Tag Archives: sin

Four categorical consequences of personal sin

The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of four categorical consequences of sin. Paragraph 1469, quoting Pope St. John Paul II’s 1984 apostolic exhortation On Reconciliation and Penance, states the following on the effects of the Sacrament of Penance:

“It must be recalled that…this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.

There are four categorical consequences to every sin committed: personal, social, ecclesial, and cosmic. Each sin committed – whether venial or mortal – affects the individual personally (say, by restricting growth in virtue); socially (by somehow adversely affecting one’s relationship with others); ecclesially (wherein the Body of Christ – the Church – is somehow disrupted); and cosmically (read Genesis, Chapter 3 to discover how the cosmos – creation itself – is affected by the sin of our first parents). But these four areas of disruption – these breaches – can be healed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation because of Almighty God’s intervention, forgiveness, and mercy.

It’s the third of these consequences I’ll focus on here: the ecclesial disruption caused by sin – during this time of egregious Church scandal. As Christians, we know that sin is always a personal act. Even though it might be carried out with another (as in adultery) or with others (say, when a group robs a bank), sin is always committed by one’s personal choice. In fact, the Church defines sin not only as an offense against God, but as an offense against truth and a person’s own reason and right conscience.

As the Catechism makes clear, the Church herself benefits from her members individually receiving the Sacrament of Penance. This is important to recall at a time when we confront egregious Church scandal and seek a lasting remedying and healing of the situation. Paragraph 1469 states:

“This sacrament (of reconciliation) reconciles us with the Church…. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members.”

The Church benefits from her members going to Confession. And while the Church’s current crisis rightly puts clerics and their superiors in the spotlight, the bigger picture needs to also be examined to help solve that crisis as an important one among others. The old saying that “no man is an island” is aptly applied here. In other words, everything each one of us does – whether cleric or lay member – is somehow interconnected with that big picture. “My sins do not affect just me,” can be said here.

As the Catechism Paragraph 1039 states, “The Last Judgment will reveal even to its furthest consequences the good each person has done or failed to do during his earthly life.”

With this truth in mind, we can begin to discern not only how clerical abuse has played its major part in contributing to the ecclesial consequences of personal sin, but how the following crises concerning the laity have, as well: only 23 percent of Catholics attend Mass on Sundays (even before the scandals were exposed); 82 percent of Catholics view contraceptives as morally acceptable; 49 percent of Catholics believe abortion should be permissible in some circumstances; 50 percent of Catholics practice cohabitation before marriage; 67 percent of Catholics approve of so-called gay “marriage”; and only 2 percent of Catholics go to Confession regularly.

Again, “no man is an island.” We are all somehow interconnected in what we do vicefully – and there are ecclesial consequences because of it. But the good news is, we are also interconnected in what we do virtuously. And returning to the Sacrament of Reconciliation is one such virtuous act.

FR. WADE L. J. MENEZES, CPM is the assistant general of the Fathers of Mercy, an itinerant missionary preaching order based in Auburn, KY. He is host of EWTN Global Catholic Radio’s “Open Line Tuesday” and the author of The Four Last Things: A Catechetical Guide to Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell (EWTN Publishing).

Manual for Conquering Deadly Sin

Fr. Dennis Kolinski, S.J.C.
TAN Books, 336 pages

To overcome sin, we must first recognize it in all its disguises. The Seven Deadly Sins (lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy, and pride) must be combatted even in their mildest forms lest they become more serious — and more deadly. This manual provides sound catechesis on sin and excellent advice on what to do about it. A key is to seek growth in the corresponding virtues (e.g., humility instead of pride, temperance instead of gluttony) and, of course, to stay close to the sacraments. This volume looks like a small prayerbook, complete with gilded edges and ribbon, but it reads like essential armor in the battle for our souls.

Order: TAN Books, Amazon

Furnace of charity melts marital loneliness

In the beginning, God declared it was not good for man to be alone, so he fashioned from his side a helpmate and an equal. She, Woman, the bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh, would become his wife, and the two would “become one flesh” (Gen. 2:18-24). Marriage was God’s original remedy for human loneliness, and since Adam and Eve were married before the Fall, marriage is literally older than sin!

Kevin Vost, Psy.D.

In our time, however, social scientists warn of a looming epidemic of loneliness affecting people of all ages, including married people. In the mid1980s researchers found that one in ten Americans reported he had no one close to confide in, while 20 years later it had risen to one person in four – one quarter of the population has no one close in whom to confide! Now, over one-third of middle-aged and older adults report that they are lonely. While being single or having lost a spouse through death or divorce are risk factors for loneliness, nearly a third of married people report feeling lonely, too. And this can be serious business. Loneliness is a risk factor for chronic disease and decreased life expectancy, roughly equivalent to obesity or smoking. So what has gone awry and how can stronger, holier marriages help stem the tide of loneliness?

Loneliness is defined as a“perceived isolation” at the intimate emotional or the broader social level. The lonely person perceives a significant discrepancy between the relationships he or she desires and those he or she actually has. The lonely person may be alone or feel a lack of connectedness even within a crowd. A wife, for example, may feel emotional closeness to her husband and yet feel lonely at the broader social level if they have just moved to a new city for her husband’s work and she no longer has access to her familiar network of friends, co-workers, or parishioners. The same situation could hold for a husband, as well.

The most serious and tragic kind of marital loneliness, of course, is the emotional isolation that may arise between a husband and wife when one or both feel they are not appreciated or heard by the other. The busyness of modern life brings so many commitments and distractions that many married couples live separate lives within the same four walls. For decades now, excessive television viewing has decreased social connectedness, and social media and smartphones have produced broader networks of “friends” while diverting people’s attention away from those closest to them. Many need to retrain themselves to slow down, limit commitments, turn off computers, and stow cell phones in a drawer to tend to the needs of spouses, and cherish the limited time on earth with them.

