The two beginning chapters of this third part of the USCCA, “Christian Morality: the Faith Lived,” are stunningly linked and timely given the current issues that make headlines in the news. These are foundational chapters for the exercise of right judgment about choices that need to be made as part of Faithful Citizenship. I am considering again the section headings of chapter 23: The Responsible Practice of Freedom, The Understanding of Moral Acts, The Reality of Sin and Trust in God’s Mercy, The Formation of Conscience, and The Excellence of Virtues, with some snippets of key points, like:
“The best way to grow in freedom is to perform good acts… The road to loss of freedom is through evil acts. Sin makes us slaves of evil and reduces our capacity to be free. Freedom comes from being moral. Slavery to sin arises from being immoral.” (p. 311)
“Though we can judge a given offense to be the occasion for mortal sin, and thus an act of objective wrongdoing, we must always entrust the judgment of the person to the mercy and justice of God.” (p. 313)
“There are some rules to follow in obeying one’s conscience. First, always follow a certain conscience. Second, an incorrect conscience must be changed if possible. Third, do not act with a doubtful conscience. We must always obey the certain judgments of our conscience, realizing that our conscience can be incorrect, that it can make a mistake about what is truly the good or the right thing to do…. We must also recognize that ignorance and errors are not always free from guilt…” (p. 315)
“Love alone, set adrift from moral direction, can easily descend into sentimentality that puts us at the mercy of our feelings… In our permissive culture, love is sometimes so romanticized that it is separated from sacrifice. Because of this, tough moral choices cannot be faced. The absence of sacrificial love dooms the possibility of an authentic moral life.” (p. 318)
“The moral life requires grace.” (p. 318)
Then in Chapter 24 the principles are further developed about living in community and the divine assistance available so that we may live with faith and hope, including after events such as September 11, 2001. I am challenging myself to consider the lessons of these chapters, in light of the day-to-day requirements of living my faith, but also looking at them relative to my responsibility to respond to what is happening in our culture. Delivered in 1995 to the United Nations, the concluding meditation of the chapter (included below) by Pope John Paul II, is relevant today as a warning and a challenge.
Experience is showing us that the first struggle he notes (religious intolerance) is visiting us again in a new form that would marginalize faith from one’s public life to the sanctuary, replacing it with a state imposed secularism detached from a moral order based on objective norms, in the name of pluralism, and at the cost of religious liberty….
“The Story of America has been the story of long and difficult struggle to overcome the prejudices which excluded certain categories of people from a full share in the country’s life: first, the struggle against religious intolerance, then the struggle against racial discrimination and in favor of civil rights for everyone. Sadly, today a new class of people is being excluded. When the unborn child – “the stranger in the womb” – is declared beyond the protection of society, not only are America’s deepest traditions radically undermined and endangered, but a moral blight is brought upon society. I am also thinking of threats to the elderly, the severely handicapped and all those who do not seem to have any social usefulness. When innocent human beings are declared inconvenient or burdensome, and thus unworthy of legal and social protection, grievous damage is done to the moral foundations of the democratic community.” (p. 337)
I wonder what key points/challenges others heard… (Laurie E)