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Chapter 4: Repentance, the Sacrament of Penance, and the Struggle against Sin

Question D:  What Other Means Are to Be Used to Overcome Sin and Its Effects?

Penitential works and the sacrament of penance constitute a great remedy for sin, but unless they are part of a spiritually healthy way of life, their effectiveness is lessened or even entirely blocked. Sin is overcome only by avoiding many temptations to commit it and choosing rightly when tempted to choose wrongly. Moreover, social divisions and conflicts, all more or less immediately following from sin, at least original sin, cannot be overcome without appropriate methods of reconciliation.

1. To Overcome Sin, One Must Pray, Practice Self-denial, and Serve Others

The most important elements of a spiritually healthy lifestyle, all absolutely essential to overcome sin and its effects, have been treated in previous chapters: faith and prayer, hope and personal vocation, charity and the Eucharist. These are the armor of God (see Eph 6.11–17). Self-denial also has been treated above insofar as it is one kind of penitential act. Thus, only certain aspects of prayer, participation in the Eucharist, self-denial, and personal vocation need be considered here, namely, those specifically relevant to avoiding or surmounting temptation, and bringing about reconciliation in society.

a) The Eucharist is the basic way to overcome sin and its effects. Since God’s redemptive work reaches its culmination in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and this reality is made present in the Eucharist, worthy participation in the Eucharist is the basic means to overcome sin and all its effects. Indeed, daily participation in the Eucharist, while not obligatory in itself, can be a duty for those who find it a necessary measure to overcome sin.

The desire to participate in the Eucharist motivates one to seek absolution from past sins and avoid committing new ones, to be reconciled with others in order to participate with them in the Eucharist, and to live in charity with others so that the communal celebration of the Eucharist will express real communion. Receiving Holy Communion unites one bodily with Jesus and in him with others, and so completes and confirms the reconciliation with God and among human persons which is begun by the sacrament of penance and by mutual forgiveness.

Moreover, in the Mass one’s prayers are consolidated with Jesus’ prayer, which shaped his self-sacrifice, for one’s liberation from sin and humankind’s reconciliation. Participation in the Mass should therefore be the center of all one’s prayers for everything necessary to overcome sin and its effects.

b) Prayer of petition should shape the struggle against sin. Humility is essential to victory in the struggle against sin. Without reliance on grace, a merely dogged struggle to resist temptation is sure to be self-defeating. Thus, the basic step is to admit that one’s life is not in one’s own control, and that only God can overcome sin and its consequences. By oneself one cannot live an upright life; but enlivened by the Spirit, one also can walk by the Spirit (see Gal 5.25). Thus, the first thing to do is ask for grace, the light and power of the Holy Spirit.62

Prayer should be in Jesus’ name. Recognizing one’s total dependence on God, one should pray humbly: “ ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pt 5.5–7; cf. Jas 4.6–7). Realizing how imperfect one’s own prayers are, one should seek the intercession of Mary and the other saints and angels. One should pray often and perseveringly, never giving up until what one seeks is obtained, and then changing petition to thanksgiving. One should pray not only for liberation from one’s own temptations or for the strength to resist them, but for the conversion of others, especially insofar as that is necessary for complete reconciliation with them and for the overcoming of unjust social structures.

Insincere prayer is useless, and it is insincere apart from the determination to do everything possible to cooperate with God’s grace. Rather than excusing one from using other means, prayer of petition should shape a determined and constant effort to use every other available means in the struggle against sin.

c) One must believe that such prayer will be effective. Asking for what one needs to be saved and praying in the way described—in Jesus’ name, humbly, persistently, and sincerely—a person can be confident that God will hear the prayer and will give what is sought (see Mt 7.7–11; Lk 11.5–13, 18.1–8; Jn 14.13–14; 1 Jn 5.14–15). This confidence is the faith and hope that ensure that the prayer will be answered and the mountainous burden of evil removed:

Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, “Be taken up and thrown into the sea,” and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mk 11.23–24; cf. Mt 21.21–22, Lk 17.6).
Quoting St. Augustine, the Council of Trent definitively teaches: “ ‘God does not command the impossible; but in commanding he cautions you both to do what you can and to pray for what you cannot,’ and he helps you so that you can do it” (DS 1536/804, translation amended; cf. 1568/828).

