Friday, August 07, 2009

A test-case of subjective and objective guilt

At the JPII Colloquium mentioned below, I was naughty enough to ask the two Lutheran presenters whether "concupiscence" is a part of human nature or not. That of course led to the old Lutheran/Catholic debate on whether concupiscence was sin "properly speaking" or not (Catholics say it isn't, Lutherans say it is). Fraser Pearce responded that it might be the result of the different perspectives: when I, a sinner, look at my disordered desires, I bemoan them before God as sinful, even if I do not act upon them. But if I were to go to the confessional, my confessor would tell me that, objectively speaking, to experience the desire itself is not a sin, but only when one wills it and acts upon it.

Now, over at Cardinal Pole's blog, he has taken Bill Muhlenberg to task on the matter of when stealing is or is not a sin. Muhlenberg argues that it is always a sin to steal, and I should never regard any of the 10 commandments as simply "suggestions", and that I may not judge myself exempt from the commandments under any conditions. The Cardinal points out rightly that the Church has never regarded as a culpable sin if someone were to steal in the case of true necessity, such as starvation.

I wonder if what we have here might not be a case of the different subjective/objective judgments that Fraser was referring to. That is, the Cardinal is concerned that we not charge with culpable sin someone who is innocent of sin. And Bill is concerned that we not give licence to individuals to "take the law into their own hands". In other words, objectively the Church does not judge stealing in cases of true necessity as a sin, but subjectively, I am not at liberty to use this as a "get out of jail free card" to justify any stealing that I might personally have in mind.

What do you think?


At Saturday, August 08, 2009 2:16:00 am , Anonymous Schütz said...

The idea in relation to concupiscence is related to the idea that we might say of someone "He is a saint" (objective perfection) although the saint himself would say before God (coram Deo) "I am a sinner" (subjective acknowledgment of sinfulness).

At Saturday, August 08, 2009 1:04:00 pm , Anonymous Austin said...

How could we say that stealing in some cases is not a sin? Where is the justification for that, and how are the cases decided?

At Monday, August 10, 2009 8:44:00 pm , Anonymous An Liaig said...

I think Peter is correct. The Church has never regarded the right to private property as absolute.


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