The moral chaos of "sincere sin"

June 6, 1995

Dear Friends and Benefactors,

There is so much chaos in men's minds today, that good old-fashioned analyses of how men think and behave can need to be carefully re-applied if they are not to come out false. For instance, normally any man who utters heresy all the time is a formal heretic and is to be judged as such, but today, not necessarily. Similarly any man who is plunged in sin and pretends to be doing good, is a hypocrite and there is no sincerity in him, but today, not necessarily, in fact today, sincere sinners are as common as dandelions! If we are not to lose our heads, or lose our footing, in the rising tide of chaos around us, we need to take a look .....

One such "sincere sinner", and the perplexity of a Catholic priest trying to analyse his case, is well portrayed in the article enclosed, "Pray for the Guy Across the Street, Too". This article consists of a prolonged quotation from a plea for contributions by the Franciscan priest, Fr. Bruce Ritter, who was, at the time he wrote it, running his famous "Covenant House" ministry to abandoned and degraded children in the notorious red-light district of 42nd street, New York City.

In it he tells how one day the man operating one of the most immoral brothels on 42nd street — let us name him El Dorado, from his car — took up a collection from his young employees (!) and customers (!!) on behalf of Fr. Ritter's work, and when Fr. Ritter sent the tainted money back to him, he returned to Covenant House the following day to express his righteous indignation—he had meant well in making the gift and Fr. Ritter had had no right to refuse it. See El Dorado's own words at the top of the second column.

Now at this point, following the rule-book, Fr. Ritter could simply have ruled out of court El Dorado's second appearance like his first, but, more true to life, Fr. Ritter goes on to describe how, instead, El Dorado's apparent sincerity and good intentions sent his mind "reeling". Fr. Ritter concludes with a paragraph on his own unworthiness and kinship with the sinner and finally appeals for prayers for him, with the wish that he himself understood how such a sinner could seem so sincere.

Now by the rule-book it is not difficult to judge El Dorado's actions: by running the brothel, etc., by organising, promoting and exploiting the wholesale violation by numerous souls of God's 6th and 9th Commandments, he is gravely sinning. When he says he hurts nobody, he lies at least objectively and maybe also subjectively because for one moment he admits he is "in a bad business". It is no excuse that he has four kids, that he has to make a living, that he cleaned up his place and made the girls stop stealing, etc., because it is forbidden to do evil to bring about good, the end cannot justify the means. And that he goes to Church, tithes, does not like children getting hurt and says "God bless you", is all irrelevant so long as he intends to go on committing the major sin of running the brothel. Until he seriously repents of that sin and takes serious action to stop committing it, his money is tainted at source, and the priest has the right to refuse it and even the duty to do so, to prevent scandal and confusion.

Yet who with knowledge of real souls in real life today will dismiss as a mere sham the sincerity and good intentions of El Dorado appearing through his words and deeds as related by Fr. Ritter? Yet if El Dorado's sincerity and good intentions are not a mere sham, how are they to be reconciled with his life of sin?

Of course men have always been contradictory in their behaviour, a mixture of good and evil, and the contradiction is, strictly speaking, resolved, when one observes that what is good is not evil and what is evil is not good. For instance what is sincere in El Dorado is not hypocritical, and what is hypocritical (he says he hurts nobody, but at the same time he admits he is "in a bad business") is not sincere.

Nevertheless, have "sincere sinners" ever before been the norm as one might say they are today? Nothing Fr. Ritter experienced in those 1980's was beyond the reach of the moral theology he had learned in his manuals at the Seminary, yet had any of those manuals prepared him for the scale and degree of what he experienced with the El Dorados of 42nd Street?

The moral chaos of "sincere sin" is rising all the time, it made Fr. Ritter giddy and it threatens to engulf us all, unless we can keep our heads by seeing where it comes from and where it is going.

Essentially, "Sincere sin" on the modern scale comes from religious liberty. In the old days when all men knew that there is a God and that He lays down Ten Commandments, and when they built their nations and ran their social life on that basis, then whenever a man did evil, he and everyone else knew it to be evil, and if he wanted to pretend he was doing good, then he was a hypocrite and again everybody knew it. Good was good and evil was evil. Men may have been naughty but the principles were not confused.

Nowadays on the contrary, when men base their nations and social life not on God and His Ten Commandments but on religious liberty, so that logically God and His Commandments become a matter of choice and all moral principles become in society's view optional and confused, then whenever a man does evil — what is evil any longer? — he and everyone else no more so clearly know it to be evil, so he can that much more easily delude himself and everyone else that he is doing good when he sins, so he can be to all appearances a sincere sinner.

Of course God is not deluded, and no man or society however perverse can escape from His eye or deceive His judgment. Nor can any man not be receiving from God sufficient grace to save his soul and sufficient natural light in his conscience to see what he really is doing - notice how El Dorado knows that looking after four kids is good and 42nd Street business is bad — so that even today "sincere sin" has its limits. Notwithstanding, religious liberty is where almost endless moral chaos comes from.

Where is it heading to? For a long time among the nations only the Unites States of America was founded on religious liberty, the idea of which had been imported from Europe, but with Vatican II, the full-blown practice of religious liberty was re-exported by Cardinal Spellman and the American bishops to Rome, into the heart of the Catholic Church, from where recent Popes are exporting it all over the world, which is why sin is being abolished world-wide and sinners everywhere are becoming more and more sincere! The more widely religious liberty expands, the more it unhooks men's minds from objective truth and morality, the more men's minds are cut adrift, the more El Dorados sincerely sin and the more moral chaos swirls around the feet of a Fr. Ritter, so that many a good priest has lost his footing.

The priest must pray much, to obtain from God indispensable grace, light and strength. He must love truth and have a horror for religious liberty, in all its forms. He must avoid over-exposure to chaos, and so must realistically measure his capacities and limit his activities. And he always needs to pray for, and to be prayed for by, his people.

Here at Winona, after priestly ordinations on Saturday, June 24, there are still rooms free for the men's retreats from June 28th to July 1st and from July 17th to July 22nd, and for the Doctrinal Session, "The Answer to Oklahoma", from July 25th to July 29th, which will consist mainly of social Encyclicals of Leo XIII.

Note also, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Society of St. Pius X on November 1 of this year, a pilgrimage from Oct 23 to Nov 3 to Paris, Lourdes, La Salette, EcĂ´ne, etc., being organized out of Connecticut. For details ring Mrs. di Cecco at (203) 261-1133, fax (203) 261-3355.

And may the one true God who allows no right to religious liberty bless you all abundantly.

Sincerely yours in Christ,