“The sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin. – Pope Pius XII (in a 1946 address to the United States Catechetical Congress)
Obviously such a sin was already occurring at his time for him to be addressing it. But how much more does that ring true 60 years later?
20 years after Pope Pius XII made that statement Joseph Fletcher founded his famous theory of “Situational Ethics” which basically says that no act has any kind of absolute moral gravity. Every act’s morality depends on the situation. So even lying, murder, stealing, etc. can all be – not only excusable or justified – but inherently good if the situation merits it. In other words, for Fletcher, the end does justify the means.
Of course, this leads us down the slippery slope of immorality to where, in our human weakness, we are able to justify in our heads the most horrendous crimes against humanity and call it “the loving thing to do.”
It led Fletcher to conclusions like:
“Our cultural tradition holds that life has absolute value, but that is really not good enough anymore. Sometimes, no life is better.” – Joseph Fletcher
Scary. Especially when it’s somebody else who is deciding whether or not my life has any value or not to them!
Of course, that’s exactly what we’ve done in our country well over 50 millions times in the last lifetime – over 50 millions abortions. Over 50 million human lives (in the U.S. alone) were ended because somebody else decided for them that “no life is better.”
But on a much broader scale, this is what has happened across the board the past 60 years since Pope Pius XII made that statement.
We’ve forgotten the true cardinal virtues (Prudence, Justice, Fortitude and Temperance) and traded them in for the universal “virtue” of Tolerance (our secular religion). And now we’re so darn tolerant that we even tolerate sin and evil.
We’ve taken the theological virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity from their focus on God and others and redirected them all to focus on ourselves. And once I do that – once sin only concerns myself and I’ve cut God and others out of the equation – then I can’t even see why a sin is a sin. The word sin doesn’t even make sense to me.
We’ve numbed ourselves. We’ve lost our sense of sin.
On a physical level, this is similar to a chef losing his sense of touch. If he’s cooking in the kitchen and he picks up a pan that is too hot, his sense of touch tells him, “hey, that’s too hot – that hurts!” And so he lets go and corrects his behavior.
The pain he felt when he touched the hot pan was actually healthy. It told him that his grabbing the hot pan was hurting his body. If he had no sense of touch, he would have kept on burning his hand and injuring his body.
Our culture says, “No, the problem was not that you touched the hot pan. The problem is that your body told you it was bad to touch the hot pan. Who am I to tell you that touching a hot pan is bad for you. Here is some pain medication. Now you can touch the hot pan as much as you want and you won’t feel a thing!”
The sense of sin works similarly. We need our sense of sin to know when we are sinning – to know when we’re injuring our souls. And our culture says, “No, the problem is not that you’ve sinned. The problem is that you just need to get over that guilt complex you’ve got – it’s not real. It’s all in your head. And it’s keeping you from enjoying what you want to do. (oh, and here’s some pain medication that will help with that too).”
We’ve lost our sense of sin to the point that we don’t even believe Sin exists anymore. And that is why this, itself, is the sin of the century.
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist.” – Verbal from The Usual Suspects (movie)