Nothing to fear but…sin

We all know the saying that there is nothing to fear but “fear itself”. On the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Benedict gave the Church a line that is far more helpful and spiritually insightful: “The only threat the Church can and must fear is the sin of her members”.

And don’t we know it. The Church need not fear being ridiculed or attacked for her witness to the Gospel, to the Truth. The Church need not fear persecution, for the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. The Church need not fear heresy or dissent, for the Truth is its own defender. The Church need not fear poverty or lack of numbers or any other such thing.

But when her members commit sin, the Church is wounded to her core. This is true even where the sin has not (as so often disastrously happens) becomde publically known. Sin not only harms the authentic witness of the Church, but harms the very Body of Christ – it drives the nails into Christ’s flesh all over again. And the truth of it is, tragically, that all Christians know themselves to be sinners: our witness is wounded by our sin.

But our reaction to this fear should never be to try to hide the truth of our sin. Our sins must be admitted and brought into the light so that can there be healing. This is the great wisdom of our practice of confession and absolution. When our witness – our martyrdom – is damaged by our sin, the only path to take is the path of repentance – itself a frightening path in what it asks of us. St Peter himself was a “broken martyr”. Jesus said to him:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Yes, we must indeed fear our sin – for it has the power not only to kill the body, but also to kill the soul (cf. Luke 12:4-5). But thanks be to God – as St Paul would have said – that sin no longer has final power over us. The cleansing power of God can heal the wounds to the Church caused by our sin and the sin of our brothers and sisters.

Advent is a time – like Lent – for the healing of the wounds of our sins. I was pleased to see in the bulletin for the Parish of St Philip in Blackburn North that the parish priest has greatly extended the opportunities for confession leading up to Christmas. Mary received the extraordinary prevenient grace of being rescued from sin at the very moment of her conception. She is, for us, a model of hope for the Church. It is by the same the sanctifying power of God’s forgiveness that the Church and all her members are set free from the only fear we need truly fear: sin itself.

About Schütz

I am a PhD candidate & sessional academic at Australian Catholic University in Melbourne, Australia. After almost 10 years in ministry as a Lutheran pastor, I was received into the Catholic Church in 2003. I worked for the Archdiocese of Melbourne for 18 years in Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations. I have been editor of Gesher for the Council of Christians & Jews and am guest editor of the historical journal “Footprints”. I have a passion for pilgrimage and pioneered the MacKillop Woods Way.
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23 Responses to Nothing to fear but…sin

  1. Alex Caughey says:

    Sin also speaks to our learning experiences for by our choices we examine life enabling us to understand that which is self destructive and contrary to our well being.

    When a seed is planted deep in the earth it meets resistance to its growth yet, despite not being able to see the sun the seed is drawn towards the light by its conscious awareness that its full growth can only be realised by its resolute determination to overcome life’s trials, and tribulations strengthening its resolve to realise its life affirming purpose and flourish in the light of day to reveal its true nature always present within the heart of the seed shepherding with loving guidance.

    My son, when you come to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for trials.~Sirach 2:1-18

    • Hannah Smith says:

      And Alex trials surely come from all quarters especially the least expected ones. And to follow David’s post I also read the Holy Father’s comment that the fear is the” sin of her members.”
      Immediately the thought would be to go to sexual abuse sins, (by the members) and this is because they are topical but the more insidious ones are those which are not seen and which are done under the guise of authority, and bullying, and sometimes a sickly smile, always seen to be correct.
      The sins of members within the body ultimately wound all because when one member hurts the other all members bleed.
      I know it sounds ambiguous and I mean it to be so. But members of the body deeply wound at times unforgiveably.

  2. Alexander says:

    Hey David, and fellow commentators. A question, that’s slightly related but perhaps mostly not.

    You say “[sin] has the power not only to kill the body, but also to kill the soul”. I’ve found this idea, specifically “kill[ing] the soul” difficult to understand in its complete context.

    The traditional imagery of the afterlife is that when you die you either go (ultimately) to either heaven or hell, which are eternal and distinguished by the communion of God and eternal joy on the one hand; but eternal suffering on the other.

