Catholics and the Sin of Human Respect

faith, discipleship


The sin of human respect looms large in this world of exaggerated emphasis on high self-esteem, radical individualism, and sexual identity politics, grounded in a tolerance for vice that is a forceful sign of the twilight of a once great civilization. Public and private morality have been illicitly divorced, heaven and hell illicitly joined in the collective imagination in a society that seeks affirmation and recognition, not from our Creator, but from our most disordered neighbors.

“This Horrible Human Respect”

One who dares to go against “new sexual morality” is one who cares little for human respect; though he may be pleasing to God, he may suffer banishment from the outside world. Fr. Frederick Faber reminds us, in his book Growth in Holiness, “To give ourselves up to the spiritual life is to put ourselves out of harmony with the world around us.” If we are striving to be citizens in the City of God, then we are completely out of tune with the City of Man. Even though we may say the same words, such as “love” and “respect”, we mean completely different things by them. “Grace holds us in one world, nature draws us down again into the other.” And as we’re drawn down by demonic expatriation, nothing speeds our descent more than that appeal to pride known as human respect.

What our duty as Christians calls us to is wholly distasteful to our licentious neighbors. If we’re seized with the concern for what the unfaithful will think of us as we live out our Christian principles, we’re suffering the sin of human respect. Fr. Faber further describes the plague of human respect as “a general wish to please, a laying ourselves out in particular subject matters in order to please, building castles in the air and imagining heroic acts, reflecting on the praise bestowed upon us, and giving way to low spirits when dispraised,——these are all manifestations of this horrible human respect.”

As a test, we should simply ask if we really care what the secular world thinks of our esteem for Christ’s commandants. If we find that we do care, we may want to take this to prayer and our spiritual advisors. For those who understand the true nature of reality and our relationship, it is God’s respect we ought to seek. We must care for what our Father in Heaven thinks of us; if we submit our wills to Him, we must give no concern for what our fellow citizens think of us.

The temptation of human respect, however, is as pervasive as the theologians would call “the pluri-presence of Satan”. Every aspect of modern life is drawn into the snare of human respect. As Fr. Faber goes on to explain, “In modern society men systematize it, acknowledge it as a power, uphold its claims, and punish those who refuse submission. God is an ex-king amongst us; legitimate perhaps but deposed.” To escape its ubiquitous grasp is achieved only by the grace of God.

A Call to Action

Father Faber made these sagacious observations over a century ago, but they are as profound today as they were then. Faithful Catholics today find themselves at a much greater moral distance from their secular counterparts living in the same geographical locations. To exacerbate matters, many seekers of human respect are nominal Catholics who openly revile and insult faithful Catholics. Even in the digital pages of Catholics who would defend the Faith, writers protest against the timeless teachings of Holy Mother Church, opting instead for secular values that incur the respect of a secular society deep in the throes of decline.

The faithful Christian today has no option to blend quietly into good society. If he is to live out his faith in accord with the commandments of God, he must willingly abandon human respect, proclaim the truths of Christ and remember the 8th Beatitude: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11).

Let us incur the wrath of secular society today! Let us stand up as Catholic faithful and speak the truth with charity no matter what the cost.

We proclaim with God’s authority that “male and female He created us”, each one of us made in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:27). We deny and reject the notion of multiple genders, and repudiate the use of applied technology to attempt to change the immutable sex of a human person. It is an act of charity to speak the truth on these matters, because those who suffer the most are the poor souls who have been convinced by secular society that such a thing is possible. Next to suffer are the families of those who attempt this most impossible thing, for little is more painful than to see those we love suffer the consequences of delusion.

We declare that the nature of the human family and human sexuality are two aspects of the same integral whole we recognize as the building block of civilization, the “first natural society” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church 209-211). Human marriage and family, the only combination that propagates the human species and complies with God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”, is defined not by men but by God himself. Our design, purpose, and final end are self-evident and obvious for those with the eyes to see. Male and female are gloriously complementary; the marital act inside of the marital bond has the primary purpose of participation in God’s creation by bringing new life into this world. It is a matter of justice and natural law that every new born child has a natural right to be raised and loved by his biological parents; anything less is a defect.

We are Catholics. We affirm God’s law and reject man’s laws that contradict or pervert God’s law; the price tag for us is a loss of human respect. Our motivation is love of God, love of neighbor, and a reverence for truth above what society deems desirable. These times demand that we make a choice either for or against God. These times demand that we make a choice either for or against human respect.

A Simple Choice

To choose human respect is a grave error. It may make a lot of people temporarily happy, and it may even make us feel good for a time. However, as we witness the increasing misery and debauchery we have condoned and in some cases even applauded, our conscience will begin to weigh heavy on us as we begin to realize the potential eternal cost. On the other hand, if we choose truth and the respect of God, we may be temporarily miserable because the world will hate us as it hated Christ.

So our choice is simple: short-term human respect in exchange for eternal misery or short term misery from human disrespect for eternal bliss. Human respect is fleeting. Human respect is false. Come the Final Judgment, human respect will be worthless.

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6 thoughts on “Catholics and the Sin of Human Respect”

  1. Steven-Great article! Consider this follow-up: “How turning the priest around so that he did not face the altar with the people has become an occasion of sin for many priests and a temptation to seek human respect while offering the Holy Sacrifice Of The Mass.” Once a priest morphs from the only person present acting in persona Christi as head of the mystical body of Christ, into a mere “presider” and worse a jocular Performer/Master Of Ceremonies, the temptation to human respect goes from temptation to sin. Peter told the heads of the church in Jerusalem that he could obey them [and probably get some human respect] or he could obey God- and he chose to obey God.

  2. Matt:7:3….…3″Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4″Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? 5″You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.…

    1. Steven Jonathan

      Yes great quotes Adam and so important especially for those who might encourage others to sin instead of the difficult work of fraternal correction. Yesterday I used these very quotes in an essay on right judgement, a lesson we could all use. Thanks for the good comment!

    2. I fear that you intentionally missed the point of my comment as it was directed at your essay. Arrogance under the guise of fraternal correction is still arrogance…some call this self-righteous pride. Luke 18:11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else. For I don’t cheat, I don’t sin, and I don’t commit adultery. I’m certainly not like that tax collector!……14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

    3. Adam, I am afraid that you didn’t intentionally miss the point of the article, you genuinely missed it.. My comments here have nothing to do with the Mathew passage or the Luke passage you quote here, there is nothing sanctimonious or self-righteous about Fr. Faber’s words on human respect, just an important reminder to us all to not lose our way because of the sinfulness of the world. As Catholics we cannot openly or privately support what is objectively sinful even though we ourselves are as inclined to sin as everyone else- There is nothing I have said that exculpates me from my sinful inclinations or marks me as a Pharisee. On the other hand, your comments to me do seem as if they perhaps may fall under your very condemnations of my words. If I don’t intend to convey what you attribute to me, then you are in error. If you are sure I did, why don’t you quote me and then we can deal with that. I am open to fraternal correction, but as you say, “arrogance under the guise of fraternal correction is still arrogance…”

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