My Outline for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Changing Lives Together
Spiritual Day of Reflection Talk on the Theme of Reconciliation & Penance
“Reconciliation & Penance: The Moral Life”
Dr. Mark S. Latkovic
April 5, 2014
A Summary Outline of Pope John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliation & Penance, 1984, Nos. 14-18
PART TWO: THE LOVE THAT IS GREATER THAN SIN CHAPTER ONE: THE MYSTERY OF SIN (nos. 14-18)
No. 14: Disobedience to God
- Recognition that sin transcends our moral freedom & involves dark cosmic forces
- Comparison between the Gn. stories of the Tower of Babel [Gn 11:1-9] & the Fall [Gn 3:1-24]: both involve disobedience to God & his commandments or the attempt to exclude him
No. 15: Division between Brothers
- Rupture w/ God leads to a division between brothers
- There are now internal conflicts w/in the person, conflicts between men & women, & conflicts between men in general, & even w/ creation
- “From one point of view, every sin is personal; from another point of view, every sin is social insofar as and because it also has social repercussions.”
No. 16: Personal Sin and Social Sin
- Sin is always a personal act; it first affects the sinner himself before harming another
- Social sin has various meanings: e.g., a violation of the love of neighbor, against the rights of the person, & against the common good
- “[C]ases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins…”
No. 17: Mortal and Venial
- Both the OT & the NT make the distinction between venial & mortal sin
- “St. John speaks of a sin which leads to [spiritual] death (pros thanaton), as opposed to a sin which does not lead to [spiritual] death (me pros thanaton)”; Jn. emphasizes sin as rejection of God.
- But 1 Jn also emphasizes this fact: “The Christian possesses a power that preserves him from falling into sin; God protects him, and ‘the evil one does not touch him.’”
- St. Thomas Aquinas’ thought is central to the development of the doctrine of mortal & venial sin: Sin is a disorder perpetrated by the human being against our spiritual life-principle – i.e., God.
- A venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship w/ God, charity, & therefore eternal happiness, whereas just such a deprivation is precisely the consequence of mortal sin.
- Grave sin=mortal sin; if left unrepented, it merits damnation/Hell.
- What are the “conditions” for committing a mortal sin?: “[M]ortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent…some sins are intrinsically grave and mortal by reason of their matter. That is, there exist acts which, per se and in themselves, independently of circumstances, are always seriously wrong [=intrinsically evil acts] by reason of their object [=what the person chooses to do]. These acts, if carried out with sufficient awareness and freedom, are always gravely sinful.”
- Mortal sin can be committed directly & formally in acts of idolatry, apostasy, blasphemy, & atheism or by disobeying God’s commandments involving grave matter.
- “T]he essential and decisive distinction is between sin which destroys charity and sin which does not kill the supernatural life…”
- The “fundamental option” can be radically altered by individual acts that involve grave matter.
No. 18: The Loss of the Sense of Sin
- The sense of sin= “a fine sensitivity and an acute perception of the seeds of death contained in sin, as well as a sensitivity and an acuteness of perception for identifying them in the thousand guises under which sin shows itself.”
- “This sense is rooted in man’s moral conscience and is as it were its thermometer. It is linked to the sense of God… Hence, just as it is impossible to eradicate completely the sense of God or to silence the conscience completely, so the sense of sin is never completely eliminated.”
- “Nevertheless, it happens not infrequently in history, for more or less lengthy periods and under the influence of many different factors, that the moral conscience of many people becomes seriously clouded. “
- “Have we the right idea of conscience?… Is it not true that modern man is threatened by an eclipse of conscience? By a deformation of conscience? By a numbness or ‘deadening’ of conscience. Too many signs indicate that such an eclipse exists in our time… It is inevitable therefore that in this situation there is an obscuring also of the sense of sin, which is closely connected with the moral conscience… When the conscience is weakened the sense of God is also obscured, and as a result, with the loss of this decisive inner point of reference, the sense of sin is lost…”
- The loss of the sense of sin is attributed to the following: secularism, false interpretations of the human sciences, moral relativism, & false understandings of sin as the violation of a mere rule or taboo
- “The loss of the sense of sin is thus a form or consequence of the denial of God: not only in the form of atheism but also in the form of secularism. If sin is the breaking off of one’s filial relationship to God in order to situate one’s life outside of obedience to him, then to sin is not merely to deny God. To sin is also to live as if he did not exist, to eliminate him from one’s daily life.”
- “Even in the field of 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…”
- “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.”
My Concluding Remarks
Q & A