“Augustine occupies a privileged place among the Western Church Fathers that Aquinas invokes. Despite their affinity, some have proposed a division between these great theologians. Augustine’s theology is often characterized as “affective” while Aquinas is labeled merely “rational.” This distinction is misleading in many ways, and it implies that Augustine’s theology lacks reason or that Aquinas’s theology is lifeless.
For both of these theological giants, affection and reason belong together. Theology is not just something nice to think about. It matters what you think, precisely because our salvation is mediated through the mysteries of the faith.
We can see this approach in both Augustine’s and Aquinas’s writings on the mystery of the Trinity. Bridging the “gap” between reason and affect, Trinitarian theology is both an intellectual and spiritual exercise. Augustine and Aquinas both modeled this, as Father Gilles Emery, O.P. explains in his essay “Trinitarian Theology as a Spiritual Exercise in Augustine and Aquinas.” Both Doctors show how understanding the complexity of man’s mind and heart reveals an intimate relationship between us who know and love and God who is the Knower and Lover. This theological investigation can be difficult; it “exercises” the soul in a real sense. But it also prepares the soul for communion with the Triune God whose very being is Truth and Love.
For Augustine, elucidating the mystery of the Trinity requires great mental effort, but it also demands devotion. Our efforts to understand God must be informed by love because “the more one loves God, the more one sees Him” (Emery, 7). Because we are seeking the most supreme truth in such an endeavor, our souls must be trained through a kind of “spiritual gymnastics.” This theological regimen strengthens us to rise to the heights to see God and is purified through prayer, penance, and a life of virtue. Moved by God’s grace, theological study prepares us to see God in a limited way in this life and propels us to behold Him in the beatific vision.
In his theology, Aquinas follows Augustine’s approach and builds on it. He delves into the mystery of the Trinity through speculative study, in order to enable believers to grasp the truth of God more deeply. Growing in knowledge of the Trinity both aids our contemplation and provides us with the means to defend the faith against error. Aquinas understands that by studying God, we come to recognize that our own knowing and loving is a mirroring of God Who is Knowing and Loving. This realization gives spiritual consolation to those who dwell in the darkness of this passing world, yearning for the light of the life to come.
As Augustine and Aquinas both demonstrate, true theology requires rational precision, but also an affective inclination to God. As the theologian—indeed any believer—rises to grasp the lofty mysteries of the Trinity he becomes ever more conformed to the God he seeks, and he receives already a foretaste of that vision he hopes to enjoy in glory.
Studying the Trinity stretches our minds. Theology that is both loving and rational lifts the soul in sacred study and puts one in contact with God. The shared theological approach of Augustine and Aquinas—integrating both reason and affection—is a model for teachers and students today. By seeking God through both wisdom and love, our deepest desire for God can be satisfied. God has made us for Himself, and both our hearts and minds are restless until they rest in Him (cf. St Augustine).”
“It’s immoral to kill an innocent human being. That’s because we all have a “right to life”—a moral claim on one another not to be killed.
But some might say that this approach creates a conflict with our general intuitions about justified lethal self-defense. Does the right to life extend even to an aggressor whose behavior will kill me (and I have no other means to effectively preserve my life)? It would seem so.
Think about it: if every human being has a right to life, and the aggressor is a human being, then the aggressor has a right to life. To deliberately kill him in self-defense, therefore, even if there is no other means of saving my life, would seem to be just as much a violation of justice as would be the deliberate killing of an innocent human person. And if that’s true, then it would be immoral to deliberately kill the aggressor.
For most of us, that doesn’t seem right. It runs contrary to our common intuitions. But long held intuitions are being washed away with the tides of modern thought—so we need to ground our intuition in something more stable. So why is it morally permissible to kill in self-defense?
We can start with an idea that we’ve looked at elsewhere: equality with other human beings in behavior that’s naturally consistent with the exercise of life, called the “equality of relations” (Summa Theologiae II-II:79:1), is naturally due to human beings. In other words, I owe it to you not to kill you—to be innocent in my behavior toward you. The same applies the other way around. St. Thomas Aquinas calls this the “equality of justice” (ibid).
Here’s where the rubber hits the road when it comes to self-defense. The obligation not to kill arises from an order of relationship that requires not only that we be innocent in will (what philosophers call “formal innocence”), but also that we be innocent in behavior (“material innocence”). When an aggressor attacks me with a behavior that by nature is going to kill me (even if the behavior is not voluntary, like in the case of a mentally crazed person), assuming that I didn’t attack him first, his behavior is no longer innocent. It has disrupted the equality in behavior that nature demands—in particular, the behavior that’s naturally consistent with the exercise of life. This being the case, the behavior is outside the order of the “equality of relations” that nature requires for the “equality of justice” and therefore is defective or disordered. How can I owe him anything then? The “equality of justice” rises or falls with the “equality of relations.”
Consider, for example, a father who tells his son, “Go into the store and steal me a beer!” Must the son obey? Absolutely not! Why? Because the father’s command is outside the proper order that nature requires for a father’s command—an order where the command directs his son to do good and avoid evil for his perfection as a human being.
And so, just as the son doesn’t owe obedience to the father’s disordered command, I don’t owe behavior that’s naturally consistent with the exercise of life as a response to the aggressor’s disordered act of aggression (an act of the kind that kills). In other words, it seems that I can defend myself by deliberately killing him without violating justice.
Not only does this seem so. It must be so. Why? To say otherwise would entail nature being defective with regard to necessary things. It would be self-defeating (Summa Contra Gentiles, 3.129).
Consider that if the aggressor’s right to life were so strong that I couldn’t kill him in the above scenario, nature would be practically safeguarding the aggressor’s behavior that thwarts the natural order for his life as a social animal. On this supposition, nature says that I can’t stop him. Remember: in this scenario there’s no other means for me to stop the behavior other than a lethal blow, and we’re assuming here that there’s no proper authority to turn to in the moment. And so there would be no one to stop the aggressor. That’s a self-defeating move: directing a human being to pursue his perfection as a social rational animal but also safeguarding him thwarting that perfection.
Also, the whole purpose of nature’s demand for another human being to refrain from killing me is to protect my life. If nature forbade me to kill the aggressor in the above scenario, then nature’s design would involve a space where there is no possibility for the protection of my life. That’s also self-defeating: setting out to protect my life while at the same time demanding that my life not be protected.
Someone might counter, “Well, there’s the possibility of proper authorities protecting your life.” But what if it’s those in authority who are trying to unjustly kill me? In this scenario, there would be literally no possible way to protect my life. My right to life would become a “duty to die.” And this would be due to nature’s design, which would be absurd.
