The Ravages of Foregrounding Culpability

Part 3

Second, in our moral teaching, almost the first words out of our mouths have been, “Well, we cannot judge your heart.” We wax eloquent on this for a while. Then we issue the commandment: But the objective call is not to fornicate, not to contracept, etc.

But all sinners are as adolescent boys and girls. Waiting with Pavlovian lust the bell that ends your lecture so as to carry out the very deed proscribed. So, when we speak thus it is as though we were addressing 15 year old males and telling them that should they fornicate we cannot judge them, but that there is some remote objective norm that they would be violating. “You are such pathetic infantile and lusty souls that you will probably disobey. But we cannot judge. Still, it is the ideal that you do not fornicate.”

Success us unlikely with these approaches. Evangelical success and moral success.

Why? We have “foregrounded” culpability. We have put it in bold, underlined it, waxed on it, etc. In fact, we should pretty much bury culpability. Bury it for the confessionals. Attention to culpability is the job of the priest when the penitent is wailing, not when he is plotting his next subjectively innocent violation of God’s pattern of life.

For every action, there is some reaction. When we foreground culpability, we incentivize sinners to continue in the sin, betting on their innocence. We fail to bring the good news to non-Catholics, the good news that Jesus established the Catholic Church as the one only Church, the only community of salvation, the ark without which we drown in the deluge, the harbor of rest from our labors, the mother with abundant breasts for us starving drifting souls, the one who dispenses our final farewell that we might not be taken down by the demons to hell but up with the angels to heaven. Why is this not front and center for us? Because we enjoy our café latte with the pagan or anti-Catholic or non-Catholic who is kind and a good pal, as we fail to show him the precariousness of his lot outside the Church?