What Pope St. John Paul II Said About ‘Structures of Sin’

In the pastoral letter Open Wide Our Hearts, the USCCB reviews the history of the oppression of people based on ethnicity and race in America, and states quite clearly: “The roots of racism have extended deeply into the soil of our society.”

We, as conservative Christians who believe in the dignity of all human persons, should openly acknowledge the problem of racism in our nation and stand against it. We should see the injustice of a person holding his or her race or ethnicity as superior to others’, the sinfulness of individuals and groups acting on these views, and how these views have influenced our laws and the way our society functions.

We as Catholics should be at the front lines of the fight to end racism, instead of ceding the front lines to people who have been influenced more by various ideologies than by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Let’s use the language that the Church already has to talk about sins like racism. We already have teachings on how we have a responsibility to bring about an end to it.

The Church in her tradition and in the Catechism talks about “structures of sin” and “social sin.” The Catechism (1869) states: “Sins give rise to social situations and institutions that are contrary to the divine goodness. ‘Structures of sin’ are the expression and effect of personal sins. They lead their victims to do evil in their turn. In an analogous sense, they constitute a ‘social sin.’”

Pope St. John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, defines social sin — or “structures of sin” as he calls it in the encyclical Sollicitudo Rei Socialis — in several ways.

Read the rest at the National Catholic Register.