Because We Don’t Celebrate Sin

Guest post by Allison 
I don’t have any delusions about the human race. We’ve been messing up our lives ever since Eve ate that apple. While we all keep sinning, in recent years in our popular culture a new trend has taken hold: celebrating sin.

This phenomenon allows us to label some people “bad boys and girls” and leaves the rest of us off the hook. If we are busy laughing at Octomom or Jon Gosselin, we don’t have to spend time contemplating our own failings. I am Catholic because my Church recognizes that we all sometimes fall short of God’s standards. And it offers us the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way for us sorrowful sinners to redeem ourselves.

For some reason this week, I can’t get Rielle Hunter out of my head. The woman who committed adultery with presidential candidate John Edwards now is featured in the latest issue of GQ, scantily dressed and lying seductively in their daughter’s bed. Have we lost all our shame as a culture?

Please understand, I don’t mean to single out Ms. Hunter for judgment. She is merely one in a long line of lost souls who have gained fame by behaving in ways that, in an earlier generation, would have caused her and her family great shame. She and others have gone on to make money by celebrating their failings. GQ seems to be earning plenty of advertising dollars with this formula: unwed teen father Levi Johnston, who fathered a child with one of Sarah Palin’s daughters, appeared shirtless in their May 2009 issue, holding his baby.

I don’t want to go back to the days where we stoned adulterers. But for all the jabs we hear about  “Catholic guilt,” my Church recognizes that we do sin and offers us, through its Sacraments, an opportunity to get back into God’s sanctifying grace.

Like many parents, I worry about the world my sons will leave home for, a world that makes a mockery of the Ten Commandments, including its admonishments against adultery, and against stealing and lying. It’s a world that thinks it’s entertainment to label, often with those folks’ permission, some souls “bad boys and girls” and put them on display.

I pray that the relationships we cultivate within our parish and our wider community will help our sons understand what has lasting value. I hope they understand that their bodies are beautiful gifts from God and homes for their souls. I hope we are helping them to understand that we are to regret, not celebrate, our own sins.

The Church always offers us a chance for redemption. But we need to understand right from wrong and teach it to our children. Let us pray that our souls, and the souls of our fellow travelers, don’t lose their way to Heaven.

  • Anonymous

    Excellent article. I agree with you.


    My 8 year-old made her First Penance yesterday. She chose 'face-to-face' because she said "I wanted to look into the the priest's eyes, have a conversation with him about some things I had done wrong." She added that while she was bit "scared", she felt "really good" after talking to him and receiving absolution. She literally left the confessional skipping. It was a beautiful day for our family yesterday. Her penance: to walk to the front of the church and stand before the main crucifix and say "I love you Jesus with all my heart."

  • Webster Bull

    That's my favorite comment/story in quite a while. What a good child your daughter must be. What a beautiful penance your priest gave her.

  • Mary P.

    Great post, Allison! I completely agree.

  • Anonymous

    Wonderful, Allison. So glad for Jesus, the sacrament of reconciliation, once and for all. And as you know, I believe that Jesus offers us a chance for redemption, not the Church, as the Church is the body of the Lord. He is the head and He is our Passover Lamb, sacrificed for the sin of the world. I wish your Jewish neighbors recognizes Him for who He is. Their Messiah, our Messiah, and Messiah for all.I love your love of theology, Allison! Sue

  • Allison

    @Sue: We don't disagree as much as you might think. We Catholics believe Christ established the Church through his Apostles, and established the Sacraments through them as well to continue his ministry. Thus, when we participate in the Sacraments, we are encountering Christ Himself. Thanks for reading, Sue.

  • Ruth Ann

    Beautiful! The phenomenon of bragging about sin continues to trouble me. What are people thinking?

  • Allison

    @Ruth Ann: People who brag about sin – do they even know they have sinned?Those of us who have enjoyed this kind of "entertainment" do we understand the nature of evil? Today, I am reflecting back on the renewal of our baptismal vows." Do you reject sin, so as to live in God’s freedom? Do you reject the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin? Do you reject Satan, the father of sin and darkness?Do you believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth? Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was crucified, die and was buried, rose from the dead and is now seated at the right hand of the Father? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the forgiveness of sins, and life-everlasting?"

  • Anonymous

    Good post. Would have been better if you had an editor. "Please understand, I don’t mean to single out Ms. Hunter," wrote the author as she singled out Ms. Hunter. It's okay to single out celebrities if you mean it; if you don't mean it, then better to avoid the expression entirely. Otherwise, good post.

  • Sarah Harkins

    Excellent post, Allison! I totally agree with you that sin is being glamorized more and more. I hear it on popular new music more and more- as well as on TV and magazines as you mentioned. GQ is awful. I fell upon a copy left by one of my brothers who is fallen away from the Catholic Church and it broke my heart to see what is influencing him now. Lies, lies, lies. Satan has a grip on the modern culture which makes my job as proclaiming the truth all the more difficult and all the more important. And yes, the renewal of Baptismal vows and the understanding of them most important for our times! @Mujer Latina, I just love your little girl! How precious!

  • Anonymous

    The culture of the world we live in – TV, movies, songs – does not recognize any fixed moral values. In the absence of fixed standards, how can we say that the murders comitted by the Third Reich were evil?The problem is for us to communicate real values to our children and grandchildren. We are NOT helped by supposedly catholic theologians or colleges that choose to follow the standards of the World rather than those taught by our popes (Paul VI in Humanae Vitae, e.g.)We need to pray for our priests, our bishops, our children.TeaPot562

  • Anonymous

    Last week I preached on the parable of the prodigal son. It was a wonderful example of how God awaits us, runs to us, when we repent of our sins.

  • Anonymous

    The introduction to the enormously helpful guide, "An Examination of Conscience", by Fr. Robert Altier, contains a section entitled "The Loss of the Sense of Sin" from the 1984 Apostolic Exhortation, "Reconciliation and Penance", of John Paul II. In it, Pope John Paul II poses the questions: "Is it not true that modern man is threatened by an eclipse of conscience? By a deformation of conscience? By a numbness or 'deadening' of conscience? Too many signs indicate that such an eclipse exists in our time". He later references what Pope Pius XII stated in a 1946 radio message to the U.S. National Catechetical Congress in Boston: "the sin of the century is the loss of the sense of sin."How prophetic these words were. I believe this is precisely why so many have been, and continue to be, seduced by the lies of the world and as a result "celebrate" sin. This is turn leads to an answer in the affirmative to your question: "Have we lost all our shame as a culture?"Thank you for the excellent post!

  • Allison

    @Anonymous 10:33 I really appreciate your referencing Blessed JP2 and his insights, and earlier Papal insights into this issue. I continue to be amazed by our late Pope.

  • Jessica

    A wonderful post, Allison, on a very important matter. God bless you for speaking the truth.

  • Allison

    @Jessica: None of us is immune, I think. I was just grocery shopping and caught myself perusing the headlines of People magazine, Star etc. in the check out line. How different is this from gossiping about our next door neighbors? When I distract myself with reading about the mess other people are making of their lives, that is time not spent in prayer, in reflection on how I might do a better job following God's path for me.