Category Archives: Sin

Sin renders the soul miserable – Ven Louis of Granada, OP, (1504-1588)

“Thus sin renders the soul miserable, weak and torpid, inconstant in doing good, cowardly in resisting temptation, slothful in the observance of God’s commandments. It deprives her of true liberty and of that sovereignty which she should never resign; it makes her a slave to the world, the flesh, and the devil; it subjects her to a harder and more wretched servitude than that of the unhappy Israelites in Egypt or Babylon. Sin so dulls and stupefies the spiritual senses of man that he is deaf to God’s voice and inspirations; blind to the dreadful calamities which threaten him; insensible to the sweet odor of virtue and the example of the saints; incapable of tasting how sweet the Lord is, or feeling the touch of His benign hand in the benefits which should be a constant incitement to his greater love. Moreover, sin destroys the peace and joy of a good conscience, takes away the soul’s fervor, and leaves her an object abominable in the eyes of God and His saints. The grace of justification delivers us from all these miseries. For God, in His infinite mercy, is not content with effacing our sins and restoring us to His favor; He delivers us from the evils sin has brought upon us, and renews the interior man in his former strength and beauty. Thus He heals our wounds, breaks our bonds, moderates the violence of our passions, restores with true liberty the supernatural beauty of the soul, reestablishes us in the peace and joy of a good conscience, reanimates our interior senses, inspires us with ardor for good and a salutary hatred of sin, makes us strong and constant in resisting evil, and thus enriches us with an abundance of good works. In fine, He so perfectly renews the inner man with all his faculties that the Apostle calls those who are thus justified new men and new creatures.”

Love,
Matthew

Mortification

“But you, know by experience that our cross is truly full of unction, whereby it is not only light, but all the bitterness and hardship we find in our state is, by the grace of God, rendered sweet and pleasant.”
St. Bernard of Clairvaux

“I shall now speak of those means that may help us to render this necessary practice of mortification not only easy, but pleasant.

The first means is the grace of God, with which all things become easy. St. Paul supplies us both with an example and a proof of this truth.

The sting of the flesh, the angel of Satan, tormented him. Thrice he begged of God to be delivered from it, and God made this answer to him: “My grace is sufficient for thee” (2 Cor. 12:9).

Again, he says, “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13). Yet, as he says elsewhere, “Not I , but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). We must not believe that God leaves us to our own strength in time of mortification and suffering. No!

He bears the greater part of the burden Himself, and for this reason the law is called a yoke, which is to be born by two. For Jesus Christ joins Himself to us, to help us to support it, and with His assistance, who can be discouraged?

Therefore, let nothing in the law appear to you too hard, since you will have nothing but the easiest part of it to bear. It is for this reason also that He calls it a yoke and a burden when He says, “My yoke is sweet, and My burden light” (Matt. 11:30).

For though, as regards our nature and weakness, it be ever so hard a yoke, and ever so heavy a burden, yet the grace of God renders it easy and light, because our Lord Himself helps us to bear it.

St. Bernard, in His first sermon on the dedication of a church, says that, as in the consecration the walls are anointed with holy oil, so our Savior does the same in religious souls, sweetening by the spiritual unction of His grace all their crosses, penances and mortifications.

Worldlings are afraid of a religious life because they see its crosses, but perceive not the unction with which they are anointed and made easy. “But you,” says the Saint, speaking to his religious, “know by experience that our cross is truly full of unction, whereby it is not only light, but all the bitterness and hardship we find in our state is, by the grace of God, rendered sweet and pleasant.”

St. Austin admits that before he knew the power of grace, he could never comprehend what chastity was nor believe that anyone was able to practice it. But the grace of God renders all things so easy that, if we possess it, we may say with St. John that “His commandments are not heavy” (1 John 5:3), because the abundance of grace He bestows upon us renders them most sweet and easy.

The second means which makes the practice of mortification easy is the love of God. Love, more than anything else, sweetens pain of every kind. “He who loves,” says St. Austin, “thinks that nothing is hard, and yet the least labor is insupportable to those who love not. Love alone is ashamed to find difficulty in anything.”

It is thus that those who love hunting make no account of the fatigue they endure, but rather look upon it as a pleasure. It is not love that makes the mother find no difficulty in nursing her infant?

Is it not love that keeps the wife day and night at her sick husband’s bedside? Is it not love that causes all sorts of creatures to take so much in nourishing their young that they even abstain from eating and expose themselves to dangers for their sakes?

Was it not love that made Jacob think his many years’ service for Rachel short and sweet? “They seemed but a few days, because of the greatness of his love” (Gen. 29:20).

No sooner does love appear than all pain vanishes and all sweetness accompanies our labor. A holy woman said that from her first being touched with the love of God, she knew not what it was to suffer, either exteriorly or interiorly, neither from the world, the flesh or the devil because pure love knows not what pain or torment is.

Love, therefore, not only raises the price of all our actions and renders them more perfect, but it gives us courage to support all kinds of mortification and makes us feel great ease and sweetness, even in the hardest things.

It was thus that St. Chrysostom explains these words of the Apostle, “Love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). For he not only says (as the Saint notices) that the law and all the commandments are included in love, but that it is love which renders the observance of both most easy.

Let us therefore love much, and nothing will be able to stop us in the way of perfection. Then we shall be able to say with the Apostle,

“Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword? For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 38).”

Love & fortitude,
Matthew

The First Deadly Sin: Pride 2


-Pieter Bruegel the Elder – The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices (1556-1558) – Pride (Superbia), engraving, 22.9 x 29.6 cm, British Museum, please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Dcn Harrison Garlick

“It was Pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” – St. Augustine

“Pride is the queen of sin. St. Gregory the Great warns us: “For when pride, the queen of sins, has fully possessed a conquered heart, she surrenders it immediately to seven principal sins, as if to some of her generals, to lay it waste” (Moralia 87). Yet what are these seven principal sins that pride invites into the conquered heart? They are, according to Gregory, “vainglory, envy, anger, melancholy, avarice, gluttony, [and] lust.” They are the “first progeny” of pride, the offshoots of its “poisonous root.” As both Gregory and St. Thomas Aquinas note, Scripture teaches: “For pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sir. 10:15, DRA).

