September 30, 2022

Ken’s 12-Pack / Ken Ogorek

Things most Catholics wish they knew better: a healthy sense of sin?!

Ken Ogorek

Ninth in a yearlong catechetical series

“Oh, you Catholics and your guilt.” We hear it all the time.

Of course inaccurate, misplaced guilt isn’t healthy for folks. But a world without guilt is a horrifying thought given the horrible behavior that humans all too often show.

What’s school got to do with it?

Whether in Catholic elementary schools or parish catechetical programs, religion textbooks from the late 1960s through the early 1990s were deficient in presenting original sin and sin in general. One result is that many adult Catholics are unclear on sin, guilt, holiness, justice and a host of related important realities.

What’s more, because parents are the primary educators of their children, the excellent doctrinal content of more recent religion textbooks (thanks largely to the Catechism of the Catholic Church) is sometimes offset by wobbly knowledge of the faith by various adult Catholics. (Side note: Church documents have asserted for decades that adult catechesis is profoundly important. Even if catechesis in the 1970s and 1980s had been more doctrinally complete, adult Catholics and their families would still benefit greatly from lifelong faith formation; given the doctrinal deficiencies of religious education in that era, all the more important that we as adult Catholics consistently study, reflect on and strive to live more fully our beautiful, life-changing faith.)

Walking wounded

We’re all wounded by original sin. Alongside the potential for greatness bestowed on us by our loving God, we have a nagging tendency to think what we shouldn’t think, says what we shouldn’t say do what we shouldn’t do—as well as failing to do, say and think what we ought to according to God’s holy and perfect will.

When original sin and sin in general aren’t taught clearly and compassionately, we become sitting ducks—vulnerable to temptation, error and in a worst-case scenario, eternal damnation. Sound harsh? Read on.

“Never mistake resistance on your part for error on the Church’s part”

Because we’re wounded by original sin, it shouldn’t surprise us when some of the doctrinal and moral teaching Jesus gives us via his Spirit-guided, holy Catholic Church rubs us the wrong way. We bristle at times at what can sound like hard sayings.

All too often, we mistakenly take a quantum leap of doubt, thinking, “I don’t like that basic doctrinal or moral teaching—so the Church needs to do a 180 on it!”

When we’re clear on our woundedness, though, our thoughts sound more like, “Jesus, I’m struggling with this truth. Please change my heart.”

Sometimes this change comes quickly. Other times it might take a while. But when we’re comfortable with the discomfort of original sin and sin in general, we know Jesus better—the authentic Jesus of sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition. We grasp him more closely. We allow Jesus to save us from sin and death—to fulfill his purpose in embracing our human nature, then suffering, dying and rising to save us from … sin!

A healthy sense of sin

No, we shouldn’t feel guilty when we’re truly innocent. But we shouldn’t pretend to be innocent when the truth is that sin is real and all of us tend toward succumbing to it at least occasionally.

Divine mercy helps us address sin in our life when we allow ourselves to be taught by the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ.

May the catechetical gains made in recent decades bear the fruit of knowledge, charity and salvation by God’s grace and mercy.

(Ken Ogorek, archdiocesan director of catechesis, has lost his six-pack abs. But his 12-part series, whose theme is: Things Most Catholics Wish They Knew Better, will run through December. He can be reached at his archdiocesan e-mail address or by using the contact information at

Local site Links: