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Wednesday, February 07, 2007


Jennifer F.

This reminds me of the quote one of your readers recently posted from Anthony Esolen, referring to "our lazy relativist world, wherein every man creates his own moral order (that is, until he suspects he has been overcharged by his auto mechanic)."

The whole "Catholic guilt" shtick just doesn't resonate with me at all. After a life as an atheist, I've found Catholic teaching to be the most liberating message I've ever heard. It seems like it's not so much the guilt that really gets people, but the message that there is clear right and wrong. Of course you're going to feel bad if you do something that's wrong. One solution is to stop doing wrong. Another (a la Osteen, McNeely, et al) is to just tell yourself that what you were doing wasn't really wrong in the first place. The latter is much easier.


A logical conclusion to this is “non serviam”, I will not serve. Such a remark was uttered by the likes of Satan, Adam and the certain Protestant Reformers; it places the primacy of one’s conscience over God and the Church. Ultimately, if conscience is supreme then man has made a choice to be as a god.

Its strict logical form is seen in Kant’s philosophy. Etienne Gilson says of Kant, "Having refused to hold metaphysical conclusions on metaphysical grounds, Kant had been necessarily dragged from metaphysics to ethics, and from ethics to theology." Then, he states that since young Kant thought he had proved that we know nothing about God, the older Kant was beginning to think that he might be God. Gilson quotes Kant from notes published as his Opus Posthumum (published in 1920), "God is not a being outside me, but merely a thought in me. God is the morally practical self-legislative reason. Therefore, only a God in me, about me, and over me. Kant adds, "God can only be sought in us" and "There is a being in me which, though distant from me, stands to me in relations of causal efficacy, and which, itself free, i.e., not dependent upon the law of nature in space and time, inwardly directs me (justifies or condemns), and I, as man, am myself this Being. It is not a substance outside me; and what is strangest of all, the causality is a determination to action in freedom, and not as a necessity of nature. Gilson states, "Philosopher's who have been misled by the lure of positive science always end their lives in a queer world-that is a punishment for their mistake; but it never occurs to them that is their philosophy that is queer-that is a reward for their honesty. From Kant's thought flows the supremacy of the will, and moving from Fichte to Schelling and concluding in Hegel, Gilson writes that reason is confined to the "sphere of pure science" and philosophy is "enslaved to the blind tyranny of the will." (Unity of the Philosophical Experience).

Only the blind tyranny of the human will can hold conscience to be supreme. When the will is cut away from the intellect, it loses sight of the one, the true and the good and thus God. Thus, man is left to no other choice than to become his own god. Hitler and the ubermensch of Nazi Germany are a prime example of this tyranny. Void of any true sense of guilt, humans will hide in their shame, but will then find new ways to unleash the unconscious anger stemming from that shame upon other humans.

Cristina A. Montes

Isn't a reasonable level of guilt healthy? Isn't it that one symptom of being a sociopath or a psychopath is the incapacity to feel guilty about one's actions?


Sometimes,or should I say most of the time, guilt is nothing more than a healthy sense of right and wrong.


Fr. McNeely's concerns about guilt hearken back to '60's humanistic psychology where "You do your thing,and I do my thing..." No objective moral guilt was allowed for there was no objective right or wrong.

Guilty feelings signaled only you were falling short of being the "fully functioning person" you were meant to be. Remember Perls? Maslow? Carl Rogers? Nude therapy at Big Sur?

I'm with Jennifer. There is a right and wrong and of course I will feel bad (guilty) when I do wrong. I'm supposed to feel guilty. Then I'm supposed to change what I was doing. If I'm not sure it was wrong--likely story--check the Catechism. It all becomes so simple when I shuffle together Grace and Catechism--and stay way far away from Fr McNeely's poison.

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