Pride hands the conquered heart over to her capital vices, and, as Gregory explains, each capital vice is like a general that leads an army of sins into the soul. For example, if anger is allowed to enter the soul, then it brings with it “strifes, swelling of mind, insults, clamor, indignation, blasphemies” (Moralia 88). Similarly, if avarice or greed overcomes the soul, it brings with it “treachery, fraud, deceit, perjury, restlessness, violence, and hardness of heart against compassion.” Aquinas, commenting on Gregory, explains that this is why they are called the capital sins, because capital comes from the Latin caput, meaning “head,” and the capital sins are the “head” or leaders of a host of sins (ST. I-II.84.3). The Catechism, citing Gregory, explains: “They are called ‘capital’ because they engender other sins, other vices” (1866). They are the leaders of sin in that “when they reach the heart, they bring, as it were, the bands of an army after them” (Moralia 88).

What is it about pride, the queen of sin, that opens the heart to so many other sins? Aquinas, citing St. Isidore, teaches: “A man is said to be proud, because he wishes to appear above what he really is” (II-II.162.1). Aquinas comments that a man who uses his reason rightly acts “proportionate to him,” but pride causes a man to have a disproportionate understanding of who he truly is. Therefore, the self-understanding of the prideful man is contrary to his reason and sinful (CCC 1849). It is here we may start to see how pride opens the soul to a host of sins. The humble man will seek honors in this life that are proportionate to who he truly is, yet the prideful man, having an irrational self-understanding, will be inclined to fall farther into error by seeking honors that correspond with his misperception (II-II.162.2)—like a wrestler who, believing his skill to be greater than it is, challenges a champion and is soundly defeated.

A misperception of one’s own excellence often leads one into further error. Aquinas notes that another way pride leads us into sin, even if indirectly, is that pride makes us less likely to adhere to God and his rule (II-II.162.2, 6). The prideful man says to God, “I will not serve,” and disregards the moral laws that help lead the soul into virtue (II-II.162.2). Therefore, through a disproportionate self-understanding and a disregard for God and his rule, pride opens the human heart to a host of sin.

Is pride the beginning of all sin? Aquinas, following St. Augustine, makes several key distinctions. He notes that someone could sin not through pride, but through ignorance or simply through weakness (II-II.162.2) Yet, like Gregory, Aquinas quotes Holy Scripture: “for pride is the beginning of all sin” (Sir. 10:15, DRA). How does Aquinas reconcile these two points? He observes that all sin shares in an “aversion from God” (II-II.162.7). All sin makes us turn away from God. Yet although this trait is common to all sin, it is essential to the sin of pride. Here, we may see why Gregory sees pride as the queen of sin, handing a conquered heart over to the capital vices. Pride habituates the heart to an aversion to God, inclining it to sin further. As Aquinas summarizes: “Pride is said to be ‘the beginning of all sin,’ not as though every sin originated from pride, but because any kind of sin is naturally liable to arise from pride” (II-II.162.7, Reply obj. 1).

Is pride, the queen of sin, considered one of the seven capital sins? Aquinas, following Gregory, says no. Aquinas holds that pride is a mortal sin (II-II.162.5). He explains, “The root of pride is found to consist in man not being, in some way, subject to God and His rule,” and “it is evident that not to be subject to God is of its very nature a mortal sin.” It is in fact this unwillingness in man to submit to God and His rule that makes pride “the most grievous of sins” (II-II.162.6). Pride is not, however, a capital sin—no more than a mother could be counted among her own children. Aquinas, following Gregory, states that pride is typically not listed as a capital vice, as she is the “queen and mother of all the vices” (II-II.162.8). Aquinas and Gregory make a distinction between pride and vainglory, with pride being the cause of vainglory. Aquinas writes, “Pride covets excellence inordinately,” but “vainglory covets the outward show of excellence” (II-II.162.8. Reply Obj. 1). Vainglory is a sign that the heart has already been conquered by pride.

How do we guard our hearts against the queen of sin? Aquinas recalls: “Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, or in thy words: for from it all perdition took its beginning” (Tob. 4:14, DRA). Our Catechism reminds us that formation in virtue, especially as children, “prevents or cures . . . selfishness and pride” (1784). Above all, let us cultivate the virtue of humility, the virtue contrary to pride. If pride tempts us to have an inordinate understanding of our own excellence, then may humility lead us to an understanding of who we are under the cross of Christ (Rom. 5:8). If pride, the most grievous of sins, leads us to rebel against God and his rule, may humility teach us that the rule of Christ is gentle and brings rest (Matt. 11:28-30).

Let us combat the queen of sin and, by doing so, save our souls from her armies of sin.”

Love, Lord make me humble,
Matthew

John Calvin’s total depravity. Why does evil exist?


-by Tim Staples, Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. Although he fell away from the faith of his childhood, Tim came back to faith in Christ during his late teen years through the witness of Christian televangelists. Soon after, Tim joined the Marine Corps.

“In John Calvin’s magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, he presents a view of man that is very much like Luther’s but contrary to what we find in the pages of Sacred Scripture. Calvin used texts such as Genesis 6:5—“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually”—and Romans 3:10ff—“None is righteous, no not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one ”—to prove that man is utterly depraved through the fall of Adam and Eve.

Calvin’s conclusion from these texts and others was to say, “The will is so utterly vitiated and corrupted in every part as to produce nothing but evil” (Institutes, bk. II, ch. II, para. 26).

What say we?

The context of the texts Calvin used actually demonstrates the opposite of his claim. For example, if we read forward just four verses in Genesis 6, we find: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. . . . Noah was a righteous [“just”] man, blameless in his generation” (Gen. 6:8-9). While we Catholics agree that God’s grace or “favor” was essential for Noah to be truly “just” before God, nevertheless Noah was truly just, according to the text.

As far as the quote from Romans is concerned, the greater context of the entire epistle must be understood. One of the central themes of St. Paul’s letter to the Romans is the fact that it is through “the goodness of God” that we are led to repent (cf. Romans 2:4), to be justified (Romans 5:1-2), and persevere in the faith (cf. Romans 11:22). It is solely because of God’s grace that we become truly just:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand and we rejoice in our hope of sharing the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).

