Catholic Apologetics (Q&A)

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The questions and answers on this page are intended to offer insight into many aspects of Catholic apologetics and teaching that are frequently misunderstood and misconstrued. The answers are not presented as a proof of the truth of the Catholic faith (or even as an argument in favor of it), but only as an exposition of aspects of its content and some of their immediate implications. As with all of our work, we submit whatever is written here entirely to the authority of the Magisterium of the Church.

Quotations from authoritative (or at least very reliable) Catholic sources have been cited to provide corroboration with each of the doctrinally relevant answers given. We invite our readers to offer any worthy supporting quotations that we may have overlooked. To do so, please contact us via email by clicking on the “contact us” link at the bottom of any page on this site.

The arrangement of the questions is such that they can be read from beginning to end, and will “spiral” so as to touch upon a topic generally at first and return to it in a subsequent question at a greater degree of depth. Though this method may seem unusual, its merit will become apparent as the number and scope of questions increases over time.

It is important that the content be read in order as the answers often presuppose elements of what has been stated in earlier answers.

[This page is presently under construction. Please excuse any incomplete or imperfect aspects.]

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Who is God?


Answer:
God is that being than which none greater can be conceived.

Quote: “What are you, then, Lord God, than whom nothing greater can be conceived? But what are you, except that which, as the highest of all beings, alone exists through itself, and creates all other things from nothing? For, whatever is not this is less than a thing which can be conceived of. But this cannot be conceived of you. What good, therefore, does the supreme Good lack, through which every good is? Therefore, you are just, truthful, blessed, and whatever it is better to be than not to be. For it is better to be just than not just; better to be blessed than not blessed.” (St. Anselm, Proslogion)

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Why does God create if he is already perfect and needs nothing?


Answer:
God creates for the good of created persons. God is perfectly good, and his intention in creating the world is only love. Being entirely perfect, and eternally happy in his own nature, God does not need anything from creation. He creates gratuitously as a pure and simple gift. God’s perfect will is that created persons receive the fullness of his generosity, and that they not be deprived of any good that is fitting to the created nature that he has given to them.

Quote: “This one, true God, of his own goodness and ‘almighty power,’ not for increasing his own beatitude, nor for attaining his perfection, but in order to manifest this perfection through the benefits which he bestows on creatures, with absolute freedom of counsel ‘and from the beginning of time, made out of nothing both orders of creatures, the spiritual and corporeal.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church,  293)

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What is the justice of God?


Answer:
In willing only the highest good of persons, it is impossible for God to directly will something that is second best, or to approve of some situation that deprives a person of a due good. This uncompromising fidelity to the highest possible degree of charity is God’s justice. In his justice, God does not directly will or in any way approve of something that involves deprivation or disorder for any reason.

Quotes: “God is infinitely good and all his works are good… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 385)

“‘God’s justice’ has therefore an active, not a passive meaning. It means that God gives each person not what he or she deserves (according to our human understanding of justice), but what he or she doesn’t deserve at all, the free gift of mercy and grace and the promise of eternal life. (Fr. Cantalamessa, Where Love and Justice Meet)

“In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 271)

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What is human suffering in its essence?


Answer:
Human suffering is any situation in which a human person experiences something less than the fullness of happiness that is willed by God. It is a deprivation of a due good, namely the absence of a good that a created person has a right to enjoy by the fact of God having the intention of bestowing a state of complete joy upon him/her. Things such as sickness and physical harm as well as psychological and emotional pain fall under this broad definition of suffering. Also included under this definition are things that may typically be considered trivial, such as a delay in having one’s wants met or a brief experience of loneliness or boredom.

Quote:
“Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures. Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack, limitation or distortion of good. We could say that man suffers because of a good in which he does not share, from which in a certain sense he is cut off, or of which he has deprived himself. He particularly suffers when he ‘ought’ — in the normal order of things — to have a share in this good and does not have it.” (Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

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What is original justice?


Answer:
In the original order of creation, all would have worked harmoniously in man’s experience, for all human actions would have been consistent with God’s justice. While remaining obedient to God, man would possess freedom to choose from among various goods, but because of the providential harmony that would have characterized the created order, any legitimate choice would be consistent with the choices and desires of all other human persons. Everything and everyone would have been in a unified providential relationship for the sake of the good of all. Each would always have what is proper, and the human experience would be one of happiness and wholeness. In the order of original justice, through perfect correspondence with the will of the creator, human beings would have been immune to all suffering and death.

Quote: “The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.

The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”. This grace of original holiness was ‘to share in. . .divine life’.

By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original justice'”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 374-376)

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Is evolutionary theory compatible with Catholic teaching on original justice?


Answer:
Man’s immunity to suffering and death would have been the case regardless of whether or not there was conflict in the animal kingdom, or whether the body of man evolved through some evolutionary process over a period of time. Nothing in Catholic teaching presupposes either the truth or the falsity of evolution. The immunity to suffering and death that would have characterized the life of man would have occurred through preternatural gifts, and does not depend on a denial of evolutionary hypotheses. The principle here is simply that God does not will anything that would deprive any person of a due good.

[Further questions of evolution and the origin and implications of suffering and death in the animal kingdom are addressed at a later point in these questions.]

Quote: “But why did God not create a world so perfect that no evil could exist in it? With infinite power God could always create something better. But with infinite wisdom and goodness God freely willed to create a world ‘in a state of journeying’ towards its ultimate perfection. In God’s plan this process of becoming involves the appearance of certain beings and the disappearance of others, the existence of the more perfect alongside the less perfect, both constructive and destructive forces of nature. With physical good there exists also physical evil as long as creation has not reached perfection.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 310)

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What is sin?


Answer:
Personal entities such as men and angels are endowed by God with a gift of free will. Used rightly, free will allows one to choose between goods and makes it possible to both give and receive love. It is an essential attribute of persons. However, through the abuse of freedom, it is possible to choose to act in ways that are contrary to the order of creation that God has established. Such an abuse of free will is called sin.

Quote: “Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law’.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1849)

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Why does sin offend divine justice if God only wills our happiness?


Answer:
Sin seeks the fulfillment of desire in a distorted way which (along with the good attained) brings an admixture of lack and pain. God’s will is to give the human person maximal joy, and sin is forbidden only because it something which causes deprivation of a due good and precludes the reception of the fullness of God’s self-gift. If, by the very nature of things, sin did not bring about suffering, then sin would not be problematic with regard to man’s relationship to God. In such a situation (if it were possible), those actions which are presently considered sinful would be among the good and beneficial things that a person may freely choose. In God’s generosity, if it were possible for someone to be truly happier apart from God through a life of sin, then God would directly will that departure.

Quotes: “Sin offends God, that is, it saddens him greatly, but only in so far as it brings death to man whom he loves; it wounds his love.
.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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What consequence follows from the very nature of sin by strict necessity?


Answer:
By its very nature, sin causes the deprivation of the due good. God, in his perfect charity, has willed only that which is consistent with the highest good of persons in accord with their natures. By violating the just order of creation, sin causes man to experience something less than the perfect justice which God intends for humanity. Sin, being an event that is contrary to the harmony of the created order, interferes with the providence of undiminished happiness which God has desired for created persons.

Quote: “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400)

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Why does original sin have such broad consequences for humanity?


Answer:
By the mere fact of being in a world that has ceased to correspond to God’s perfect justice, all human beings begin to experience at least some deprivation of the due good which God has intended. As man was never meant to sin, so it is that he was never meant to be in a world containing any measure of the suffering caused by sin. Even a person who is innocent of any personal crimes against the created order is born separated from the perfect will of God because, in being part of a world that contains some measure of suffering, he experiences something less than the full beatitude which God intends. God wants to give a gift of perfect joy that suffering humanity cannot receive. Those who are born after the original sin are born as displaced beings who are alienated from their proper destiny of undiminished joy.

[The question of how and why Mary, the Immaculate Conception, is the exception to this will be addressed at a later point after more background has been established.]

Quote: “…when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

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In what sense does the justice of God bring about the condemnation of the human race because of original sin?


Answer:
In willing only that which is highest and best for the sake of persons he loves, God will not reduce his good intentions towards man to approve of the diminishment caused by sin. Because of this unwillingness to compromise with diminishment, it can be said that God’s justice results in a radical disunity between God and man which is (in a manner of speaking) tantamount to a condemnation of the entire human race. What seems like condemnation, however, is (paradoxically) a manifestation of unbounded charity; suffering man is alienated from his creator because God wills only what is highest and best for him, but man is unable to correspond to the gift.

Quotes: Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give You thanks.

In love You created us,
in justice You condemned us,
but in mercy You redeemed us,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Through Him the angels and all the choirs of heaven worship in awe before Your presence.
May our voices be one with theirs as they sing with joy the hymn of Your glory.” (Preface II , for Weekdays in Ordinary Time)

“In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 271)

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Why do we die if God wills only the good of created persons?


Answer:
 God is the source of all life and order, and now man exists in a state of disunity with the one source of life and order. This separation brings about increasing disorder in the life of man that eventually results in physical death.

[Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing stated here denies God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence or sovereignty. This tension cannot be adequately addressed until a later point in the exposition when sufficient background has been established.]

Quotes: “These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned is thus the last enemy of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

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Why is hell a possibility if God wills only the good of created persons?


Answer:
Because man was created with an immortal soul, his alienation from God is not ended with the physical disintegration of death. If left to itself, the soul would continue on in an unending estrangement from its creator. This disastrous contradiction of God’s intent for humanity is called hell. It is not God’s will that any should experience hell. God seeks out each soul with omnipotent effort so that it may not be lost.

[The question of why God would not annihilate a soul in such a state so as to end its misery will be addressed after more background is presented. Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing stated here denies God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence or sovereignty. This tension cannot be adequately addressed until a later point in the exposition when sufficient background has been established.]

Quotes“These two punishments [eternal and temporal] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

“St. Paul affirms that ‘the wages of sin is death'(Romans 6:23). Sin leads to death; not so much to the ‘act’ of dying –  which lasts only a moment — as to the ‘state’ of death, that is precisely to what has been called ‘mortal illness,’ a state of chronic death. In this state the creature desperately tends to return to being nothing but without succeeding and lives therefore as if in an eternal agony.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“The much talked about eternity of hell does not depend on God, who is always ready to forgive, but on the person who refuses to be forgiven and would accuse God of lacking respect for his freedom if God were to do so.
” 
(Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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In what sense can it be correctly said that no suffering or dying person can be doing the will of God?


Answer:
In his justice, God does not directly will or in any way approve of something that involves deprivation or disorder for any reason. Hence, because of God’s justice, it follows that no suffering or dying person can be doing the will of God.

[The point above is to be understood only as pertaining to suffering and death apart from what Christ has accomplished in the redemption, which will be discussed over the course of these questions and answers].

Quotes: “It can be said that man suffers whenever he experiences any kind of evil. In the vocabulary of the Old Testament, suffering and evil are identified with each other. In fact, that vocabulary did not have a specific word to indicate ‘suffering’. Thus it defined as ‘evil’ everything that was suffering.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

“For evil remains bound to sin and death. And even if we must use great caution in judging man’s suffering as a consequence of concrete sins (this is shown precisely by the example of the just man Job), nevertheless suffering cannot be divorced from the sin of the beginnings, from what Saint John calls ‘the sin of the world,’ from the sinful background of the personal actions and social processes in human history. Though it is not licit to apply here the narrow criterion of direct dependence (as Job’s three friends did), it is equally true that one cannot reject the criterion that, at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

I think it useful to inquire into the nature of death; whether it is to be ranked among good or among evil things. Now if death be considered absolutely in itself, without doubt it must be called an evil, because that which is opposed to life we must admit cannot be good.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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Why can we not restore our lost destiny through human effort?


Answer:
Once sin has entered the human experience, some level of disorder begins to characterize all things in the life of man. After the original sin, all actions of human persons proceed from the context of an event that should never have happened. Consequently, the actions of fallen humanity necessarily stand in opposition to God’s desire for man’s highest good (and hence to right order) in at least some small way even if they are done with the very best of intentions. As such, no amount of human effort can restore man to the happiness which was lost. This fact is confirmed in all utopian efforts. The disorder that characterizes man’s action after sin has entered the world is simply amplified by the consolidation of power, and any political effort of man to attain the perfect happiness that was lost brings about disaster in proportion to the amount of power that is put behind it.

Quote: If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, ‘For apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, ‘Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God’ (2 Cor. 3:5). (Council of Orange, Canon 7)

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What is the mercy of God?


Answer:
God’s desire is to save humanity from the consequences of original sin, which include suffering, death, and hell. God’s saving action towards fallen man is his mercy, but this saving action is also an extension of God’s just act of perfectly willing that which is highest and best for created persons. In this sense, God’s justice (the very thing which appears to bring about man’s eternal condemnation) and God’s mercy are convertible terms; they are both reducible to perfect charity.

Quotes: “Just as the expression ‘salvation of the Lord’ means the salvation by which he saves us, so ‘God’s justice’ means the justice by which, through his mercy, he makes us just” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Where Love and Justice Meet)

“In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 271)

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If God were to miraculously heal the world of all suffering, would our lost destiny be restored?


Answer:
It would not restore man’s lost destiny if God were to miraculously heal all of the disorder that sin has brought into the world. A suffering person, even if healed, has a life history that contains a time when he was not whole, and therefore was less than he should have been according to God’s original intention. Any apparent wholeness that a person would experience through healing would be diminished in some small measure by the broader context of past brokenness and frustration. When compared to the standard of perfectly integrated wholeness and beauty which God intends, a person who has suffered in any way (no matter how small) remains diminished and degraded by that suffering even if he is fully healed from it at a later time. Even the annihilation and re-creation of the world would not solve this problem, for the second creation would necessarily be degraded in at least some sense due to it being born out of the failure of the first world. As a world existing in a broader context of failure, it would be incompatible with God’s justice, which admits of no compromise with diminishment.

Quote: “… justice —true justice—would require a world ‘where not only present suffering would be wiped out, but also that which is irrevocably past would be undone'”. (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

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How does God save us through the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ?

 

Answer: God, in his justice, has only willed the complete happiness of humanity, and the original sin has caused the horror of fallen immortality for all of mankind. God has not created man for hell, and does not will that anyone be lost. For mankind to be restored to correspondence with God’s justice, the deprivation and disorder in the life of man must somehow be harmonized with God’s perfect intention of highest charity for humanity. However, this reconciliation seems impossible because God would have to incorporate human suffering (which is, by definition, the deprivation of a due good) into his perfect will, which necessarily only seeks the highest good of persons. God cannot directly will suffering on another person because he is perfectly good and no person was created by God for the sake of pain, but only for happiness. However, if suffering and dying man is to be reconciled with God’s justice, then God must, somehow, directly ordain human suffering and death in a way that is in accord with his perfect will (that is, with absolute, uncompromising charity).

In order for God to perfectly will suffering in any sense, necessarily, he must either will it on another or on himself. For the reasons stated previously, God cannot directly will a destiny of suffering on another. Additionally, the divine nature, in itself, is not capable of being damaged or diminished in any way, and therefore cannot be subjected to suffering like that of the nature of fallen man. However, if God were to assume a human nature, then he could perfectly will to experience human suffering as an act of sacrificial love. God, without ceasing to be God, would take to himself a human body, mind and soul, and come into the fallen world to live as a man. Through the incarnation, God freely and perfectly wills to receive to himself the disorder and deprivation that have become the experience of all mankind. It would not be that God inflicts harm on himself, for this would be directly destructive and therefore an evil that is contrary to his goodness. Rather, God, in an act of love for the sake of solidarity with the fallen human race, perfectly accepts the injustices that come to him through the mere fact of being himself (namely, by loving without compromise) in the fallen world. In this act of love, God maintains his absolute opposition to human suffering while simultaneously embracing it totally in his own divine person. Through the incarnation, the suffering of one man, Jesus, is consistent with the perfect will of God.

In the original order of creation, God had ordained that man would receive perfect happiness, but the advent of suffering and death have cancelled this original destiny. In Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising from the dead, God ordains a new, higher dignity and destiny for human nature that is not threatened by suffering and death. As true God and true man, Jesus is both the definer and model of the meaning of human life. In the new destiny that God ordains for man, it is not that God has compromised his perfect justice by accommodating the diminishment caused by suffering and death. Rather, God (in uniting human nature to himself) has raised man to a destiny that is infinitely higher than what would have been possible apart from the incarnation. This does not mean that the suffering and death of persons now become goods; they remain evils, but they are evils that no longer have the power to separate a person from God. Through the incarnation, God the Son is in perfect union with both God the Father and with the woundedness of humanity. If God, through human nature, has suffered, died, and has been raised from the dead, then suffering and death are no longer obstacles to the fullness of union with God. Apart from the incarnation, man would have enjoyed a happiness that was fitting to human nature. According to the new destiny of the human person in Christ, God brings man into the divine life of the Trinity, and bestows a joy which is, by nature, proper to God alone.

[The means by which Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection reverses all diminishment caused by sin will be explored in detail over further questions and answers on this page].

Quotes: “…There is justice. There is an ‘undoing’ of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

“Thou didst send him from Heaven into the Virgin’s womb; he was conceived and was incarnate, and was shown to be thy Son, born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin; Who, fulfilling thy will and preparing for thee a holy people, stretched out his hands in suffering, that he might free from suffering them that believed on thee.” (Early Eucharistic Canon, c. 245 A.D.)

“One can say that with the Passion of Christ all human suffering has found itself in a new situation. And it is as though Job has foreseen this when he said: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives …’, and as though he had directed towards it his own suffering, which without the Redemption could not have revealed to him the fullness of its meaning.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

“Because he is the Son, he sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil, all the power of lies and pride, all the wiles and cruelty of the evil that masks itself as life yet constantly serves to destroy, debase, and crush life. Because he is the Son, he experiences deeply all the horror, filth, and baseness that he must drink from the “chalice” prepared for him: the vast power of sin and death. All this he must take into himself, so that it can be disarmed and defeated in him.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

“Only a God who loves us to the extent of taking upon himself our wounds and our pain, especially innocent suffering, is worthy of faith.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Urbi et Orbi message, Easter 2007)

“In Jesus’ Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and, hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love… If we reflect more deeply on this insight, we find the answer to an objection that is often raised against the idea of atonement. Again and again people say: It must be a cruel God who demands infinite atonement. Is this not a notion unworthy of God? Must we not give up the idea of atonement in order to maintain the purity of our image of God?… It becomes evident that the real forgiveness accomplished on the Cross functions in exactly the opposite direction. The reality of evil and injustice that disfigures the world and at the same time distorts the image of God – this reality exists, through our sin. It cannot simply be ignored; it must be addressed. But here it is not the case of a cruel God demanding the infinite. It is exactly the opposite: God himself becomes the locus of reconciliation, and in the person of his Son takes the suffering upon himself. God himself grants his infinite purity to the world. God himself ‘drinks the cup’ of every horror to the dregs and thereby restores justice through the greatness of his love, which, through suffering, transforms the darkness.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

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How does sin alter the world?


