Sin

One may sin by greed and the desire for power, but one may also sin in these matters through fear, indecision, and cowardice!

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #47.

In like manner, the other pains and hardships of life will have no end or cessation on earth; for the consequences of sin are bitter and hard to bear, and they must accompany man so long as life lasts. To suffer and to endure, therefore, is the lot of humanity; let them strive as they may, no strength and no artifice will ever succeed in banishing from human life the ills and troubles which beset it. If any there are who pretend differently – who hold out to a hard-pressed people the boon of freedom from pain and trouble, an undisturbed repose, and constant enjoyment – they delude the people and impose upon them, and their lying promises will only one day bring forth evils worse than the present. Nothing is more useful than to look upon the world as it really is, and at the same time to seek elsewhere, as We have said, for the solace to its troubles.

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #18.


 

Let the working man be urged and led to the worship of God, to the earnest practice of religion, and, among other things, to the keeping holy of Sundays and holy days. Let him learn to reverence and love holy Church, the common Mother of us all; and hence to obey the precepts of the Church, and to frequent the sacraments, since they are the means ordained by God for obtaining forgiveness of sin and fox leading a holy life.

Rerum Novarum (“On the Condition of Labor and the Working Classes”), Pope Leo XIII, 1891, #57.


 

The root and font of this defection in economic and social life from the Christian law, and of the consequent apostasy of great numbers of workers from the Catholic faith, are the disordered passions of the soul, the sad result of original sin which has so destroyed the wonderful harmony of man’s faculties that, easily led astray by his evil desires, he is strongly incited to prefer the passing goods of this world to the lasting goods of Heaven. Hence arises that unquenchable thirst for riches and temporal goods, which has at all times impelled men to break God’s laws and trample upon the rights of their neighbors, but which, on account of the present system of economic life, is laying far more numerous snares for human frailty.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931, #132.


 

The sordid love of wealth, which is the shame and great sin of our age, will be opposed in actual fact by the gentle yet effective law of Christian moderation which commands man to seek first the Kingdom of God and His justice, with the assurance that, by virtue of God’s kindness and unfailing promise, temporal goods also, in so far as he has need of them, shall be given him besides.

Quadragesimo Anno (“After Forty Years”), Pope Pius XI, 1931, #136.


 

There is, alas, a spirit of hedonism abroad today which beguiles men into thinking that life is nothing more than the quest for pleasure and the satisfaction of human passions. This attitude is disastrous. Its evil effects on soul and body are undeniable. Even on the natural level temperance and simplicity of life are the dictates of sound policy. On the supernatural level, the Gospels and the whole ascetic tradition of the Church require a sense of mortification and penance which assures the rule of the spirit over the flesh, and offers an efficacious means of expiating the punishment due to sin, from which no one, except Jesus Christ and His Immaculate Mother, is exempt.

Mater et Magistra (“Mother and Teacher”), Pope John XXII, 1961, #235.


 

The world which the council has in mind is the world of women and men, the entire human family seen in its total environment. It is the world as the theatre of human history, bearing the marks of its travail, its triumphs and failures. It is the world which Christians believe has been created and is sustained by the love of its maker, has fallen into the slavery of sin but has been freed by Christ, who was crucified and rose again in order to break the stranglehold of the evil one, so that it might be fashioned anew according to God’s design and brought to its fulfillment.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #2.


 

As created beings, people are subject to many limitations, but they feel unlimited in their desires and their sense of being destined for a higher life. They feel the pull of many attractions and are compelled to choose between them and reject some among them. Worse still, feeble and sinful as they are, they often do the very thing they hate and do not do what they want. And so they feel themselves divided, and the result is a host of discords in social life. Many, it is true, fail to see the dramatic nature of this state of affairs in all its clarity for their vision is in fact blurred by materialism, or they are prevented from even thinking about it by the wretchedness of their plight.

Gaudium et Spes (“The Church in the Modern World”), Vatican II, 1965, #10.


