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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: June ::
Re: Isabella's Chastity
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.1222  Wednesday, 14 June 2000.

From:           Edmund M. Taft <
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Date:           Tuesday, 13 Jun 2000 23:57:30 +0000
Subject:        Isabella's Chastity

The distinction between sin and crime is important in two cases: (1) if
the law is unjust and contrary to Divine law: and (2) if a person cannot
survive without breaking a "just" law, e.g., if a man has a starving
family for whom he cannot, through no fault of his own, provide.  In
this case, canon law establishes the doctrine of "Occult Compensation,"
by means of which he may steal what he needs for his family and himself
to survive without having committed any sin (though he HAS committed a
crime).  The general connection between sin and crime is in the final
paragraph of this post.

The doctrine of "Occult Compensation" was first codified in Pope Leo
XIII's famous Encyclical "Rerum Novarum," published on May 15, 1891.  I
do not have a copy but believe that it is in a section entitled "Just
Compensation." In an informal way, however, this concept was operative
centuries earlier.

Don asks for precise references to a doctrine concerning the will that
is universally known and generally considered a theological
commonplace.  Nonetheless, it can be found in Augustine in _The
Confessions of Saint Augustine_, trans. F. J. Sheed (New York: Sheed &
Ward, 1943): 112ff.  The General Chapter Title  is "The Nature of Sin
and Evil," and the most pertinent paragraph begins, "So I set myself to
examine an idea I had heard -- namely that our free-will is the cause of
our doing evil . . . _and I came to see that the cause of my sin lay
there_" (emphasis added).

Augustine then builds on this idea in a Chapter entitled "The Two
Cities," which can be found in _City of God_, trans. Marcus Dods
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1873, Vol. 2): 15-29.  The most pertinent heading
is "That in Adam's sin an evil will preceded the evil act": "The wicked
deed, then, -- that is to say, the transgression of eating the forbidden
fruit, -- was committed by persons who were already wicked" (21).  [They
are already wicked and sinful because the will alone is enough to
establish that they have sinned and thus already broken God's law.]

Aquinas is even more explicit than Augustine.  In _Summa Theologica_,
trans.  the Fathers of the English Dominican Province (New York:
Benziger Brothers, 1915, Vol. 10): 25-39, Aquinas discusses Government
and "Whether one man is bound to obey another."  In his replies to
Objections 3,4, and 5, he states that God judges wrongdoing "not only by
the outward deed but also the inward will" (36-37).  Thus, citizens must
cultivate the constant habit of alligning their individual wills to that
of all just laws of the state.  The corruption of the will is, ipso
facto, a sin against God AND an affront to the good order of the state.

As for the _Baltimore Catechism_, again, I don't have one handy, but as
I remember, the section "On the Nature of Sin" is the one Don should
consult.

I might add that Don's post is theologically incorrect in a number of
ways:

1. The sin of lust is NOT committed by the look. It is committed either
(1)     by willing to look or, if the look is not willed, by then willingly
giving in to the thoughts of lust that follow. Note that the will is, as
always, paramount.

2. Adultery, stealing, injuring another, rape, and killing another are
all mortal sins, not venial ones, with the possible exception of
stealing something not very valuable.  Moreover, you can in fact "go to
God in private and work it out with Him."  An Act of Perfect Contrition,
in which you are sorry because you have hurt and disobeyed God, absolves
you of all sin. (The problem is that most of us feel "imperfect
contrition," in which we are sorry for other, less noble reasons.)

3. What we do only to ourselves can be a crime: suicide is the most
obvious example.

4. "Ugly thoughts that pass through our consciousness" ARE sins (and can
lead to crimes) IF the will gives in and inclines to them -- again, note
the primacy of the will. If the will does NOT give in to them, then and
only then are they harmless (See Adam's explanation of Eve's dream in
_Paradise Lost_, Book 5, lines 117-119.)

With the exceptions of the opening sentence of the opening paragraph of
this post, all crimes are sins, but not all sins are crimes.  The reason
for

the latter qualification is that some sins are caused by the will
alone.  But it is nonetheless generally true that  "[t]he intent to
commit a crime is all it takes to make us guilty of that crime in the
eyes of God."

--Ed Taft
 

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