The act itself is a sin, and sins are not distorted goods, but grave offenses of God, which not only separate the sinner from God, but moreover, deeply stain the sinner’s soul, and moreover, in most cases, wound and hurt other beings. This is why sin is a terrible reality. Original sin was so grave that it cut off man from his Creator, and created an abyss between Creator and creature that only God’s infinite goodness could span. It would be strange indeed if God had decided to send His divine Son to earth, have Him incarnated in the womb of a Virgin and destine Him to a shameful and horrendous death, just for mending the harm done by a “distorted” good.
At this point one wishes to have the eloquence of a Cicero, inspired by the writings of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, in which he condemns in the strongest possible words (see Rom.1:18) all the perversions and moral abominations abhorred by the Apostle of the Gentiles, being full fledged realities, and not just distorted goods. Alas, they are fully real acts of revolt. Non serviam. In other words, sexual perversions, immorality, theft, murder, sadism, rape are totally and exclusively man’s doings, and have nothing to do with the goodness of God’s creation. These evils are committed by man alone after creation was completed. The viciousness of these acts is man’s full responsibility and can never be viewed as “an absence or distortion” of something good that God had created.
This was superbly expressed by St. Augustine, referring to moral evil that is either heresies or immoralities. He writes these golden words: Interficere errorem; digiligere errantem. What is false or morally evil is to be “killed”, destroyed, blotted out of existence. There should be neither pity nor compassion for the moral evil referred to above. They must be fought against, with every possible means. They should not be tolerated. There are things which, St. Paul tells us, because of their evil character that “should not even be mentioned among Christians.” Today, the whole gamut of moral perversions are not only mentioned, but advertised and even praised, as the abolition of “old taboos.” Moreover, their acceptance is praised in the name of “charity” and “compassion.” Compassion toward sinners should apparently be extended toward sins, because the two are so closely “married.” Secularists and atheists today have become “the great apostles of charity,” reminding Christians that the Gospel is a Gospel of love and forgiveness. Moreover, there is no need for forgiveness – everything is legitimate if it satisfies the person who happens to like it. The whole gamut of tastes should be respected.
Who is to decide what is right? Joe Biden tells us that being a practicing Catholic, he fully endorses the teaching of the Church condemning abortion. But being “charitable”, he has no right to impose his opinions on others. Some politicians have become “moral theologians.”
More in Dr. Alice von Hildebrand
The Gospel, when read on one’s knees as recommended by Kierkegaard, tells us a very different story. Far from claiming that there is one redeeming feature in sin, it claims that certaub sins are such a abominations (offense of God) that if “anyone scandalizes one of these little ones, it would be better for him to have a millstone put around his neck and be thrown to the bottom of the sea” (Matt. 18:6; Mark 9:42; Luke 17:2).
These are fearful words. Clearly there was nothing “redeemable” in these acts. Pornography is clearly referred to by these words. Still more fearful is Judas’ betrayal. It is in referring to this traitor that Christ spoke the most fearful words uttered in the Gospel of love; “It would have been better for this man had he never been born.” The loving Savior, about to sacrifice his life for us, sinners, clearly could not see anything “positive” behind the abomination of Judas’s treason. It is a grievous error that must make the Angels cry to claim that we should look for the positive behind pornography.
This leads us to the second point: “diligere errantem.” There the divine message is very different; abominable as certain crimes are, as long as the sinner lives, not only can he repent (and this would give immense joy to Angels in heaven), but however stained and filthy (for there is such a thing as moral filth), God’s image is still in him. The Christian message is clear indeed; your love for the sinner is proportionate to your hatred of his sin. A sincere lover of a “pornographer” is the greatest enemy of pornography. In his Purgatory, Dante wrote the following words concerning Malfredi:
Orribili furon li peccati mei
Ma la bonta divina ha si gran braccia
Che prende cio, che si rivolge a lei. (iii, 121 ff)
The message is clear: there are sins which are nothing short of horrible, but God will never turn down a repentant sinner. As a matter of fact, we do not even have to implore for God’s mercy: it is always offered, but the terrible fact is that man can turn it down, preferring damnation to mercy.
(Column continues below)
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Kierkegaard speaks also of this metaphysical rebellion: “… rather than seek help he would prefer to be himself – with all the tortures of hell, if it must be.”
The Christian attitude is superbly expressed in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s words. While discussing the horror of Nazis with a friend whose mother died in a concentration camp, he said, “If Hitler were dying in jail and begged for a glass of water, I would hasten to give it to him.” His friend was shocked, but he was right.
May we live up to both challenges: the hatred of the sin; the love for the sinner.