is never competition between divine and human causality. Two human agents can operate on the same level, when for example two men pull on a rope. In that case, we can ask who pulls harder, and if the men are pulling in opposite directions, maybe the rope will not move at all. But God operates on a completely different level. He is the one who created humans and ropes and set all things in motion.

As another crude analogy, if I write with a pencil, both I and the pencil are equally truly causes of the writing, but in very different ways. Even though I am “in charge,” I do not force the pencil to do anything unnatural. God has even more causal power, because he created pencil-materials in the first place. In the same way, God created John the Baptist as the kind of person who would give up his life for the sake of the truth. God is the first cause on which all else depends. Nothing escapes his causal power, not even the interior life of John (ST I q. 19, a. 6, ad. 3).

You might have noticed that, left to our own devices, there are actually significant limits on our freedom. Those who struggle with habitual sin will know well the painful cycle of repeatedly making a bad choice. The will continually inclines toward damaging action, misapprehended (deceived) for the moment as a good.

Our choices are rather dependent on our own fallen selves, and so we will not always be able to avoid deceiving ourselves and making poor choices. True freedom, then, can only be found outside ourselves, in grace given freely by God that can break us out of our own self-imposed prison. It is by such grace that John’s interior movements were so perfected that he was able to freely give his life. It is only by such divine grace, and not by some creative act of the will, that we can truly draw closer to God”

Love,
Matthew

Love thy neighbor…

-by Rev Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen, OCD, Divine Intimacy, Baronius Press, (c) 1964

Presence of God – Grant, O Lord, that I may understand the depth of meaning in the precept of fraternal charity.

MEDITATION

Jesus has given us as the foundation of all law, not only the precept of the love of God, “the greatest and the first commandment,” but also the precept of the love of neighbor, and He expressly said that it is “like” to the first (cf Matthew 22:38,39). That the precept of the love of God should be the basis of all Christian life is easy to understand, but it is not so easy to see that the same holds true of the precept of fraternal charity. However, Jesus has bound these two commandments so closely that the one cannot subsist without the other. He did not say that all is based on the first commandment, that of love of God, but fraternal charity“on these two commandments [the love of God and of neighbor] dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40). Why did He put the love of neighbor so close to the love of God as to make of it, with the latter, the one foundation of all Christianity? Because the virtue of fraternal charity is not love of the creature in itself and for itself, but it is love of the creature “propter Deum,” that is, for God’s sake, because of its relation to God. In other words, we must clearly understand that God commands us to love Him not only in Himself, but also in His rational creatures whom He has been pleased to create to His image and likeness. Just as a father wants to be loved and respected not only in his own person, but also in that of his children, so God wants to be loved in His creatures as well as in Himself, and He desires this to such an extent that He considers anything done to one of His creatures as done to Him. Jesus has said: “Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to Me” (Matthew 25:40). Fraternal charity is of great importance, because it is in reality an extension of our charity toward God, an extension which embraces all men in relation to God, their Creator and their Father. For this reason, the precept of the love of neighbor is inseparable from the precept of the love of God.

COLLOQUY

“O charity, you are as great as my God Himself, for God is Charity. You are so exalted that you reach the throne of the Blessed Trinity. There you enter the bosom of the eternal Father, and from the Father’s bosom, you go to the heart of the Incarnate Word, where you take your rest and are nourished. Thus the soul who possesses you seeks its nourishment and rest in God alone, after which it returns to earth, for you reach even to our neighbors, O charity, loving them not only as creatures, but as beings created by God to His own image and likeness. You do not stop at loving their bodies, that is, their exterior appearance, but you penetrate to the interior of their souls, which you love more than all else. You do not stop at God’s gifts, but soar to the Giver and love all men only in Him.

