Fraternal correction is a private admonition, given to another out of charity, in an endeavor to withdraw him from sin or from danger of sin. Let’s look at when we can and should make fraternal correction, and then we will look at some times when we should not.
Sin is a personal act. Moreover, we have a responsibility for the sins committed by others when we cooperate in them:
– by participating directly and voluntarily in them;
– by ordering, advising, praising, or approving them;
– by not disclosing or not hindering them when we have an obligation to do so;
– by protecting evil-doers.
Thus sin makes men accomplices of one another and causes concupiscence, violence, and injustice to reign among them. Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. “Structures of sin” are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a “social sin.”
All sin, even the inclination to sin. It is the flesh against the spirit, the children of the flesh against the children of the spirit. Sometimes we lose site of that, and we think in terms of mortal sin only, not realizing how important it is to break also the hold that venial sins can have upon us.
In the Catetchism of the Catholic Church, it states, “Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul’s progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not break the covenant with God. With God’s grace it is humanly reparable. ‘Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.’ [St. Augustine states] “While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call “light”: if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope?” [§1863]
St. Paul is warning us today (Eph 5:1-9) about sins of the flesh in thought, in word and in deed. He’s warning us not to make anything else our god but God alone. He explains, and he threatens, and in the end he encourages us to give thanks. Isn’t that interesting? Why give thanks? Because gratitude requires humility, and humility opens us up to the love of God.
Occasions of sin are not temptations. An occasion of sin is a noun – that is, a person place or thing, or idea – in which or by which we might be led to sin, when we might be tempted. Good things are attractive, therefore good things will be more likely to present us with temptation and are more dangerous to us in terms of temptation, not always in themselves but potentially. For example, a person is much more likely to overeat on cheeseburgers than on kale. So good things, certainly more than bad, can be occasions of sin for us. But that does not thereby make the good thing bad.
In a past sermon on Fraternal Correction – how to correct a brother who is in error or even in sin – we learned that ideally we would address an issue with the person himself unless something makes that impossible. In some cases it may be necessary to go to the proper authorities. But something that was explicit in the fraternal correction sermon was that you may not go public with the damning information unless there was immediate, certain and grave harm that would be avoided by doing so and in no other way. Nor may we share information with anyone who does not have a right to know.
This sermon picks up on some of those principles and see how they apply to the sin of gossip, a fairly common sin and to a large degree misunderstood.
Sermon referenced: (2014 – 06 – 29) Fraternal Correction Requires Charity
Do we properly love ourselves? Are we genuinely doing our best for our soul? How do we get to an active love of neighbor – not acting for merely physical good at the expense of our spiritual good? We must walk in the spirit so that we can truly love our neighbor, and can love ourselves as we ought, so that we are free to love God. Without discipline, none of that will ever happen.
The things talked about in today’s Epistle and Gospel (Gal 5:16-24, Matt 6:24-33) can be troubling. We read, “Walk in the spirit”, and “If you are led by the spirit”. These things sound all well and good – lofty ideals, beautiful things. But we often feel sometimes like we’re the only one in the room who doesn’t understand what this means, because people just throw that out there and keep talking, like we all “get it”. Don’t worry – you’re not the only one who’s lost. So what does it mean to “Walk in the Spirit”?
Two of the three deceivers of mankind are encompassed in the word “flesh” as used by St. Paul today (Romans 8:12) – they are the world and our own actual flesh. We should use material goods as a means to an end, tools for getting us to Heaven. So why does Holy Mother church put these two readings together today in this Mass – “Be not debtors to the flesh” (Romans 8:12-17) and the “Children of Mammon” (Luke 16 1-9)? Because our Lord’s point is the same thing in the parable today – to use our material goods wisely.
‘Make friends with the mammon of iniquity’ means use your material treasures, especially your ill-gotten gains or that which is an occasion of sin, to make friends with those who will save your soul. Thus the Counsel of the Catechism of Trent holds out for our moral lesson today the church’s teaching on restitution. What do we do with these ill-gotten gains?
It makes it a little easier to love the sinner and hate the sin if we can separate the two a little bit in our minds. Thus we can keep hatred from running away with us. Another way in which hate runs away with us is it keeps us from seeing clearly. We tend to see only negative things if hatred becomes too strong with us.
If someone posts something on the internet that we disagree with, we tend to launch out and attack it. Yet that same person could post positive things, and we’ll just skim over those and click onto the next thing. We’re only focusing on negative things. Only negative things grab our attention. We all find negative things easier than positive things. Can’t we spend a fraction of that time promoting good things, too? We have to remember while hating evil that we must also love the good.