    But when I’ve read the Gospels and the Letters, I get a different impression. There are lots of promises of eternal life for some contrasted with death or destruction for others: most especially references to the “second death”. Or Jesus’ definition of eternal life: “And this is eternal life, that they might know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). (When I first read this, and typed it in, I took it to be defining an equivalence relationship between (the fact of) eternal life and (the fact of) knowing God; but as I review the post I see it might be that Jesus is saying “despite what the combination of the words ‘eternal’ and ‘life’ might mean ordinarily, when I say them, ‘eternal life’, I don’t mean what you think I mean, but something different viz. knowing God”. That seems far more awkward.)

    The only comments I noted in reference to eternal punishment was that the hellfire is eternal. But the purpose of the hellfire seems to be destroy the soul: And I think it’s straightforward to see how sin is deserving of death/destruction, but not at all straightforward to see how it’s deserving of eternal punishment.

    (In fact, I’d go even further and say it’s even straightforward to see how unrepented sin commited in ignorance would be deserving of death given the nature of God, and I’m just now past reading the part of Genesis where Abimalech is offended by Abraham passing off his wife as his sister, because he was scared of unwittingly committing sin: So it seems it’s possible to ignorantly commit sin. But I cannot see any way sin committed in ignorance could be deserving of eternal punishment. Of course, this aside, and divine justice generally, does not have anything to do with secular policies; and, especially with questions of morality, my idea of “straightforward” corresponds quite nicely with others’ ideas of “arcane, bizarre and remotely possible if I squint and try hard enough”.)

    In any case, in my experience life is certainly not synonymous with good. Some people find much joy in life, even in material or bodily poverty; but many others experience much suffering in life, even in material and bodily wealth. Naturally the nature of life in heaven is different than on Earth, but certainly it seems there must be a dependency of human experience on human life: that is, if you experience something, you must be alive. Thus, if you suffer, you are alive. Expressions such as “the afterlife” or “life after death” appear to presuppose this.

    Am I reading it all wrong? Have I missed something? What is the basis for thinking punishment in hell is eternal, or is this not actually a real teaching from the Church? Perhaps the only thing I can think of is that, well, what is the point of unquenchable eternal fires once the destruction is complete?

    The Catechism does say (para. 1035) “… The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God …” which suggests that a person experiences hell eternally: But it seems bizarre, and entirely counterintuitive. How can anything or anyone that exists be separated from an omnipotent and omniscient being? Separation from God should mean non-existence—i.e. literal death—in every way I can understand (the very next words agree with this sentiment, I think, albeit in an equivocal form: “… in whom [i.e. in God] alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs”); but what value does “eternal” serve in that case?

    I hope my post is clear, and not too far off topic.

    • Stephen K says:

      Interesting post, Alexander, thank you. Personally, I think every concept about after-death is something of an unresolvable. It strikes me that our developed concept of justice is that “punishment fits the crime” and if we think that God is justice, then eternal punishment seems disproportionate.

      Of course part of the problem is our use of the word “eternal”. I think we find it impossible to imagine it or use it as otherwise than “a very, very, very, very, very long time and then some”. We might try to abstract it a little and express it as a kind of “fixed present” but this also seems to inevitably reduce to a temporal concept; as Kant explained, we are made to conceive and understand things in terms of space and time and we cannot really get out of this intellectual mode. I think some insight supports an instinct that life, death and meaning must be more than the way we are accustomed to experiencing and comprehending it, but the eschaton is simply beyond our measurement. Even religious faith has to resort and rely on analogy and metaphor, though no argument appears effective or invincible against a literalist take or conviction about it all.

      Another problem is the question, ‘how sure are we that we have, in any case, exhausted the full scope of the dimension of justice?’ Maybe God is not justice as we conceive it, but something more? This sort of caution might not appeal to those who think that if things are not as we think them (or as we believe they are revealed) then what’s the point of our thinking anything? But I would not share such pessimism, because I would still think that in the phenomenological realm we can still do what seems to us to be good and to work.

      The truth appears to primarily be that we have – Christian hope notwithstanding – no idea about anything after earthly death. How does justice work: like the Hindu Karma, the Buddhist dispersal of the ego, or the Christian persistence of it? What is the role of the concept of mercy? Is it because there is ultimately something deficient about our concept of justice? In one sense, it is no good resorting to the words of Jesus, because he gives no definitive clue, except through the lens of faith-acceptance, which is primarily an act of will. Then again, we all have to start somewhere: even atheists take some principle as a starting point and make an act of will of belief.