“O charity, you are so sublime that you unite us to God! You can do all things and in the Church you form a trinity, as it were, similar to the Blessed Trinity; because just as the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God, and all three are united and are one and the same Being, so, by your virtue, O charity, this union reaches us, because you unite the soul to God, and one soul to another; in this invisible way, you form in the Church a kind of trinity. He who possesses you, O charity, nourishes himself with God, to such a point that he becomes like God through grace and participation.

“O my God, give me such perfect charity that I may know how to yield to my neighbor, helping and relieving him in all his needs, weaknesses, and troubles. May I know how to have prudent compassion for the faults of others” (St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi).”

Love,
Matthew

Too much religion


-by Br Raymond La Grange, OP

“In his Summa Theologiae, qq. 81-100, St. Thomas Aquinas discusses the virtue of religion, whereby we render due worship to God our creator. It may seem odd that Thomas devotes 20 questions to this virtue, each composed of several articles. Questions 92-95, in particular, deal with vices of excess. Vices of excess broadly concern “overdoing it,” as opposed to vices of defect. For example, consider the virtue of courage: cowardice is the defect, and foolhardiness is the excess. Thomas then dedicates four questions to excessive religiousness.

At first sight, this is confusing. It is easy to understand that insufficient religiosity is bad for the soul, but how can we be too religious? An admonition to be “less religious” may seem like an arbitrary rule that does us no good. Sins of excess in matters of religion, however, do not consist in giving too much worship to God, but in giving improper worship, or worshipping the wrong things. By teaching us how to properly render worship to God, the Church focuses and strengthens our worship, and protects us from evil. These “rules” are actually valuable insights from the spiritual masters.

God commands us to worship no other gods (Ex 20:2-6). St. Thomas explains that idolatry—the worship of other gods, or of creatures as if they were gods—is the most grievous of sins because it so thoroughly distorts our relationship to God. The honor that should only be given to the source of all being is given instead to what is lesser.

Aside from worshipping the wrong God, we can worship in the wrong way. We do, of course, have the freedom to pray in our own words in most settings. Our prayer, however, must conform to true doctrine. In liturgies, especially the Mass, our prayer must conform to certain norms, because it was handed on to us through the apostles and their successors, and ultimately from Jesus Himself. We cannot invent our own religion and pray according to our own ideas. Offering right worship ensures that the focus of our worship is really God and not idols or our own conception of God.

St. Thomas’ teaching also strengthens our faith. He speaks of an external worship that is disproportionate to the internal state. If we perform numerous grandiose religious acts without making an effort to change our hearts, what we offer is empty. It is, for example, required that we desire not to sin again when we go to the Sacrament of Confession, even if we know that we probably will sin. Confession is not a magic fix that gets us around God’s commandments. Any worship that is not attached to some desire for the good (however feeble) is no worship at all.

Finally, proper worship protects us from the demonic. It belongs to God alone to disclose future events that are not naturally knowable, or to miraculously circumvent the laws of nature. If we try to usurp this power by practicing magic, astrology, or any kind of divination (ouija boards, tarot cards, fortune tellers, palm readers, and healing crystals are common modern examples), we take for ourselves what belongs to God. In all of these cases, we attempt to take for ourselves what only God can give. He alone can give supernatural help. If we find such help from elsewhere, it is not from any friend of God.

St. Thomas seeks to teach us how to worship properly, so that we may more easily understand and develop our relationship with God. God is the only Creator and sovereign over His creation, and we can do nothing without Him. Our worship must always be anchored in this reality.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 4 of 4)

Grace and good works affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

Reading Exodus 20, the Torah, again:

Exodus 20:5-6

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

The good we do, by the grace of Christ, ripples out into the universe and builds up His Body:

Colossians 1:23-24

“If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the church…”

When we cooperate with grace — when we pray, give alms, fast, offer up our sufferings, etc. — we literally strengthen the Body of Christ in a mystical way! Christ Himself and all the Saints of 2,000 years (by the grace of Christ) have built up His Mystical Body (the Catholic Church) and laid up a “treasury of merit” or “spiritual treasury,” as it is also called. In the same way we or others detract from the Body of Christ through sin, we and others add to this treasury — and receive the fruits thereof when we receive an indulgence, for we are one in the Body of Christ:

Romans 7:5

“We being many, are one body in Christ, and every one, members one of another.”

