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Whatever Happened To Admonishing The Sinner?

Anyone remember the Spiritual Works of Mercy?  According to Our Sunday Visitor’s Catholic Dictionary, these acts “focus on the spiritual welfare of the one in need”.  In case you need a refresher, they are:

•To instruct the ignorant;
•To counsel the doubtful;
•To admonish the sinner;
•To bear wrongs patiently;
•To forgive offences willingly;
•To comfort the afflicted;
•To pray for the living and the dead. 

To put it simply, when we perform one of these works, we are attempting to help someone spiritually.  Considering that one’s spiritual health has a direct relationship to whether they end up in Heaven or Hell makes these works pretty important.  Although many of today’s Catholics have never heard of the Spiritual Works of Mercy, one of them completely goes against the message of our culture – to admonish the sinner.

While the world would call this being judgmental, the purpose of admonishing the sinner is to help them recognize that their behavior is sinful and could result in the loss of their salvation.  Not only is this task an act of charity, but an obligation.  According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), remaining silent about the sins of others could cause us to end up in hot water:

Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:

  • by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
  • by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
  • by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
  • by protecting evil-doers. (CCC 1868)

While this doesn’t apply in every case, it’s certainly something we should take seriously.  We can’t ignore the fact that we have an obligation to look out for the spiritual well being of those around us.  Otherwise, we could end up bearing some of the guilt!

So the next time the topic of gay “marriage” comes up at the office, one of your children stops going to Mass, a friend moves in with his girlfriend or a divorced Catholic gets married outside of the Church, it’s ok to speak out (just make sure you choose a good time and remain charitable) .  There is a possibility that they may really not know what they’re doing is wrong.  On the other hand, if you know it’s wrong and don’t say anything…

you could end up in a place you’d rather not go!

2 Comments

  1. Ruth Ann says:

    I am familiar with the Spiritual Works of Mercy. With feat and trepidation I kindly (?) admonished a close family member who had abandoned her husband and children to cohabit with someone else. She came to her senses, went back to her husband and family, and has lived a good life since. I had been worried about her salvation as well as the welfare of her children.

    1. Gary Zimak says:

      I give you a lot of credit, Ruth Ann! It takes courage to do what you did. I also admire the fact that you tried to be kind, which is what we are called to do. That’s often the most difficult part for me!

      God Bless,
      Gary

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