Wednesday, July 14, 2010


There was a man being interviewed on the radio a couple of weeks ago who was making a comparison between religions. He would state a religion and then make a sweeping comment about that on which the particular faith was focused. “Catholics, of course,” he said, “are focused on sin.”


There are those – even within the Church, that think this true. But they are wrong and the gentleman who stated this, if he was interested in truth, was irresponsible.

I have been critical in the past of those who teach the faith via negative – by attempting to teach the positive by proclaiming the negative. “Don’t do this – don’t do that!” It can appear that we are a Church of “Don’t”s. The reason for this I suppose, is that it is so easy. Instead of doing the hard work of explaining and teaching the good, one simply says along the lines of, “Don’t have sex outside of marriage” and feels they have done their job. But every two year old knows the way around that. First you ask, “Why?” and get angry, then obey in order to get along, and plan to do otherwise when it is in your power to do so.

I will also grant that there are those who find their paths thwarted at every turn. “I want to have sex with someone who has not yet received a divorce.” “No.” “I want to have sex with someone who has not yet received their annulment.” “No.” “I want to have sex with someone that I am going to marry anyway in a few months.” “No.” “I no longer love my spouse and want to have sex with someone else.” “No.”

Okay – to this person the Church can seem as though it is focused on sin and is simply a dispenser of “No”s. On another station however there was the brilliant idea that a host provided for a listener concerned that they say “no” too often to their children and so wished to say “yes” to something they did not favor if only to not sound so negative all of the time. The host of the program said, “It is not you who determines how often you say ‘no,’ it is your children. They keep putting you in situations contrary to the way you wish to raise them and so force you to say, ‘no.’ My recommendation to you,” said the host, “is to keep on saying it.”

If a lifestyle is such that it always runs counter to what Christ want of us – that person will encounter a lot of “no”s and “don’t”s. It is not the Church that is focused on any particular action, it is the person.

What is the focus of the Catholic Church? Right relationship between Father and children; between our Heavenly Father and His sons and daughters. It is about coming together in unity and in holiness. “That they may be one.” It is about becoming all that God made us to be. After all, what is the whole aim of the Mass? To be as closely united to our Father, through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit than we can possibly be while being properly united to each other. “Through Him (Jesus), with Him, in Him, in the UNITY of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is Yours Almighty Father for ever and ever.

What is sin? Sin is anything that comes between us and Father, between us and others. It is anything that brings harm into the world physically, mentally, or spiritually. Is the Church focused on sin? No! It is focused on healing, on taking away sin, on guiding you to freedom. “Go! You sins are forgiven!” is a far cry from, “Go, you wretched sinner.”

What is curious is that it is the Protestant Church whose basic tenant is that we are utterly depraved. There is nothing to wipe away our sinfulness. It is rather a sort of fiction of law that gets us into heaven. We are still full of sin but Jesus gets us into heaven anyway by covering over our sins with His holiness. It is the Catholic Church that teaches that you were created to be good and in Jesus you can be wiped clean of sin in Jesus and return to a state of goodness.

We are not focused on sin. We are focused on holiness.


Anonymous said...

Father I just had to comment. I came to the church through RCIA, and I distinctly remember the moment from my childhood when I was turned off by the protestant religion in which I was being raised. The minister was up front spewing a steady stream of hellfire and brimstone and saying that our whole lives were predestined and there was nothing we could do about it. We didn't really have free will, there were no choices, everything was all laid out and it was already decided whether you'd be saved or not. You just had to have faith and pray you'd be saved. It was an incredibly negative experience and I didn't walk into a church again for nearly 10 years when my Catholic college roommates invited me to go to mass with them. The difference between mass (at St Bernard's) and the memory from my 11 year old past was striking. It was welcoming, forgiving, loving, and felt like home.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

There definately needs to be more postive enforcement of the law, rather than this negative version which Catholics so often do.

The Church is about Holiness Amen!

Anonymous said...

Very well and clearly stated, Father.

Anonymous said...


The Catholic Church is focused on supporting adultery and divorce. Anything said otherwise is false.

A former Catholic

Anonymous said...

All too often in the old Catholic Church (traditional) the emphasis was on sin, sin, and more sin. All too often in the new Catholic Church (Novus Ordo) the emphasis is on love, love, and more love, to the point of hardly ever mentioning sin and reconciliation (through confession). There has to be a balance, in my view, between these two extremes. And I believe Father Valencheck and his parochial vicar has found that balance and aren't afraid to say so. God bless them.