Further,

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death . . . in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:2,4).

Notice the emphasis on the fact that man is made truly just so much so that he can fulfill “the just requirement of the law.” It doesn’t get any more just, or righteous, than that!

Thus, Romans 3:10ff simply does not teach total depravity in a Calvinist sense. It cannot when the context is understood.

Moreover, if we examine the verses where St. Paul paints his picture of the wicked who have “turned aside” and “done wrong,” we find he actually quotes Psalm 14:3. The next two verses of this Psalm explain who these “evil ones” are:

Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon the Lord? There they shall be in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.

The Psalmist clearly refers to both evildoers and the righteous.

These and other passages from Romans tell us that Christ came to make us just, not that there are absolutely none who are just. We must stress again that it is because of the justice of Christ communicated to the faithful that their actions and, indeed, they themselves are truly made just. But they indeed are truly made just.

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does right (Gr., ho poion tein dikaiousunein/ὁ ποιῶν τὴν δικαιοσύνην—“the one doing justice”) is righteous (Gr., dikaios estin/δίκαιός ἐστιν—“is just”) as He is righteous (Gr., kathos ekeinos dikaios estin/καθὼς ἐκεῖνος δίκαιός ἐστιν—“as He is just”). -1 Jn 3:7

Scripture couldn’t be clearer that the faithful are made truly just in their being and in their actions through the grace of Christ.

The problem magnified

More grave problems arise when we begin to follow the path Calvin lays for us with his first principle. Even when considering the unregenerate, Calvin is wrong about total depravity, because Scripture tells us even those outside of the law can “do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts” (Rom. 2:14-15).

Though Catholics agree with Calvinists that grace is necessary even for those who are ignorant of the law in order for them to be just before God—in other words, this text is not saying these pagans can be justified apart from grace—the text does infer that nature is not totally depraved, because man can clearly act justly on a natural level and by nature.

But an even more grave error comes to the fore when we consider his notion of the depravity of the just.

“Depravity of the just?” Yes. That was not a typo. According to John Calvin, even those who have been justified by Christ “cannot perform one work which, if judged on its own merits, is not deserving of condemnation” (Institutes, bk. III, ch. 9, para. 9). What a far cry this is from “he that acts justly is just” (I John 3:7) or the plain words of the Psalmist, who uses similar words as found in Genesis with regard to Abraham being justified by faith: “[Abraham] believed the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). In the Psalms we read: “Then Phineas stood up and interposed, and the plague was stayed. And that has been reckoned to him as righteousness from generation to generation” (Ps. 106:30-31).

Clearly, Phineas was justified by his works and not only by faith. In other words, Phineas’s works are truly “just as he is just,” to use the words of I John 3:7.

There are a multitude of biblical texts that come to mind at this point, but here are only three:

“For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned”? (Matt. 12:37).

“By works a man is justified and not by faith alone” (Jas. 2:24).

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:13-14).

These texts do not even come close to saying all of these works were “worthy of condemnation.” They say just the opposite!

We should be clear here: All “good works” man performs that contribute to his salvation are first and foremost God’s gifts, which, along with his cooperation, truly make him just and worthy to “walk with [Christ] in white; for [he is] worthy” (Rev. 3:4) by God’s grace and mercy. But we cannot escape the biblical fact that these works are truly just and they are truly the fruit of the just man himself.

Understanding the strange

When John Calvin says man is utterly dependent upon God for every single just thought in his mind (cf. Institutes, bk. II, ch. II, para. 27), Catholics will happily agree. And they would be correct: We do agree. However, appearances can be deceiving, because there is meaning beneath those words that Catholics cannot agree with.

With Calvin, there is no sense of grace aiding and empowering our wills as St. Augustine taught and the Catholic Church teaches. For Calvin, being “dependent upon God” means our free cooperation or free will has no part to play. God does not merely empower our wills; He operates them.

In the end, this may well be the most disturbing idea stemming from Calvin’s notion of total depravity: Man is essentially God’s puppet, a notion that led to Calvin attributing both the good and the evil actions of man to God.

And mind you, Calvin rejects and ridicules the Catholic notion of God merely permitting evil and working all things together for good. In his words:

Hence a distinction has been invented between doing and permitting, because to many it seemed altogether inexplicable how Satan and all the wicked are so under the hand and authority of God, that He directs their malice to whatever end He pleases” (Institutes, bk. I, ch. XVIII, para. 1).

Evildoers do not commit acts of depravity in spite of the command of God, but because of the command of God, according to Calvin (ibid., para. 4)!

Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6 are used to teach that there is no evil that occurs that is not “impelled” by God’s positive command (ibid., para. 2).

God is the author of all those things that, according to these objectors, happen only by his inactive permission. He testifies that he creates light and darkness, forms good and evil (Is. [45:7]); that no evil happens which he hath not done (Amos [3:6]) (ibid., para. 3).

As Catholics we understand, as St. Paul teaches, “[S]ince they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct” (Rom. 1:28). This means God may well remove grace that is rejected. He may also hold back grace as well, but this is, as St. Augustine said, God’s “just judgment.”

But according to Calvin’s unbiblical teaching, God does not give grace in the first place and then “impels” men to act sinfully. As quoted above, according to Calvin, God causes evil. And we are not talking about physical evil here; we are talking about moral evil. That is categorically absurd! God cannot “do” or “impel” moral evil because He is infinitely and absolutely good.

God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:8, Numbers 23:19); “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Tim. 2:13) or act contrary to His nature. If God’s nature is one of love and pure being, it is absurd to say that He can “do” evil, which is by nature a lack of some perfection that ought to be present in a given nature. In fact, James 1:13 tells us that God not only cannot cause this kind of evil, He cannot even tempt anyone with evil. That is contrary to His nature.

The bottom line

When Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6 say God “creates evil” and “does evil,” this must be seen only in a sense in which it does not contradict God’s nature and what is clearly revealed to us about God in Scripture. God can directly cause physical evil, such as the ten plagues he released against Egypt in Exodus. But this was an act of justice, which was morally upright and justified.

