Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Devil, Temptation and Sin

Tuesday, February 28, AD 2017



I answer that, The temptation which comes from the enemy takes the form of a suggestion, as Gregory says (Hom. xvi in Evang.). Now a suggestion cannot be made to everybody in the same way; it must arise from those things towards which each one has an inclination. Consequently the devil does not straight away tempt the spiritual man to grave sins, but he begins with lighter sins, so as gradually to lead him to those of greater magnitude. Wherefore Gregory (Moral. xxxi), expounding Job 39:25, “He smelleth the battle afar off, the encouraging of the captains and the shouting of the army,” says: “The captains are fittingly described as encouraging, and the army as shouting. Because vices begin by insinuating themselves into the mind under some specious pretext: then they come on the mind in such numbers as to drag it into all sorts of folly, deafening it with their bestial clamor.”

Thus, too, did the devil set about the temptation of the first man. For at first he enticed his mind to consent to the eating of the forbidden fruit, saying (Genesis 3:1): “Why hath God commanded you that you should not eat of every tree of paradise?” Secondly [he tempted him] to vainglory by saying: “Your eyes shall be opened.” Thirdly, he led the temptation to the extreme height of pride, saying: “You shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” This same order did he observe in tempting Christ. For at first he tempted Him to that which men desire, however spiritual they may be–namely, the support of the corporeal nature by food. Secondly, he advanced to that matter in which spiritual men are sometimes found wanting, inasmuch as they do certain things for show, which pertains to vainglory. Thirdly, he led the temptation on to that in which no spiritual men, but only carnal men, have a part–namely, to desire worldly riches and fame, to the extent of holding God in contempt. And so in the first two temptations he said: “If Thou be the Son of God”; but not in the third, which is inapplicable to spiritual men, who are sons of God by adoption, whereas it does apply to the two preceding temptations.

And Christ resisted these temptations by quoting the authority of the Law, not by enforcing His power, “so as to give more honor to His human nature and a greater punishment to His adversary, since the foe of the human race was vanquished, not as by God, but as by man”; as Pope Leo says (Serm. 1, De Quadrag. 3).

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8 Responses to Saint Thomas Aquinas on the Devil, Temptation and Sin

  • The three temptations are vital in my faith struggles.

    Man does not live by bread alone, but by all that proceeds from the mouth of God. The spiritual is all-important. The Second Sorrowful Mystery -the Scourging at the Pillar – desire a sprit of mortification. Think Lent. Think repentance, Confession, penance, amendment of life and, through Jesus, good works to the greater Glory of God.

    You should not put God to the test. Faith alone. Mysteries: we should need no physical or rational evidence or even to have answered our prayers. God’s will be done. Offer it up. The Fifth Sorrowful mystery – The Crucifixion – pray for the grace of final perseverance. think of the love which filled Jesus’ heart in the three hours of agony on the holy Cross; and ask Him to be with you at the hour of death.

    We should worship God alone. We cannot love/serve/worship both God and Mammon. Meditate on this past Sundays. Gospel. The Fourth Joyful Mystery – The Presentation in the Temple – desire a spirit of sacrifice. think of Marys’ obedience to the Law of God.

    Finally and off topic, the enemy’s (Satan’s) most devastating defeat over Man was when he falsely (like the NY Times – Satan is all lies all the time) convinced so many poor, damned souls that he does not exist.

  • This is similar to the threefold division of sin that the Church uses in reference to “the world, the flesh, and the devil”. The flesh: in both cases, food. The world: what this passage calls “vainglory”. And the devil: pride.

    I’ve heard this threefold breakdown of sin before, but nearly every place I’ve looked for it, I end up finding the seven deadly sins. I think that Augustine used the breakdown I’m talking about. Can anyone give me a lead on this? I find it really useful and I’d like to know more about it.

  • I find Jesus’ words: “You shall love, the Lord, your God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole strength.” most helpful.

  • Our neo-Catholic Church of ‘Social Justice’ is the work of the devil by having us believe that merely proclaiming the right Democrat attitudes we can achieve eternal life without the necessity of obeying the will of God.

  • Thus, too, did the devil set about the temptation of the first man. What was the Temptation of the man? As I have read Satan’s conversation all of it was with the woman and why did Satan wait until the woman was created? Again exactly what was Mans Temptation.

  • @John.

    Being allowed to be swayed away from Truth and partaking of the forbidden fruit. Influence and disobedience.

    He allowed the first woman to influence him in breaking his obedience to God.

    When a young boy or girl is influenced by culture to sway her away from natural identity, and adopt the lie that she can be like God in choosing her identity..boy if she so chooses, then the power of influence can prolonge the great Joy of living in union of the creator of the Tree of Life. Separation from God is Hell. If one isn’t prepared, the influence of the world could destroy his/her ability to nurture a relationship that leads to obidence and Joy in God.

    Recalling the great lie that once we eat of the fruit, we to will see and be like God.

    Adam choose poorly to say the least.

  • @John.

    His sin is disobedience.

    (Please excuse my typo’s…chose v. choose.) One of my sins is not proof reading prior to posting comment.

  • Satan promised Adam and Eve that they would be like gods. Adam and Eve were created in the image and likeness of God as the children of God. Satan promised Adam and Eve something Satan did not have to offer, something that Adam and Eve already had.
    Satan addressed Jesus by saying “IF” you are the Son of God…” Jesus knew WHO He was. Jesus is the revelation of God. Jesus’ life was spent on earth serving His Father WHO is in heaven. How could Jesus serve Satan or not serve His Father WHO is in heaven. Yes “WHO” is very important. WHO is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. “I AM WHO I AM”

David, Nathan the Prophet and the Consequences of Sin

Sunday, June 12, AD 2016


[1] And the Lord sent Nathan to David: and when he was come to him, he said to him: There were two men in one city, the one rich, and the other poor. [2] The rich man had exceeding many sheep and oxen. [3] But the poor man had nothing at all but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up, and which had grown up in his house together with his children, eating of his bread, and drinking of his cup, and sleeping in his bosom: and it was unto him as a daughter. [4] And when a certain stranger was come to the rich man, he spared to take of his own sheep and oxen, to make a feast for that stranger, who was come to him, but took the poor man’ s ewe, and dressed it for the man that was come to him. [5] And David’ s anger being exceedingly kindled against that man, he said to Nathan: As the Lord liveth, the man that hath done this is a child of death.
[6] He shall restore the ewe fourfold, because he did this thing, and had no pity. [7] And Nathan said to David: Thou art the man. Thus saith the Lord the God of Israel: I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee from the hand of Saul, [8] And gave thee thy master’ s house and thy master’ s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and Juda: and if these things be little, I shall add far greater things unto thee. [9] Why therefore hast thou despised the word of the Lord, to do evil in my sight? Thou hast killed Urias the Hethite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. [10] Therefore the sword shall never depart from thy house, because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Urias the Hethite to be thy wife.
[11] Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thy own house, and I will take thy wives before thy eyes I and give them to thy neighhour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. [12] For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing in the sight of all Israel, and in the sight of the sun. [13] And David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said to David: The Lord also hath taken away thy sin: thou shalt not die. [14] Nevertheless, because thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, for this thing, the child that is born to thee, shall surely die. [15] And Nathan returned to his house. The Lord also struck the child which the wife of Urias had borne to David, and his life was despaired of.

2 Kings 12:  1-15

We have a truncated version of the above reading at Mass today.  It conveys the comforting message that King David admits his deeply cynical and evil sin in having Uriah the Hittite murdered in order to protect his partner in adultery Bathsheba and is forgiven by God.  It stops right before Nathan goes on to state  that the newborn son of David and Bathsheba would die.  This is a deeply uncongenial message to we moderns, particularly in this Year of Mercy.  An innocent dying because of the sin of someone else?  How can this be just, let alone merciful?  The passage reminds us, a reminder that, sadly, is always needed, that sins are not merely deadly for the person committing them, but often have dire consequences for purely innocent parties.

Note also the statement of Nathan that the sword would never depart from the House of David.  We see this in the reign of the second son of Bathsheba and David, Solomon.  It was he who married various foreign wives, who brought with them the cults of their gods, that set off endless strife for generations thereafter, and he who reared an idiot son, Rehoboam, whose intransigence upon him becoming King would cause the ten tribes of Israel to rebel, sparking frequent wars between the two nations, and transforming the strong state created by David into two squabbling petty kingdoms, always teetering on extinction from the strong states of Egypt and Assyria and Babylon.  This passage is a strong statement of the Justice of God.

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4 Responses to David, Nathan the Prophet and the Consequences of Sin

  • “An innocent dying because of the sin of someone else.”

    And it continues on and on.

    Some speculation as to the motive of the Orlando shooter, suggest a father’s outrage at the public display of homosexual “affection,” for each other. The father had his son with him. When entering a public bathroom the father and son witnessed more “affectionate behavior,” by another set of homosexuals.

    This, according to the assailants own dad.

    A breakdown of unpredicted violence of course…and not justifiable, but the open affectionate unnatural act of man petting man, sinful activity, was the last straw for the killer.

    God in his wisdom and Mercy, might use this to wake up individuals who engage in public displays of “love,” be it heterosexual or homosexual. (might). Knowing what God will use and won’t use for his purposes is not afforded to me, but I wonder what good could come from this last slaughter, fifty dead thus far.

  • Don

    Truncated or not, the congregation looked unusually somber at it’s end At it happened we had visiting missionary for the sermon so no one tried to explain it away.

  • The theme of all three readings on Sunday were about the justice of God something that doesn’t easily roll off the tongues of priest’s homilies nowadays. It was most refreshing to hear that there is a strict moral order and consequences for disobedience. These reading were a great opportunity to emphasize Confession and encourage doing it. In our parish this didn’t happen.

Sin and Boredom

Wednesday, October 14, AD 2015




Vice is a monster of so frightful mien, As, to be hated, needs but to be seen; Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face, We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

Alexander Pope

Then get bored by.  That is what I take away from this interesting piece of news:

Opening a copy of Playboy magazine on an airplane or at a hair salon may no longer have people raising their eyebrows.

Playboy will no longer publish images of fully nude women in its magazine beginning this spring. The move comes as part of a redesign that will be unveiled next March, Playboy Enterprises, Inc., announced Tuesday. The magazine will still feature women in provocative poses, but they will no longer bare all when the March issue is released in February, according to a statement from Playboy.

The onslaught of Internet pornography has made the nude images in Playboy “passé,” Scott Flanders, the company’s chief executive, told the New York Times.

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7 Responses to Sin and Boredom

  • Donald,

    Reminds me a great deal of some thoughts by Reinhard Hutter in his excellent article here:


  • I confess that when I was a submarine sailor long ago I maintained a deep and abiding interest in Playboy magazine. Of course I do not excuse my behavior as morally acceptable (on the contrary!), but nevertheless such “literature” was quite common to be found stowed in the bunks of sailors underneath the sea for months on end. I thought that Playboy’s chief competitors, Hustler and Penthouse at that time, to be several steps lower in overall quality than Playboy itself. In fact, the photography in those magazines never appealed to me in the way that the classical photography in Playboy excited me, and I rarely if ever wasted my money on them. Having seen pictures of Greek and Roman sculptures of women all through my youth, and having seen some actual sculptures at museums, I found the Playboy of the 1970s and 1980s to be similar in taste and not a substitute for gynecological photographs (though what may exist today I do not know but can imagine). Yet in the end the photographs in Playboy were a means towards self-gratification and an objectification of women as mere objects of sexual desire. Once the good Lord finally took the baseball bat of drug and alcohol withdrawals to my sick head and got me into a 12 step program, both my sponsor and my confessor (a Franciscan priest at a monestary in Graymoor, NY) would tell me that such self-gratification was simply another way to get high, and one cannot be high and sober at the same time.
    As for Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione of Penthouse was worse I suppose. But more than his magazine, it was Hefner’s stylized life of wealth and “carefreeness” (is that a word?) in a harem glorified in all the popular news media that truly objectified women. Perhaps he was no different in having his harem than either King David or King Solomon were in having their hundreds of concubines. But while as a submarine sailor I liked his magazine, him I never did like. He could never remain loyal to one woman, and that is the whole point of his publication: why have any one woman when for a small paltry sum you may have a thousand women and be your own King Solomon. The Book of Ecclesiastes tells us how well that works out.