Bottom line: it’s self-defeating for nature to give us a natural right we can’t protect. Philosopher Timothy Hsiao sums it up nicely: “If I possess the right to life, then I must also possess the corresponding right to secure or protect my life.”
Now, this doesn’t mean that I can kill an aggressor in any circumstance where his behavior violates the “equality of relations.” What I owe him (or don’t owe him) will depend on the degree of the inequality he creates with his attack.
For example, if the aggressor’s attack is such that it only limits my use of some good—e.g., he tries to steal my iPhone—I’m not thereby justified to kill him. The relation is unequal only with regard to the free use of personal goods—something that’s pretty far removed from the good of life. (Although it wouldn’t be just to kill him in order to get my iPhone back, it would be just to wrestle him to the ground [ST II-II:41:1].)
In other words, my defense must be proportionate to the inequality caused by the attack. As Aquinas puts it, “an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end” (ST II-II:64:7).
We started with the question, “Does the right to life extend even to an aggressor whose behavior lacks innocence to the degree that it’s not naturally consistent with the exercise of life?” As we’ve seen, human nature says no! The right to life extends only as far as nature allows it.
Nature sets boundaries that circumscribe a moral space in which another human being can rightly demand, in justice, that I not kill him—it’s a space of innocence, a space where there exists an equality of behavior that’s naturally consistent with the exercise of life. But those same boundaries reveal nature’s design for what I don’t owe the other person—namely, a duty to die.
So nature has given us a moral recipe for killing. Deliberately killing an innocent human being is an injustice, and therefore immoral. Deliberately killing an aggressor whose behavior will kill me, when there are no other means to preserve my life, is not an injustice—and, therefore, it’s morally permissible, and in some cases obligatory. Self-defense, therefore—even lethal self-defense—certainly can be compatible with the right to life.”
“We used to laugh at a famous story about President Calvin Coolidge, a man of few words. After returning from Sunday services, his wife asks him about the preacher’s sermon. “Sin,” Silent Cal replies. His wife pleads, “What did he say about it?” “He was against it.”
Alas, modern culture no longer allows us to oppose sin, except for those politically correct transgressions such as being “judgmental” and emitting too much carbon into the atmosphere. But do priests and others have a choice to remain faithful to Jesus?
There is an interesting correlation between our culture—including Catholic parishes—and our recognition of sin. It was easier to talk about the wages of evil in a stable culture imbued with Christianity. As secularism crowds out the influence of Christianity on culture, some Church authorities—in response to the hypersensitivities of many Catholics—place too many restrictions on preaching sin and conversion from the pulpit. Whiplash changes in the culture often challenge the prudence of thoughtful Catholic preachers.
A century ago, Church authorities, including moralists and seminary professors, were reticent in speaking—even reading—about sexual sin. The four-volume Moral and Pastoral Theology manual by Professor Henry Davis, S.J. (first edition, May 1935) illustrates pastoral prudence in questions of human sexuality. In an otherwise easy read (in English) on the natural law and the Ten Commandments, Davis writes the chapter dealing with various types of sexual sin in Latin. The readers must be priests or mature seminarians trained in the mother tongue of the Church for their preparation as confessors. But a good confessor, though he always avoids impure speech, must understand—and occasionally carefully discuss—lascivious behavior.
As the sexual revolution of the 1960s transformed popular culture, orthodox Catholic moralists relaxed the prudential censorship and discussed the details of many sexual sins to confront pervasive errors. Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” formed the foundation of John Paul II institutes on marriage and the family in Washington, D.C., and Rome. The institutes taught and wrote freely, providing the clergy and laity alike a firm foundation on the Church’s teaching on human sexuality.
Dissident moralists went farther. Human Sexuality, published by Anthony Kosnik in 1977 under the auspices of the Catholic Theological Society of America, justified sexual debauchery ranging from contraception and masturbation to sodomy and even bestiality. Today, senior prelates and friends of the pope openly speak about the likelihood of segments of the hierarchy approving “gay unions” soon. Several German bishops, including high-ranking ones, have declared their support of overhauling Catholic moral teaching to approve unions based on sodomy.
At the same time, many orthodox priests feel pressure to dodge these topics. They often avoid the issues not only from the pulpit, but also in church bulletins. Indeed, the culture and senior Catholic churchmen place us at a disadvantage. Irish bishop Ray Browne’s recent public apology for the sermons of Fr. Seán Sheehy on mortal sin is baffling, incomprehensible. Cross-dressed and occasionally mutilated males (so-called “transgender females”) conduct drag-show displays for children. As senior Catholic prelates call for gay unions, old-fashioned pastoral decorum prevents orthodox priests from asking obvious questions in the same public forums. (Here is an example of a forbidden question, with apologies to Latinists: An commercium ani vel fellatio vetatur post unionem gay agnitam vel ante tantum? Our moral manuals need an update.)
It is important to remember that the protection of the innocent must be a prime objective of every priest. Such conversations from the pulpit do risk violating Catholic prudence, especially with children present. Fr. John Hardon, S.J., refers in his Catholic Dictionary to the “latency period”: “The term mainly applies to the years between five and twelve, when children do not unless abnormally and unwisely aroused, react to sexual stimulation. The Church advises parents to cultivate this period for teaching children the principles of faith and training them in the moral habits they will need as the foundation of their adult Christian life.” So care is certainly called for and recklessness to be avoided.
Jesus is prudent but doesn’t mince words: “But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt. 5:28). St. Paul provides a similar perspective: “The men also, leaving the natural use of the women, have burned in their lusts one towards another, men with men working that which is filthy, and receiving in themselves the recompense which was due to their error” (Rom. 1:27). He adds, “For the things that are done by them in secret, it is a shame even to speak of” (Eph. 5:12). And he divorces Catholics from those who shamelessly promote willful debauchery: “But now I have written to you, not to keep company, if any man that is named a brother, be a fornicator, or covetous, or a server of idols, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner: with such a one, not so much as to eat” (1 Cor. 5:11).
Hence, the venues of preaching against sin determine the propriety of the language of Catholic morality. One size doesn’t fit all. What a moral textbook, theological article, scholarly monograph, episcopal encyclical, or even a popular internet piece permits may not be suitable from the pulpit. But carefully using Scripture as a rhetorical template accomplishes much.
So it seems that warnings against contraception, fornication, adultery, mutilation, and the gay agenda are well within the prudential rhetoric of Jesus in the Gospel and Paul in his letters. We need not expand the vocabulary to include the intimate details of sexual behavior. Indeed, for the most part, penitents in confession need not go beyond confessing such acts. The priest does not need to know—nor should he inquire about—the details.