 

The hopes and forces which are moving the world in its very foundations are not foreign to the dynamism of the Gospel, which through the power of the Holy Spirit frees people from personal sin and from its consequences in social life.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, #5.


 

But education demands a renewal of heart, a renewal based on the recognition of sin in its individual and social manifestations. It will also inculcate a truly and entirely human way of life in justice, love and simplicity. It will likewise awaken a critical sense, which will lead us to reflect on the society in which we live and on its values; it will make men ready to renounce these values when they cease to promote justice in all men. In the developing countries, the principal aim of this education of justice consists in an attempt to awaken consciences to knowledge of the concrete situation and in a call to secure a total improvement; by these means the transformation of the world has already begun.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, #51.


 

The liturgy, which we preside over and which is the heart of the Church’s life, can greatly serve education for justice. For it is a thanksgiving to the Father in Christ, which through its communitarian form places before our eyes the bonds of our brotherhood and again and again reminds us of the Church’s mission. The liturgy of the word, catechesis and the celebration of the sacraments have the power to help us to discover the teaching of the prophets, the Lord and the Apostles on the subject of justice. The preparation for baptism is the beginning of the formation of the Christian conscience. The practice of penance should emphasize the social dimension of sin and of the sacrament. Finally, the Eucharist forms the community and places it at the service of people.

Justicia in Mundo (“Justice in the World”), World Synod of Catholic Bishops, 1971, #58.


 

Racism is a sin; a sin that divides the human family, blots out the image of God among specific members of that family, and violates the fundamental human dignity of those called to be children of the same Father. Racism is the sin that says some human beings are inherently superior and others essentially inferior because of races. It is the sin that makes racial characteristics the determining factor for the exercise of human rights. It mocks the words of Jesus: “Treat others the way you would have them treat you.” (4) Indeed, racism is more than a disregard for the words of Jesus; it is a denial of the truth of the dignity of each human being revealed by the mystery of the Incarnation.

Brothers and Sisters to Us, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1979.


 

Racism is not merely one sin among many; it is a radical evil that divides the human family and denies the new creation of a redeemed world. To struggle against it demands an equally radical transformation, in our own minds and hearts as well as in the structure of our society.

Brothers and Sisters to Us, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1979.


 

The Church cannot redeem the world from the deadening effects of sin and injustice unless it is working to remove sin and injustice in its own life and institutions. All of us must help the Church to practice in its own life what it preaches to others about economic justice and cooperation.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #24.


 

Sin simultaneously alienates human beings from God and shatters the solidarity of the human community. Yet this reign of sin is not the final word. The primeval history is followed by the call of Abraham, a man of faith, who was to be the bearer of the promise to many nations (Gn 12:1-4). Throughout the Bible we find this struggle between sin and repentance. God’s judgment on evil is followed by God’s seeking out a sinful people.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #33.


 

This new creation in Christ proclaims that God’s creative love is constantly at work, offers sinners forgiveness, and reconciles a broken world. Our action on behalf of justice in our world proceeds from the conviction that, despite the power of injustice and violence, life has been fundamentally changed by the entry of the Word made flesh into human history.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #54.


 

Within history, knowledge of how to achieve the goal of social unity is limited. Human sin continues to wound the lives of both individuals and larger social bodies and places obstacles in the path toward greater social solidarity. If efforts to protect human dignity are to be effective, they must take these limits on knowledge and love into account. Nevertheless, sober realism should not be confused with resigned or cynical pessimism. It is a challenge to develop a courageous hope that can sustain efforts that will sometimes be arduous and protracted.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #67.


 

Many people within the less developed countries are excluded from sharing in the meager resources available in their homelands by unjust elites and unjust governments. These patterns of exclusion are created by free human beings. In this sense they can be called forms of social sin [34]. Acquiescence in them or the failure to correct them when it is possible to do so is a sinful dereliction of Christian duty.

Economic Justice for All, U.S. Catholic Bishops, 1986, #77.


