So we looked at:
- We have an unfounded belief that we “are practically perfect in every way”.
- We have a propensity to do “bad” things as our passions dictate.
- We have internal conflict resulting from being unable to square the circle of 2 with the belief of 1.
- We try to deal with the conflict by denying culpability.
- While we are the agent – responsible for our own actions, our own wishes and desires and actions for which we seek to spread the blame.
- We invent concepts like “Social Sin” as a smoke screen for our own cupidity.
- The broader the screen the more anonymous we become in the crowd.
- Everybody does it?
- Sin exists but no one is responsible for it?
- We intentionally cloud our intellect to avoid the obvious conclusions – magical Thinking – Political Correctness – Can’t talk about it – Can’t Identify “IT”
- If everybody is a follower then who is driving?
- “Luci…” Nope – Can’t talk about that. hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil – therefore there is no evil …
Much food for thought in:
What follows is the conclusion of my precis of Pope John Paul II’s apostolic Exhortation “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia”. This document, written in 1984, is an brutal indictment of our modern culture, society and even our modern church, and yet it is written in charity – seeking to clearly identify the root of the problems which are destroying us as a civilization.
Twenty years on our manifest push to live our lives as if God did not exist, to totally eliminate him from our daily lives has given us ever increasing evil and barbarity even in our daily existence. The elimination of the sense of sin, and the sense of responsibility removes all dignity and value from the human individual and releases us to commit any atrocity in the name of “whatever the cause of the day is said to be”. Denial of God ALWAYS leads to our own society eating us alive.
The loss of the sense of sin is a consequence of the denial of God: not only in the form of atheism but also in the form of secularism. Sin is the breaking off of one’s filial relationship to God in order to live one’s life outside obedience to him. To sin is not merely to deny God, but also to live as if he did not exist, to eliminate him from one’s daily life. A model of society which is mutilated or distorted in one sense or another, as promoted by the mass media, favors and assists the gradual loss of the sense of sin.
In such a situation the obscuring of the sense of sin comes from several sources: from a rejection of any reference to the transcendent in the name of the individual’s aspiration to personal independence; independence from acceptance of ethical models imposed by general consensus and behavior, even when condemned by the individual conscience; independence from the tragic social and economic conditions that oppress a great part of humanity, causing a tendency to see errors and faults only in the context of society (social sin) and finally and especially independence from the notion of God’s fatherhood and dominion over man’s life.
Even in the thought and life of the church certain trends inevitably favor the decline of the sense of sin. For example, some are inclined to replace exaggerated attitudes of the past with other exaggerations: From seeing sin everywhere they pass to not recognizing it anywhere; from too much emphasis on the fear of eternal punishment they pass to preaching a love of God that excludes any punishment deserved by sin; from severity in trying to correct erroneous consciences they pass to a kind of respect for conscience which excludes the duty of telling the truth.
And it should be added that the confusion caused in the consciences of many of the faithful by differences of opinions and teachings in theology, preaching, catechesis and spiritual direction on serious and delicate questions of Christian morals ends by diminishing the true sense of sin almost to the point of eliminating it altogether? Nor can certain deficiencies in the practice of sacramental penance be overlooked.
These include the tendency to obscure the significance of sin and of conversion and to reduce them to merely personal matters; or vice versa, the tendency to nullify the personal value of good and evil and to consider only their community dimension (again “social sin”). There also exists the danger, never totally eliminated, of routine ritualism that deprives the sacrament of its full significance and formative effectiveness.
The restoration of a proper sense of sin is the first way of facing the grave spiritual crisis looming over man today. But the sense of sin can only be restored through a clear reminder of the unchangeable principles of reason and faith which the moral teaching of the church has always upheld. There are good grounds for hoping that a healthy sense of sin will once again flourish, especially in the Christian world and in the church. This will be aided by sound catechetics, illuminated by the biblical theology of the covenant, by an attentive listening and trustful openness to the Magisterium of the church, which never ceases to enlighten consciences, and by an ever more careful practice of the sacrament of penance.
Whenever the church speaks of situations of sin or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order. The real responsibility, then lies with individuals.
A situation – or likewise an institution, a structure, society itself- is not in itself the subject of moral acts. Hence a situation cannot in itself be good or bad. At the heart of every situation of sin are always to be found sinful people. So true is this that even when such a situation can be changed in its structural and institutional aspects by the force of law or – as unfortunately more often happens – by the law of force, the change in fact proves to be incomplete, of short duration and ultimately vain and ineffective – not to say counterproductive – if the people directly or indirectly responsible for that situation are not converted.
edited precis of “Reconciliatio et Paenitentia” – Saint John Paul II.
“Every authentic believer is always traveling his own personal itinerary of faith, and at the same time, with the little light he carries within himself, can and must be a help to those alongside him, and even a help to the one for whom finding the way that leads to Christ is difficult.”
-Pope Benedict XVI