But it is a great disservice and a violation of the Gospel for a priest to neglect the condemnation of sin, especially mortal sins that lead to the fires of hell. It’s always best to measure our rhetoric by the words of Jesus and the New Testament letters. Calvin Coolidge’s example of direct simplicity helps, too.”
“As I walked out the door to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time, my mom called after me, “That skirt’s a little short, isn’t it?”
I stopped. A discussion on the appropriateness of dress had never occurred so this sudden mention, when I was eighteen years old, was surprising and confusing. “What does it matter?” I said, honestly curious.
At the time, I received an unsatisfactory answer to that question—“because!” But the way we dress and how we comport ourselves certainly does matter. Modesty is a virtue worth cultivating, most especially in the teenage years, when habits really dig their roots in, for better or for worse. This is true of everyday life, as well as during special events, such as homecoming dances and formals, when the norms of regular dress and behavior are often, in reality or expectation, stretched or broken.
It’s homecoming season now, which means many practical lessons in what makes a modest dress. But, perhaps surprisingly, modesty is not all about the clothes we wear. Fr. John Hardon writes in the Modern Catholic Dictionary that modesty is “the virtue that moderates all the internal and external movements and appearance of a person according to his or her endowments, possessions, and station in life.” This includes how we dress but also much more—our general behavior, anytime, at any occasion.
We aren’t modest for the sake of modesty, or to hold up some stodgy religious standard. Modesty goes beyond those things and plants itself in the love we have for our God-given dignity and in the love we bear for the mystical body of Christ, our Christian brothers and sisters who are striving for holiness. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity” (2521).
Appropriate clothing and behavior fall under this definition, though the Catechism mentions dress only in passing. Why? Because what we present outwardly reflects our inward disposition and how we respect and care for “the intimate center of the person.” Do we care interiorly that God has gifted us with bodies that, per His law, form sexual relationships within—and only within—the bounds of marriage? Do we care interiorly that we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and that we ought to help lead souls to heaven , and thus guard those of the opposite sex who may be tempted to inappropriate thoughts or behavior by the way we dress and act? Do we believe that virtue is a habit worth cultivating, not something to work toward only when it is convenient?
The earnest person of faith would answer these questions in the affirmative. So how is modesty practically applied?
It is unnecessary to believe that modest dress must be somber, unattractive, or dowdy. And though modesty in dress and decorum certainly is not required only of girls, attire for girls breaks the bounds of modesty more regularly than clothing for boys. Rev. George Kelly’s advice in his 1959 book The Catholic Family Handbook still applies, more than a half century later: “A young girl need not walk about with stringy hair, a plain, pale face, or in the clothing of a widow; she can make herself attractive, using appropriate cosmetic aids and colorful fabrics. Above all, if she has a smiling, friendly disposition, it will be reflected in her appearance, and will make her more attractive than any product from the beautician’s laboratory.”
We cannot overlook the need to strike a balance in our dress—not wearing immodest clothing for our own vanity, nor seeking recognition or applause for how modest we are. As Dr. Brian Besong writes on modesty in An Introduction to Ethics, “we should restrain ourselves according to the circumstances of our culture and environment, not flouting social norms in order to stand out, or ignoring the social setting (such as who we are around) in choosing what to wear.” So if the social setting is a homecoming dance, girls can tend to their appearance with the care that the formal occasion demands, but not to the point of vanity or pride.
A proper understanding of modesty also brings us to true Christian charity, meaning that in all areas of our lives, we follow the two greatest commandments as outlined by Jesus: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. When it comes to loving our neighbors, we are to will their good, the greatest good being heaven. How we dress and behave can certainly assist our Christian brethren in their pursuit of the beatific vision . . . or hinder them. True, it is our own responsibility to practice purity and to avoid “voyeurism and illusion,” to paraphrase paragraph 2525 of the Catechism. But in that same paragraph, the Church advises the media to exercise respect and restraint. We should apply that advice to ourselves—what we do, how we behave, and yes, even what we wear.
If a person is enthusiastic about respecting and protecting our brothers and sisters in Christ, and yet still desires to dress immodestly, it’s worth getting to the root of why. Pride or vanity is probably playing a role. The same can be said if a young person “must” wear this or that style of clothing because she can’t bear what others will think of her if she is dressed modestly—or if she wants to feel sexual or elicit those thoughts in others. Running through a kind of “self-audit” to understand our inclinations over certain subjects, including clothing, can reveal things that we might not pay much mind to otherwise.
Simply answering “because!” doesn’t cut it in matters of faith. We need to pay attention—though not to the point of scrupulosity—to our human motivations and desires. Only then can we ascend beyond those factors and attain lasting happiness, far beyond the reaches of what we do or do not wear.”
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 grace. Deprived of that grace by their own free will and the free will choice to not repent of it ultimately in sacramental confession, a person places themselves outside of God’s salvation, since God is all grace and cannot stand any imperfection of that grace in His presence. In literal fact, the person choosing to deny themselves God’s saving grace becomes unrecognizable to God and therefore cast into perdition outside of God’s grace.
“Everyone knows—or almost everyone does—that there are morally good actions and morally evil actions. But when is an action not only wrong, but sinful? And particularly mortally sinful? After all, as St. John says, “all wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal” just as “there is sin which is mortal” (1 John 5:16,17).A mortal sin is one that “destroys in us the charity without which eternal beatitude is impossible. Unrepented, it brings eternal death” (CCC 1874). That’s what makes it “mortal,” or deadly: it cuts us off from God forever, unless it is “redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness” (CCC 1861).
Thanks be to God, not every evil action is mortally sinful. So how do we know which is which? Just as there are three ingredients in evaluating a moral action (the object, intention, and circumstances), so there are three ingredients in a mortal sin: (1) “grave matter,” (2) “full knowledge,” and (3) “deliberate consent.” And the Catechism is clear that all “three conditions must together be met” (1857).
If all three are met, it’s mortally sinful. Otherwise, “one commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent” (CCC 1862). That’s still a problem, since venial sin “weakens charity” and “impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good,” and “deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin,” but venial sin does not (of itself) “deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness” (CCC 1863).
What does “grave matter” mean? It means that the sin is serious. But how do we evaluate the seriousness of a sin? The Catechism is explicit about the grave nature of particular sins, including sacrilege (2120), blasphemy (2148), perjury (2152), deliberately avoiding Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation (2181), murder (2268), hatred of neighbor “when one deliberately desires him grave harm” (2303), prostitution (2355), sexual relations outside marriage (2390), and adulation that “makes one an accomplice in another’s vices or grave sins” (2480). St. Paul likewise gives lists in Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 of sins whose practitioners will not “inherit the kingdom of God.” But none of these lists is exhaustive.