And read once again I Corinthians 12:26:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

The Church was given the power to bind and loose

To Peter was given the Keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16) and the power of binding and loosing (forbidding/permitting, condemning/acquitting). In exercising this power of the Keys, the Church has the authority to determine certain practices which help us to to benefit from the treasury of merit and alleviate the temporal effects of sins we’ve confessed and are already forgiven for. This is an indulgence.

That the Church was given the power to forgive the eternal effects of sin through the Sacrament of Penance makes it easier to understand how the Church also has the power to alleviate the lesser, temporal effects of sin. The Church whose priests were given the authority by Christ to forgive the guilt of sin and thereby, by the Blood of Christ, eliminate the eternal punishments for sin, surely also has the authority to pardon the temporal punishments of sin.

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Homosexuality

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mt 5:17

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10

“Whenever the topic of homosexuality and the Bible comes up, it doesn’t take long before someone says, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality!” In a 2012 interview, former president Jimmy Carter essentially did that when he said:

“Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

Some go a step further and claim that Jesus affirmed homosexual behavior. For example, one pro-gay Christian website claims that the centurion who sought Jesus’ help to heal his servant in Matthew chapter eight was actually in a sexual relationship with that servant. Their primary evidence for this comes from the centurion’s use of the term pais to describe the servant, which they say refers to a male lover. From this they conclude, “Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Regardless of what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality in the Bible, this counterfeit Christ would never condemn homosexual behavior today. He would instead affirm such behavior as part of healthy relationships that are morally equivalent to marital love between men and women.

But how can that be true if . . .
…Jesus Never Affirmed Homosexual Behavior

Just because Jesus healed someone it doesn’t follow that Jesus affirmed everything that person did. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them returned to give God glory for his healing, but that doesn’t mean Jesus endorsed the religious laxity of the other nine (Luke 17:11-19)

Similarly, even if the centurion and his servant had a sexual relationship, does it follow that Jesus’ miracle meant he affirmed the practice of older men purchasing younger male sex slaves? I doubt the revisionist critic would say, “Jesus restores a master-slave relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a slave-owner as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows compassion to people in spite of their sins, and his healings and deliverance from harm are invitations to further spiritual salvation. For example, Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery from being executed, not so that she could return to her sinful ways, but so that she could repent of them. That’s why he said to her, “do not sin again” (John 8:11).

That said, there is no evidence that the centurion and his slave actually were involved in a sexual relationship. New Testament professor John Byron writes:

“The Greek noun pais is used in the New Testament twenty-four times and has a range of meanings that include “adolescent,” “child,” and “servant.” [In the Greek Old Testament] it appears numerous times and it always refers to a “servant.” There are no occurrences of the term anywhere in the Bible that can be interpreted a referring to the junior partner in a homosexual relationship.”

Other attempts to tease out of Scripture hidden pro-homosexual meanings are similarly dubious. It’s no wonder, then, that the arguments for a “gay-affirming” Jesus are usually arguments from silence—arguments based on what Jesus did not say. They claim, in so many words, that since Jesus never condemned homosexuality he must not have seen anything wrong with it.

But we actually don’t know if Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, because Jesus said many things that are not recorded in Scripture (John 21:25).

For example, when Paul was in Ephesus he spoke to the elders of the churches there, exhorting them to provide for the needs of the Church in Jerusalem. He then said to them, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Even though Paul relates this saying of Jesus in a way that suggests it’s well known, nowhere is it recorded in the Gospels. This is one indication of how some of Jesus’ teachings were not written in the accounts of his life but were passed down through oral means (what Catholics call Sacred Tradition).

