Sinners Before and After Christ

by Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira



Even after the Redemption, original sin continued to exist with its sad string of consequences upon man’s intellect and will. On the other hand, men remained subject to being tempted by the devil. Accordingly, sin did not disappear from the earth and the Church continued sailing on a rough sea in which the obstinacy and malice of sinners raise obstacles against her that she must overcome at every moment. A quick glance at the history of the Church is enough to make this truth painfully obvious. But there is more: Grace sanctifies those who accept it, but a man’s rejection of grace will make him worse than he was before receiving it. It is in this sense that the Apostle writes that the pagans converted to Christianity and later seduced by heresies, became worse than they were before becoming Christians. The worse criminal in history was certainly not the pagan who condemned Jesus Christ to death, nor the high priest who directed the course of events that culminated in the crucifixion, but the unfaithful apostle who sold his Master for thirty coins. “The greater the height, the deeper the fall,” says a proverb of our popular wisdom. What a profound and painful consonance this affirmation has with the teachings of theology!

Thus, in her journey Holy Mother Church must face men just as bad or even worse than those who revolted against God’s law in Old Testament times. In his Encyclical, Divini Redemptoris, the Holy Father Pius XI says that in our time not only some men but “entire peoples find themselves in danger of falling back into a barbarism worse than that which oppressed the greater part of the world at the coming of the Redeemer.” (Pius XI, Encyclical Divini Redemptoris, Mar. 19, 1937, no. 2)

Therefore, the defense of the rights of the truth and the good, demands that the numerous enemies of the Church be humbled with greater vigor than ever. Accordingly, when prayers and kindness are not enough to overcome the adversary, a Catholic must be ready to effectively use all the legitimate weapons within his reach.

Note, in the following passages, how many, admirable examples of penetrating astuteness, untiring combativeness and heroic frankness are found in the New Testament. They clearly show that Our Lord was not a sentimental preacher but the infallible Master Who knew how to preach love with words and examples of an insuperable and admirable sweetness but also knew how to preach in word and deed, with an insuperable and no less adorable severity, the duty of vigilance, shrewdness, and an open and unrelenting combat against the enemies of the Church that kindness is unable to disarm.