Culpability of ignorance


#1

Please forgive me if I’m treading well-worn ground, but I didn’t find anything in my forum search that gave a thorough answer.

I understand that those who are ignorant of the Church and its truth are not considered culpable. In some cases, this is easy to determine - the person who’s literally never heard of Christ, etc. However, what if a person has heard all the evidence for the Catholic Church, but doesn’t believe it’s the truth? Is that person culpable, since they are technically not ignorant?

Thanks!


#2

I agree. So in other words, is James White culpably ignorant?:smiley:


#3

[quote=lacoloratura]Please forgive me if I’m treading well-worn ground, but I didn’t find anything in my forum search that gave a thorough answer.

I understand that those who are ignorant of the Church and its truth are not considered culpable. In some cases, this is easy to determine - the person who’s literally never heard of Christ, etc. However, what if a person has heard all the evidence for the Catholic Church, but doesn’t believe it’s the truth? Is that person culpable, since they are technically not ignorant?

Thanks!
[/quote]

Then they have rejected the Truth after hearing it.


#4

[quote=lacoloratura]Please forgive me if I’m treading well-worn ground, but I didn’t find anything in my forum search that gave a thorough answer.

I understand that those who are ignorant of the Church and its truth are not considered culpable. In some cases, this is easy to determine - the person who’s literally never heard of Christ, etc. However, what if a person has heard all the evidence for the Catholic Church, but doesn’t believe it’s the truth? Is that person culpable, since they are technically not ignorant?

Thanks!
[/quote]

It’s impossible to read a person’s heart and know what impediments they or someone else might have placed in the way to becoming Catholic. In fact, with that in mind, it’s best to assume that other people are better off than you spiritually and to assume that they are doing the best they can with what they know. (Of course, all things being equal, they’d have even a better chance of salvation with the fullness of the Truth contained in the Church Christ established)

With that consideration, humbly pray for them as you share your faith.


#5

CCC 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

It is my understanding that the greater the understanding of the Church, the greater the culpability. Of course only God can decide how well the person truly understands (and how much he only thinks he understands) the foundation of the Church.


#6

The person I’m thinking of specifically has heard many of my explanations of Catholic beliefs, but still rejects the idea that there is such a thing as one true Church. He still believes that you can go to any church and, as long as you believe in and follow Christ, you will make it to heaven.


#7

How about: "*Our *belief is…"
rather than:
“X is rejecting the Truth.”

As in:
“Our belief is that, if X knows the claims of the Church,
and yet does not accept those claims…then…”

This option would do three things:

-respect freedom of conscience
-and, in the final analysis, might be a more
effective proclamation of the Gospel.

reen12


#8

[quote=lacoloratura]The person I’m thinking of specifically has heard many of my explanations of Catholic beliefs, but still rejects the idea that there is such a thing as one true Church. He still believes that you can go to any church and, as long as you believe in and follow Christ, you will make it to heaven.
[/quote]

That’s difficult. You cannot say,“It doesn’t matter what church you go to,” as that is the sin of indifferentism. On the other hand, the Catechism clearly states certain things about our relationship with our Protestant brethren that says they are in “certain, though imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church” and that other ecclesial communities can be used by “Christ’s Spirit” “as a means of salvation.” I would say that your difficulty here is this: I’ve never heard it asserted that Christ didn’t found one Church. I’ve heard it asserted that that one Church went off the rails after the death of the Apostles or the Church Fathers. I’ve heard it asserted that that one Church is the “true” community of believers in all denominations/churches/ecclesial communities. I’ve never, however, heard of this. Ask your friend how MANY churches Jesus intended to found.


#9

Here’s a nice bit from the online encyclopedia at catholicity.com:

newadvent.org/cathen/07648a.htm


#10

This thread seems to be the one I have been looking for, as followers of Christ we are all responsible to teach others. (Rom 10:14) It is true that as we know more we are responsible for more. But we are also responsible for seeking the True and not to run from it in order to stay ignorant.

Now, the mind bender I have been waiting to post. First off I am a Catholic :slight_smile: and seek to alway follow Rome’s teaching, this is just something to think about.

In order to be a mortal sin, it has to be a grave matter, you have to have full knowledge, ponder it and do it anyway. However your culpability and be reduced or removed all together if you did not freely choose to do it, whether pressured by an outside force or person, or not free because of it being a habbitual sin.

Most sins we become slaves to before we even know they are sins, so who then has ever committed a mortal sin? Just something to think about. :confused:


#11

[quote=lacoloratura]However, what if a person has heard all the evidence for the Catholic Church, but doesn’t believe it’s the truth? Is that person culpable, since they are technically not ignorant?
[/quote]

There is a line that must be drawn, and the final arbiter is God Himself, not us.