Answer:
All entities in nature are causally interconnected. A change in any one object in the natural world brings about a change in every other object to some degree. Because God created the natural world in a harmony, it follows that when a person, through the abuse of free will, brings about an event that should never have happened, then all things are affected in a way that they should not be affected. This disordered change may initially be very small, but it grows in magnitude over time. Just as a small change in the initial conditions of a system can have large-scale consequences, so it is that sinful acts (which are inherently contrary to God’s will and providence) have long-range effects that are contrary to God’s will and providence on a grand scale. A creature lacking free will is not capable of initiating actions that are contrary to the order of creation, but human beings, through the abuse of free will are capable of actions that violate God’s intentions for the world.

[The primary disruption of the harmony of the world happened through the original sin because it directly contradicted the well- ordered state of affairs of original justice. Subsequent disordered actions have less of an obviously disruptive effect because their impact is, in a sense, engulfed by the broad chaos that followed the original sin.]

Quote: “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400)

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Is it contrary to science to believe that an individual human action can alter the entire world?


Answer: 
It is recognized scientifically that an event as seemingly insignificant as the flapping of a butterfly’s wings has causal impact sufficient to bring about vastly different global weather patterns that would not have occurred otherwise. The flapping wings are a small change in the initial conditions of an interconnected system of events. The small variation in the initial conditions of the system causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the long-term weather patterns would have been entirely different.

Quote: In chaos theory, the butterfly effect is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions, where a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences to a later state. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before.

Although the butterfly effect may appear to be an esoteric and unlikely behavior, it is exhibited by very simple systems: for example, a ball placed at the crest of a hill may roll into any of several valleys depending on, among other things, slight differences in initial position.” (Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect)

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Is the present state of affairs in the world God’s design?


Answer:
The present state of affairs in the world is not God’s design for man, but is an unjust perversion of God’s original design. Man faces an unfair and unnatural situation by being born into the world as it is. Man was created to experience God’s provision in an uninterrupted way, but has lost access to the harmony that would have governed the original order, and he suffers greatly as a result. Human desires for love, safety, importance, community, and such were not created by God for the sake of being frustrated and contradicted by the facts of reality, but so that these desires would be fulfilled, and man would have joy.

Quotes: The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.

The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original ‘state of holiness and justice’. This grace of original holiness was ‘to share in. . .divine life’.

By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original justice’.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 374-376)

“Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

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What causes humanity to suffer from accidents, diseases and natural disasters?


Answer:
 Through a personal and private act of sin, there is a ripple-effect of destructive disordered occurrences. A storm that would have watered crops can fail to come, or it can become a deluge that destroys villages. Acts that should not have happened can cause mutations that affect living things in ways that they should not be affected, thus bringing about deadly microbes, cancers, birth defects and other problems. Personal sins (particularly original sin) are ultimately the cause of all human experience of sicknesses, accidents, and natural disasters. Because of the impact of sin, everything in the natural world is dislocated in some measure, and man suffers the consequences of unfortunate events that are at variance with God’s original design. The innocent are as vulnerable to accidents, sicknesses, and disasters as are those who commit the sins that cause them. The disorder brought by sin falls where it will without any regard for justice or the dignity of human life. These events are the senseless, large-scale consequence of individual violations of the right order of reality that God has established. They do not make sense because they originate in sin, which is inherently contrary to order and reason.

[This is not to say that if there were no sin, there would not be powerful natural events, like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. However, the providential relationship between these events and the events in human life would have been vastly different. On the original order of things, man would be preternaturally protected from catastrophe by being in right relationship with all things through perfect correspondence with the divine will, and all would have worked in his service.]

[Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing stated here denies God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence or sovereignty. This tension cannot be adequately addressed until a later point in the exposition when sufficient background has been established.]

Quotes: “The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul’s spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination (Cf. Gen 3:7-16).  Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man (Cf. Gen 3:17, 19).  Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground,’ (Gen 3:19; cf. 2:17) for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history” (Cf. Rom 5:12) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400)

“Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal, God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned is thus the last enemy of man left to be conquered. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

“For evil remains bound to sin and death. And even if we must use great caution in judging man’s suffering as a consequence of concrete sins (this is shown precisely by the example of the just man Job), nevertheless suffering cannot be divorced from the sin of the beginnings, from what Saint John calls ‘the sin of the world,’ from the sinful background of the personal actions and social processes in human history. Though it is not licit to apply here the narrow criterion of direct dependence (as Job’s three friends did), it is equally true that one cannot reject the criterion that, at the basis of human suffering, there is a complex involvement with sin.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

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How can it be true that God cares for us if there are so many disasters?


Answer:
In human experience, there are often coincidences that suggest that some kind of divine providence is at work. It sometimes seems that the smallest needs of people are given attention by God, and man has evidence of his maximal importance. In contrast, there are experiences of tragic suffering that suggest that man is totally unimportant and that there is no providence at all. This juxtaposition of apparent providential care and senseless tragedy is stark and scandalous. It seems that God helps a person with small problems in answer to prayer, while an earthquake on the other side of the world brings devastation to an entire nation. To attempt to make sense of this disparity, some have said that all things are God’s will, and that the events that seem like horrible violations of man’s dignity are really sent by God to bring about a good beyond human comprehension. Alternatively, others say that man is without help in the universe, and what appears to be divine providence is merely a psychological illusion. On this view, the coincidences that seem to imply supernatural intervention are really just a matter of man’s interpretation of reality according to wishful thinking. Neither of these opposing views is correct.

God exists, and wills man’s good, but because of the disorder that has been caused by sin, the world is no longer operating in obedience to God’s perfect will according to the original order of creation. As sin is against God’s will, so it is that the far-reaching effects of sin are also against God’s will. These effects of sin are universally broad, and they affect everyone negatively in different ways. Because they are incompatible with the providence that man expects from God, these amplified consequences of sin cause the world to seem as if God does not exist. Man suffers because he has the experience of finding himself in a world that has no concern for him. However, in the midst of this apparent non-existence of divine providence are instances of answered prayer and the visible providence of God in those situations where the effects of sin have not totally overwhelmed the proper order of things. Both senseless disaster and solicitous providential care are happening at the same time.

[Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing stated here denies God’s omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence or sovereignty. This tension cannot be adequately addressed until a later point in the exposition when sufficient background has been established.]

Quotes:“The witness of Scripture is unanimous that the solicitude of divine providence is concrete and immediate; God cares for all, from the least things to the great events of the world and its history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 303)

“The world we live in often seems very far from the one promised us by faith. Our experiences of evil and suffering, injustice and death, seem to contradict the Good News; they can shake our faith and become a temptation against it.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 164)

“Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Good Friday Homily, 2011)

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Why do human beings have a tendency towards evil?


Answer:
  In the right order of things, each would always have what is proper, and there would be no conflict between desire and reality. This harmonious order of perfect providence has been shattered by the effects of sin, but man’s nature was created for this original harmony and still expects it to be there for him. Man is inclined by his nature to fulfill the desires that God has placed within him according to the original order of creation, and is therefore born with an inclination to achieve perfect wholeness and well-being all of the time. After the original sin, man inherits this same nature from his first parents. Human nature is suited only to a world of uninterrupted providence, but now man finds himself in a world containing injustice and pain. After the original sin, the human person retains free will in essence, but the God-given desires of human nature continue to relentlessly seek the justice of the original order of creation. As legitimate needs go unmet by what would have been sources of fulfillment in original justice, they persist in ways that drive a person to try to meet the need through any distorted and abnormal means available. Human nature seeks to alleviate pain, no matter what the cost in other areas where it feels less pain. Hence, a person can act in very self-destructive ways under the compulsion of addiction that is driven by important needs that have gone unjustly unmet due to the disorder in the world.

[After the original sin, man experiences that he is a menagerie of desires that are often contradictory and irrational. It is not that these desires would have been fulfilled in the original order in all their irrationality, but rather, as the harmony of God’s providence governed the external facts of man’s existence, so it would also govern the internal events of the human heart. It is not that reality would accommodate destructive and irrational combinations of desires, but that desire itself would be subject to right order in conjunction with providential harmony of the external world.]

Quotes: “After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin. There is Cain’s murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ’s atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians. Scripture and the Church’s Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man’s history…” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 401)

“Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence. Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 405)

“…every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

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Why is the human person in constant conflict such as to make happiness seem always out of reach?


Answer:
The world in its current form is full of events that should never have happened, and every human situation is afflicted by some measure of disorder. Consequently, any act of seeking total satisfaction will now be met with frustration. Every act of seeking the fulfillment of God-given desires causes man to come into conflict with the disordered facts of external reality and with other people who are also attempting to find perfect fulfillment in a broken world. In any given situation, one’s action must substantially consist of one of two options; he can be loyal to his own interests at the expense of others, or he can put the interests of others above his own at the expense of having his desires go unfulfilled. To seek one’s own good at the expense of others will not bring happiness, for man is inherently a communal being whose authentic joy depends on right relationship with God and other people. However, to choose to oppose the drive to fulfill all of one’s desires in favor of serving the good of others is to choose an immediate increase in suffering, and human nature rebels against this choice because it was not meant to suffer. At all times, man is forced to choose one deprivation or the other. He is faced with a dilemma where either option forces him to experience a situation that is against the inclinations of his nature. By being created for perfection, yet dwelling in chaos, human nature becomes divided against itself, and is in constant conflict.

[The question of why God would allow anyone to be born into a fallen world cannot be addressed until a later point.]

Quotes: “What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.” (Second Vatican Council, Guadium et Spes)

“The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man’s situation and activity in the world… Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 407)

“Finding an answer to this requires nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without–from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are ‘present.’ Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives–themselves–only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event–sin–touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

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Why is it naturally impossible to be consistently virtuous despite sincere and repeated resolution to do so?


Answer:
To love is to act for the sake of the highest good of another. God’s will in the original order of creation was that human beings love one another fully, and this has not changed after the original sin. However, in the present state of affairs, man finds it impossible, naturally speaking, to perfectly practice this imperative of love because he is (rightly and justly) inclined towards perfect fulfillment of all desires. Selfishness, which is the refusal to suffer for the good of another, stems from the fact that human nature is created for the order of original justice in which there is no conflict between desire and reality. It is rooted in this dislocated goodness of human nature. Man can make the choice to seek the good of others, but as he encounters suffering, his own nature opposes him. This is not because he is created evil, but specifically because (in accord with God’s justice) he is created for a world of perfect order and provision. Because human nature was not created for suffering, man cannot perform perfectly in an unnatural combat against the inclinations of his own being. Human nature was not designed to fight itself, but was created by God for perfect harmony and unity. A person can hate his selfishness, resist it violently, and yet will submit to selfish behavior again and again because he was not made to be at war with himself. In this unfortunate state, any act that appears to be done in charity will always be tainted with an admixture of selfish motives. It is impossible for fallen man (on his own natural power) to be single-minded in charity due to the constant opposition that the legitimate needs of his own nature produce within him. Suppression of desire by force of will is followed by violent upheaval of that desire or bizarre manifestation of the desire in other areas of life.

[Note on spirituality: In not wanting to perceive the selfishness within, man deceives himself and disowns his selfish motives, but because his nature is what it is (regardless of one’s willingness to see), these motives continue to influence his behavior independently of his approval. In the light of God, these selfish motives are gradually exposed, and one becomes afraid to see more, but, as a person remains in the truth, these selfish motives are shown to be nothing but dislocated originally good desires that have unjustly gone unfulfilled in a damaged world. When this truth is seen, one can be healed of the fear of seeing his selfishness, and (in accepting the truth about himself) can refer the entirety of his being to God’s mercy. If man persists in disowning aspects of himself for fear of self-knowledge, he cannot offer himself to the mercy of God because he does not truly possess himself.]

Quotes: “What we must tell you on this happy day, sons and brothers is that without Christ there is no true humanism. And we implore God and beg you men of our time to spare yourselves the fateful experience of a Christ-less humanism. A brief reflection on on what the history of yesterday and today teaches us would be enough to convince us that human virtues, developed without the Christian charism, can degenerate into their contradictory vices. Man, making himself a giant without a spiritual, Christian animation, collapses under his own weight. He lacks the moral strength which makes him really a man. He lacks the capacity to judge the hierarchy of values. He lacks the transcendental reasons which give lasting motivation and support to his virtues.” (Pope Paul VI, Urbi et Orbi Christmas message 1969)

“She became aware not only that her willpower could be misdirected in terms of what she actually chose, but that even by choosing good she could be on the wrong path if she willfully chose good in a self-centered or self-righteous way.  The very act of willpower even directed toward sanctity, she understood, could be tainted by the self-love that could drive to her to try to make herself the saint she wanted to be rather than allowing God to make her the saint she was created to be.  She recognized that in the use of her willpower she could sometimes be self-serving or even violent to herself or others in her efforts to be good.  She was beginning to glimpse that holiness, while needing her cooperation, was really a matter of God’s doing” (Joseph Schmidt, Everything is Grace, The Life and Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux)

“But this is a hard thing. If you attempt it in your own strength, it will be as though you were trying to stop the raging of a torrent, or to make the Jordan run backwards.” (Bernard of Clairveuax, eighty-fifth Sermon on the Song of Songs)

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What is the relationship between love and sacrifice?


Answer:
The essence of love is unconditional self-gift. The need for self-sacrifice is something that comes about as a result of the world operating in violation of God’s will due to the large-scale effects of sin. In the Holy Trinity, there is infinite and perfect love, but this love does not involve suffering or deprivation. There is perfect self-gift of one divine person to another, but not self-sacrifice. Similarly, in heaven, there is perfect love, but this love is not at the expense of personal well- being. It was not God’s desire that love of others would require sacrifice or an inner struggle of any kind. God’s intention for man was that none would be deprived of any due good, and that love would not require pain. In original justice, any person could give of himself in ways that would serve the desires of others without having to forego his own fulfillment. It was the intent of Satan, not of God, that pain and frustration would afflict all created things, and it is only because of the effects of the original sin that love now entails pain. As it is now, the only way that authentic love can exist in the fallen world is if it is sacrificial. One person foregoes the fulfillment of certain desires and suffers for the sake of the good of another.

Quotes: “Christianity proclaims the essential good of existence and the good of that which exists, acknowledges the goodness of the Creator and proclaims the good of creatures. Man suffers on account of evil, which is a certain lack, limitation or distortion of good. We could say that man suffers because of a good in which he does not share, from which in a certain sense he is cut off, or of which he has deprived himself. He particularly suffers when he “ought” — in the normal order of things — to have a share in this good and does not have it.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Dolores)

“By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 376)

“There are many things we do know, however, about this diabolical world, things that touch on our lives and on the whole history of mankind. The Devil is at the origin of mankind’s first misfortune- he was the wily, fatal tempter involved in the first sin, the original sin. That fall of Adam gave the Devil a certain dominion over man, from which only Christ’s Redemption can free us. It is a history that is still going on: let us recall the exorcisms at Baptism, and the frequent references in Sacred Scripture and in the liturgy to the aggressive and oppressive ‘power of darkness.’  The Devil is the number one enemy, the preeminent tempter. So we know that this dark disturbing being exists and that he is still at work with his treacherous cunning; he is the hidden enemy who sows errors and misfortunes in human history. It is worth recalling the revealing Gospel parable of the good seed and the cockle, for it synthesizes and explains the lack of logic that seems to preside over our contradictory experiences: ‘An enemy has done this.’ He is ‘a murderer from the beginning, . . . and the father of lies,’ as Christ defines him. He undermines man’s moral equilibrium with his sophistry. He is the malign, clever seducer who knows how to make his way into us through the senses, the imagination and the libido, through utopian logic, or through disordered social contacts in the give and take of our activities, so that he can bring about in us deviations that are all the more harmful because they seem to conform to our physical or mental makeup, or to our profound, instinctive  aspirations.” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, November 15, 1972)

 

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What is the consequence of attempting to love sacrificially apart from grace?


Answer:
In not being willing to see and offer one’s inner ugliness to God, one tries to compensate such as to make oneself beautiful to God by attempting to love through natural power. A person may pray that certain faults be removed, but such prayers can be an evasion of God rather than growth in holiness because the soul is really acting from the unwillingness to experience its own poverty. Eventually, this disordered mode of action exacts enough of a toll on a person such that one is thrown back onto his own poverty with no hope of escape. In this humiliation, one will either despair or (through responding to the invitation of the Holy Spirit) allow God to begin to save him.

Quotes: “Holiness begins from Christ; and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. ‘Without me,’ He says, ‘you can do nothing.’ If we grieve and do penance for our sins if, with filial fear and hope, we turn again to God, it is because He is leading us.” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi)

“At the beginning of my spiritual life when I was thirteen or fourteen, I used to ask myself what I would have to strive for later on because I believed it was quite impossible for me to understand perfection better. I learned very quickly since then that the more one advances, the more one sees the goal is still far off. And now I am simply resigned to see myself always imperfect and in this I find my joy. (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)

“Oh! how happy I am to see myself imperfect and to be in need of God’s mercy so much even at the moment of my death.” (St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul)

“Thérèse’ resignation was not one of despair, discouragement, passivity, or lack of effort, but a humble acceptance of her creaturely imperfection despite her efforts, infused with joy by her hope in God’s transforming love eventually bringing her to perfection.” (Joseph Schmidt, Everything is Grace, The Life and Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux)

“What can you do then? You must seek the Word… You have need of strength, and not simply strength, but strength drawn from above.” (St. Bernard of Clairveuax, eighty-fifth Sermon on the Song of Songs)

 

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In what sense can it be said that being possessed by God neither limits freedom, nor contravenes human dignity.


