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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Power of a Human Act

Charlie Rice was fond of bringing up a point in his Jurisprudence class that there are no "victimless" crimes. The discussion did not advocate proscribing every vice or prescribing every virtue, but addressed the great mystery of free will, human acts and the natural law. Basically, the argument went that every act (by "act" I mean either "positive act" or "omission") one does--even if in private--has an effect on the greater community. If one chooses to sin, first and foremost, it offends God. Secondly, a so-called private sin or "victimless" crime has an effect on the community in that the community is deprived of a virtuous citizen. Likewise, in this analysis, one not only has to take into account the harm caused to the political community, but also the family and the ecclesial communities, as well as any other group to which the individual is attached. Of course, this holds for all sin or crimes--not just the ones done privately. But it is important to point out the private ones, because we don't often think that we are hurting anyone when this is clearly not the case. This is why sin is so evil. There is a ripple effect that encompasses much more than one would envision when choosing to do a particular act. This is something that is very difficult to convey to the nonbeliever. Heck, nowadays it seems that this is difficult to convey to the believer!

Nowhere is this more evident than in the recent priest sexual abuse scandals in the United States. One of the causes suggested is the outright hostility to and the seeking to undermine the authority of the Magisterium of the Church. The effects of the evil perpetrated by these despicable men are too numerous to number here. But suffice it to say, that it has even reached the level of directly touching those often forgotten members of the Church--the Church Suffering (and likely, even the Church Triumphant). Ripple effect indeed! Individual human persons will make their own choices. The priests who committed the actual abuse will reap what they sow--they are responsible.

Nevertheless, one still has to wonder if there was, in the background of all of this, an individual theologian or prelate's private non serviam that proved to make easier all of the subsequent madness.