Has this person simply rejected all churches, deciding that no religious authority besides himself is going to dictate how he runs his life? Culpability would seem certain.

Has this person carefully researched history and considered all the available evidence, then decided that it has no truth? This one would appear to be culpable. But he may simply be misunderstanding his “moment of blinding insight” key point.

Has this person considered enough evidence to have doubts about what is truth, but remains unconvinced pending further investigation? The apostle Thomas doubted; Jesus still acccepted him.

Has the person just lightly considered the evidence and dismissed it, being blinded by misconceptions and anti-Catholic teachings? Such a person might be in fear for his own soul by dabbling in what he thinks could be heresy, and would therefore not be culpable.

Or are you dealing with one of those truly blessed souls who is so busy LIVING the word of God that he doesn’t have much time left to consider the nuances of theology. Such a person will be at the head of the queue at the Pearly Gates. We mustn’t be so smug in our right-ness of belief that we neglect living our faith also.

As St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”


#12

[quote=Michels]Most sins we become slaves to before we even know they are sins, so who then has ever committed a mortal sin? Just something to think about. :confused:
[/quote]

Once you realize that your habit is of a sinful nature, if you continue to indulge that habit you are guilty of the sin.

*John 9:41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have *no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains."


#13

[quote=Nan S]Once you realize that your habit is of a sinful nature, if you continue to indulge that habit you are guilty of the sin.

John 9:41 Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains."
[/quote]

Are you saying that a person can not be addicted to sin? It is true that if you know it is a sin, it is a sin, but I am talking about culpability…

What sin would a person commit if they were in a clear state of mind and not already addicted to it?


#14

[quote=Michels]Are you saying that a person can not be addicted to sin? It is true that if you know it is a sin, it is a sin, but I am talking about culpability…
What sin would a person commit if they were in a clear state of mind and not already addicted to it?
[/quote]

I hope you’re not suggesting that, having a clear state of mind, saying you’re addicted is an excuse for sinning.

If a person is drug-addicted he is not in clear state of mind while under the influence of the chemical, and can be said to be not culpable at those times. But during times of clear understanding that person would be obligated to seek both help and forgiveness.

If a person is addicted to a behavior done with a clear state of mind, such as gambling or illicit sexual acts, the clarity of mind rules. It’s wrong, you know it’s wrong, you do it anyway, you’re guilty. Period.

All of us have sins we struggle with. We confess these sins and commit to ‘sin no more’, yet find ourselves on our knees next time confessing the same sins.

Our struggle does not mitigate our guilt. Rather, it heightens our awareness that we need to put aside our selfishness and rely upon God’s grace to transform our lives.


#15

Nan S,
I am not trying to argue with you. You have clearly shown you are a devote Catholic, I am happy for you. This is just a mind puzzle. I am not contradicting a Church teachings. If you think I have a problem with confession, see my posting on frequency of confession.
Think harder about the question:
What sin would a person commit if they were in a clear state of mind and not already addicted to it?


#16

[quote=Michels]Nan S,
I am not trying to argue with you. You have clearly shown you are a devote Catholic, I am happy for you. This is just a mind puzzle. I am not contradicting a Church teachings. If you think I have a problem with confession, see my posting on frequency of confession.
Think harder about the question:
What sin would a person commit if they were in a clear state of mind and not already addicted to it?
[/quote]

No argument intended. TYVM. :slight_smile: Is this answer more along the lines you were thinking?

In a clear state of mind, a person would commit just about any sin that produces an expedient result in a given situation. Lying to mitigate blame is a great example. Situational ethics and expediency is another, under the guise that if no one knows about it, no serious harm is done. Justifying an evil act by saying it prevented a greater evil is doubly wrong - both the evil act and the reasoning are wrong. And the culpability is increased by the attempt to rationalize our behavior.

If Adam, Moses, and Simon Peter, who knew God personally, committed serious sin anyway, what makes us think we are any less likely to sin?

The root of it all is the selfishness of our own will versus the selflessness of God. Yet when our way seems more efficient and less hurtful than God’s way, our choice to act according to our will means we are also accepting the responsibility for that behavior whether we have thought it through or not.

Our society drums into our heads that we have to “watch out for Number One”, with Number One being ourselves. So we sin by rationalizing and grasping at things for ourselves, often to the detriment of others, when the “Number One” we should be looking towards is God.


#17

You are so close, and yet so very very right.