Answer:
God does not perfectly possess a person without allowing that person to possess him as well. This self-offering of God is more fully addressed in the later questions and answers. It is this gift of God which reconciles man to God’s perfect justice and restores his lost destiny. Through the transforming union in which God and the soul mutually possess one another, man is supernaturally empowered with the capacity to transcend selfishness and to love God and others with God’s own love. In this renewed freedom, man can offer himself to God and others perfectly. Before this freedom is gained through supernatural transformation, even though one has good will, and desires to love God and others, he is necessarily at war with himself, others, and even with the God he loves because of the remaining untransformed aspects of his nature.

Quote: “That which the soul aims at is equality in love with God, the object of its natural and supernatural desire. He who loves cannot be satisfied if he does not feel that he loves as much as he is loved. And when the soul sees that in the transformation in God, such as is possible in this life, notwithstanding the immensity of its love, it cannot equal the perfection of that love with which God loves it, it desires the clear transformation of glory in which it shall equal the perfection of love with which it is itself beloved of God; it desires, I say, the clear transformation of glory in which it shall equal His love.

For though in this high state, which the soul reaches on earth, there is a real union of the will, yet it cannot reach that perfection and strength of love which it will possess in the union of glory; seeing that then, according to the Apostle, the soul will know God as it is known of Him: ‘Then I shall know even as I am known.’ That is, ‘I shall then love God even as I am loved by Him.’ For as the understanding of the soul will then be the understanding of God, and its will the will of God, so its love will also be His love. Though in heaven the will of the soul is not destroyed, it is so intimately united with the power of the will of God, Who loves it, that it loves Him as strongly and as perfectly as it is loved of Him; both wills being united in one sole will and one sole love of God.

 Thus the soul loves God with the will and strength of God Himself, being made one with that very strength of love with which itself is loved of God. This strength is of the Holy Spirit, in Whom the soul is there transformed. He is given to the soul to strengthen its love; ministering to it, and supplying in it, because of its transformation in glory, that which is defective in it. In the perfect transformation, also, of the state of spiritual marriage, such as is possible on earth, in which the soul is all clothed in grace, the soul loves in a certain way in the Holy Spirit, Who is given to it in that transformation.” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)

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How is authentic sacrifice possible?


Answer:
The infusion of divine love that enables a person to sacrifice (viz., transcend the limits of human nature) presupposes that the human person willingly consents to allow God to possess its faculties and operate freely through them. This relationship is only possible with the ongoing permission of man. God, in his goodness, will not force himself on man, and therefore a person can remain on his own if he so chooses.  If one consents to this intervention of God, there is a gradual transfiguration of the soul such that it is capacitated to become free to consent to allow God to act through it in greater ways. As God is given permission to possess more of a person, that person is enabled to love authentically, and ultimately in heroic ways through a supernatural power that is imparted from God. This possession of the soul by God is not one of domination, but of man’s continued self-offering that is both empowered by and gratefully received by God. Indeed, the self-offering is mutual, for it is only God’s offer of himself to the soul that enables the soul to offer itself to God.

Quotes: “This is the adoption of the sons of God, who may truly say what the Son Himself says to the Eternal Father: ‘All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine,’ He by essence, being the Son of God by nature, we by participation, being sons by adoption. This He says not for Himself only, Who is the Head, but for the whole mystical body, which is the Church. For the Church will share in the very beauty of the Bridegroom in the day of her triumph, when she shall see God face to face. And this is the vision which the soul prays that the Bridegroom and itself may go in His beauty to see.” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)

“We are to observe here that the bride does not say, ‘There will You give me Your love,’ though that is true — for that means only that God will love her — but that He will there show her how she is to love Him with that perfection at which she aims, because there in giving her His love He will at the same time show her how to love Him as He loves her. For God not only teaches the soul to love Himself purely, with a disinterested love, as He has loved us, but He also enables it to love Him with that strength with which He loves the soul, transforming it in His love, wherein He bestows upon it His own power, so that it may love Him. It is as if He put an instrument in its hand, taught it the use thereof, and played upon it together with the soul. This is showing the soul how it is to love, and at the same time endowing it with the capacity of loving.

The soul is not satisfied until it reaches this point, neither would it be satisfied even in heaven, unless it felt, as St. Thomas teaches, that it loved God as much as it is loved of Him. And as I said of the state of spiritual marriage of which I am speaking, there is now at this time, though it cannot be that perfect love in glory, a certain vivid vision and likeness of that perfection, which is wholly indescribable.” (St. John of the Cross, Spiritual Canticle)

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Does the love of God change in response to sin?


Answer: 
God is a single eternal act of infinite love that is not subject to diminishment or change. Consequently, it is impossible for the love of God to change in response to sin. God regards the sinner with the same love and acceptance as he would regard one who is totally innocent.

Quote: “By giving up his own Son for our sins, God manifests that his plan for us is one of benevolent love, prior to any merit on our part: ‘In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the expiation for our sins.’ God ‘shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.’

At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: ‘So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.’ He affirms that he came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. The Church, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: ‘There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.'”(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 604-605)

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If the love of God does not change, how is it possible for a soul to be judged by God?


Answer:
God’s action is always one of self-gift, and the judgment is no different. The judgment of God is simply the full awareness of the self-gift of God to the soul. In judgment, the Lord simply looks at the soul with love (which reveals perfect truth about oneself), and asks that the soul accept his mercy. That is, he asks that the soul consent to the wounds of Christ for the sake of the forgiveness of sins. The act of accepting Christ’s suffering may seem easy when considered in a merely notional way, but to understand that one has wounded perfect love can be the greatest of pains such that a soul may choose to condemn itself in despair rather than be in the presence of the perfectly innocent one who was wounded. This shame cannot be imagined or anticipated until it is experienced. For one who loves God, it is greater than any pain of heart other than hell itself. Indeed, if one were to choose to be damned it would be because the pain of the loss of God for eternity is subjectively seen as preferable to the pain of being in his presence.

Quotes: “Hell is the mind eternally mad at itself for wounding Love. How often during life you have said: ‘I hate myself.’ No one who ever condemned you could add to the consciousness of your guilt. You knew it a thousand times better than they. When did you hate yourself most? Certainly not when you failed to act on a tip on the stock market. You hated yourself most when you hurt someone you loved. You even said: ‘I can never forgive myself for doing that.’ The souls in hell hate themselves most for wounding Perfect Love. They can never forgive themselves. Hence their hell is eternal: eternal self-imposed unforgiveness. It is not that God would not forgive them. It is rather that they will not forgive themselves.” (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, The Hell There Is)

“In St. John’s Gospel we read: ‘They shall look on him whom they have pierced’ (John19:37), and the prophecy he is quoting goes on to say: ‘They shall mourn as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him as one weeps over a first­born’ (Zechariah 12:10). Has this prophesy ever been realized in my life or is it still awaiting fulfillment? Have I ever looked at the One I pierced?” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“I thought: Is any pain like this? And I was answered in my reason: Hell is another pain: for there is despair. But of all pains that lead to salvation this is the most pain, to see thy Love suffer. How might any pain be more to me than to see Him that is all my life, all my bliss, and all my joy, suffer? Here felt I soothfastly that I loved Christ so much above myself that there was no pain that might be suffered like to that sorrow that I had to [see] Him in pain.” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)


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If God is entirely love, what is the “wrath” of God?


Answer: 
The “wrath” of God is not a change in God’s love towards a person; it is the opposition between a person acting contrary to God’s will and the entire order of being. Even though it does not involve any change in God’s intention, the disharmony between the sinner and reality is worse than any picture of divine wrath that can be imagined. It entails that the sinner does not fit into reality at all; it is as if all of being is his enemy. Eventually, all illusions fall away, and truth becomes very clear such as to show this experience of non-belonging in full horror. This alienation of the soul is hell, and it is experienced in partial ways even before death as one engages in sin and experiences its consequences. God seeks out each soul with omnipotent effort so that it may not have to suffer hell.

Quotes: These two punishments [eternal and temporal (i.e. all forms of punishment)] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1472)

“The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath. Whoever falls away from love is moving into negativity. So that is not something that some dictator with a lust for power inflicts on you, but is simply a way of expressing the inner logic of a certain action. If I move outside the area of what is compatible with the ideal model by which I am created, if I move beyond the love that sustains me, well then, I just fall into the void, into darkness. I am then no longer in the realm of love, so to speak, but in a realm that can be seen as the realm of wrath. 

When God inflicts punishment, this is not punishment in the sense that God has, as it were, drawn up a system of fines and penalties and is wanting to pin one on you. ‘The punishment of God’ is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.”
(Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World)

“Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Good Friday Homily2011)

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If God only offers mercy to the soul and does not condemn, how can it be that hell remains a possibility?


Answer:  
It is not sin in and of itself that determines a person’s ultimate destiny, but the acceptance or refusal of God’s mercy. A person who definitively chooses to reject the mercy of God will be condemned of himself and God will be forced to seal the judgment. God does everything in hispower to save the soul that may try to condemn itself, but he cannot force a person to freely respond to his love. God is forced to let the unrepentant sinner have his way out of respect for thefree will that has been given, and he must allow this tragic separation to occur if the soul wills it.

Quote: “The much talked about eternity of hell does not depend on God, who is always ready to forgive, but on the person who refuses to be forgiven and would accuse God of lacking respect for his freedom if God were to do so.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

 

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If God is all and only love, why do we see God as a threat?


Answer: 
On the original order of creation, a person would have intimacy with God, but would also be in a state of perfect unblemished righteousness such that there would be no shame or fear in the divine presence. Man was created for well-being and righteousness and therefore was not intended to experience the knowledge of being in an unnatural and disordered state that requires radical intervention and reordering. When presented with evidence of his disorder, man’s nature automatically shrinks from this knowledge as it would recoil from the heat of an intense flame. The response of accepting God’s mercy is not simply an easy mental assent to the concept of needing mercy, but is something contrary to fallen human nature in almost every way. Human nature does not resist God because it is evil in itself, but because it (in being created good) was meant to know its own beauty and righteousness with no stain or diminishment, and was not created for knowledge of its sin and disorder. God is the only authentic happiness for man, but fallen man is moved by his own natural goodness to see God’s saving approach as a death- dealing threat.

[This is not to say that God does not offer consolations as well, but the penetration of his light into the soul for the sake of supernatural transformation is necessarily (because of the unnaturalness of seeing one’s own poverty) experienced as something that is desolating and disturbing.]


Quote: 
“‘Hurry and come down, for I must stay in your house today’.”

The Master unceasingly repeats this word to our soul which He once addressed to Zacchaeus. ‘Hurry and come down.’

But what is this descent that He demands of us except an entering more deeply into our interior abyss? This act is not an external separation form external things, but a solitude of spirit, a detachment from all that is not God.

 As long as our will has fancies that are foreign to divine union, whims that are now yes, now no, we are like children; fire has not yet burnt up all the alloy; the gold is not pure; we are still seeking ourselves; God has not consumed all our hostility to Him.

…This is the secret cellar in which love places His elect. This love leads us by ways and paths known to Him alone; and He leads us with no turning back.” (Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, Heaven in Faith)

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Why do we continue to resist God even though we desire to love God perfectly?


Answer:
Fallen human nature, apart from the fullness of the transformation that the Holy Spirit brings about, is compelled to resist God even if man desires in his heart to love God more perfectly. Hence, even if a person were to beg God to transform him all at once, thinking that his desire for transformation was pure, God could not do it because there would still be divided aspects of the person which remain at enmity with God and forbid his access. In light of this, God does not blame man for his natural resistance, but loves uncompromisingly and persists until the battle of transformation is won. The Holy Spirit gradually lets those of good will know a little bit more about their faults, and as this painful new knowledge is gained, the soul (in possessing more of itself) is then free to offer itself more fully to God so that the he may continue to transform it supernaturally.

Quotes: “Thérèse makes clear that growth in the spiritual life is usually a gradual process; Jesus is patient with us, for He doesnt like pointing everything out at once to souls. He generally gives His light little by little.” (Joseph Schmidt, Everything is Grace, The Life and Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux)

“Perhaps, deep within myself, I am ready at this point to acknowledge the truth, to admit that so far I have lived ‘for myself,’ that I am also involved in the mystery of impiety. The Holy Spirit has ‘convinced me of sin.’ The ever-new miracle of conversion is beginning for me. What should I do in such a delicate situation? Let us open the Bible and intone the ‘De profundis’: ‘Out of the depths I cry to thee, Oh Lord’ (Psalms 130). The ‘De Profundis’ wasn’t written for the dead but for the living: the ‘depths’ from which the psalmist cries is not a reference to Purgatory but to sin: ‘If thou, Oh Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord who could stand’? It is written that Christ ‘in the Spirit went and preached to the spirits in prison’ (cf. 1 Peter 3:19). Commenting on this, one of the Fathers of the Church said: ‘When you hear that Christ, going down to Hades, freed the souls who were prisoners there, do not think that these things are far removed from what is being done now. Believe me, the heart is a tomb.’ (Macanus of Egypt, On the Freedom of Mind 116; PG 34, 936). We are now spiritually in the position of the ‘spirits in prison’ in Hades, awaiting the coming of the Savior. The traditional icon of the Resurrection shows Adam and Eve desperately outstretching their hands to grasp the right hand of Christ who is coming with his cross to snatch them from prison. Let us also raise a cry from the deep prison of our sinful ‘self’ in which we are kept prisoners. The psalm we are saying is full of confident trust and expectation: ‘In his word I hope. . . My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning . . . He will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.’ We already know that help exists, that there is a remedy for our ills, because ‘God loves us.’ So while we are shaken by God’s Word, let us confidently say to God: ‘For you do not give me up to sheol, or let your godly one see the pit’ (Psalms 16:10).” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

 

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Is there any common example of a soul’s resistance to the mercy of God in ordinary experience?


Answer: 
Instances of this same resistance to God happen in small and incomplete ways all throughout life as a person evades those truths which would cause him to be humbled. If a soul is thoroughly disposed to avoid truth in small matters, then in the fullness of the presence of God, this orientation of avoiding the light of truth will be much more extreme, and may become absolute – resulting in total resistance to God despite every effort of God to save it.

Quotes: “The much talked about eternity of hell does not depend on God, who is always ready to forgive, but on the person who refuses to be forgiven and would accuse God of lacking respect for his freedom if God were to do so.”  (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“So it is clear now that sin is, in its essence, a renunciation of the truth. Now we can also understand the mysterious meaning of the words: ‘When you eat of it [that is, when you deny your limitations, when you deny your finitude], then you will die'(cf. Genesis 3:3). This means that human beings who deny the limitations imposed on them by good and evil, which are the inner standard of creation, deny the truth. 

They are living in untruth and in unreality. Their lives are mere appearance; they stand under the sway of death. We who are surrounded by a world of untruths, of un-life, know how strong this sway of death is, which even negates life itself and makes it a kind of death.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Sin and Salvation)

“He unmasks the strange and frequent illusions of pious and religious people who consider themselves safe from God’s anger just because they can clearly distinguish between good and evil. They know the law and, when necessary, they know how to apply it to others, whereas, as far as they themselves are concerned, they think that the privilege of being on God’s side or, at least, God’s goodness and patience with which they are very familiar, makes an exception for them.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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Why is God so hidden if he intends to reveal himself?


Answer: 
Man is not designed to face his sinfulness and rely on mercy, and therefore he cannot stand in the light of truth until he is transformed by supernatural action to have the freedom to do so. In asking man to accept the fullness of divine mercy, God is asking him to do something that is impossible in natural terms. One may say intellectually, “I am a sinner who is in need of mercy” or “Christ died for my sins”, but this is not to know the reality. If either of these realities were to be shown in its fullness, it would be too painful to bear unless the soul were already fully transformed by the grace of God. Not seeing the whole truth about one’s sin in the present moment is what keeps the Earth from being identical with purgatory or hell. It is not possible to maneuver one’s mind to the knowledge of how one stands before God, for man’s nature is not made to know his sin, and therefore this knowing is only available supernaturally. God has to show it, and he does not show it all at once because it would be too destructive. In hidden ways, through prayer and through the sacraments, the power of God penetrates and transforms the soul in a manner that is fitting to an individual’s capacity, and is therefore mostly hidden. A person is gradually transfigured by supernatural power and thereby capacitated to stand in the light of God and receive his love in greater ways. The soul’s many small acts of invitation give God the freedom to begin to possess a person such as to gradually bring about transformation without there being a violent clash. As gently as possible, the nature of man is transformed as the life of God increases within him.

[Note, this answer does not address the question of divine hiddenness in terms of an apparent lack of divine intervention in the world in which God could provide more abundant and consoling evidence of his own existence. This question will be addressed after additional background is established.]

Quote: “Only divine revelation really knows what sin is and neither human ethics nor philosophy can tell us anything about it. No man can say by himself what sin is, for the simple reason that he himself is in sin. All that he says about sin can, in the end, only be a palliative and an understatement of sin. ‘To have a weak understanding of sin is part of our being sinners.’ Scripture says: ‘Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart. . . for he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated”(Psalms 36:2-3)… 

Sin is a much more serious thing — infinitely more serious — than I shall ever be able to explain. At the most, man can reach an understanding of sin against himself or against other men, but not sin against God;

…Therefore only divine revelation knows what sin is. Jesus explains all this more closely by saying that only the Holy Spirit can “convince the world of sin” (cf. John 16:8). 

…Our meditation will have fulfilled its aim if it manages even to challenge our unshakable basic self-assurance and make us feel a wholesome fear in front of the terrible danger that not only sin but the very possibility of sinning holds for us. 

…It is something much more sinister and terrible than can be imagined or expressed. If the world knew what sin really is, it would die of terror.”  (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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How does the soul begin to turn to God who is seen as a threat?

Answer: When considered on its own, the soul is not able to consent to allow God to begin to transform it, but God’s grace simultaneously both invites and supernaturally empowers the soul to go beyond its natural capacity in order to respond to God’s invitation. Through this supernatural empowering, the soul is enabled (if it so wills) to begin to allow God to transform it. As soon as any consent is given, the process of supernatural transformation begins and requires the continued consent of the soul, which is also empowered supernaturally. If the invitation is spurned, God does not give up, but continues to approach the soul offering it the supernatural power to begin to consent to the transformation he desires to give.

