Saturday, December 29, 2018

Repentence: the necessary flip side of our duty to forgive

I just read the article about the testimony of the man who was sexually molested by Cardinal McCarrick in the confessional, starting at age 11.

I have this difficulty with "cheap forgiveness", a mainstay of the culture.  Christians are not immune.

So I am providing some background on "forgiveness", something we are bound to do, but something that has suffered at the hands of the "therapeutic culture," where it has somehow morphed to become a variant of that "unconditional love" shibboleth that is always tossed out as a justification for sin.

In point of fact, while we are commanded by God to forgive, we are not commanded to be more forgiving than God, who is the penultimate "judgmental" Being who made us all, and stands ever ready to forgive us our sins if we repent and approach Him with (perfect or imperfect) contrition.

I will acknowledge that the therapeutic culture is right in on one respect. It frees the soul not to nurse anger over injury; however, there is nothing new in this (see the Trent Catechism entry below).  On the other hand, the willingness to forgive, and ability to forget injury, are not the same as forgiving the one who did injury.  We are asked to "be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect", and in this we are to stand ready to forgive. But we can no more forgive the unrepentant that God will forgive us if we are unrepentant. 

It is true, we can and should with all charity pray to God and ask Him to forgive others, as Jesus, St Stephen, Moses, and Job did.  But you will note: Jesus on the cross said "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." He did not forgive them, as he did so many other times ("go, your sins are forgiven").  In the material that follows, you will find exhortation to make intercessory prayer for those who have injured you.

What follows is, I hope, what might be a counter-cultural primer on forgiveness. It contains entries from the Catechism of Trent (used for the remarkable clarity), Scripture, St Augustine, and Denzinger.

Matthew 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;(NAB)


The Importance of Explaining This Petition

So many are the things which display at once God's infinite power and His equally infinite wisdom and goodness, that wheresoever we turn our eyes or direct our thoughts, we meet with the most certain signs of omnipotence and benignity. And yet there is truly nothing that more eloquently proclaims His supreme love and admirable charity towards us, than the inexplicable mystery of the Passion of Jesus Christ, whence springs that never ­failing fountain to wash away the defilements of sin. (It is this fountain) in which, under the guidance and bounty of God, we desire to be merged and purified, when we beg of Him to forgive us our debts.

This Petition contains a sort of summary of those benefits with which the human race has been enriched through Jesus Christ. This Isaias taught when he said: The iniquity of the house of Jacob shall be forgiven; and this is all the fruit, that the sin thereof should be taken away. David also shows this, proclaiming those blessed who could partake of that salutary fruit: Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven.

The pastor, therefore, should study and explain accurately and diligently the meaning of this Petition, which, we perceive, is so important to the attainment of salvation.

Difference Between this And the Preceding Petitions

In this Petition we enter on a new manner of praying. For hitherto we asked of God not only eternal and spiritual goods, but also transient and temporal advantages; whereas, we now ask to be freed from the evils of the soul and of the body, of this life and of the life to come.

Dispositions with which this Petition Should be Offered

Since, however, to obtain what we ask we must pray in a becoming manner, it appears expedient to explain the disposition with which this prayer should be offered to God.

Acknowledgment of Sin

The pastor, then, should admonish the faithful, that he who comes to offer this Petition must first acknowledge, and next feel sorrow and compunction for his sins. He must also be firmly convinced that to sinners, thus disposed and prepared, God is willing to grant pardon. This confidence is necessary to sinners, lest perhaps the bitter remembrance and acknowledgment of their sins should be followed by that despair of pardon, which of old seized the mind of Cain and of Judas, both of whom looked on God solely as an avenger and punisher, forgetting that He is also mild and merciful.

In this Petition, therefore, we ought to be so disposed, that, acknowledging our sins in the bitterness of our souls, we may fly to God as to a Father, not as to a Judge, imploring Him to deal with us not according to His justice, but according to His mercy.

We shall be easily induced to acknowledge our sins if we listen to God Himself admonishing us through the Sacred Scriptures in this regard. Thus we read in David: They are all gone aside; they are become unprofitable together; there is none that doeth good, no not one. Solomon speaks to the same purpose: There is no just man upon earth, that doth good, and sinneth not. To this subject apply also these words: Who can say: "my heart is clean, I am pure from sin?" The very same has been written by St. John to deter men from arrogance: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. Jeremias also says: Thou hast said: "I am without sin, and am innocent"; and therefore, let thy anger be turned away from me. Behold, I will contend with thee in judgment, because thou hast said: "I have not sinned."

Christ the Lord, who spoke by the mouth of all these, confirms their teaching by this Petition in which He commands us to confess our sins. The Council of Milevi forbids us to interpret it otherwise. It hath pleased the Council, that whosoever will have it that these words of the Lord's prayer, "forgive us our debts," are said by holy men in humility, not in truth, let him be anathema. For who can endure a person praying, and lying not to men, but to the Lord Himself, saying with the lips that he desires to be forgiven, but with the heart, that he has no debts to be forgiven?

Sorrow for Sin

In making this necessary acknowledgment of our sins, it is Dot enough to call them to mind lightly; for it is necessary that the recollection of them be bitter, that it touch the heart, pierce the soul, and imprint sorrow. Wherefore, the pastor should treat this point diligently, that his pious hearers may not only recollect their sins, and iniquities, but recollect them with pain and sorrow; so that with true interior contrition they may betake themselves to God their Father, humbly imploring Him to pluck from the soul the piercing stings of sin.

