- Faith and Worship
- How Do I...
Official Website of the
Catholic Diocese of Little Rock
Published: November 30, 2017
By Father Jason Tyler
Harvey Weinstein. Bill O’Reilly. Roger Ailes. Bill Cosby.
Throughout the past few years, we have heard about accusations of sexual misconduct against these men — and against others, too. The particularities of the allegations differ somewhat for each man.
Cosby, for example, was accused of drugging and assaulting women, but the accusations against O’Reilly were of sexual harassment rather than sexual assault. In other words, O’Reilly was accused of using his position of power to seek sexual favors but was not accused of using physical force in the process.
Our own sinful actions make us more disposed to sin again because they weaken our understanding of what is good and make it difficult for us to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of future actions.
Even with these differences, one thing is common among these stories: each man has been accused by multiple women.
For fans of the accused, the number of accusations can be especially disheartening. One can more plausibly dispute a single accusation, but multiple accusations suggest a pattern of behavior. They also make the observer wonder just what the heck is going on in the mind (and soul) of the alleged perpetrator.
To understand how someone can fall into such a pattern of behavior, we must understand the effects of sin on the sinner. When we sin, we damage our relationship with God, and we often harm our neighbor as well.
“But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself,” the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us in paragraph 1459. That same paragraph points out, “Absolution takes away the sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused.”
The word “disorders” here does not necessarily refer to a sickness, either physical or mental. Rather, the “disorders” caused by sin are whatever has been damaged because of the sin, whatever has been put “out of order.”
For example, if someone commits the sin of vandalism, the property damage is a disorder that has occurred. For any sin, the disorders include the pain experienced by the victim, any physical damage inflicted and even the sinner’s future judgment and behavior.
“Sin creates a proclivity to sin,” says the catechism, no. 1865. Such proclivity “engenders vice,” which “results in perverse inclinations which cloud conscience and corrupt the concrete judgment of good and evil.”
In other words, our own sinful actions make us more disposed to sin again because they weaken our understanding of what is good and make it difficult for us to evaluate the rightness or wrongness of future actions.
We cannot see into the hearts and minds of the men whose names I mentioned earlier. In fact, my purpose here is not to pronounce them guilty; our society has a legal system to make that judgment. Rather, as we reflect on the confusion caused by anyone whose previously hidden transgressions harmed multiple people, we see how each wrongdoer also harms himself or herself in the process.
In our own lives, too, we must be conscious of what our actions do in forming — or deforming — our character. If I steal, I become a thief. If I murder, I become a murderer. If I gossip, I become a gossiper. Even our venial sins have a harmful effect on our souls, making it easier to commit them again and making it easier to commit larger sins also.
The good news is that God never abandons us. Even if we turn away from him many times, he still offers us the possibility of coming back.
In sorrow for our sins, we seek the outpouring of God’s love; in the sacrament of reconciliation, we return to a right relationship with God; and through acts of penance, we can “re-establish habits befitting a disciple of Christ” (catechism, no. 1494). Sin destroys the sinner, but God’s grace is always stronger.