More broadly, the Catechism says that “grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments” (1858), pointing to Jesus’ words to the rich young man. When the man asks him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus answers, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother’” (Mark 10:17,19). Jesus’ clear implication seems to be that those who do commit adultery, steal, etc. shall not inherit eternal life.
Even here, there are two important caveats. On the one hand, not every violation of the Ten Commandments is a mortal sin. For instance, the person who steals a dollar is not necessarily damned. On the other hand, not every mortal sin is a direct and obvious violation of the Ten Commandments. St. Thomas Aquinasconsiders this objection directly in considering the sin of gluttony: “Every mortal sin is contrary to a precept of the Decalogue: and this, apparently, does not apply to gluttony.” Aquinas argues that gluttony is an indirect violation of the Third Commandment (keeping the Sabbath holy) by turning us away from holiness. That’s a strange answer, but he explains: “Mortal sins are not all directly opposed to the precepts of the Decalogue [Ten Commandments], but only those which contain injustice: because the precepts of the Decalogue pertain specially to justice and its parts.” In other words, the Ten Commandments lay out “the first principles” of the moral law; they’re not an exhaustive list of every serious sin. The right question is this: is this the kind of behavior that places something else above God or turns me away from God? If so, it’s grave matter.
In considering whether or not a sin is mortal, circumstances matter. For instance, the Catechism points out that “one must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger” (1858). Likewise, stealing from the excess wealth of a millionaire is less evil than stealing the food of a starving man. Taking the example of lying, the Catechism explains how to determine the gravity of a sin: “The gravity of a lie is measured against the nature of the truth it deforms, the circumstances, the intentions of the one who lies, and the harm suffered by its victims. If a lie in itself only constitutes a venial sin, it becomes mortal when it does grave injury to the virtues of justice and charity” (2484).”
-by Fr. Samuel Keyes, raised Baptist in Mississippi, Fr. Samuel Keyes became an Anglican/Episcopalian after college. He served parishes in Massachusetts and Alabama, and then Saint James School in Maryland, before being received into the Catholic Church in 2019 and ordained in 2020–21.
Fr. Keyes is currently a professor of theology at JPCatholic and parochial administrator of St. Augustine of Canterbury, an ordinariate community in San Diego County. He is married to Gretchen with five kids.
“Whether or not you noticed the collect for today’s Mass, let me point it out:
May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.
It’s a clear, pithy prayer that in a single sentence summarizes God’s saving economy: grace goes before our actions, assists our actions, and follows our actions. One wonders if a serious meditation on this collect—which has been part of the Roman Rite for very many centuries—would have prevented some conflict in the Reformation era among those fretting over the supposed opposition of “grace” and “works.” Those of us raised in certain quarters perk up our ears at any mention of “works” as being good. Yet the collect places all such works well within the sphere of God’s gracious providence. In the Divine Worship missal for the Anglican Ordinariate, we pray at every Mass that we should do “in all such good works as thou hast prepared for us to walk in.”
I point all this out, in part, because when I first glanced at the propers and readings for this Sunday, I was struck right away by the “good works” of the collect and the stories of grace and gratitude we hear in 2 Kings and Luke: the stories of Naaman (2 Kgs 5:14-17) and the ten lepers (Lk 17:11-19). It seemed interesting that the Church would simultaneously propose to us an implicit exhortation to good works and a reminder that in holy baptism—which is of course prefigured by Naaman’s ritual washing in the Jordan—we are washed clean and elevated to the life of grace by no merit of our own. But in the end, there is no real conflict between grace and good works, mainly because all good works are fundamentally graced: before, during, after. Part of God’s gift to us is the gift to do something with what we have been given and for this work to matter.
There are, at the same time, good and bad ways to respond to the gifts of grace. In both 2 Kings and Luke, the narrative gives special attention to the gratitude of the former lepers. The Samaritan leper in Luke, the one grateful man out of the ten, is a foreigner like Naaman the Syrian. So, a foreigner shows more gratitude than the people who claim this power as their birthright. Why is that?
There’s a very immediate connection we should make with the expansion of the covenant to the Gentiles through Christ. Naaman and the Samaritan are also both figures of Cornelius the centurion, who in Acts 10 receives—with awe and gratitude—the gifts of the Spirit in a way that is at first shocking and even confusing to the Jewish disciples. But we can also wonder if Jesus means to suggest here something of the default Jewish attitude towards divine grace. However final and permanent God’s promises were to the people of Israel, none of those promises translate grace into something owed. It seems almost as if the nine men in Luke think of their healing much in the way that so many modern Catholics think of the sacraments: obviously I deserve this; of course God is providing this for me; no need to make a big deal out of it.
Of course there is a real element of truth in that attitude: the sacraments are a given, in a certain sense. God has given them to us and he is not going to take them back. He is not going to send an angel from heaven and declare to the pope, “No more baptisms, we’re full up!” But their givenness, their enduring reality, does not mean that we should take them for granted any more than the people of Israel should have taken their ethnic heritage as a guarantee that they were full participants in God’s saving covenant.
That kind of entitlement really can become a “works righteousness,” wherein life becomes an accounting game I play with God. Let’s see: did first Friday devotions (check), said the rosary every day this week (check), asked for a number of Masses to be said (check) . . . so why hasn’t God given me what I want? Or, as someone asked me not that long ago, “Where did all those graces go?” And my response (internal, at least, because I’m not quite that mean) is: are we aiming for the beatific vision, or are we aiming to win some kind of cosmic video game?
There is the opposite approach, (maybe) less common among Catholics, but still a real danger, where we take for granted not the system of grace but the whole generic enterprise. This is antinomianism, the idea that what I do doesn’t matter in the least because God loves me, and He understands, and my heart is in the right place, etc.
I wonder if the principal remedy against these two opposing vices is the gratitude and thanksgiving that we see in the Samaritan and in Naaman. Because here’s the thing: on one level we might say that this healing is nothing extraordinary. It’s just what the Lord does; it’s in his nature, so to speak. But that is not the same thing as saying that I deserve it, or that I should act like it’s somehow par for the course.
It’s no coincidence that the central act of the Church for the last two millennia has been an act of thanksgiving, of Eucharist. We talk about this as the source and the summit, as the sacrament of sacraments, because it is the place where Christ Himself is present in His Church. But it is also where the Church does the thing that most characteristically makes her the Church: she gives thanks. She says, “Lord I am not worthy that you should come under my roof, but speak the word only and my soul shall be healed.”