Motives For Sorrow Over Sin: The Baseness Of Sin

The pastor, however, should not be content with placing before the eyes of the faithful the turpitude of sin. He should also depict the unworthiness and baseness of men, who, though nothing but rottenness and corruption, dare to outrage in a manner beyond all belief the incomprehensible majesty and ineffable excellence of God, particularly after having been created, redeemed and enriched by Him with countless and invaluable benefits.

The Consequences of Sin

And for what? Only for this, that separating ourselves from God our Father, who is the supreme Good, and lured by the most base rewards of sin, we may devote ourselves to the devil, to become his most wretched slaves. Language is inadequate to depict the cruel tyranny which the devil exercises over those who, having shaken off the sweet yoke of God, and broken the most lovely bond of charity by which our spirit is bound to God our Father, have gone over to their relentless enemy, who is therefore called in Scripture, the prince and ruler of the world, the prince of darkness, and king over all the children of pride. Truly to those who are oppressed by the tyranny of the devil apply these words of Isaias: O Lord our God, other lords besides thee have had dominion over us.

If these broken covenants of love do not move us, let at least the calamities into which we fall by sin move us. The sanctity of the soul is violated, which we know to have been wedded to Christ. That temple of the Lord is profaned, against the contaminators of which the Apostle utters this denunciation: If any man violate the temple of God, him shall God destroy.

Innumerable are the evils brought upon man by sin, that almost infinite pest of which David says: There is no health in my flesh, because of thy wrath; there is no peace for my bones, because of my sins. In these words he marks the violence of the plague, confessing that it left no part of him uninfected by pestiferous sin; for the poison had penetrated into his bones, that is, it infected his understanding and will, which are the two most intimate faculties of the soul. This widespread pestilence the Sacred Scriptures point out, when they designate sinners as the lame, the deaf, the dumb, the blind, the paralyzed.

But,­ besides the anguish which he felt on account of the enormity of his sins, David was afflicted yet more by the knowledge that he had provoked the wrath of God against him by his sin. For the wicked are at war with God, who is offended beyond belief at their crimes; hence the Apostle says: Wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil. Although the sinful act is transient, yet the sin by its guilt and stain remains; and the imminent wrath of God pursues it, as the shadow does the body.

When, therefore, David was pierced by these tormenting thoughts, he was moved to seek the pardon of his sins. That the faithful, imitating the Prophet, may learn to grieve, that is, to become truly penitent, and cherish the hope of pardon, the pastor should call to their attention the example of David's penitential sorrow, and the lessons of instruction drawn from his fiftieth Psalm.

How great is the utility of this sort of instruction, which teaches us to grieve for our sins, God Himself declares by the mouth of Jeremias, who, when exhorting the Israelites to repentance, admonished them to awake to a sense of the evils that follow upon sin. See, he says, that it is an evil and a bitter thing for thee, to have left the Lord thy God, and that my fear is not with thee, saith the Lord, the God of hosts. They who lack this necessary sense of acknowledgment and grief, are said by the Prophets Isaias, Ezechiel and Zachary to have a hard heart, a stony heart, a heart of adamant, for, like stone, they are softened by no sorrow, having no sense of life, that is, of the salutary recognition (of their sinfulness).

Confidence in God's Mercy

But lest the faithful, terrified by the grievousness of their sins, despair of being able to obtain pardon, the pastor ought to encourage them to hope by the following considerations.

As is declared in an Article of the Creed, Christ the Lord has given power to the Church to remit sins.

Furthermore, in this Petition, our Lord has taught how great is the goodness and bounty of God towards mankind; for if God were not ready and prepared to pardon penitents their sins, never would He have prescribed this formula of prayer: Forgive us our trespass. Wherefore we ought to be firmly convinced, that since He commands us in this Petition to implore His paternal mercy, He will not fail to bestow it on us. For this Petition assuredly implies that God is so disposed towards us, as willingly to pardon those who are truly penitent.

God it is against whom, having cast off obedience, we sin; the order of whose wisdom we disturb, as far as in us lies; whom we offend; whom we outrage by words and deeds. But it is also God, our most beneficent Father, who, having it in His power to pardon all transgressions, has not only declared His willingness to do so, but has also obliged men to ask Him for pardon, and has taught in what words they are to do so. To no one, therefore, can it be a matter of doubt, that under His guidance it is in our power to be reconciled to God. And as this declaration of the divine willingness to pardon increases faith, nurtures hope and inflames charity, it will be worth while to amplify this subject, by citing some Scriptural authorities and some examples of penitents to whom God granted pardon of the most grievous crimes. Since, however, in the introduction to the Lord's Prayer and in that portion of the Creed which teaches the forgiveness of sins, we were as diffuse on the subject as circumstances allowed, the pastor will borrow from those places whatever may seem pertinent for instruction on this point, for the rest drawing on the fountains of the Sacred Scriptures.


The pastor should also follow the same plan which we thought should be used in the other Petitions. Let him explain, then, what the word debts here signifies, lest perhaps the faithful, deceived by its ambiguity, pray for something different from what should be prayed for.

First, then, we are to know, that we by no means ask for exemption from the debt we owe to God on so many accounts, the payment of which is essential to salvation, namely, that of loving Him with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind; neither do we ask to be in future exempt from the duties of obedience, worship, veneration, or any other similar obligation, comprised also under the word debts.

What we do ask is that He may deliver us from sins. This is the interpretation of St. Luke, who, instead of debts, makes use of the word sins, because by their commission we become guilty before God and incur a debt of punishment, which we must pay either by satisfaction or by suffering. It was of this debt that Christ the Lord spoke by the mouth of His Prophet: Then did I pay that which I took not away. From these words of God we may understand that we are not only debtors, but also unequal to the payment of our debt, the sinner being of himself utterly incapable of making satisfaction.

