Friday, July 11, 2008

To Sin or Not to Sin

The Catholic Church's recent publishing of a list of 'new sins' in modern society has created a bit of controversy---mostly from people who have little knowledge of the Catholic Church, what it means, and how it operates.

I'm not at all sure what's meant by a 'dynamic' Church as opposed to a 'static' Church. I rather think the definitions are proposed to allow wiggle room when someone doesn't want an action to be a sin. Certainly, some parts of the Church will change with the times. But, sins are sins no matter when you commit them or how you try to justify them. Waffling isn't going to change reality.

Perhaps the best way to understand what's a sin and what's not a sin, is to be sure you're well educated in morality and your Catholic faith. If you know how the Church was formed, how God wants us to be and act, how free will operates, what morality can be and usually is, the precepts of our faith, the concepts of religion and life from the philosophers, and the teachings of Christ and the Doctors of the Church, you'd have a better idea of how to live your life as a Catholic. Learning is a lifetime process. And you can't call yourself a real Catholic if you don't understand many of these.

But, all that isn't understood overnight. You can't learn what you need within a few years of part-time religious education no matter how smart you think you are. It takes many years because of the interweaving of knowledge and disciplines, so in the meantime the Church and your fellow Catholics can act more as kindly fathers than simple guides. So, normally, the younger you are, the less you're going to understand your faith and religion and the World in general. And you have to understand you can't cherry-pick your sins based on how you want to live or what society is currently accepting as normal. Don't kid yourself. That's not being a member of our Church.

If you're well grounded in the Catholic faith and religion, and brought up to know right or wrong in a responsible manner, you'll know what's a sin and what's not a sin. The Church will give you guidance. The Church is a necessary and wonderful institution, and it's promoting a new list of sins is a welcome and needed guidance. It is teaching us, but it's not perfect. The Pope is not promulgating these lists infallibly. When the Pope promulgates anything in faith and morals in the prescribed manner, I'll accept such pronouncements word for word and adjust my own understanding of my faith and religion. But, in the meantime, it's up to me to determine on a daily basis what is sinful and what is not in my life, based on my education and these [and other] Catholic published guidance. It's certainly a tricky trail to follow, but life is like that. Very little around us is 'easy pickins.'

There is nothing inherently wrong with capitalism and the accumulation of wealth, per se. There may be, however, sinful problems in how you use capitalism to amass that wealth. There may also be sinful problems in how you later use that wealth and the concomitant power---personal, social, political, professional. Part of the problem here is the constant lack of understanding of what capitalism is and how it works; how the psyche of mankind operates; and how it drives a person to work harder than the next person and enjoy the greater fruits of labor. And, if you don't understand Economics, you shouldn't be bashing its sub-concepts willy-nilly.

What's excess wealth? Can it be defined? Reasonable people will disagree. Personally, I think an ostentatious life is off the mark and can be considered excess. But still, wealthy people do provide the capital to keep our Country running. Poor people don't. I've got nothing against poor people---I'm one myself---but our economy and our lives need continuous capital, whether it be from the financial markets, local businesses, or Joe in the gated community. And as long as you're throwing percentages around, please remember that the upper 10% of our society [the wealthy] pay 90% of the taxes. In other words, without them, our economy and Country would collapse, and we'd all be out on our ears in the middle of the nowhere. That would bring everyone down to [and past] my current level---but is it right? Is it moral?

Furthermore, I don't accept junk science and it's creation of new human wrongs. You have to be careful about these ideologically-driven crusades. While they may sound good at first, they're usually based on flawed or non-existent science with self-serving purposes. [And their 'gurus' are rarely in the lower 90% of our income stream, either.] There are usually many of these 'movements' floating around us on a regular basis. I've always tried to be responsible in my life, and I'm not going to permit pseudo-science or self-serving ideology-driven programs to make me uncomfortable in knowing what's natural in our World and what's not.

None of us knows all the answers, but a thorough understanding of what we face in life, how we deal with it, and what we believe in---or need to believe in---as Catholics, is absolutely necessary to determine the when or how of sinful behavior. The Church guides us, but it behooves us to be able to better recognize sin when we meet it.

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