  • “Reminds me a great deal of some thoughts by Reinhard Hutter in his excellent article here:


    “To comprehend the spiritual roots of this crisis, we need to recall an all-too-forgotten vice, acedia, usually called “sloth” but better rendered as “spiritual apathy.” It is the very forgoing of friendship with God—which is the fulfillment of the transcendent dignity and calling of the human person—and the embrace of the self-indulgent deception that there never was and never will be friendship with God, that there never was and never will be a transcendent calling and dignity of the human person. Nothing matters much, because the one thing that really matters, God’s love and friendship, does not exist and therefore cannot be attained.

    Acedia creates a void that we try to fill with transient rushes of pleasure—primarily venereal pleasure—to ward off the ennui of life bereft of its very center. But the simulacra that promise the rushes of pleasure we seek betray us. They cannot fill the void created by the loss of our transcendent calling to the love and friendship of God. Rather, they only increase the craving to fill the void we cannot fill, breeding compulsion and intensifying spiritual apathy, thereby encouraging acedia’s most dangerous shoot to spring forth: despair.

    Christian spiritual wisdom has always regarded acedia as a vice that, unchecked, will eventually prove deadly to the Christian life. For spiritual apathy first leads us to despair of God’s love and mercy and eventually issues in a sadness that will always cause problems. For, as St. Thomas Aquinas observes in On Evil, “No human being can long remain pleasureless and sad.” People engulfed by the sadness to which their indulgence in spiritual apathy led them tend to avoid such sadness first by shirking and then by resenting and scorning God’s love and mercy.”

    A good article Jonathan!

  • If only pornography was truly taking a hit. The poisonous weeds Hefner planted live on more virulent than ever.

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  • Kevin,
    Hugh Hefner’s magazine is “innocuous” and “sedate” compared to what one may possibly obtained on the internet in graphic videos. Indeed, one time several years ago I was searching for the web site of NUPIC – the Nuclear Procurement Issues Committee – and I got an entirely unexpected nude picture / video of Pamela Anderson. Sadly, what is seen can never be unseen.
    That said, the photography of Hefner’s magazine is extolled as art reminiscent of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures of nude women (and men). But by making nudity readily and widely accessible for private use, he has as you indicated planted a seed whose wild roots have descended throughout everywhere in modern society. The walls of the buildings in ancient Pompeii would be green with envy. There is no artistry imaginable in the perversions of today’s internet.

  • Paul, Exceedingly well stated. Also the sad reality that once seen, impossible to remain unseen. I was lucky to largely escape pornography as a teen but later travelling in Austria a magazine fell from where I retrieved a down blanket. The center page was one huge indescribably profane orgy scene that would compete with the dirtiest of filth, an yet, 30 years later I sadly can recall it with photographic memory. I don’t recall it often, but only when I try to describe how damaging porn can be.

Angels With Dirty Faces: Fake Cowardice, Real Courage and Redemption

Sunday, October 11, AD 2015


A profoundly Catholic movie, Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) is usually not perceived as such.  The tale of two slum kids, Jerry Connolly, Pat O’Brien, and Rocky Sullivan, James Cagney, who attempt to steal fountain pens from a train.  Sullivan, who can’t run as fast as his friend, is caught after the robbery.  Connolly wants to share in the blame for the theft, but Sullivan tells him not to be a sucker and takes all the blame.  Sentenced to a brutal reform school he embarks on a life of crime while his friend becomes a priest, assigned to the same slum parish which he and Sullivan attended as boys.


The priest and the gangster renew their friendship with Sullivan quickly becoming the idol of the slum boys that Connolly is trying to keep from a life of crime.  Connolly embarks on a crusade against the local gangsters, including Sullivan.  Sullivan murders his partner Jim Frazier, Humphrey Bogart, and Mac Keefer, George Bancroft, to save Connelly who they were planning to have killed to stop his anti-crime crusade.


Sullivan, who tells the authorities all he knows about the local criminal operations, is tried for these murders and sentenced to death.

The ending of the film is a powerful look at courage and redemption:


Father Jerry:  We haven’t got a lot of time.
I want to ask one last favor.
Rocky:   There’s not much left that I can do, kid.
Father Jerry:  Yes, there is, Rocky.
Perhaps more than you could do
under any other circumstances.
If you have the courage for it,
and I know you have.
Rocky:  Walking in there?
That’s not gonna take much.
Father Jerry:  I know that, Rocky.
Rocky:  It’s like a barber chair.
They’re gonna ask, “Anything to say?”
I’ll say, “Sure, give me a haircut, a shave
and one of those new electric massages.”
Father Jerry:  But you’re not afraid, Rocky?
Rocky:   No. They’d like me to be.
But I’m afraid I can’t oblige them, kid.
You know, Jerry, I think to be afraid,
you gotta have a heart.
I don’t think I got one.
I had that cut out of me a long time ago.
Rocky:  Suppose I asked you to have the heart, huh?
To be scared.
Rocky:  What do you mean?
Father Jerry:  Suppose the guards dragged you out of here
screaming for mercy.  Suppose you went to the chair yellow.


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19 Responses to Angels With Dirty Faces: Fake Cowardice, Real Courage and Redemption

  • Good post. As a kid in the late 1950’s in NYC we would watch these old movies and see it live in the streets. Thankfully, I could run just fast enough.

    I think this is an example of the “grace” we may choose to find in everything we encounter/experience,

    I don’t know if it was a written or unwritten rule. In the “good old days” Hollywood movies the bad guys had to be unattractive and had to lose and the heroic, good guys always won. Today, not so much.

  • T Shaw.

    Just goes to show what types of guys run Hollywood…. Bad guys or good guys?
    Money v. Virtue.

  • Just had a thought about Catechism or CCD curricula of these past few decades having not much influence over corruption of innocents. Lying, cheating, and selfishness running rampant could be better prevented by watching, for example, this movie so giving catechists a boost. For quite a time, as a sub for some of this inner city’s reprobates, showing movies was a path to communication – ‘Moonstruck’ being their favorite by the miles and it was , it seems, the family dynamics that won the day.

  • Not so teensy little problem here. Does it dawn on anybody that the priest asked the Cagney character to lie, that is, to commit sin against the Eighth Commandment? One may not do evil that good may come from it. The ends don’t justify the means. That has always been a tenet of Catholic moral theology. WIth movies like this (and the Crosby priest movies, too) Catholic understanding of moral theology is corroded, all in the name of “entertainment”.

  • I just knew that someone would bring that up. No Janet, I do not think that a lie under this circumstance was in any way evil, even assuming that pretending to be afraid when you are not is a lie, which I think is debatable. (How would we then deal with someone pretending to be brave when they are secretly afraid in a wartime situation? Rather than a lie and a sin is that not the epitome of courage and a great virtue?) I think it was a great good deed, attempting to spare boys that admired him from walking their own last miles, that would probably have saved the fictional Rocky Sullivan’s soul from eternal damnation. To understand the complexity of this area when it comes to morality read the post linked below:

  • Bad analogy. Courage truly exists in the face of the natural self-preservation instinct. It’s an act of will not emotion. A person is courageous because he/she decides to be, often in contradiction to their emotions.

    The portrayal of a priest lying, and even asking another to lie, is beyond the pale. I will say this for the Crosby “Fr O’Malley” movies; they did depict the lies backfiring in his face.

  • “Courage truly exists in the face of the natural self-preservation instinct. It’s an act of will not emotion.”

    Will controlling emotion is precisely what Cagney’s character did. Is it any less deceptive to say to an opponent that you will beat him to within an inch of his life if he does not surrender, when you know that if he attacks that you will run, than what Rocky Sullivan did? This type of pettifogging, “I would sooner give Jews up to the SS than tell a lie!”, something no morally sane person would even contemplate, only makes Catholicism look ludicrous. Thank heavens when push came to shove during the War tens of thousands of priests and nuns did engage in deception to save innocent lives.

    During the War many deception operations were engaged in to make the Nazis think that the Allies would land in Calais instead of Normandy. Anyone who says this was morally wrong, or lying to protect people who would be unjustly slain if discovered, I simply refuse to take seriously when it comes to examining moral questions.

    A good examination of the knots this question has produced over the ages due to Augustine and Aquinas:

  • Oh. I loved this movie. I thought the priest knew the inner fear that Cagney’s character felt, and which he had In fact been battling all his life with his bravado.
    That character knew good from evil in his last act. He was afraid although. He denied it. And in kindness the priest helped him find a way to seek the good of others rather than his own….his last act admits the recognition of good / evil. That means repentance and attempt at reparation.
    The priest cared for Cagney character soul as well as the boys. He helped him do good as the last outward act of his express love for others. Love love love this movie and may others by that good Catholic man Jimmy Cagney.

  • Janet Baker.

    Fifteen years working in Memory Care units is gratifying. One of the heart breaking moments for care givers is the lie we tell when a client with Alzheimer’s repeatedly asks the whereabouts of his/her deceased spouse.
    If we tell the truth the client re-lives the moment of the loved ones death. It’s dehumanizing. The agony they go through at that moment is hell. If we lie and tell them she/he is out with family they accept that without the trauma. They forget moments later they were even looking for their spouse.

    Until you experience this you can’t fully appreciate the event.

    Will we suffer for our lies in our industry?
    I don’t worry about the judgement to come and the lies we tell our patient.

    BTW. Family is very appreciative of our lie’s.
    They have been witnesses of that trauma themselves, and rather a lie be told, than place their parent through that Hell, agian.

  • If the character, Rocky Sullivan did not know fear, then, Rocky Sullivan would not have known how to portray fear. George Bancroft was poorly cast and did not portray the gangster kingpin as well as he ought. Bancroft did not come across as a tough guy. Maybe too fat.

  • Janet Baker wrote, “Does it dawn on anybody that the priest asked the Cagney character to lie,..”
    No, there is no lie here, for there is no false statement.
    We may never lie, but, in appropriate cases, we may use evasion, equivocation or mental reservation (which is what this was) in order to mislead. It is no meore lying that wearing a disguise or using a nom de guerre is lying.
    The Salamanca School have wagon-loads of cases of conscience on the subject, many of remarkable ingenuity.

  • “many of remarkable ingenuity.”

    Indeed, and often they make a straight forward lie seem honest in comparison. There is a reason why casuistry has a bad reputation.

  • Donald R McClarey wrote, “often they make a straight forward lie seem honest in comparison.”
    Let us say they perfected the conjurer’s art of misdirection.
    That is why Talleyrand said of the Vatican diplomats of his day, “Watch the juggler’s eyes, not his hands.”

  • The Church’s precise understanding of the boundaries of the 8th Commandment has not been static and likely will continue to develop. Even the Catechism’s summary has meaningfully changed, even in recent years, and certainly orthodox theologians continue to debate those boundaries. My own view is that a moral obsession with Cagney’s selfless “lie” signals a flirtation with scrupulosity.