Wherefore we must fly to the mercy of God; and as justice, of which God is most tenacious, is an equal and corresponding attribute to mercy, we must make use of prayer, and the intercession of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, without which no one ever obtained the pardon of his sins, and from which, as from its source, have flown all the efficacy and virtue of satisfaction. For of such value is that price paid by Christ the Lord on the cross, and communicated to us through the Sacraments, received either actually or in purpose and desire, that it obtains and accomplishes for us the pardon of our sins, which is the object of our prayer in this Petition.

Here we ask pardon not only for our venial offences, for which pardon may most easily be obtained, but also for grievous and mortal sins. With regard to grave sins, however, this Petition cannot procure forgiveness unless it derive that efficacy from the Sacrament of Penance, received, as we have already said, either actually or at least in desire.'


The words our debts are used here in a sense entirely different from that in which we said our bread. That bread is ours, because it is given us by the munificence of God; whereas sins are ours, because with us rests their guilt. They are our voluntary acts, otherwise they would not have the character of sin.

Admitting, therefore, and confessing the guilt of our sins, we implore the clemency of God, which is necessary for their expiation. In this we make use of no palliation whatever, nor do we transfer the blame to others, as did our first parents Adam and Eve. We judge ourselves, employing, if we are wise, the prayer of the Prophet: Incline not my heart to evil words, to make excuses in sins.
"Forgive Us"

Nor do we say, forgive me, but forgive us; because the fraternal relationship and charity which subsist between all men, demand of each of us that, being solicitous for the salvation of all our neighbors, we pray also for them while offering prayers for ourselves.

This manner of praying, taught by Christ the Lord, and subsequently received and always retained by the Church of God, the Apostles most strictly observed themselves and taught others to observe.

Of this ardent zeal and earnestness in praying for the salvation of our neighbors, we have the splendid example of Moses in the Old, and of St. Paul in the New Testament. The former besought God thus: Either forgive them this trespass; or, if thou dost not, strike me out of the book that thou hast written; ' while the latter prayed after this manner: I wished myself to be anathema from Christ for my brethren.

"As we Forgive our Debtors"

The word as may be understood in two senses. It may be taken as having the force of a comparison, meaning that we beg of God to pardon us our sins, just as we pardon the wrongs and contumelies which we receive from those by whom we have been injured. It may also be understood as denoting a condition, and in this sense Christ the Lord interprets that formula. If, He says, you forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will also forgive you your offences; but if you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your sins.

Either sense, however, equally contains the necessity of forgiveness, intimating, as it does that, if we desire that God should grant us the pardon of our offences, we ourselves must pardon those from whom we have received injury; for so rigorously does God exact from us forgetfulness of injuries and mutual affection and love, that He rejects and despises the gifts and sacrifices of those who are not reconciled to one another.

Necessity of Forgiveness

Even the law of nature requires that we conduct ourselves towards others as we would have them conduct themselves towards us; hence he would be most impudent who would ask of God the pardon of his own offences while he continued to cherish enmity against his neighbor.

Those, therefore, on whom injuries have been inflicted, should be ready and willing to pardon, urged to it as they are by this form of prayer, and by the command of God in St. Luke: If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him; and if he repent, forgive him; and if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, "I repent," forgive him. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we read: Love your enemies; and the Apostle, and before him Solomon wrote: If thy enemy be hungry, give him to eat; if he thirst, give him to drink; and finally we read in the Gospel of St. Mark: When you shall stand to pray, forgive if you have anything against any man; that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your sins.

Reasons for Forgiveness

But since, on account of the corruption of nature, there is nothing to which man brings himself more reluctantly than to the pardon of injuries, let pastors exert all the powers and resources of their minds to change and bend the dispositions of the faithful to this mildness and mercy so necessary to a Christian. Let them dwell on those passages of Scripture in which we hear God commanding to pardon enemies.

Let them also insist on this certain truth, that one of the surest signs that men are children of God is their willingness ­to forgive injuries and sincerely love their enemies; for in loving our enemies there shines forth in us some likeness to God our Father, who, by the death of His Son, ransomed from everlasting perdition and reconciled to Himself the human race, which before was most unfriendly and hostile to Him.

Let the close of this exhortation and injunction be the command of Christ the Lord, which, without utter disgrace and ruin, we cannot refuse to obey: Pray for them that persecute and calumniate you; that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven.

This Petition Should Not be Neglected

But in this matter no ordinary prudence is required on the part of the pastor, lest, knowing the difficulty and necessity of this precept, anyone despair of salvation.

Those Unable To Forget Injuries

There are those who, aware that they ought to bury injuries in voluntary oblivion and ought to love those that injure them, desire to do so, and do so as far as they are able, but feel that they cannot efface from their mind all recollection of injuries. For there lurk in the mind some remains of private grudge, in consequence of which such persons are disturbed by misgivings of conscience, fearing that they have not in simplicity and frankness laid aside their enmities and consequently do not obey the command of God.

Here, therefore, the pastor should explain the contrary desires of the flesh and of the spirit; that the former is prone to revenge, the latter ready to pardon; that hence a continual struggle and conflict goes on between them. Wherefore he should point out that although the appetites of corrupt nature are ever opposing and rebelling against reason, we are not on this account to be uneasy regarding salvation, provided the spirit persevere in the duty and disposition of forgiving injuries and of loving our neighbor.

