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The Sacrament Of Confession… The Sins Against The Holy Spirit

October 7, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By RAYMOND DE SOUZA, KM

Part 7

The sins against the Holy Spirit are seen in the Gospel and must be considered very seriously. It was Jesus Christ who said that “whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32).
Doesn’t it seem to contradict our Lord’s teaching on mercy to all sinners? How come, then, He distinctly says that a sin against the Holy Spirit is unforgivable?
What was the context that our Lord was referring to, when He said that the sin against the Holy Spirit was not forgivable either in this life or in the next?
In the context, our Lord Jesus Christ was referring to the obstinacy of the Pharisees who ascribed His miracles to Satan, and closed their hearts against the grace of faith and repentance, against the dictates of their own conscience. In such cases, the soul of the person is completely closed to forgiveness. Not because forgiveness is not available, but because the person refuses to accept it. The sinner closed his heart to God’s grace of forgiveness, so it cannot enter, and his sin remains unforgiven.
Based on Sacred Scriptures, St. Thomas Aquinas lists six sins against the Holy Spirit. Let us take them one by one.
First: Presumption — when the sinner simply presumes upon God’s mercy, thinking that he will be saved while remaining in sin, and refusing to do what God commands him to do for his salvation. That was the sin of Martin Luther — he insisted on sinning and counting on God’s mercy without renouncing his sin. The famous sentence of his was:
“Be a sinner, and sin strongly (esto peccator et pecca fortiter), but believe and rejoice even more firmly in Christ, the conqueror of sin, of death, and of the world. During this life, we have to sin. It is sufficient that, by the mercy of God, we know the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. Sin will not separate us from Him, even though we were to commit a thousand murders and a thousand adulteries per day” (Briefe, Sendschreiben, und Bedenken, II, p. 37; Franca, p. 439).
In short, the more you sin the more you trust in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice that saves you, no matter what. Presumption is also when someone believes he can be saved without God’s help.
Second: Despair — when the sinner despairs of the mercy of God, and thus is not asking for it; this was the sin of Judas Iscariot. Here the sinner realizes the depth of the crimes he committed against God’s Law and Love, and the Devil fans his sorrow to the point of thinking that God will not forgive him: So, he does not beg for God’s mercy.
Perhaps Peter committed a more serious sin than Judas, if we consider the privileges given to Peter: He received the keys of the Kingdom, Judas did not; Peter denied Jesus three times, Judas did not; Jesus took Peter to Mount Tabor, where He shone in the brightness of His divinity before Peter’s eyes, Judas was not invited to be there; Jesus told Peter to catch a fish to find money in its mouth to pay the Temple’s tax for both of them, Judas never had that privilege.
Now, both of them repented of their sins, yes, but Peter sought Jesus’ mercy, and Judas did not. He despaired. Judas’ despair is the opposite of Luther’s presumption.
Third: Obstinacy in mortal sin — that is, when the sinner absolutely refuses to abandon his life of sin, of mortal sin — and hardens his purpose in sinning. If he does not repent, he is on the straight road to damnation. Luther himself was presumably on that road, as one can see in his own writings. He was a defrocked monk who lived a life of fornication with a runaway nun. He was certain that he was going to Heaven, simply because he had accepted Jesus’ redeeming sacrifice.
Fourth: Final impenitence — when the sinner is so shamelessness in his sinful life that he refuses to be penitent even at the moment of death. It is the natural consequence of the obstinacy in mortal sin.
Fifth: Resisting the known truth — this was the sin of the Pharisees I have referred to before. They knew the prophecies about the Messiah, prophecies made by different men living in different times and places, and everything came true in Jesus, and in Jesus alone. They knew that the prophets spoke about Jesus, but they refused to accept what their own minds told them. More: They had seen Christ’s claims verified by plain miracles, performed in the view of everyone, and still refused to believe or follow Him. They committed a sin against the Holy Spirit, by denying a truth they themselves knew to be real.
As far as we are concerned, how can we commit this sin? If we refuse to acknowledge in practice the truth of a doctrine or a Commandment that we know to be necessary for salvation; if we dishonestly pretend not to know it, or to be unconvinced of it, even though we ourselves understand it and believe it to be true, after hearing it plainly, but we prefer to believe in a different way, we cannot be saved.
Sixth and last: Envy of another’s spiritual good — this is a very subtle one. Suppose someone has been given by God a great gift, say, he is very charitable, virtuous, chaste, and is admired by many, who wish to imitate him. Fine. If I have a malicious desire for his spiritual downfall — say, I wish that he would commit a sin of fornication, or theft, or is caught lying in court, so that people will no longer look at him in the same way. Since I am not virtuous and loved like him, I want him to sin so that he will cease to be what he is. This is envy of another’s spiritual good, a sin against the Holy Spirit.
In a lesser way, say someone is a great singer in church, and I am envious of his voice, so I wish that he would get a sore throat and lose his voice: This means that I have set myself up in opposition to God’s grace in the world and the growth of grace in others.
In short, the sins against the Holy Spirit are sins against the grace of faith and repentance offered by the Holy Spirit. It is unforgivable, not because of any defect in the infinite mercy of God, but because the sinner in some way does not want to be forgiven, and closes his heart against the mercy of God.
Bishop Fulton Sheen expressed the unforgivable sin as the sin of rationalizing or justifying one’s sins.
Next article: Indulgences!

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(Raymond de Souza, KM, is a Knight of the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta; a delegate for International Missions for Human Life International [HLI]; and an EWTN program host. Website: www. RaymonddeSouza.com.)

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