From a reader…
Why is it always an airplane? When Pope Francis went back to Rome from Greece he talked about the resignation of the Archbishop in Paris because of a past sexual scandal. One thing the Pope said is that sexual sins are not really that serious. What’s up with THAT?!?
What the CNA transcript says is:
Because it was his failure, a fault against the sixth commandment — but not total — of small caresses and massages that he gave to the secretary, so stands the accusation. This is sin, but it is not of the most serious sins, because the sins of the flesh are not the most serious. The gravest sins are those that are more angelic: pride, hatred. These are graver.
Then he sort of went to the zoo about gossip and why he accepted the resignation, a ramble filled with contradictions. Let’s leave it at that. And nevermind the Press Office keystone cops routine of doctoring the transcript, apparently not remembering that people, you know, record these things.
“What’s up with THAT?!?”, is the question.
He didn’t say that they weren’t serious. However, he didn’t say enough. He would have done better not to say anything. But…
This is hard enough to explain on a blog or in a classroom for more mature students or adults, or perhaps bravely in the pulpit of a parish, but the higher you go, the greater the risk there is of a hard fall.
In essence what Francis said was right: sins of the flesh are not as grave as the darker sins of the mind and heart. This is because the the mind and heart are of a higher order than the appetites of the flesh. This is why the word “angelic” is in that unfortunate presser response: angels don’t have bodies which means they have no bodily appetites or impulses. Angels know things in the essence of the thing itself. They are pure spirit. When angels sin, it is grave indeed, and their sins have truly and completely to do with defiance of God and pride, leading to malice.
You have to be very careful in explaining this, however, lest you leave the impression that, just because sins of pride and malice are graver sins, that therefore sins of the flesh… aren’t sins.
Do you know where you wind up if you have committed those graver mortal sins of pride and malice? Hell.
Do you know where you wind up if you have committed those lesser mortal sins of appetites and the flesh? Hell.
The key is that they are both mortal sins. That must be emphasized if this comes up. Of course, if we are going to go into a deeper discussion of objective sin and subjective guilt, that complicates things a great deal. But, for this, let’s stick with common sense and the basics.
All of this is why is it a really bad idea to have airplane pressers in the first place. Let’s call it non-parachute skydiving.
Although,…. some might suggest that terminal velocity was attained some time ago. I’m not so sure. Consider the acceleration due to gravity (contact with the mass media) and the density of the fluid (the difficulty of the topic) and the drag coefficient (the Magisterium, Tradition, sound moral theology, etc.) offset by the mass of the falling object and it’s area (one who sits in the chair of Peter).
There’s not a lot of chance for buoyancy.
Literally, the higher up and the bigger you are the harder you fall.
Couple that with Law VIII of the House of God.
Sometimes people who criticize the Church, or libs in the Church who criticize faithful Catholics, say that there’s is too much emphasis on sexual sins.
The reason that there is so much attention given to these sins is because a) they are mortal sins (they kill the life of grace in the soul) and b) they are easily committed and committed often by many and c) while they are, technically, not as bad as, say, sins of pride or malice, they are nevertheless bad enough to get you damned for eternity and d) commission of lesser sins over time numbs one into commission of graver sins.
To be clear, certain passions and appetites are very dangerous for the human being. In themselves, sins of the flesh are less than sins of the spirit. However, they are powerful in drawing us on. They can easily lead us to something that will be our damnation. Those things which bring intense physical pleasures can be very dangerous if we lock on to them and pursue them for wrong reasons, wrong ways, wrong measure, etc.
Put a 12 gauge shotgun with a 1 oz slug to your chest directly over your heart. Pull the trigger. Orrrr….. this won’t be quite as bad… put a .357 magnum to your chest directly over your heart and pull the trigger. See? Not as bad! Therefore, it’s okay to shoot yourself in the chest with a .357 magnum.
And here is the pastoral concern for the parent, teacher, priest, bishop, pope: we have an obligation to help people avoid Hell and gain Heaven. That means addressing problems forthrightly but also prudently. You do NOT tell people that sins of the flesh and appetites are less bad than “angelic” sins without also underscoring that they are still deadly.
The common sins of our era are pervasive and the world the flesh and the Devil are trying to convince us that they are no sins at all. In fact, I think a huge number of people today are in serious spiritual peril and they have no clue at all. This is because the Church’s teachers have not been doing their job.
It is my view that these people, whose task it is to teach clearly – and who for whatever reason don’t – are at risk of Hell themselves. They are allowing their flock to be devoured.
Perhaps they don’t believe. Perhaps they are mired in sins. Perhaps they think they are being “pastoral” by never saying anything hard. I don’t know.
I know that I don’t want to be their shoes.
I’ve used this locus from Augustine’s preaching before. Repetita iuvant.
St. Augustine was a great pastor of souls who truly loved his flock. He was bishop in very difficult times. He loved his people enough to rough up his congregations when they went wrong because he wanted them to get to Heaven. Whether they listened or not, he didn’t want to lose Heaven for himself by neglecting to preach the hard stuff. It was his vocation to preach whatever it took to get them to Heaven.
Augustine, as bishop for themi and as Christian with them said, “Nolo salvus esse sine vobis… I don’t want to be saved without you.”
He would do what it took to help them to heaven, even if that meant making them temporarily angry with him. He put them before himself.
Buried within the message, however, is a stern reminder. If you don’t correct your errant ways, there’s the door over there. Beyond that door is Hell. We’d rather you stay, but if you want, don’t let the door hit you in the backside on the way down and don’t ask me to go with you.