Since there is an unbroken tradition of Christians condemning same-sex behavior from the beginning of the Church’s history, we can safely conclude this tradition comes from Jesus and the apostles. Indeed, it would be downright bizarre if Jesus approved of homosexual behavior only to have all his followers teach the opposite—including Paul, whom Jesus chose as an apostle and inspired author but who clearly condemns homosexual behavior in his own writings (Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:10).

The Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson is in a legal marriage with another man, yet when it comes to Jesus’ silence on homosexuality he admits, “One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence.” Robinson instead claims that all “we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence is that He was silent on the issue.”

I wonder if Robinson would likewise say that “all we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence on polygamy, incest, bestiality, idolatry, and child sacrifice is that He was silent on those issues.”

He likely wouldn’t, because Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on, for example, murder show He would never have supported child sacrifice and so it is an absurd question to ask. Likewise, Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on sexual immorality show He would never have supported sexual activity between people of the same sex, or any kind of behavior that violated the universal moral law.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 3 of 4)

The temporal effects of sin affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

As far back as the Old Testament, it is made clear that the temporal effects of sin affect others who may not have committed personal sin. The greatest and first example is that of the sin of Adam and Eve which resulted in the fall of man from grace and in his propensity for corruption and personal sin which we call “original sin.”

The Pentateuch (i.e. Torah, the first five Books of the Bible) also speaks of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children:

Exodus 20:5

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.”

1 Corinthians 12:26 demonstrates that what affects one member of the Body affects another:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

These concepts seem foreign to those who live in the modern Western world’s radically individualistic culture, but they are Scriptural fact. They may seem “unfair” (as though life with our fallen nature is supposed to be fair), but that it is true is obvious by looking at the often sad lives of the poor children of “crack-whores,” or the parents of those who tend to end up in and out of Juvenile Hall, etc. This is not to say that those who suffer the consequences of their ancestors’ sins are doomed! No! All are called to Christ and His Church, and Jesus will judge us as individuals by looking at our hearts, wills, deeds, and intellect, taking into consideration factors which mitigate culpability. Nonetheless, the basic idea that our sins affect others not only in obvious temporal ways, but in mystical ways, is Biblical.

All of these temporal punishments, though painful, are merciful. Without discipline and punishment from God, we would continue in our ways, remain unrepentant, and then suffer the eternal consequences of doing so. A father who does not discipline his children is a bad father who is setting up his child for greater troubles down the road. God, though, is a good Father:

Hebrews 12:5-11

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as His son.’ -Prov. 3:11,12

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 2 of 4)

Mortal sin

A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving (sanctifying) grace, i.e. destroys the life of grace necessary for salvation within the soul.

Sanctifying grace

Sanctifying grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.

Sin has two different types of effects — eternal and temporal

Sin has both eternal consequences and temporal consequences. Sin, even private sin is communal and has negative effects If I were to repent and receive forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, the eternal consequences of mortal sin– satisfied for by Christ at Calvary — are no longer an issue (Deo gratias!) because I receive the effects of His atoning Sacrifice (I will have been justified) when I reconcile with the Church through a good Confession.

But I still have to pay for the temporal consequences of my sin because God is not only merciful, He is just. An example is that of a child who steals a candy bar and then then tearfully, with true contrition, confesses his crime to his parent. The parent, being loving and good and merciful, as our Father in Heaven is, will forgive that child, not turn the child over to the police (Hell) and allow the child back in the parent’s “good graces”(sanctification) — but he will also still expect the child to pay back the store from which he stole (temporal justice).

Another example is the common one of, say, an imprisoned murderer repenting and coming to know Christ (sanctification) — but who still must serve out his time in prison or give up his life as punishment (temporal justice). Or, yet, an offender is forgiven by the offended in court (sanctification), but society requires he still pay his debts: prison, probation, restorative justice, restitution, may the offended as whole as possible, if possible (temporal justice).  Christ’s redemption, while whole and total towards God’s justice, also requires temporal justice.  Salvation is not a “get out of jai free” card in terms of temporal justice.  It is in terms of eternal justice, but not temporal.