We can also say that God permits evil in view of the fact that He chose to create us with freedom. But even there, God permits evil only in view of His promise to bring good out of that evil, as is most profoundly demonstrated through the greatest evil in the history of the world: the Crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through this greatest evil God brings about the greatest good: the redemption of the world. God did not kill Christ, nor did he “impel” anyone to kill Christ.

But by virtue of His Omnipotence, He brings good out of the evil acts committed.”


-by Fr. David Meconi, SJ

“There is a certain convenience in the Calvinistic tendency to consider oneself “totally depraved.” If this were truly one’s condition, one would never need to ask forgiveness for any particular sin. There is no specific sin to name and no specific sin to avoid next time. There is no need to grow in self-knowledge, no rush to ask for the grace to overcome any one vice, no circumstance or moment to talk about and pray over the next day. If everything is a grave sin, then somehow nothing is a grave sin. As a result, even the sincerest followers of Jesus need never admit (or confess) anything particular. Moreover, our Savior’s own words—“Therefore, he who delivered me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11b)—would prove false. Even Christ’s warning that Sodom’s sin was more tolerable than the rejection he encountered at Capernaum (Matt. 11:22-24) would ring untrue.

But this way of looking at sin is not in Sacred Scripture nor is it the way any of Christ’s ancient Church approached sinful humanity’s need for grace. The apostles and Gospel authors understood well that some sins are clearly graver than others. For instance, John gives us an insight into how to navigate our way when looking at our own brokenness:

If any one sees his brother committing what is not a mortal sin, he will ask, and God will give him life for those whose sin is not mortal. There is sin which is mortal; I do not say that one is to pray for that. All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin which is not mortal (1 John 5:16-17).

The Latin here for a mortal sin is mortalis, and the great Christian Tradition has named the contrary to that scriptural warrant venialis, a common word meaning “not deadly” or even “pardonable,” that which is much lighter than mortalis. As such, the distinction between mortal and venial sin is not some medieval invention but a 2,000-year-old apostolic warrant by which Christ inspires us to take note of our sins and find the appropriate response in Him.”

Love,
Matthew

The Hierarchy of Sin, Works, & Virtues

(Ed. I have always wished the Catholic Church would give a numerical 1-10 score to it’s teachings so that there might be some indication for each particular teaching how important it is.  Of course, humans being humans, controversy and acrimonious debate would immediately ensue amongst faithful Catholic theologians, let alone everybody else.  It would still help knuckle-draggers like me.)

“There is an idea among some Protestants that all sin is equal. Although tacitly recognizing that certain sinful actions are morally worse than others, they seem to get hung up on the idea that any sin is imperfection and any imperfection will keep someone out of heaven (this is why Jesus—who is perfect—must stand in our place). If this is the case, then any sin will send someone to hell, so any distinctions in gravity among sins is pointless. Therefore, all sin is equal. Sometimes they will quote St. James, who writes, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” ( James 2:10).

Now, common sense tells us otherwise. A Hyundai and a Lamborghini are both cars, but they are clearly not equal! All broken laws are broken laws, and anyone who breaks the law is a lawbreaker no matter which law he broke. That does not, however, mean that there is no hierarchy within the law. Indeed, it seems evident from numerous passages of Scripture that various sins can result in varying levels of punishment. Jesus tells the Pharisees that they will receive a greater condemnation for their actions (Mark 12:40). He tells his disciples that anyone who will not listen to what they say will be judged more harshly than Sodom and Gomorrah (Matt. 10:14–15). James warns teachers that they will be judged more severely than others ( James 3:1). St. Peter says that for those who have come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ but then again defile themselves with the world, it would have been better if they had never known the way of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:20–22). John records Jesus saying that Judas has a greater sin than Pilate ( John 19:11).

We perceive a similar hierarchy when it comes to good works. Several times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says that certain actions will lead to greater rewards (e.g., Matt. 5:11–12, 6:1–6, 16–20). How is it that these greater rewards are gained? Jesus said it’s according to what people do (Matt. 16:27). This concept is illustrated in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14–30) and repeated by Paul in Romans 2:5–6: “He will render to every man according to his works.” Paul also distinguishes between the reward received by those whose good works endure and those whose do not: “If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved” (1 Cor. 3:14–15; cf. Rev. 20:12).

But although many Protestants typically shy away from assigning salvation-merit to good works or damnation- judgment to evil works, many agree there is indication that these very things are taught in Scripture. Evangelical apologist Norman Geisler, for example, lists degrees of happiness in heaven and punishment in hell as an area of agreement between Catholics and Evangelical Protestants: “As to the degree of punishment, Roman Catholicism holds that ‘The punishment of the damned is proportioned to each one’s guilt.’ Augustine taught that, ‘in their wretchedness, the lot of some of the damned will be more tolerable than that of others.’ Just as there are levels of blessedness in heaven, there are degrees of wretchedness in hell.”80

In Principle Protestants Agree: Moral common sense and Scripture teach that not all sins are equivalent.

In Particular Catholicism Affirms: Sins are not equivalent— either in seriousness or their effects on salvation.”


-by Robert Kennerson

https://www.wilmingtonfavs.com/medieval-philosophy-2/thomas-aquinas-on-the-neoplatonic-hierarchy-of-virtues.html

“Like Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas directly addresses the Neoplatonic theory of a hierarchy of virtues. The theory makes an appearance in the Summa Theologiae, where Aquinas, like Bonaventure in the Collations, does not attribute the theory to Porphyry but to Macrobius.40 The fifth article of question 61 (Iallae) asks: “Are the cardinal virtues appropriately divided into political, purifying, purified, and exemplar virtues?”41

After citing some Aristotelian (and one Ciceronian) objections that seem to arise from Macrobius’s account of virtue, Aquinas allows Macrobius to cite his own authority, whom Aquinas has no reason to doubt is “Plotinus, along with Plato.” To mediate this dispute, Aquinas appeals to Augustine, who says, “the soul must follow something so that virtue can be born in it; and this something is God, and if we follow Him we shall live a moral life.”42 From this, Aquinas concludes:

“…the exemplar of human virtue must pre-exist in God, just as the exemplars of all things pre-exist in Him. In this way, therefore, virtue can be considered as existing in its highest exemplification in God, and in this fashion we speak of exemplar virtues. Thus the divine mind in God can be called prudence, while temperance is the turning of the divine attention to Himself.. The fortitude of God is His immutability, while God’s justice is the observance of the eternal law in His works.”43

Aquinas’s discussion here recalls the words of Porphyry, cited above, concerning the exemplar virtues: “wisdom is nous cognizing; self-attention, temperance; peculiar function [justice], proper action. Valor is sameness, and a remaining pure of self-dependence, through abundance of power.”