  • Looking back at my reactions (over the years) to the end scenes, I wasn’t sure that Cagney’s character was actually “yellow” or not.
    Anyhow, sanctimonious saints looking down your noses at the rest of us. the commandment is to not bear false witness, i.e., not harm your neighbor with a fabrication. If this movie charade (if it were such) hurt anybody, I don’t see it. In fact, it was meant to help youths avoid the near occasion and crime-ruined lives.
    Plus, we have no duty to be truthful with evil men committing evil acts.

  • “Looking back at my reactions (over the years) to the end scenes, I wasn’t sure that Cagney’s character was actually “yellow” or not.”

    Cagney when asked would never give his opinion, preferring the ambiguity that the scene presents. However, there is nothing in the rest of the movie that indicates that the Sullivan character, for all his moral failings, was not a very brave man.

  • I was going to point out that the 8th commandment says to not bear false witness against one’s neighbor, but T Shaw beat me to the punch, as it were. If one goes to hell for lying, then I suspect it won’t be for the kind of lie which that priest admonished the prisoner to make.
    “I will tell the truth no matter how many innocent people die because I self-righteously and Pharisiticly (is that a word?) kept my holier-than-thou conscience clean.” “Look at me, Lord, I am not like that publican….”

  • Being brave and being scared are not mutually exclusive. Being brave only happens when it overcomes fear.
    He was brave on two levels. Facing death as a person. And giving up his public persona for the young men he was truthful and so was the priest who saw the depth of rocky, who trusted the mercy of God, and helped Rocky to do the right thing.

  • Justice is predicated on intent. This does not mean that the end justifies the means if the means are evil. He who lives in the Lord is above the law.

Sin and Eternity

Friday, October 17, AD 2014

One Response to Sin and Eternity

  • Good post. I was told early on that I had choices from my life of hedonism and addiction: repentance, or imprisonment, or insanity from chemical abuse, or death by a needle in one of my arms. Only one of those options was good. This isn’t taught any longer. People think there are no consequences, or that if there are, then Government will make them go away. Sex addiction, drug addiction, or whatever – it all leads to the same place as Saint Paul pointed out: death.

Evil as Bad Performance Art

Tuesday, September 23, AD 2014

To Nero, Emperor of Rome, Master of the World, Divine Pontiff.

I know that my death will be a disappointment to you, since you wished to render me this service yourself. To be born in your reign is a miscalculation; but to die in it is a joy. I can forgive you for murdering your wife and your mother, for burning our beloved Rome, for befouling our fair country with the stench of your crimes. But one thing I cannot forgive – the boredom of having to listen to your verses, your second-rate songs, your mediocre performances. Adhere to your special gifts, Nero – murder and arson, betrayal and terror. Mutilate your subjects if you must; but with my last breath I beg you – do not mutilate the arts. Fare well, but compose no more music. Brutalize the people, but do not bore them, as you have bored to death your friend,

the late Gaius Petronius

Fictional letter from Gaius Petronius to Nero in the novel Quo Vadis



Bad enough that someone has slain an innocent, but making a bad poem out of it?  At least the Nazis did not attempt to make swing tunes celebrating the glories of their extermination camps.  Ben Johnson of Lifesite News gives us the details behind the above video:



To take the second question first, The Huffington Post is promoting a video featuring Scottish “poet” Leyla Josephine, celebrating her decision to abort her daughter. The video, “I Think She Was a She,” was uploaded to YouTube a month ago.

In the video Josephine, decked out in military camouflage, justifies herself in part by saying that she would have been willing to serve as a sacrifice to abortion just as she offered her daughter to the idol of “choice.”

“I would’ve supported her right to choose – to choose a life for herself, a path for herself. I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine,” she said.

In the next rhyming line, she addresses her unborn daughter: “I’m sorry, but you came at the wrong time.”

“I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed,” she continues – a phrase she repeats a total of six times. She repeats the phrase “This is my body” three times. (She also takes the Lord’s name in vain once.)

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20 Responses to Evil as Bad Performance Art

  • Halloween is early this year aye.
    Spooks and hobgoblin’s witches and demons try their best to reward themselves with virtue but cometh only stench sorrow and vomit.

    This is a sign of THE times.

    Call it Killer Pride! Gay pride is nothing when in its shadows springs forward the true foulness of Killer Pride! How sweet oh progressive woman. They may wish to soil themselves in feces and parade in this years New York St. Patty’s as Oh Happy Murderer’s.

    This is YOUR future oh slimy feminist.
    Wrap yourself in feces and sing your swan song!

  • The standard fig leaf refrain from pro-abortion sickos especially those who drape themselves in Catholic mantle, is that no one is actually pro-abortion.

    Memorializing the abortion of your own child by verse, while worshipping at the altar of personal convenience, is in fact a stance that is nothing if not stridently and undeniably pro-abortion.

  • ““I would’ve supported her right to choose – to choose a life for herself, a path for herself. I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine,” she said.”

    The soul of the child chose life for herself or she would have become a miscarriage. Leyla Josephine has been seduced by the Great Liar.
    “I would’ve died for that right like she died for mine,” she said.”” NO, the child was murdered. Did anyone ask the child if she wanted to die for her mother’s right to choose? …when she was emancipated with informed consent? Informed consent denied makes a slave of a human being. One person cannot own another person…Abraham Lincoln.

  • “The essence of the Sacrament of Matrimony, a covenant with God, is to emulate the Creator through the gift of procreation. A man’s word is clothed in flesh by his helpmate.” pasted as well at Tactics.

  • That woman is no different than her Canaanite forbearers who sacrificed their children to Molech. They are as evil as their diametric opposites: the Islamic terrorists. Sadly there is only one way to stop both these people and I wish that were not the case. They neither know nor respect any other language. Then people wonder why God commanded the Children of Israel what He told them to do. I do NOT want that solution, and I do NOT advocate that solution, and that solution would surely grieve the heart of Jesus for God said in Ezekiel 18 that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. But neither liberals nor Islamists will apparently allow any other solution. Like the Seleucids before them, they are intent on wiping us out along with their own children, whether it’s by liberal abortion or by Islamic suicide bombers. Pray that God’s mercy may reigns over us before God’s justice rains down upon us. And remember that God’s mercy for unborn babies may mean God’s justice for us.

  • “Sadly there is only one way to stop both these people…”
    Well, we could always try to convert them. And try, and try. I know the odds are long, but still…

  • “I can think of few things which underline the emptiness of evil more than this talentless poet babbling about how she would have died for the “right to choose” of the daughter she just murdered.”
    It is possible that she did die for the right to choose, and sadly won’t know it to be true until she meets her Maker. The word ‘repent’ comes to mind here.

  • TomD.

    Your right. Without repentance we just DID witness her own death.

    Now it’s our duty to pray for her soul.
    That she comes to the light of repentance before her last breath.

    Surely she knew “Thou shall not kill.”
    But wait. It’s not P.C. to place the 10 commandments in public places.

    Wow. Souls are falling into hell, like snowflakes falling from the sky.

  • I can’t bring myself to watch this video, so I can’t speak with any real insight about it…but I recently read an article (it could have been on this site) that the “pro-choice” crowd was becoming more overtly pro-abortion. I’d hate to see people continue down this path, but public candor may help to shock society back on course.

  • I’ve hear other abortion apologists say the same thing about their own mothers’ ‘right to choose’.
    How very brave of them.

  • So why don’t these courageous baby murderesses kill themselves now? It’s only abortion albeit 20 or 30 years after the fact. Godless putrid liberal progressive Democrats.

  • “So why don’t these courageous baby murderesses kill themselves now?”
    Paul, you and I both know they are working on it. They just want it quick and painless, medically and legally approved. Just like the progressive parts of Europe.

    Have you ever read Mgr. Robert Hugh Benson’s 1907 novel Lord of the World?

  • Could it be, that as Satan’s time is shortening he is desperately scrambling for souls like Josephine to be his spokespersons? Seriously.
    It’s as if he is recruiting a brazen army and their public “service” announcements are becoming more and more public. Black mass in the news as another example.

    Showdown on horizon?
    If more and more Josephine gong show rejects show up touting their “talents” then maybe old screwtape is running out of time.

  • The thing reeks of shame and denial. Were there a hint of literary skill, one would suspect satire by means of the unreliable narrator, in the manner, say, of Browning’s dramatic monologues.

  • This is how we stop the devil:
    “V. Do you reject Satan?
    R. I do.
    V. And all his works?
    R. I do.
    V. And all his empty promises?
    R. I do.”

    Philip: “Black mass in the news as another example.”
    Satanic ritual is a tool, a weapon, to levy against believers in our Creator, and our unalienable human rights; to gain power, to owning another human being, slavery, slavery to the devil to whom the Satanist will not grant his allegiance nor his sacrifice, but our lives and our sacrifice.
    While the government attempts to write law against “hate speech”, the black mass is total evil, devoid of any love. The black mass is total evil, absolute hatred.

    The essence of God is existence. The essence of the devil is annihilation. “We, the people”, who exist, would like to go on existing in love and peace. Hatred and annihilation are diametrically opposed to love and peace. Absolute evil is the antithesis of love and peace.
    The Lord of Chaos is absent in any law and order. Therefore, the black mass is unconstitutional and may not be allowed under freedom of religion.
    The Declaration of Independence says that we must rely upon Divine Providence.
    The Satan worshippers have invited the Lord of Chaos and when the devil comes they have the supreme ignorance to blame God.
    See more:

  • Philip: “Halloween is early this year aye.”
    Homosexual practitioners always bring up the rear.

  • Hi Mary De Voe.
    Punny comment “…bringing up the rear.”

    The Holy Rosary indeed. The enemy can not win. They fear Our Lady and those who daily devote themselves to her chain of victory.
    Thank you for the link.

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Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love

Sunday, March 23, AD 2014



Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  , here  and here to read the first three posts in the series, we come to Augustine’s discussion of why we should avoid sin.  Augustine thought that refraining from sin due to fear of Hell did not involve the rejection of sin but rather fear of burning.  The true reason for avoiding sin is love of God and therefore rejection of sin as a result of that love.  Our Act of Contrition mentions both motivations but is clear what should be the most important:

O my God,
I am heartily sorry for
having offended Thee,
and I detest all my sins,
because I dread the loss of heaven,
and the pains of hell;
but most of all because
they offend Thee, my God,
Who are all good and
deserving of all my love.

As the saying goes, fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and no doubt the fear of Hell for many a sinner is the beginning of repentance, but that is only the beginning, and not the end, of our struggle against sin.  Christ taught us to call God Father and that He is a loving Father.  Anything that turns us from the God who loves us with such an eternal love, we reject, not out of fear but out of love:

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11 Responses to Saint Augustine on Sin, Fear and Love

  • This Letter CXLV of St Augustine was a crucial text in the great debate between the Jesuits and their opponents (particularly the Jansenists) over attrition and contrition and whether the former was sufficient for the sacrament of penance.

    Thus, we have the Jesuit in Lettre X of Les Provinciales: “Our fathers, Fagundez, Granados, and Escobar, have decided, ‘that contrition is not necessary even at death; because,’ say they, ‘if attrition with the sacrament did not suffice at death, it would follow that attrition would not be sufficient with the sacrament. And the learned Hurtado, cited by Diana and Escobar, goes still further; for he asks: ‘Is that sorrow for sin which flows solely from apprehension of its temporal consequences, such as having lost health or money, sufficient? We must distinguish. If the evil is not regarded as sent by the hand of God, such a sorrow does not suffice; but if the evil is viewed as sent by God, as, in fact, all evil, says Diana, except sin, comes from him, that kind of sorrow is sufficient.’ Our Father Lamy holds the same doctrine.”