Meditating on the example of saints who have won the victory over severe temptation is an important way to strengthen the necessary faith. Precisely for this reason, the Letter to the Hebrews devotes a whole chapter (11) to reviewing Old Testament models of faith and then draws the conclusion: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us” (Heb 12.1).

d) Self-denial is needed to overcome sin and foster reconciliation. To avoid temptation, it is necessary to avoid occasions of sin, and that requires self-denial. Moreover, gaining strength to resist temptation calls for practice in mastering desires by voluntarily denying oneself the satisfaction of legitimate inclinations and giving up some legitimate comforts and rest. (Of course, voluntary self-denial must not be so great that it causes real harm to oneself or others.)

As will be explained below, justice cannot be achieved without mercy (see 6.F.4–5). So, to be reconciled with others, people usually must set aside some claims to strict justice and deny themselves the satisfaction of prevailing. (Obviously, this does not mean permissively encouraging others to persist in evil ways or sacrificing third parties by ignoring their rights for the sake of peace at any price.) Also, self-denial often is necessary to lessen others’ anxieties and provide evidence of good will. It is partly because Jesus put this truth into practice that his self-emptying is effective in drawing people back to God.

e) Service to others is necessary to overcome sin and its effects. Essentially, efforts to overcome sin and foster reconciliation express the will to regain or strengthen communion with God. Yet reconciliation with God cannot exist by itself. Sin divides humankind into conflicting groups, divides every group into cliques, and divides every clique into self-centered individuals; but human fulfillment is possible only in the kingdom, where men and women form a single, reconciled, new covenant community in Jesus. Therefore, sinful self-love can be displaced only by proper love of self and love of neighbor, in which true love of God is realized.

Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable. This is so not only because God loves humankind and every human person (and no one can love God while not loving those he loves), but because the Word became man. What one does for one’s neighbors, one does for Jesus, and what one fails to do for them, one fails to do for him (see Mt 25.31–46). Thus, merely individualistic efforts to be purged of sin and achieve personal holiness fall short of fulfilling one’s Christian responsibilities with respect to repentance and reconciliation.

f) Work for justice should aim at reconciliation in the kingdom. In working for reconciliation with and among others, one is precisely responsible for what Christian love requires. Every effort to overcome sin and its effects on others should therefore be directed toward their true service: their fulfillment in Jesus. Striving to overcome social injustices thus requires the discernment of one’s responsibilities through the consideration of one’s personal vocation, and working for reconciliation in those ways to which one sees oneself called, and to which, very likely, one already has committed oneself.

Furthermore, it is necessary not only to seek to ameliorate the suffering of the poor and oppressed but to pursue this end as an apostolic work, offering credible witness even to the wealthy and oppressors, so that, if possible, they will be liberated from their profound spiritual misery and brought into the reconciled community. This is why efforts on behalf of social justice must not be subordinated to any movement or ideology that denies or ignores the reality of sin, calls on people to disregard their personal vocations, or proposes to overcome evil by destruction rather than repentance and healing.

g) Love of others facilitates avoiding or overcoming temptations. Someone fully occupied in serving others will not have time and energy to waste on temptations to self-indulgence, and so will not need to look for ways of keeping busy and avoiding daydreaming so as to block temptations.

For example, while children and young people striving to conquer temptations to unchaste thoughts and behavior should avoid sexual sins because they are contrary to reason and to love of God, they also should be busy serving others, especially by studying and working hard to prepare for the responsibilities of marriage and parenthood many soon will assume. If thus occupied, they will desire sexual self-control because it is essential: so that marital intercourse really will be a fully free act expressing love rather than a mere response to instinct, so that sexual love will be focused on the person they marry rather than responsive to anyone to whose sexual appeal they are exposed, and so that they will be responsible parents of children welcomed as God’s gifts, not reluctant parents of unwanted children or calculating parents whose plan for self-fulfillment happens to include having some children, among many other goods. Lacking such love of others, however, young men and women hardly will have much success forestalling temptations by “keeping busy” and “avoiding daydreaming.”