No temporal consequences to one’s sinful actions in this life would not make sense.  It does not make sense to society.  It does not make sense in term of justification and salvation, hence, Purgatory, for that temporal justice unsatisfied in this life through acts of love and virtue, the love of others, the forgetting of self, suffering united with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.  Suffering endured by those not baptized, with faith in the redemptive nature of Christ’s passion, is just plain old unredemptive, meaningless suffering, without merit, sense, or purpose, pointless.  Just suffering for suffering’s sake.  Sucks to be you suffering.

The temporal effects of repented sins that are not paid for in life through the effects of natural law, personal penance, penance given by the priest at Confession, or mystical penances given to me by God, suffering endured in this life, are paid for in Purgatory. St. Augustine, in City of God (A.D. 419), sums up Catholic thinking on such things:

“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [i.e. when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow.”

Purgation — the process of making satisfaction for debt caused by sin so that we may become perfect, divinized, and enter Heaven — is quite Scriptural, of course. Allusions to purgation are found all over the Bible; but it is summed up most clearly in the following two verses:

Matthew 5:25-26

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (part 1 of 4)

In her doctrine (teaching) on the nature of humans, the Catholic Church holds the middle ground as true between two opposing theories, that humans are both body AND soul. That is NOT splitting the difference. The Church’s one mission is Truth. He is Truth. And, typically, the Truth is found between extremes, typically. Heresies tend toward one extreme or the other, as is typical of heresies.

We don’t have a souls. We are souls and have bodies, imago Dei, made in the image and likeness of God, Himself; from and through which each person receives their inestimable value and divinely given dignity, without qualification.

Through original sin, we lost our original justice/righteousness. We lost immortality and our original innocence having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We, justly, earned suffering, death, ignorance and lust; ignorance and lust often leading to suffering and death.

By the disobedience of our original parents, sin entered the world.

CCC 1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods…. It has been defined [by St Augustine] as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

CCC 1850 Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to the contempt of God.”

Sin is social

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul. II says that the “mystery of sin”

“is composed of [a] twofold wound which the sinner opens in himself and in his relationship with his neighbor. Therefore one can speak of personal and social sin: From one point of view, every sin is personal; from another point of view, every sin is social insofar as and because it also has social repercussions.”

All sin is social, says John Paul II, in this regard: It wounds our relationship with our neighbor. No man is an island.

This does not mean that sin is not personal at all; and it does not mean that “external factors” in a society are to blame for a person’s sins. That would be a misreading. The pope is clear in pointing that out.

“Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people.”

That is important. Only an individual can be responsible for sin. “Social sin” does not mean that society sins, or that society bears the burden of guilt. What it does mean is that every sin, to one degree or another, has a consequence for others.

“To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.”

To sin is to wound not only yourself but a brother or a sister. It puts you out of right relationship with God, out of right relationship with yourself, and also out of right relationship with other human beings (who are themselves the image of God). In that way, all sin wounds the Christ in your brother or sister.

The pope expands on this thought:

“Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.”

It is not just “society,” in the secular sense, that is wounded by each sin, but the society of the Church itself. The Body of Christ also bears the wound. Even to that extent alone, all sin is “social”, and tragic, and devastating in its effects.

It is important to work to change laws. But changing laws will be, in John Paul II’s words, “ultimately vain and ineffective” unless we also convert souls.

Love,
Matthew

Catholics ONLY WORSHIP GOD!!!!!!!! – dulia, hyperdulia, honor, veneration vs latria, adoration, worship

Americans honor Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, etc. We have monuments to them. We visit their tombs.  We prize, we even donate to the Smithsonian, things that they wore, touched, owned.  We visit the gifts shops associated with visits to places important to them or their lives and buy items, souvenirs, mementos, pictures of them.  We tell stories of our trips of doing so with pride. We leave flowers and candles there, or put our souvenirs out in our homes that remind us of them for all to see.  We even leave cards, teddy bears, flowers, balloons, and candles at sites of tragedy, to express our sympathy, or we send them to others for the same reason, or to express joy or gratitude, or maybe just to win their favor.

