SIX VOLUMES IN ONE
BY THE DISTINGUISHED EXPONENTS OF CATHOLICISM
REV. HENRY DODRIDGE, D. D.
REV. HENRY EDWARD MANNING, D. D.
REV. F. LEWIS, of Granada
REV. STEPHEN KEENAN
REV. BERNARD VAUGHAN, S. J.
REV. THOMAS N. BURKE, O. P.
EXPOUNDING OF SIN
Q. What is sin ?
A. It is defined by St. Augustine to be any thought, word, or deed, against the law of God; which includes all sins of omission, which are interpreted in an affirmative sense. It also includes all human laws, civil and ecclesiastical, which are God's laws radically ; for as St. Paul says, he who resisteth power, resisteth the ordinance of God. Rom. xiii. 2.
Q. Is it necessary to avoid sin above all things, and why ?
A. Yes, it is necessary; and the reason is, because it is sin alone that makes us enemies to God, and damns us eternally. Jer. ii. 19. 1 Jo. iii. 6, etc.
Q. What is required to make an action sinful ?
A. It must be voluntary, and it is said to be voluntary, when it proceeds from knowledge and deliberation, and without force. For instance, the actions of children and madmen, and of one dragged to idolatry, are not voluntary.
Q. What kind of fear mitigates sin, and how shall it be known ?
A. The fear of great evil, as death, etc., whereby persons of the strongest resolutions, are driven to evil actions. But there is a difference between the law of nature, and divine positive laws; human laws, Ecclesiastical and civil. In the latter, viz.: Ecclesiastical and civil, the fear of death, or some great evil, may commonly excuse the offender totally, but not in the two first. I say commonly, for if the public good be concerned, he is not excused. For instance, a soldier cannot desert his post; nor can a Catholic eat flesh on prohibited days, when the honor of the church is concerned.
Q. Does concupiscence render an action involuntary ?
A. No, it rather increases it.
Q. When does ignorance make an action involuntary ?
A. In three cases, viz.: When we are not obliged to know; when not affected; when otherwise we should not have done the action.
Q. What things are to be considered to know the nature of moral action ?
A. Several, viz.: Knowledge, will, intention, election or choice, council, consent and fact.
Q. How many sorts of moral actions are there, and how known ?
A. In general two, good and bad; which are known by their object, end, and circumstances, so that no action is indifferent (in individuo).
Q. Pray tell me how many kinds of sins there are?
A. Two, viz.: Original and actual.
Q. What is original sin, and which are the evils we suffer by it ?
A. Original sin, is the sin in which we are all born, through the disobedience of our first father Adam. Rom. v. 12. Eph. ii. 3. The evils which proceed from it, are death, sickness, labor, and inclination and facility to do evil, a slackness and difficulty to do good; and lastly, an eternal loss of heaven, unless we are cleansed by baptism. St. Jo. iii. 5.
Q. What is actual sin?
A. It is the sin we commit ourselves, such as cursing, swearing, lying, stealing, etc.
Q. How many ways is actual sin committed ?
A. Several, viz.: By thoughts, words, deeds, or actions; by infirmity, ignorance, malice, omission, etc.
Q. How many kinds of actual sins are there ?
A. Two, mortal and venial.
Q. What is mortal sin ?
A. It is a sin whereby we lose the grace and love of God, and make ourselves liable to eternal damnation. St. James i. 15.
Q. Why is it called mortal sin?
A. Because it kills the soul.
Q. How can that be since the soul is immortal ?
A. Because, as I said before, by mortal sin the soul loses the grace of God, which is its spiritual life; and makes itself guilty of the eternal flames of hell, which is the worst of death. Rom. viii. 9 et 10. Psalm xxxiii. 22.
Q. Can a person be damned for only one mortal sin ?
A. Yes, certainly; for the devils have been damned for one bad thought.
Q. What is venial sin?
A. It is a much less offence, whereby the grace of God is not lost; but it lessens his love in our hearts. Prov. xxiv. 16. St. Matthew xii.
Q. What rules can you give that we may know mortal sins from venial?
A. The principal rules are these. First, mortal sins are marked in the Scripture by the word wo, the threats of deserving death, eternal pain, excluding from heaven, etc. Secondly, the opinion of the fathers and divines, when they all agree; and when they differ to follow the safer part. The third general rule, is reason, viz.: When the dishonor done to God, and injury to our neighbor, is notoriously against the love of God and charity.
Q. What consideration may induce us to judge sins are only venial?
A. Chiefly two, viz.: Surreption or surprise, and smallness or trifle of matter.
Q. Can a sin that is venial become mortal ?
A. No, because it is a contradiction. However, venial sins dispose a person to commit mortal; for as Ecclesiasticus tells us, C. xix. 1. He who contemneth small faults, shall fall by degrees into greater.
Q. Can a sin that is mortal of its nature, be only venial by accident ?
A. Yes, in three cases chiefly, viz.: To steal a trifle. Secondly, for want of deliberation. And thirdly, for want of sufficient use of reason, as in children, and persons half asleep.
Q. Can a sin that is only venial of its own nature, become mortal by accident ?
A. Yes, for instance, he who thinks a venial to be a mortal one, and yet commits it. Secondly, by contempt. Thirdly, by danger.
