Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland

By Brian Porter-Szűcs | Go to book overview

2
Sin

As described in chapter 1, Catholic ecclesiology defines the Church as the institutional embodiment of salvation and revelation—in the eyes of the faithful, it cannot be reduced to just another political, social, or even pedagogical institution. That said, on a day-to-day basis many Catholics experience the Church primarily as an ethical and moral guidepost, as a means of articulating and enforcing norms of right and wrong. A contributor to Pielgrzym put it this way in 1843: “The Faith is not just a collection of dogmas and mysteries, but also a teacher of morals…. The faith forbids deviance, revenge, pride, narcissism, and it urges humility and virtue. These are the necessary consequences of the revealed faith.”1 For centuries Christian theologians have debated the relationship between divine grace and good works, with Protestants typically highlighting the former and Catholics the latter. Abstracting from the great diversity among Protestants, they have generally maintained that our nature is so corrupted by original sin that we cannot hope to earn our way into God’s heavenly Kingdom; only His infinite love can explain the miraculous gift of salvation. Catholic theologians, in contrast, have ascribed more importance to good deeds. As the 1992 Catechism puts it, “When He comes at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, the glorious Christ will reveal the secret disposition of hearts and will render to each man according to his works and according to his acceptance or refusal of grace.”2 This theological dispute can easily be overstated; few Catholics would argue that human virtue alone can earn us entry to heaven, nor would many Protestants claim that our deeds are irrelevant in the economy of salvation. In practice priests and preachers of nearly all Christian denominations place a heavy emphasis on ethical teachings, and Protestants can be just as moralistic as Catholics. Nonetheless the rewards of virtue and (even more) the dangerous consequences of vice loom a bit larger within Catholicism because of the doctrine stating that our free will can lead us to the gates of heaven or the pits of hell.

Consequently the Catholic homily has long been a forum for moral correction and uplift, and only secondarily an opportunity for theological edification.

-54-

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Faith and Fatherland: Catholicism, Modernity, and Poland
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgments vii
  • Introduction 3
  • 1 - The Church 16
  • 2 - Sin 54
  • 3 - Modernity 81
  • 4 - The Person and Society 118
  • 5 - Politics 158
  • 6 - The Nation Penitent 208
  • 7 - Ecclesia Militans 232
  • 8 - The Jew 272
  • 9 - Polak-Katolik 328
  • 10 - Mary, Militant and Maternal 360
  • Conclusion 391
  • Notes 397
  • Bibliography 449
  • Index 471
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