Granted the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints are a little better connected, politically. So, we might ask their help with the Big Guy, seeing as it’s all about relationships, and, as I said, they are pretty well connected. We ask our friends and neighbors to pray for us, or they offer to in times of challenge. So, why not those even better connected than they, assumedly. That’s IT!!!! The rest is just artwork.

Those who accuse Catholics of worshipping anything other than God are hypocrites, obviously. Did ‘I’ say that? 🙂

-by Kathy Schiffer

“Repeat after me: Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

I mention this because that scurrilous claim has turned up several times recently in my comment boxes. The accusation has shown up in response to various posts, tossed in by some well-meaning, God-fearing Christian who wants to protect society from the Catholic Church.

In his or her mind, prayer to the Mother of God is the ultimate evidence of apostasy: The Bible clearly says that we should have no false gods, and by gosh (he thinks), praying to Mary is just off-the-charts idolatry. Why, doesn’t Exodus 34:14 mean ANYTHING to you?

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14 (NIV)

So let’s talk about it.

The Catholic Church teaches that God alone is worthy of worship. However, there are those among us who, because of their heroic virtue, are deserving of acclaim and honor.

This is true in everyday society. A best-selling author, an actor, an athlete, a favorite teacher–all, by virtue of their excellence in a field of endeavor, earn your acclaim and respect.

So, too, in the spiritual realm: We hold in high regard those who, by their virtuous lives, have demonstrated how to better love God and our fellow man. We call those virtuous people whose lives we admire, and who are now in heaven with Christ, “saints.” And Mary, Jesus’ mother, is even more deserving of our admiration and praise.

The Church teaches that there are three types of honor which are due to those who are holy:

Dulia. This is the honor and recognition which we accord to the saints. Perhaps they died as martyrs rather than deny God; or they worked great miracles, since their friendship with God meant that He granted their prayers for healing or restoration; or they simply, as Therese of Lisieux, lived holiness in their own “little way.”
Hyperdulia. This is, to put it simply, lots and lots of dulia. This is the very special honor we accord to Mary, the Mother of God.  Latria. This is true worship, and is given only to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, writing in his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 103, a. 4; III, q. 25, a. 5), explained:

“In more technical terms used by the Tradition to draw this important distinction, devotion to Mary belongs to the veneration of dulia, or the homage and honor owed to the saints, both angelic and human in heaven, and not to latria, or the adoration and worship that can be given only to the Triune God and the Son incarnate. Because of her unique relationship to Christ in salvation history, however, the special degree of devotion due to Mary has traditionally been called hyperdulia. While latria is owed to her Son by reason of unity of His divine and human natures in the Person of the Word made flesh, hyperdulia is due to Mary as truly His Mother.”

One of Catholicism’s most frequently uttered prayers is the Hail Mary. But is this idolatry? No–it’s Scripture.

The words are drawn from the greeting in Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

And from Luke 1:42, the words spoken by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…

So no, Catholics don’t worship Mary. In our prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son. And He will listen because, as James 5:16 tells us,

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But did you ever meet someone who really doesn’t understand the important difference in how we pray to God and how we pray to Mary and the saints?

If some Catholics fail to follow the Church’s teaching on these matters it certainly doesn’t impinge on the teaching of the Church. (Ed. For instance, a Catholic-esque heresy which has arisen lately, they do with some frequency, as do all other heresies, or they make a comeback, is Santa Muerte. The Catholic Church does EVERYTHING in its power to dissuade and condemn this false and evil icon.} It merely means that some in the Church are uncatechized and not understanding or practicing what the Church teaches.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Love,
Matthew