From Fr. James Schall, one of the good Jesuits: Hatred of the Church? A sample:

If Benedict XVI has brought anything to the fore in Catholic theology, it is the nature and necessity of “judgment” of the acts we put into the world. This judgment is what Spe Salvi , among other things, is about. It is also very much what Plato is about. Augustine had said that Christian revelation was not necessary to learn what virtue was. The pagan philosophers understood this already. What mystified the great pagan thinkers was not the definition of virtue but its practice.

What we quickly learned both during and after the life of Christ was that the practice of virtue, even with grace, would still be quite difficult. Christians, along with everyone else, would still too often be sinners. One does not become a Christian in order to guarantee that he will never sin again. He becomes a Christian in order, should he sin again, that he need not despair of his soul’s eternal fate, provided he is willing to respond as Christ in the Church asked him.

Thus, Christianity was also about repentance and forgiveness, without ceasing to be about judgment. But this possibility of repentance did not erase the harm our sins cause to others or the penalties of law designed to promote a decent order. Aquinas said that the civil law does not cover every sin but only the most serious ones, those without which people cannot live together.

Certainly, the possibility of changing one’s life after great faults is central to our understanding of human nature and freedom. But so is the experience of those who refuse, when given a chance, to reestablish proper order in their own lives. Like alcoholics, some people keep doing the same things over and over. The external effects of their internal disorders also need to be attended to.










Articles by David Mills

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