Thursday, May 19, 2005

On the Claim that the Church uses Guilt to Control People

In an interesting post on the "Be Not Afraid" blog, Mark Windsor notes (among many other things) that church critics are often heard to say "The Catholic Church wields its power through guilt. It makes people behave by making them feel bad."
Having heard this claim all too many times over the years, I've become convinced that it really means no more than this: "The Catholic Church insists that in order for 'conscience' to be worthy of the name, it must resist the all-too-human urge to put out of mind the ways our selfish acts harm others" - and that is a good though inconvenient thing, indeed an essential counterbalance to our culture's tendency to make a virtue of self-seeking.