Archive for the ‘Harmatiology’ Category

Category Fail(ure) – "Especially Sinners"

June 22, 2009

Those in the younger generation are familiar with the “fail” lingo, and the (ure) is for the rest of us who still appreciate proper grammar. Anyhow, Catholic News Service reports the pope as saying that “Padre” Pio had a “total willingness to welcome the faithful, especially sinners” – to whom or what is not specified.

The category error is the implication that some of the faithful are not sinners. Scripture is clear that all have sinned – all are sinners. Now, perhaps someone will come here and tell us that the pope is using special papal jargon and that “sinners” here means only those with especially serious sin.

If one’s goal were simply to try to find an orthodox interpretation of the pope’s words, one might even point to a passage of the speech a bit further down where it spoke of the “conversion of sinners” as supportive a special sense of the term.

But that would be a stretch. It’s more probable that the pope was committing the same category error we see in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”:

2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners. He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us . . . and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”

– CCC 2634

The catechism is wrong. He does not intercede for all men (at least not “all” in the sense of “each and every”), but only for the elect. He does not intercede for any but those who need intercession, namely sinners. He is the only intercessor for all men, but he is not the intercessor for each man. So likewise, all men are sinners, and thus the “especially sinners” would not (but for the faulty presuppositions implicit) provide any further limitation on his intercession.

The bottom line? No matter what the pope or the catechism say, Scripture tells us:

Romans 3:10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:


Friday Menu: Rotini with Meat Sauce

February 16, 2008

I recall some years ago visiting a hotel, and encountering a young man wearing a yarmulke. We met in the lobby of the hotel. After we got on the elevator, he asked me for a favor. He asked me if I would unlock the door of his hotel room for him. You see, the hotel has electronic locks, and operating the hotel’s lock was, in the view of this Jewish man, a violation of the Sabbath.

Oddly, he had not the least compunction in asking me to violate the Sabbath for him. I disagreed with the man’s theonomy, and so I agreed to assist. I pressed the elevator button for him, and I unlocked his door for him. I thought it would be pointless to dispute the matter with him.

Later I investigated whether this was normal or not. After all, normally if something is wrong, it is wrong to ask someone else to do that wrong thing for you. One cannot ask a stranger on a train to murder one’s father, nor (thought I) could one ask a stranger in a hotel lobby to violate the Sabbath. It turns out that the standard Jewish response to the latter question is to distinguish.

Apparently, the standard Jewish answer is that the Sabbath is only for the Jews, not for the Gentiles. Thus, it’s perfectly ok for me (who the young man assumed to be a Gentile) to break the Sabbath, but not ok for me to kill (since prohibitions on murder are more universal).

Why do I bring this up now? The reason I bring it up is because I had a tasty dinner of Rotini with Meat Sauce on a Friday during Lent. I’m interested in Catholic opinion on the matter. Do Catholics think that Lent applies to Christians that are not Catholics? What about to formal/material heretics? In other words, is Lent to Catholics as the Sabbath is to Jews?

On the other side of the spectrum, I am aware that Ramadan in some Muslim countries is enforced by the police. It is not a defense to a charge of breaking Ramadan in any public place that you are not a Muslim.

Furthermore, such a view is not entirely outside Catholicism. Recall that the Fourth Lateran Council decreed:

68. Jews appearing in public
A difference of dress distinguishes Jews or Saracens from Christians in some provinces, but in others a certain confusion has developed so that they are indistinguishable. Whence it sometimes happens that by mistake Christians join with Jewish or Saracen women, and Jews or Saracens with christian women. In order that the offence of such a damnable mixing may not spread further, under the excuse of a mistake of this kind, we decree that such persons of either sex, in every christian province and at all times, are to be distinguished in public from other people by the character of their dress — seeing moreover that this was enjoined upon them by Moses himself, as we read. They shall not appear in public at all on the days of lamentation and on passion Sunday; because some of them on such days, as we have heard, do not blush to parade in very ornate dress and are not afraid to mock Christians who are presenting a memorial of the most sacred passion and are displaying signs of grief. What we most strictly forbid however, is that they dare in any way to break out in derision of the Redeemer. We order secular princes to restrain with condign punishment those who do so presume, lest they dare to blaspheme in any way him who was crucified for us, since we ought not to ignore insults against him who blotted out our wrongdoings.

