Thursday, June 12, 2008

"Social ills" with a side of Pelagianism

This new story at CNS is interesting. It's about a Jesuit journal - and this part may be difficult to believe - defending - that's right, I said defending - the traditional seven deadly sins. Near the beginning the CNS article notes,
The seven deadly sins are still key to understanding and healing the social and personal ills plaguing humanity today, said an influential Jesuit journal.

Now, here is the problem: "key to understanding and healing the social and personal ills plaguing humanity today." What about God? What about the soul in relation to God? The problem is that the main problem with these mortal sins is that they offend God and in fact separate the soul from communion with Him. They offend His Divine Majesty and while He desires to gather us in as He did with Jerusalem, He will not when we choose to live in mortal sin.
It seems to me an axiom of the modern world that all that matters is what affects other people and how someone's actions affect the entire human community. God is left out of the equation. What people focus on is "the social and personal ills" and forget about our one Good Who is offended.

At the end of the article the followed is stated:

The journal said reflecting on vice is not pessimistic but hopeful because it presupposes a "great faith in the freedom and goodness of humankind," which is able to recognize good and act on it.

I find this part problematic, et tu? This paragraph asserts that man is able to recognize the good and act on it. Can every man recognize the good and act on it on his own? The writer of this article may be assuming - and I would be assuming by even mentioning it - that the reader understands the necessity of Christ and the grace His gives to us as a remedy for the effects of the Fall. Man, in his fallen state, has a darkened intellect and a weakened, "downward bent" (to use the words of St. Paul) will. Can he really simply recognize the good and act on it? Apart from Christ, and apart from grace, no he cannot.

This Pelagianism - this optimism concerning man's nature - plagues the modern world. It is a general belief that man can just "be good" in order to get to heaven, that every man can just seek and do the good. Apart from grace we can do nothing. Christ said: "Apart from Me you can do nothing." Mortal sin, those seven deadly sins that the article is about, creates more blindness and further weakening of the will the more it is indulged. Especially in our depraved world it is foolish to think people, and their consciences, can so easily recognize the good.

What is the true answer? Conversion. Not just conversion to "environmental concerns" or conversion for "the good of humanity." What is necessary is true contrition before God our true Source, before His Divine Majesty Our Lord Jesus Christ Who is coming again to judge the living and the dead. In the words of Our Lord to St. Faustina we know that He desires to come to us as Divine Mercy before He comes as Divine Justice. That Divine Mercy is the only way we can recognize the true good and to act on it. It is His Holy Passion and Holy Cross that are our salvation and apart from them, apart from Him, we cannot hope to know and accomplish the good. Man needs salvation. Man needs Christ.

Each of us, I am sure, can relate to the Apostle who says that what he wants to do he does not but that which he does not want to do, that he does. Poor wretched man, he exclaims! It sounds quite dire until we join with the Apostle to realize that Jesus suffered and died, rose again and ascended to Our Father, so that we can be saved and restored, made into that man who truly sees and truly does what is good.

Pax Christi tecum.