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The Pope’s Theology of Sin by William Doino Jr.

Garden of Eden

August 19, 2013  By now, the Pope’s impromptu press conference, on his flight back from Brazil, has been analyzed the world over. But in all the discussion over Francis’ comments, very little has been said about the key line in his now famous exchange on homosexuality. “This is what is important,” declared Francis to reporters, “a theology of sin.”

William Doino Jr.That is what should have made headlines after the papal press conference—not that Francis used the word “gay,” or expressed a merciful (and thus deeply Christian) attitude toward those seeking reconciliation with God.

“This is what is important: a theology of sin.”

The words are striking, especially to a world often in denial of sin; but it is typical that many secular commentators blew right past them, instead focusing on Francis’ now-famous “Who am I to judge?” comment. (Never mind that Francis was speaking about individuals who humbly confess their sins before the Lord—not those who adamantly persist in them.)

Since his elevation to the episcopacy, and especially since becoming pope, Francis has promulgated a “theology of sin” with force and clarity. He often returns to the theme that we are all sinners who offend God, need to examine our consciences daily, and amend our lives accordingly. He has referred to himself as a sinner, publicly asked forgiveness for his sins, and requested that people pray for him. And when he was asked during the press conference why he “so insistently” invites prayer, he answered as a true shepherd would:

I have always asked this. When I was a priest, I asked it. . . . I began to ask with greater frequency while I was working as a bishop, because I sense that if the Lord does not help in this work of assisting the People of God to go forward, it can’t be done. I am truly conscious of my many limitations, with so many problems, and I a sinner—as you know!—and I have to ask for this. . . . It comes from within. I ask Our Lady too to pray to the Lord for me. It is a habit, but a habit that comes from my heart and also a real need in terms of my work.

Last April, Francis described his theology of sin as a three-part process. The first part is to recognize the darkness of contemporary life, and how it leads so many astray:

Walking in darkness means being overly pleased with ourselves, believing that we do not need salvation. That is darkness! When we continue on this road of darkness, it is not easy to turn back. Therefore, John continues, because this way of thinking made him reflect: “If we say we are without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” Look to your sins, to our sins, we are all sinners, all of us. . . . This is the starting point. Continue reading

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