A good person can through his goodness turn a mistaken bit of advice to good. A bad person can through his wickedness turns a bit of good advice to his own evil ends.
How, then, will a bad person take bad advice? How will he model himself on a bad example? He will make it twice the evil it was and plunge into ruin. Thus, to offer ambiguous words to one who is himself lost, or to a world of people who are lost and floundering like sheep…, this is to lead them astray.
For instance, consider someone’s saying that whatever we do, we are still loved by God and that therefore, nothing in the universe – not an angel nor a demon, not money nor poverty, … not a good act nor even a wicked act – can keep us from the love of God. (This last inference is of course a false reading of Rom 8. For we know by divine faith that every wicked act separates us from the love of God. Every wicked act casts out grace and charity. We pilgrims remain the objects of God’s love. The damned in hell do not. However, we pilgrims are not, after mortal sin, sharers in the divine love. And whoever is not a sharer in divine love is in the state of mortal sin. And whoever is in mortal sin is fit for eternal damnation in hell. Hence, repent whilst you live and before your last breath escapes you.) –
Now, if someone says that whatever we do, we remain in God’s love, implying that we remain sharers in divine love no matter what we do, even should we sin, this person has spoken falsity. He has spoken something false. He has spoken evil. Even if with good intentions. Distinguish the intention of the speaker and the objectively disordered fact of what was spoken. So, if he advises you on this basis, he gives you evil advice. Again, even if with good intentions.
Now, here is the key: WHAT does a wicked man do with such advice, such “kind words”? A wicked man has his heart set on anything but God. When he hears such advice, he rejoices. If the advice is true, he can enjoy his immediate goods – pleasure, comfort, a nice day at the club, etc. – without ordering them to God and yet, after his tired body gives way and he dies, he will end up with the true good, God. “Wow! Win Win! I can enjoy my idols now, and the True God later.” Thus spaketh the evil man, but it is not so.
The holy prophets condemned all attitudes such as this. The hypocrites put money in the coffers for sacrifices, precisely so that they could keep pursuing their wicked ends presently. Thus, the hypocrites “covered” their bets. Thus, Isaiah and all the other prophets reject this hypocrisy. What we have here is no love of God but love of self unto the contempt of God’s will, of his law, and hence of Him who gives the law. And the prophets also condemned the priests for not preaching to the people the truth of Moses’s law. The priests enjoyed the revenue. Their coffers remained full. For if they confronted lovers of Ba’al with the Mosaic Law, their coffers would dry up – so they thought. God would not save them – so they thought. And so there was an evil alliance between the priests and the people. The people made clear that the money would come in only if the preaching were remote, distant, and “not the whole truth”.
What about today? What if someone should offer advice that is objectively mixed or ambiguous? What if someone should give an example that is objectively mixed or ambiguous? Or worse?
What if, for instance, an important religious figure should drink the drink of a chalice in a pagan sacrifice? Now, pagan religions are false religions; none of them are instituted by God. Yes, there are some “elements” of truth in some pagan religions. More in some, less in others. Probably truth in all of them. But all these truths serve the total religion. Taken in isolation, they can benefit. But taken as serving that total religion, they lead to something false. For instance, it is true that “something is wrong with us”. Pagan religions that sacrifice humans because “something is wrong with us” thus give witness to a truth, yet they bend that entire witness to something wholly evil, human sacrifice. Now, when one embraces a pagan sacrifice by drinking its cup, one is objectively saying that the sacrifice is ok, acceptable. That the god (who is no god) worshiped is a true god. That the way of worship is divinely willed. That this is acceptable and good. Perhaps interiorly the non-pagan who drinks from the cup is saying “yes” only to the search that pagan practitioners might be engaging, the search for the one true God. Interiorly, he is well intentioned. Perhaps he hopes that he is doing something like St. Paul, who in Athens (Acts 17) points out a pagan temple “To the Unknown God.” However, St. Paul simply pointed out the temple. He did not pray its prayers. He did not drink its cup. He thus clearly remained distinct from its celebration. A Christian can have no share with a pagan ritual. This is Paul’s very clear teaching. Thus, it is objectively evil to participate in a pagan ceremony. And if an important leader does it – even with a good interior intention – he misleads those who look to him as leader. They can begin to think, falsely, that maybe other religions are indeed ways to God. They can begin to think, falsely, that there is not “one true religion.”
Or again, for instance, if an important figure should obscurely imply that one goes to hell only if one is full of absolute malice, that figure has misled those who look to him. If he has spoken imprecisely, it is better he clarifies his imprecision. For it is not only by pure malice that one goes to hell. One goes to hell for any single mortal sin for which one does not repent. When a man sees an attractive woman, is attracted, and wishes to be with her here and now, he does not wish an pure hatred. He does not absolutely destroy his desire for truth and love. He does not make all things a lie. He does not live for destruction. He does not suppress all love. No. He simply wishes a warm, pleasurable embrace with an attractive woman. And yet, and yet – he has done grave evil, for she is not his wife.