Our calling as Christians, however else we might imagine it, is first to be grateful, to give thanks. The Lord has put away our sins, he has called us to his service, he has given us the power to follow him in this world. Thanks be to God. Everything else follows that.”
-by Alexander Frank, a former US Army Ranger and a graduate of Yale Law Schoo, converted to the Catholic faith in 2019 from Kashmiri Shaivism, a sophisticated form of yoga and the origin of its modern form.
“Secular society adores yoga, and not a few Catholics are fond of it, too. Revenue for the yoga industry runs in the billions of dollars, according to Statista.com, and the number of participants is estimated to be in the tens of millions.
I myself dived into yoga, drawn to the idea of personal enhancement without ethical constraints. After years of studying yoga and its associated systems—mindfulness, Buddhism, magical shamanism—I had completed a teacher training retreat, spent three months in a Zen monastery, and studied under one of the best yoga spiritual directors in the United States. Over the course of my studies, and as my spiritual searching eventually led me to the Catholic Church, I learned that there is much more to yoga than Western pop culture implies.
In analyzing whether it is prudent for Catholics to practice yoga, the place to start is in determining what yoga is. The term yoga means “to yoke” in Sanskrit. This “yoking” connotes a spiritual unity, rooted in a kind of servitude. Now, Christ calls us to bear his yoke (Matt. 11:30), but what kind of yoke does yoga put on practitioners? Or in other words, what kind of servitude does yoga bind its practitioners to?
We can start by looking at the poses. Take some examples:
The three-part Warrior pose invokes the god Virabhadra, who was created by another god, Shiva, to murder Shiva’s father-in-law. The three poses imitate the sequence of the murder.
Matseyadrasana and Gorakshasana are named after Hindu gurus who founded the style that led to modern yoga. According to the foundation legend, they used their occult powers to commit theft, adultery, fraud, rape by deceit, corpse desecration, the murder of Matsyendra’s son, and cross-dressing.*
According to the founder of Rasa yoga, Sianna Sherman, Goddess pose “invokes” the dark goddess Kali, known for making clothes out of the body parts of slain enemies. Yoga devotees sacrifice children to her in India to this day.
What about the purpose of yoga? It goes beyond postures that honor problematic Hindu gods and gurus. The Indian Ministry of External Affairs says, “Yoga is essentially a spiritual discipline based on an extremely subtle science which focuses on bringing harmony between mind and body. . . . The practice of yoga leads to the union of individual consciousness with that of the Universal Consciousness.” So yoga is at its essence a spiritual discipline. That spiritual work is rooted in a belief that consciousness, or more simply awareness, is the vehicle to the divine. The ultimate goal is a dissolution of our individual identity and a realization of our “true Self,” to fuse our consciousness with a sort of hive mind.
Many other sources say similar things. Judith Lasater, perhaps the most prominent American yoga teacher, describes “the true essence of the practice” as enlightenment, to “experience reality not as our various parts, but as one unified being.” Anusha Wijeyakumar, another prominent yoga teacher and writer, says that “the ultimate goal of yoga . . . is samadhi—final union with god and divine consciousness. . . . Yoga is much more than asana [physical postures].”
One mantra, a Hindu prayer that accompanies the physical postures, is “I am what I say I am.” Considering how God identifies himself in Exodus 3:14, this looks very much like an attempt to make human beings into God. It is a radical philosophical claim that gives rise to a specific type of spirituality.
By contrast, St. John of the Cross describes how the soul in love with God will reflect God’s light to such an extent that it appears to be God, but it remains ontologically separate. Cardinal Ratzinger, examining forms of Christian meditation, wrote in 1989 that “all the aspirations which the prayer of other religions expresses are fulfilled in the reality of Christianity beyond all measure, without the personal self or the nature of a creature being dissolved or disappearing into the sea of the Absolute.” Union with the divine is a noble aspiration, but the Eastern paths diverge significantly from the Christian one.
Now, the most common argument in favor of yoga is to throw out the deeper “spiritual” side and zero in on the physical action of stretching. Catholic advocates for yoga insist that just doing “postures”—that honor morally questionable Hindu gods and have always been a Hindu spiritual practice—is good as long as we intend only to get exercise. But does this argument hold water?
To find out, let’s ask whether it is true that an act—say, striking a yoga pose—has no meaning beyond the intentions of the person committing that act. St. Thomas Aquinas argues that in fact, actions do have an objective meaning: “The goodness or malice which the external action has of itself . . . is not derived from the will, but rather from the reason” (ST I-II, q. 20, a. 1). Actions have their own nature: the quality of the external act is derived from rational inquiry rather than from the intent of the actor. Similarly, the Catechism teaches that, for an act to be good, it has to have a good moral object, which is intrinsic to its nature and independent of intent. “A good intention . . . does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered good or just” (1753).
Is the “behavior” of yogic stretching “intrinsically disordered”? What is the “moral object” of these poses? Yogis themselves point to it, even if they are not very forthright. The postures aim to awaken kundalini, energies of the soul, associated with the Hindu gods. That energy starts dormant at the base of the spine, depicted as a “sleeping serpent goddess.” Yoga practice sends the snake up the spine to take possession of the soul so that the practitioner can realize his “authentic Self,” yoking himself to those gods. Bikram Choudhury, the founder of one of the most common types of yoga, says what happens with his posture sequence is that “you awaken kundalini. You become Jesus Christ. Or Buddha. My yoga formula works for everybody.”
One of the main gurus to bring yoga to the west, BKS Iyengar, writes that a true yoga asana “is that in which the thought of [the Hindu supreme god] flows effortlessly and incessantly through the mind of the [practitioner].” Judith Lasater says that “the intrinsic nature of yoga is that you cannot separate the asanas from other aspects of practice.” Alexandria Crow, a prominent yoga “expert,” says, “The poses are really a vehicle to teach [yoga’s] philosophy.” According to a staff writer for Yoga Journal, the most prominent yoga source in the U.S. in terms of internet traffic, the reason for this is an innovation by the father of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya, who “made the postures an integral part of meditation instead of just a step leading toward it.”
Significantly, subjective intent has a way of conforming itself to the moral object through repeated practice. Two scientific surveys show that, although most people start yoga for the health benefits, many stick with it to attain this spiritual actualization. Fr. Joseph-Marie Verlinde, who went deep into yoga before converting, told his then-guru that Westerners mostly practice yoga for relaxation. The guru “laughed furiously” and then said, “That does not prevent yoga from having its effect.”
