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Sin and Suffering

This is the fourth in a series of seven meditations examining the Christian meaning of suffering according to the thought of Pope St. John Paul II in his 1984 apostolic letter “Salvifici Doloris.”

Pope St. John Paul II continues his meditation on suffering by discussing one of the causes of suffering — evil in the form of personal sin. He writes: “The conscious and free violation of this good by man is not only a transgression of the law but at the same time an offense against the Creator, who is the first Lawgiver.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting the great St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas in paragraph 1849) defines sin as “an offense against reason, truth and right conscience.” Therefore, despite what we often hear it is not human to sin. To sin is an act of inhumanity (this is why we refer to serial killers as “animals” because they are acting beneath the dignity of human nature). The original sin ushered in suffering in the first place and as inheritors of concupiscence (“the aftereffect”), we cause suffering for ourselves and others when we commit sins. At the same time, this should not lead us to believe that every suffering we must bear is punishment for our own personal sins. This incomplete answer is the mistake Job’s friends make in trying to make sense out of their friend’s suffering.

Continue reading this article at Catholic San Francisco.

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