2. To Overcome Sin, One Must Keep Relevant Truths in Mind

Satan is the father of lies, but like most liars he can convince only those half-willing to be deceived, as the story of the serpent, Eve, and Adam makes clear (see Gn 3.1–6). Sin is a partial self-fettering of reason that always involves at least a temporary ignoring of truth. That can have many aspects, but a few truths always are relevant, and the struggle against sin and its consequences requires clarity about them, meditating on them, and recalling them—if possible to forestall temptation rather than resist it.

a) Sin violates moral truth and blocks human fulfillment. Even someone who believes sins offend God will find it hard, if not impossible, to resist temptation while retaining the childish attitude that sins are nothing more than naughtiness or rule breaking. A person who thinks that way will suppose that God’s readily obtained forgiveness nullifies sin and its consequences so completely and easily that little if anything really is lost by sinning, provided it is quickly followed by contrite behavior. But every sin is contrary to some human good, and every choice to commit sin violates a moral truth pointing toward the integral fulfillment of human persons as individuals and in communion (see CMP, 7.F).

Although sometimes the damage is subtle, a little thought usually makes it clear how any kind of sin harms the sinner, other persons, or both. Even if they truly repent and are forgiven, sinners suffer irreparable loss: they waste part of their lives. Moreover, even the hidden sins of individuals have social repercussions that often are beyond remedy in this world. For sin which begins in the heart eventually affects behavior, and any sort of sinful behavior eventually harms others, at least by bad example, and so increases interpersonal disharmony, contrary to love of God and neighbor.

b) Any sin is a great evil, and any grave sin is an immense evil. Compared with pain, the loss of possessions, and even the loss of basic human goods such as health and life, any sin is a far greater evil, since it mutilates the sinner’s heart and somehow wounds or impedes the growth of the kingdom. People living with faith and hope must pursue the kingdom and holiness, trusting God to make good all those evils which must be accepted rather than do the least moral evil.

Among sins, some are mortal, that is, incompatible with divine life (see CMP, 15.C). Heaven awaits those who persevere in love, hell those who do not (see Mt 25.31–46, Rom 2.6–8, 2 Cor 5.10, Rv 21.5–8). It might be tempting to imagine it possible to give in to the temptation to commit some mortal sin yet not really do so, because one’s “fundamental option” remains sound, or because one would not sin if one were not so weak, or because one plans gradually to stop sinning. Such seductive thoughts, which undermine the will to resist temptation, must be set aside; they are groundless.63

What Scripture indicates about hell, moreover, should be understood as a warning, not a threat. Warnings and threats differ: parents who call children’s attention to a dead animal in the road—“That young deer didn’t look before running out”—are not threatening to run over them if they cross the highway carelessly, but warning them about what can happen if they are similarly careless. God warns that sinners can damn themselves; he does not threaten to impose hell on them (see CMP, 18.I). Since eternal punishment is not something God imposes, nobody should count on his mercy to forgo it, but only to provide the means necessary to forestall it.

c) Redeemed by Jesus, one is God’s child, living in his presence. Enjoying the wonderful status of being God’s children, Christians are to be sinless as Jesus is (see 1 Jn 3.1–10). They must bear in mind how far beneath their dignity it is to sin, and of how little real significance are material possessions, fleeting enjoyments, and worldly status. Moreover, Jesus has conquered the devil and the world. He paid the great price of redemption and in each Christian’s baptism provides the gift of the Holy Spirit. Strengthened by the Spirit, one shares in Jesus’ power to overcome sin (see Rom 7.21–25, 1 Cor 15.56–57, 1 Jn 2.12–14). God’s help is necessary, but those who ask for it receive it and can resist every temptation to commit mortal sin. To deny this would be to reject a defined truth of faith (see DS 1536/804, 1568/828).

Dealings with God should be something like those with a cherished guest—say, a dear, generous uncle—whom a person not only fears to offend but is anxious to please. God is not far away. One lives not only before him, but within him (see Acts 17.27–28); indeed, so long as one loves God, one’s body is his dwelling place (see Jn 14.23, 1 Cor 6.19–20).

3. To Overcome Sin, Its Occasions Must Be Avoided or Modified

Occasions of sin are situations or actions which in some way conduce to a temptation to sin and which can be avoided or modified so that the temptation will be less likely and/or more easily resisted (see CMP, 32.E). Charity toward God, whom sin offends, as well as toward oneself and one’s neighbors, whom sin harms, requires avoiding sin, and so requires the use of appropriate means to avoid it. Avoiding and modifying occasions of sin are such means. Anyone who really intends to vanquish sin will prefer to preempt it, if possible, by forestalling temptation or, at least, arranging matters so as to reduce the comparative appeal of the sinful possibility.

