On the Topic of “Sin”

The concept of “Sin” has been around for a very long time. Growing up in a Catholic household, sin was one of those things that went hand in hand with “Guilt”. These two words are largely synonymous for most Catholics. Sin is something that goes against “God’s” wishes and pisses him off. In the Catholic world, there are really two classifications of sin that any young Catholic learns at a young age. For a Catholic there are Venial sins and mortal sins.

A “Venial Sin” is a relatively slight sin that does not entail damnation of the soul. Venial sins must be reported later to the priest as soon as you can to gain forgiveness from God.

A “Mortal Sin” is a grave (no pun intended) sin that’s so severe, if you don’t confess to a priest before your death, you most likely will spend eternity in hell. Wow, sounds serious doesn’t it….

Sins are a big deal to Catholics and with this type of mindset toward “Sin” it’s no wonder most all Catholics in good standing with the church carry around huge amounts of guilt. How would it be possible to not carry guilt when from a young age Catholics are taught they are sinners who need to be forgiven by a priest first and then God?. To add insult to guilty injury, the list of Mortal sins endangering your soul just got a whole lot bigger. In the last few years, thanks to the Pope and the Vatican, the newly overhauled list of seven added several more to cope with the age of globalization.

The newly added sins are aimed at those who undermine society in far reaching ways, including by taking or dealing in drugs, polluting the environment, and engaging in “manipulative” genetic science according to a recent “The Times of London” report.

Also new to the list are pedophilia, abortion, and social injustices that cause poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few”. These added sins join the long-standing evils of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride as mortal sins – the gravest kind, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession or penitence. Supposedly, the Pope lamented the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world,” and falling rates of Roman Catholics going to confession, The Times reported. According to the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said after a week-long Lenten seminar for priests that surveys showed 60 % of Catholics in Italy no longer go to confession.

There is now a belief in the church that sin now has social resonance. One church official said, “You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos.”

With this being said, is it any wonder Catholics carry around huge baggage when it comes to Sin? It appears to me, “Sin” is something created by man to control people, and get them to church to confess their sins to priests, drive up attendance to mass, increase the collection plate tally ea. week, and keep people in perpetual fear and guilt.

I’ll close this with two stories that hammer home Catholic guilt.

1) My oldest sister told me recently when she was going to Catholic school as a youngster, the nuns and priest stressed the importance of not sinning. Per her, “One sin, the kissing of boy, was considered a venial sin up to 3 seconds… The rub was, it turned to mortal sin AFTER 3 seconds… so, one 1000, two 1000, three 1000… she counted ea. time. This is why I was in the confessional every Sunday because we never stopped at 3 seconds.” She still 60+ years later remembers kissing a boy and counting during the deed so as to break away from his embrace in time to avoid sinning. Like the expectation of the category “Venial Sin”, it was almost impossible to live up to Catholic doctrine and expectations.

2) One weekend while attending mass with the family, I was looking particularly dapper standing next to my father. During the service, I evidently was rattling the coins in my pocket (out of shear boredom I suspect) when my father hauled off and slapped me across the face. His words that followed slammed home the meaning of “Sin” in my family and how closely we adhered to the church’s ordinances. My dad’s slap was followed by the simple words, “Stop showing off”. I can say with 100% confidence some 50 years later, the idea of showing off the large quantity of coinage in my pocket never crossed my mind at the time. And yet, as of this writing I still remember the guilt and pain I felt for offending my father and God in that moment.

It appears the Catholic church is seeing a decline in the number of people viewing “Sin” as something the church, (vis-à-vis God’s newly chosen) can determine. As much as the Catholic church wants to add more “Sins” to their list. I for one call bullshit on the entire concept of “Sin”.

I submit, “Sin” doesn’t exist and neither does the God who supposedly gives two shits about it. If we can remove the concept of “Sin” from our life, we can begin to live an authentic and fulfilling life free from undue guilt and anxiety. Give it a try.

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