More on self-sacrifice and renouncing self-will

Self-will is the inclination to do our own will. On account of the corruption of human nature self-will is usually opposed to the will of God and is defined as such by spiritual writers. As heaven is the reward for doing God’s will, detachment is necessary for all. Children must renounce their will to obey their parents; citizens, to abide by the law of the land; and Christians, to become worthy brethren of Christ. Those, however, who seek perfection, must make the holy will of God their own in all things before they can say with Christ, “I do always the things that please him” (John viii.29). In fact, in proportion as we do God’s will we work for heaven, and in proportion as we do our own will we have our reward in its gratification. “Why have we fasted, and thou hast not regarded; why have we humbled our souls, and thou hast not taken notice? Behold, in the day of your fast your own will is found” (Is. iviii.3).

Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way: A Brief, Clear, Systematical Exposition of the Spiritual Life for the Laity, and a Practical Guide Book to Christian Perfection for All of Good Will (New York: Benziger, 1914).

(H/T to Saintly Sages.)

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Natural law, family and society

In what natural law theory regards as a rightly ordered society, most people marry, and marriage typically results in children, and lots of them.  This in turn creates a large social network of people known personally to one – lots of brothers and sisters, cousins, aunts and uncles, and so on – on whom individuals can fall back in times of need.  Divorce is stigmatized, so that children generally have stable homes and discipline, and they and their mothers generally have a reliable provider.  Elder family members are looked after by the new generation, just as they looked after that generation when it was in its infancy.  Elder members also find ongoing purpose in helping to raise their grandchildren.  In general, the good of the family takes precedence over the desires of the individual member.  And this subordination of self-interest to the common good of the family makes people more sober and realistic in their expectations, less selfish, and better able to achieve a contentment that is deep and lasting even if not as titillating as running off to begin a second or third marriage.

Contrast that with the contemporary mentality, which regards sex and romance as primarily a matter of self-fulfillment, rather than having self-sacrifice for the sake of children and family as its natural end.  Whereas the traditional arrangements commended by natural law subordinated the short-term interests of the individual to the long-term health of the family, the modern mentality subordinates the long-term health of the family to the short-term interests of the individual.  Naturally, solidarity is weakened [and this weakened solidarity extends to the society as a whole].

Edward Feser, “Liberty, equality, fraternity?“, Edward Feser blog, October 10, 2017.

And again, who are the fascists?

I’m not taking this blog totally political, but I wanted to help this story get circulated. Not in defense of Trump or white sumpremacists (as the story itself makes clear), but because people risk being beaten for nothing but appearing in public, and on the thinnest of grounds, and there’s not nearly enough outrage over it. I consider this fascistic terrorism since the goal is to make people afraid to air certain views publicly. You may think it’s a grand idea when these tactics are used against those you disagree with, but what happens when they disagree with you?

H/T to Junior Ganymede.

A headline I thought I’d never see

From the Washington Post, no less:

Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley

In case it’s not clear, the reason I’m surprised is that a mainstream media organization that isn’t Fox News is clearly stating, in a headline, that the left was the aggressor while the right-wingers were “peaceful.” I would have expected them to either ignore it or somehow portray it as the right-wingers bringing it on themselves, especially in the wake of Charlottesville.

A small sign that the world isn’t completely insane quite yet. Or am I too cynical?

The revitalization of a parish in ultra-lib land

Three years after Fr Illo was appointed parish administrator in August 2014, bringing his powerful commitment to traditional Catholic practices to the famously progressive city [San Francisco], Mass attendance and the number of parishioners registered have increased about 10 percent each year.

Read the rest at Fr. Z’s Blog.

excatholic4christ knows your faith better than you do

The blog excatholic4christ is written by a guy named Tom who, by his own account, was raised Catholic but never really had faith in Jesus until after he grew up, got married and had kids, and left the Catholic Church, at which point he “accepted Jesus Christ as [his] savior.” He writes, “Like most Catholics my ‘faith’ was just a part of my family and cultural baggage.

Tom evidently considers it a duty on his blog to criticize and condemn the Church at every opportunity. I suppose the purpose, as he sees it, is to keep people from being deceived into believing her teachings.