    “You surprise me, father; for I see nothing in all that attrition of which you speak but what is natural; and in this way a sinner may render himself worthy of absolution without supernatural grace at all. Now everybody knows that this is a heresy condemned by the Council.”

    “I should have thought with you,” he replied; “and yet it seems this must not be the case, for the fathers of our College of Clermont have maintained (in their Theses of the 23rd May and 6th June 1644) ‘that attrition may be holy and sufficient for the sacrament, although it may not be supernatural’; and (in that of August 1643) ‘that attrition, though merely natural, is sufficient for the sacrament, provided it is honest.’”

  • “‘that attrition may be holy and sufficient for the sacrament, although it may not be supernatural’; and (in that of August 1643) ‘that attrition, though merely natural, is sufficient for the sacrament, provided it is honest.’””
    Imperfect contrition, although imperfect, is an act of the will to be contrite, to accept penance and forgiveness, to accept grace.

  • The contrition I learned about in parochial school also contained a resolve to sin no more with the help of His grace. This whole topic should merit all Catholics to study what our Church teaches on “justification”. Sometimes, I feel Catholics get mixed up with our justification beliefs and protestants justification beliefs. The Act of contrition, I learned, didn’t have the fear of burning part; i.e. “Oh my God I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee and I detest all my sins because of Thy just punishment, but most of all because they have offended Thee my God, who art All Good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of Thy grace to sin no more and avoid the near occasion of sin, Amen! This contrition never refers to fearing hell. What you refer to regarding this fear of hell was taught to me as an imperfect act of contrition. Being sorry because we have offended God is the ultimate repentance. Great topic for an article, thanks.

  • The contrition I learned about in parochial school also contained a resolve to sin no more with the help of His grace. This whole topic should merit all Catholics to study what our Church teaches on “justification”.
    This is right. I’ve seen good, smart Protestants struggle with the question about why we should avoid sin, and I think their aversion to Catholic Church as an institution causes them to miss out on this teaching. Creflo Dollar, for example someone I was watching recently, a good preacher on many topics, is so devoted to his (abhorent) ‘prosperity gospel’ that he has a blindspot when it comes to the topic of sin. If godly behavior brings many earthly blessings, he argues, then sinful conduct leads to earthly consequences. His doctrine would allow no consequences in the afterlife.
    Other Protestants have differing views obviously, but none I’ve heard seem satisfying compared with Catholic doctrine. I think Ray and Donald have it right that studying St. Augustine and justification and sanctification are the way to find satisfying answers.
    Imperfect contrition, although imperfect, is an act of the will to be contrite, to accept penance and forgiveness, to accept grace.

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  • God does not want us to sin because it hurts ourselves and others. God teaches us what is sinful and what is good. This is one of the reasons we love God. When I sin I have contrition because I have hurt myself or someone else, not because I have offended God who cannot be offended.

    Is the above an heretical idea?

    Appreciate your comments.

  • Is the above an heretical idea?
    Michael, a good place to start (as always) is with the Catechism. This section in particular seems to to pertain to your point:
    Section 1849, for example, says that sin is a “failure in genuine love for God and neighbor”. And at 1850 quotes Psalm 51, “Sin is an offense against God: ‘Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.'”
    There is more to it than that, but perhaps a starting point.

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Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Sunday, March 16, AD 2014

Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here  and here to read the first and the second in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s description of what he viewed as one of his worst sins, the theft of pears from a pear tree.  More than a few people have been mystified as to why this incident caused Saint Augustine such pain.  Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr, for example, wrote  “Rum thing to see a man making a mountain out of robbing a pear tree in his teens”.  Such critics of course completely miss the point.  The incident of the pear tree is the classic example of pure sin.  Augustine and the other rowdies did not steal the pears to feed themselves, they threw the pears to hogs.  They did this evil not to satisfy some hunger or desire, but for the sake of the sin itself, and that is what makes the act so monstrous in retrospect in the eyes of Saint Augustine.  The worst sort of sin we can do is a sin that has no purpose other than to engage in sin, in disobedience to God.  Most sins men do are a bad road to reach a worldly good.  A thief who robs a bank to gain money.  A couple who fornicate with each other to show their love for one another.  A glutton who gorges himself because he loves fine food.   The pear tree sin lacks any good as a goal that led to the commission of the sin, and leaves only the desire to do an evil act.  Saint Augustine was right to weep over this, as should we all whenever we do evil solely for the sake of doing evil.  Saint Augustine on the pear tree:

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15 Responses to Saint Augustine and the Pear Tree

  • I’m going to concur with the Supreme Court Justice for one reason…Augustine’s next mistress after he dumped the ten year mistress that bore him a son. The first one left saying she would love him til death. Then St. Monica finds him a respectable girl to marry who however is too young to marry as yet. Augustine can’t wait for her, sexually speaking, so he gratuitously seeks and takes another mistress for sex…according to himself in the “Confessions”. Gratuitous pear theft…gratuitous mistress for fornication…which is worse? The second of course. He may have been displacing a lot of big guilt on to that real pear guilt such that the pear was doing double duty. After he converted really, Augustine according to a contemporary, chose never to be alone with a woman even relatives. Jerome, a brief fornicator in his youth, was the opposite and had many female friends after he converted. Augustine had sinned far more in that area.

  • “Augustine and the other rowdies” Mob mentality. Each one to impress the mob, then the mob owns that individual. The mob takes away his soul and makes of him a beast. Yes, I concur. Addiction to irrationality. Senseless sin except for committing the sin and offending against God the reason being.
    Would Augustine have committed that sin if he was alone? I think not. Therefore, he avoided the near occasion of sin.
    It has occurred to me that this is how communism operates. Communism owns you, you do not own communism.

  • “Gratuitous pear theft…gratuitous mistress for fornication…which is worse? The second of course.”

    Of course not. He and his mistress had their son, who they named Adeodatus, gift of God. His mistress ultimately repented before Augustine:

    “She was stronger than I”, wrote St. Augustine, “and made her sacrifice with a courage and a generosity which I was not strong enough to imitate.” She returned to Carthage, whence she had come, and the grace which had led her to sacrifice the object of her affection further impelled her to bury herself in a monastery, where she might atone for the sin which had been the price so long paid for it.”

    Adeodatus, a bright child with a very bright future, died at sixteen, to the intense grief of his father, and no doubt his mother. Much good came out of Augstine’s sinning with his mistress and he did not sin with her merely for the sake of sin itself.

  • Donald,
    Reread my post. I clearly was talking about the mistress after her…no.2.

  • bill bannon: “I’m going to concur with the Supreme Court Justice for one reason…Augustine’s next mistress after he dumped the ten year mistress that bore him a son.” It was a sin of lust, whereas, the sin of stealing the pears was a sin of ingratitude, a sin against the Holy Spirit. Sins against the Holy Spirit are unforgivable.
    I have no respect for Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Homes, Jr. for having a mentally handicapped girl sterilized because she had been raped, instead of hanging the rapist by his man-parts so all would-be rapists could see. Now every patient under anesthesia runs the risk of the doctor’s lust. It is the patient’s fault for having been created most enchantingly beautiful, I suppose. Yet, another sin against the Holy Spirit. Hang all rapists by their man-parts and the crime of rape will drop to minus one, (-1).

  • Confessions Book Six


    25. Meanwhile my sins were being multiplied. My mistress was torn from my side as an impediment to my marriage, and my heart which clung to her was torn and wounded till it bled. And she went back to Africa, vowing to thee never to know any other man and leaving with me my natural son by her. But I, unhappy as I was, and weaker than a woman, could not bear the delay of the two years that should elapse before I could obtain the bride I sought. And so, since I was not a lover of wedlock so much as a slave of lust, I procured another mistress — not a wife, of course. Thus in bondage to a lasting habit, the disease of my soul might be nursed up and kept in its vigor or even increased until it reached the realm of matrimony. Nor indeed was the wound healed that had been caused by cutting away my former mistress; only it ceased to burn and throb, and began to fester, and was more dangerous because it was less painful.

  • Same argument. Augustine did not have a brief relationship with his second concubine out of a desire to sin for the sake of sin. That is what makes the pear tree sin so deadly in the mind of Saint Augustine, and I completely agree with him.

  • “”A depraved soul, falling away from security in thee to destruction in itself, seeking nothing from the shameful deed but shame itself.””

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  • Compare: “but of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden,” God said,” you shall not eat. neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” But the serpent said to the woman, No, you shall not die; for God knows that when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil”. Did Augustine see a connection, in that he stole the pears to know evil? It seems so, Eve, goaded on not by a mob but by the Devil. Perhaps a devil inhabits a mob, something of which Augustine was painfully aware.

  • Having found my old copy of “Confessions”, I stand somewhat corrected. He speaks for himself: “Let my heart tell you what prompted me to do wrong for no purpose and why it was only my own love of mischief that made me do it. The evil in me was foul, but I loved it”. Perhaps the theft of the pears was an affirmation of the lawless lust he had come to embrace.

  • Without Christ, he (the devil) would surely “sift us like wheat”.


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Saint Augustine: Sins of the Flesh

Sunday, March 9, AD 2014



Continuing on with our Lenten series in which Saint Augustine is our guide, go here to read the first in the series, we come to Saint Augustine’s comments on sins of the flesh.  It is interesting that Saint Augustine begins the passage noting that some argue that the sins of the flesh are not sins, precisely the same argument that is made in our time.  Saint Paul  mentioned, and refuted, this argument in his epistles, so it is as old as Christianity.  The sins of the flesh are not the most dire of sins, rather the reverse, that pride of place going to the sin of pride, a sin I have ever struggled with, and that caused Lucifer to fall from Heaven to Hell.  However, sins of the flesh are sins, being a perversion of the love that is at the heart of Christianity.  Lust is ever an inadequate substitute for love, and attempting to make it a substitute is at the core of many of our social problems today, treating people as things, means to our own gratification, rather than children of a loving God that we love with fidelity and self-sacrifice, to mirror in our lives some minute fragment of the love that God lavishes on us.  Here is Saint Augustine on sins of the flesh:

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Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Sunday, December 29, AD 2013

(I originally posted this on December 29th last year.  I think it is worth a repost on December 29th this year.)

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas:

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12 Responses to Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

  • It is amazing how moderns often treat death. It is no longer feared. It is seen as the end of our lives, but nothing is believed to follow, neither good nor bad. So it worries no one. To be extinguished, I guess, is no worry for the average unbeliever. Perhaps telling oneself that we’re all headed that way makes it seem OK.

  • “It is no longer feared.”

    Completely disagree Jon. I believe that atheists and agnostics fear death most of all. There is a great deal of truth to the old adage that there are no atheists in foxholes. What we do have among many non-religious people is a denial of death.

  • Thank you for this, Donald. As it happens, Thomas is my confirmation saint, too. He and I have a long history, stretching way back into my Anglican days, and I credit him with a large role in praying me into the Catholic Church.

  • In our prayer, our act of Contrition, we promise to do penance. .. Maybe I’d be better about the “amend my life part” if I did a little more serious penance!

  • Thank you Donald for this wonderful article. Thomas Becket is one of my favorite saints (his is one of the medals I wear along with my scapular). You made several good points. I would like to add that some accounts have, that after Henry II performed his penance at Canterbury, his forces won a major victory against a rebellion to his rule, with the capture of the rebel leader.