While there certainly are occasions of venial sins, for simplicity’s sake only occasions of mortal sins will be considered here. The analysis may be applied, mutatis mutandis, to the occasions of venial sins.

a) Occasions of sin must be traced back to omissions or choices. In dealing with occasions of sin, the objective is to forestall the sin by altering the situational and behavioral context, with the good result that the temptation either will not arise or will not be so appealing. Occasions of sin are therefore morally significant because they should be avoided or modified. Now, nobody can be morally obliged to do anything unless there is an opportunity to make a free choice about it. To handle occasions of sin, then, one must look for the relevant omission or choice: What choice might be made that one is failing to make, or what choice might be avoided that is being made? Thus, the real occasion of sin is not so much the person, place, or thing which leads to sin as it is the omission or chosen action which one foresees, or should foresee, is likely to lead to temptation or intensify it.

Temptation is considering a possibility as an option for choice while being aware that it should not be chosen. How strong an appeal the tempting option makes depends partly on the intensity of the feelings urging that it be chosen and partly on the strength of the emotional and rational motives supporting choice of a morally acceptable alternative. To avoid occasions of sin, then, is to avoid choices and omissions likely to lead one to consider options which should not be chosen. To modify occasions of sin is to keep in view the goods a sinful choice would violate—since these provide the reasons for choosing rightly—while doing what one can before the temptation arises to weaken feelings supporting it and strengthen those supporting a morally good choice.

b) Occasions of sin are either proximate or remote. Many things which people rightly do carry with them some foreseeable likelihood of temptation to commit a sin of one kind or another. Since it cannot be forestalled entirely, everyone accepts a certain ordinary level of temptation, without regarding the actions or omissions that lead to it as occasions of sin. The question of occasions arises only when common human experience, one’s own past experience, or some unusual feature of the situation calls attention to the fact that some choice or omission (usually, one of a recurrent type) will have as its side effect some temptation beyond the ordinary.

Even so, the occasion of sin may be only remote—not in time or place, but in the likelihood that the individual concerned will in fact yield to the accompanying temptation. One foresees temptation but judges that one will not sin. Still, aware that one might and sensitive to sin’s great evil, one realizes it would be safer, and so preferable, to avoid the temptation if possible.

By contrast, if the foreseen temptation is such that the individual realizes he or she is somewhat likely to sin, the occasion is proximate. Likely to sin here does not mean more likely to commit sin than avoid it. It simply means that the temptation is foreseen as an important threat, such that one has serious doubts as to whether one will withstand it.

c) Some occasions of sin can and should be avoided entirely. Even apart from the side effect of temptation to commit another sin, the act or omission that is an occasion of sin sometimes is itself at least a venial sin. In such cases, it should be avoided both as a sin in itself and as an occasion of further sin. Plainly, too, even if it would be light matter in itself, it becomes grave matter if it is a proximate occasion of mortal sin. For example, a small overindulgence in alcohol is in itself light matter. But many people learn by experience that when slightly drunk they are strongly tempted to commit serious sins: to slander people they dislike, to become physically abusive, to waste large sums of money needed to fulfill important responsibilities, to risk their own and others’ lives by driving, to entertain impure thoughts, and so on. For them, slightly excessive drinking that otherwise would be only a light matter becomes a grave matter as an occasion of sin.

What if an act or omission venially sinful in itself is judged to be a remote occasion of mortal sin? The teaching of classical moralists provides no clear answer. But since there never can be any acceptable motive for committing even the slightest venial sin, it seems that any occasion at all sinful in itself becomes grave matter insofar as it involves an absolutely unjustifiable risk of so great an evil as mortal sin. For example, the content of much of the popular media leads to temptations to commit various serious sins: of envy, greed, vanity, lust, and so on. Often, too, there are good reasons, such as the waste of time involved, for not making use of the media, so that doing so is venially sinful in itself. In these circumstances, it is unjustifiable to expose oneself or others (such as one’s children) to content which might lead to a temptation to commit a mortal sin. Considering what is at stake, the matter seems to be grave.

Sometimes the act or omission that is an occasion of sin would otherwise be morally good but in no way obligatory. There is an alternative, also morally good, that could be chosen instead. In such cases, if the act or omission is a proximate occasion of mortal sin, it should be avoided by choosing the good alternative, while failing to avoid it is grave matter, due to the unjustifiable grave risk taken (see DS 2161–62/1211–12). For instance, if a salesman has a choice between different jobs, either of which would provide enough income to meet all his responsibilities, and he foresees that in one of the jobs he might well succumb to temptations to defraud customers while he will not experience similar temptations in the other, he should choose the latter job.