 

A world divided into blocs, in which instead of solidarity imperialism and exploitation hold sway, can only be a world structured in sin. Those structures of sin are rooted in sins committed by individual persons, who introduced these structures and reinforced them again and again. One can blame selfishness, shortsightedness, mistaken political decisions, and imprudent economic decisions; at the root of the evils that afflict the world there is — in one way or another — sin.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #36.


 

Among the actions and attitudes opposed to God’s will two are very typical: greed and the thirst for power. Not only individuals sin in that way; so do nations and world-blocs. That is why we spoke of “structures of sin,”

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #37.


 

Peoples and individuals aspire to be free, a noble and legitimate desire. Human beings are totally free only when they are completely themselves in the fullness of their rights and duties. The main obstacle to that freedom is sin and the structures produced by sin.

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #46.


 

One may sin by greed and the desire for power, but one may also sin in these matters through fear, indecision, and cowardice!

Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concern”), Pope John Paul II, 1987, #47.


 

Moreover. humankind. created for freedom, bears within itself the wound of original sin which constantly draws persons toward evil and puts them in need of redemption. Not only is this doctrine an integral part of Christian revelation; it also has great hermeneutical value insofar as it helps one to understand human reality. The human person tends towards good, but is also capable of evil. One can transcend one s immediate interest and still remain bound to it. The social order will be all the more stable, the more it takes this fact into account and does not place in opposition personal interest and the interests of society as a whole, but rather seeks ways to bring them into fruitful harmony.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #25.


 

The human person receives from God its essential dignity and with it the capacity to transcend every social order so as to move towards truth and goodness. But one is also conditioned by the social structure in which one lives, by the education one has received and by the environment. These elements can either help or hinder a person’s living in accordance with the truth. The decisions which create a human environment can give rise to specific structures of sin which impede the full realization of those who are in any way oppressed by them. To destroy such structures and replace them with more authentic forms of living in community is a task which demands courage and patience.

Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1991, #38.


 

Death came into the world as a result of the devil’s envy (cf. Gen 3:1, 4-5) and the sin of our first parents (cf. Gen 2:17, 3:17-19).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #7.


 

In fact, while the climate of widespread moral uncertainty can in some way be explained by the multiplicity and gravity of today’s social problems, and these can sometimes mitigate the subjective responsibility of individuals, it is no less true that we are confronted by an even larger reality, which can be described as a veritable structure of sin. This reality is characterized by the emergence of a culture which denies solidarity and in many cases takes the form of a veritable “culture of death”.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #12.


 

To claim the right to abortion, infanticide and euthanasia, and to recognize that right in law, means to attribute to human freedom a perverse and evil significance: that of an absolute power over others and against others. This is the death of true freedom: “Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin” (Jn 8:34).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #20.


 

It is really only before the Lord that man can admit his sin and recognize its full seriousness. Such was the experience of David who, after “having committed evil in the sight of the Lord”, and being rebuked by the Prophet Nathan, exclaimed: “My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done” (Ps 51:5-6).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #21.


 

It is at the heart of the moral conscience that the eclipse of the sense of God and of man, with all its various and deadly consequences for life, is taking place. It is a question, above all, of the individual conscience, as it stands before God in its singleness and uniqueness.[18] But it is also a question, in a certain sense, of the “moral conscience” of society: in a way it too is responsible, not only because it tolerates or fosters behavior contrary to life, but also because it encourages the “culture of death”, creating and consolidating actual “structures of sin” which go against life.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #24.


 

It is from the blood of Christ that all draw the strength to commit themselves to promoting life. It is precisely this blood that is the most powerful source of hope, indeed it is the foundation of the absolute certitude that in God’s plan life will be victorious. “And death shall be no more”, exclaims the powerful voice which comes from the throne of God in the Heavenly Jerusalem (Rev 21:4). And Saint Paul assures us that the present victory over sin is a sign and anticipation of the definitive victory over death, when there “shall come to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’. ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”‘ (1 Cor 15:54-55).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #25.