Aquinas’s words are surprising because up until this point in the Summa, he has been speaking of virtue primarily in the political sense; “man is a political animal by nature,” and “manz comports himself rightly in human affairs by these [political] virtues.”44 But Aquinas acknowledges the philosophical necessity of understanding the political virtues as having their origin in higher virtues. Thus, in answer to the objection that Aristotle says it is inappropriate to attribute the virtues to God (NE, X, 8, 1178b 10), Aquinas answers that Aristotle must be speaking of the political virtues 45—for surely we would not want to deny to God any excellence of activity. And again, to the objection that the virtues concern the regulation of passions, and so could not exist if the soul was completely purified of passions, Aquinas says this is only true of the political virtues. Beatified souls, however, are without the passions of wayfaring souls; it is these souls which achieve the purer virtues. 46

To the objection that the purifying virtues cannot be virtues since they involve “flight from human affairs,” Aquinas agrees that “to neglect human affairs when they require attending to is wrong.” But otherwise such flight is virtuous. 47 Here, Aquinas appeals to Augustine, who says: “The love of truth needs a sacred leisure; the force of love demands just deeds. If no one places a burden upon us, then we are free to know and contemplate truth; but if such a burden is put upon us, we must accept it because of the demands of charity.”48

The purifying virtues, commonly called the contemplative virtues, are the virtues of “those who are on the way and tending toward a likeness of what is divine.” In agreement with Porphyry’s description of these virtues is Aquinas’:

Thus prudence, by contemplating divine things, counts all worldly things as nothing and directs all thought of the soul only to what is divine; temperance puts aside the customary needs of the body so far as nature permits; fortitude prevents the soul from being afraid of withdrawing from bodily needs and rising to heavenly things; and justice brings the whole soul’s accord to such a way of life.49

Above these are the “purified” virtues. Porphyry would attribute them only to the gods (all those other than the “father of the gods”), that is, to immaterial souls; Aquinas, in keeping with this, attributes these virtues to the souls of men who have been beatified— and even, it seems, to saints in this life:

…prudence now sees only divine things, temperance knows no earthly desires, fortitude is oblivious to the passions, and justice is united with the divine mind in an everlasting bond, by imitating it.50

Love,
Matthew

40 Albertus Magnus also mentions this Neoplatonic theory, attributing it to Plotinus (Albertus Magnus, Super Ethica Commentum et Quaestiones 2.2; 4:12; 5.3; 7.11).

41 ST1-2.61.5: “Utrum virtutes cardinales convenienter dividantur in virtutes politicas, purgatorias, purgati animi, et exemplares.”

42 Ibid., corpus: “Respondeo dicendum quod, sicut Augustinus dicit in libro de Moribus Eccles., oportet quod anima aliquid sequatur, ad hoc quod ei possit virtus innasci: et hoc Deus est, quern si sequimur, bene vivimus.” The citation of Augustine is from De Moribus Ecclesiae Catholicae 1.6.

43 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “.exemplar humanae virtutis in Deo praeexistat, sicut et in eo praeexistunt omnium rerum rationes. Sic igitur virtus potest considerari vel prout est exemplariter in Deo, et sic dicuntur virtutes ‘exemplares’. Ita scilicet quod ipsa divina mens in Deo dicatur prudentia; temperantia vero, conversio divinae intentionis ad seipsum…; fortitude autem Dei est eius immutabilitas; iustitia vero Dei est observatio legis aeternae in suis operibus, sicut Plotinus dixit.” Cf. Quaestiones de Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4 (“Utrum virtutes cardinales maneant in patria”): “.fortitude divina est eius immobilitas; temperentia erit conversio mentis divinae ad seipsam; prudentia autem est ipsa mens divina; iustitia autem Dei ipsa lex eius perennis.”

44 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “Et quia homo secundum suam naturam est animal politicum, virtutes huiusmodi, prout in homine existunt secundum conditionem suae naturae, politicae vocantur: prout scilicet homo secundum has virtutes recte se habet in rebus humanis gerendis. Secundum quern modum hactenus de his virtutibus locuti sumus.” Cf. 1-2.61.1, corpus: “.dicendum quod, cum simpliciter de virtute loquimur, intelligimur loqui de virtute humana.”

45 ST1-2.61.5, ad. 1: “.dicendum quod Philosophus loquitur de his virtutibus secundum quod sunt circa res humanas: puta iustitia circa emptiones et venditiones, fortitude circa timores, temperantia circa concupiscentias. Sic enim ridiculum est eas Deo attribuere.”

46 Ibid., ad. 2: “dicendum quod virtutes humanae sunt circa passiones, scilicet virtutes hominum in hoc mundo conversantium. Sed virtutes eorum qui plenam beatitudenem assequuntur, sunt absque passionibus.” Cf. Quaestiones de Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4: “Dicendum, quod in patria manent virtutes cardinales, et habebunt ibi alios actus quam hie.”

47 ST1-2.61.5, ad 3: “.dicendum quod deserere res humanas ubi necessitas imponitur, vitiosum est: alias est virtuosum.”

48 Augustine’s words are from De Civitate Dei 19.19.

49 ST1-2.61.5, corpus: “.quaedam sunt virtutes transeuntium et in divinam similitudinem tendentium: et hae vocantur virtutes purgatoriae. Ita scilicet quod prudentia omnia mundana divinorum contemplatione despiciat, omnemque animae cogitationem in divina sola diregat; temperantia vero relinquat, inquantum natura patitur, quae corporis usus requirit; fortitudinis autem est ut anima non terreatur propter excessum a corpore, et accessum ad superna; iustitia vero est ut tota anima consentiat ad huius propositi viam.”