In short, it should be uncontroversial to say that the system that gave rise to yoga, including the poses, honors Hindu gods and aims to spiritually yoke the practitioner to them. Meanwhile, Scripture tells us that “all the gods of the Gentiles are idols” (Ps. 96:5—older translations read “devils” instead of “idols”), and the Church takes a strong stance against idolatry (Exod. 20:1-4; CCC 2110). It is unlikely that many Catholics would rush to a gym to perform the “Ba’al lunge,” yet the “idols” or “devils” of Hindu spiritual practice get a shrug of the shoulders.
But are we really opening a door to demons just by setting our bodies in certain poses, like in the satirical Babylon Bee article where the plumber accidentally gets possessed? Well, Norman Sjoman was a scholar who practiced under and studied the father of modern yoga, Krishnamacharya. He concluded that “what makes something yoga is not what is done, but how it is done.” And many poses in yoga come from Western gymnastics and are similar to postures in normal fitness. Similarly, eating a circular piece of bread outside Christian practice does nothing spiritually, but receiving the Eucharist in a Catholic Mass invokes works of grace (or divine condemnation) beyond the intent of the practitioner. So doing these poses in the context of yoga, as part of the practice of yoga, regardless of subjective intent, turns them into a way to further yoga’s spirituality. They become a sacrament, in the loose sense of the term—a visible sign of deeper spiritual work.
So yes, strictly speaking, the poses done in isolation are almost certainly fine. But my personal experience in the yoga world does not recommend participating in it, nor does the immense spiritual baggage associated with it. It is almost impossible to avoid participating in the spiritual parts of yoga, which are problematic if we are to stay away from honoring murderous gods and opening ourselves up to yoga’s spiritual beliefs.
There are many ways to get physically fit that do not carry that baggage, most notably Pietra fitness, that give the same fitness benefits while drawing practitioners into a relationship of love rooted in truth with God. Why choose yoga instead, when the risk is so high and the benefit so comparatively low?
* For the gruesome details, see Christopher Wallis, Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition (Audible Audiobook Edition, 2016), ch. 100, 12:47:08; James Mallinson, The Khecarividya of Adinatha: A Critical Edition and Annotated Translation of an Early Text of Hathayoga, (New York: Routledge, 2008), p. 186, note 129; and David White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012), pp. 236-237. (“Goraksha kills and skins the boy, scrubs his skin like a washerman to remove all its bodily impurities and hangs his skin on the roof to dry, like the hide of some skinned beast.”)”
“Many years ago, a famous pop star said she left the Catholic faith at age 15 because she couldn’t imagine anybody condemned for an impure thought. Misunderstanding the basics of sin, conversion, and forgiveness, the woman was content mocking God and took pride in gravely sinful behavior. Her life became an open book of debauchery.
Many Catholics—laity, clergy, perhaps the majority of German bishops promoting a change in Church teaching on human sexuality—agree with the pop star. But God’s mercy complements His justice. More than that, each is inseparable from the other. “Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other” (Ps. 85:10). Dismissing divine wrath as “poetic” sentimentalizes divine mercy.
We generally accept punishment on terms we understand. Parents discipline their children to correct misbehavior. Society arrests and imprisons criminals. War is a self-inflicted punishment for the solidarity of sin. Violations of natural law upset God’s natural order, and we suffer. “God forgives; men sometimes forgive; but nature never forgives.” This truism reasonably frames much of human suffering and the reasonableness of punishment.
Alternatively, we are often too lenient in administering justice. Many consider righteous punishment a reactionary embarrassment. Modern comforts anesthetize and distort the necessity of punishment, which gives way to sensitivity training, procedures, and workshops “to ensure this-or-that never happens again.” Therapy has its place, but it cannot substitute for the deterrent value of discipline administered justly.
The ancient Romans were methodical in their punishment. They commonly marched on offending vassals, killed the disobedient and rambunctious rulers, handed the keys to the next in line, and warned them not to make the same intransigent mistakes. The promise of a violent return visit multiplied the force of the military intervention, enhancing Roman power (see Force, Power, Strategy: Skillsets for a Second American Century by Richard Vigilante). This is not to say that every form of punishment devised by man is the correct one. But our inclination to punish—and to punish for the purpose of maintaining the natural human order—does not come from an evil place.
God’s wrath is also a force multiplier. It deters evil, restores justice, and enhances His power and majesty. “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god beside Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal, and there is none that can deliver out of My hand” (Deut. 32:39). God gives life, and he destroys it. His punishment is terrible but purposeful. He destroyed the world (sparing Noah and his family) because of human wickedness. He extinguished entire armies that threatened the faith of His Chosen People. His agent—Elijah the prophet—slashed the throats of 450 apostate prophets.
Notwithstanding the language of the pandemic, suffering and death are not the ultimate horrors. The brutality of God’s violence, as a warning and a metaphor for eternal punishment, foreshadows the even greater horror of the wages of sin and disobedience to His will. Jesus warns, “I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire” (Matt. 5:22). His words are chilling: “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48).
The parable of the rich man and Lazarus depicts a prosperous man oblivious to Lazarus and his plight. The rich man dies and languishes in hell. In response to his cry for help, Abraham says, “Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us” (Luke 16:25-26). Just as there is the Mystical Body of Christ destined for heaven, there is an alternative immoral universe: hell, “the mystical body of evil.”
But Scripture does not reveal the eternal destiny of those killed by God—neither of those who deserved His wrath nor of the innocents swept up in temporal violence. The wrath of God in the Old Testament prepares the way for the mercy of Jesus the Redeemer, Who forgives the repentant and saves us from the eternal fires of hell. Jesus fulfills the prophecies of Isaiah: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:22). But this is merely the beginning of His mercy.
Aside from cleansing the Temple of the moneychangers, Jesus rarely punishes in the Gospels. “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:17). Jesus rebukes James and John, the “sons of thunder,” for their eagerness to call down fire from the heavens to destroy their Samaritan enemies (see Luke 9:54-56). Jesus is Isaiah’s “Suffering Servant,” enduring the ignominy of the cross and overcoming sin, suffering, and death in His glorious resurrection. He redeems mankind, saves us from our sins, opens the doors to heaven, and bequeaths the sacraments to sustain us in His grace.
Divine wrath and violence express God’s perfect justice, but as long as we live on this earth, the fullness of the truth thereof will remain beyond our grasp, cloaked in mystery. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord” (Isa. 55:8). We have no choice but to accept the limits of human reason and heed St. Paul: “God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap” (Gal. 6:7).
The last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, prophesies the final chapter of God’s temporal divine wrath. Only divine mercy can explain God’s wrath. The inseparable mercy of Jesus provides the proper perspective for divine justice.
