When I returned to Jesus Christ and His Church in 1984, it wasn’t as though a decade of unchecked sinful habits and behaviors fell by the wayside. I had to struggle mightily to replace vice with virtue. The struggle continues to this day.
http://www.catholicexchange.com/ius/vm/ahd_pinline.gif[left][size=4]After all, “denying myself” and “turning the other cheek” don’t come naturally. I also had to convert on intellectual matters. I was fresh out of law school and something of a constitutional law scholar, having sharpened my legal teeth on Roe v. Wade jurisprudence. That year, Mario Cuomo, the poster child of “I’m personally opposed but” politics, captured my imagination with a stirring keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
So, when I first came back to the Church, I brought my pro-choice ideology with me. Of course I was “personally opposed” — so much so that even then I would have gladly adopted a child rather than see him or her aborted. But I wasn’t where I needed to be in terms of fully accepting the Church’s coherent pro-life ethic. It took a year of prayer, study, and conversations with godly friends before I realized that I needed to repent and do penance for my dissident views.
When it comes to sins against charity, we’re usually able to come up with an excuse (e.g., “I was just letting off steam,” “My boss is a jerk,” “He shouldn’t have criticized my work,” “I didn’t think she’d take it personally”). At the end of the day, though, I think we all admit to sinning fairly regularly against charity. We realize that we hurt somebody, and so we try to reconcile as best we can with God and neighbor. Surely there are plenty of sins against charity to go around these days, and we do well to use a “charity scorecard” when examining our consciences.
Yet, Pope John Paul II has said that the present age is characterized not by a “crisis of charity,” but by a “crisis of faith.” We never hear about sins against faith, but if indeed we’re living through such a crisis, it stands to reason that sins against faith happen — and happen frequently. Sins against faith are seemingly “victimless” sins. Not only that, it takes a rare humility today to admit that we’re wrong about anything. And when it comes to religious convictions — true, false, or just plain weird — our society takes a “to each his own” approach. Thus, in many Catholic circles today, rejection of Church teaching brings into play many fancy concepts, such as diversity, tolerance, plurality, religious freedom, lived experience, and primacy of “conscience.” But no mention of sin.
In its treatment of the first commandment, the Catechism of the Catholic Church devotes three paragraphs (nos. 2087-89) to sins against faith. The Catechism says that “[t]he first commandment requires us to nourish and protect our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it" [emphasis added]. I suspect that all of us can do a better job of nourishing and protecting our faith.