    This is part of a letter from Thomas Becket as todays second Office Reading (if today was not Sunday and therefore higher priority):

    “Yet the Roman Church remains the head of all the churches and the source of Catholic teaching. Of this there can be no doubt. Everyone knows that the keys of the kingdom of heaven were given to Peter. Upon his faith and teaching the whole fabric of the Church will continue to be built until we all reach full maturity in Christ and attain to unity in faith and knowledge of the Son of God…Nevertheless, no matter who plants or waters, God gives no harvest unless what he plants is the faith of Peter, and unless he himself assents to Peter’s teaching. All important questions that arise among God’s people are referred to the judgment of Peter in the person of the Roman Pontiff. Under him the ministers of Mother Church exercise the powers committed to them, each in his own sphere of responsibility.”

    You hit the nail right on the head about Henry VIII. Becket’s stand against Henry II made it necessary for Henry VIII to destroy Becket’s his image, for if an archbishop could stand against a king, then how could the king rule the church. Part of destroying that image was destroying Becket’s tomb, a source of pilgrimage from all over Christendom. It was also rumored to be wealthy and therefore a prime target for a cash hungry Henry (having already dissolved the religious houses) who, despite all the wealth he seem to acquire, it was never enough to keep up with his ambition.

    I would also like to add that the movie Becket, which you have posted a clip from above, is excellent (even if it takes some historical liberties) and would recommend to all catholics interested in Saint Thomas Becket. I think it is Richard Burton’s finest role.

    Samuel Edwards, welcome home. It is good to know that St. Thomas was helpful in your return. It brings me great joy (and I’m sure many other catholics as well) to hear of our Anglican brethren being re-united with us.

  • If we weren’t afraid of death, why would we hide it away in such a cold, sterile place as a hospital?

    If one were curious to know, read the first chapter of George Duby’s William Marshall, to see what a good death in the High Middle Ages looked like.

  • Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the distinguished Boston physician and father of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Justice of the United States Supreme Court wrote:
    “So far as I have observed persons nearing the end of life, the Roman Catholics understand the business of dying better than Protestants. They have an expert by them, armed with spiritual specifics, in which they both, patient and priestly ministrant, place implicit trust. Confession, the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, these all inspire a confidence, which, without this symbolism, is too apt to be wanting in over sensitive natures… I have seen a good many Roman Catholics on their dying beds; and it has always appeared to me that they accept the inevitable with a composure which showed that their belief, whether or not the best to live by, was a better one to die by” (Over the Teacups [1891]).
    We will go to Christ, the Giver of Life, and ask Him for the life that never ends, life everlasting. Pray for a happy death; pray for those who have already died. We will accept death from God wherever, whenever, and however He decides. That is one of the best prayers and penances we can offer to the Almighty.
    Above all we will occasionally bring home to ourselves the vital, sobering, balancing thought that we must die, but that we will rise again, with Christ whom we have tried to love and serve. Let the dance of death go on. We, the followers of Christ are ready.

  • That is wonderful Victor! I learn so much participating on The Amereican Catholic. Thanks Domald, Tito and everyone.

  • “Confession, the Eucharist, Extreme Unction, these all inspire a confidence, which, without this symbolism, is too apt to be wanting in over sensitive natures”
    and “without this symbolism” The Person of Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of The Holy Eucharist is a real Person; Jesus Christ is a Real Presence, and not a symbol. How empty must be the soul without Holy Viaticum.
    Flannery O’Connor said that if the Eucharist is a symbol, it can go to hell.

  • Donald, perhaps it is a denial of death. Or perhaps people push it so far into the distant future that it seems unreal. When people are confronted with its prospect, fear may very well surface. And it’s a problem today that death is all too easily hidden from our sight.

  • Thomas a` Becket is my birthday saint and that of my identically named sister-in-law. Becket and A Man For All Seasons need to be viewed by the younger generations. I wish that we had a Becket or a More in the present. Would we have Obamacare and other onslaughts against freedom of religion if the US bishops and cardinals had chained themselves in protest to the White House fence?

  • A bit off topic but on the 29th I viewed the website of St. Thomas a Becket Church on 5th Ave. in Manhattan. I had slipped in the church once for a quick prayer before the BVM shrine, and only when I looked at the bulletin did I realize it was not R. Catholic but Episcopal/Anglican. Re the website: High church or now Anglican they have their version of the 7 sacraments. Very interesting their instructions on the proper way to receive the Holy Eucharist in both species (Our parishes’ websites should have a paragraph on the proper reception. Rarely is there a reminder on it from the pulpit.) There also appears to be an altar rail, which has been removed in most Roman Catholic churches.

Does Anyone Really Reject God?

Thursday, September 5, AD 2013

Kyle has written another post on hell, this one dealing with what he says, with at least some degree of accuracy, is the historically common belief among Catholics that many people will go to hell while few will be saved. (Personally, I have no opinion on the question of what ratio of people will go to heaven and hell, and other than warning people away from the one and towards the other, I can’t really think why one would have much of a position on the matter.)

It seems to me that there are two main points which Kyle martials to his cause. His first is that if many are damned, then God’s will has been frustrated, and unless we are prepared to think God a failure, we can’t think that many are damned:

If you say, as much of Christianity does, that God created the universe and specifically human beings–creatures made in his image and likeness–for the purpose of participation in the love life that is God, and you also say that most people will refuse this destiny, then logically you’re led to say that, overall, creation won’t achieve its purpose. Overall, it is a failure. Overall, the purpose for which God created goes unrealized. Overall, God’s desire and will are not done. This would seem to make God, as Creator, something of a failure, even if you can, through some dexterous theodicy, get God off the hook for the damning decisions of his hellbound creatures.

This is, as I recall, a complaint that many of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation (or Revolt, if you prefer) were big on.

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8 Responses to Does Anyone Really Reject God?

  • St Thomas distinguishes between the antecedent and consequent will of God.

    “Whatever God wills absolutely, is done (otherwise He would not be omnipotent), although what He wills antecedently (or only conditionally) may not be done,” for in this instance God permits the opposite evil for the sake of a greater good; thus He wills antecedently that all the fruits of the earth come to maturity, but He permits that many actually do not reach this maturity [ST Ia, q. 19, a. 6 ad I]

    It is similar in the matter of the salvation of men. St. Thomas goes on to explain this in the same article (ad I ): On consequent or unconditional will. “The will is compared to things according as they are in themselves; but in themselves they are individual. Hence we will something absolutely inasmuch as we will it considering all its individuating circumstances; this is to will consequently.” Thus whatever God (omnipotent) wills absolutely is done; although what He wills antecedently may not be done.

    Antecedently God wills a thing according as it is good in itself, for example, that all men be saved, that all His commands be ever fulfilled; but at the same time He permits to some extent the opposite evil for the sake of a greater good, and thus “what He wills only antecedently or conditionally is not done.” Hence it is said in psalm 134:6: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased He hath done, in heaven, in earth.” And the Council of Toucy (PL, CXXVI, 123) adds: “For nothing is done in heaven or on earth, except what God either graciously does Himself or permits to be done, in His justice.”

    But those who observe His commandments are better than others and would not keep them in fact, had not God from eternity efficaciously decreed that they should observe these precepts. Thus, these good servants of God are more beloved and assisted by Him than others, although God does not command the impossible of the others. Furthermore, this very resistance to sufficient grace is an evil which would not occur, here and now, without the divine permission, and nonresistance itself is a good which would not come about here and now except for divine consequent will.

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  • I have a hard time understanding how as catholics we could be painted as judgementers of the damned. With our belief in purgation, where else can we be made perfect for the delight of our Lord? My time/process may be painful, but I trust and hope in His glorious justice and my eventual full entry into His realm.

  • If you say, as much of Christianity does, that God created the universe and specifically human beings–creatures made in his image and likeness–for the purpose of participation in the love life that is God, and you also say that most people will refuse this destiny, then logically you’re led to say that, overall, creation won’t achieve its purpose. Overall, it is a failure. Overall, the purpose for which God created goes unrealized. Overall, God’s desire and will are not done. This would seem to make God, as Creator, something of a failure, even if you can, through some dexterous theodicy, get God off the hook for the damning decisions of his hellbound creatures.

    So what would be an acceptable batting average? His record with the angels is “a third part”.
    And why did God go out of His way to make things even more difficult for us? When Satan and his angels rebelled why not imprison them in Hell permanently rather than leave them free to tempt us?
    As parents we would not leave our kids free to play in a mine field where some lunatic is encouraging them to dance a jig.

    As for “natural law written on men’s hearts” — um, no.
    Reason and common sense would seem to tell us that a baby with Tay-Sachs, condemned to a short life full of pain should be aborted; that a train about to run over 10 people should be diverted so that it will kill 2 people. There seems to be an instinctive bias toward consequentialst bias morality while “natural” law requires a lot of study.

    Last, God sees a bit capricious granting extra graces to some for their salvation while ignoring others. Recall Theresa the Little Flower’s constant prayers for a condemned prisoner who finally repented.

    I know I’m may be cutting close to blasphemy here, but I’m sure these questions have been asked before.

    Last question: having rejected God, would the sould in Hell even desire to be in Heaven?

  • Thomas Collins

    The followers of St Augustine, whom the Church has called “the doctor of Grace,” maintain that in the state of innocence, that is to say on the day of the Creation, God had had both a general and a conditional will to save all men provided they desired it, through the sufficient grace He would give them for their salvation, but which would not unfailingly lead them to persevere in good.

    But that Adam, having through his own free will misused this grace and rebelled against God through a pure and simple movement of his will and with no prompting from God (which would be a hateful thought), and having corrupted and injected the mass of mankind with the result that they are rightly the object of God’s anger and indignation, they make plain that God has divided that body of mankind, all equally culpable and which deserve damnation, into that part that He wanted to save through an absolute will based on his mercy alone, entirely pure and gratuitous, and thus, leaving the other part in the state of damnation in which it was, and in which He could justly have left the whole mass.

    God’s will for the salvation of his elect cannot be frustrated. St Thomas says in Ia, q. 20, a. 3: “Since the love of God is the cause of the goodness of things, no one would be better than another if God did not will a greater good to one than to another.” Likewise, in article 4 of the same question and also in Ia, q. 23, a. 4: “In God, love precedes election.” Thus, Scripture says: “I will have mercy on whom I will, and I will be merciful to whom it shall please Me” (Exod. 33:19); and “For who distinguisheth thee? Or what hast thou that thou hast not received?” (I Cor. 4:7.)

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  • i have not heard of a catholic teaching wherein the church teaches that there is some mechanism provided in creation whereby a soul that is unrepentant and defiant of God at the point the soul leaves the body (physical death) is able to reverse that defiance and repentant later. am i missing something. did Jesus teach us about be able to reverse our rejection of God after our deaths?

  • There is a sin against the Holy Spirit, that of final impenitence, which will not be forgiven in this world or the next. We cannot irrefutably identify any human person who committed this sin, not even Judas.

Sinners in the Hands of a Non-Judgmental God

Tuesday, April 9, AD 2013

Pal Jesus



We live in a time of cheap grace where forgiveness is not requested but demanded by miscreants.  Exhibit A is Mark Sanford who disgraced himself as governor of South Carolina and destroyed his family by his lust for his Argentinian mistress.  Now Sanford is the Republican candidate for Tim Scott’s, newly appointed Senator from South Carolina, old House seat for South Carolina 1.  He is opposed by Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch, Stephen Colbert’s sister.  (No fiction writer could make this up.)  Sanford is touting that he has been forgiven by God and the people of South Carolina should also forgive him.  In a very good column in the New York Post NAOMI SCHAEFER RILEY looks at the American impulse to embrace an endlessly forgiving God.

Only 31 percent of Americans believe in what the two call “an authoritative God,” a deity who is both engaged in the world (caring about human affairs, no pun intended) and judgmental. The rest believe that God is either disengaged or simply benevolent. Or they’re atheists.