      No, Alexander, I think your post is very much to the point in any discussion about what “sin” is, and what it – our acts and omissions -may lead to, and so on. The concept can be framed in several ways, one way is to see sin as a tearing of the fabric of the harmony of the universe as God’s creation, a kind of ‘diabolos in musicam’, an existential dischord, that must be put right…somehow. But can it always be put right, so to speak, in the way we usually think, that is, by a kind of “counter-action” or does it get put right in some other way? After all, we cannot bring the murdered back to life, regrow the tree wantonly cut down, take back the biting, hurting words. Perhaps sin, like Alex hints at, becomes part of the warp and woof of our individual and collective human experience, changing us forever, compelling us to work better with the material we have thus become. And maybe that is just an inadequate or impossible proposition and we need the idea and reality of a forgiving, repairing, saving God. [Cue: Jesus.]

      Anyway, just a few thoughts arising from your stimulating post.

      • Alexander says:

        Thanks for your reply, Stephen. I must disagree with you: I don’t think “every concept about after-death is something fo an unresolvable”, if by “after-death” you mean our first deaths. Why else would God have revealed Himself? Perhaps there’s a lot that’s unclear, but there must be much we can know reasonably clearly, even if not perfectly. (But what can we know perfectly?)

        Concerning the nature of eternity, I think word has multiple meanings which it’s best not to confuse. God is eternal; he simply is (“I am who I am”). He exists outside of time: Time is a creation, and exists within the world, and most cosmologists will tell you it began at the Big Bang and the question “What happened before the Big Bang?” is a nonsense.

        But the afterlife will surely be an infinite temporal domain; or at least, surely it’s fine to consider it like that. The images of paradise we see in Genesis and Revelation are spatio-temporal. And if it it’s eternal in the sense that God is eternal, how come we don’t know where we’re going to end up?

        I also don’t understand how one can experience something (e.g. suffer) without the passage of time; but perhaps that’s because I can’t think un-spacio-temporally.

        You ask another question, “How does justice work?”, but I take that question to be equivalent to “What is sin?”. On the other hand, I don’t think that is directly on topic to David’s post! Nevertheless, I will have a crack, in my naïvity.

        What is sin? What is justice? Has God simply made an arbitrary set of rules which we must obediently follow? and if we don’t, has God arbitrarily determined that, unless we repent, we will suffer in the afterlife: but if we repent (or commit no sin), shall we be rewarded?

        Certainly God can do anything, and in that sense he could do that if he wanted. By my answer I don’t wish to limit God’s omnipotence in any way. But, from what I’ve read (Joseph’s just reconciled with his brothers in Egypt; plus the NT), that isn’t the story I get.

        God creates heaven and earth as a paradise. He commands man that “of the tree of knowledge of good and evil [he] shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die”; and (as the only human creature in existence) this is taken to apply to all people, or at least Eve as well.

        Straightaway when Adam and Eve have done this, and shown to themselves that they have done this, God comes to them and curses them. “I will put enmity between [the serpant] and woman and between your seed and her seed”: “I will greatly multiply [woman’s] pain in childbearing”.

        He doesn’t repeat his earlier comment about death, but perhaps explains it: “cursed is the ground because of you… In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return”. And they are sent out of the garden.

        It seems to be that there is a distinction here, between the necessary separation of God and man, between the necessary death which results from sin; and the additional changes or curses that apply to Eve and the serpant for bringing sin into the world.

        Then of course there’s Jesus’ death. Our sins are forgiven by his death. Why was this sacrifice necessary? If it’s only about getting a bunch of people to be approximately moral and ignoring the rest, then why did God need to become incarnate and die? I think this becomes understandable if we assume that death and sin are so intrinsically related as to be inseparable. Jesus obviously didn’t die because he sinned; he died because we sinned. Our sins are placed on him, and instead of killing us, they killed him. Forgiveness is perhaps like God saying, “I’ll take the consequences for you”, safe in the knowledge that there can be no consequences for him.

        Actually I think this relates nicely to my earlier post: And maybe this idea is incomprehensible without that idea, and specifically my observation that “separation from God should mean non-existence … in every way I can understand”. I’ll try to show you why.

        If a complete/eternal separation from God and (final) death are essentially the same thing, and sin is basically choosing something of the world before God so that sin is basically a partial or tentative separation from God, then as long as that rift is not healed the sinner must die. The death isn’t by desert; it’s simply the natural consequence.