Quotes: “If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, ‘What have you that you did not receive?’ (1 Cor. 4:7), and, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Cor. 15:10).” (Council of Orange, Canon 6)

“If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, ‘For apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, ‘Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God (2 Cor. 3:5).’ (Council of Orange, Canon 7)

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What happens to a person who dies without this transformation being complete?


Answer:
If a person were to avoid the approach of God through life (and there are varying degrees of resistance to grace), then at death (when there is no possibility of distraction through earthly events) there would be a sudden confrontation with the truth that one has been purposefully avoiding. This confrontation with the truth and the process of supernatural transformation of the soul (provided this transformation is desired by the person) without the distractions that characterize life on Earth is purgatory.

Quotes: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1030)

Finally, in the Miserere, a rooted conviction of divine pardon ‘cancels, washes, cleanses’ the sinner (cf. vv. 3-4) and is able to transform him into a new creature who has a transfigured spirit, tongue, lips and heart (cf. 4-19). ‘Even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is greater than our misery. Only one thing is needed: the sinner has to leave the door to his heart ajar…. God can do the rest…. Everything begins and ends with his mercy’, so writes St Faustina Kowalska (M. Winowska, The Ikon of Divine Mercy, the Message of Sister Faustina, from the Italian version, L’Icona dell’Amore Misericordioso. Il messaggio di Suor Faustina, Rome, 1981, p. 271).” (John Paul II, General Audience, Oct 24, 2001) 

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Can a person authentically relate to others apart from this supernatural transformation?


Answer: 
True relationship with others is only possible to a person when the gaze of God is not something to be feared. If a person does not want God to see him, then he will not be able to authentically relate to others because he will not want others to see him either. His actions will be oriented towards concealment of the truth about self and manipulation of others to bolster a false security. Of course, there are degrees of this, and the greater and lesser degrees correspond to the measure that the Holy Spirit has been allowed to transform the soul through grace.

Quotes: “Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event–sin–touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.” (Council of Orange, Canon 20)

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What are some necessary consequences of this supernatural transformation remaining incomplete while on earth?


Answer: 
Man is made for intimacy with God, and as such is driven by the desire of his heart to be satisfied with nothing less than an infinite good. Fallen man is seeking God in all of his actions, but at the same time (naturally speaking), he prefers anything to God because God’s saving action reveals man’s sin, his interior poverty, and the need for mercy. In fearing to come into the truth, and resisting the supernatural transformation that God wants to bring about, a person must seek finite goods in disordered proportions to try to make up for the lack of the infinite good that would be found in God. Authentic communion with others becomes impossible, and fallen man must lay hold of finite goods in such a way as to attempt to satiate an infinite desire. This infinite desire can only be fulfilled when a person is truly possessed by God, and this can only come when a person can stand in the light of truth without evasion through God’s grace.

Quotes: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (Saint Augustine, Confessions)

“The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for: The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 27)

“I was saying these things and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when suddenly I heard the voice of a boy or a girl I know not which — coming from the neighboring house, chanting over and over again, ‘Take up and read; take up and read.’ Immediately I ceased weeping and began most earnestly to think whether it was usual for children in some kind of game to sing such a song, but I could not remember ever having heard the like. So, damming the torrent of my tears, I got to my feet, for I could not but think that this was a divine command to open the Bible and read the first passage I should light upon. For I had heard how Anthony, accidentally coming into church while the gospel was being read, received the admonition as if what was read had been addressed to him: ‘Go and sell what you have and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come and follow me’ (Matt. 19:21). By such an oracle he was forthwith converted to thee. So I quickly returned to the bench where Alypius was sitting, for there I had put down the apostle’s book when I had left there. I snatched it up, opened it, and in silence read the paragraph on which my eyes first fell: ‘Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord JesusChrist, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof’ (Rom. 13:13). I wanted to read no further, nor did I need to. For instantly, as the sentence ended, there was infused in my heart something like the light of full certainty and all the gloom of doubt vanished away.” (Saint Augustine, Confessions)

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Why must there be such renunciation and deprivation in the spiritual life?


Answer:
Everything in the natural world is doomed to failure because of the disorder caused by sin. Satan wants man to set his heart on those things that are guaranteed to fail, but God wants man to set his heart on that which will not fail (namely, on the total self-gift of God). The advance of the Holy Spirit causes a person to become detached from the things of the world, and this entails a detachment from all natural security whatsoever, for all natural security is in the process of passing away. Compounding the problem of fallen man’s inherent resistance to God (for fear of knowing one’s interior poverty) is the fact that the soul perceives God as a threat who ruthlessly attacks every natural security. It seems that God wants to separate the soul from everything that is good. As a consequence, man is afraid to give God permission to have his way because human nature fears that all goods will be taken. In truth, God is not doing any of the taking, but things are slipping away on their own. For the sake of man’s happiness, God wants to cause it to be that the human heart is not set upon that which is passing.

Quote: “The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1048)

“When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise . . . according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom.” (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes)

We believe that the souls of all who die in Christ’s grace . . . are the People of God beyond death.” (Pope Paul VI, Credo of the People of God)

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Is it possible for suffering to be instructive though suffering is (in its essence) contrary to the will of God?


Answer: 
The healing that God wants to give requires a severing of disordered attachments, and this detachment is necessarily resisted by human nature. Those who do evil and continue to hold onto disordered attachments will exact a price on themselves as things slip away due to the various disorders of the fallen world. Amidst the sufferings that are inevitably produced from man’s natural grasping of that which is in the process of falling apart, God’s grace is continually offered so that the pain that is experienced might be instructive. God calls to man in his suffering, asking him to give permission to bring about the supernatural transformation that will save him. God does not send the pain in itself (it is the effects of the sin of the world that does this), but offers his grace to cause the pain to lead to him. When man resists God’s grace repeatedly and in deliberate ways, his heart becomes hardened, and he sets himself on a course that is difficult to change. It often requires serious suffering to come into a person’s life before there is any permission given to God to deliver him from evil.

Quotes: “[The soul] must ascend Calvary. There she will immolate herself for souls. Love crucifies her; she dies to herself and to the world. She is buried, and her tomb is the Heart of Jesus; and from there she rises, is reborn to a new life and spiritually lives united to the whole world.” (Saint Teresa of the Andes)

“St. John saw all the saints with palms in their hands. From this passage we learn that all the elect must be martyrs, either by the sword of the tyrant or by the voluntary crucifixion of the flesh.” (Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri)

“To preserve her soul and body free from stain, she must also chastise her flesh, by fasting, abstinence, by disciplines and other penitential works. And if she has not health or strength to practice such mortifications, she ought at least to bear in peace her infirmities and pains, and to accept cheerfully the contempt and ill-treatment that she receives from others. (Saint Alphonsus De Ligouri)

“You have entered religion not to indulge the flesh but to die for Jesus Christ. If we do not resolve to disregard the want of health, we shall do nothing. What injury will death do us?” (Saint Teresa of Avila)

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Did God intend the spiritual life to be difficult?


Answer:
The knowledge of one’s total poverty and the detachment from all natural security are necessary, but these painful experiences are not what God originally wanted for man. He did not intend man’s relationship with him to be difficult in any way. Human beings were never meant to have to let go of natural security or the sense of their own beauty and rightness. These things were a gift from God, and it is man’s nature (by God’s own design) to hold onto the gift. It is only because all aspects of the fallen world are in the process of failure that a person is asked by God to cooperate with him in letting go of every security in the natural order. Sin has destroyed the right order of the world, and God is trying to save man from a destroyed world. Man’s nature is to hold on to that which pleases, but now he can only be saved by letting go. It is entirely beyond human capacity to behold one’s inner poverty, or to detach from natural security, and therefore a person cannot do these things unless God infuses the power to do so into that person. Led by the Holy Spirit, man must ask for the gift to be able to accept the mercy of God, and to let go of disordered attachments.

Quote: “By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called ‘original justice’.

The ‘mastery’ over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.

The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden. There he lives ‘to till it and keep it’. Work is not yet a burden, but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 376-378)

 

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Is the detachment of the spiritual life the same as stoicism?


Answer: 
The detachment that God asks of man is not the same as stoicism. It is not a detachment that comes from building up one’s ability to tolerate an absence of the good. If a person achieves what would be considered a kind of proficiency for suffering or a detachment from created things on their own natural power, it is only because of an inner deadening or disassociation that they have inflicted upon themselves. This inner numbness is something that God will have to heal, and is itself one of the disordered attachments that will have to be relinquished. It is impossible to become proficient at suffering with love according to natural power, for man’s nature is simply not designed for such a thing.

A stoic, in addition to causing interior wounds by becoming oblivious to his own suffering, also becomes oblivious to the suffering of others, and this is a failure to love. It is not of God.

The detachment that God gives is something that proceeds from an infused superabundance that comes as a gift of God to the soul. The consequence of this inner abundance is that the attachment to created securities is crowded out and replaced by an attachment to that which does not pass away. It is most common that a person may receive this inflow without feeling it. However, if the infusion were to stop, and such a person were left to the operation of human nature alone, then the lack would be felt most keenly. For one receiving this supernatural infusion, the same power is given regardless of the state of one’s feelings, and through it, the ability to correspond to the will of God is given in a supernatural way.

Instead of becoming less sensitive to suffering (as would be the case in stoicism), a person becomes ever more sensitive to that which contradicts God’s order, but also acts through a bestowed supernatural power to love God above created things. Thereby, a person is given a proper perspective such as to let go of that which is passing through a miracle of God’s grace. The soul’s work is not to become adept at suffering, but to ask the Holy Spirit for this supernatural transformation in prayer without intentionally putting additional obstacles in the way through deliberate sin. The duty of the soul is simply to receive that which God wants to give.

Quotes: But is this vision complete and correct? Are the defects in the world of no account? What of the things that don’t work properly in our lives? What of suffering and death, wickedness, cruelty and sin? In a word, what of evil? Don’t we see how much evil there is in the world-especially moral evil, which goes against man and against God at one and the same time, although in different ways? Isn’t this a sad spectacle, an unexplainable mystery? And aren’t we-the lovers of the Word, the people who sing of the Good, we believers-aren’t we the ones who are most sensitive and most upset by our observation and experience of evil?” (Pope Paul VI, General Audience, November 15, 1972)

“Each time, it is a question of Jesus’ encounter with the powers of death, whose ultimate depths he as the Holy One of God can sense in their full horror. The Letter to the Hebrews views the whole of Jesus’ Passion — from the Mount of Olives to the last cry from the Cross — as thoroughly permeated by prayer, one long impassioned plea to God for life in the face of the power of death.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

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Can God forgive sin apart from the redemption?


Answer:
 Everything that has ever happened has occurred before God, who is all knowing and perfectly just. Every act of every person remains a part of reality permanently because it exists before God’s omniscience forever. In his justice, God wills only the highest and best thing according to what is fitting for man, and his justice will not compromise to give approval to something that is a diminishment or deprivation of man’s due good. God’s justice must reject everything that is imperfect.

Quotes: “Sin is a much more serious thing — infinitely more serious — than I shall ever be able to explain. At the most, man can reach an understanding of sin against himself or against other men, but not sin against God… It is something much more sinister and terrible than can be imagined or expressed. If the world knew what sin really is, it would die of terror.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

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How can the uncompromising nature of God’s justice not stand in opposition to God’s love or mercy?


Answer:
There is no opposition because God’s justice and his love are identical. In his justice, God is a perfectionist, but his unwillingness to approve of something that has been diminished from its proper dignity and destiny does not come from self-interest. Everything of God is directed towards others in self-gift, and God’s justice is relentlessly uncompromising in terms of his concern about the well-being and dignity of man. His justice will not accept anything less than what is highest and best in accord with what is fitting to man’s nature, and so any diminishment that has been caused by sin must be reversed such that the sinner is restored to a state of total innocence. The sinner is seen by God as one who has suffered a great lack, and this lack is considered by God to be in need of repayment. The sinner shall not be acceptable to God until his repented sin has no power to bring about any diminishment to the dignity and beauty of the human person.

It is a mistake to say that sinful man is saved from God’s justice by his mercy, for that would entail that God saves the sinner from another aspect of God’s own nature. On such a view, God is both the problem and the solution, and, as such, there is no possibility of loving God fully because man knows in his heart that such a divided deity cannot authentically be worthy of worship. In truth, God is perfect, and is not in conflict with himself in any way. God’s mercy and his justice are simply love, for his will is all and only love. This love is simple self-gift in which God devotes everything in his power to serving man. God does not save sinners from himself, but gives of himself fully to save man from sin, Satan, and eternal disaster. Truly, a person is saved by the justice of God as much as he is saved by the mercy of God; the saving action of God’s justice restores the sinner to a state of perfect innocence that allows true happiness to become possible again.

[The question of why the world continues to be filled with evil if God is singularly devoted to man’s happiness is addressed later. ]

Quotes: “God created the world to show forth and communicate his glory. That his creatures should share in his truth, goodness and beauty – this is the glory for which God created them.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 319)

“In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or his wise intellect.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 271)

 —true justice—would require a world ‘where not only present suffering would be wiped out, but also that which is irrevocably past would be undone’… There is justice. There is an ‘undoing’ of past suffering, a reparation that sets things aright. (Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi)

“If, however, man confesses his sin, the saving justice of God is ready to purify him radically. Thus we come to the second spiritual part of the psalm, the luminous realm of grace (cf. vv. 12-19). By the confession of sins, for the person who prays there opens an horizon of light where God is at work. The Lord does not just act negatively, eliminating sin, but recreates sinful humanity by means of his life-giving Spirit.” (John Paul II, General Audience, Oct 24, 2001)

“Finally, in the Miserere, a rooted conviction of divine pardon  ‘cancels, washes, cleanses’ the sinner (cf. vv. 3-4) and is able to transform him into a new creature who has a transfigured spirit, tongue, lips and heart (cf. 4-19). ‘Even if our sins were as black as the night, divine mercy is greater than our misery. Only one thing is needed: the sinner has to leave the door to his heart ajar…. God can do the rest…. Everything begins and ends with his mercy’, so writes St Faustina Kowalska (M. Winowska, The Ikon of Divine Mercy, the Message of Sister Faustina, from the Italian version, L’Icona dell’Amore Misericordioso. Il messaggio di Suor Faustina, Rome, 1981, p. 271).” (John Paul II, General Audience, Oct 24, 2001) 

 

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What is the necessary condition for reconciling sin with divine justice?


Answer: 
In order to be fully reconciled to God, the sinner’s past must be transformed into perfection by a divine intervention that changes the very meaning of past sins in their essence. Repentance and simple forgiveness are not enough. God’s justice requires that a complete restoration of innocence take place. By this high standard, the type of forgiveness in which faults are simply overlooked is not sufficient, for damage would continue to remain in the life of man even after this forgiveness was received. If God were not able to bring about a real transformation of the past, such that he could (in all truth) declare it perfect to the satisfaction of his justice, then the sinner would remain forever diminished by the effects of sin, and true peace with God would remain impossible. No effort on the part of the sinner can accomplish this transformation, for only God can make a sinner perfectly innocent again.

Quotes:  “If, however, man confesses his sin, the saving justice of God is ready to purify him radically. Thus we come to the second spiritual part of the psalm, the luminous realm of grace (cf. vv. 12-19). By the confession of sins, for the person who prays there opens an horizon of light where God is at work. The Lord does not just act negatively, eliminating sin, but recreates sinful humanity by means of his life-giving Spirit.” (John Paul II, General Audience, Oct 24, 2001)

“If your sins be as scarlet, they shall be made as white as snow: and if they be red as crimson, they shall be white as wool.” (Is 1:18)

“Yet now he hath reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unspotted, and blameless before him” (Col 1:21)

As he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and unspotted in his sight in charity.” (Eph 1:4)

“Real acquittal does exist! It is not a legend, a lovely dream! Jesus has ‘wiped out the written record of our debt; he has destroyed it by nailing it to the cross’ (Col 2:14). ‘There is no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom. 8: 1). No more condemnation! Of any kind!” (Father Cantalamessa, Where Love and Justice Meet)

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In what fundamental sense can it be said that through the redemption, sin is reconciled to the perfect will of God.


Answer:
In the wounds of Christ, and only in his wounds, can sin be transformed. Sin has brought suffering into the human experience, and Christ has suffered in union with all those who suffer as a result of the consequences of sin. Because of this unity, the sufferings of each person are the sufferings of Christ. Jesus has accepted his pain perfectly by accepting the consequences of sin to himself in his perfect will. There is no reluctance in Christ’s act of acceptance of his wounds, and he only asks that the sinner consent to wound him so that sin may be taken away. With anything less than Christ’s total willingness to accept sin to himself, no person could be restored to union with the perfect will of God because the sinner would only be partially accepted and therefore (because of the uncompromising nature of God’s justice), be entirely rejected. In this transformation of the effects of sin to become the holy wounds of Christ, God declares that the sinner has always done that which is most perfect because he has perfectly willed to accept his wounds from all eternity.

[Note: This answer does not address how those individuals who suffer can accept their pain perfectly, nor was it shown how they can perfectly forgive those who have caused their suffering through sin. These other aspects of the human condition must also be reconciled to divine justice, and this is addressed in the later questions.]

Quotes: “The Man of Sorrows of that prophecy is truly that ‘Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’ In his suffering, sins are cancelled out precisely because he alone as the only-begotten Son could take them upon himself, accept them with that love for the Father which overcomes the evil of every sin; in a certain sense he annihilates this evil in the spiritual space of the relationship between God and humanity, and fills this space with good.” (John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

“While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love…” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

“And therefore when the judgment is given, and we are all brought up above, we shall then clearly see in God the mysteries which are now hidden from us. And then shall none of us be moved to say in any manner: Lord, if it had been so, it would have been well. But we shall all say with one voice: Lord, blessed may you be, because it is so, it is well; and now we see truly that everything is done as it was ordained by you before anything was made.” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)

 

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In what sense can it be correctly said that a redeemed sinner has always done that which is most perfect?