For our salvation, we dare not deny divine justice as too harsh—or, in so doing, downplay the urgent necessity of humbly seeking divine mercy.”
Love, and His mercy; Lord, be merciful to me, for I am a sinful man,
Stupidity or foolishness is a product of sin (Proverbs 24:9). In fact, the Bible associates foolishness with transgression ((Psalms 107:17; Proverbs 13:15; 17:18, 19 ), and with sins such as:
atheism – Psalm 13:1
blasphemy – Psalm 74:18
contention – Proverbs 18:6
hypocrisy – Luke 11:39–40
materialism – Luke 12:16–21
mischievousness – Proverbs 10:23
slander – Proverbs 10:18
wastefulness – Proverbs 21:20.
So, yes, the Bible says that sin makes you foolish. It explicitly says, “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities” (Psalm 107:17). Even the common sin of “Extortion turns a wise person into a fool, and a bribe corrupts the heart.” (Ecclesiastes 7:7) Further, in Psalm 74:18 we see that enemies of God (sinners who mock and revile His name) are called “foolish people.” See also Psalm 74:22–23.
When Aaron and Miriam incurred God’s wrath for murmuring against Moses, Aaron pleaded with Moses, “Please, my lord, I ask you not to hold against us the sin we have so foolishly committed.” (Numbers 12:11) Sin obviously makes one to be foolish. Moses describes the Israelites who sinned during their wilderness journey thus:
They are corrupt and not His children; to their shame they are a warped and crooked generation. Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you? (Deuteronomy 32:5–6)
The sinful behavior of King Saul made him to do foolish things. When he partially obeyed God’s command regarding the destruction of the Amalekites, Samuel said pointedly to him, “You have done a foolish thing” (1 Samuel 13:13). Moreover, Saul himself admitted after chasing the innocent David down to the Desert of Ziph with his three thousand select Israelite troops, “I have sinned. Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have been terribly wrong.” (1 Samuel 26:21, emphasis added)
Many examples abound in Scripture which prove clearly that sin can make you stupid. Remember David’s first son Amnon. When he wanted to rape his half sister Tamar, she cried out to restrain him but he didn’t listen: “What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” (2 Samuel 13:13)
Even their father David confessed after he had arrogantly counted the fighting men in Israel, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, LORD, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing.” (2 Samuel 24:10, emphasis added). Ever since David committed adultery with Bathsheba and killed her husband (2 Samuel 11–12), sin started to make him and his children to do foolish things.
“The traditional thought is that sin not only makes us weak, but stupid. Sin blunts conscience progressively over time—that is, diminishes our grasp of moral reality, impairing our ability to reason to proper moral conclusions. Consequently, sin can (and often does) lead to greater sin, along with the failure to realize not just that we are sinning, but also how awful our sinning has become.
So many of us sinners (myself included) have consciously lived through this experience. We do, at first, feel the pangs of conscience when rejecting the right course of action. We fail to choose what we know is the right thing to do; we make, as Boethius called it, a moral miscalculation, because we engage in voluntary ignorance. Should I drive even though I’ve been drinking? gives way to the need to get home quickly.
At first, we feel bad about it. We know, intuitively, that we are violating the objective moral rule. But if we keep at it, our conscience dulls. The evil becomes more comfortable, opening us up to exploring and enacting further, and often far graver, sins. We become gutsy.
This is true not just of individuals, but of society. Just as an individual, through sinning, becomes prone to further sinning and increasingly incapable of acknowledging that he is sinning—in many cases even defending his evil action as good—society can suffer the same effect. Society’s moral conscience dulls as well, leading to increasingly horrific evils and the collective rationalization of such evils as good. Do we need examples from history on this? Slavery, abortion, genocide . . . the list continues.
Here’s a more recent one. People are surprised not just that children are being hypersexualized (groomed—a perfectly appropriate word), but also that society itself doesn’t outright reject this practice. In fact, society often supports it or is indifferent to it. But why should this surprise us? Our culture, after all, has been so morally impaired for so long, especially concerning sexual ethics—so why should we expect everyone to suddenly awaken to the abject horrors foisted upon children, from putting them onto stripper poles to mutilating their genitals and injecting them with puberty-blocking hormones? I suggest that, like the individual sinner, our collective moral conscience is gravely impaired, so it should be expected that such moral atrocities occur, unencumbered by any societal roadblocks.
Thus, when one sees some abject moral evil, he finds it accompanied by obnoxious comments like, “Shame some people just aren’t capable of having an open mind.”
As if having an open mind were always inherently a good thing! (“Don’t have such an open mind your brains fall out!” -G.K. Chesterton) On the contrary, having a closed mind is often undoubtedly the best approach—including when it comes to having sexual relations with young girls as a 47-year-old man, or drinking Clorox, or mass murder, or whatever other insane notion there is to propose. The slogan of keeping an open mind in this context is just the result of somebody whose conscience is thoroughly corrupted, who cannot see the evil for what it so obviously is. You might as well say it’s a shame that someone isn’t so open-minded as to think two plus two might actually equal five. What should really be said is that it’s shame some people are not more closed-minded.
A sinful excess of open-mindedness is the predictable consequence of a life lived in sin, especially sexual sin, individually and collectively. And it’s hard to fight this problem with reason, as there is little to no reasoning to be employed against people defending abject depravity. We must have some common ground for an argument to be fruitful, but if someone’s moral faculty is so impaired that he no longer shares the same ethical framework as you, how can you make any moral progress?
As Ed Feser writes, “repeatedly taking sexual pleasure in activity that is directly contrary to nature’s ends dulls the intellect’s perception of nature, to the point that the very idea that some things are contrary to the natural order loses its hold upon the mind. The intellect thereby loses its grip on moral reality.”
Here Dr. Feser is drawing from the deposit of St. Thomas’s wisdom, where Thomas discusses the Daughters of Lust, or how someone, through repeated sexual sin especially, can suffer “blindness of mind, thoughtlessness, rashness, self-love, hatred of God.” Aquinas tells us that the more unrestrainedly bent our lower powers (or concupiscible appetites) are upon their object, the more easily distorted our higher powers—namely, reason and will—become. In other words, an unhealthy obsession with sex makes it hard to think straight. I mean, duh. Reason has almost completely checked out, except to make excuses for vile behavior.
What is the way out of this mess? God’s grace, surely. But also setting better examples and living the Christian ethic fully—especially the Christian sexual ethic—to attract those non-religious folks who are still, thankfully, repulsed by the increasing deceptive darkness that just is the logical extension of the Sexual Revolution—from the constant promotion of pornography and masturbatory practices to contraception and seeing others as mere instruments of self-pleasure to redefining marriage to feign the illusion that two people of the same sex can actually be married, and so on.