Those Who Do Not Love Their Enemies

There may be some who, because they have not yet been able to bring themselves to forget injuries and to love their enemies, are consequently deterred by the condition contained in this Petition from making use of the Lord's Prayer. To remove from their minds this pernicious error, the pastor should adduce the two following considerations.

(In the first place), whoever belongs to the number of the faithful, offers this prayer in the name of the entire Church, in which there must necessarily be some pious persons who have forgiven their debtors the debts here mentioned.

Secondly, when we ask this favor from God, we also ask for whatever cooperation with the Petition is necessary on our part in order to obtain the object of our prayer. Thus we ask the pardon of our sins and the gift of true repentance; we pray for the grace of inward sorrow; we beg that we may be able to abhor our sins, and confess them truly and piously to the priest. Since, then, it is necessary for us to forgive those who have inflicted on us any loss or injury, when we ask pardon of God we beg of Him at the same time to grant us grace to be reconciled to those against whom we harbor hatred.

Those, therefore, who are troubled by that groundless and perverse fear, that by this prayer they provoke still more the wrath of God, should be undeceived and should be exhorted to make frequent use of a prayer in which they beseech God our Father to grant them the disposition to forgive those who have injured them and to love their enemies.

How to Make this Petition Fruitful

Penitential Dispositions

But that this Petition may be really fruitful we should first seriously reflect that we are suppliants before God, soliciting from Him pardon, which is not granted but to the penitent; and that we should, therefore, be animated by that charity and piety which are fitting in penitents, whom it eminently becomes to keep before their eyes, as it were, their own crimes and enormities and to expiate them with tears.

Avoidance of Dangers Of Sin

To this thought should be joined caution in guarding for the future against every occasion of sin, and against whatever I nay expose us to the danger of offending God our Father. With this solicitude the mind of David was occupied when he said: My sin is always before me; and: Every night I will wash my bed; I will water my couch with my tears.

Imitation of Fervent Penitents

Let each one also call to mind the ardent love of prayer of those who obtained from God through their entreaties the pardon of their sins. Such was the publican, who, standing afar off through shame and grief, and with eyes fixed on the ground, only smote his breast, crying: O God, be merciful to me, a sinner. Such was also the woman, a sinner, who, standing behind Christ the Lord, washed His feet, wiped them with her hair, and kissed them. Lastly, there is the example of Peter, the Prince of the Apostles, who going forth wept bitterly.

Frequent Use of The Sacraments

They should next consider that the weaker men are, and the more liable to diseases of the soul, which are sins, the more numerous and frequent are the remedies they need. Now the remedies of a sick soul are Penance and the Eucharist; these, therefore, the faithful should frequently make use of.


Next almsdeeds, as the Sacred Scriptures declare, are a medicine suited to heal the wounds of the soul. Wherefore, let those who desire to make pious use of this prayer act kindly to the poor according to their means. Of the great efficacy of alms in effacing the stains of sin, the Angel of the Lord in Tobias, holy Raphael, is a witness, who says: Alms deliver from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting. Daniel is another witness, who thus admonished King Nabuchodonosor: Redeem thou thy sins with alms, and thy iniquities with works of mercy to the poor.

The Spirit of Forgiveness

The best alms and the most excellent act of mercy is forgetfulness of injuries, and good will towards those who have injured us or ours, in person, in property, or in character. Whoever, therefore, desires to experience in a special manner the mercy of God, should make an offering to God Himself of all his enmities, remit every offence, and pray for his enemies with the greatest good will, seizing every opportunity of doing them good. But as this subject was explained when we treated of murder, we refer the pastor to that place.

The pastor ought to conclude his explanation of this Petition with this final reflection, that nothing is, or can be conceived, more unjust than that he who is so rigorous towards men as to extend indulgence to no one, should himself demand that God be mild and kind towards him.


THE FIFTH COMMANDMENT: "Thou shalt not kill"

Importance of Instruction on This Commandment

The great happiness proposed to the peacemakers, of being called the children of God, should prove a powerful incentive to the pastor to explain to the faithful with care and accuracy the obligations imposed by this Commandment. No means more efficacious can be adopted to promote peace among mankind, than the proper explanation of this Commandment and its holy and due observance by all. Then might we hope that men, united in the strictest bonds of union, would live in perfect peace and concord.

The necessity of explaining this Commandment is proved from the following. Immediately after the earth was overwhelmed in universal deluge, this was the first prohibition made by God to man. I will require the blood of your lives, He said, at the hand of every beast and at the hand of man. In the next place, among the precepts of the Old Law expounded by our Lord, this Commandment was mentioned first by Him; concerning which it is written in the Gospel of St. Matthew: It has been said thou shalt not kill, etc.

The faithful, on their part, should hear with willing attention the explanation of this Commandment, since its purpose is to protect the life of each one. These words, Thou shalt not kill, emphatically forbid homicide; and they should be heard by all with the same pleasure as if God, expressly naming each individual, were to prohibit injury to be offered him under a threat of the divine anger and the heaviest chastisements. As, then, the announcement of this Commandment must be heard with pleasure, so also should the avoidance of the sin which it forbids give pleasure.

Two Parts of This Commandment

In the explanation of this Commandment the Lord points out its twofold obligation. The one is prohibitory and forbids us to kill; the other is mandatory and commands us to cherish sentiments of charity, concord and friendship towards our enemies, to have peace with all men, and finally, to endure with patience every inconvenience.

The Prohibitory Part of this Commandment

Exceptions: The Killing of Animals

With regard to the prohibitory part, it should first be taught what kinds of killing are not forbidden by this Commandment. It is not prohibited to kill animals; for if God permits man to eat them, it is also lawful to kill them. When, says St. Augustine, we hear the words, "Thou shalt not kill," we do not understand this of the fruits of the earth, which are insensible, nor of irrational animals, which form no part of human society.