 

The words and deeds of Jesus and those of his Church are not meant only for those who are sick or suffering or in some way neglected by society. On a deeper level they affect the very meaning of every person’s life in its moral and spiritual dimensions. Only those who recognize that their life is marked by the evil of sin can discover in an encounter with Jesus the Savior the truth and the authenticity of their own existence. Jesus himself says as much: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Lk 5:31-32).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #32.


 

Through sin, man rebels against his Creator and ends up by worshiping creatures: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom 1:25). As a result man not only deforms the image of God in his own person, but is tempted to offences against it in others as well, replacing relationships of communion by attitudes of distrust, indifference, hostility and even murderous hatred. When God is not acknowledged as God, the profound meaning of man is betrayed and communion between people is compromised.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #36.


 

This is the splendid message about the value of life which comes to us from the figure of the Servant of
the Lord: “When he makes himself an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring, he shall prolong his life … he shall see the fruit of the travail of his soul and be satisfied” (Is 53:10, 11).

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #49.


 

From the beginning, the living Tradition of the Church–as shown by the Didache, the most ancient non-biblical Christian writing–categorically repeated the commandment “You shall not kill”: “There are two ways, a way of life and a way of death; there is a great difference between them… In accordance with the precept of the teaching: you shall not kill… you shall not put a child to death by abortion nor kill it once it is born … The way of death is this: … they show no compassion for the poor, they do not suffer with the suffering, they do not acknowledge their Creator, they kill their children and by abortion cause God’s creatures to perish; they drive away the needy, oppress the suffering, they are advocates of the rich and unjust judges of the poor; they are filled with every sin. May you be able to stay ever apart, O children, from all these sins!”.

Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life,” Donders translation), Pope John Paul II, 1995, #54.


 

If human beings with their intelligence fail to recognize God as Creator of all, it is not because they lack the means to do so, but because their free will and their sinfulness place an impediment in the way.

Fides et Ration (“Faith and Reason”), Pope John Paul II, 1998, #19.


 

The blindness of pride deceived our first parents into thinking themselves sovereign and autonomous, and into thinking that they could ignore the knowledge which comes from God. All men and women were caught up in this primal disobedience, which so wounded reason that from then on its path to full truth would be strewn with obstacles. From that time onwards the human capacity to know the truth was impaired by an aversion to the One who is the source and origin of truth. It is again the Apostle who reveals just how far human thinking, because of sin, became “empty”, and human reasoning became distorted and inclined to falsehood (cf. Rom 1:21-22). The eyes of the mind were no longer able to see clearly: reason became more and more a prisoner to itself. The coming of Christ was the saving event which redeemed reason from its weakness, setting it free from the shackles in which it had imprisoned itself.

Fides et Ration (“Faith and Reason”), Pope John Paul II, 1998, #23.


 

Illumined by faith, reason is set free from the fragility and limitations deriving from the disobedience of sin and finds the strength required to rise to the knowledge of the Triune God. Although he made much of the supernatural character of faith, the Angelic Doctor did not overlook the importance of its reasonableness; indeed he was able to plumb the depths and explain the meaning of this reasonableness. Faith is in a sense an “exercise of thought”; and human reason is neither annulled nor debased in assenting to the contents of faith, which are in any case attained by way of free and informed choice.

Fides et Ration (“Faith and Reason”), Pope John Paul II, 1998, #43.


 

Revelation clearly proposes certain truths which might never have been discovered by reason unaided, although they are not of themselves inaccessible to reason. Among these truths is the notion of a free and personal God who is the Creator of the world, a truth which has been so crucial for the development of philosophical thinking, especially the philosophy of being. There is also the reality of sin, as it appears in the light of faith, which helps to shape an adequate philosophical formulation of the problem of evil.

Fides et Ration (“Faith and Reason”), Pope John Paul II, 1998, #76.


 

Every day Christians pray for justice and mercy in the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Every day Christians recognize both that we are guilty of sin and that we are forgiven: “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This common prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, recognizes our failures and offenses, and acknowledges our dependence on God’s love and mercy.