50 Ibid.: “Quaedam vero sunt virtutes iam assequentium divinam similitudinem: quae vocantur virtutes iam purgati animi. Ita scilicet quod prudentia sola divina intueatur; temperantia terrenas cupiditates nesciat; fortitude passiones ignoret; iustitia cum divina mente perpetua foedere societur, earn scilicet imitando. Quas quidem virtutes dicimus esse beatorum vel aliquorum in hac vita perfectissimorum.” Cf. De Virtutibus Cardinalibus 1.4, ad. 7: “dicendum, quod virtutes purgati animi, quas Plotinus definiebat, possunt convenire beads nam prudentiae ibi est sola divina intueri; temperantiae, cupiditates oblivisci fortitudinis, passiones ignorare; iustitiae, perpetuum foedus cum Deo habere.’ Mark Jordan has suggested that in ST 1-2.67.1, Aquinas says that both the purifying and the purified virtues remain in patria (Jordan 1993, 239). In fact, in that question Aquinas says that in patria the “formal” element of the moral virtues remains without the “material” element, and Aquinas’ description of what these virtues are like is consistent with the position articulated in ST 12.61.5, that only purified virtues are had in patria.

Are indulgences a scam?

Christ’s sacrifice in no way is lacking. The Lord, in His glorious mercy, permits, gifts, provides the grace to participate with Him, albeit unnecessary in the strictest sense, to join His redemption of ourselves/others. Catholicism has a very “group” view, as opposed to an individualistic view. Catholics do not interpret the Holy Scriptures definitively themselves. The Church does and always has done so, which it is incumbent upon the faithful to assent as part of being Catholic. The entirety of Scripture definitively being defined about the 4th century AD.

The money allusions are a poor one, but the closest to the definition we have, and in so using, takes on the negative inferences of the limping analogy. We must imitate the Master in EVERY way!!! Praise Him.

NO ONE is counting!!!! We trust in the promises of the Lord. But, it gives the Catholic a salutory meaning to suffering, either for their own need or that of others, communal Treasury of Merit. It belongs to all of us. The value of suffering is never meaningless, pointless, or wasted.

Love, pray for me,
Matthew

The Sin of Scandal


-millstones, please click on the image for greater detail

In the Septuagint, the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Greek, the Hebrew מִכְשֹׁל, miḵšōl is translated into Koine Greek skandalon (σκανδαλον), a word which occurs only in Hellenistic literature, in the sense “snare for an enemy; cause of moral stumbling”. In the Septuagint Psalms 140:9 a stumbling block means anything that leads to sin.

“Scandal” is discussed by Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica.[11][12] In the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is discussed under the fifth commandment (Thou shalt not kill) section “Respect for the Dignity of Persons”.[13]

Active scandal is performed by a person; passive scandal is the reaction of a person to active scandal (“scandal given” or in Latin scandalum datum), or to acts which, because of the viewer’s ignorance, weakness, or malice, are regarded as scandalous (“scandal received” or in Latin scandalum acceptum).[14]

In order to qualify as scandalous, the behavior must, in itself, be evil or give the appearance of evil.[15]  To do a good act or an indifferent act, even knowing that it will inspire others to sin — as when a student studies diligently to do well, knowing it will cause envy — is not scandalous.[15]  Again, to ask someone to commit perjury is scandalous, but for a judge to require witnesses to give an oath even when he knows the witness is likely to commit perjury is not scandalous.[15]  It does not require that the other person actually commit sin; to be scandalous, it suffices that the act is of a nature to lead someone to sin.[15]  Scandal is performed with the intention of inducing someone to sin.[15]   Urging someone to commit a sin is therefore active scandal.[15]  In the case where the person urging the sin is aware of its nature and the person he is urging is ignorant, the sins committed are the fault of the person who urged them.[15]  Scandal is also performed when someone performs an evil act, or an act that appears to be evil, knowing that it will lead others into sin.[15]  (In case of an apparently evil act, a sufficient reason for the act despite the faults it will cause negates the scandal.[15])  Scandal may also be incurred when an innocent act may be an occasion of sin to the weak, but such acts should not be foregone if the goods at stake are of importance.[16]


-by David Dashiell

“Our words and actions must be building blocks for other people’s faith—not stumbling blocks that trip them into hell.

Lately, we’ve had many occasions to think about the sin of scandal. Whether certain high-profile Catholics and members of the hierarchy have truly been guilty of scandal or whether the media have just been taking reports out of context depends on each case; nonetheless, a lot of the faithful are suffering from it.

Although the word scandal is derived from the Greek skandalon (a trap or snare laid for an enemy), we’re used to it being used to describe salacious tabloid stories. But the sin of scandal has a different and more precise meaning. So what exactly is scandal?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines scandal (CCC 2284) as “an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor’s tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death.” Our Lord militates against scandal, and even ties a curse to those who promote it: “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matt 18:6).

The Catechism explains that scandal is greater according to the authority of the one scandalizing. It is one thing for a four-year-old to say, “Jesus isn’t the Son of God,” but it would be another thing entirely for a bishop to say this. Because of the authority of the episcopate, the bishop can influence more people more effectively, increasing the gravity of the harm done to those who hear him. If the faithful (or unfaithful) believe him, they move away from Jesus Christ and the salvation he offers us.

This example displays a second, closely related element of scandal: it increases when the speaker has a duty to teach the truth. Since people trust their bishops to teach them the true Catholic faith, their errors are particularly harmful. Even when the faithful don’t believe it, the above statement is still scandalous. The faithful feel betrayed by their shepherd, who should be witnessing to Christ’s truth. This can cause a mistrust of the hierarchy and a disrespect for the priesthood.

The Catechism names two more factors that can increase the gravity of scandal. It becomes more grave when the scandalized person is especially weak or when others are deliberately led into grave sin. Given the poorly formed faith of so many Catholics, this means that today the opportunities for scandal are many. The improperly catechized can easily mistake vice for virtue and be led into sin.

In cases where scandal occurs but is less grave, it may lead to a simple misunderstanding. In the graver cases described above, scandal can encourage a gravely improper view of reality, to the point that a person sees good as evil and evil as good. In the most severe cases, as when a Catholic leader endorses a sinful lifestyle, someone could get the wrong idea about God, the Church, or salvation, causing him to run towards hell while thinking that he is closing in on heaven. This potential is amplified when the listeners are young and impressionable.