Pope John Paul II teaches authoritatively the constant dogma of the Church that any mortal sin merits eternal damnation:
In point of fact, man does not suffer perdition only by being unfaithful to that fundamental option whereby he has made a ‘free self-commitment to God.’ With every freely committed mortal sin, he offends God as the giver of the law and as a result becomes guilty with regard to the entire law (cf. Jas 2:8–11); even if he perseveres in faith, he loses ‘sanctifying grace,’ ‘charity’ and ‘eternal happiness.’ (John Paul II, Veritatis splendor, art. 68)
Thus, our trepidation that many are on the road to damnation – which is the teaching of our Lord and Savior – should not be mitigated because we seldom find someone who is incarnate evil, a Scrooge or a Hitler, a Woman Trafficker, etc. No, we should take no solace in the false notion that only absolute malice merits hell. Rather, we should fear that there is a myriad who are lukewarm, ready to be spewed out of our Lord’s mouth. These are they who are kind to their neighbor but really idolaters, who wish to embrace sexually now though they are not married and to pursue the truth later. Who wish to have comfort now and pursue true goodness later. A teacup here and there, parting the hair beyond, wearing white trousers and walking upon the beach on Sunday, not going to Mass. Not with malice. With indifference, for the inconvenience. But this too is evil.
Again, what if an important figure should say something like, “God doesn’t need the Eucharist.” What kind of saying is that? It is absurdly beside the point. It is a category mistake. It’s like saying, “God is not religious.” This is absurd, a category mistake. God needs nothing. However, He does will that WE need things. He wills that we need baptism, e.g. He wills that we receive the very body He assumed in becoming man. He wills these things. Thus, saying “God doesn’t need the Eucharist” is a completely inane comment. It has no point. However, it tends objectively to mislead people. It leads people quite naturally to think that the Eucharist is no longer necessary. It is like saying that God is not a member of the one true Church. True, but this is a totally beside the point and objectively misleading statement. For membership in the one true Church is objectively necessary for salvation.
Again, what if an important figure should say something like, “Yes any two fornicators are living together, but you cannot judge them.” This too is an inane comment. No, we cannot judge the heart of anyone. We have not the capacity to do so with accuracy. Nor have we the permission. The heart is the sanctuary of man with God. However, we can and indeed we must judge actions. Two fornicators are committing a gravely evil act. John Paul II teaches that it is perfectly traditional to call this “mortal sin” (see Veritatis splendor). We must not judge, or try to establish the degree of culpability. However, we know that this is an evil act. And we know that whoever knows that sex is for marriage and who has the use of free will and really embraces that act is sinning. We know this. And we know that every Catholic should know and is responsible to know this teaching. And we know that those who consider themselves adults also consider they have the use of free will. They are not severely handicapped. Nor are they slumbering, only dreaming. They are awake, making plans to meet and fornicate. Everything hear points to trepidation. Hence, we must pray for these.
What to do with evil advice?
Every man must seek the good and avoid the evil. A Catholic benefits here immediately. A Catholic has Holy Mother Church to teach him. “Lord, what good must I do so as to attain eternal life?” Our Lord gave us the Church to teach us. And the Church teaches very clearly that unnatural sex acts are gravely sinful; they are mortal sins. For instance, masturbation is gravely evil. Unnatural sex acts the Church teaches are of greater evil than fornication. For they are unnatural, counter natural. Holy Mother Church in her actual Magisterial teaching – this is where a Catholic should go for sound counsel! And if any counsel opposes these teachings, that counsel is evil. If any example counters these teachings, that example is evil. No matter how well intended.
Now, since the good seek the good, the good, when they witness bad examples, find some ingredients that are true in them. The good who hear bad counsel take opportunity for the good. When David was wrongly rebuked by some heckler, he took good occasion to humble himself. The good will turn evil examples and bad advice to the good. For they are anchored in True Teachings. In the Infallible and Eternal teachings of Holy Mother Church.
But the wicked seek their own idols. Perhaps some of them are “full of hatred”. But most of them are the lukewarm whom Christ shall spew out should they not take up the saving grace he offers them. Most of them simply want that warm embrace tonight, or that unnatural activity in the dark. And these will take wicked advice to be approval. These will take bad example, bad counsel, as another reason to continue in their sin, and perhaps to make progress in it. Thus, bad advice leads bad people to hell. Sheep who are floundering need solid advice, clear advice, unambiguous advice.
God forbid if good people should be confused by bad advice, objectively bad counsel, bad example. Scandal is sin. Deliberate scandal is diabolical.
Let us put off the clouds of darkness. Let us drink from the actual Teachings of Holy Mother Church and not from the confusions and paganisms of the day. Let us reject all ambiguous example, bad counsel, misleading words. Let us cling to what is truly taught. How shall we discern the difference? We must know what constitutes a Magisterial teaching and what is simply opinion, personal opinion or comment. We must know the Tradition. Know the Magisterial Teachings. And we best begin with the Infallible and highest teachings.