        And as for the crucifixion: the sins of the world are placed on Jesus and by this process he dies. But God can’t die: The idea is bizarre: And the complete hold of death is broken and destroyed in a way kind of like if you try to pump ten litres of water into a sealed container that can only hold 1 litre of water.

        Of course, I don’t say this to limit God’s power. God could arbitrarily decide anyone is saved (or damned) for any reason whatsoever by any process. But everything else in the world follows essential rules: The laws of physics and so forth. Describing the laws of physics doesn’t limit God’s power, because he can perform miracles. Describing this relationship doesn’t limit God’s power, because he can save anyone “by a miracle”.

        One problem is that this perhaps does too thoroughly away with judgement, and especially the day of judgement. This is merely a sketch of an idea…

        • Stephen K says:

          Thank you for the sketch, Alexander. You raise some interesting ways of looking at things. It got me thinking about sin, who can commit it, what it consists in and so on. This led to thinking some more about what David was writing about. I can’t help thinking that there is an inherent contradiction involved in the way we often talk about sin in relation to the Church. By this I mean that there is a tradition of quarantining the Church from the sin of its members as if the theological division was neat and complete. To be sure, David writes that the Church can be threatened by the sins of its members, wounded, and so on. But this is not the same as saying the Church sins, and I’m wondering how valid this quarantining is on all levels.

          Yes, I know the usual logic that goes along the lines that “the Church is Christ’s body and Christ cannot sin” but this has a strongly docetic flavour – how truly connected and grounded therefore can the Church be if not grounded in frailty and sinfulness as well? What to make of the common protest that the Church is a church of sinners, all? At the practical level, this protest can ring hollow, since the Church(es) have always been ready to take credit – in colloquial terms if not theologically academic ones – for the virtue (and beautiful motets) of its members, and as we have seen throughout both recent and ancient history, people representing the Church have disowned sins at all levels. In terms of human action, what is the Church if not its members at every instant of their existence? And how can the visible Church be “wounded” or “threatened” by sin if it somehow remains pure and undefiled by it?

          You might see where this thread can lead. What, I think, sparked it was your comment that God conquered death because God could not die. It got me asking, what sort of great sacrifice could the Incarnation be if true mortality was not also embraced, if it was not possible? That got me thinking about the way we talk about the Resurrection. What you say makes more sense when we say Jesus ‘was raised from death’ (having truly died on the Cross) rather than saying ‘he rose from death’. Doesn’t the former preserve the notion of the abiding life and action of God better than the former?

          Well, I don’t pretend that these sorts of question are new; I’m simply saying they occur to me reading your posts and David’s comments. Perhaps one of the unintended implications behind David’s remarks is that the Church, both representatively and collectively, must theologically admit to its sinfulness in every sense of the word, so that it can be forgiven along with all the rest, and thus be truly freed from the wrong kinds of fear.

          • Alexander says:

            Well, I must ask: Can a body corporate actually sin? Can a hospital get sick? Surely all its staff can be sick, and its walls and equipment can be infected with bacteria and viruses: But is the hospital actually sick?

            The Church, perhaps, could be said to sin if it officially taught heresy; but even that strikes me as an analogy, not a statement of fact (I assume sin is a real thing—albeit not a physical thing—and not merely a moralistic description of an action).

            The language of the New Testament, I would have thought, makes that clear. Jesus observes that “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea” and a verse or two later, “it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the man by whom the temptation comes!”. In one of the letters (I’m afraid I forget which, and the language, so I cannot search by electronic KJV), the apostle observes he/whoever teachers will be judged by the state of his flock. Our Host’s recent quotation from Ezekial Ch. 3 gives a similar idea, albeit giving the teacher less responsibility: “Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

            As for your third paragraph, I’m afraid I don’t understand it. You’ve made a mistake in the last sentence (“Doesn’t the former preserve the notion … better than the former?”), but even before that I’d got confused. In my mind, the Second Person of the Trinity truely suffered mental and physical agony and truely died the first death (I think there’s no other fair reading of the plain text of the Gospels).

            But the second death could not happen to him (despite being full of sin—my sins), and “death broke”. I don’t know that the resurrection was anything other than a miracle, not a natural consequence of death breaking, because I’m not aware of any physical process that causes the degredation of the body to reverse, nor to selectively resist some solids, but pass through others.