Catholic leaders aren’t the only ones with the potential to give scandal. We all have to guard against it, for it can take many forms, usually regardless of our intentions. So it is important that we honestly ask ourselves how we can avoid causing scandal.

We should first realize that scandal can be caused by the truth, too. Although we usually think of scandal in the context of a flagrant lie about the Faith, in fact it can come from any attitude or behavior that leads another to do evil—including the way we present true assertions.

If I had evidence, for example, that certain bishops were the subjects of adulterous affairs, it might not be good to share that true information with certain people, especially if they are not well-formed in the Faith. Such a claim might cause the hearer to doubt the bishops’ legitimate authority as successors to the apostles, or even lead to apostasy. And so we must be attentive to the condition and disposition of those to whom we speak (or witness by our actions). We must also be attentive to speaking the truth in the proper manner to avoid scandal.

For another example of scandal caused by truth, take this situation: perhaps there is a notorious felon who attends a parish, and everyone knows what he’s doing. When confronted by upset parishioners, the pastor replies, “Look, he really loves his family. His many good actions should speak for themselves.” In this case, the pastor’s words may be true, but he scandalizes by omission: he does not denounce the sin. This could easily lead the less knowledgeable to think that the Church condones certain sins.

Of course, there’s a difference between the natural consequences of an action and unintended or even unlikely consequences. In the previous two examples, the speaker unintentionally scandalized through imprudence and omission. However, if we proclaim God’s love to a troubled soul, and he takes that as a catalyst to double down on his despair, we have not given scandal. His sin isn’t caused by our good message, but by his own resistance to that message. There were circumstances that made our efforts powerless.

If we want to avoid scandal, it is not enough to avoid imprudence and omission. We should also steer clear of “hot takes.” In the era of social media, when so many are quick to promote emotional and uncharitable discussion, even well-intentioned Catholics are at risk of causing scandal. It is especially important that we slow down and avoid mere reactions to the torrent of bad news with which we are daily confronted. When we take both our message and our audience into account, we are much less likely to scandalize.

This drives home what is most important: to truly avoid scandal, we must speak the truth in charity, within the proper context. This means charity towards the subject and charity towards our audience. When speaking about a public figure, we should freely speak about his good qualities while carefully addressing his problematic statements. We ought to take care that his dignity is preserved in the process. When we are talking to someone who is quick to be suspicious, we need to make sure that we are not feeding his prejudice. We may need to address that prejudice towards suspicion before sharing what we have heard. In every situation, we should make sure that we are never giving others an excuse to turn away from Christ or his Church.

Perhaps now more than ever, scandal is being caused by those who never intended to mislead. In response, we ought to take seriously our duty to live the Catholic faith with integrity. We must pray unceasingly, frequent the sacrament of confession, and worthily receive Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Armed with these tools, we are much better prepared to evangelize effectively in the public square and not unwittingly turn souls away from God.”

Love, trust Him, obey Him,
Matthew

-Vander Heeren, Achille (1912). “Scandal”. Catholic Encyclopedia.

13 “Part three: Life in Christ / Section two: The Ten Commandments / Chapter two: You shall love your neighbor as yourself / Article 5: The fifth commandment / ii. Respect for the dignity of persons”. Catechism of the Catholic Church. Holy See. 1992. Retrieved 27 May 2016.
14 Vander Heeren 1912, “Divisions”
15 a b c d e f g h i Vander Heeren 1912, “Cases in which the sin of scandal occurs (1)”
16 Vander Heeren 1912, “Cases in which the sin of scandal occurs (3)”

Nov 2020 – Indulgences


-by Rembrandt (van Rijn), The Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1661–1669. 262 cm × 205 cm. Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg

https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2020/10/23/201023b.html


-by Br John Bernard Church, O.P., English Province

Indulgences occupy a curious place in the Catholic world. While readily appreciated by some, to many they are simply a peculiar oddity, a relic of a medieval imagination. So, when the Apostolic Penitentiary announced that, due to COVID, it was extending plenary indulgences for November throughout the whole month, unsurprisingly the news didn’t make the morning newspaper splash.

I would certainly count myself among those who have hesitated to find a fitting place for indulgences in the spiritual life. But they are a part of the faith we profess, so there is every reason to try to understand what they’re about and why they matter. A good starting point is to turn to the Apostles’ Creed, and the two articles that form the basis of a theology of indulgences: “I believe in…the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins…”.

To take the latter first, the primary means of forgiving our sins lies in the confessional. But when sins are forgiven, they still leave a trace: an attachment to vice remains even when the life of grace has been renewed. Thus at their simplest, indulgences extend the logic of the Sacrament of Penance, by addressing the residue of sin. Hence the formal definition of an indulgence is the “temporal remission of the penalties due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven (CCC 1471)”.

Perhaps a helpful analogy would be the physio that follows an operation. If I break my arm in a bicycle accident and do some serious damage, the primary means of healing is the necessary operation that restores functionality to my arm. And although this operation may be sufficient for getting me back on my bike, some physio exercises will aid the healing process and strengthen my arm. Indulgences are similar, in that they work to accompany the restorative healing we receive in the Sacrament of Penance.

The analogy is of course imperfect, but there is another aspect of it worth considering. If you want a healthy arm, physio and strengthening exercises are good to do anyway, even if you haven’t just fallen off your bike. And the same is true of indulgences: the sorts of acts to which the Church attaches them are those which are good to do anyway.

Spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, reading scripture, praying a rosary, saying the Divine Office, or even something as simple as making the Sign of the Cross, are all means by which divine charity grows within us. The indulgences attached to these acts simply encourage their practice. Healing the wounds in our relationship with God comes about through an openness to His grace, enabling His love to grow within us. Making room for that love to grow is always a worthy pursuit, no matter the circumstances.

There is further aspect to indulgences that relates to the other article of the creed, the one we are yet to consider: the communion of Saints. Our incorporation through Baptism into that supernatural community which is the Mystical Body of Christ means our actions are efficacious well beyond the narrow circle of our own lives. As we grow in charity, that divine currency of our sanctification, we can apply the gifts we receive to those who have gone before us. The bond of love that ties together the entire Christian community (Ed. the Church is ONE, militant, suffering, Triumphant). empowers us wayfarers on earth to cooperate in the salvation of the souls in purgatory.

