Thursday, September 6, 2012

St. Augustine On Sin And The Church

I thought this was a good selection to consider for folks who may find themselves frustrated by things like the sex abuse scandal or any other moral failing by Catholic clergy or laity. Just for context, St. Augustine was writing this letter in the context of the Donatist heresy and the constant Donatist claims that they were being unjustly persecuted:

From which it is manifest that, whether these charges be true or false, they do not belong to the Lord's wheat, which must grow until the end of the world throughout the whole field, i.e. the whole earth; as we know, not by the testimony of a false angel such as confirmed your correspondent in his error, but from the words of the Lord in the Gospel. And because these unhappy Donatists have brought the reproach of many false and empty accusations against Christians who were blameless, but who are throughout the world mingled with the chaff or tares, i.e. with Christians unworthy of the name, therefore God has, in righteous retribution, appointed that they should, by their universal Council, condemn as schismatics the Maximianists, because they had condemned Primianus, and baptized while not in communion with Primianus, and rebaptized those whom he had baptized, and then after a short interval should, under the coercion of Optatus the minion of Gildo, reinstate in the honours of their office two of these, the bishops Felicianus of Musti and Prætextatus of Assuri, and acknowledge the baptism of all whom they, while under sentence and excommunicated, had baptized.

St. Augustine, Letter LIII

If, therefore, they are not defiled by communion with the men thus restored again to their office—men whom with their own mouth they had condemned as wicked and impious, and whom they compared to those first heretics whom the earth swallowed up alive, — let them at last awake and consider how great is their blindness and folly in pronouncing the whole world defiled by unknown crimes of Africans, and the heritage of Christ (which according to the promise has been shown unto all nations) destroyed through the sins of these Africans by the maintenance of communion with them; while they refuse to acknowledge themselves to be destroyed and defiled by communicating with men whose crimes they had both known and condemned.

People have been having these issues for a long time. Everyone sins. Try not to let yourself be scandalized by what these others are doing. Trust that God's justice will be properly meted out, whether by the Church or by His own hand, as was the case with Dathan, Korah, and Abiram (who are mentioned later in the same letter). And don't forget that you yourself are not exempt.

We all got it comin', kid

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