Listening to these politicians rattle on as if they’ve had a sit-down with God and come to some kind of mutual understanding makes one long for some old-fashioned God-fearing.

Our European brethren think of us as puritanical; if only. These men — whose sin begins with infidelity and then travels through public humiliation of their wives and children and then ends with an inability to remove themselves from public life — might benefit from the recitation of that great sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”:

“The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow.”

Maybe Mark Sanford should try thinking about that next time he’s on the “Appalachian Trail.”

And not just him. A recent study in the academic journal Theoretical Criminology found that criminals often use religion — and even God’s forgiveness — as a way of rationalizing their behavior. “God has to forgive everyone, even if they don’t believe in him,” one 33-year-old enforcer for a drug gang told the interviewers.

In the first few centuries of the Church, penances would go on for many years in regard to serious sins before absolution was granted.  The penances would be public in nature, and would make clear that the penitent had committed grave sins.  Now, most people assume that God forgives any sin automatically, that penance is unnecessary and that the forgiveness of God absolves them from the consequences of their sins.  I recall one child molester stating at a conference that God had forgiven him, so why couldn’t everyone else?

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10 Responses to Sinners in the Hands of a Non-Judgmental God

  • Forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean people ought to vote for him. If Sanford is really sorry for what he did, he should be willing to stay out of elective politics for the rest of his life as a fitting penance.

    But if he is elected, that’s the fault of the electorate and the GOP as well.

  • The rest of his life, as Greg says, may be appropriate. But there use to be a ten-year rule. A person didn’t try to rehabilitate his name for at least ten years after his fall. The last person I saw who lived up to it was Gingrich, who accepted that if he was going to do anything in politics following his scandal, it had to be behind the scenes until a sufficient amount of time passed. The end of the rule, in my estimation, was when Spitzer lined up his new career as a pundit seemingly within hours of his resignation.

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  • This is in contrast to British government Minister John Profumo who in the early 60s was “found out” to have had an affair with a prostitute who was also involved with a Russian Diplomat. He lied to the house, but later confessed, resigned and spent the rest of his life in restitution, in charity work in the East End of London.

    His lovely wife, the actress Valerie Hobson, stood by him.

    Those were different days!!

  • Interesting point about how the Europeans view us. They really do believe we are puritanical and radically right-wing both in morals and politics. I’m wondering why they think that.

  • “This is in contrast to British government Minister John Profumo who in the early 60s was “found out” to have had an affair with a prostitute who was also involved with a Russian Diplomat. ”

    Didn’t JFK have trist with an East German spy?

  • If God can forgive and forget when we receive absolution after confessing our sins why must we put ourselves in the seat of judgment of others? This issue of Sanford’s fall is between Sanford and God. None of us have any idea what is going on in Sanford’s mind or heart. Let’s leave the punishment in God’s hands. By the way, the caricature of Jesus that you use to bring home your point is very offensive.

  • It is supposed to be offensive Mary as it represents a false conception of Jesus as ever forgiving pal that is very much in vogue today. Sanford is the one who chose to put himself back into the public lime light after disgracing himself. If the voters in his district wish to be represented by a man of no character that is their choice, and it is my choice to comment upon it. Turning a blind eye to manifest evil behavior merely allows that evil behavior to flourish and become normal, something that no one should object to. We have been down this slippery slope now for some five decades, and it is time, past time, to stop.

  • Meanwhile, Anthony Weiner is considering a run for NYC mayor.


  • A follow-up (that no one will ever notice unless they see it on the “recent comments” list):

    Sanford has been accused of trespassing on his ex-wife’s property, and is scheduled for a court appearance on May 9th, two days after the special election. If he has done something wrong, this should help to remind us that sometimes “private” sins indicate character problems. If he hasn’t done anything wrong, it should serve as a reminder that political baggage doesn’t come and go on your schedule. Either way the Republicans are looking at a loss or a handicapped office-holder.

Lent in a Sinless Age

Wednesday, February 13, AD 2013

I have never much enjoyed Lent, of course the purpose of Lent is not enjoyment.  Repentance, mortification, fasting casts for me a gray pallor over this time of year.  Like many things in life I do not like, foul tasting medicine, judges who insist on strict adherence to the law, honest traffic cops, I benefit from Lent.  It reminds me of my sins and the necessity to amend my life.  This is especially good for me because we live in a sinless age.

Prior to say 1965, people enjoyed sinning just as much as we do, but most did not delude themselves about what they were doing.  Promiscuous sex was just as fun then as now, but few were able to convince themselves that what they were doing was not, deep down, wrong.  A trip to an abortionist might “solve” a small “problem”, but the destruction of human life that went on in an abortion was acknowledged by almost all.  Standards of morality, as even a cursory study of human history reveals, have often been ignored by men, but the standards remained.

Now we live in a new and glorious day!  If something is physically pleasant then there can be no sin about it.  Good and evil have been banished from our lexicons, to be replaced, at most, with “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior.  If over a million innocents have to die for one of our pleasures each year it is a “small” price to pay, and in any case we aren’t the ones paying the price.  Some of our friends find gratification in sexual behaviors that were near universally condemned a few decades ago?  Not a problem!   We will rewrite the laws to make their behaviors “appropriate” and give a hard time to those retrogrades who do not adjust their concepts of “appropriate” and “inappropriate” to match ours.  We will celebrate those with great wealth and seek to emulate their lives, no matter how squalid, unless they hold political opinions that are “inappropriate”.  We will create wealth out of thin air to care for the poor through that magical device known as “government”, the same poor that we would never personally lift a finger to aid.  Lies will cease to be lies if we wish to believe them, and the term lie will soon be banished in any case.  Too “judgmental”, the closest thing we have remaining to sin.

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14 Responses to Lent in a Sinless Age

  • A heads up to the Fr. Barron lovers out there ~ my comment may rub you the wrong way. Here goes nothing. I must say, I guess I can admire Fr. Barron’s ability to find and give Catholics a teaching moment from the series, “Rome”, which to my mind is nothing but soft-porn clothed in historical fiction. Heck, even my anti-Catholic, anti-Christian, non-religious sister won’t watch it because of its over the top sex scenes. He apparently watches it regularly as he mentioned a previous season. He must have the ability and confidence to filter out the parade of skin and sex.

    Whatever happened to a priest’s admonition of practicing ‘custody of the eyes’? Frankly, I would think what we’d be hearing from Fr. Barron, or any Catholic priest, that we shouldn’t watch the show, period. But then again, I’ve read recently that Fr. Barron isn’t so sure that many people are even in Hell. How disappointing to see where Fr. Barron is at these days and equally disappointing that his talks and sermons are so popular. I guess I can see why.

  • This thread is not going to devolve into a pointless back and forth on Father Barron. Such comments will be deleted by me. Perhaps we could all try to stay on point in the comboxes of TAC for Lent?

  • thanks for the mediatation which strikes at the heart of the modern culture and convicts many who live within it—including me. one question to show (and hopefully alleviate) my ingnorance: what are the sources of the quotes from the “wise men” in the article? i am guessing C. S. Lewis might be one but I would like to find out for sure so that I could have the chance of both reading and learning more. thank you again and wishing you a blesssed and healing Lenten season.

  • Fyodor Dostoevesky from The Grand Inquisitor story in The Brothers Karamazov. It was as if he had a vision of the shape of things to come for the next century and a half after his death:

    Correct as to CS Lewis. It is from Screwtape Proposes a Toast:

  • Have you all noticed how, in trying to abolish the concept of sin and replace it with “intolerance” that they point towards animal behavior to somehow justify their own? The argument they imply is that if animals do it, it must be natural, and if it’s natural it must not be a sin. How far we have sunk when the mating behavior of bonobos and penguins becomes that moral standard which rules our behavior.

  • Donald, thanks very much for the info on the references and links thereto.

  • “The great lie of our time, and the great despair, is that we are creatures merely of our appetites with transient, meaningless lives.” BOOM!!!!!

  • Interesting point to consider: Oswald Spengler held that Dostoevsky was true to the spirit of Christianity while Tolstoy was a mere Westerner. Tolstoy is a social engineer but Dostoevsky is Orthodox at heart.

  • My thoughts on this article: Amen Brother! Right is wrong and wrong is right.

  • Tolstoy was an absolutist theoretician, a Plato. Dostoevsky was more an Aristotle.

    Then again, Dostoevsky was probably insane.

    Or, if I could steal a concept from Chesterton (and I always do), no matter how crazy Dostoevsky was, he was grounded by an understanding of human nature. No matter how sane Tolstoy’s religion was, it was unhinged by Reason detached from humanity, even though it claimed to be purely human.

  • Pinky, that was wonderfully put! Yes, Tolstoy was certainly platonic. Dostoevsky knew the human heart better and perhaps consequently saw the world with an aristotelian eye. I was unaware Dostoevsky was insane, though it would seem to be Tolstoyn would be the one to lose it of the two!

  • It seems the same people that want to write a million laws taxing, regulating, or banning nearly every thing concomitantly believe there is no such a thing (except disagreeing with them) is a sin.

    Is that irony, or what?

    Here it is. They hate God and the Church because God and the Church stand in their way.

Wait! Sin Has Consequences?

Friday, January 11, AD 2013



One of the more popular illusions of the past half century is that sin can be redefined and that we can engage in conduct formerly regarded as sinful free of consequence.  Alas, inconvenient reality keeps creeping back into the picture:



Workers at a Canadian clinic have discovered that almost 7 percent of their patients with gonorrhea had a strain of the bacteria against which all oral antibiotics are useless. This alarming report suggests gonorrhea may become an untreatable disease, warn public health experts.

Antibiotic-resistant strains of gonorrhea have been reported in outbreaks throughout Europe and Japan, according to US News, but the Canadian study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, marks the first time the strain has been seen in a large North American population.

“We’ve been very concerned about the threat of potentially untreatable gonorrhea,” Dr. Gail Bolan of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told Fox News. “We feel it’s only a matter of time until resistance will occur in the United States.

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11 Responses to Wait! Sin Has Consequences?

  • Noooo…it’s just you religious right types who think that sin has consequences. A direct quote from what you just said: “The Bible says that everyone who has sex outside of marriage will get STDs as a punishment from God.” You said it right in that paragraph there….

    Just thought I would save the trolls some time. 🙂


  • The duel relationship, man / nation, is paramount when discerning the Holy Scriptures as most all of you know.
    The sickness, sinfulness of man and the sickness, sinfulness of a nation go hand in hand.

    Our remedy is penance, prayers, sackcloth and Ashes…..starting with de-funding P.P.
    dismantle HHS mandate and establishing a respect for our Constitution starting from DC then out to the schools. Yes, Public school prayer to Jesus, Father and Holy Spirit to be encouraged! This is a nation under God, the one True God that suffered died and rose from the dead to save us from the gonorrhea that is false mercy being promoted from the Left.

  • We don’t call it sin anymore, we call it mental illness.

  • Just a failure of technology– or it is technology’s fault.

    The STD– oops, I mean “socially transmitted disease,” always use the full term to avoid confusion– is resistant to treatment. That means that the treatment is at fault. Possibly someone way back when is at fault for not using the treatment properly at a prior point, only mostly killing off the disease.

  • The bad news is that this becomes a public health threat to people who don’t fornicate indiscriminately. Transfer of genes can occur across bacterial species. So the meth head gets MRSA and the genes are transferred to his STD bacteria. Or some person who “hooks up” frequently, gets the STD and the genes are transferred to naturally occuring streptococcus bacteria in the vagina. This becomes the predominant strain of streptococcus in the woman’s body over time, and the gene gets transferred to a virulent strain of strep that causes strep throat. Suddenly, strep throat becomes incurable. Oh, but it’s everyone’s right to hook up, and it’s harmless.

