Tag Archives: sin

Making Good Things Go Bad

When I was young, I often wondered why it was so hard for people to be “good” Catholics. After all, if you didn’t steal, didn’t kill, went to Mass, and were generally nice to people, you could pull it off, I thought. Then I grew up, and learned a little more about life.

And started blogging. 

When I truly started thinking about what goes into living a good and holy life under God’s plan, I realized that not only was it not as easy as I once thought, it was downright difficult. And when I looked around at the world, I began to see just how complicated we’ve made it for ourselves. 

In a way, our ability to make sin even more complicated than it already is reminds of something all mothers say at one time or another, when in their efforts to make a warm, clean and welcoming home, children and tired husbands throw a money wrench into things. You know, someone spills grape juice on the new sofa she’s wanted for years, etc. “This,” she laments, “is why we can’t have nice things!”

It seems, our humanity and sinful habits, can ruin what are honest intentions to make life better or easier.

For instance, take insurance, something we all hate dealing with. We hate the complicated nature of it. We hate the cost. We hate that we need it. And while I would never defend this industry, which I find dishonest in its own right, insurance consumers themselves, in some ways, have created the very exploitive practices insurers lean on.

Car insurance is mandated in most of these United States. In theory, the existence of insurance should make life easier for us when we have a problem, and should keep us from having to purchase new cars when someone else has a bad driving day. We drive recklessly enough and file enough claims that insurers rarely make much of a profit on car insurance. 

However, many people see “opportunity” here to get over on the man. They lie on claims, collude with friends in the auto body, legal and law enforcement fields, and defraud insurers for countless dollars every year. They’ll tell you it’s no big deal, lead you to believe they’re smarter than you while they’re spending money paid out by someone else’s insurance company. But it all comes down to old fashioned lying and stealing. Someone out there just got a major rate increase, and over time insurance becomes more expensive for everyone. Sounds sinful to me. Yet our friends, family, neighbors – many be even we ourselves – regularly engage in such activity.

How about technology? One of the biggest new stresses we all face is the dreaded “password.” We have one for almost everything we do online from Facebook to banking. We’re always forgetting them, resetting them, emailing for new ones, etc. They must have one capital letter, one number, be so many characters long, and require 18 different emails and an act of Congress to change. Think of how much time we’ve spent agonizing  over passwords since we’ve developed all of this technology meant to make our lives easier, more efficient and give us more time to do better things.

Why do we have “passwords?” Because of all the dishonest, overeducate techies out there who think it’s fun to invade our privacy, outthink us, and throw everyday people simply trying to trudge through daily life into complete chaos. Everyday, there’s a new hack somewhere. At our banks, hospitals, universities, governments – anywhere thieves can get information to steal identities. Then there are those who prey on our children as they use one of the most amazing learning tools we’ve ever invented. 

That great technology we’ve invented, by the grace of the intelligence God has given us, has brought us more stress, more government regulation, more crime and more cunning criminals than anyone could have imagined.

Then there are lifesaving pharmaceuticals held just out of reach to those who truly need them by astronomical profit margins. Or government programs meant to help the neediest, looted by able-bodied people who think only of themselves. 

Now, I believe in capitalism, honest business and making a good living. What I don’t believe in are 400 percent profit margins, collecting taxpayer money when you aren’t paying your own share, and exploiting technology used by the entire world for advancement to rape, cheat and steal.

How often do we use good things like insurance, technology, even our own intelligence to hurt others for our own gain? Upon examining my conscience more thoroughly, I was surprised to find how often such “opportunities” come my way, and how I had slipped in my response on occasion. It’s yet another flaw I’m working on with God.

Being a good Catholic can be quite more complicated than it may seem in our modern world. Just because our modern ways of stealing, exploiting and sinning aren’t spelled out in the Ten Commandments per se doesn’t mean they don’t affect our relationship with God and others. 

No Catholic is Perfect

I have something to own up to. It seems, through all of the soul searching it takes to blog about finding God in your life and your family, I’ve discovered one very important thing. And that is that I’m not exactly a good Catholic.

