One of the most striking things about the bishops’ comments on the McCarrick affair is how few of them have felt it necessary to use the little word “sin”. They talk about “failures” and “dropping the ball” or “lack of personal responsibility”
I get it. These are the same guys who, for decades now, have been standing up at the beginning of Mass and saying junk like, “Now I know all of us have done a few things this week that perhaps we wish we hadn’t done and maybe you’ve done some things you’re ashamed of. Let’s think about those for a moment and tell God we’d like to do better.”
This white washing of sin is one of the reasons the priests themselves let down their guard and started playing around. The sense of sin was lost in the revolution of 1968. It was seen as a hang up. The sex obsessed psychologists said everybody just need to let it all hang out and “if you can’t be with the one you love baby love the one you’re with.”
What is sin and why is it sin? Its not sin because a big black book says so. Its not sin because some men in red robes in Rome said so. Its sin because it is disordered love, and its un natural and it therefore hurts people.
Sin is bad because it hurts people. It makes people unhappy. It brings more suffering. Sin is bad because it not only hurts people, but it hurts innocent people the most. It is as simple as that.
Think it through with the seven deadly sins.
Why do we say the seven deadly sins are deadly? Because they are.
All vice ends in violence. Think about it in terms of the seven deadly sins. In one way or another, if the vice is continued it ends in violence, and if in violence then in death.
Take lust, for example. Oh, it seems so harmless–a little fun in the bedroom. A bit of slap and tickle, a bit of a giggle and gasp. Where would the violence be in lust? the #MeToo phenomenon is showing that lust hurts lots of people. The child abuse scandals show that many of those people are innocent children. The suicides and ruined lives prove that un bridled lust hurts people.
Take it further: Look into the Marquis de Sade and see where lust takes you. Into the whipping chamber, the torture and rape and the sick scenes of sado masochism. Ordinary sex grows dull so the need for excitement and thrill and physical sensation demands. See what happens when the sex object is no longer wanted and the girl or the boy are abandoned, or worse–murdered so they won’t tell what happened and then thrown in a ditch, and do not forget the most common violent result of lust: Abortion–the intentional killing of an innocent and vulnerable child.
Pride? Pride is only pride because one person is better than another. Pride does not just make us want to win. It makes us want to beat the other guy. Pride puts us not just up, but over–over others who are inferior to us. There is no pride unless there is someone to show off to, and the only ones to show off to are those we deem our inferiors, and it only takes a small push for the pride to turn into violence. Just allow the person on top to have his superior position threatened and he will turn and snarl like a cornered animal–even if he does so with a sweet superior smile and a stab in the back–so that he can continue to think himself virtuous.
Envy leads to violence. Easy to see. When I am envious of another I will murder their reputation, tear them down so they cannot be greater than me, destroy them for being superior, and does it end in real, physical violence? Hell hath no fury like a woman–or man–scorned. Let someone get what was ours or what we think is ours and we may plot to destroy them.
Wrath is violence suppressed. Take off the lid and the wrathful will murder.
Greed is economic violence and a kind of theft. The greedy take from the poor and think nothing of it–furthermore they often think themselves clever for doing so (especially if they can connive to change the law and make their theft legal) It only takes a small step for the greedy to turn violent. Allow the greedy to think that their wealth and status is threatened and they will kill to defend it. Greed drives people in power and leads them to take what belongs to their neighbor and that leads to war.
Is the glutton violent? What, a fat and jovial over eater violent? He is violent towards himself. His god is his stomach and should he be deprived of his addiction he will become first sullen, then violent, and do not forget that gluttony is the sin of all addictions. The fiercer addictions to drink and drugs spawn violence every day.
Even the slothful is violent, for he is violent against life itself. The slothful kills joy; kills creativity; sloth is a kind of despair which kills the fullness of life. Kills life. Kills.
When we look at the American Catholic Church it is all too easy at this point to blame the cardinals and archbishops. With their limousine lifestyles, their secret boyfriends and their high and mighty celebrity status they seem to personify all seven of the deadly sins.
But let’s not be too quick to point the finger. Which of us, in our own way, are innocent of these same faults? Do we not fall into the trap of the seven deadly sins ourselves?
Repentance is needed, but not just from the men in the pulpit. Let’s not fall into another trap of using them as our scapegoats, and in our indignation not forget our mea culpas.