Q. Which are the most common venial sins ?
A. These following, viz.: Idle words; small excesses in eating or drinking; too much pleasure in diversions; jocose lies, or lies out of excuse; coming late to prayers; neglecting alms; harsh words; and flattering speeches; small thefts; distractions in time of prayer not fully resisted, etc.
Q. Are we obliged to avoid venial sins, and why ?
A. We ought undoubtedly; and the reason is, because they are a token of the want of zeal for God's service; they likewise weaken the will, and incline it to mortal sin, for a wound neglected gangrenes, and a garment torn is to be immediately mended; besides, it diminishes the grace of God, and makes us liable to grievous torments, which we must suffer in purgatory if we do not make satisfaction in this life.
Q. Can venial sins be forgiven without the sacrament of penance ?
A. Yes, by sacramentals, viz.: Holy water, signing with the sign of the cross, alms, fasting, etc. Yet these things suppose the performer to be in the state of grace, that is to say, free from all mortal sin, and that every work is accompanied with inward devotion, and acts of the mind; because they do not produce their effects by their own force.
Q. Which are the intrinsic causes of sin ?
A. Ignorance of the understanding; passion of the sensitive appetite, and malice of the will.
Q. What is ignorance, and how does it concur to sin ?
A. It is a three-fold, viz.: Invincible, affected, and supine.
Q. What is invincible ignorance?
A. When it is not in our power to know a thing, and it excuses from sin.
Q. What is affected ignorance?
A. When a person knows not a thing which he is obliged to know, and might have known it, but neglected it. This does not excuse from sin.
Q. What is supine ignorance?
A. When a thing may be known with ease. This excuses not from sin.
Q. What are the things we are obliged to know?
A. First, all Christian or religious duties. Secondly, what belongs to our particular state or calling.
Q. What is passion, and when does it excuse or aggravate sin ?
A. A sin of passion is called a sin of infirmity; it is grounded in self-love. Passion does not excuse from sin; yet strong passion diminishes it, because it renders sin less voluntary. If passion is so violent as to hinder reason entirely, it excuses from sin. But passion consequent, or which comes after sin, aggravates it; but antecedent, or going before, diminishes it.
Q. What is a sin of malice?
A. It proceeds from clear knowledge, reflection, or habit, and is a great aggravation.
Q. What is a sin of omission ?
A. It is the omitting to do what God or his church commands; as for example, if a rich person neglects to give alms, or any one should neglect to say his daily prayers, or neglect to hear mass when he can, upon a Sunday, etc.
Q. What is a circumstance, and how many circumstances are there?
A. It is something belonging to an action, but not of its substance. Aristotle and St. Thomas name several, viz.: Who, what, where, with what help, why, how, when. Who, denotes the person, as whether a religious man or layman, a relation or otherwise, a married person or single. This circumstance is to be declared in sins of impurity, murder, etc. What, denotes the quantity, as how much, or whether consecrated or not. This circumstance is to be declared in sins of theft. Where, denotes the place, as whether in the church, or any other sacred place: this circumstance is to be declared in sins of theft, murder and carnal sins in fact. With what help, denotes the scandal given, whereby others might be in danger of being drawn into sin, or whereby God may be dishonored, and his church brought into contempt: this circumstance chiefly regards all public sins. Why, denotes the motive, intention, or end: this circumstance is to be declared, when the end of doing an action is a mortal sin in itself, as for example, to steal a sword, with a design or intention to kill a man with it. How, denotes whether done out of ignorance or knowledge. When, denotes the time how long. This circumstance properly belongs to the sins of desire, anger, and ill-will; so that persons should declare how long they continued in the same dismal desires, anger, hatred, and the like, without interruption.
Q. What circumstances are we obliged to express in confession?
A. All those which change the species or nature of the sin, as the council of Trent has defined. Again, all those circumstances which change not the species, but which very much aggravate, according to the most probable opinion, are to be confessed, viz.: Stealing from the indigent, etc.
Q. Whence do sins derive their enormity?
A. Sins derive their nature from the object; and the more worthy the object that is abused, the greater is the sin. Hence, sins immediately against God are greater than those against ourselves or neighbors. Spiritual sins are greater than carnal. Sins against our neighbor's soul are greater than those against his person or goods, but this is to be taken when equally compared; as the ruin of a man's soul is worse than the destruction of his person or goods. Again, the enormity may be compared as to the cause: hence sins of malice exceed sins of ignorance and passion.
Q. Which are the degrees whereby sins are committed ?
A. These four, viz.: Suggestion, delectation, consent, and fact.
Q. What is suggestion, and how far sinful?
A. Suggestion is the first impression of a temptation : it is not sinful if only resisted. In carnal sins, it is often a venial sin, especially when occasion is given to it by dangerous objects.
Q. What is delectation?
A. It is to take pleasure in thinking on what is sinful, though there be no consent to commit the fact. If the fact be a mortal sin, the delectation is a mortal sin: if the fact be venial, the delectation is only venial. This delectation commonly happens in sins of the flesh, envy, anger, revenge, etc. Now this delectation may happen two ways, by taking a pleasure in the thought, or in the thing itself, and by consenting to the pleasure. When there is delectation in the pleasure, it is called morosa, and is accompanied with consent, viz.: In the voluntary delight.
Q. What is consent?
A, When a person resolves to commit the sin.