The thing is, you probably aren’t either.  You might be like me. I thought I was a pretty good Catholic when I started this blog. And I don’t exactly think I am or was ever a “bad” person. I get the big things right : I haven’t killed anyone; I don’t steal or cheat; I always say I’m sorry; I pray; I give generously to charity; and I work hard to put the needs of others before my own. 

But when you get down to the nuances…there’s where things get a little fuzzy. For instance, God doesn’t want us to harm ourselves. I’m not exactly out there engaging in risky behaviors. I don’t drink, don’t smoke, have never done drugs, don’t bungy jump, jump out of air planes; or sign up for one-way tickets to Mars. But. I’m a diabetic. And I’m not exactly good at that. It’s not that I like sweets; I do, but those things can be controlled. I’m just not exactly a big exerciser, sometimes I forget my insulin, and sometimes I actually don’t eat enough. I don’t have a lot of structure in my life. That can be problematic – and maybe it’s sinful, too. After all, I did end up in the cardio unit not so long ago due to my inability to care about my health.

Once upon a time, I used to be really good at celebrating birthdays, milestones, special events. I kept Hallmark running. I sent people gifts and flowers. Sometimes for no reason other than I wanted them to be happy. I still often remember those dates. But I can’t remember the last time I sent a card. I miss parties, cancel plans, etc. Sin? Probably not. But those habits certainly keep me from experiencing joy and sharing it with others. Mostly because of laziness. I think that’s one of the seven deadly, isn’t it? The Church calls it sloth.

It seems when it comes to spreading Catholicism, we all have this idea that were supposed to be pointing out the logs in one another’s eyes, instead of discovering where we go wrong ourselves. If you don’t believe me, get a Twitter account, and start following anyone who says they’re a Catholic. Then sit back and watch them fight with each other (me included) over how much more they know about God, religion and sin. If you don’t think there are schisms in the making within the Church, you soon won’t know how it survived this long after a few tweets.

Jesus tells us all the time in the Bible and at Mass – we are all sinners. Even Pope Francis admits it. WE ALL HAVE DEMONS. Sins we fight to resist. Which means none of us are better than any other. I have issues with anger. I have friends and family who have trouble with lust, greed, gluttony, and jealousy. It’s the same struggle to be a better person under different circumstances. We should be embracing one another, differences aside, recognizing we fight the same evil in different forms.

Yet were too busy telling other Catholics their kids are too loud in Church, that they don’t give enough in the collection, or that they shouldn’t wear certain clothing to Mass. Perhaps if we took that time to look inside, we just might discover just how far we ourselves are from God.

In the last year or so, I’ve started reading my Bible, exploring Catholic literature, and referencing the Catholic Catechism. I’ve learned quite a bit. Stuff I thought I would have known after 18 years of solid Catholic education. I started making connections to my life I never made. I’ve even started saying the Rosary, which I’ve never done before.

The closer I get to God, the less important my own idiosyncrasies seem. The more I realize others have their own extenuating circumstances that may make them late, crabby, or particular about something. The more I realize that being Catholic, or the best Catholic I can be, is downright HARD!

You all know that too. That’s where people – all people – trying to live a Catholic life are special. We embrace the difficulty of life as Catholic – we don’t turn away from God because what he asks is challenging. But we are not perfect, not even one of us. It’s our job to be harder on ourselves, not on one another. There are enough people out in the world who are hard on Catholics. 

We must take an even harder road – embrace one another, differences and personal demons included, and realize we too are imperfect. And together present a united front to the world that questions our faith.