Execution of Criminals

Another kind of lawful slaying belongs to the civil authorities, to whom is entrusted power of life and death, by the legal and judicious exercise of which they punish the guilty and protect the innocent. The just use of this power, far from involving the crime of murder, is an act of paramount obedience to this Commandment which prohibits murder. The end of the Commandment­ is the preservation and security of human life. Now the punishments inflicted by the civil authority, which is the legitimate avenger of crime, naturally tend to this end, since they give security to life by repressing outrage and violence. Hence these words of David: In the morning I put to death all the wicked of the land, that I might cut off all the workers of iniquity from the city of the Lord.

Killing in a Just War

In like manner, the soldier is guiltless who, actuated not by motives of ambition or cruelty, but by a pure desire of serving the interests of his country, takes away the life of an enemy in a just war.

Furthermore, there are on record instances of carnage executed by the special command of God. The sons of Levi, who put to death so many thousands in one day, were guilty of no sin; when the slaughter had ceased, they were addressed by Moses in these words: You have consecrated your hands this day to the Lord.

Killing by Accident

Again, death caused, not by intent or design, but by accident, is not murder. He that killeth his neighbor ignorantly, says the book of Deuteronomy, and who is proved to have had no hatred against him yesterday and the day before, but to have gone with him to the wood to hew wood, and in cutting down the tree the axe slipt out of his hand, and the iron slipping from the handle struck his friend and killed him, shall live. Such accidental deaths, because inflicted without intent or design, involve no guilt whatever, and this is confirmed by the words of St. Augustine: God forbid that what we do for a good and lawful end shall be imputed to us, if, contrary to our intention, evil thereby befall any one.

There are, however, two cases in which guilt attaches (to accidental death). The first case is when death results from an unlawful act; when, for instance, a person kicks or strikes a woman in a state of pregnancy, and abortion follows. The consequence, it is true, may not have been intended, but this does not exculpate the offender, because the act of striking a pregnant woman is in itself unlawful. The other case is when death is caused by negligence, carelessness or want of due precaution.

Killing in Self­-Defence

If a man kill another in self­-defence, having used every means consistent with his own safety to avoid the infliction of death, he evidently does not violate this Commandment.

Negative Part of This Commandment Forbids Murder And Suicide

The above are the cases in which life may be taken without violating this Commandment; and with these exceptions all other killing is forbidden, whether we consider the person who kills, the person killed, or the means used to kill.

As to the person who kills, the Commandment recognizes no exception whatever, be he rich or powerful, master or­ parent. All, without exception or distinction, are forbidden to kill.

With regard to the person killed, the law extends to all. There is no individual, however humble or lowly his condition, whose life is not shielded by this law.

It also forbids suicide. No man possesses such power over his own life as to be at liberty to put himself to death. Hence we find that the Commandment does not say: Thou shalt not kill another, but simply: Thou shalt not kill.

Finally, if we consider the numerous means by which murder may be committed, the law admits of no exception. Not only does it forbid to take away the life of another by laying violent hands on him, by means of a sword, a stone, a stick, a halter, or by administering poison; but also strictly prohibits the accomplishment of the death of another by counsel, assistance, help or any other means whatever.

Sinful Anger Is Also Forbidden By the Fifth Commandment

The Jews, with singular dullness of apprehension, thought that to abstain from taking life with their own hands was enough to satisfy the obligation imposed by this Commandment. But the Christian, instructed in the interpretation of Christ, has learned that the precept is spiritual, and that it commands us not only to keep our hands unstained, but our hearts pure and undefiled; hence what the Jews regarded as quite sufficient, is not sufficient at all. For the Gospel has taught that it is unlawful even to be angry with anyone: But I say to you that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment. And whosoever shall say to his brother, "Raca," shall be in danger of the council. And whosoever shall say, "Thou fool," shall be in danger of hell fire. From these words it clearly follows that he who is angry with his brother is not free from sin, even though he conceals his resentment; that he who gives indication of his wrath sins grievously; and that he who does not hesitate to treat another with harshness, and to utter contumelious reproaches against him, sins still more grievously.

This, however, is to be understood of cases in which no just cause of anger exists. God and His laws permit us to be angry when we chastise the faults of those who are subject to us. For the anger of a Christian should spring from the Holy Spirit and not from carnal impulse, seeing that we should be temples of the Holy Ghost, in which Jesus Christ may dwell.

Our Lord has left us many other lessons of instruction with regard to the perfect observance of this law, such as Not to resist evil; but if one strike thee on thy right cheek, turn to him also the other. And if a man will contend with thee in judgment, and take away thy coat, let go thy cloak also unto him; and whosoever will force thee one mile, go with him two.

Remedies Against the Violation of this Commandment

From what has been said, it is easy to see how inclined man is to those sins which are prohibited by this Commandment, and how many are guilty of murder, if not in fact, at least in desire. As, then, the Sacred Scriptures prescribe remedies for so dangerous a disease, the pastor should spare no pains in making them known to the faithful.

Of these remedies the most efficacious is to form a just conception of the wickedness of murder. The enormity of this sin is manifest from many and weighty passages of Holy Scripture. So much does God abominate homicide that He declares in Holy Writ that of the very beast of the field He will exact vengeance for the life of man, commanding the beast that injures man to be put to death. And if (the Almighty) commanded man to have a horror of blood,' He did so for no other reason than to impress on his mind the obligation of entirely refraining, both in act and desire, from the enormity of homicide.