            And I can’t accept your conclusion, because I don’t think your premises are sound. Aside from my first few paras, I am concerned that you might be thinking too much about honor and prestige in the eyes of the world. Any reasoning I use to justify this is the same for how I started my post, though, so I won’t repeat it.

            I must, though, advise you to take my theologising as nothing more than armchair theology from someone who has not yet even read the whole Bible. (If it makes it any better, it’s not actually armchair theology, because I’m typing this standing up. ;)

            Also, I’m a little worried I might sound overly critical in this post. I mean nothing personally; I’m just of the view that if I always agree with you, there’s no point talking to you. So it says more about me, than my views of you, or you! I do await your reply!

            • Stephen K says:

              No worries, Alexander. In my third paragraph I was just asking myself what did it mean to say ‘God cannot or could not die?’ I wondered whether it had effects on how we thought about Jesus’ death and the Resurrection. And then I wanted to suggest that perhaps quarantining God from death was like quarantining the Church from sin – resulting in a kind of hands-off relationship where it really needed to be one and integrated. No matter.

              Just one more thought of my own. First, if we say ‘the hospital is sick’ we could mean ‘everyone in the hospital is sick’. Or we could mean ‘the hospital (as a facility and service) sucks.’ Because it doesn’t operate properly. Clearly, we don’t mean the building or the purely legal entity is physically sick the way its staff and directors might be. But if the hospital building were empty we would refer to the building as a hospital in a different sense to how we would refer to it with all the doctors and nurses runnin around. In that case, “hospital’ means and stands for something more.

              I’m suggesting that the same applies to the Church. There appears to be no way in which the Church in can be said to exist in its fullest sense without its people – without them, it is simply bricks and mortar. Thus if we say the Church sins, we mean its people sin, and I am not sure that this is not exactly the same as saying if its people sin, the Church sins. Ergo, the Church – as Church – can and does sin; ergo , the Church needs forgiveness and redemption.

              I hope there’s no sophistry involved here; I don’t think there is. But what the heck, you’re standing up, I’m sitting down, and it’s a pleasure to bounce off ideas and understanding with you.

            • Alexander says:

              Well, Stephen, I don’t think the expression “the hospital is sick” is at all common currency except inasmuch as people, being intelligent, would understand a meaning along the lines you’ve said. But I don’t think people would ordinarily generate the sentence, so I don’t think it’s fair to say “the Church has sinned” is a fair sentence to generate. (But I’m linguistically odd; I know to much about linguistics to be a guide to common use.)

              Yet no-one’s suggested that the church isn’t full of sinners. Unlike a hospital, where the staff ought to be healthy, or a prison, where the wardens ought to be law-abiders, the “staff” of the church are, to a man, sinners. The Bible describes Peter’s denial of Christ, and Paul is never ashamed to admit that he continues to struggle. The entire purpose of the Church is so that its members can obtain salvation, because without it her members will surely die—of sin.

              In that sense, then “the Church has sinned” is a tautology. What is the point of the Church admitting to a tautology?

              As for “the Church need[ing] forgiveness and redemption”, that’s worse than a tautology in its implications. Was the sacrifice at Calvary not enough for all people at all times? Does the Church not preach the gospel and offer the sacraments to all her members? Surely the Church gets forgiven and redeemed. Forgiveness and remeption are precisely what the Church is there for.

              So what is the meaning of “the Church has sinned”? It seems like the point of admitting to it is to improve standing in the eyes of the world. But caring about standing in the eyes of the world is not what Christians should be doing. The more people hate us, and revile us, the more we should preach the Gospel.

              When someone says, “I’m not a Christian because of all the religious wars”, we should respond by preaching the Gospel. When someone says, “I’m not a Christian because all your priests are child abusers and hypocrits”, we should respond by preaching the Gospel. When someone says, “I’m spiritual but not religious because organised religion is corrupt”, we should respond by preaching the Gospel (also by giving them a secular lecture on the importance of community).

            • Schütz says:

              Just to let you know, Alex and Stephen, that I am following this discussion with interest. I haven’t had the time to contribute. I might do so in a separate post.

              BTW, Alex, I believe a hearty congratulations and welcome is in order from me and all the other Catholics at the commentary table. Some one please pass Alex the port bottle and we will drink a toast!