But if the occasion is remote and the act or omission would otherwise be morally good, there is some reason to take the risk and not so serious a reason for not taking it; and therefore taking it is not grave matter. Still, it would be more reasonable not to take it, and therefore it is light matter.64 For example, a woman thinking of gambling a modest stake judges that doing so in itself would be justifiable as recreation and not wrong in other respects. However, while she never has risked too much, past experience leads her to think that she will be tempted to increase the stake to a point where her gambling would be gravely wrong. Having other options for recreation which carry with them no foreseen risk of temptation, she should not choose to gamble, even if she thinks she can deal with the temptation.

d) Other occasions of sin should be modified to render sin unlikely. Sometimes, however, it seems that an occasion of sin cannot be entirely avoided, for it appears that some other moral responsibility cannot be fulfilled without choosing the action or omission of which the temptation is a foreseen side effect.

If a proximate occasion of mortal sin is in question, however, the question to be settled, before judging that the other responsibility must be fulfilled and the risk accepted, is whether the responsibility remains compelling in this situation. Perhaps there is some alternative and satisfactory way of fulfilling it, or perhaps it is the sort of duty that yields when there is an important reason for leaving it unfulfilled. If so, this case really does not differ significantly from others in which there is a morally acceptable alternative, and choosing to risk mortal sin remains grave matter.

Still, the responsibility may be compelling, for example, a man’s strict and urgent duty to support his family might require him to continue working with associates who have often led him into sin. In such a case, any doubts about the ability to withstand the foreseen temptation should be challenged and put to rest. No one sins without freely choosing to give in to temptation, and God promises the grace to make the right choice. Of course, people must do their part by taking whatever practical measures they can to strengthen themselves to meet the temp~tation’s challenge, lessen its force, and so on.

4. Temptations Must Be Expected and Must Be Resisted as Soon as They Arise

Temptations occur when one thinks of the possibility of doing or saying or thinking something one ought not do or say or think (or not doing something one ought to do) as an appealing option available for choice. Prayer, self-denial, service to others, bearing relevant truths in mind, and avoiding occasions of sin are ways of forestalling temptations and/or preparing to resist them. Then, when temptation arises, it must be resisted: “Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm” (Eph 6.13). It is true by definition that temptations ought to be resisted: one ought to resist choosing as one ought not choose. But it is an informative and important moral norm that a person should anticipate temptations, be on guard, and begin to resist each temptation as it arises: “Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith” (1 Pt 5.8–9).65

a) The psychology of temptation requires prompt resistance. Temptations arise only when the tempting possibility has some support from emotion: desire, fear, anger, hatred, laziness, and so on. But someone who has prepared for temptation also has emotions supporting the option of choosing rightly. Anticipating temptation and being on guard, one can choose at once to resist. Otherwise, even though not choosing at once to give in, one will begin to deliberate about doing so.

As this deliberation proceeds, the excluded option is imagined more vividly, and this fantasy intensifies supporting emotion, while emotions which support doing as one ought weaken. Sometimes this process interferes with deliberation to such an extent that free choice is precluded, and with it deliberate sin. (Of course, some past sin may have led to this situation or failed to forestall it.) But more often emotion only blocks full consideration of the reasons against giving in to temptation, and the sinful choice is made contrary to conscience. Although this is a sin of weakness, it nevertheless is deliberate, and is mortal if one remains aware when making the choice that the matter is grave (see CMP, 17.D–E). Prompt resistance could have prevented the sin.

b) Resistance to temptation can be either direct or indirect. Direct resistance to temptation is similar to the tactic used in a deliberative body by someone who forces an unwelcome proposal to a quick vote, thus defeating it before it gathers support. Sometimes, when tempted not to do something which should be done, one can choose to begin to do it at once; other times, tempted to do something which should not be done, one can choose to begin doing the opposite at once. For example, someone tempted not to pay a debt can choose to pay it at once; someone tempted to lie his or her way out of a difficult situation can choose to tell the truth at once. Such choices resist temptation directly, and that should be done if possible—possible meaning the direct resistance is morally acceptable as well as otherwise possible.