The murderer is the worst enemy of his species, and consequently of nature. To the utmost of his power he destroys the universal work of God by the destruction of man, since God declares that He created all things for man's sake. Nay, as it is forbidden in Genesis to take human life, because God created man to his own image and likeness, he who makes away with God's image offers great injury to God, and almost seems to lay violent hands on God Himself!

David, thinking of this with a mind divinely illumined, complained bitterly of the bloodthirsty in these words: Their feet are swift to shed blood. He does not simply say, they kill, but, they shed blood, words which serve to mark the enormity of that execrable crime and to denote the barbarous cruelty of the murderer. With a view also to describe in particular how the murderer is precipitated by the impulse of the devil into the commission of such a crime, he says: Their feet are swift.

Positive Part of this commandment

Love of Neighbor Inculcated

The mandatory part of this Commandment, as Christ our Lord enjoins, requires that we have peace with all men. Interpreting the Commandment He says: If therefore thou offer thy gift at the altar, and there thou remember that thy brother hath anything against thee; leave there thy offering before the altar, and go first to be reconciled to thy brother, and then coming thou shalt offer thy gift, etc.

Charity to All Commanded

In explaining this admonition, the pastor should show that it inculcates the duty of charity towards all without exception. In his instruction on the precept he should exhort the faithful as much as possible to the practice of this virtue, since it is especially included in this precept. For since hatred is clearly forbidden by this Commandment, as whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer, it follows, as an evident consequence, that the Commandment also inculcates charity and love.

Patience, Beneficence and Mildness Commanded

And since the Commandment inculcates charity and love, it must also enjoin all those duties and good offices which follow in their train. Charity is patient, says St. Paul. We are therefore commanded patience, in which, as the Redeemer teaches, we shall possess our souls. Charity is kind; beneficence is, therefore, the friend and companion of charity. The virtue of beneficence and kindness has a great range. Its principal offices are to relieve the wants of the poor, to feed the hungry, to give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked; and in all these acts of beneficence we should proportion our liberality to the wants and necessities of those we help.

These works of beneficence and goodness, in themselves exalted, become still more illustrious when done towards an enemy; for our Savior says: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, which also the Apostle enjoins in these words: If thine enemy be hungry, give him to eat: if he thirst, give hint to drink. For, doing this, thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.

Finally, if we consider the law of charity, which is kind, we shall be convinced that to practice the good offices of mildness, clemency, and other kindred virtues, is a duty prescribed by that law.

Forgiveness of Injuries Commanded

But the most important duty of all, and that which is the fullest expression of charity, and to the practice of which we should most habituate ourselves, is to pardon and forgive from the heart the injuries which we may have received from others. The Sacred Scriptures, as we have already observed, frequently admonish and exhort us to a full compliance with this duty. Not only do they pronounce blessed those who do this, but they also declare that God grants pardon to those who really fulfil this duty, while He refuses pardon to those who neglect it, or refuse to obey it.

How to Persuade Men to Forgive Injuries

As the desire of revenge is almost natural to man, it becomes necessary for the pastor to exert his utmost diligence not only to instruct, but also earnestly to persuade the faithful, that a Christian should forgive and forget injuries; and as this is a duty frequently inculcated by sacred writers, he should consult them on the subject, in order to be able to subdue the pertinacity of those whose minds are obstinately bent on revenge, and he should have ready the forcible and appropriate arguments which those Fathers piously employed. The three following considerations, however, demand particular exposition.

All We Have to Endure Comes From God

First, he who thinks himself injured ought above all to be persuaded that the man on whom he desires to be revenged was not the principal cause of the loss or injury. Thus that admirable man, Job, when violently injured by the Sabeans, the Chaldeans, and by Satan, took no account of these, but as a righteous and very holy man exclaimed with no less truth than piety: The Lord gave, the Lord hath taken away. The words and the example of that man of patience should, therefore, convince Christians, and the conviction is most just, that whatever chastisements we endure in this life come from the hand of God, the Father and Author of all justice and mercy. He chastises us not as enemies, but, in His infinite goodness, corrects us as children. To view the matter in its true light, men, in these cases, are nothing more than the ministers and agents of God. One man, it is true, may cherish the worst feelings towards another, he may harbour the most malignant hatred against him; but, without the permission of God, he can do him no injury. This is why Joseph was able patiently to endure the wicked counsels of his brethren, and David, the injuries inflicted on him by Semei.

Here also applies an argument which St. Chrysostom has ably and learnedly handled. It is that no man is injured but by himself. Let the man, who considers himself injured by another, consider the matter in the right way and he will certainly find that he has received no injury or loss from others. For although he may have experienced injury from external causes, he is himself his greatest enemy by wickedly staining his soul with hatred, malevolence and envy.

Advantages of Forgiveness

The second consideration is that there are two advantages, which are the special rewards of those, who, influenced by a holy desire to please God, freely forgive injuries. In the first place, God has promised that he who forgives, shall himself obtain forgiveness of sins, a promise which clearly shows how acceptable to God is this duty of piety. In the next place, the forgiveness of injuries ennobles and perfects our nature; for by it man is in some degree made like to God, Who maketh his sun to shine on the good and the bad, and raineth upon the just and the unjust.
Disadvantages of Revenge

Finally, the disadvantages which arise from the refusal to pardon others are to be explained. The pastor, therefore, should place before the eyes of the unforgiving man that hatred is not only a grievous sin, but also that the longer it is indulged the more deeply rooted it becomes. The man, of whose heart this passion has once taken possession, thirsts for the blood of his enemy. Filled with the hope of revenge, he will spend his days and nights brooding over some evil design, so that his mind seems never to rest from malignant projects, or even from thoughts of blood. Thus it follows that never, or at least not without extreme difficulty, can he be induced generously to pardon an offence, or even to mitigate his hostility. Justly, therefore, is hatred compared to a wound in which the weapon remains firmly embedded.