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2000.


 

Just as God never abandons us, so too we must be in covenant with one another. We are all sinners, and our response to sin and failure should not be abandonment and despair, but rather justice, contrition, reparation, and return or reintegration of all into the community.

Responsibility, Rehabilitation, and Restoration, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), 2000.


 

When, on the banks of the Jordan, John the Baptist saw Jesus coming towards him, he cried out: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper.” Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant. The Eucharist contains this radical newness, which is offered to us again at every celebration.

Sacramentum Caritatis (“Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2007, #9.


 

We know that the faithful are surrounded by a culture that tends to eliminate the sense of sin (55) and to promote a superficial approach that overlooks the need to be in a state of grace in order to approach sacramental communion worthily. (56) The loss of a consciousness of sin always entails a certain superficiality in the understanding of God’s love. Bringing out the elements within the rite of Mass that express consciousness of personal sin and, at the same time, of God’s mercy, can prove most helpful to the faithful.(57) Furthermore, the relationship between the Eucharist and the sacrament of Reconciliation reminds us that sin is never a purely individual affair; it always damages the ecclesial communion that we have entered through Baptism. For this reason, Reconciliation, as the Fathers of the Church would say, is laboriosus quidam baptismus; (58) they thus emphasized that the outcome of the process of conversion is also the restoration of full ecclesial communion, expressed in a return to the Eucharist.

Sacramentum Caritatis (“Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2007, #20.


 

Finally, a balanced and sound practice of gaining indulgences, whether for oneself or for the dead, can be helpful for a renewed appreciation of the relationship between the Eucharist and Reconciliation. By this means the faithful obtain “remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven.” (64) The use of indulgences helps us to understand that by our efforts alone we would be incapable of making reparation for the wrong we have done, and that the sins of each individual harm the whole community. Furthermore, the practice of indulgences, which involves not only the doctrine of Christ’s infinite merits, but also that of the communion of the saints, reminds us “how closely we are united to each other in Christ … and how the supernatural life of each can help others.”

Sacramentum Caritatis (“Apostolic Exhortation on the Eucharist”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2007, #21.


 

Sometimes modern man is wrongly convinced that he is the sole author of himself, his life and society. This is a presumption that follows from being selfishly closed in upon himself, and it is a consequence — to express it in faith terms — of original sin. The Church’s wisdom has always pointed to the presence of original sin in social conditions and in the structure of society: “Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals.” In the list of areas where the pernicious effects of sin are evident, the economy has been included for some time now.

Caritas in Veritate (“In Charity and Truth”), Pope Benedict XVI, 2009,#34.


 

When preaching is faithful to the Gospel, the centrality of certain truths is evident and it becomes clear that Christian morality is not a form of stoicism, or self-denial, or merely a practical philosophy or a catalogue of sins and faults. Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013, #39.


 

The joy of the Gospel is such that it cannot be taken away from us by anyone or anything (cf. Jn 16:22). The evils of our world – and those of the Church – must not be excuses for diminishing our commitment and our fervour. Let us look upon them as challenges which can help us to grow. With the eyes of faith, we can see the light which the Holy Spirit always radiates in the midst of darkness, never forgetting that “where sin increased, grace has abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds.

Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), Pope Francis, 2013, #84.


 

Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #8.


 

[H]uman life is grounded in three fundamental and closely intertwined relationships: with God, with our neighbour and with the earth itself. According to the Bible, these three vital relationships have been broken, both outwardly and within us. This rupture is sin. The harmony between the Creator, humanity and creation as a whole…is a far cry from our situation today, where sin is manifest in all its destructive power in wars, the various forms of violence and abuse, the abandonment of the most vulnerable, and attacks on nature.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #66.


 

In calling to mind the figure of Saint Francis of Assisi, we come to realize that a healthy relationship with creation is one dimension of overall personal conversion, which entails the recognition of our errors, sins, faults and failures, and leads to heartfelt repentance and desire to change.

Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”), Pope Francis, 2015 #218.

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