Ratzinger on the Nature of Sin

I found this homily – “Sin and Salvation” – very interesting as a Protestant. Here are some quotes of interest –

Ratzinger on modern society’s attitude towards sin (p. 62 )

Sin has become almost everywhere today one of those subjects that are not spoken about. Religious education of whatever kind does its best to evade it. Theater and films use the word ironically or in order to entertain. Sociology and psychology attempt to unmask it as an illusion or a complex. Even the law is trying to get by more and more without the concept of guilt. It prefers to make use of sociological language, which turns the concept of good and evil into statistics and in its place distinguishes between normative and nonnormative behavior. Implicit here is the possibility that the statistical proportions will themselves change; what is presently nonnormative could one day become the rule; indeed, perhaps one should even strive to make the nonnormative normal. In such an atmosphere of quantification, the whole idea of the moral has accordingly been generally abandoned. This is a logical development if there is no standard for human beings to use as a model – something not discovered by us but coming from the inner goodness of creation.

With this we have arrived at the real hear of the matter. People today know of no standard; to be sure, they do not want to know of any because they see standards as threats to their freedom. . . .

Ratzinger on the nature of sin (71, 73):

… sin is, in its essence, a renunciation of the truth. Now we can also understand the mysterious meaning of the words: “When you eat of it [that is, when you deny your limitations, when you deny your finitude], then you will die” (cf. Genesis 3.3). This mens that human beings who deny the limitations imposed on them by good and evil, which are the inner standard of creation, deny the truth. They are living in untruth and in unreality. Their lives are mere appearance; they stand under the sway of death. We who are surrounded by a world of untruths, of unlife, know how strong this sway of death is, which even negates life itself and makes it a kind of death. . . . . Sin is a rejection of relationality because it wants to make the human beings a god. Sin is loss of relationship, disturbance of relationship, and therefore it is not restricted to the individual. When I destroy a relationship, then this event – sin – touches the other person involved in the relationship. Consequently sin is always an offense that touches others, that alters the world and damages it. To the extent that this is true, when the network of human relationships is damaged from the very beginning, then every human being enters into a world that is marked by relational damage. At the very moment that a person begins human existence, which is a good, he or she is confronted by a sin-damaged world. Each of us enters into a situation in which relationality has been hurt. . . .

There’s more, but I think that will suffice for my readers.


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