Moreover, there are many evil consequences and sins which are linked together with this one sin of hatred. Hence these words of St. John: He that hateth his brother, is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth; because the darkness hath blinded his eyes. He must, therefore, frequently fall; for how can anyone view in a favorable light the words or actions of him whom he hates? Hence arise rash and unjust judgments, anger, envy, detractions, and other evils of the same sort, in which are often involved those who are connected by ties of friendship or blood; and thus does it frequently happen that this one sin is the prolific source of many.

Not without good reason is hatred called the sin of the devil. The devil was a murderer from the beginning; and hence our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, when the Pharisees sought His life, said that they were begotten of their father the devil.

Remedies Against Hatred

Besides the reasons already adduced, which afford good grounds for detesting this sin, other and most suitable remedies are prescribed in the pages of Holy Writ.

Of these remedies the first and greatest is the example of the Redeemer, which we should set before our eyes as a model for imitation. For He, in whom even suspicion of fault could not be found, when scourged with rods, crowned with thorns, and finally nailed to a cross, uttered that most charitable prayer: Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. And as the Apostle testifies: The sprinkling of his blood speaketh better than Abel.

Another remedy, prescribed by Ecclesiasticus, is to call to mind death and judgment: Remember thy last end, and. thou shalt never sin." As if he had said: Reflect frequently and again and again that you must soon die, and since at death there will be nothing you desire or need more than great mercy from God, that now you should keep that mercy always before your mind. Thus the cruel desire for revenge will be extinguished; for you can discover no means better adapted, none more efficacious to obtain the mercy of God than the forgiveness of injuries and love towards those who in word or deed may have injured you or yours.


The Enchiridion on Faith, Hope and Love (St. Augustine)

Chapter 73. The Greatest of All Alms is to Forgive Our Debtors and to Love Our Enemies.

But none of those is greater than to forgive from the heart a sin that has been committed against us. For it is a comparatively small thing to wish well to, or even to do good to, a man who has done no evil to you. It is a much higher thing, and is the result of the most exalted goodness, to love your enemy, and always to wish well to, and when you have the opportunity, to do good to, the man who wishes you ill, and, when he can, does you harm. This is to obey the command of God: Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which persecute you. But seeing that this is a frame of mind only reached by the perfect sons of God, and that though every believer ought to strive after it, and by prayer to God and earnest struggling with himself endeavor to bring his soul up to this standard, yet a degree of goodness so high can hardly belong to so great a multitude as we believe are heard when they use this petition, Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; in view of all this, it cannot be doubted that the implied undertaking is fulfilled if a man, though he has not yet attained to loving his enemy, yet, when asked by one who has sinned against him to forgive him his sin, does forgive him from his heart. For he certainly desires to be himself forgiven when he prays, as we forgive our debtors, that is, Forgive us our debts when we beg forgiveness, as we forgive our debtors when they beg forgiveness from us.

Chapter 74. God Does Not Pardon the Sins of Those Who Do Not from the Heart Forgive Others.

Now, he who asks forgiveness of the man against whom he has sinned, being moved by his sin to ask forgiveness, cannot be counted an enemy in such a sense that it should be as difficult to love him now as it was when he was engaged in active hostility. And the man who does not from his heart forgive him who repents of his sin, and asks forgiveness, need not suppose that his own sins are forgiven of God. For the Truth cannot lie. And what reader or hearer of the Gospel can have failed to notice, that the same person who said, I am the Truth, taught us also this form of prayer; and in order to impress this particular petition deeply upon our minds, said, For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses? The man whom the thunder of this warning does not awaken is not asleep, but dead; and yet so powerful is that voice, that it can awaken even the dead.

 Luke 17:3-4 (RSV)  Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him;   4  and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him."

Matthew 18:15-35 (New American Bible)

15 “If your brother sins [against you], go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.  If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, so that ‘every fact may be established on the testimony of two or three witnesses.’   If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.  Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  l Again, [amen,] I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father.   For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”  Then Peter approaching asked him, “Lord, if my brother sins against me, how often must I forgive him? As many as seven times?”  Jesus answered, “I say to you, not seven times but seventy-seven times. 

That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge amount.  Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt.  At that, the servant fell down, did him homage, and said, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.’  Moved with compassion the master of that servant let him go and forgave him the loan.  When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount. He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  Falling to his knees, his fellow servant begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’  But he refused. Instead, he had him put in prison until he paid back the debt.  Now when his fellow servants saw what had happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair.  His master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you begged me to.  Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?’  Then in anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. So will my heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart.”

Luke 15:11-32 (New American Bible)

 Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them.  After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation. When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need.  So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine.  And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any.  Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger.  I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.  I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”’  So he got up and went back to his father. While he was still a long way off, his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion. He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you; I no longer deserve to be called your son.’  But his father ordered his servants, ‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Take the fattened calf and slaughter it. Then let us celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.’ Then the celebration began.  Now the older son had been out in the field and, on his way back, as he neared the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what this might mean.  The servant said to him, ‘Your brother has returned and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ He became angry, and when he refused to enter the house, his father came out and pleaded with him.  He said to his father in reply, ‘Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.’ He said to him, ‘My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours.  But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’”

1 John 5:16 (New American Bible)

If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and he will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly. There is such a thing as deadly sin, about which I do not say that you should pray.