This is especially worth considering given the Vatican’s extension for indulgences for November is for those that apply to the deceased. Such is the power of the Cross that our salvation is both deeply personal and fundamentally communal: each can be the beneficiary of the charity of the other.

As we reach the halfway point for November, it is perhaps worth considering whether there is time in the latter half of the month to obtain a plenary indulgence for the souls in purgatory. After all, surely Confession, Communion, prayers in a cemetery, and prayers for the Pope are all good to do anyway…”

Love, & His mercy,
Matthew

Pride, lies, and fear


-by Fr. Christopher Pietraszko, Ignitum, Fr. Christopher serves in the Diocese of London, Ontario.

“According to Aquinas (ST II-II, q. 162, a. 3, s.c.), the sin of pride is always rooted in the proposition of a lie that generates a fear. So in order to address the pride, we need to address the lie and the fear.

To counter a lie, we need truth. To counter a fear, we need perfect love (1 Jn 4:18). For although the lie can be conquered by a solid exposition on truth (Ed. w/humble, reasonable people, who are rare, as saints), fear as a passion may still linger, as the lie itself is rooted deeply. Fear is the fruit of a lie, so by this fruit, the lie can grow back.

When Christ commands us to not be afraid, it is because He sometimes starts with our fear. In starting with our fear, He indirectly communicates that the lie we hold to is not true. He understands that our fear, if grave, affects our ability to listen to reason. So while the devil begins with a lie, Christ begins with communicating love and peace. Remember how Christ spoke to His apostles after the resurrection, even before He was reconciled to St. Peter.

We must therefore not forget to manifest perfect love in an exposition of truth, otherwise, our demoralizing demeanor may only reinforce the false narrative of fear in the hearts of people, that is sown by a dynamic mixture of truth and error (a lie). Nonetheless, others may be clinging so strongly to their own preferred narrative that they reject that love. This is where choice is.”

Love, Lord never make me afraid of the truth, or the love required,
Matthew

The Sin of Gossip

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “The Gossips,” 1948. Painting for “The Saturday Evening Post” cover, March 6, 1948. Oil on canvas. Private collection. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN


-by Scott Richert

“A celebrity priest—a Jesuit—writes a book on the Catholic Church’s treatment of those struggling with sexual disorders. Short on doctrine, long on compassion and sensitivity, the book places the Church and the “LGBT community” on an equal footing, couching its argument in terms of a need for a relationship of mutual respect. Although it is endorsed by at least one cardinal and several bishops, the book comes under respectful criticism from at least two other cardinals, several bishops, and many priests, deacons, and laymen.

The celebrity priest takes to social media to defend his book and to extend its argument. And along the way, he draws into his defense and the extension of his arguments another well-known priest, more than two decades deceased, declaring that he knows that the latter was not only sexually attracted to men but violated his vow of celibacy.

The reaction on Twitter and Facebook is swift and severe, as well it should be—but (in many cases) for all the wrong reasons. Most of those who defend the long-dead priest start from the question of the truth of the celebrity Jesuit’s allegation; was he right or wrong?

But the truth of the claim is, although not irrelevant, at best secondary. The real problem lies in the immorality of making the claim in the first place. Whenever we reveal the sins—actual or imagined—of another, we tread on dangerous ground, and risk committing ourselves the grave sins of detraction and calumny.

In a section titled “Respect for the Truth,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the following line: “No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.” Taken out of context, this might seem to endorse lying in a good cause—for instance, to protect the Jews you have hidden in your attic when the Nazis come knocking on your door. In context, however, that line is not a defense of speaking untruths but a strong statement of the Church’s teaching on the immorality of detraction: the revealing of someone’s sins to another person who has no right to know it. The Catechism renders this traditional teaching in modern language (CCC 2488-89):

The right to the communication of the truth is not unconditional. Everyone must conform his life to the gospel precept of fraternal love. This requires us in concrete situations to judge whether or not it is appropriate to reveal the truth to someone who asks for it.

Charity and respect for the truth should dictate the response to every request for information or communication. The good and safety of others, respect for privacy, and the common good are sufficient reasons for being silent about what ought not be known or for making use of a discreet language. The duty to avoid scandal often commands strict discretion. No one is bound to reveal the truth to someone who does not have the right to know it.

There are two things to note here. The first is that the claim “What I said is true” is no defense against the charge of detraction. In fact, the very definition of detraction requires that what you say about the other person—the information that you reveal that may do damage to his reputation—must be true. If what you say is false, then by definition you aren’t engaged in detraction; you are engaged in the related sin of calumny.

The second is that the Catechism discusses detraction in the context of someone asking you to reveal a truth that may be damaging to the reputation of a third party. It does not even discuss the possibility that you would do so without being asked. There is no need for the Catechism to discuss that possibility because such an action would fall well beyond the bounds of all human decency. (That we might sometimes engage in such actions and dismiss our transgressions as mere “gossip” does not lessen their severity.)

When we reveal the possible sins of another, we engage either in calumny (if the claim is false) or detraction (if the claim is true) by revealing the secret sins of another and doing irreparable harm to his reputation. The sins of detraction and calumny are compounded when the person who is sinned against is unable to defend himself, either because he is unaware that his reputation has been attacked (as is often the case where gossip is concerned) or because he is dead (as in the case of the well-known priest alleged to have engaged in homosexual activity.)

In either case, the Catechism plainly details what repentance and justice require:

Every offense committed against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven. . . . If someone who has suffered harm cannot be directly compensated [e.g., if he is long dead], he must be given moral satisfaction in the name of charity. This duty of reparation also concerns offenses against another’s reputation. This reparation, moral and sometimes material, must be evaluated in terms of the extent of the damage inflicted. It obliges in conscience (CCC 2487).

Of course, repairing such damage when it has been widely disseminated via the internet is, if not theoretically impossible, at least practically so; but a Christian is obliged to try for the sake of his own soul. In our increasingly fractious times, where social media encourages us to act with rashness and without due regard for the reputation of others, there can be found, in the actions of our celebrity Jesuit, a lesson for us all.”

Love, & holiness, pray for me,
Matthew