Answer:
In Christ’s total acceptance of the wounds that he has received is entailed an absolute rejection of what could have been if the sinner had acted differently. His acceptance of the pain of the actual is so perfect that no greater acceptance is conceivable. This willingness of God to suffer for sinners is from all eternity, and there is no weighing of the actual events in reality against possible pasts to compare their merits. In fully accepting his wounds through the perfect eternal embrace of that which has actually happened, God has definitively and eternally rejected all possible alternative pasts. According to God, through the wounds of Jesus, only that which has actually happened will be made holy. Hence, it becomes possible for God to declare the sinner as having always done that which is most perfect according to the divine will.

Quotes: “God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ co-operation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness. For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus of co-operating in the accomplishment of his plan” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)

“To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination’, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: ‘In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.’ For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 600)

“In Jesus’ Passion, all the filth of the world touches the infinitely pure one, the soul of Jesus Christ and, hence, the Son of God himself. While it is usually the case that anything unclean touching something clean renders it unclean, here it is the other way around: when the world, with all the injustice and cruelty that make it unclean, comes into contact with the infinitely pure one – then he, the pure one, is the stronger. Through this contact, the filth of the world is truly absorbed, wiped out, and transformed in the pain of infinite love…” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

“And therefore when the judgment is given, and we are all brought up above, we shall then clearly see in God the mysteries which are now hidden from us. And then shall none of us be moved to say in any manner: Lord, if it had been so, it would have been well. But we shall all say with one voice: Lord, blessed may you be, because it is so, it is well; and now we see truly that everything is done as it was ordained by you before anything was made.” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)

“What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.” (Jean-Pierre de Caussade, Abandonment to Divine Providence)

“We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him.” The constant witness of the saints confirms this truth:

St. Catherine of Siena said to ‘those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them’: ‘Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.’
St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: ‘Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.’
Dame Julian of Norwich: ‘Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith. . . and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that ‘all manner [of] thing shall be well.'”  (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 313)

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Does the transformation of a sinner’s past to become consistent with divine justice entail that God approves of sin in any way?


Answer: 
Sin and the sufferings caused by it are entirely offensive and contrary to God’s goodness – as offensive and contrary as nails are to an innocent body in crucifixion. However, out of love for sinners, in order to reconcile them to God’s perfect will and restore them to a state of innocence to the satisfaction of his justice, the Lord has accepted the nails of sin completely so that the lives of sinners can be accepted as totally as he has accepted his wounds. This act of accepting to himself that which is offensive to goodness is possible only to God who is absolute love. The human mind, on its own power, cannot understand this love because it is something absolute and unlimited. Regardless of the magnitude of the offense, God’s love is infinitely greater.

Quotes:  As mighty and as wise as God is to save men, so willing He is. For Christ Himself is ground of all the laws of Christian men, and He taught us to do good against ill: here may we see that He is Himself this charity, and doeth to us as He teacheth us to do. For He willeth that we be like Him in wholeness of endless love to ourself and to our even-Christians: no more than His love is broken to us for our sin, no more willeth He that our love be broken to ourself and to our even-Christians: but endlessly hate the sin and endlessly love the soul, as God loveth it. Then shall we hate sin like as God hateth it, and love the soul as God loveth it. And this word that He said is an endless comfort: I keep thee securely.(Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)

In time we can discover that God in his almighty providence can bring a good from the consequences of an evil, even a moral evil, caused by his creatures: ‘It was not you’, said Joseph to his brothers, ‘who sent me here, but God. . . You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.’ From the greatest moral evil ever committed – the rejection and murder of God’s only Son, caused by the sins of all men – God, by his grace that ‘abounded all the more’, brought the greatest of goods: the glorification of Christ and our redemption. But for all that, evil never becomes a good.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 312)

“But now if any man or woman because of all this spiritual comfort that is aforesaid, be stirred by folly to say or to think: If this be true, then were it good to sin to have the more meed, — or else to charge the less to sin, — beware of this stirring: for verily if it come it is untrue, and of the enemy of the same true love that teacheth us that we should hate sin only for love. I am sure by mine own feeling, the more that any kind soul seeth this in the courteous love of our Lord God, the lother he is to sin and the more he is ashamed. For if afore us were laid all the pains in Hell and in Purgatory and in Earth — death and other — , and sin, we should rather choose all that pain than sin. For sin is so vile and so greatly to be hated that it may be likened to no pain which is not sin. And to me was shewed no harder hell than sin. For a kind soul hath no hell but sin.” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)

 

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Is Jesus murdered by human sinfulness against his will?


Answer: 
When Jesus receives the wounds of human sinfulness in his own being, it is not something that happens to him against his will. He offers himself freely and without reluctance so that sin may be taken away. There is no trace of disapproval or disappointment in his act of self-sacrifice.

Quote: “Jesus’ violent death was not the result of chance in an unfortunate coincidence of circumstances, but is part of the mystery of God’s plan, as St. Peter explains to the Jews of Jerusalem in his first sermon on Pentecost: ‘This Jesus [was] delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.’ This Biblical language does not mean that those who handed him over were merely passive players in a scenario written in advance by God.

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of ‘predestination’, he includes in it each person’s free response to his grace: ‘In this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.’ For the sake of accomplishing his plan of salvation, God permitted the acts that flowed from their blindness.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 599-600)

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If Jesus perfectly accepts his suffering without stint, why does he pray to be spared this suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane?


Answer: 
In considering the agony in the garden in which Jesus asks the Father to let this cup of suffering pass from him, he is speaking in accord with the normal desires of human nature that he has assumed. In taking a human nature to himself, he took all things about human nature to himself, including its aversion to pain and death. However, in the perfect divine will of the Son of God, there was no reluctance to suffer for the sake of the salvation of man. The human nature of Christ had to submit to the divine will with normal anguish, but did so in perfect obedience to love.

Quotes: “We may distinguish three elements in this prayer of Jesus. First there is the primordial experience of fear, quaking, in the face of the power of death, terror before the abyss of nothingness that makes him tremble to the point that, in Luke’s account, his sweat falls to the ground like drops of blood (cf. 22:44). In the equivalent passage in Saint John’s Gospel (12:27), this horror is expressed, as in the Synoptics, in terms reminiscent of Psalm 43:5, but using a word that emphasizes the dark depths of Jesus’ fear: tetáraktai –  is the same verb, tarássein, that John uses to describe Jesus’ deep emotion at the tomb of Lazarus (cf. 11:33) as well as his inner turmoil at the prophecy of Judas’ betrayal in the Upper Room (cf. 13:21)… In this way John is clearly indicating the primordial fear of created nature in the face of imminent death, and yet there is more: the particular horror felt by him who is Life itself before the abyss of the full power of destruction, evil, and enmity with God that is now unleashed upon him, that he now takes directly upon himself, or rather into himself, to the point that he is ‘made to be sin’ ‘(cf. 3 Corinthians 5:21).’ (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

“Then said our good Lord Jesus Christ: Art thou well pleased that I suffered for thee? I said: Yea, good Lord, I thank Thee; Yea, good Lord, blessed mayst Thou be.

Then said Jesus, our kind Lord: If thou art pleased, I am pleased: it is a joy, a bliss, an endless satisfying to me that ever suffered I Passion for thee; and if I might suffer more, I would suffer more.” (Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love)

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Does the fact that sin is annihilated in the wounds of Christ in any way imply that we should not be sorry for our sins?


Answer: 
Sorrow for sin is a necessary condition for being reconciled to God. However, there is no sorrow in heaven and, therefore, there can be no sorrow for sin in heaven. Something must happen between repentance and heaven that makes it possible for sorrow to be taken away. Through the gift of perfect innocence in the wounds of Christ it is possible for sorrow to be taken away.

Just as authentic contrition is necessary for man to correspond to God’s grace, so it is equally necessary to have full confidence that the blood of Christ is effective in reconciling all things to the will of God. Any lack of trust in God’s power to take away sin through the wounds of Christ is as contrary to the divine will as is the presumption that sin is not an offense requiring repentance on the part of the sinner. Either error will cause a person to suffer greatly by resisting the fullness of God’s gift of redemption. Man, on his own power, neither has the capacity to recognize the depths of sinfulness such as to have appropriate sorrow, nor does he have the capacity to consent to allow Jesus to take his sins, nor to trust in the power of God to authentically forgive sin and reconcile all things to his perfect will through the wounds of Christ. Each of these is beyond the capacity of human nature, and can only happen through a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. One cannot resolve by human nature to be sorry, and one cannot resolve by human nature to trust in God’s power to restore innocence. Both are gifts, and the way to receive these gifts is to ask for them, and remain open to the truth as the Holy Spirit reveals it.

Quotes: “Prayer purifies our desires; it opens the world to God’s transforming action, which waits upon our human freedom. God does not impose himself upon us; we have to ask. Our prayer must therefore constantly reach out to the farthest corners of God’s creation. It must mourn in every human misery and rejoice in every human joy.” (Francis Cardinal George)

“If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, ‘I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me’ (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).” (Council of Orange, Canon 3)

“If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13).” (Council of Orange, Canon 4)

“If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, ‘For apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, ‘Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God’ (2 Cor. 3:5).” (Council of Orange, Canon 7)

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What is the divinely ordained role of any given human being in relation to the destiny of all others generally?


Answer: 
In the order of original justice, there would have been a unity between persons such that each would be integral in bringing about the happiness of all others. There would be no free decisions that were not maximally significant in causing the happiness of all, and there would be no experience of unimportance or lack of recognition from others. In this unity of humanity, the actions of one would affect all in a good way, and each would know both his own importance and the importance of every other.

Quotes: ‘…God did not create man for life in isolation, but for the formation of social unity…” (Second Vatican Council, Guadium et Spes)

It must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every day from without–from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom they love and in those who love them and to whom they are ‘present.’ Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives–themselves–only by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in love, to be of and for.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

“By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 376)

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What happens when sin occurs in the context of the causal interconnection of all human persons?


Answer: 
Through an act of sin, the universal causal significance that would have made each person an integral part of the happiness of all others is inverted to result in the suffering of all. When free will is abused through sin, the impact of each free action remains universal, but instead of being the vehicle for the joyous unity of total communion, this universal impact becomes the distributor of tragedy, disaster and chaos throughout the whole world. As was noted previously, accidents, sickness, death and sufferings of all kinds spread throughout the world as the result of the disorder caused by the ripple effect of those actions that are not in harmony with God’s intent for creation.

Quotes:  In this solidarity with all men, living or dead… the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 953)

“The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed… Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400-401)

“Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. ‘Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ is thus ‘the last enemy’ of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

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What is a necessary consequence of sin to the unity of humanity?


Answer:
Sin destroys unity and individual importance. Man is fundamentally a moral being. That is, his authentic happiness depends on right relationship with God, self, and others. It was stated previously that, by the mere fact of being outside of God’s perfect will with reference to the original harmony intended for creation, man becomes divided against himself and against every other person to some degree. After the original sin, instead of knowing himself to be integral to the happiness of all, each individual feels isolated and unimportant. Additionally, instead of seeing others as infinitely significant, others are seen as objects to be used, or as disposable obstacles to a fantasy of happiness that has become impossible to achieve.

[Apart from being perfectly possessed by the Holy Spirit, one necessarily sees others in this way to some degree. The grace of God supernaturally empowers man with the capacity to see the dignity even of one’s enemies, and to love them as God does.]

Quotes: …sin means the damaging or the destruction of relationality. Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human being a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event–sin–touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. Consequently each person is, from the very start, damaged in relationships and does not engage in them as he or she ought. Sin pursues the human being, and he or she capitulates to it.” (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, In the Beginning)

“What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures.”  (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes)

 “As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called ‘concupiscence’).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 418)

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Is the restoration of unity necessary for the salvation of any individual?


Answer: 
Total communion of persons, where each is necessary to the happiness of every other, is an indispensable aspect of God’s intention for humanity. Anything less than this total unity of persons entails a diminishment in what should have been the maximal positive significance of each person, thus being a departure from the justice of God (which seeks only man’s undiminished good). Through the shattering effect of sin on the unity of humanity, man becomes excluded from the fullness of the gift of God, which would bestow a perfect relationship of joy between all created persons. In order to redeem fallen humanity, it is necessary that God restore the fullness of the unity that has been lost due to sin.

Quotes: “Hence the universal Church is seen to be ‘a people brought into unity from the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 810)

“If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity, according to those words of Paul: “Though many we are one body in Christ.(Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi)

“But a body calls also for a multiplicity of members, which are linked together in such a way as to help one another. And as in the body when one member suffers, all the other members share its pain, and the healthy members come to the assistance of the ailing, so in the Church the individual members do not live for themselves alone, but also help their fellows, and all work in mutual collaboration for the common comfort and for the more perfect building up of the whole Body.” (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi)

“The body’s unity does not do away with the diversity of its members: “In the building up of Christ’s Body there is engaged a diversity of members and functions. There is only one Spirit who, according to his own richness and the needs of the ministries, gives his different gifts for the welfare of the Church.”The unity of the Mystical Body produces and stimulates charity among the faithful: “From this it follows that if one member suffers anything, all the members suffer with him, and if one member is honored, all the members together rejoice.” Finally, the unity of the Mystical Body triumphs over all human divisions: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 791)

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How does universal significance expose one to absolute despair apart from the redeeming work of Christ?


Answer: 
In this capacity of universal significance, each is, in a sense, responsible for every state of affairs in the world. If it were to be shown to a person what this looks like apart from the redemptive work of Christ, it would appear that they had destroyed the world through their actions; one would see every disaster, accident, injustice, and sickness until the end of time and know his responsibility for the condition of all. To see this miserific vision apart from the redeeming work of Christ will instantly drive a person to abject despair as it is the failure of all human hope and self-esteem. It is important to note that even if a person were to have lived a very moral life, the same would be true because the original sin has forced even relatively well-ordered human actions into a broader context of disorder. Therefore, although a person may live a virtuous life or die before committing any sin, the fact that they do so in the context of a world afflicted by original sin will negatively affect what follows from their naturally good actions to yield an end result of disorder. Hence, all merely human actions, both good and bad, are vehicles for disaster because of the consequences of original sin. It light of this, one must not see himself as uniquely responsible for disasters, but as part of the human race suffering the effects of the sin of the world, and, along with the whole human race, in need of total divine rescue.

Quotes: “How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam ‘as one body of one man’. By this ‘unity of the human race’ all men are implicated in Adam’s sin, as all are implicated in Christ’s justice… By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called ‘sin’ only in an analogical sense: it is a sin ‘contracted’ and not ‘committed’ – a state and not an act.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404)

An individual can be considered either as an individual or as part of a whole, a member of a society… Considered in the second way an act can be his although he has not done it himself, nor has it been done by his free will but by the rest of the society or by its head, the nation being considered as doing what the prince does. For a society is considered as a single man of whom the individuals are the different members (St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 12). Thus the multitude of men who receive theirhuman nature from Adam is to be considered as a single community or rather as a single body… If the man, whose privation of original justice is due to Adam, is considered as a private person, this privation is not his ‘fault’, for a fault is essentially voluntary. If, however, we consider him as a member of the family of Adam, as if all men were only one man, then his privation partakes of the nature of sin on account of its voluntary origin, which is the actual sin of Adam” (St. Thomas Aquinas, De Malo)

“…the sin of the first parents is the cause of death and of all like defects in human nature. For the sin of the first parents removed original justice; through this not only were the lower powers of the soul held harmoniously under the control of reason but the whole body was subordinated to the soul without any defect…. Once, therefore, original justice was lost through the sin of the first parents, just as human nature was injured in soul by the disordering of the powers, so also it became corruptible by reason of the disturbance of the body’s order.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica)

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What is the relationship between the redemption and God’s power to draw a greater good from every evil?


Answer: 
It was discussed earlier that, apart from Christ, any suffering in the life of man signifies the destruction of providential order and the loss of all human destinies. When considered in itself, and measured by the standard of divine justice (that is, by God’s act of willing only that which is highest and best), any event that should not have happened can only bring about other events that should not be. Apart from the power of the redemption, any sin or suffering in the life of man would signify the end of all hope because no diminishment could be reconciled to the perfect justice of God. Through the suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, God has given a new dignity and destiny to man that is not threatened by suffering and death. Because of the redemption, a new paradigm of the meaning of human life is established by the Trinity, and neither suffering nor death has the power to harm this higher destiny that God has ordained. Thus, divine providence, which guides all things to their proper end in accord with God’s justice, is free to draw a greater good from every disordered event. In the new order brought about through Christ, every human action brings a about a greater good through God’s power to providentially bring good from every evil.

[The details of the new and exalted destiny for the human person have not yet been addressed. This particular answer is only intended to address the basic fact that God’s providence for man (which would have been destroyed by sin apart from the redemptive work of Christ) is not thwarted by suffering, death or human sinfulness.]


Quotes:  
One can say that with the Passion of Christ all human suffering has found itself in a new situation. And it is as though Job has foreseen this when he said: ‘I know that my Redeemer lives …’, and as though he had directed towards it his own suffering, which without the Redemption could not have revealed to him the fullness of its meaning.” (Pope John Paul II, Salvifici Doloris)

Death is transformed by Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, also himself suffered the death that is part of the human condition… The obedience of Jesus has transformed the curse of death into a blessing.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1009)

 

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How can it be that redemptive providence can restore unity to a broken humanity?


Answer: 
In accord with the new destiny given to humanity through Jesus, God creates a higher-order reconciliation out of the events that are contrary to his will and providence on the original order of creation. The order of original justice, which was shattered by sin, has been reintegrated into a new order of justice in Christ such that God causes all things (including sins and sufferings) to work together for the good according to man’s new destiny. It is in this higher-order providence that the unity of humanity is restored. In the redemptive order, all of the events that violate God’s will for creation on the original order are integrated into a perfectly unified and beautiful second- order whole with nothing being wasted or unimportant to the happiness of all. The reordering of all things to make each work towards the ultimate good is a gift of God that has nothing to do with the events in themselves, but only with God’s power to rewrite the meaning of these events into a higher order in which divine justice is reestablished.  From the standpoint of the last day, when the actions of each person have reached their ultimate consequences, and the work of God in bringing good from every evil has been completed, it will be shown that if any aspect of any person’s life were to have been any different than what is has been, then the ultimate happiness of everyone would become impossible.

