Monday, May 12, 2008

Works of Mercy

Much is being said about the pastoral actions of the Archbishops of New York and Kansas City in their public announcements relating to the actions of two pro-abortion politicians who are self-described Catholics.
In the modern post Vatican II era we hear a lot about our responsibility to practice the Works of Mercy. Most often the Works emphasized are the seven Corporal Works:
  1. Feed the hungry.
  2. Give drink to the thirsty.
  3. Cloth the naked.
  4. Welcome the Stranger.
  5. Visit the imprisoned.
  6. Visit the sick.
  7. Bury the dead.
Indeed the many ministries which are common at almost every Catholic Church often concern themselves with fulfilling the requirements of meeting the Corporal Works of Mercy.

All too often the other Works of Mercy, the Spiritual Works of Mercy are overlooked. They are:
  1. Admonish the sinner.
  2. Instruct the ignorant.
  3. Counsel the doubtful.
  4. Comfort the sorrowful.
  5. Bear wrongs patiently.
  6. Forgive all injuries.
  7. Pray for the living and the deceased.
It seems to me that it is a lot harder to be faithful to the Spiritual Works of Mercy than to the Corporal Works of Mercy. Even many secularist (especially of liberal leanings) agree that the requirements of the Corporal Works should be done. Who would speak against feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked? Yet many otherwise faithful Catholics do not feel bishops should admonish sinners.
Oh they're all for general comments on the evil of sin, but start naming names and they talk about how the bishop is overstepping. Now don't misunderstand, naming names is not something to be done lightly. A private sin is just that, private. If confessed, it is between the sinner and their confessor. Even if the sinner does not confess the sin and is unrepentant in most cases informing other third parties of the sin is no more than gossip, and is sinful in itself.
Public sin is another story. A public sinner flaunts their sin. They bring scandal to themselves, and if unadmonished to the Church. They lead others into sin by their example and in some cases even encourage others to sin. When their actions also contest a dogma or doctrine of the Church they flirt with heresy, also a not very popular term in the modern secular world.
One should remember that the purpose of admonishment as well as instruction is correction of the individual with the purpose of the salvation of their soul. So the Spiritual Works of Mercy, like the Corporal Works are to be performed in a spirit of charity, not of pride. Liekwise they are not relegated only to the actions of the Ordinary, but the duty of all Catholics.

No comments: