Social and personal sin - Catholic Courier

Social and personal sin

To the editor,

On June 22, our parish celebrated our namesake: St. Thomas More. My knowledge about More is limited to the movie, "A Man for All Seasons," and a quote from our parish bulletin: "It was his views on marriage and supremacy of the Pope that cost him his life."

Maybe in 16th-century England, the boldness of inserting religion into politics, or politics into religion, was the norm. Imprudently pointing out people’s personal sins, King Henry’s divorce no less, made him judgmental and self-righteous to the point of death.

In light of the struggle recently over abortion expansion in New York State, Catholics were told repeatedly by pro-choice legislators, and even some of our own clergy, that abortion was about personal sin. Condemnation of personal moral behavior hardly belongs in the State Legislature. And since abortion is a political issue, it doesn’t belong in Church either.

Abraham Lincoln was faced with the same dilemma. In his public address in New Haven (March 6, 1860), he said, "You say that slavery is wrong, but you denounce all attempts to restrain it. We must not call it wrong in the Free States because it is not there, and we must not call it wrong in the Slave States because it is there; we must not call it wrong in politics because that is bringing morality into politics, and we must not call it wrong in the pulpit because that is bringing politics into religion. There is no single place according to you where this wrong can properly be called wrong."

Would Lincoln say some sins like slavery are cultural evils and go beyond the personal morality of one sinning slaveholder? Do some personal sins have grave social dimensions that require our collective ‘judgmentalism’ as Christians? What would Thomas More do if he lived today?

Carol Crossed


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