[It seems that it would have been simpler for God, in his omnipotence, to simply prevent sin and suffering at the outset. This apparent incongruity cannot be addressed until a later point in the questions. Additionally, it seems impossible that any new order of things could possibly bring perfect justice considering the number and kinds of evils that have taken place in the world. The means by which this is done is unaddressed at this point, and is not made clear until more background is established.]


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Does God’s redemptive work to eliminate all diminishment entail a laxity with regard to sin?


Answer:
Sin is the source of all sufferings that humans experience, and it is the very worst thing in the universe. However, as radically destructive as sin is, its cure must be even more radical in terms of healing and restoration. If this were not so, then no restoration could be had, for sin would succeed at permanently diminishing the human person and shattering the unity of humanity irrevocably. God’s justice will not compromise with evil, and therefore will not be satisfied until there is no diminishment in the individual human person or in the unity of humanity as the result of sin or suffering. Consequently, God reorders all of reality around sinners and those who suffer the effects of sin so that not one moment of any individual’s life is without its proper eternal significance in terms of bringing ultimate joy to all others.

Quotes: 

 

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Does God’s redemptive work to eliminate all diminishment caused by sin entail that all are necessarily saved?


Answer: 
Though God has transformed the meaning of all human lives and actions in Christ, it is not necessarily the case that every person will consent to this gift, for God cannot force a person to freely accept his love. If a person were to choose eternal separation from God, it would still be that the actions of that person would be integral for salvation history even though such a person were to reject the gift of God. No person was meant to be happy apart from the actions of any other, and therefore it cannot be (even if it were possible for one to be lost) that the actions of any would be wasted in any degree. Indeed, even the betrayal of Christ by Judas resulted in the cross, which has been used by God to become the means of the salvation of the world. In redemptive providence, the sin of Judas has been transformed by God so perfectly that all depend upon it for their eternal happiness.

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How did God draw a greater good from every evil prior to the coming of Christ?


Answer:
While the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ occurred in a specific place and time, being an action of God, it also transcends the limits of space and time. The meaning of human destiny is totally rewritten in Christ, and, as such, the power of God to bring good from evil spans all of history. As a result of this, God can use anything to bring about his purposes. In the book of Genesis, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery out of envy, but God caused it to be that Joseph received great glory, and many were saved from famine as a result of what God had done with this evil act. In another example, Jacob stole the blessing from Esau by deceiving his father, Isaac. This was a sin, but all of salvation history depends on what God has done with this sin. As it is now, the salvation and ultimate happiness of all depends on Jacob’s life having been exactly as it was. By the gift of God, a similar kind of rewriting of reality around each act of every sinner is done so that nothing is wasted in any degree.

Quotes:

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Does the perfection of redemptive providence entail that there are no accidents?


Answer:
Because of the chaos caused by sin, many of the events in man’s life are in the form of senseless accidents. However, because God has redeemed the accidents such as to make all work together for the good through Christ, it can also be truly said (in a different manner of speaking) that there are no accidents at all. Indeed, the visible chaotic proceedings of the damaged first order of creation remain, but there is a higher order of providence that is invisible and which leads all these elements to their final end as if everything were foreordained. Indeed, it can be said that everything is foreordained because God, in his omniscience, has eternally accepted sin and its consequences to himself, and has integrated these evils into his redemptive providence from all eternity. In this sense, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world was slain from the foundation of the world. This does not entail that human freedom has been overridden, but rather that the results of all free actions have been incorporated into divine providence by God from all eternity.


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Is it true that God needed evil in order to bring about undiminished happiness?


Answer: 
It is not that God needed the disorders that have happened to bring about the happiness of the redeemed. Rather, now that sin and suffering have occurred, God has reordered reality around all that has happened to perfectly integrate each act of every person to have maximal significance in being necessary for bringing about the joy of those who will be saved.

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How can it be true that the redemption causes it to be that there is no disharmony between human suffering and God’s act of willing that which is highest and best for us?


Answer: 
Previously, it was explained that Jesus has accepted the consequences of sin to himself so perfectly as to eternally reject every alternative possible past. Through the assumption of all human suffering to himself, Jesus Christ is the bearer of all of the diminishment that afflicts humanity, and he bears these wounds in perfect love. Through Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the vindication of wounded human nature is accomplished. In his resurrection, Christ’s wounds of crucifixion remain, but their meaning of canceling the union of his humanity with the perfect justice of God does not. In Jesus, there is no disharmony between suffering human nature and God’s justice because it is a divine person who is suffering as an act of sacrificial love. God wills his own suffering in Jesus, but infinitely opposes the pain of human persons.

In the ascension, Jesus returns to the Father with a human nature that has passed through the horrors of the fallen world, yet forever lives in the perfect union of the Trinity. In the same way that Christ has transformed the significance of his wounds in the resurrection and ascension, he now changes the meaning of the sufferings of his body, the Church. This transfiguration of the significance of human suffering (such as to make all work for the good in accord with the perfect justice of God) comes only through the power of the Trinity to redefine the meaning of those wounds to human nature that are assumed by God the Son. It is in the identification of Christ with the suffering of each that man’s destiny will be transformed and reconciled with the justice of God such that suffering and death have no power to diminish him in any way.

In the order of redemptive providence, every cross has a resurrection, but in order to make this possible, Christ has made every cross his own.

 [At this point in the exposition, it still has not been shown how any woundedness of man can be fully reconciled to God’s justice, for in his justice God only wills that which is highest and best for created persons, and does not accept anything diminished in any degree. The question of how the individual human persons who suffer could possibly be compensated by God’s justice is addressed at a later point.]

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Why is it necessarily true that fictional sufferings are unredeemed?


Answer
: It was previously explained that God’s acceptance of the actual entails a definitive rejection of all alternative pasts. Only the actual past has been transformed in Christ, and all possible pasts remain forever unredeemed. Since the destiny-destroying character of suffering is reconciled to God’s will only in Christ, any merely hypothetical (and therefore unredeemed) futures or pasts have no principle of order or unity such as to cause them to work together for the good. Alternatives to the actual (even those which seem very good) will never be made holy. Therefore, to contemplate them is always to experience an intimation of hell. All legitimate contemplation of the future can only be done through prayerful submission to the guidance of the Holy Spirit who infuses man with the supernatural gift of hope.

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Why does it sometimes seem that God is asking us to endure the impossible, yet is offering no help?


Answer:
In order to restore the unity of humanity, it was shown that the providence of God orders reality around those sins and sufferings that have actually happened so that each act of man contributes to the good of all in a higher order. It is only through the power of Christ to transform the meaning of sin and suffering that these offenses to divine justice could mean anything other than forsakenness and hell for mankind. However, only those sins and sufferings which have actually happened have been received by Christ as his wounds such as to be transformed in him. Not every possible evil has been redeemed, but only the real has been received by Jesus such as to be reconciled to the justice of God in the new order. Therefore, all fictional projections of possible future sufferings remain unredeemed, for even if they are close to depicting something actual, they will never succeed at truly being the actuality that is transformed in Christ. The only good that will ever come from sin or suffering proceeds from what God does with what actually happens, and therefore only the actual will ever be rendered consistent with the perfect will of God. In being tempted by fear to imagine unredeemed possible future agonies, or by fearfully imagining oneself in the situations of others who suffer, a person goes beyond the bounds of the sufferings that Jesus has transformed. Since the contemplation of unredeemed suffering is the contemplation of an aspect of hell, the soul experiences a foretaste of hell, and automatically begins to feel that it has been forsaken by God. Similarly, the soul will begin to hate God for fear that he is asking it to endure the impossible, yet seems to be offering no help. Carried to the extreme, the soul will fall into despair feeling that God has predestined it to hell, for in looking into the future it only experiences the forsakenness of hell which is entailed by any unredeemed pain.

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In what sense can comparisons of one’s sufferings with those of another entail a contemplation of unredeemed suffering?


Answer:
In the same way that a person experiences aspects of hell by imagining unredeemed possible future scenarios of pain, so it is that a person experiences the same kind of anguish by fearfully imagining himself in the situation of another who is experiencing real suffering in the present. While the real suffering is redeemed for the person who really suffers, the fearful projection of the one doing the comparison is a fiction, and therefore remains an inward viewing of unredeemed pain. Such comparisons do not result in compassion, but only self-injury. True compassion is an infused gift of the Holy Spirit, and is not the product of imagined sufferings. Of course, this disordered use of the imagination is to be distinguished from the recognition of the pain of others in the moral sphere. It is possible to recognize the suffering of another without fearfully imagining oneself in a similar fictional situation. One is a moral duty, while the other is a misuse of the imaginative faculties.

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What is the dignity and destiny of the individual person through the redemption?


Answer:
The new dignity of man is a bestowed equality with God. According to the original order, man was placed at the pinnacle of material creation, but was created lower than the lowest angelic nature. Through the incarnation, God has taken human nature to himself and redefined its dignity and destiny in Christ. To reconcile man to the will of the Father, the Holy Spirit draws man into union with God the Son. In becoming one with God the Son, man is united to divinity in a way that elevates him above all of the angels to equality with God by grace. God bids the redeemed sinner to share in the divine nature in a way that is similar to the manner in which God came to share in human nature.

On the original order, man was a creature to whom God gave as much glory and joy as was fitting to the capacity of human nature. In his new destiny and dignity, man enters into a magnitude of joy and glory which is, by nature, proper to God alone.

Quotes:  “I will give the victor the right to sit with me on my throne, as I myself first won the victory and sit with my Father on his throne.” (Rev. 3:21)



“No knowledge or power can describe how this happens, unless by explaining how the Son of God attained and merited such a high state for us, the power to be children of God, as St. John says [Jn. 1:12]. Thus the Son asked of the Father in St. John’s Gospel: Father, I desire that where I am those you have given me may also be with me, that they may see the glory you have given me [Jn. 17:24], that is, that they may perform in us by participation he same work that I do by nature; that is, breathe the Holy Spirit. And he adds: I do not ask, Father, only for those present, but for those also who will believe in me through their doctrine; that all of them may be one as you, Father, in me and I in you, that thus they be one in us. The glory which you have given me I have given them that they may be one as we are one, I in them and you in me; that they may be perfect in one; that the world may know that you have sent me and loved them as you have loved me [Jn. 17:20-23].1 The Father loves them by communicating to them the same love he communicates to the Son, though not naturally as to the Son but, as we said, through unity and transformation of love. It should not be thought that the Son desires here to ask the Father that the saints be one with him essentially and naturally as the Son is with the Father, but that they may be so through the union of love, just as the Father and the Son are one in unity of love.” (St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle)

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If God intends to glorify human beings, then what is wrong with pride?


Answer:
Pride is man’s attempt to receive glory independently of God. It is an evil, but not because it involves man receiving glory. It is evil because it involves man seeking glory in such a way that it attacks unity and right order. Pride seeks glory through an illusion of self-sufficiency and the diminishment of others. Such an attempt at glory necessarily fails to accomplish its end because its inherent opposition to unity and truth can only tend toward perfect isolation and emptiness. Through illusory self-sufficiency and ego inflation, man cannot provide for himself the magnitude of glory that God wants to bestow. God alone can provide this fullness of glory, and God wills a higher exaltation for the soul than pride can conceive.

Quotes:  “I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the one who judges.” (John 8: 50)

“And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17: 22-23)

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In the glory bestowed by God, what is the relationship of each person to all others?


Answer:
Previously, it was stated that God’s will for humanity is for perfect unity such that the actions of each are integral to the happiness of all. This divinely ordained unity renders each individual maximally important to all others, but it also has the complementary aspect of causing all others to operate collaboratively in the service of the one individual. As the actions of each are necessary for the happiness of all, so it is that the actions of the many are also necessary to the happiness of the one. In the order of original justice, every other person would exist in the service of each individual. This universal service of all for every other would in no way necessitate the subjugation or suffering of those who served, for when providence is unimpeded by sin, all works together such that none are deprived of what is proper to them. This state of being central to all is the proper condition for every human being. [Note: Small children understand this and are confused about why it is presently not this way in the world.]

The need for the centrality that would characterize the order of original justice is an essential aspect of human nature, and man cannot be truly happy without this centrality. After the fall, the full experience of the unity of humanity became impossible on Earth, but man’s nature (in seeking satisfaction of its God-given desires) continues to impel him to try to achieve perfect centrality, and the closest natural substitute to this lost condition is found the act of elevating self above others. Removed from the environment of unity that would have been appropriate to him, man feels that he is unimportant, and he tries to alleviate this pain through a false glory of judgmental contrast which distinguishes him from imagined inferiors. Instead of acting from a state of already being central to the rest of humanity, fallen man attempts to act to become central through the use of whatever power is available to him. Through the process of ego inflation (which achieves a kind of false exaltation by diminishing others), fallen man believes he is on the way to becoming central again. However, this action of elevating self over others only creates suffering for all involved, and is contrary to man’s proper dignity and destiny in every way. According to original justice, individual importance was to be maximal, but it was not to involve the diminishment of any other person.

Quote: “’Why do you want so much to be ignored and counted for nothing? As for me, I find it very pleasant to be loved and recognized.’

‘I am very much of the same opinion’, answered Therese, ‘It is precisely because I thirst for love and glory that I despise those of earth, which are nothing but mirages and illusions. Only in heaven can I enjoy them truly and fully. There, for me to be satisfied, I need the love of every heart, and if there were even only one missing, it would seem that I couldn’t prevent myself from saying to Jesus, like Haman about Mordecai: ‘Lord, as long as this one doesn’t love me, my happiness will not be complete!’” (Pierre Descouvemont, Therese of Lisieux and Marie of the Trinity: The Transformative Relationship of Saint Therese of Lisieux and Her Novice Sister Marie of the Trinity)

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Why can we not become humble through our effort and resolution to do so?




Answer:
For man, honor and exaltation are necessary for happiness, and in the original order of creation, man would have received glory fitting to his nature such that nothing would be lacking to him. As it is, because of sin, this original glory is damaged, and man is less than what he ought to be. If man tries to live without glory, his nature rebels against him, driving him to seek honor and status through disordered means. According to man’s new destiny in union with God the Son, this desire for glory is perfectly fulfilled through reception of the infinite honor of equality with God by grace. This level of glory is infinitely greater than the glory that was lost through sin, and overwhelms man’s need for worth. Until the need for honor is fulfilled through God’s glorification of the soul, pride sickens all motivations because human nature continues to seek its own original glory in disordered ways that cannot satisfy. The need for glory, which is the constant enemy of the soul when it takes the form of pride, is never destroyed through any human effort to become humble, but only is fulfilled through a bestowed participation in God’s own infinite glory.

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If we desire to be loved and honored, why is it that when love and honor are given to us, we are often unable to allow ourselves to receive them?




Answer:
It was noted previously that human nature resists the advance of God’s grace because the Holy Spirit works to reveal man’s sinfulness, and purges him of attachment to passing natural securities. In a similar way, man also resists God’s glorification of the soul. Even though man was created for glory, the honor that God gives through union with Jesus is beyond the capacity of unassisted fallen human nature to receive because man sees himself as unlovable in light of his imperfections. In being created for perfect justice (in which everything about man is as it ought to be), human nature cannot see itself as lovable while it has awareness of any imperfections at all. In its fallen state, human nature is divided against itself because, (in desire for perfect justice), it is inclined to seek love and glory in all circumstances, while, at the same time (again, in desire for perfect justice), it is driven to reject itself because of the imperfections it perceives. As a consequence of this division, apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit who transfigures man to restore the unblemished image of God within him, man is compelled to strive to make himself lovable by eradicating his imperfections by human effort. This undertaking does great violence to the human person because it necessarily involves self- rejection, which is never compatible with the love that God has for man.

The reconciliation of perfection to imperfection is only available through giving permission to the Holy Spirit to conform man to perfect union with God the Son. In this union of humanity and divinity, God the Son bears man’s imperfections as his own wounds in an act of sacrificial love, and thus reconciles them the will of the Father who receives his Son’s sacrificial offering. Through this union, the perfect image of God is restored in man, thus preparing him for a life of endless love and glory in sharing the life of the Trinity. In the same way that God’s grace must transform and capacitate the soul to behold its poverty and the need for mercy, so it is that a gift of grace must also bring about a transformation that disposes the soul to participate fully in the glory that God wants to offer. Each part of this process encounters strong resistance by human nature because (even though man might assent to these things in a merely intellectual way), the full acceptance of these realities is beyond the capacity of fallen human nature as such. The only way that the limitations of human nature are overcome is through a supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit, and the only way to receive this intervention is to ask for it persistently regardless of the seemingly unending resistance that human nature puts forth.

Quotes: “In this interior union, God communicates himself to the soul with such genuine love that neither the affection of a mother, with which she so tenderly caresses her child, not a brother’s love, or any friendship is comparable to it. The tenderness and truth of love by which the immense Father favors and exalts this humble and loving soul reaches such a degree— O wonderful thing worthy of our awe and admiration! —that the Father himself becomes subject to her for her exaltation, as though he were her servant and she his lord. So profound is the humility and sweetness of God. In this communication of love, God exercises in some way that very service that he says in the Gospel he will render to his elect in heaven; that is, girding himself and passing from one to another, he will minister to them (Luke 12:37)” (St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle)

“Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, ‘Master, are you going to wash my feet?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.’ Peter said to him, ‘You will never wash my feet.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Unless I wash you, you will have no inheritance with me.’ Simon Peter said to him, ‘Master, then not only my feet, but my hands and head as well.’(John 13: 5-9)

“Accordingly, souls possess the same goods by participation that the Son possesses by nature. As a result they are truly gods by participation, equals and companions of God. Wherefore St. Peter said: May grace and peace be accomplished and perfect in you in the knowledge of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, as all things of his divine power that pertain to life and piety are given us through the knowledge of him who called us with his own glory and power, by whom he has given us very great and precious promises, that by these we may be made partakers of the divine nature [2 Pt. 1:2-4]. These are words from St. Peter in which he clearly indicates that the soul will participate in God himself by performing in him, in company with him, the work of the Most Blessed Trinity because of the substantial union between the soul and God. Although this participation will be perfectly accomplished in the next life, still in this life when the soul has reached the state of perfection, as has the soul we are here discussing, she obtains a foretaste and noticeable trace of it in the way we are describing, although as we said it is indescribable.” (St. John of the Cross, The Spiritual Canticle)

“If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). (Council of Orange, Canon 4)

“If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.” (Council of Orange, Canon 5)

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In what way is the function of human knowledge affected by sin?