So then, the simple question is: is my consumption of Rotini with meat sauce on Friday during Lent a mortal sin for me, or only for my Catholic neighbors? Is Lent more like Ramadan or the Jewish Sabbath? And if the latter, would you please pass the meatballs?


UPDATE: I realize that Orthodox views on Lenten fasting are somewhat diferent. I’d be interested in Orthodox thoughts on whether it is sin for Reformed Christians to violate the various prohibitions on eating, drinking, and sex during that period.

Further Update: Thanks to Reginald for his well-reasoned response from a Catholic perspective here (link). If I may summarize his answer: in his view it is more like the Jewish Sabbath, in that it is permitted for non-Catholics to ignore the fast, because the moral basis of obligation is dependent on the duty of Catholics to obey their church.

Who is Harmed When We Sin?

October 20, 2007

In a combox of a Catholic blog, from a user purporting to be a high profile Catholic (who I will abbreviate FB), I heard this:

“profaning the Lord is just a wrong against God, but God, who is perfect, cannot be diminished by this harm”

It reminded me of almost the same remark by Shabir Ally, a Muslim apologist:

“It doesn’t hurt God in any way if you or I sin. It does not take anything away from his greatness. It does not reduce his power in any way if we sin. When we sin we hurt ourselves. And this is why we are taught to pray: ‘Our Lord, we have wronged our souls, and if You do not forgive us, have mercy on us, then surely we are the losers.'”

Shabir’s comments are actually an interesting paraphrase:

Proverbs 8:36 But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

But both Shabir and FB see only part of the equation. There is another side though:

Malachi 3:8-9
8Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. 9Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation.
Yes, when we sin we harm ourselves, but consequently not directly. We harm ourselves, because our sins cause us to be guilty.

But when we sin, we also wrong God. No one can take away from God’s power and greatness, as Shabir correctly noted, and we cannot diminish the perfection of God (in fact, God is glorified when we sin), but sin is still an offense against God.

God cannot tolerate sin, for holiness is an essential attribute of God:

Isaiah 6:3 And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

That is why we pray not with the words of Proverbs 8:36, but with the words of the prophet Jeremiah:
Jeremiah 14:20-22
20 We acknowledge, O LORD, our wickedness, and the iniquity of our fathers: for we have sinned against thee. 21Do not abhor us, for thy name’s sake, do not disgrace the throne of thy glory: remember, break not thy covenant with us. 22Are there any among the vanities of the Gentiles that can cause rain? or can the heavens give showers? art not thou he, O LORD our God? therefore we will wait upon thee: for thou hast made all these things.

Micah 7:18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.

Jeremiah 3:12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith the LORD; and I will not cause mine anger to fall upon you: for I am merciful, saith the LORD, and I will not keep anger for ever.

Isaiah 64:9 Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity for ever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people.

Isaiah 57:16 For I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth: for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made.

For indeed:

Psalm 5:4 For thou art not a God that hath pleasure in wickedness: neither shall evil dwell with thee.

Psalm 138:8 The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.

Exodus 34:6 And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,

Psalm 86:15 But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.

But there is a difference between the elect and the reprobate:

Psalm 37:28 For the LORD loveth judgment, and forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever: but the seed of the wicked shall be cut off.

And again:
Hebrews 10:30-31
30For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again, The Lord shall judge his people. 31It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Hebrews 10:39 But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.

And God’s Justice must be satisfied:

Jeremiah 3:5 Will he reserve his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and done evil things as thou couldest.

So then, let us pray, to the one true God, to this God:

Isaiah 45:21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

To the Just God and Saviour,


Reginald Suggests that Roman Catholics Deny the Subjective Sinfulness of Involuntary Sin

September 25, 2007

Reginald (a Roman Catholic blogger) in a recent comment on his own blog suggested that Roman Catholics do not believe that involuntary sin is subjectively sinful (although they would agree that it is objectively sinful).

In this regard they are clearly contrary to the Orthodox who routinely pray for God to forgive both their voluntary and involuntary sins, and contrary to Augustine as well.

Query for the Roman Catholic readers of this blog, is Reginald right?

The Compendium of the CCC (I guess that would make it the CCCC) seems to suggest so.

Is that right? Do Catholics seek remittance of their involuntary sins or not? If so, why?


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