Now Say 10 Hail Mary’s for Going to Work

A few weeks ago, I read a Twitter post announcing that my undergrad alma mater, a Catholic university in the mid-west, had decided it would divest all fossil-fuel related investments from its endowment management.
I found this to be incredibly annoying.
I have made a good portion of my career in public relations and writing focused on the environment and companies/industries with environmental complications. I’ve worked in government, activism and the private sector. Therefore, I am aware that this divestment trend swirling around institutions of higher learning is a campaign by extreme environmental groups attempting to hit companies and industries they don’t like in their pocketbooks. It’s not based on sound investment strategy, and in some aspects, its not based on realistic science. It’s based on activism.
Protecting the environment is an important endeavor. My husband and I strive to live more simply, recycle, reuse, compost, cut back on energy use, and practice good stewardship of our small farm. The country certainly needs to find a fuel and energy strategies that work better for everyone. I understand the goal of divestment is to make carbon fuels less attractive, but completely removing fossils from university endowment investing is short-sighted, especially in a Catholic atmosphere. Here’s why:
First, fossils are the least expensive form of energy available right now. The less-fortunate among us are better able to afford heating/cooling/ home energy with the use of coal and natural gas. As Catholics, caring for the poor should be a major concern when it comes to energy. Forcing more expensive fuels furthers the struggle many face to pay for all of their basic needs.
Second, fossil fuels are not only about energy. Fossils are used to make many of the products that keep us safe, healthy and extend our life expectancy. Petroleum products and derivatives are used in plastics and chemicals, particularly in the health care industry for items used during surgery and life saving procedures. Medicines, safety products, anti-bacterial items and countless other everyday necessities are made from or with petroleum and natural gas. Fossils actually do save lives.
Third, over 9 million Americans have found good-paying jobs in the oil and gas field. Engineers, geologists, laborers, skilled machine operators, accountants, attorneys, technology experts, construction workers and many others are paid generously with strong benefits by so-called greedy energy companies. They purchases homes, vehicles, etc and in the last few years have driven the economy in many places in our country, allowing them to avoid the worst of the recession. And those numbers don’t include all of the contracted workers who support the industry: people like heavy equipment rental firms, truck drivers, paving companies, tree removal specialists, environmental consultants, ad firms, caterers, security guards, reporters, court document experts and so on.
Lastly, when it comes down to reviewing the research and documenting claims, it’s been clearly shown that many of the cases put forth against industry are exaggerated or in some famous instances, just simply untrue. Some, particularly in contract law and land management, have brought real questions that must be solved and industry does indeed have accidents. But the majority of complaints boil down to people scaring others with scientifically unsubstantiated claims – ie, the idea that liquid will rise over 2 miles from the ground through numerous geological barriers when we need mechanical force to release gas from the same formation, or plain old “big oil” stories. In my parochial school, that’s what we called lying. That was sinful.
I’m concerned that we’re wondering into a world where we’re about to start petitioning the Vatican to declare things we don’t like to be sinful. Fossil fuels cause true challenges, but they also offer benefits. Like anything else, there is action and reaction. But the people who use them (uh, all of us) or work with them are not evil. Our consumer society drives us all to buy well beyond what we could ever need. But I don’t see anyone declaring it “wrong” to go to a shopping mall or to buy more shoes than you need. Or telling a heart patient it’s “sinful” to use the emergency room at a hospital that performs abortions. I’ve never heard a priest tell a teenager to go confession for trashing a plastic bottle instead of recycling it.
The people who work on fossil fuels, particularly those drilling for natural gas are mostly good-hearted people who love working in the outdoors. Most I’ve met are overly generous with charity because of the good salaries they receive. I know the amount my family gives in the church collection has increased since my husband started working for an energy company. Whole companies and drilling teams compete to give the most in contests sometimes. In Pennsylvania, one company built, equipped and staffed an entire hospital for a town that had none. They aren’t “bad.”
Fossil fuels are challenging, yes. But divesting those investments cheats your endowment of the biggest returns. In an economy like ours, where few industries are thriving, why sabotage your returns by rejecting an industry that offers regular gains doing things we all require be done? Is that something that’s ok with donors? It might not be. It won’t be ok with future students in search of financial aid.
My alma mater, so proud of doing this, is silly. In my time there, it turned out a lot of engineers. I’m sure it still does. I can imagine there are numerous alumni working in oil and gas or energy fields with some undesirable fuel source. By doing this divestment, the university is telling all of those alums that the work they do to keep our lights, heat and air conditioning on is “sinful.”
Protecting God’s Earth is noble, and it’s always useful to find cleaner, healthier ways to do things. But Gods people, their families, their needs and well-being are also important. Engaging fossil fuels to keep the world running and people working until they’re not needed – which will be quite sometime from now – is not sinful. It’s necessary.
I won’t be “investing” in my alma mater any longer. I don’t like being judged by environmentalists instead of God. I bet others don’t either.