Matthew 5:43-48 (New American Bible)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,  that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same?  So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Luke 23:34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

Exodus 32:9-14 I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are, continued the LORD to Moses. Let me alone, then, that my anger may burn against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation. But Moses implored the LORD, his God, saying, “Why, O LORD, should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a strong hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent he brought them out, that he might kill them in the mountains and wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning wrath; change your mind about punishing your people. Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, and how you swore to them by your own self, saying, ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; and all this land that I promised, I will give your descendants as their perpetual heritage.’” So the LORD changed his mind about the punishment he had threatened to inflict on his people.

Job 42:7-9 And after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger blazes against you and your two friends! You have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job. So now take seven bulls and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves, and let my servant Job pray for you. To him I will show favor, and not punish your folly, for you have not spoken rightly concerning me, as has my servant Job.” Then Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite, went and did as the LORD had commanded them. The LORD showed favor to Job.

Acts 6:59-60 As they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”; and when he said this, he fell asleep.

Denzinger Enchiridion Symbolorum


Dz 897 Contrition, which has the first place among the aforementioned acts of the penitent, is a sorrow of the soul and a detestation of sin committed, with a determination of not sinning in the future. This feeling of contrition is, moreover, necessary at all times to obtain the forgiveness of sins, and thus for a person who has fallen after baptism it especially prepares for the remission of sins, if it is united with trust in divine mercy and with the desire of performing the other things required to receive this sacrament correctly. The holy Synod, therefore, declares that this contrition includes not only cessation from sin and a resolution and a beginning of a new life, but also hatred of the old, according to this statement: "Cast away from you all your transgressions, by which you have transgressed, and make to yourselves a new heart and a new spirit" (Ez 18,31). And certainly, he who has considered those lamentations of the saints: "To Thee only have I sinned, and have done evil before Thee" (Ps 50,6); "I have labored in my groanings; I shall wash my bed every night" (Ps 6,7); "I will recount to Thee all my years in the bitterness of my soul" (Is 38,15), and others of this kind, will readily understand that they emanate from a certain vehement hatred of past life and from a profound detestation of sins.

Dz 898 The Council teaches, furthermore, that though it sometimes happens that this contrition is perfect because of charity and reconciles man to God, before this sacrament is actually received, this reconciliation nevertheless must not be ascribed to the contrition itself without the desire of the sacrament which is included in it. That imperfect contrition [can. 5] which is called attrition, since it commonly arises either from the consideration of the baseness of sin or from fear of hell and its punishments, if it renounces the desire of sinning with the hope of pardon, the Synod declares, not only does not make a person a hypocrite and a greater sinner' but is even a gift of God and an impulse of the Holy Spirit, not indeed as already dwelling in the penitent, but only moving him, assisted by which the penitent prepares a way for himself unto justice. And though without the sacrament of penance it cannot per se lead the sinner to justification, nevertheless it does dispose him to obtain the grace of God in the sacrament of penance. For the Ninivites, struck in a salutary way by this fear in consequence of the preaching of Jonas which was full of terror, did penance and obtained mercy from the Lord (cf. Jon 3). For this reason, therefore, do some falsely accuse Catholic writers, as if they taught that the sacrament of penance confers grace without any pious endeavor on the part of those who receive it, a thing which the Church of God has never taught or pronounced. Moreover, they also falsely teach that contrition is extorted and forced, and that it is not free and voluntary [can. 5]

The Necessity and Fruit of Satisfaction

Dz 904 Finally with regard to satisfaction, which of all the parts of penance has been recommended by our Fathers to the Christian people in all ages, and which is especially assailed in our day under the pretext of piety by those who "have an appearance of piety, but who have denied the power thereof" (2Tm 3,51), the holy Synod declares that it is absolutely false and contrary to the word of God that the guilt is never forgiven by the Lord without the entire punishment also being remitted [can. 12, 15]. For clear and illustrious examples are found in the Sacred Writings (cf. Gn 3,16 f.; Nb 12,14 f.; Nb 20,11 f.; 2S 12,13). f., etc.], besides which divine tradition refutes this error with all possible clarity.  Indeed the nature of divine justice seems to demand that those who have sinned through ignorance before baptism may be received into grace in one manner, and in another those who at one time freed from the servitude of sin and the devil, and on receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, did not fear to "violate the temple of God knowingly" (1Co 3,17), "and to grieve the Holy Spirit" (Ep 4,30). And it befits divine clemency that sins be not thus pardoned us without any satisfaction, lest, seizing the occasion (Rm 7,8), and considering sins trivial, we, offering injury and "affront to the Holy Spirit" (He 10,29), fall into graver ones, "treasuring up to ourselves wrath against the day of wrath" (Rm 2,5 Jc 5,3). For, without doubt, these satisfactions greatly restrain from sin, and as by a kind of rein act as a check, and make penitents more cautious and vigilant in the future; they also remove the remnants Of sin, and destroy vicious habits acquired by living evilly through acts contrary to virtue. Neither was there ever in the Church of God any way considered more secure for warding off impending punishment by the Lord than that men perform these works of penance (Mt 3,28 Mt 4,17 Mt 11,21 etc.) with true sorrow of soul. Add to this that, while we suffer by making satisfaction for our sins, we are made conformable to Christ Jesus, "who made satisfaction for our sins" (Rm 5,10 1Jn 2,1 f.), from whom is all our sufficiency (2Co 3,5), having also a most certain pledge from Him that "if we suffer with Him, we shall also be glorified" (cf. Rm 8,17).


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