Forgiving God

Sunday, August 22, 2010 \PM\.\Sun\.

“I think everyone has a secret resentment against God, against our very creation, against the fact of our being what we are. Freud called this the death wish, resentment against being born into this pain-full world.”

Peter Kreeft says something surprising in Back to Virtue:  that we need to learn to forgive God. He is quite clear that this is not for any evil or debt he owes us, but for His goodness. As Kreeft says in his book, God loves us more than we would like, and we need to forgive him for interfering with our foolish will again and again”. We need to “forgive him for his blessed but painful surgery on our spirits.”

At first, I thought Kreeft was wrong. Forgive God? Why would we lowly creatures need to forgive God, who is infinite goodness? How absurd! Then, giving the great Peter Kreeft the benefit of the doubt, I thought it over and had a realization of sorts. We need to forgive God lest we hold a grudge against Him. God calls us out of ourselves. He asks us to give up ourselves and our particular desires, and this can be very difficult, even aggravating. Our broken nature rebels against God’s will. We must say with Jesus, “not my will Father, but yours be done,” but we do not want to. We often say, leave me alone to what I want! Christians say this even when they know this is foolishness. We are broken and part of our brokenness is a wrong-relationship with God: we blame him when he is not at fault. Our hearts must be at peace with God. And our hearts, misshapen as they are, cannot be at peace with God unless we forgive him. How ridiculous we are!

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Moral Choice and Probability

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 \PM\.\Wed\.

As part of the ongoing discussion about sin, free will and structures of sin, I’d like to take the risk of tossing out a question which has fascinated me for some years. After all, I don’t think I’ve been called a heretic in a good thirty minutes, so I might as well be adventurous.

Question: Does free will mean that it is possible for someone to be sinless throughout his life?

It seems to me that the answer is that in a certain theoretical sense: Yes. But in any practical or probable sense: Absolutely no.

Free will means that in any given moral situation, we are capable of doing the right thing. We could choose rightly, or wrongly. However, in practical reality, we are often far more disposed to do wrong than to do right. We are also often unclear or deceived as to what the right thing to do is. And we are faced with moral choices constantly, many of which we react to instinctually, without really thinking. (And in this regard, our fallen instincts are often selfish and otherwise sinful.)

So it seems to me that while theoretically in every single moral choice situation it is possible for a person to do the right thing — from a point of view of probability it is so improbably as to be virtually indistinguishable from impossible for someone to actually remain sinless through his own will.


On Sin and Human Freedom

Wednesday, April 7, 2010 \PM\.\Wed\.

The cross-blog discussion that was initiated on the topic of “social sin” has now evolved into a debate over the origins and causes of sin. In response to my post on social sin, Nate Wildermuth at Vox Nova posted his own ideas about the relationship between society and sin, forthrightly admitting that he was going to “venture into heretical pastures” in doing so.

My intention here is not to beat up on Nate. He has expressed to me that he feels I may not be understanding his argument, though I do believe I have made the attempt in earnest. Rather than dissect in detail his argument once again, I am going to put forth here what I already placed in a com-box, but would like to open up to wider discussion – that is, my own view of sin and human freedom. Then Nate or anyone else may issue whatever challenges they like to any of my premises or conclusions, and perhaps we will have some clarity on the issue.

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Archbishop Niederauer Instructs Nancy Pelosi on Free Will, Conscience and Moral Choice

Sunday, January 17, 2010 \AM\.\Sun\.

A few weeks ago I had posted my thoughts on Nancy Pelosi’s scadalous Newsweek interview, in which she chalked up her disagreements with the Bishops on Catholic moral teaching as a “difference of opinion.” At the time I had expressed my curiosity (and honest frustration) as to when her local bishop, George H. Niederauer, would be moved to respond.

He has, and I am thankful for it:

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Are You Listening Madame Speaker?

Friday, January 15, 2010 \AM\.\Fri\.

Archbishop George H. Niederauer of San Francisco addressed on January 13, 2010 a free will defense of abortion by Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House:

In a recent interview with Eleanor Clift in Newsweek magazine (Dec. 21, 2009), House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about her disagreements with the United States Catholic bishops concerning Church teaching. Speaker Pelosi replied, in part: “I practically mourn this difference of opinion because I feel what I was raised to believe is consistent with what I profess, and that we are all endowed with a free will and a responsibility to answer for our actions. And that women should have the opportunity to exercise their free will.”

Embodied in that statement are some fundamental misconceptions about Catholic teaching on human freedom. These misconceptions are widespread both within the Catholic community and beyond. For this reason I believe it is important for me as Archbishop of San Francisco to make clear what the Catholic Church teaches about free will, conscience, and moral choice.

Catholic teaching on free will recognizes that God has given men and women the capacity to choose good or evil in their lives. The bishops at the Second Vatican Council declared that the human person, endowed with freedom, is “an outstanding manifestation of the divine image.” (Gaudium et Spes, No. 17) As the parable of the Grand Inquisitor in Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov, makes so beautifully clear, God did not want humanity to be mere automatons, but to have the dignity of freedom, even recognizing that with that freedom comes the cost of many evil choices.

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Why is Cardinal George Silent about Abortion in the Current Health Care Bill?

Monday, January 4, 2010 \AM\.\Mon\.

When Cardinal George requested that pro-life Republicans vote for the Stupak amendment to the health care bill, he was shaming conservative American legislators that they need to stand up for what they claim in public.  Cardinal George discounted reasonable Republican objections  that this was just a ploy by Nancy Pelosi to get pro-life Democrats on board knowing full well that all pro-life language would be stripped in the joint chambers conference committee.

Was Cardinal George this naive to fall for this parliamentary trick?  Can we assume he isn’t this naive?

No, Cardinal George is not this naive because why would the Vatican choose him to lead a diocese?  The Vatican certainly takes its time to make wise and knowledgeable decisions don’t they?  The Holy Spirit guides them in their work, granted that this is done primarily through the teachings of the Church.  Though we can be reasonable enough knowing that the Vatican wouldn’t choose someone who is incompetent to be a shepherd to his flock.

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Liberty and Happiness

Friday, August 21, 2009 \PM\.\Fri\.

A strong belief in free will is an essential component of happiness. We are free to choose good or evil; true happiness consists in choosing what is good. It follows that belief in determinism cannot produce true happiness. It is important that we work, as Catholics and other people of good will, to remind people of the true way to happiness, and to steer people away from thinking that they are helpless with respect to their state of soul.

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