However, if society is drumming something into our heads that isn’t true, that is clouding our logic. All of your examples are perfect examples of this.

This question was brought to me by our diocese’s director of Catechises.

It is extremely difficult, almost impossible to think of something someone would actually do under a clear and well formed conscious that is a sin that is not habbitual.

I am by no means saying this is a free ticket. We are all called to live ever striving towards perfection. As our conscious becomes more well formed and clear, we sin less. But we also become more aware of sins we didn’t realize we were committing, so we are held accountable for more sins.
Mortal sins do exist, where the line is drawn :confused: , that is hard to say. I just say it is better to be safe then sorry, confess all sins that are grave matters. After all the only unforgivable sin is to believe your since can not be forgiven at all.


#18

[quote=Michels]This question was brought to me by our diocese’s director of Catechises.
It is extremely difficult, almost impossible to think of something someone would actually do under a clear and well formed conscious that is a sin that is not habbitual.
I am by no means saying this is a free ticket. We are all called to live ever striving towards perfection. As our conscious becomes more well formed and clear, we sin less. But we also become more aware of sins we didn’t realize we were committing, so we are held accountable for more sins.
[/quote]

I would answer the Director this way:

Becoming a baptized, confessed, and confirmed Catholic erased my culpability for Original Sin and past Personal Sins. It did not erase my sinful nature, nor my culpability for future sins. It sounds like the director is suggesting that being a Christian means we can not succumb to new ways to sin. The exact opposite is true. The older I get, the more I am tempted in ways that I could not even imagine as a child.

Every habit begins with a single, non-habitual act. The first time you do something wrong you may agonize over it - you know it is wrong, but just this once would it truly be so bad? Especially if the consequences of doing the right thing are painful? [Imagine you have a music CD that is copyrighted, but not copy-protected. You make a duplicate on your PC and give it to a special friend instead of buying another copy.]

The second time you are faced with the same situation, you remember that you got away with it before. No one came to arrest you. Furthermore, some of your friends are doing the same thing without consequence. Your conscience still says “this is wrong” but you start to rationalize. [Your friend tells two other people that you gave him the CD copy. They want copies too, and they’ll even return the favor by giving you copies of other CDs you were about to buy.]

The third time becomes even easier. The habit begins to form. [One day you realize that the stack of 25 CD-R disks you bought for legitimate personal data backups has instead been converted into a stack of illegally copied music CDs.]

Note that you were clear-headed and not under duress at any time. This wasn’t a habit you brought with you when you became a Christian so many years ago, and which you only recently realized was wrong. [You knew the FBI warnings and copyright symbols were there long before you ever bought a computer that could copy CDs.] This was a completely new behavior that was simply expedient and selfish the first time you did it.

Whether our sin is a small as stealing music CDs or as great as becoming a mass murderer, it still begins with a single, non-habitual act. God gave us Free Will, and the freedom to exercise that will completely independent of Him. We can choose to align ourselves with Him. And we can choose to go our own way at any time, even after years of pious living. But if we choose to be our own moral authority, even in seemingly small, irrelevant matters, we are in sin. And we are culpable each and every time.


#19

Dear Nan S,

I’ve read what you posted above, and it is all perfectly…
logical.

If human beings were hard-wired robots, logic circuits
humming away in smooth fashion, I’d be willing to
sign up for this kind of “software.”

Human beings are wayyyy too complicated for
on/off circuitry.

Just my thought,
reen12


#20

[quote=reen12]I’ve read what you posted above, and it is all perfectly…logical.

If human beings were hard-wired robots, logic circuits humming away in smooth fashion, I’d be willing to sign up for this kind of “software.”

Human beings are wayyyy too complicated for on/off circuitry.

[/quote]

The question I addressed was whether a committed, believing Christian could consciously and freely commit new sins. The questioner postulated that we don’t commit new sins, instead we simply become increasingly aware that our old, difficult-to-break habits are sinful.

I am answering that as new temptations arise, particularly when enhanced by painful and stressful situations, we do consciously and freely commit new sins. As long as we are fallible humans with God-given Free Will, we are handicapped by selfishness. We can and do act according to our own short-term self-interest, which is all too often not aligned with the Father’s will.

Examples:

  • the virginal celibate religious who feels isloated and alone, then succumbs to sexual temptation
  • the new divorcee who feels abandoned by everyone he loved, then decides to abandon God
  • the computer owner who is short on cash and time, then decides to illegally copy a CD for a friend rather than buying one
  • just about anyone who rationalizes that “just this once” it wouldn’t be so bad

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