Answer: Man is in a state of confusion because the facts about his world are facts that the created mind was never meant to hold. Being created for righteousness, fulfillment, and life, fallen man cannot truly understand sin, suffering and death. With the introduction of evils into human experience, the mind is put into an unnatural situation that it cannot fully process. Of course, sin, suffering, and death are recognized in a categorical and conceptual way, but their full significance is not grasped. A person may assert the reality of these things without truly understanding what he is saying. Even though the world contains tragic suffering, things go on as if all were normal. Involuntarily, man thinks he is home, and continues to seek a natural happiness that is impossible, not realizing that things are falling apart despite the evidence that surrounds him. No amount of mere meditation on the facts of sin, suffering, and death will produce true understanding of them, for these things are beyond fallen man’s unassisted capacity to comprehend. A gift of supernatural knowledge is required for a person to understand his situation.

Quotes: His words also attest to this unique and incomparable depth and intensity of suffering which only the man who is the only-begotten Son could experience; they attest to that depth and intensity which the prophetic words quoted above in their own way help us to understand. Not of course completely (for this we would have to penetrate the divine-human mystery of the subject), but at least they help us to understand that difference (and at the same time the similarity) which exists between every possible form of human suffering and the suffering of the God-man. Gethsemane is the place where precisely this suffering, in all the truth expressed by the Prophet concerning the evil experienced in it, is revealed as it were definitively before the eyes of Christ’s soul.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2)

“Each time, it is a question of Jesus’ encounter with the powers of death, whose ultimate depths he as the Holy One of God can sense in their full horror. The Letter to the Hebrews views the whole of Jesus’ Passion — from the Mount of Olives to the last cry from the Cross — as thoroughly permeated by prayer, one long impassioned plea to God for life in the face of the power of death.” (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2)

“If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, ‘For apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, ‘Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God’ (2 Cor. 3:5)” (Council of Orange, Canon 7)

“Therefore only divine revelation knows what sin is. Jesus explains all this more closely by saying that only the Holy Spirit can ‘convince the world of sin’ (cf. John 16:8).” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

 

 

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Why can human beings not squarely look upon and understand their faults though the evidence is abundant?

Answer: In being created for righteousness, man does not have the capacity (naturally speaking), to behold his wrong in any lasting way. When the proof of one’s wrongdoing is conclusively seen, the reaction of fallen human nature is either to ignore and excuse it, or to harshly condemn oneself. In the first instance, an illusion of righteousness is attained by denial of the wrong. In the second case, the person disowns a part of his being, and rails against the disowned part. The guilty person then identifies with the part of the self that is doing the “righteous” judging. In either case, one is seeing things in terms of personal righteousness. Only through the grace of God can a person simply behold their wrongdoing without falling back to the default position of self- righteousness.

Quotes: If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13).”

“He unmasks the strange and frequent illusions of pious and religious people who consider themselves safe from God’s anger just because they can clearly distinguish between good and evil. They know the law and, when necessary, they know how to apply it to others, whereas, as far as they themselves are concerned, they think that the privilege of being on God’s side or, at least, God’s goodness and patience with which they are very familiar, makes an exception for them.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“Thérèse makes clear that growth in the spiritual life is usually a gradual process; Jesus is patient with us, for He doesn’t like pointing everything out at once to souls. He generally gives His light little by little.” (Joseph Schmidt, Everything is Grace, The Life and Way of St. Thérèse of Lisieux)

 

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Can human intelligence understand evil as it is?

Answer: Man cannot see or understand evil as it is because human nature is not designed to think in terms of evil, but only in terms of justice and providential order. It is only through the contemplation of the true, good, and beautiful that evil is understood by contrast. It is never understood directly. Consequently, when one meditates on, or experiences evil (apart from supernatural assistance), he comes away injured in heart and mind because he has been immersed in knowledge of situations that are contrary to the purpose for which he was created.

Quotes: It is something much more sinister and terrible than can be imagined or expressed. If the world knew what sin really is, it would die of terror. (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“Sin offends God, that is, it saddens him greatly, but only in so far as it brings death to man whom he loves; it wounds his love.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Life in Christ: The Spiritual Message of the Letter to the Romans)

“Each time, it is a question of Jesus’ encounter with the powers of death, whose ultimate depths he as the Holy One of God can sense in their full horror. The Letter to the Hebrews views the whole of Jesus’ Passion — from the Mount of Olives to the last cry from the Cross — as thoroughly permeated by prayer, one long impassioned plea to God for life in the face of the power of death.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

Because he is the Son, he sees with total clarity the whole foul flood of evil, all the power of lies and pride, all the wiles and cruelty of the evil that masks itself as life yet constantly serves to destroy, debase, and crush life. Because he is the Son, he experiences deeply all the horror, filth, and baseness that he must drink from the “chalice” prepared for him: the vast power of sin and death. All this he must take into himself, so that it can be disarmed and defeated in him” (Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth Part Two)

 

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Can the redemption be understood through human intelligence unassisted by grace?

Answer: “Just as man cannot naturally comprehend sin, suffering, or death because of their incompatibility with his nature, so it is that he cannot comprehend the means of victory over sin, suffering, and death through the redemption in Christ without a supernatural gift that is beyond the capacity of unassisted human nature as such. Through this supernatural gift, man is able to perceive reality in ways that are not accessible to the natural mind. The depth of this infused supernatural knowledge depends on the soul’s choice to accept or reject the grace of God as he advances upon the soul in order to save it. Because this understanding is a supernatural gift, it is impossible to argue a person to it through natural reason. At best, rational explanation and argument contradict the lies that would pose as obstacles, but the gift itself is given by God, and requires the free consent of the soul.”

Quotes: “When St. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, Jesus declared to him that this revelation did not come ‘from flesh and blood’, but from ‘my Father who is in heaven’. Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. ‘Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and ‘makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 153)

“If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, ‘The will is prepared by the Lord’ (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, ‘For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2:13).” (Council of Orange, Canon 4)

“If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, ‘And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6). And again, ‘For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God’ (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.” (Council of Orange, Canon 5)

“If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, ‘What have you that you did not receive?’ (1 Cor. 4:7), and, ‘But by the grace of God I am what I am’ (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange, Canon 6)

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Why is there a tendency to automatically attribute responsibility for human suffering to God?


Answer:
 Man’s nature is automatically inclined to understand the world according to the integrity of the original order of creation. Since this original order no longer exists, it follows that human nature is encumbered with a tendency to gravely misinterpret reality as it is. According to God’s design, all of the events in the life of man were to be gifts from God through the mediation of creatures. All would have operated in obedience to God’s good intentions for man. As it is now, the world contains many injustices, and when man encounters suffering, human nature reacts in such a way that its first response is to see the suffering as sent by God, or at least approved of by him. This is a serious mistake because the sufferings in the world are, in fact, great violations of the will of God that come from the sin of the world. These sufferings are neither sent by God, nor are they approved of by him any more than the sin of the world is sent or approved of by him. Fallen man, in retaining free will and the ability to establish new concepts, can resist this inclination to attribute suffering to the will of God through ideological assertions about the goodness of God or even through atheism. However, because of the tendency of man to interpret reality according to relationships that would obtain in the order of original justice, the act of holding God ultimately responsible for suffering continues to assert itself in human nature despite resolutions to avoid this conclusion. After the original sin, man’s sense of justice (which comes from God, and naturally expects all to be a gift from God) blinds him to God’s goodness. Man becomes convinced that if God is good, then this goodness is essentially unrecognizable and not worthy of allegiance. It seems that God is the ultimate violator of innocence through permitting the suffering of the innocent for some higher purpose. In reality, though, God is innocence itself.

Man does not want to think that God is responsible for suffering, and it is oftentimes better in his mind to deny the existence of God than to posit a God who is in some way complicit in the injustices that he experiences or witnesses. This kind of atheism is actually an unwitting affirmation of God because it is an allegiance with true justice and the authentic desire to defend innocence.

[This tendency to attribute the disorder in the world to the will of God parallels the way that the human drive towards selfishness (the unwillingness to suffer for the good of another) continues to pull man despite his resolution to be moral and charitable.]

Quotes:
 “In this way John is clearly indicating the primordial fear of created nature in the face of imminent death, and yet there is more: the particular horror felt by him who is Life itself before the abyss of the full power of destruction, evil, and enmity with God that is now unleashed upon him, that he now takes directly upon himself, or rather into himself, to the point that he is ‘made to be sin'” (cf. 3 Corinthians 5:21) (Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 2)

“God is infinitely good and all his works are good… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

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What do the evils in the world tell us about God?

Answer:  The beautiful order of original justice no longer exists, but the perfectly beautiful one who created it does exist. In order to preserve the truth about God, one must approach consideration of the goodness of God by strictly excluding the possibility that the evils in the world can say anything at all about what God is like. This act of separation is contrary to the nature of man, and it requires a gift of supernatural assistance through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. If one does not receive this gift, the goodness of God is obscured by the facts of the damaged world because the natural mind tries to integrate all things as if all were sent from or approved of by God.

On the original order, truth would never be found in separation, but only in integration of data. In being created for justice, human nature presupposes that all data can be unified into a coherent and beautiful whole. This integration does not work for the knowledge of evil because evil is a violation of the very unity that the mind seeks to obtain. It is only through the redemption that evil can be integrated into a higher unity (in the transfigured wounds of Christ), and knowledge of the redemption does not happen naturally.

Quotes:

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What does it mean to say that God’s goodness is mysterious?


Answer:
God’s goodness is mysterious, but this mystery is not one of darkness and obscurity. Rather than being inaccessible and contrary to man’s hopes, God’s goodness is at least what man would want or expect, but overflows his every desire in superabundant ways that would not normally be considered possible. God’s goodness is such that it infinitely exceeds all of man’s expectations without standing in contradiction to any of them. All that contradicts man’s innermost desires is a contradiction of God’s desire as well.

For example, on this understanding, it is truly bad for a child to be sick and truly good for a child to be healthy. Good is good and evil is evil. God can bring good from every evil, but the evils in man’s life are not God’s will, and are not a good that is simply beyond human comprehension.

Quotes:

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Has any living person rejected God absolutely?


Answer: 
In refusing to trust God, no living person has yet truly turned from God as such, but only from something lower than God that has been mistakenly put in his place. Through mortal sin, a person can choose a path such that it can truly be said that they have chosen something incompatible with love, and that if the sin is not eventually repented, then hell is the only possible outcome. However, even in this state, none have yet truly rejected God, but only a mistaken image of him or the suffering that God’s call to love apparently requires of them. There has not yet been a seeing of the truth in such a way as to eliminate the possibility of receiving new information. Consequently, in some measure, there is a part of every person that has never chosen evil and continues to seek God innocently.

Quotes:

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How is it possible to trust in the goodness of God if the the world is so full of evil?

Answer: Man cannot fully trust or worship a God who is complicit in the injustices in the world, and therefore complete trust in God is only possible when man knows that God and evil have nothing in common. Supernatural intervention is necessary in order for fallen human nature to retain the understanding that God’s will is for the good of man, and that the evils that occur are not the design of God. This intervention comes through man continuing to welcome God’s grace. Without this supernatural assistance from the Holy Spirit, it is impossible for a human being to continue to separate the goodness of God from the facts of evil in the world, for the inclinations of human nature will constantly apply pressure to interpret the facts wrongly. As a consequence, apart from grace, man will either end up attempting to reject God because the thought of God being responsible for the present state of the world is too terrible to bear, or will half-heartedly pay respect to a distorted image of a deity who is worthy of hatred and fear rather than love and worship.

Quotes:

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Why does God not intervene in the world more directly?


Answer:
In creation, God has given of himself in a maximally radical way. His love is one of total self- gift for the sake of created persons. In offering himself totally to creatures, God has given power to those creatures made in his image to be co-creators. That is, real power in shaping the world is given to men and angels. That which can only be done by God (such as creation of the universe out of nothing, or the governance of the entirety of reality via omniscient providence) cannot be given over to creatures, but all other finite powers and roles of importance that can possibly be entrusted to created beings have been given to men and angels for the sake of imbuing maximal importance to each creature made in the image of God. This gift of power is so absolute that even many of those actions which can only be accomplished by God himself, such as the forgiveness of sins, or the changing of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, have been entrusted to human beings as intermediaries through the sacramental ministry of the priesthood. According to God’s generosity, if something can possibly be done or mediated by a finite power, God creates a finite creature to do it rather than doing the thing directly.

Quotes: “We can never give too great prominence to the Scholastic principle that God never does through Himself what may be achieved through created causality… For any result which does not require actually infinite power, God will sooner create a new spiritual being capable of producing that result than produce it Himself.” (Abbot Anscar Vonier, The Human Soul)

“God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1884)

For God grants his creatures not only their existence, but also the dignity of acting on their own, of being causes and principles for each other, and thus cooperating in the accomplishment of his plan. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 306)


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If God knows everything and does not change his mind, then why does anything depend on prayer?


Answer:
In addition to the normal powers given to persons according to their created natures, the unfolding of divine providence can be altered by prayer without in any way entailing that the eternal, immutable God changes his mind. God eternally wills to bestow his own power to creatures; therefore (without requiring a change in the will of God) the direction of divine providence depends on the prayers and actions of created persons in accordance with the sphere of influence that they have been given. Consequently, it is entirely fitting that, for example, a person could be awakened in the middle of the night by angels to pray for something which God (in his omniscience) already knows is needed. This act of entrusting so much to the prayers of creatures is a gift in keeping with God’s divestiture of all that does not require infinite power. Everything that can possibly depend on the asking of creatures does, in fact, depend on the asking.

In light of this, prayers to saints and angels for their intercession and intervention are entirely compatible with the worship and honor due to God. The intercessory roles that they have been given in the unfolding of divine providence are a gift from God, and it is an honor to God’s generosity to recognize this and act accordingly.

Quotes: It is because [God] has so incomprehensible a love for us that he wills to do nothing without us. The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of a poor little soul to save other souls redeemed like it at the price of all his blood.” (St. Therese of Lisieux, Lettres de Therese)

“God is the sovereign master of his plan. But to carry it out he also makes use of his creatures’ cooperation. This use is not a sign of weakness, but rather a token of almighty God’s greatness and goodness.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 386)

 


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Does the explanatory power of the natural sciences not argue against the existence of God?


Answer:
Considering the principle that God’s direct action is limited only to those things which necessarily cannot be done by any intermediary power, it follows that the natural sciences should be expected to be able to explain the vast majority of events in the material universe in terms of the operation of intermediary causes and physical laws. Consequently, it is a grave misunderstanding of the nature and power of God to conclude that the far-reaching explanatory power of science in discerning naturalistic causal relationships implies any kind of atheistic conclusion.

Quote: “Faith and science: ‘Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.’ ‘Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 159)

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Why is there so much suffering in the world?


Answer
: In creation, God intended a total communion of love such that each person would be integral to the happiness of all others. There were to be no superfluous persons, and every free action would be maximally important to the happiness of all. In this perfect communion, the exercise of each of the gifts of power given by God was ordained by the divine will to have a universal effect. That is, in every case, the free actions of any individual would affect every other in a harmonious way for the benefit of all. Such a totally unified communion of persons where each is maximally important to all others is God’s intention for the dignity of persons. However, when the order of the created universe is violated through sin, the gifts of freedom, power and universal causal significance that would have made a person an integral part of the happiness of all become the means of distribution for disaster and chaos. Sufferings of all kinds stem from the universal impact of sinful individual actions. The world is full of maximally important persons acting in ways that violate the order of creation, and everyone experiences the consequences of the disordered actions of each.

Quote: In this solidarity… the least of our acts done in charity redounds to the profit of all. Every sin harms this communion.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 953)

“The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed… Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject ‘to its bondage to decay’. Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will ‘return to the ground’, for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 400-401)

“Death is a consequence of sin. The Church’s Magisterium, as authentic interpreter of the affirmations of Scripture and Tradition, teaches that death entered the world on account of man’s sin. Even though man’s nature is mortal God had destined him not to die. Death was therefore contrary to the plans of God the Creator and entered the world as a consequence of sin. ‘Bodily death, from which man would have been immune had he not sinned’ is thus ‘the last enemy’ of man left to be conquered.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1008)

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If God knew that the gifts of freedom, power, and universal causal significance would be abused, then why did he give them?

Answer: In knowing of the eventual abuse of his maximal self-gift through sin, God either gives all that can be given and does exactly as he would have done as if he did not know that there would be an abuse of the gift, or he holds back his generosity in order to prevent the abuse from happening by giving something less than the total gift which he would have given originally. Necessarily, God either gives fully, as if evil were not a factor, or he gives something less in anticipation of evil. If God does exactly as he would have done were evil not a consideration at all, then the total gift is given without the least restraint even though he knows it will be abused; he creates exactly those whom he would have created, if evil were never to have been a consideration and gives away power and importance fully and without any degree of compromise in response to the threat of evil. However, if God holds back his generosity in anticipation of the evils that would follow from the abuse of his undiminished self-gift, then self-withholding in anticipation of evil (rather than uncompromising self-donation) becomes the guiding principle in the order of creation. Instead of unconditional love and generosity being the principle of divine action, reluctance to love in response to the threat of evil is elevated to the ultimate principle of being. Rather than the unconditional love of God, the power of evil takes the helm of the universe. It seems plausible at first glance that God’s goodness would be most exemplified by preventing the abuse of his gifts at the outset, but the deeper reality is that the self-withholding of God that would be necessary to prevent evil is the absolute enthronement of evil.