    I see the results of antibiotic resistant bacteria in my line of work, and it drives up medical costs considerably. A guy goes in for a surgery, and his hardware gets infected. Suddenly, you are looking at a hospitalization and surgeries to debride necrotic tissue that runs to a quarter million dollars. That’s five years of earnings at the average U.S. wage of 44,000. Five years of a person’s production eaten up for the medical sequelae of sin.

  • If God wanted to deter immoral behavior with physical suffering, would we as a people respond in a rational manner? If not, can we still be considered rational creatures? If so, how will our creator judge those of us that act irrationally with full will?

    We are but a breath away from particular judgment.

  • If God wanted to deter immoral behavior with physical suffering, would we as a people respond in a rational manner?

    Don’t even need to involve God in this.

    People do stuff that they know they’re likely to end up with really bad results.
    Because they value the almost-assured thing they’ll get more than the possible but much worse side-effect.

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  • “People do stuff that they know they’re likely to end up with really bad results.

    Original sin I suspect.

  • How long before someone from the “reality based” community informs us that this strain of gonorrhea was synthesized by the same military scientists who developed the AIDS viris and faked 911?

    (This next sentence should be skipped by those who are in any way squeamish:) According to a New Yorker article these newer strains, due to recent shifts in sexual behavior, incubate in the human pharynx.

Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

Saturday, December 29, AD 2012

Today is the feast day of my confirmation saint, Saint Thomas Becket, the holy, blessed martyr.  His story tells us how foreign to our time the Middle Ages are.  Becket was a worldly cleric who had risen to be chancellor of England for Henry II.  Henry seized the opportunity to place his man, Becket, on the throne of Canterbury as Primate of England.  Becket had a sudden and complete religious conversion and fought Henry for the liberty of the Church for which Becket suffered exile and, ultimately, murder.  In penance for Becket’s murder Henry had himself beaten by the monks at Canterbury before the tomb of his former friend who, two years after his death, was canonized by the Pope.  For over three centuries his tomb became one of the major pilgrimage sites in Europe and inspired the immortal Canterbury Tales.

The Middle Ages were fully as immersed in sin as our own time, although with different mixtures of evil, but the sins of the Middle Ages were often followed by great penances and acts of contrition that brightened and inspired countless lives down through the centuries.  This we have lost and this we must regain.  G.K. Chesterton put what we lack in high relief when he wrote about Saint Thomas:

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4 Responses to Saint Thomas Becket, Sin and Contrition

  • St Thomas’s cultus was by no means confined to England.

    There are churches dedicated to him in Normandy (as one would expect) and in the Pas de Calais, but also in Sicily, where there was a strong Norman presence. The Duomo of Masala, where the wine comes from, is dedicated to him. The present Baroque church replaces a 12th century Norman one. I never eat zabaglione or tiramisu, which I do rather often, but I think of it.

  • The thing to do was owning up… ? Not pointing fingers?
    Yes, very different to our 21 century minds.

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  • Once a person, a Community, Country or a Nation has lost the sense of sin and, therefore, sees no need for repentance, convesion and reparation they then deliberately chose the road to Eternal Damnation. Let us never cease to pray for the sinners, especially the hardened sinners for whom Jesus dictated to Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska the Divine Mercy Chaplet. He also stated that this Chaplet should be prayed at the bedside of the dying so that they can be touched by His Grace and repent at that very, very final moment of their lives.

    How I wish in this Year of Faith the children of the Church would adopt this Prayer for the sinful Civil Leaders – and those who embrace their actions and who do not even accept they have done any wrong with their anti-God policies, Laws and disordered lifestyles.

    “For the sake of His Sorrowful Passion, have Mercy on us and on the whole world”

Universal Salvation and Probability

Wednesday, August 17, AD 2011

Every so often, another Catholic encourages me to “dare to hope that all are saved”. After all, it is not a matter of doctrine that any specific person is damned. We know that God’s mercy is great, and given God’s mercy and our beliefs about the bliss of heaven and the torment which is hell, it seems reasonable that any soul would choose to embrace God over separating himself permanently from Him.

For me, this idea seems to fall down, however, when applied to the whole of humanity. In a sense, it’s a lot like the issue of the probability of sinlessness which I wrote about briefly a while ago: Given that we have free will, it would seem that in any given situation we could choose to do the right thing — though obviously we in many cases feel a strong urge not to or don’t even have a clear understanding of what the right thing is. However paradoxically, while in every individual choice it would seem that we could choose not to sin, it seems like an impossibility that any one person would in fact make the right choice in every single circumstance, thus living a life entirely without sin (except for original sin.)

Similarly, it seems to me that while there’s clearly a chance that any given person, no matter how sinful, will repent before death, embrace God’s forgiveness, and be saved, I simply can’t imagine it as possible that every single person in the history of humanity would do so. We see people so very frequently, in ordinary life, actively choose to do thing which they know will make them unhappy out of anger, pride or even just habit — I just don’t find it persuasive that no one would ever have chosen to utterly refuse union with God and insist that he would “rather rule in hell and serve in heaven.”

So I do not hope that all will be saved — I stick to hoping that each person will be saved.

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7 Responses to Universal Salvation and Probability

  • And to add to it, here’s from today’s Gospel:

    “But when the king came in to meet the guests
    he saw a man there not dressed in a wedding garment.
    He said to him, ‘My friend, how is it
    that you came in here without a wedding garment?’
    But he was reduced to silence.
    Then the king said to his attendants, ‘Bind his hands and feet,
    and cast him into the darkness outside,
    where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’
    Many are invited, but few are chosen.”

  • Most of the arguments favor of ‘dare we hope…’ do seem to involve equivocating on the each/all distinction.

  • Another factor is the millions of bad individuals throughout history who were killed while trying to kill law enforcement whether we think of pirates or Pablo Escobar dying as he fought those trying to capture him in South America….after he killed thousands during his life time. “Dare we hope” is bizarre on the level of common sense. It would mean that all criminals dying throughout history in the act of sin, all child rapists/ murderers who were unrepentant…all adulterers dying in the act of sin, all those in Sodom who were killed by God, all false prophets killed by Elijah (450), Herod Antippas killed by God in Acts 12…..all these people either had defect in the act (sufficient reflection e.g.) or they were mentally ill or they with perfect sincerity thought their sin was
    virtue….which returns us to mental illness in most cases. Add to that the fact that such a theory deflates the missionary urge greatly. And if Christ’s words about Judas leave you thinking that Judas may be in heaven, then I want you doing my taxes next year.

  • Yes, the tenor of Scripture suggests that people will remain unconverted throughout eternity. Even up into the book of Revelation, there are those who remain “outside the gates.” I think we must come to terms with this. I don’t say they’re roasting and burning in a perpetual oven. But they do remain apart, and by choice. This is simply the picture given. Jesus said it. The apostles spoke it. This strain plays out to the end. Though the philosophic urge is toward synthesis, and our sentiments desire ultimate comedy for everyone, the tragic note remains. Those outside refused to enter in. So they remain there, in outer darkness and chaos.

  • Rob Bell, a theologian, recently wrote a book called Love Won Out. In it he argues for universal salvation. But I make the following point: Origin argued the same early on; he was knocked down for a good reason…the Bible never suggested such a thing, and in fact the gist of Scripture is that a portion of humanity remain unredeemed throughout eternity. That’s the reality we see in Scripture. Again, it’s not philisophically palatable. But it’s part of the story, the narrative of God and us.

  • It makes one feel good when you visualize that a Loving, Merciful God, will, in the end forgive even the worst sinners and admit them to Heaven. But as the respondents above state, the Scriptures, especially the chilling words of Jesus about Judas, shocks one into reality that the Road to Heaven is very, very narrow and only “a few” will find it and follow it upto its Destination.

Choosing Hell

Tuesday, May 3, AD 2011

This post originally ran (I’ve cleaned up a few typos, but otherwise left it unchanged) back in 2006, but the topic has been on my mind, and having found it via Google while researching the topic of the Fundamental Option I decided to rerun this one rather than writing a new one.

Quite some time back, Pontifications ran a post about the theory of “fundamental option”, which it seems is the theological term for the idea that one’s salvation is based upon a fundamental choice that one makes either for or against God.

This image for the determination of one’s salvation has a certain utility in that it is simple and evocative. C. S. Lewis uses it in The Last Battle, where all of Narnia’s creatures face Aslan and swerve either to his right (with loving expressions) or to his left (with hate in their eyes). And yet, like any image or illustration, applying it absolutely leads to distortion. The ‘encounter God and choose’ image helps to emphasize that God’s judgment is not some arbitrary judgment imposed upon us. It also helps to explain how someone externally appearing to have sinned many times might be saved, while someone who to all appearances led a virtuous life, yet held pride in his heart, might reject God and be condemned. And yet, taken as an absolute of ‘salvation by choice alone’ the theory of ‘fundamental option’ becomes just as much a heresy as ‘salvation by faith alone’.

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24 Responses to Choosing Hell

  • In my eyes, the entire discussion about “fundamental choice” is easily misleading.

    The Church doesn’t say that after death there will be a moment when we can choose between (oh what a difficult choice) eternal suffering or eternal supernatural beatitude. I’ve heard of Medjugorie people who truly think this is what is going to happen, and this is extremely dangerous in my eyes.

    It is rather so, that if in our lives we decided to put ourselves willingly and deliberately in frontal conflict with God’s rule and we persevere in this to death, at that point the decision is taken altready. There is no necessity – and no possibility – of an expressly stated decision – absurd in his very object – of “oh yeah, I do want to go to hell”.

    The fundamental choice is, I would say, already included in the life we live and in the way we die.


  • Cool post. Oddly I don’t see this sort of stuff getting talked about all that much.

    I see where you’re going – and where Bl. John Paul II is going – with this thought, and I suppose we have to assume in this day and age that somebody is going to mis-interpret the idea behind the fundamental option to mean that you can choose or reject God the same way you can choose or reject sugar in your coffee. It’s just that the fundamental option is going to end up being an ontological option. A man, by his chosen mode of being, is going to choose one way or another; and that choice would have to be, I imagine, like the choice of the angels in the beginning: resolute and immutable. Unless we believe in apokatastasis now, which I suppose is also not out of the question in this day and age. :/

  • In her diary, St. Faustina writes of a “special light” or “final grace” given to every soul in need of it at the point of death. Yet, pace Mundabor, she also writes that even this is not sufficient to save everyone:

    “Although a person is at the point of death, the merciful God gives the soul that interior vivid moment, so that if the soul is willing, it has the possibility of returning to God. But sometimes, the obduracy in souls is so great that consciously they choose hell; they make useless all the prayers that other souls offer to God for them and even the efforts of God Himself…” (#1698)

    As far as I know, Bl. John Paul II did not explicitly endorse this “interior vivid moment” in his promotion of St. Faustina and devotion to the Divine Mercy.

    In his “Death on a Friday Afternoon,” Fr. Neuhaus famously endorsed the “vivid moment” doctrine, but broke with St. Faustina in saying he couldn’t imagine anyone rejecting God under the circumstances.

    But I’ve understood the “fundamental option” doctrine to refer, not to the moment of death, but to a general tendency or inclination toward God with which one may live one’s life. One corollary of this is that, broadly speaking, there’s no such thing as a mortal sin; what is traditionally called a “state of grace” would be maintained, regardless of individual acts, for as long as the actor in some sense fundamentally chooses God.

