Catholic Ethics and humility

If you wish to understand right from wrong, if you wish to distinguish morally good choices from morally evil choices, the place to start is HUMILITY. The most common mistake that Catholic students and teachers of ethics make is pride. In their arrogance, they consider their own thoughts on morality to be better than the teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. In their arrogance, they stand in judgment over every magisterial teaching — which is the teaching of Christ through His Church — and they judge unjustly. In their arrogance, they reject, ignore, or radically reinterpret every teaching which they have failed to understand, or have misunderstood, or which simply does not please them. Then they substitute their own foolish ideas for the teachings of Jesus and His Church on good and evil.

If an ignorant person is humble, he can learn from the Church and so dispel the darkness of ignorance. But when an arrogant person is ignorant, he refuses to learn from anyone. His own ideas always seem brighter and shinier than the teachings of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, and the Saints — all put together. I’ve seen this happen again and again in Catholic discussion groups, and in comments on my blog (many of which I delete because of the harm they might do to souls). The pride-filled Catholic treats every teaching of the Faith on ethics as if it were a tenuous suggestion from the village idiot, and then his or her own ideas, which have no basis in Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium, are treated as if they were the brilliant insights of a saintly genius. Nothing can change their minds. No theological argument makes sense to a person who is both ignorant and arrogant. They accept correction from no one.

What happens next? These ignorant and arrogant Catholics often go online, to teach without first having learned. Ethics concerns our path of salvation. A moral life is the path to Heaven. An immoral life is the path to Hell. The harm that can be done to souls by false teachings on ethics is immense and eternal. And yet these pride-filled Catholics go forth on the internet to teach grave errors on morality to as many foolish persons as will listen to them, with no regard for the harm their words might do.

Catholics who decide to teach ethics, without first having thoroughly learned the teachings of the Church, are like a person who decides to practice acupuncture, without any knowledge or training. Would you let such a person stick needles into your body? But the soul is more important than the body. They are like a person who pretends to be a physician, and who fools patients into letting him treat them.

Persons who are both ignorant and arrogant are doing grave harm to body and soul.

Worse still are those Catholic teachers who are not ignorant. They know the teaching of the Church well, but in their extreme arrogance they reject, ignore, and radically reinterpret that teaching, so as to give public approval to grave sins. They justify abortion and abortifacient contraception, thereby assisting in the killing of innocent children in the womb. They give their readers clever excuses to justify intrinsically evil acts. And they claim that this wickedness is a correct understanding of Jesus’ teaching in His Church.

Some of the Pharisees knew that Jesus was the Messiah — “This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and then we will have his inheritance.” — and they killed him anyway. Those Catholic theologians, apologists, scholars, authors, bloggers, and anonymous online commentators, who know what the Church teaches and yet choose to pervert that teaching to justify sin, have the greater guilt.

Teachers will have the stricter judgment.

[1 Timothy]
{4:1} Now the Spirit has clearly said that, in the end times, some persons will depart from the faith, paying attention to spirits of error and the doctrines of devils,
{4:2} speaking lies in hypocrisy, and having their consciences seared….

[2 Timothy]
{4:1} I testify before God, and before Jesus Christ, who shall judge the living and the dead through his return and his kingdom:
{4:2} that you should preach the word urgently, in season and out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke, with all patience and doctrine.
{4:3} For there shall be a time when they will not endure sound doctrine, but instead, according to their own desires, they will gather to themselves teachers, with itching ears,
{4:4} and certainly, they will turn their hearing away from the truth, and they will be turned toward fables.

[James 3]
{3:1} My brothers, not many of you should choose to become teachers, knowing that you shall receive a stricter judgment.

{3:5} So also the tongue certainly is a small part, but it moves great things. Consider that a small fire can set ablaze a great forest.
{3:6} And so the tongue is like a fire, comprising all iniquity. The tongue, stationed in the midst of our body, can defile the entire body and inflame the wheel of our nativity, setting a fire from Hell.

If you commit the sin of abortion, you murder one innocent human person. If you publicly proclaim various excuses and rationalizations, which have the effect of convincing people to use abortifacient contraception while sexually active, thereby killing their own children in the womb, then you are guilty of murdering many innocents. Some Catholic teachers have justified abortifacient contraception loudly and repeatedly that their words will kill more innocents than an abortion clinic. And they claim to speak in the name of Jesus and His Church, making their sins all the more grave. They are like an abortion clinic that pretends to be a chapel for worshipping God.

If a teacher of ethics does not correctly understand the teachings of the Church on abortion and contraception, you should not listen to him or her on any other topic.

But as for you, if you desire to learn the teachings of Jesus on morality, humble yourself. Consider your own ideas to be like so much chaff, to be winnowed away by the truths taught by the Church. When the Church teaches on faith, morals, and salvation, consider that it is truly Jesus who is teaching you, face to face. Do not be dismayed by the wording used in various magisterial documents. Terminology can take some effort to learn, but it is useful in understanding the truth more profoundly. Do not think that the Church should change the wording or the foundation or the content of Her teaching, so that it will make sense to your thoroughly secularized fallen mind. Instead, humble yourself to change your wording, your basic understanding of morality, and your moral judgments.

{11:28} Come to me, all you who labor and have been burdened, and I will refresh you.
{11:29} Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.
{11:30} For my yoke is sweet and my burden is light.”

{18:1} In that hour, the disciples drew near to Jesus, saying, “Whom do you consider to be greater in the kingdom of heaven?”
{18:2} And Jesus, calling to himself a little child, placed him in their midst.
{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
{18:4} Therefore, whoever will have humbled himself like this little child, such a one is greater in the kingdom of heaven.

{23:12} But whoever has exalted himself, shall be humbled. And whoever has humbled himself, shall be exalted.

{1:46} And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord.
{1:47} And my spirit leaps for joy in God my Savior.
{1:48} For he has looked with favor on the humility of his handmaid. For behold, from this time, all generations shall call me blessed.
{1:49} For he who is great has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
{1:50} And his mercy is from generation to generations for those who fear him.
{1:51} He has accomplished powerful deeds with his arm. He has scattered the arrogant in the intentions of their heart.
{1:52} He has deposed the powerful from their seat, and he has exalted the humble.
{1:53} He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.
{1:54} He has taken up his servant Israel, mindful of his mercy,
{1:55} just as he spoke to our fathers: to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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