St. Paul told us of God’s great gifts of faith, hope and love; that the greatest of them is love (1 Cor. 13:13). St. Thomas Aquinas compared the love of charity to the heat of a powerful furnace. When our hearts burn with the fires of charity, their far-reaching flames serve to warm strangers and even our enemies. But since those closest to the furnace receive the most heat, true charity should begin at home, and be directed most intensely toward the person with whom we are of “of one flesh.”

Let us beseech God that our eyes be opened to the faces of all the lonely people among us, perhaps even the one we wake up to every morning. Let us see the face of Christ in the person with whom He joined us as one flesh in the bonds of matrimony. Then, let’s turn up our furnaces of love to perform simple acts of thoughtfulness and kindness for our spouse daily. It’s possible for every man and wife to feel the heat of loving charity within every home, a heat that will warm the whole family, a heat they will carry out the front door to help warm a cold, lonely world.

KEVIN VOST, PSY.D. has taught psychology at Aquinas College in Nashville, Tennessee and the University of Illinois at Springfield. His most recent book is The Catholic Guide to Loneliness. Kevin and Kathy Vost recently celebrated their 33rd anniversary.

The gift of Confession

Sin is social in its effects, so Christ established a social means for forgiveness . . . 

Karl Keating

Christ never engaged in unnecessary acts. He instituted the sacrament of Confession (aka Penance or Reconciliation) as the ordinary or normative way of having one’s sins forgiven. This means that it’s the standard way.

Yes, sins are forgiven when one sincerely repents and prays earnestly to God. In fact, before you even enter the confessional, you must say a sincere act of contrition, so the very sacrament acknowledges the need for a direct request to God that he forgive your sins. But confessions to a priest make a lot of sense: first, because of our limitations; second, because of the nature of sin.

We all fool ourselves at times. We talk ourselves into and out of doing things. We adroitly avoid unpleasantness, and little is more unpleasant than acknowledging our sinfulness. When we confess to God privately, we run the risk of only feigning sorrow. We might even fool ourselves into thinking we’re really sorry when we’re not. No sin can be forgiven unless we’re truly sorry for it. Here’s where a priest, trained in hearing confessions, can help us see past our pride or our remaining attachment to a particular sin.

After all, Jesus knew what he was doing. He gave the apostles — and through apostolic succession, the bishops and the bishops’ helpers, the priests — the power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:22-23). He wanted them to forgive or not forgive (retain) sins. How do they know which to forgive and which not to forgive? Only by being told the sins by the penitent. Then, after questioning if necessary, the priest can evaluate the penitent’s sorrow.

Jesus likened our relationship with him to a vine; he is the vine and we are the branches (Jn 15:5). Every branch is related to every other branch through the vine. If one branch becomes ill, neighboring branches become ill. Even branches far away are affected. Spiritual illness comes when we sin. It’s impossible to sin and not influence others. We may not be aware of the influence, but it’s there. Since every sin is social in its effects, Christ established a social means for forgiveness. In Confession we relate our sins and our sorrow to another human being, who represents both our Lord and the whole community of the faithful.

Karl Keating is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith,” page 64 (Ignatius Press, 1995).

Sacramental grace

Legatus editor Patrick Novecosky writes about the power of sacramental Confession . . .

Patrick Novecosky

You’ve probably heard fallen away Catholics — or even church-going Catholics — grumble about the sacrament of Confession. The complaint usually goes something like this: “Why should I confess to a priest when I can tell God my sins?”

Jesus didn’t teach that sinners should go directly to God in order to have their sins forgiven. He specifically gave his apostles — the first Catholic priests — the ability to forgive sins (Mt 16:19). Confessing to a priest is the method that God set up to reconcile sinners to Himself.

Sin separates us from God and cuts us off from sanctifying grace. The Church also teaches that those who die without repenting of mortal sin — deliberate serious sin committed by their own free will — risk eternal damnation. And even venial or nominal sins weaken our relationship with the Lord.

One of Christ’s greatest gifts to His Church — the forgiveness of sins and reconciliation with the Father — is, sadly, one of the most underused of the seven sacraments (Click here for a related story). “During his public life, Jesus not only forgave sins, but also made plain the effect of this forgiveness: He reintegrated forgiven sinners into the community of the people of God from which sin had alienated or even excluded them” (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1443).

We’re all sinners. As St. Paul tells us, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). We all need reconciliation with Him. That’s the whole reason God launched his massive rescue plan for the human race — sending Jesus to die for us. He did the heavy lifting on the cross, but we need to claim that redemption. The good news is that Jesus desperately wants us back! And the sacrament of Confession is the way to get ourselves right with God again.

When I lived in California 15 years ago, I was overdue for a good Confession. I remember finding the parish priest right after Mass and asking for the sacrament. I met him on the back step of the church. Right after he said the words of absolution, a gentle gust of wind came up and hit us both. We both smiled, recognizing God’s gentle touch. I remember thinking, “Wow! God just blew my sins away!”

A good confession also does something else. It strengthens us against the temptation to sin. We receive graces that act like a force field around us, helping us to recognize and fight the temptations that the devil throws at us every day. If we’re living in a state of grace, there’s not much the devil can do to us. That reassurance is what keeps me coming back to the sacrament every month. With God’s grace, there’s no reason we can’t all get in line to have our sins gently whisked away.

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus Magazine’s editor. He can be reached at editor@legatus.org