  • I guess I’m doomed to hell because as an atheist my morality prevents me from respecting, let alone worshiping for all eternity, a being that purports to be a parent but allows its children to choose suffering for all eternity in hell. I wouldn’t even want that for the Osama bin Laden.

    It’s a lot of mental justification for a behavior that’s unjustifiable.

  • Michael,

    As an atheist, aren’t you kind of assuming that there’s no point where you’d be faced with the choice? Perhaps I presume too much, but I would assume that should you find yourself in such a position, a lot of things would be up for consideration very quickly, as some basic assumptions would have changed.

  • The following is from a sermon (sadly I no longer have the name of the priest) on St. Dismas’ “final grace” conversion and salvation.

    ” . . . Suffering accepted saves this gangster and changes him from a bandit into a saint — the first who entered paradise.

    “How mistaken those who think it easy to be saved after a life of sin, through a conversion at the last minute, like the good thief’s. He had to recognize his sins, renounce his past, accept his cross in the present and desire only the reward promised by Jesus. The conditions for being saved remain the same at the last minute as before: ‘If anyone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me’ (Mt. 16, 24).”

    St. Dismas not only was converted and repented, he also showed Our Lord compassion and to his unrepentant companion: charity.

    “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins; save us from the fire of Hell; take all souls to Heaven; amd help especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”

  • “I guess I’m doomed to hell because as an atheist my morality prevents me from respecting, let alone worshiping for all eternity, a being that purports to be a parent but allows its children to choose suffering for all eternity in hell.”

    You would prefer a God that produced obedient robots or a God that gives us only an illusion of free will? Man was made in the image of God in that he has free will, just like God. As a result of that free will we can raise ourselves as high as the angels or debase ourselves as low as the demons, it is all up to us.
    As CS Lewis noted in The Great Divorce, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “Thy will be done.”

  • Who made the rule that says you either obey God or suffer eternal torture? If I say to my child not to disobey me and he does and he persists in it do I have the moral right to torture him for months on end? Of course not, but some people believe God has the moral right to do this for all eternity. And what does it tell you about a God who has to make creatures who have to obey him under threat of damnation. It’s like a little boy with his plastic soldiers and when one disobeys him and won’t stand up because it was mal formed throws it in the stove to be destroyed.

  • How odd for an atheist to take this line of attack, unless you are against capital punishment, life imprisonment and all wars. You believe that life ends at the grave. All human societies have used various forms of punishment to enforce the laws they live by which often involve depriving a person of their life or depriving them of the enjoyment of it. What you accuse God of being society always is, to one extent or another. Such power is exercised by societies justly if the punishments are based upon bad conduct of the individuals so punished. We believe that this life is only a prelude to our lives in eternity and what we do in this life has eternal significance. Through our conduct and our conduct alone, we destine ourselves for eternal reward or eternal punishment. It is you who would reduce man to a mere automaton, a toy soldier in the grip of an all-controlling deity. Instead God made us his sons and daughters, free to love and follow him, or to hate and reject him.

  • Michael,

    Part of the problem here is that you’re using a very primitive conception of hell and judgment. You say:

    Who made the rule that says you either obey God or suffer eternal torture? If I say to my child not to disobey me and he does and he persists in it do I have the moral right to torture him for months on end? Of course not, but some people believe God has the moral right to do this for all eternity.

    Now, I think that, correctly thought about, the punishment model for thinking about Hell is not unfair or irrational in the way you want to suggest, but let’s look at it this way instead, (which, incidentally, you can find in works such as C. S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.)

    You want to make a comparison to a parent child relationship. Say, however, that your child says to you, “I hate you. I hate everything about you. I hate your house. I hate your food. I hate being near you. I want nothing to do with you.” Is it your belief that the good parent would respond, “Too bad, I’m going to lock you in the house and hold you in a big hug all the time so that you can see how much I love you!”

    No. This would be a denial of the rebellious child’s freedom, and indeed would almost be a form of torture. A good parent would try for a long time to bring the child around, but once that child grows up there will come a point when if the only thing that child wants to do with his freedom is go live under a bridge, drink malt liquor, never shower, and never see his family, the parent is going to be forced to allow that to happen.

    By the same token, if one of God’s creatures refuses to be near God, refuses to follow God’s will, refuses to have anything to do with God, there will come a point where God, if he is to respect our freedom, must let us suffer the consequences of our choices. Even if those choices are the to all appearances a choice to be utterly miserable.

    Sin is not so very different from the more obviously destructive addictions to which humans are subject — and when we insist on giving ourselves over utterly to sin and putting ourselves at an infinite distance from God, we are, by our freedom, able to create for ourselves our very own, private… hell.

  • I generally think of the inscription that Dante put over the gates of Hell when thinking about this topic:

    Per me si va ne la città dolente,
    per me si va ne l’etterno dolore,
    per me si va tra la perduta gente.
    Giustizia mosse il mio alto fattore:
    fecemi la divina podestate,
    la somma sapienza e ‘l primo amore.
    Dinanzi a me non fuor cose create
    se non etterne, e io etterno duro.
    Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’entrate

    Through me you go to the grief wracked city; Through me you go to everlasting pain; Through me you go a pass among lost souls. Justice inspired my exalted Creator: I am a creature of the Holiest Power, of Wisdom in the Highest and of Primal Love. Nothing till I was made was made, only eternal beings. And I endure eternally. Abandon all hope – Ye Who Enter Here.

    So to be honest, Hell itself is more an act of love than anything else. Or at least Dante chose to look at it that way. And it makes pretty good sense to me as well.

  • Der Wolfanwalt,


    One of the things that people who haven’t read Dante (or haven’t read him closely) seem not to get is that the damned in Dante are generally not being punished by some force outside themselves, their punishments are physical manifestations of the sins for which they are damned. The kingdom of hell is the land that they’ve built for themselves, in which their choices can be seen in all their reality.

    Dante himself, as the character in the poem, takes a while to catch on to this. With the lustful (who are being blown about by the wind just as they allowed themselves to be blown about by their passions) and the horders and the spendthrifts (rolling great boulders up and down hills at one another, just as they sought to make the piling up, or spending, of material things their highest good in life) he mostly feels sorry for them. It’s when he confronts the swamp of the violent, endlessly fighting each other while sunk in the mires of hatred, that he begins to really see the physical manifestations of sins as what they are and how people are simply doing now what they did before.

  • “So to be honest, Hell itself is more an act of love than anything else. Or at least Dante chose to look at it that way. And it makes pretty good sense to me as well.”

    Wolfie, I am shocked! We agree on something. The ending of the Paradiso sums up that God is Love:

    “But my own wings were not enough for this,
    Had it not been that then my mind there smote
    A flash of lightning, wherein came its wish.

    Here vigour failed the lofty fantasy:
    But now was turning my desire and will,
    Even as a wheel that equally is moved,

    The Love which moves the sun and the other stars.”

  • Hey, Donald. You know what they say…if you’re in the same religion, there’s got to be something to agree on, right? 😉

  • Note, All: The site is undergoing some IT work this evening, so if any comments vanish into the hereafter, it’s not the rage of an angry God, but simply the servers migrating.

  • Yes, indeed a child may decide to turn away from his parents, so if he or she does then the child should “be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” and where the child may cry out “have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” and “go away into everlasting punishment” where “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night…”

    How can one have a sophisticated view of this sadism?

    There is an easy way out. You just say the Biblical writers were influenced by the prevailing ethic of their time that viewed eternal damnation as acceptable for heresy but not we know that is unsupportable. And just say the concept of hell is no longer believed, at least not for a good God.

  • “Yes, indeed a child may decide to turn away from his parents, so if he or she does then the child should “be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.””

    It depends entirely upon the conduct of the person being judged by God. I can understand why a professed atheist would find the concept of judgment by a God after death that one has spent one’s life denying rather inconvenient.

    “There is an easy way out. You just say the Biblical writers were influenced by the prevailing ethic of their time that viewed eternal damnation as acceptable for heresy but not we know that is unsupportable.”

    Christ Himself spoke of Hell. Your argument is not with us, but with God, not an unusual situation for an atheist to find himself in.

  • “I can understand why a professed atheist would find the concept of judgment by a God after death that one has spent one’s life denying rather inconvenient.” First I spent the first 35 years of my life as a ardent believing Catholic and I’m old enough to remember all the pre-Vatican II sermons on hell that the Church is rather embarassed about now. Secondly I don’t find hell inconvienient, I find it immoral.

    “Your argument is not with us, but with God, not an unusual situation for an atheist to find himself in” Then you agree with me on this? :-> The trouble with arguing with God he never replies, you’a almost begin to think he wasn’t there.

  • “First I spent the first 35 years of my life as a ardent believing Catholic and I’m old enough to remember all the pre-Vatican II sermons on hell that the Church is rather embarassed about now. ”

    Now if you had only listened to them. Judging from your commenting on a Catholic website I would say you are as firm in your atheism today as you were in your Catholicism yesterday.

    “Then you agree with me on this? :-> The trouble with arguing with God he never replies, you’a almost begin to think he wasn’t there.”

    Oh he always replies. Some of us simply pretend not to hear him. The parable of Lazarus that you find so disturbing speaks to this:

    “27 Then he said, I pray thee therefore, father, that thou wouldest send him to my father’s house:
    28 For I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torment.
    29 Abraham saith unto him, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.
    30 And he said, Nay, father Abraham: but if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent.
    31 And he said unto him, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

  • Bishop Fulton J. Sheen:

    A heckler asked Bishop Sheen a question about someone who had died. The Bishop replied, “I will ask him when I get to heaven.” The heckler replied, “What if he isn’t in Heaven?”
    The Bishop replied, “Well then you ask him.”

    A man told Bishop Sheen he did not believe in hell. The Bishop replied,
    “You will when you get there.”

    Pray for the conversion of sinners.

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  • The earlier exchanges are among the more interesting I’ve read on The American Catholic. I wonder if I might ask about a different part of the post though:

    “Virtue is often described as ‘the habit of doing good’ while attachment to sin is that moral habit which, once one has sinned, makes it hard to make the right choice in the future. Thus, the first time you lie in order to get out of a difficult situation, you struggle to make it come out convincingly and fear for days that your lie will be found out. But with each transgression the lie comes more naturally, until it becomes nearly impossible to tell the truth in a difficult situation — the convenient lie comes out without even thinking… It is because we are changed as moral agents by our past choices that our fundamental choice for or against God at the particular judgment cannot be divorced from the moral decisions we have made throughout our lives. Each time we sin or resist sin, makes it harder or easier to make that decision at the moment of personal judgment.”

    This does not match my experience. The opposite is often true.

    I have found that it is when I am CLOSEST to what He wants me to be that I am most and most cleverly tempted. Doing good and avoiding bad are certainly habits but I have come to think of Satan as a very real and dynamic person – one most anxious for the souls most difficult to acquire. It seems to me that he doesn’t extend more effort than is needed. If one is wallowing in a particular sin, he simply provides the opportunity and lets the sinner do the rest. However, if the sinner is truly sorry and begins to struggle for freedom, then it is though the particular attention of the beast focusses on him.

    I don’t know that I’m disagreeing but it seems to me that the more clearly one sees one’s faults and frailty, the more one clings to ever-present Mercy. Perhaps this is why greatness in human terms can be so terrible a curse.

  • It sounds to me like you’re saying one notices temptation most when one is trying to do right, but still has that strong tendency towards sinning. Which I would agree on.

    It seems to me that there is a tipping point where it becomes easier again, king of like the point in quitting smoking when you realize that at some point it turned from a constant struggle into not actually wanting a cigarette any more.