But direct resistance is not always possible. A person might not have the means to pay the debt at once; in the difficult situation, someone might be bound to secrecy, so that not only lying but telling the truth is morally excluded. Then it is necessary to resort to indirect resistance. This is similar to the procedural tactic of a chairperson who forestalls deliberation on an unwelcome proposal by ruling it out of order and moving quickly to other business. To resist temptation indirectly, one simply sets the tempting suggestion aside and focuses attention on something legitimate (and, preferably, both interesting and entirely unrelated to the temptation).

c) One should not try to resist temptation by oneself. When direct resistance to temptation is impossible, indirect resistance sometimes breaks down, for a temptation might arise again and again despite the effort to set it aside. The situation is like that in a deliberative body where the chairperson’s ruling that a proposal is out of order is appealed and overturned: debate begins despite the attempt to forestall it. Then there is need for reinforcement, the help and support of another.

Those who have humbly asked God for grace are borne up by his might. But God wills to carry on his redemptive work not only in and through Jesus’ humanity but in and through the Church and her members, and not only by their prayer for one another, preaching, sacraments, and other official acts, but by their constant, mutual help, not least in turning from sin and resisting temptation: “Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6.2).

Thus, someone suffering temptation should seek the help of another member of a mutual support group, a spiritual director, a friend, a family member—in short, anyone who will understand the temptation and help resist it. Those called on for such help should give it if they can. The responsibility both to seek and give such help is grave if the temptation is grave matter.

d) The persistence of temptation must be distinguished from sin. Someone who fails to forestall temptations and/or prepare to resist them as can and should be done is guilty of that failure even if no temptations actually arise. Whether guilty of such prior failure or not, however, those who find themselves entertaining temptations and deliberating for and against giving in may wonder whether they have already sinned. It will seem so, for they are experiencing desire to do what is wrong and are more or less vividly anticipating the satisfaction of sinful inclination.

Still, these facts do not show that one has sinned deliberately. The inclination and its anticipated satisfaction can be merely emotional. And since a free choice is a fully conscious act of self-determination that ends deliberation, the fact that one is deliberating—even if one should not be—about whether or not to give in to a temptation shows that one has not yet given in to that temptation.

At this point, therefore, it is a mistake for a person, thinking he or she may already have sinned, to judge further resistance to temptation useless and give in. Instead, the person should judge that he or she has not yet sinned, but is being strongly tempted to do so, and should set the temptation aside, if possible, or seek help to resist it.

5. One Should Work with Others to Overcome Sin and Its Effects

There can be no life of Christian faith, hope, and love of God without love of neighbor. In the fallen world, all responsibilities toward other people include aspects of the penitential dimension of Christian life. Relationships must be established and renewed in the face of selfishness, division, and conflict; justice must be done despite, and in reparation for, injustice; mercy must be practiced to bring others to reconciliation, heal the victims of sinfulness, and foster the fragile and imperfect peace possible in this world.

Thus, chapters six through eleven, which deal with many specific responsibilities flowing from love of neighbor and the requirements of justice, complement the present chapter; each of them in some way extends it.

62. This point is central in a sound and very helpful booklet: Bert Ghezzi, Getting Free: How Christians Can Conquer the Flesh and Overcome Persistent Personal Problems (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1982).

63. See John Paul II, Reconciliatio et paenitentia, 17, AAS 77 (1985) 223, OR, 17 Dec. 1984, 6; cf. CMP, 16.D–E, 17.E.

64. Classical moralists differed with one another in strictness about the obligation to avoid occasions of sin; for a summary with some references, see Gerald Kelly, S.J., “Current Theology: Notes on Moral Theology, 1949,” Theological Studies 11 (1950): 64–65. The positions proposed here might seem stricter than the strictest taken by classical moralists, but the comparison is not straightforward, because the classical treatment focuses on persons, places, and things which might lead to sin, but how they do so is not clear, while the present treatment focuses on actions and omissions among whose foreseen side effects are temptations. Consequently, the moral quality of the action, apart from the foreseen side effect of temptation, is even more crucial in the present treatment than it was in the classical treatment. For a good, brief, and practical summary for confessors of classical moral theology’s treatment of occasions of sin: Gerald Kelly, S.J., The Good Confessor (New York: Sentinel Press, 1951), 79–86.

65. On resistance to temptation: St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life, 5, trans. John K. Ryan (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday Image, 1972), 235–70; Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J., Practice of Perfection and Christian Virtues, trans. Joseph Rickaby, S.J., 3 vols. (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1929), 2:355–426.