Do Catholic leaders believe in sin anymore?

March 20, 2015 09:00 AM

By Jim Sedlak

If Catholic leaders do still believe in sin, many sure don’t act like it.

A secular dictionary defines sin as “an immoral act considered to be a transgression against divine law.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the following definition in paragraph 1850: 

Sin is an offense against God. . . . Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.” In this proud self-exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation.

In today’s American society, messages from individuals, groups, movies, television shows, radio programs, and media outlets who all want to tell us what is “good” and what is “evil” bombard us on a daily basis. They don’t care what God says; they want us to ignore God’s law and be tolerant of the evil we find all around us. They want us to just accept that people will sin. They say sin is no big deal and tell us that we shouldn’t get upset.

A dozen years ago, Cardinal Joseph Ratinzger (later Pope Benedict XVI) took note of this situation and warned that one of the great errors of believers today is to “feel at ease with sin.” As a result of this ease, the heart “becomes blind, ceases to seek God, does not desire grace, and does not feel any repentance.” 

Therein lies the basic problem. When we—as individuals or as a society—accept things that are objectively sinful, it has a real effect on us, as well as on the persons committing the sins. I stress the word “objectively” sinful because in our Judeo-Christian world view, God has already defined for us what is okay and what is not. We do not get to decide.

Within the hierarchical Catholic Church, lay members look to our leaders to remain faithful to Catholic teaching and to speak out when society is straying from the rightful path. Over the years, we have been blessed with many such leaders. Unfortunately, some have disappointed.

Over the past few weeks, a number of issues have revolved around some St. Patrick’s Day parades across the country. Many priests and bishops have shined brightly in response to occasions of sin. Others, not so much.

In Norfolk, Virginia, the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade was held on Saturday, March 14. The parade is a project of the Knights of Columbus Council #3548. In 2014, the council caused controversy when it invited a pro-abortion politician to be the Grand Marshal. After much pressure, the council changed its mind and disinvited the politician. Apparently not having learned anything from that experience, this year it invited Governor Terry McAuliffe—a pro-abortion politician who claims to be a good Catholic—to be Grand Marshal. As expected, the choice drew protests, but this time the council refused to back down.

The response was swift. Father Dan Beeman, pastor of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Norfolk, said his parish would not support or participate in the parade and he would not attend the parade or the event’s related Emerald Ball. “Sadly, this also unnecessarily severs the relationship between Council #3548 and Holy Trinity parish,” he said. Five additional Catholic schools withdrew from participation in the parade and other parishes said they would no longer associate with Council #3548. 

In addition, the two Catholic bishops in Virginia issued a joint statement regarding participation in the parade. Francis X. DiLorenzo, bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, and Paul S. Loverde, bishop of the Diocese of Arlington and state chaplain of the Virginia State Council of the Knights of Columbus, said, in part: “We fully support the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which promotes decision-making taking place at the local level whenever possible. However, the decision of the local council to invite the governor to be the Grand Marshal does not reflect the stance of the Knights of Columbus international order, the bishops of the Dioceses of Richmond or Arlington, or the Catholic Church. In addition, we support the local parish, Catholic schools, and entities that have decided that, in this case, adhering to their faith means withdrawing from the parade.” 

In Boston, Massachusetts, a group that promotes an active homosexual lifestyle was allowed, for the first time ever, to march in that city’s parade. In reaction, the Immaculate Heart of Mary School in Harvard, Massachusetts—which has sent a float and a 40-member band to the parade for past 25 years—announced it would not be joining in the festivities. The school’s principal, Brother Thomas Dalton, explained: “We don’t want to be seen as condoning homosexual activity and gay marriage.” In an article covering this story for The New American magazine, its author opined: “Few among the state’s political leaders, including its many Catholics, appear hindered by such scruples.”

As encouraging as this response from priests and bishops to a sinful situation was, the response of other Catholic clergy and lay leaders to the promotion of a sinful lifestyle in the St. Patrick’s Day parades was disheartening.

In Boston, amid the controversy, the Massachusetts Knights of Columbus State Council announced that it would march in the St. Patrick’s Day parade even though its members had not marched in the parade in 20 years. Only after much public pressure from Catholic Action League of Massachusetts and Mass Resistance did the Knights reluctantly decide not to march.

St. Patrick’s Day is a special day in Boston, as Patrick is the patron saint of the archdiocese. Yet, despite all the controversy, Cardinal Sean O’Malley did not issue any public statement regarding the parade, thus giving tacit approval to the presence of the homosexual group.

Finally comes New York City. In what is billed the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the nation, homosexuals were allowed to march under their own banner for the first time this year. Although there was a great deal of public outcry, Cardinal Timothy Dolan not only seemed unconcerned with the move, but he “proudly” strutted the streets as the parade’s Grand Marshal. 

At the beginning of the parade, Cardinal Dolan was heard saying: “Good to be with you all. I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time.” Later, as the homosexual group marched past St. Patrick’s Cathedral carrying a banner that read OUT@NBCUniversal; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Ally Employee Alliance, there were at least five priests and bishops standing in front of the cathedral, smiling and waving to the members of the gay group. Of course, none of this happens without the cardinal’s approval.

The last two weeks have shown both the good and the bad of Catholic leadership. We’ve seen those who seemingly willingly cave to society’s pressure and fail to admonish the sinner. We have also seen the outstanding bishops, priests, and lay people who strongly stand for the truth and understand that true love for our fellow travelers in this world means that we call attention to their sinful ways so that they can repent and be saved—just as we would want them to let us know if we were not being obedient to God’s laws.

We live in a sinful world. Let us pray that we all understand the evil of sin and have the courage to speak out against it. To that end, one of our hero bishops, Archbishop Cordileone, is under attack in San Francisco. To find out more and to send him a message of support, go to LifeSiteNews.  

If we strive to be sinless, our hearts will be opened. We will continuously seek God, find repentance and His grace, and spend eternity with Him in heaven.

Jim Sedlak is vice president of American Life League.

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