There are still many people who are seriously repulsed by what is being foisted upon children. Where will they be able to find shelter and help? Let it be the Church. By wanting to escape the darkness and make sense of this growing perversity and its origins, they may be brought fully to the light of Christ.”
Galatians 5:4 is a go-to text for Catholics when it comes to defending the belief that Christians can lose their salvation:
“You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”
Notice that St. Paul says the Galatians were “severed from Christ” and that they have “fallen away from grace.” Both statements imply that the Galatians had been saved, since to be in Christ and in grace is to be free from condemnation (Rom. 8:1). Yet, these Galatians, who were looking to be justified by the Old Law, are no longer in Christ and in grace. As such, they are currently subject to condemnation, which means they lost that initial saving relationship they had with Christ.
For some Protestants, the Catholic take on Paul in Galatians 5:4 is based on a fundamentally flawed assumption. Basically, Catholics don’t understand what Paul is talking about here! They will say “Paul is not talking about a loss of salvation. He’s talking about a loss of sanctification.”
Protestant apologist Norman Geisler, in his book Four Views on Eternal Security, wrote, “they have not lost their true salvation but only their sanctification . . . they have fallen from grace as a means of living a sanctified (holy) life.”
Geisler gives two reasons for this claim. First, “they are already saved,” since they are called “brothers” (6:1) and have placed their “faith” in Christ (3:2). Second, Paul mentions only the threat of the “yoke of slavery” (5:1) and not eternal torment in hell.
How should a Catholic respond?
Our first response is directed toward the overall interpretation here. An immediate glaring problem is that it clashes with the plain sense of the text. Paul doesn’t say, “You who would seek to be sanctified by the law.” Rather, he says, “You who would seek to be justified by the law.” The Greek word for “justified” is dikaioō, the same word that Paul uses when he speaks of justification by faith in Romans 3:28, a text that all Protestants acknowledge refers to justification in the sight of the God.
Now we can turn our attention to the two points in support of Paul talking about sanctification. Galatians 5:4, the argument goes, can’t refer to salvation because “they are already saved,” since they are called “brothers” and have “faith” in Christ. The problem here is the assumption that “already being saved” (being a Christian) necessarily entails being eternally secure in that salvation.
The status of “already being saved” can just as easily be read within the Catholic framework of salvation. On the Catholic view, a believer is truly saved when he initially comes to faith in Christ and enters the body of Christ via baptism. Being a member of Christ’s mystical body constitutes all Christians as spiritual brothers and sisters. It’s just that on the Catholic view, the saving relationship with Christ that we initially enter through baptism can be lost by mortal sin.
Since the “already saved” status of the Galatians can fit within the Catholic framework, just as it can within an “eternally secure doctrine” framework, a Protestant can’t appeal to the Galatians’ “saved” status to counter the Catholic interpretation of Galatians 5:4.
What about the “yoke of slavery”? Why not hell? Well, Paul mentions the yoke (i.e., the Old Testament Law) several verses earlier, and after doing so, he says, “If you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you” (5:2). What advantage does Christ give us? Salvation! Therefore, Paul is saying that to go back to the Old Covenant—i.e., circumcision—is to cut oneself off from salvation. The reason is because Christ alone is our source of salvation (Acts 4:12). It is in this light that we must understand Paul when he says, “You have been severed from Christ” and “you have fallen away from grace.”
So, in fact, Paul does threaten the Galatians with damnation. As such, Paul teaches it’s possible for a Christian to lose salvation.”
Love & truth,
Summa Catechetica, "Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam." – St Anselm, "Let your religion be less of a theory, and more of a love affair." -G.K. Chesterton, "I want a laity, not arrogant, not rash in speech, not disputatious, but men and women who know their religion, who enter into it, who know just where they stand, who know what they hold and what they do not, and who know their creed so well that they can give an account of it."- Bl John Henry Newman, Cong. Orat., "The harm that comes to souls from the lack of reading holy books makes me shudder . . . What power spiritual reading has to lead to a change of course, and to make even worldly people enter into the way of perfection." –St. Padre Pio, "Screens may grab our attention, but books change our lives!" – Word on Fire, "Reading has made many saints!" -St Josemaría Escrivá, "Do you pray? You speak to the Bridegroom. Do you read? He speaks to you." —St. Jerome, from his Letter 22 to Eustochium, "Encounter, not confrontation; attraction, not promotion; dialogue, not debate." -cf Pope Francis, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori, "God here speaks to souls through…good books“ – St Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle, "You will not see anyone who is really striving after his advancement who is not given to spiritual reading. And as to him who neglects it, the fact will soon be observed by his progress.” -St Athanasius, "To convert someone, go and take them by the hand and guide them." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP. 1 saint ruins ALL the cynicism in Hell & on Earth. “When we pray we talk to God; when we read God talks to us…All spiritual growth comes from reading and reflection.” -St Isidore of Seville, “Also in some meditations today I earnestly asked our Lord to watch over my compositions that they might do me no harm through the enmity or imprudence of any man or my own; that He would have them as His own and employ or not employ them as He should see fit. And this I believe is heard.” -GM Hopkins, SJ, "Only God knows the good that can come about by reading one good Catholic book." — St. John Bosco, "Why don't you try explaining it to them?" – cf St Peter Canisius, SJ, Doctor of the Church, Doctor of the Catechism, "Already I was coming to appreciate that often apologetics consists of offering theological eye glasses of varying prescriptions to an inquirer. Only one prescription will give him clear sight; all the others will give him at best indistinct sight. What you want him to see—some particular truth of the Faith—will remain fuzzy to him until you come across theological eye glasses that precisely compensate for his particular defect of vision." -Karl Keating, "The more perfectly we know God, the more perfectly we love Him." -St Thomas Aquinas, OP, ST, I-II,67,6 ad 3, “But always when I was without a book, my soul would at once become disturbed, and my thoughts wandered." —St. Teresa of Avila, "Let those who think I have said too little and those who think I have said too much, forgive me; and let those who think I have said just enough thank God with me." –St. Augustine, "Without good books and spiritual reading, it will be morally impossible to save our souls." —St. Alphonsus Liguori "Never read books you aren't sure about. . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?" -St. John Bosco " To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer." —St. Thomas Aquinas, OP. "Prayer purifies us, reading instructs us. Both are good when both are possible. Otherwise, prayer is better than reading." –St. Isidore of Seville “The aid of spiritual books is for you a necessity.… You, who are in the midst of battle, must protect yourself with the buckler of holy thoughts drawn from good books.” -St. John Chrysostom