The Theology of Sin

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Statements like this always bother me.

from My Way of Life
Fr. Walter Farrell and Fr. Martin J Healy

Anything that lessens freedom therfore will also make the sin less grievous. The cold-blooded traitor sins more than the soldier who betrays his comrades under torture.

Fortunately, Tom stops by often enough to explain how a revelation under torture constitutes sin. It seems to lack the key ingredient of will--not under durress. That it is a natural evil, I can believe that it is a sin, and the soul of one tortured might be damned were he to pass on in the course of torture--that strikes me in something like the same way as double predestination. It certainly would give the lie to the statement that "He will not test you beyond your endurance."

Any way, if anyone can explain to me why such a statement extracted during torture is a sin, I would truly appreciate it.

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I wouldn't presume to answer that question because heroism usually dies before the torture chamber. You've probably read Gertrud von Le Fort's "The Song at the Scaffold". Poor frightened Blanche's nerves failed her when faced with the guillotine -- she wanted to endure to the end but her strength broke and she ran straight into the very heart of fear. A great book, an easy read, a love story of God's love for man and man's love for God, where ultimately God's grace is sufficient.

The action objectively is sinful but its guilt cannot be imputed to the person who did the action since they were not free to avoid the action.

Dear Grateful Catholic,

I would buy that the action is objectively evil and the rest of this. It sounded as though the person writing was suggesting imputation of guilt. But this certainly seems reasonable. Thank you.



I suppose it would depend on how 'severe' the torture was. One can imagine a 'mild' amount of torture which would lessen but not totally remove the culpability on the soldier's behalf.

Is that too simplitic an answer?

It would seem that the writer had in mind a soldier whose will is not fully broken; he chooses to betray his comrades rather than endure more pain. Emphasis both on "chooses," signifying an act of the will, albeit not one as free as the traitor's; and on "betrays," which in parallel with the "cold-blooded traitor" suggests a more forthcoming confession than the torture fully excuses.



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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on May 2, 2005 5:44 PM.

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