Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Father Bryan Hehir on Social Sin

As this Wanderer Forum article explains, "By the 1970s, 'USCC leaders and staff became the new elite of the American Church setting the agenda and defining social doctrine more and more for the Bishops so that the concerns and ideology of the USCC secretariat became indistinguishable from that of the American hierarchy.'

During these years, its liberal leadership under Bishops Bernardin and Rausch with their new advisor Fr. Bryan Hehir, endorsed a 'new social ethic' which 'regarded all inequalities of wealth and power that were not immediately tied to some greater service for the common good, as oppressive....This new conception of justice banished the traditional notion of a natural social order and consequently, the older distinction between justice and charity.'

As the concept of social sin took hold, 'some USCC statements implied that citizens participated in social sin without even knowing it.' Fr. Hehir 'defined social sin as an organization or structure that systematically works to the detriment of groups r individuals...'

But this is not the Church's understanding of "social sin." The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1869, tells us that: "..sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give ise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. Structures of sin are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a social sin.'"

In his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, No. 16, Pope John Paul II explains further that:

"Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person's freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals' sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people. Above all, this would be to deny the person's dignity and freedom, which are manifested-even though in a negative and disastrous way-also in this responsibility for sin committed. Hence there is nothing so personal and untransferable in each individual as merit for virtue or responsibility for sin.

As a personal act, sin has its first and most important consequences in the sinner himself: that is, in his relationship with God, who is the very foundation of human life; and also in his spirit, weakening his will and clouding his intellect....Whenever the Church speaks of situations of sin, or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of chnging the world, and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required, producing specious reasons of a higher order. The real responsibility, then, lies with individuals. A situation - or likewise an institution, a structure, society itself - is not in itself the subject of moral acts. Hence a situation cannot in itself be good or bad."

Therefore, when Father Bryan Hehir defines social sin "as an organization or structure that systematically works to the detriment of groups or individuals," his thought is not consistent with that of the Church's Magisterium. Additionally, his distorted notion of social sin absolves the individual person of any and all responsibility while holding larger social forces, "organizations and structures," to blame for the individual's moral failings.

1 comment:

BostonCatholic2011 said...

Another area where Fr. Hehir is out of touch with the Church's authentic teaching. Sad. The confusion he has spread and continues to spread. Sad.

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