  3. Tony says:

    but harms the very Body of Christ – it drives the nails into Christ’s flesh all over again.

    The last time I heard such talk was in my childhood as we attended a parish retreat put on by formidable Redemptorist priests who visited just for the purpose. It was like being at a horror movie with graphic descriptions of the crucifixion (that would even compete with Mel Gibson) and our personal responsibility for driving those nails in and scourging His flesh. This was followed by graphic descriptions of hell pushing us to imagine the worst pain and then assuring us that our imaginations didn’t get close to the reality (Stephen Dedalus eat your heart out!).

    But the Redemptorists just stoked a fire (pun not intended … much) that the fearful old Irish PP and the brothers and the nuns had been tending all year. For those of us who were susceptable, guilt was a garment we were never able to take off. Sometimes it got a little lighter, but there would always be someone with a collar who would help us to remember how heavy it was.

    But our reaction to this fear should never be to try to hide the truth of our sin. Our sins must be admitted and brought into the light so that can there be healing.

    Unfortunately church leadership, with few exceptions, has shown that it doesn’t believe this in terms of one of the most appalling ‘sins’ of the last generation: sexual abuse. The ‘sins’ were brought to ‘light’ not by courageous church leaders seeking personal and corporate healing, but by secular journalists and lawyers and by victims. And, at every stage, the church did anything but bring the sins ‘to light’ and there were too many times when keeping them in the dark was a ‘corporate strategy’.

    Eventually there were plenty of corporate apologies, but next to no church leaders who took personal responsibility for what they did or, as so often the case, what they didn’t do.

    The most potent symbol of this for me, was Benedict’s reaction to revelations about ‘sins’ happening in his own Archdiocese of Munich. On that very benchmark of ‘bringing sins to the light’ how did he perform? He said nothing. He allowed an old Monsignor to take the rap.

    So in summary (and yes, Gareth, it’s just my opinion) the guilt thing is like water of a duck’s back to a modern generation and strongly rejected by anyone who remembers the pre-VatII horror stories. The ‘bringing to light for healing’ is, on the other hand, a way of seeing sin that is, IMO, much more inspiring to the world. If only the church, at it’s highest levels, was a witness to it.

    • Alex Caughey says:

      Often we neglect the fact that Our Father’s Spirit resides within our life waiting for us to answer his call, that he may forgive our transgressions when we grasp his hand and answer his call by saying, lead kindly light.

      “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25 Heb. 8:12; 10:17).

    • Hannah Smith says:

      Tony I hear what you are saying and the anger in your words re sexual abuse and the manner in which it was handled and understood and of course there can be no excuse. However, and always I have a however, that sexual abuse is morally wrong has been understood or should have been understood from all time, but the effects of abuse on the child and life of the child were not clearly understood/seen until this last 20-30 years. Remember Freud was talking about children being sexual being and thats in the 40s and earlier. It was thought that they “grew out of it” (any harm) and thus by moving the purpotrator to another place would solve the issue because the atraction was thought to be with the one child.. sexual attraction to child was also not understood as an issue of psychosexual development problems(anomilies) and therefore moving a puportrator to a different location would see the end of that attraction. However today we know that this is not the case and much serious damage is done both to purpotrator and victim.
      But Tony, sexual abuse of children and women is not a new reality and you know that. It has always been wrong and humanity has always known it has gone on and yet there was silence. But the sexual abuse of children is not confined to the Catholic Church but ministers of all religious and other groups, not mentioning what goes on in the privacy of the “safest sanctuary” the home…
      So Tony be angry, but be angry at all abuse of children and not just the convenient one.

      • Tony says:

        The context of my comment was not about ‘convenience’ Hannah, but one of David’s ‘bringing sin into the light’. To me that’s a worthy benchmark but not one that the church witnesses to the world.

        Too often the world looks at the church and sees its ethical benchmarks as no better than a large corporation. The ethical benchmark of, for example, News Corp recently was 1) Don’t get caught, 2) Vigorously deny wrongdoing, 3) treat victims with breathtaking callousness, 4) Stonewall any inquiry, and finally, if all else fails, 5) provide a ‘corporate’ apology while denying any personal responsibility.

        Of course there are magnificent exceptions to these benchmarks in the church, but when the Pope himself says nothing about what happened on his own patch when he was in charge and let’s an old man take the rap AND facilitates the flight from justice of someone like Bernard Law who escapes into the lap of luxury, then even Rupert Murdoch looks OK.

