WHAT MAKES A SIN A SIN?

Eleanor Farjeon was a popular British author who won several prestigious literary awards before her death in 1965.

But it is not her literary career that concerns us here but her journey of faith. She had shared her life for 30 years with George Earle, a schoolmaster living apart from his wife. All during this period she was searching and her search eventually led her to the Catholic Church.

In July, 1951, she wrote a troubled letter to Father Richard Mangan, the priest who was instructing her, and included 12 typed pages of her doubts and thoughts on many aspects of the Catholic faith. “Sin” was an element that caused her anxiety:

“If I become a Roman Catholic, I would have to believe many things are sins that now I do not… How can I acquire a sense of what Sin is, among things that for so long have seemed to me sinless? Here are some of them: I don’t feel it is a sin for two people to live together, if the choice is made with love and respect and a sense of true union … I don’t feel it is sinful for an unmarried woman to have a child. I don’t feel it is sinful to save a mother’s life in childbirth at the child’s expense.

I don’t feel it is sinful for a man and woman to cohabit  without having children. None of these things seem to have evil in them, in themselves. Evil may be brought into them (as to the same things within marriage) by the nature of the persons involved.”

Nevertheless , despite her misgivings about the nature of sin, Eleanor Farjeon was received into the Church in 1951 and remained a Catholic until she died in 1965.

Is sin a failure to obey external criteria imposed by authority?

Or is the real sin a failure to become the person we were intended to be i.e. missing the mark.

11 Comments »

  1. 1
    Joe Agnost Says:

    Sin, to me, is the method by which the church can control the sheep.

    They got it right when they invented sin because they gave themselves an “out” clause. Confess and your sins will disappear – not a bad deal eh?

    So they can control the masses (sheep), and still enjoy the occasional sin themselves with zero consequences.

    Doesn’t anyone else find it deeply disturbing that all these pedophile priests still think (along with the rest of the world’s RCs) that they are going to heaven?? They’ve followed the rules right? Why wouldn’t god accept them? It’s sick sick sick…

  2. 2
    Alex Thomas Says:

    In my way of thinking, the ultimate sin is to harm another person, or, by inaction, to allow harm to come to another person. We are all family, and family is supposed to watch out for family. Pray for, and not prey upon, one another.
    The Catholic Church dictates that all children are born burdened by Original Sin, which is cleansed away by Baptism. So what happens to children who do not live long enough to receive baptism? Does a kind, loving, forgiving God cast them into a Hell they do not deserve? Is He truly that petty, capricious and cruel, and if so, why would He then be worthy of our worship? Is that the example we are to follow?
    How much blood has been shed, In His Name? How many families have been torn part, In His Name? How many minds have been broken, In His Name?
    As Jesus hung on the Cross, he is reported to have gasped, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” I tend to think that he was looking past the Jews and Romans of His time, and seeing the atrocities of the future, conducted In His Name. No wonder He wept.
    “Thou shalt love they neighbour, as thyself.” If that is so, we do not love ourselves very well, do we?
    My name is Alex Thomas. Go, and sin no more…or words to that effect…

  3. 3
    Jim Says:

    Bah, bah black sheep have you any crap?
    Yes sir, yes sir three bags full.

  4. 4
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    I believe the Church as abandonned the idea that unbaptized people can not enter heaven. The idea of natural morality is now accepted as a salvation criteria. I much prefer Father Lelièvre’s approach. In the 50s, he was already old. I remember one of his sermons when he said:”Brothers, fear not for your salvation none of you, no humans, considering the requirements, is intelligent and knowledgeable enough to commit a mortal sin.”
    He was an Oblate of Mary and they had the reputation of sending to heaven those who had been sent to hell by the Redemptorists.
    So relax everybody and forget medieval teachings.
    And agree with Alex about the meaning of Christ’s last words.

  5. 5
    Chimera Says:

    “Sin” is a man-made construct, a social engineering tool meant to cow perfectly normal people into behaving in absolutely abnormal ways in order to satisfy the perverse desires of those who wish to be in control. The condemnation of “sin” is the ultimate in misanthropy.

    I will have none of it.

  6. 6
    Cate McB Says:

    NEITHER WILL I !!

  7. 7

    This whole question – particularly in the context of Chimera’s response – has alot to do with the work of an interesting character who I had the opportunity to take a rather close look at during the last term in my course work. English historian Norman Cohn passed away this past year and I did some rather detailed annotation of his work. He traced the roots of apocalyptic and millenarian faith, initially to the middle ages in Europe, later expanding his analysis to ancient civilizations and Zoroastrianism. His findings had much significance, I think, in explaining the ways in which religious faith can be utilized as a means of socio-political control. The tendency to utilize this type of control endured, according to Cohn, radical changes in the basic world-views of primitive religions and helps to explain the rise of nazism and Stalinism at a much later time.
    “Sin” was a concept used in the witch hunts in the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe, during the Crusades, and during even political elections of the 20th century. It has been used throughout history to cast one’s enemies into a much different light, invoking religious texts that at their core carried much different messages about tolerance, love, spirituality and personal conduct. The results have been the political institutionalization of intolerance, violence, hatreds based on half-truths and even genocide. I too will have none of it.

  8. 8
    Paul Costopoulos Says:

    Bill,
    You have summed up a paper I wrote several years ago for a group discussion during which I explained why, although I believe in God, I do not believe in organized religions. By whatever name they go and wherever they may be they are power grabbing gimmicks. Witness the USA and Iran and the happenings in “pacifist” India.

  9. 9
    Peter LeBlanc Says:

    “See No Evil” Sin is everywhere, we have to be blind not to see it. That doesnt mean we have to be preoccupied with it. Sin exists when injustice raises its ugly head. We need to support and celebrate all the good we are doing. Only then will sin diminish.

    Peter LeBlanc

  10. 10

    If Huckabee wants to amend the US Constitution to ban it…

  11. 11
    M Mederos Says:

    “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods….” [Catholic Catechism]

    Key word here is “attachment”…things aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, the undue attachment to them leads to trouble, especially when it harms self or another.

    For a sin to be a mortal sin, three things are required:

    * the matter must be “grave”;
    * the sin must be committed with full knowledge/consent; and
    * the sin must be committed deliberately [using Free Will].

    Even the most “traditional & old-fashioned” definition of sin emphasizes that one must KNOW one is doing wrong, and that one must be FREE to choose to do right instead, at that moment. Otherwise, it would not be considered a sin.

    So, if someone truly believes an act/thought/deed to be wrong, and chooses to go with it, having full freedom not to, then…that “whatever” would be a sin.


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