Quote: “Oh Eternal Father, how then did you create this creature? I am greatly overwhelmed by this. In fact, as you show, me, I see that you did this for no other reason than that in your light you were forced to give us being by the fire of your charity in spite of all the iniquity we were to commit against you, Oh  Eternal Father! It was fire, therefore, that forced you to do so. Oh  Ineffable Love, even if in your light you saw all the iniquities your creature was to commit against your infinite goodness, you pretended almost not to see but fixed your eyes on the beauty of your creature whom you, intoxicated with love, loved and through love you drew her to yourself and formed her in your own image and likeness. You, eternal truth, communicated your truth to me, namely, that it was love that forced you to create her…” (St. Catherine of Sienna)

“The omnipotence of God is not an arbitrary power, because God is Good… he cannot act against good, he cannot act against truth, love or freedom, because he himself is good, love, and true freedom; and therefore nothing he does can ever be in contrast with truth, love and freedom.”  – (Pope Benedict XVI)

“God’s power is in no way arbitrary: ‘In God, power, essence, will, intellect, wisdom, and justice are all identical. Nothing therefore can be in God’s power which could not be in his just will or wise intellect.’” – (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 271)

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In what sense can it be said that God is chaste?


Answer:
God is infinite love, and in him there is no consideration of anything that would in any way compromise the fullness of his radical self-gift to created persons. Self-donation is God’s only act, and his love will not be diminished in anticipation of, or in response to evil. This fidelity to creatures in unconditional love is the chastity of God; he gives of himself in an entirely innocent, simple, and unconditionally faithful way without any admixture of self-withholding. In deciding the magnitude of his self-gift to creatures, God allows evil to have no diminishing influence whatsoever; he is fully himself in the face of evil and does not compromise to allow it to have any influence at all. The threat of evil is simply not considered, and love is the only principle of action. Therefore, in divine chastity, God creates persons with gifts of power and universal importance in full generosity, without any consideration of whether or not any of them will abuse his gifts by turning to sin.

Quote: “The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2338)

“Christ is the model of chastity.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2394)

“He is the image of the invisible God… For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col 1:15-17)

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What is the relationship between divine chastity and omniscience?


Answer:
Even though God is omniscient, divine chastity causes it to appear as if God is entirely ignorant of the threat of evil, for in every situation he gives everything that he would have given had evil never been a consideration. Instances of this can be seen throughout the public ministry of Jesus. He chose Judas as an apostle even though he knew of the betrayal that was coming. In other examples, Jesus healed people, and instructed them to tell no one of the miracle. However, in doing this, he knew that they would not obey, and that the public knowledge of the miracle would create many practical problems in his ministry. In every action, Jesus simply loved innocently and would not compromise with evil by allowing its threat to diminish his love. He simply refused to negotiate with evil in any way. In the act of creation, this same uncompromising love is given. Knowing fully that many of the angels would turn from him in disobedience, and that the first humans would be seduced to do the same, God considered only the essential goodness with which they would be created, and bestowed the same power and importance on them that he would have given had he no knowledge that they would turn against him.

Quotes: “Oh Eternal Father, how then did you create this creature? I am greatly overwhelmed by this. In fact, as you show, me, I see that you did this for no other reason than that in your light you were forced to give us being by the fire of your charity in spite of all the iniquity we were to commit against you, Oh  Eternal Father! It was fire, therefore, that forced you to do so. Oh  Ineffable Love, even if in your light you saw all the iniquities your creature was to commit against your infinite goodness, you pretended almost not to see but fixed your eyes on the beauty of your creature whom you, intoxicated with love, loved and through love you drew her to yourself and formed her in your own image and likeness. You, eternal truth, communicated your truth to me, namely, that it was love that forced you to create her…” (St. Catherine of Sienna)

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What is the relationship between divine chastity and omnipotence?


Answer:
Because of the action of the rebel angels and the subsequent sin of man, creation has become a battlefield between good and evil. In this conflict, God is perfectly opposed to every injustice and evil action. However, so as not to enthrone evil as the ultimate determiner of the order of being, God has only acted in innocent love (doing exactly as he would have done without allowing evil to have any diminishing influence), and has irrevocably given away gifts of existence and power even to those who would oppose him through sin. As a result of this, the conflict between good and evil rages on even though the omnipotence of God is on the side of the good. Though he is omnipotent, because of the perfect outpouring of power and importance to created persons in divine chastity, it can appear that God is powerless or unresponsive in the fight against evil. This, however, is an illusion as God is infinitely opposed to that which harms or threatens innocence.

Quote: “Faith in God the Father Almighty can be put to the test by the experience of evil and suffering. God can sometimes seem to be absent and incapable of stopping evil. But in the most mysterious way God the Father has revealed his almighty power in the voluntary humiliation and Resurrection of his Son, by which he conquered evil.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 272)

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What is the relationship between the world and the omnipotence of God?


Answer:
The world in its present form is a combination of God’s faithfulness to his creatures in a perfectly chaste self-gift, combined with the repeated abuse of this absolute self-gift by created persons. The current state of affairs in which suffering afflicts all of human experience was not orchestrated by God any more than a burned-out building corresponds to the architect’s design of what the building should have been. As such, the evil is neither directly willed, nor is it approved in any way by God, but is endured in a kind of agony. In creating the world, God has only loved in the greatest way that chaste omnipotence could, that is, perfectly and without any degree of compromise with the threat of evil. He wills only the highest good without any consideration of alternatives, and this is why he loves in exactly the same way that he would have had evil never been a factor. He will not do evil by diminishing his good will toward created persons in order to prevent evil. Therefore, he endures the infinite offense of evil so that evil does not become absolute.

This agony of “infinite offense” is not to be misunderstood as implying that there is a power greater than God to which God is subjected against his will. The agony of God is the result of the perfection of his free self-gift to creatures, which is then horribly abused. The crucifix is the image of this. In power, Jesus could have come down from the cross, but in love he would not.

God is perfectly opposed to all innocent suffering in creatures. However, he totally approves of all sufferings taken to himself in Christ, for it is through these sufferings that man’s destiny is restored and the power of evil is definitively shattered. Through the redemptive suffering of Jesus, “agony” is perfectly compatible with absolute victory, glory, and perfect joy. The mention of the agony of God is for the sake of dispelling the lie that God is somehow complicit in evil by permitting it as a means to an end. In this context, “agony” is synonymous with “absolute disapproval,” and such absolute disapproval is not logically incompatible with the perfect victory and glory of the redemption.

Quote: “There are theologians who, in the face of all the terrible things that happen in the world today, say that God cannot be all-powerful. In response to this we profess God, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. We are glad and thankful that God is all-powerful. At the same time, we have to be aware that he exercises his power differently from the way we normally do. He has placed a limit on his power, by recognizing the freedom of his creatures. We are glad and thankful for the gift of freedom. However, when we see the terrible things that happen as a result of it, we are frightened. Let us put our trust in God, whose power manifests itself above all in mercy and forgiveness.” (Pope Benedict XVI, Homily in Freiburg, Germany, September 25, 2011)

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How does the consideration of divine chastity make possible a coherent answer to the problem of evil.


Answer: 
It has been argued throughout history that an omnipotent being would have the power to prevent any and all evils if it so desired; an omniscient being would know of them and know how to prevent them; and a perfectly good being would do all in its power to prevent all evil. Thus, it appears that, if God existed, and were omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good, evil would not exist. The reality of evil has therefore been used in arguments against the existence of God. Various forms of such arguments have been presented, but the reasoning therein does not consider that the chastity of God entails that he is not morally free to do evil (that is, to diminish the absoluteness of his act of self-donation) in order to prevent the abuse of his love. In light of divine chastity, God can be omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, infinitely offended by human suffering, and yet evil can still exist despite God’s omnipotent opposition to it.

Quote:

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How can the Christian view of the world be true if suffering and death preceded the appearance of man in the world?


Answer:
Evidence suggests that suffering and death pervaded the natural world before man arrived in creation. In the material order, there is both tremendous beauty and artistry combined with a horrendous cruelty and disregard for life. The order of the animal kingdom follows the pattern of the strong victimizing the helpless, and (even though it involves non-personal creatures) it is difficult to reconcile this with the intentions of a good God.

In accord with the delegation of power given in divine chastity, authority concerning the unfolding of the material order was given to the angels. With power over the material world, the fall of the rebel angels would necessarily register in the material order in serious ways. God’s will is to create life, but the will of the rebel angels is to countermand this at every opportunity. Hence, there is an interplay between life (which is facilitated in obedience to God by the good angels) and death (through the work of the evil one and his allies). Ultimately this discord (through the mechanism of survival of the fittest life forms) was directed providentially (through the guidance of God under the co-operation of the good angels) towards the creation of more advanced life, and ultimately the body of man emerged despite the best efforts of the evil angels to destroy life absolutely through mishap and omission.

Possibly, as the union of matter and spirit, it was man’s role to redeem the material world from the effects of the angelic fall. Though the material order was good in itself, it seems that man (through the use of preternatural gifts) was originally commissioned to subdue and reorder the world in a way that would cause it to reflect the glory of God more perfectly.

Quote: “Notice also that the world is out of joint before man arrived in it. Somewhere in God’s universe there is a crack, a fissure. Something has gone wrong, and it has gone wrong because someone did not use freedom rightly. Someone used freedom in the sense of ‘the right to do whatever you please’. Look back over the evolution of the universe. See all of the prehistoric animals that have come into being and passed away. Everywhere in the unfolding of the cosmos there have been biological sprouts that came to dead ends. Everywhere, there are blind alleys. But you ask, “Why should the sin of the angels affect the universe?” Well, one reason might be that lower creation was put under the supervision of some of the angels. And when they rebelled against God, the effects of it in some way registered in the material universe. Nature became dislocated. Look at a complicated machine: Disturb one of the big wheels, break a cog, and you will also disturb all of the little wheels. Throw a rock into a pond, it will affect, in some way, through ripples, even the most distant shore. It could be, therefore, the fall of the angels accounted for maybe the chaos that was on the earth as described in the Book of Genesis. There is every indication that something went wrong before man was made.” (Archbishop Fulton Sheen, Original Sin and Angels)

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In what sense can it be said that those who suffer make the forgiveness of sins possible?


Answer:
The fact that God’s generosity remains undiminished despite the threat of evil means that man is still able to receive the total gift that God intends. This gift is the fullness of God’s love, the maximal dignity of freedom, power, and universal importance, and the fullness of the unity of humanity, where each is perfectly important to all. Another word for this gift is heaven. God has not compromised the fullness of his gift in any degree in response to the threat of or the actuality of evil, and only because God has remained faithful in offering the fullness of his gift by loving man according to this undiminished dignity does heaven remain open. However, in order that God continue to love sinful man according to this maximal dignity, each person must remain free and universally important no matter what. If the dignity of freedom and importance were to be taken away, it would hurt a person permanently, for one would no longer have universal causal significance, and thus would be excluded from the unity of humanity. Therefore, in order to safeguard man’s eternal destiny, God must forever preserve the universal impact of the free actions of each even though they have done evil. Though man sins, the impact of his actions remain universal, and thus he retains the same dignity of freedom and causal importance as when he was created. However, others must pay for this high dignity to be retained through their suffering of the universal effects of his sin while God directs these evil consequences in such a way that his providence draws a greater good from them. Consequently, it can be said that those who suffer make it possible for sins to be forgiven because they allow God to continue to love sinners as if they were innocent, bestowing maximal undiminished dignity upon the guilty despite their abuse of God’s gifts.

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Does God cause or approve of the suffering of the innocent?


Answer:
God neither causes nor approves of the suffering of the innocent. Further, the suffering in the world is not an indication that God has abandoned the world, but is a manifestation of God’s fidelity to sinners in continuing to love them with an infinite love. This in no way entails that God approves of the sufferings that happen as the result of sin, for suffering (the deprivation of a due good) is the very reason why sin is offensive to him. This condition of the world in which the innocent pay for the dignity of the guilty is not so much permitted by God as it is endured in agony. The suffering in the world is infinitely more offensive to God than it is to the atheist who rejects God because of the problem of evil. For the sake of sinners, this offense is endured by God with unfailing love so that sins may be forgiven.

[In one sense, God does “permit” evil (in that he does not prevent it), and he always draws a greater good out of it, but this “permission” must never be understood as failure to oppose evil with the perfection of chaste omnipotence, or as the divine approval of suffering and death as a means to a higher end. God’s relationship to evil is necessarily one of infinite offense and opposition, and he makes no compromise. ]

Quote: “God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering… We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 385)

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Does God will suffering and death as a necessary means to a good end?


Answer:
God does not will evil as a means to an end. Rather, God is forced by the perfection of his own free self-outpouring to honor the universal significance of those actions which created persons have given him. In order to love the world in a perfectly chaste self-offering, both good and evil actions of persons must be allowed to reach their ultimate consequences. God holds in being what he has been given because, in love, he protects the freedom, power, and causal significance of created persons. While it is true that God’s redemptive providence brings good out of every evil, and it is true that (through the grace of God) a person can sometimes learn very much about the futility of a life of sin through the experience of suffering, the fact remains that God never wills evil as a means to an end, or fails to oppose any evil with the fullness of chaste omnipotence. God does not send evils into the lives of people. Rather, the universal causal impact of the abuse of free will does this.

The moral law forbids that man do evil or to fail to oppose evil so that a good may result. God, being perfectly good, and the eternal source of the moral law (which proceeds necessarily from his own nature), cannot act in violation of it. The demons tempt man to think that God has made a compromise with evil and thus holds back in his opposition to evil because he uses it as a means to an end. However, God does exactly as he teaches man to do; he perfectly opposes every evil without doing evil himself. 

Quote:

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If God does not will suffering as a means to an end, then what about the spiritual suffering that is part of our purification?

Answer: When a person prays that God deliver him from bondage to the power of evil, the Holy Spirit begins to purify the soul through the revelation of poverty and detachment from the world. These purifications can involve grave trials as God leads a person away from the disordered attachments that have so penetrated his being. These experiences of purification can be horrible as a person is driven by his own nature to cling to those things which would ensure eternal loss. In fidelity to life and love, God relentlessly chastens those who will be saved so that they can be free to receive his love. In doing this, God is not willing the suffering that a person undergoes as they relinquish that which has held them in bondage, but is facilitating the deliverance from those diminishments which would cause definitive and unending suffering. In this experience, it seems that God is leading a person from one suffering to the next. This, however, is an illusion caused by the fact that every situation on Earth contains suffering due to the consequences of the original sin, and the leading of God is (in the context of life on Earth) necessarily a journey through a valley of tears. This journey is, however, an exodus out of the bondage of evil into the possibility of perfect love, and the circumstantial disorders (sickness, tragedy, loneliness, etc.) that surround a person going through life are the result of the disorder of the fallen world, not the action of God.

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Does God not cause suffering and death as a punishment for sin?


Answer: 
Sin seeks the fulfillment of desire in a distorted way which (along with the good attained) brings an admixture of lack and pain. God’s will is to give the human person maximal joy, and sin is forbidden only because it something which causes deprivation of a due good and precludes the reception of the fullness of God’s self-gift. If, by the very nature of things, sin did not bring about suffering, then sin would not be problematic with regard to man’s relationship to God. In such a situation (if it were possible), those actions which are presently considered sinful would be among the good and beneficial things that a person may freely choose. In God’s generosity, if it were possible for someone to be truly happier apart from God through a life of sin, then God would directly will that departure.

Quotes: These two punishments [eternal and temporal (i.e. all forms of punishment)] must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church1472)

“The wrath of God is a way of saying that I have been living in a way that is contrary to the love that is God. Anyone who begins to live and grow away from God, who lives away from what is good, is turning his life toward wrath. Whoever falls away from love is moving into negativity. So that is not something that some dictator with a lust for power inflicts on you, but is simply a way of expressing the inner logic of a certain action. If I move outside the area of what is compatible with the ideal model by which I am created, if I move beyond the love that sustains me, well then, I just fall into the void, into darkness. I am then no longer in the realm of love, so to speak, but in a realm that can be seen as the realm of wrath. 

When God inflicts punishment, this is not punishment in the sense that God has, as it were, drawn up a system of fines and penalties and is wanting to pin one on you. ‘The punishment of God’ is in fact an expression for having missed the right road and then experiencing the consequences that follow from taking the wrong track and wandering away from the right way of living.”
 (Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, God and the World)

“Earthquakes, hurricanes and other disasters that strike the innocent and the guilty alike are never punishments from God. To say otherwise would be to offend both God and humanity.” (Fr. Cantalamessa, Good Friday Homily2011)

 

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If God is perfectly against evil, why is he apparently holding back in his opposition to it?


Answer:
 In this combat, as in all things, God retains for himself only those capacities which cannot be given away to creatures, and every other responsibility that can possibly be given has been entrusted to the good angels and to human beings according to the powers that have been originally handed over to them. In keeping with his infinite generosity, every finite role of importance in the battle against evil is delegated to those men and angels who have chosen to ally themselves with the will of God.

Even though God has given away all finite powers in the war against evil, the redemption of the world through the suffering of a divine person in human nature is something that only God can do. In the incarnation, God assumes a created human nature, and acts with finite powers that are proper to man. As a necessary aspect of the incarnation, God acts as both creator and creature, and therefore may chastely begin to act directly in the world according to the normal and limited sphere of influence that would be given to a human being as part of the created order. As true God and true man, Jesus opposed every evil according to the finite human capacity that was appropriate to his created human nature. He healed those who came to him as a sign that he had come to bring justice to the world. He showed, through every action that suffering and death were enemies to be defeated, and that he has come to bring justice to the world by delivering man from the power of evil.

Because of the fall of man, suffering and death afflicted all things, and human destiny was one of unending subjection to the power of evil. In Christ, the Kingdom of God (which is identical to the reign of divine justice), has come into the world. Every action of Jesus was a manifestation of God’s justice for those oppressed by evil. From preaching, to healing and exorcism, Jesus brought justice to every situation within his human sphere of influence, and ultimately annihilated the power of evil (for all who choose to accept his gift) through the infinite redemptive power of his cross and resurrection.

Despite appearances to the contrary, there is positively no degree of God holding back in his exercise of power in opposition to suffering and evil. He literally does all that chaste omnipotence is capable of doing to bring justice to the world. The intervention of God’s justice is manifested in partial ways in terms of healing and deliverance, but ultimately occurs fully in the definitive shattering of the power of evil through the redemptive suffering of Christ.

Quote: “God does not tolerate evil, but reacts to it with all the power of his holiness… Woe to us if he didn’t! A compromise with evil at that level would destroy the very ethical foundation of the world.” (Father Raniero Cantalamessa, Where Love and Justice Meet)

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