        Please note: I may be naive but I don’t assume Benedict or +Law are guilty of some grievous sin of commission but, again in the context of bringing sin to light, we just don’t know, they avoided the light.

        The ‘world’ see this, Hannah. The world sees the church at the highest levels preaching one thing and then when the opportunity comes for its leaders to show courage and bring sin into the light, it fails.

        And, just to add salt, it gives Rupert Murdoch a Papal Knighthood.

        • Hannah Smith says:

          Tony (first of all does your beard ever grow it seems the same in all the images?)
          TonyI dont know about knighthoods and I really dont care much for them anyway, they all depend on who you know and not what you do. I guess what we see most of all is that “patches” can be full of c ….p and at times protecting one’s patch becomes the most important thing. I have lived through the pain of protection of “patch” by others and its not nice.
          Tony, your anger is justified but again even though the church is viewed with and sets a certain benchmark it still is made up of men and women and heirarchy but IT STILL REMAINS the foundation with Jesus as its cornerstone, and the Place to whom He entrusted the distribution of the sacraments, the word, the community. The Church, made up of saints and sinners, to be the beacon for the world, to be the Rock against which all of hades will throw its might. Men who have made up the church have come and gone and will do so. Even those we love and revere, but you know what? The “Church” has remained and continues and because this is so, should gives us hope that Jesus still holds to His Church and all those activities which are done in the dark will have light shone on them and exposed.
          Again I speak from experience.

          • Tony says:

            Fine words, Hannah, and I don’t doubt your sincerity from conviction and experience.

            But if words are just spoken and not lived, then they don’t inspire those who need it most, aka, the lost sheep. This is the challenge for all of us in our own small sphere of influence. If church leaders can’t model that too, then their (much greater) sphere of influence suffers.

            Essentially I agree with David in that we (as church) need not fear being ridiculed or attacked, nor fear persecution, nor heresy or dissent, nor poverty or lack of numbers when when we witness, by our own courage in action, to the Gospel.

            • Hannah says:

              Tony, to my very great detriment I have never shirked, nor held back, nor feared ridicule though have experienced much persecution, etc etc. and its not “fine words” I speak but lived experience. But still have to say that Jesus has to hold firm and I have to hold firm, and if the “shepherd” fails its because he is a sinner who stopped braying and believing.

            • Tony says:

              My concerns were never about you, Hannah. As I said, I don’t doubt your sincerity from conviction and experience.

        • jules says:

          …and then when the opportunity comes
          for its leaders to show courage and bring sin
          into the light, it fails.

          They do ALL the time, eg… by condemning ss ‘marriage’, contraption, IVF, abortion, euthanasia etc… That is courageous if only more members listened to the Pope and bishops!!!

  4. Gareth says:

    Tony: strongly rejected by anyone who remembers the pre-VatII horror stories.

    Gareth: 1. There you go again claiming that your own perception is shared by other Catholics (or in this case ‘anyone’) without any actual evidence that is the case. Its a bit rich in my opinion.

    2. I am sure you are alone in remembering the ‘horror days’ you old dinosaur, but even if that is the case , wouldnt it be far more beneficial for the Church as a community to put more emphasis on what is the broad consensus on how people feel today/or what is happening in the year 2011?

    • Tony says:

      Gareth: 1. There you go again claiming that your own perception is shared by other Catholics (or in this case ‘anyone’) without any actual evidence that is the case. Its a bit rich in my opinion.

      So, let’s get this straight, you can claim to represent ‘mainstream Catholics’ with no evidence, but when I give an opinion, even with a disclaimer in parenthesis — (and yes, Gareth, it’s just my opinion) — it’s a ‘bit rich’?

      2. I am sure you are alone in remembering the ‘horror days’ you old dinosaur, but even if that is the case …

      Careful with your ageism there Gareth, I’m but a pub compared to the Cardinals and the Pope.

      … wouldn’t it be far more beneficial for the Church as a community to put more emphasis on what is the broad consensus on how people feel today/or what is happening in the year 2011?

      LOL, there you go again!

      • Gareth says:


        You should ditch the botoz and hair dye and just do the right thing and age gracefully and start hanging out with some people your own age. They might be a bit too ‘mainstream’ for you though.

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