Since Tom never really knew Jesus while practicing Catholicism, and therefore lacked the one absolutely essential component of the true practice of the faith, it’s not surprising that he largely misunderstands it. As St. Augustine said, you must “believe so that you may understand”; and St. Anselm, “I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but rather, I believe in order that I may understand.” A nonbeliever necessarily lacks understanding.

I assume Tom would agree that a disbeliever in the Bible could never understand the Bible as well as a believer. Between an atheist biblical scholar and a Christian, all other things being equal, the Christian will have insights into the text which the atheist lacks. The same obviously applies to the Catholic faith: One who believes and practices the faith on a daily basis will thereby grow in understanding and insight, while the disbeliever will not. One who lacks belief in Christ necessarily has a large hole in his understanding and practice of Catholicism.

Tom’s implied claim that his twenty-some years of practicing the faith gave him insights into the faith and knowledge and understanding of its teachings, which believers in the faith lack, is therefore unconvincing.

For example he asserts that the Catholic Church teaches that one must “obey the Ten Commandments perfectly in order to be allowed into Heaven“. All of my Catholic readers will immediately recognize the error of that statement. I corrected him in a comment, and he replied by quoting an online Catholic dictionary, to the effect that being free of mortal sin is necessary to get into heaven. I said yes, we must be free of mortal sin, but venial sins don’t forfeit salvation. He then dismissed the Church’s distinction between mortal and venial sins, on the ground there is no official list of mortal and venial sins by which to distinguish them.

Obviously I had an answer to that assertion, but another feature of Tom’s blog is his tendency to give himself the last word. He moderates all comments before they appear on his blog, and my comment in reply simply disappeared (for neither the first nor the last time). Therefore Tom’s readers should know that when Tom has the last word in a comment thread, often it’s not because his guest commenter had nothing more to say. He was simply not allowed to say it. It’s easier to win a debate when you control who gets to speak.

Since I wasn’t allowed to respond to Tom’s last comment on his blog, I’ll do it here.

In answer to the argument that there is no list of mortal and venial sins, and no bold line by which to tell them apart, and therefore no meaningful distinction between them: The fact that he lacks understanding of the difference between them, doesn’t prove that the Church understands no difference. He may have lacked understanding of the difference between them while he was a practicing Catholic, but then again he also lacked faith in Jesus at the time, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this insight escaped him.

The difference between a mortal and venial sin has to do with whether the sin involves grave matter; whether the person knew it was a sin; and whether he did it with full deliberation and in his right mind. A sin that lacks any of these components is a venial sin. Now unless Tom insists that every sin ever committed is done with full knowledge, deliberation and consent, he must admit that venial sins exist according to the Catholic understanding. He may deny that there is any objective difference that affects one’s salvation, but he can’t deny that some sins meet the Catholic definition of venial.

It’s true that there is no list of sins labeled “mortal” and “venial”. The reason is that stealing, for example, may be venial or mortal depending on the amount stolen, and who it is stolen from. Stealing $20 from a rich man is venial, while stealing the same amount from a homeless man might be mortal, since it could cause him to go hungry. Sins that cause mild annoyance are venial, those that cause grave harm are mortal. Sometimes the gravity of a sin must be determined on a subjective basis.

But for the most part, Catholics who are well instructed in the faith have a working understanding of which sins are serious and which aren’t, and that suffices to get people through daily life. When in doubt whether a sin you’ve committed is mortal, you abstain from communion until you’ve confessed it to a priest.

There is no need to engage in drawn out, handwringing self-examination as to whether a sin is venial or mortal. It’s not as though venial sins are allowed and mortal sins aren’t; all sin is forbidden by definition. So a dilemma can never arise where you must decide whether to commit a sin based on whether it’s mortal or venial. If it’s a sin at all you mustn’t do it, and that should end the handwringing.

But the salient point in response to Tom’s post, is that perfect sinlessness is NOT necessary for salvation according to the Catholic religion.

It’s not my intention to criticize Tom for rejecting the Catholic faith. If he were to state a doctrine he disagreed with and give reasons for his disagreement, I could respect that. But Tom’s practice is to insist on his own understanding of Catholic doctrine, condemn that understanding as violating the teachings of Christ, and in doing so claim that he has debunked Catholicism itself, when actually he has only knocked down his own straw man.

Tom is welcome to post any comments he may choose in defense of his position here. I won’t delete them or “moderate” them out of existence.