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Sand Castle

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July 2018

Headed for the endangered list? Not to worry. It won’t be on it in our lifetimes, and probably not in anyone else’s. Sand, of which there are many types, exists worldwide. It is one of nature’s travelers. A product of the erosive forces of wind, water, and rock, sand gets formed in one place, only to move to another. And sand is not just rock. It also comes from marine life, things like shells and spines of creatures. How many grains of sand exist? The estimate is seven quintillion, five hundred quadrillion, give or take a hundred billion or so. Which raises the obvious question: how many sand castles will that make?

The answer: none that will last very long. If wind doesn’t blow a sand castle down, water will wash it away. Though an essential ingredient in the concrete used to produce structure that can last centuries, by itself sand is unstable. Sand grains cannot find the necessary support from each other; they lack sufficient holding power. It’s why sand shifts and sinks when it gets underfoot. The worst is quicksand, which gets so filled with water that its particles lose friction and can’t support any weight at all. The mushy mess can be lethal, not so much by going under but by hours of exposure to the burning sun or the rushing waves.

Jesus understood sand; it had more than geological meaning to Him. He told us the story of a house built on rock and another built on sand. We know which one survived the storms. And when He instituted His Church, He said it would be built on rock. It was necessary for the Church to be able to withstand the forces of hell. Jesus understood evil. Do we?

Just a few weeks ago, the people of Ireland were asked to decide whether to repeal the constitutional ban on abortion. In 2016, 78.3% of Irish Republic citizens identified themselves as Catholics. Yet by an overwhelming margin, they voted to legalize abortion. Almost 90% of those 18-24 voted for it. Note what just happened. Unlike the U.S., where unelected judges thrust legal abortion on us, the Catholic people of Ireland voted for it. They voted to authorize killing. And in Argentina, the longtime home of the Pope where 92% of the people are nominally Catholic, its house of representatives just passed a bill legalizing abortion up to fourteen weeks. If it clears the senate, the Argentine president promises to sign the bill into law.

We don’t need to travel that far from home to see the problem. Earlier this year America, a Catholic magazine, published the results of a 2017 survey of Catholic women conducted by Georgetown University. What it showed in part is that though their faith mattered to most of the surveyed women, it did not meaningfully guide how they voted. Often, women’s views on issues important to them were divided along political party lines. The overall sense was that Church teachings might confirm, but did not form their views. Women tended to see Church’s social teachings as contradictory. As for legal abortion, many saw it as wrong, yet others found reason to excuse it. One woman commented that though she is personally pro-life, she believes that raped or abused women should have a right to abort. She said that Catholic social teaching “settled a conflict” in her. But what Catholic social teaching supports a mother killing her child for those or any other reasons?

There is a disconnect between what the Church teaches and what Catholics believe. It’s partly because by its silence, the Church has allowed its social teaching to become divorced from the theology of sin. Catholic social teaching is based on human dignity, given to us at conception through the grace of God. Dignity is not a function of our economic or social status—a rich man does not have more than a poor woman. What our teaching is missing is that our loss of dignity comes from sin. The sinner surrenders it; the victim is robbed of it. This is why the Father sent the Son: to defeat the evil of sin. Certainly Jesus fed and cured and taught us about forgiveness, all very important. But He also spoke about sin and the devil and hell, and He instituted His Church to fight against it. Jesus came to save souls. His battle was against evil, He gave up His life to win, and He did it out of love. He asks just the same of us.

Whether afraid to offend or sound too authoritarian, whether wanting to be relevant or politically correct, the Church has largely stopped catechizing about evil. The result is that many of the faithful have incorrectly formed their consciences. Instead of forming consciences based on objective good and evil, they form them based on their own notions of good or bad.   By not exposing evil for what it is, we have allowed Satan to lie in the weeds in search of prey. There, the master of deceit works one of its greatest deceits: disguising sin as compassion. Lacking proper training, we have lost sight of a basic moral truth: we must never do evil in hopes that good will follow. Think about that woman’s comment, one shared by many Catholic men and women, about being personally pro-life yet supporting others’ choices to abort in cases of rape or abuse. It excuses the sacrifice of human beings so others might be spared perceived burdens. Human sacrifice. That’s not Catholic teaching. It’s paganism.

The problems in Ireland and Argentina have come from years of ignoring the fact that sin becomes a way of life when we allow it. But we can’t blame those countries too much; the problem started here. We have dropped our guard, and generations of Catholics have not been properly catechized to fight the evil disguised as good. What if a referendum on legal abortion were held in the U.S.? It’s a pretty scary thought.

When Jesus said that His Church was built on rock, He wasn’t telling us to relax. Satan doesn’t. A mighty fortress must be defended so its foundation doesn’t erode. Church teachings about good and evil must be the basis of what we do. We must train the generations about the good fight. If we don’t, well be just left with a sand castle.

Blown away or washed away, it really doesn’t matter. Away is away.


Paul V. Esposito is a Catholic lawyer who writes on a variety of pro-life topics. He and his wife Kathy live in Elmhurst, Illinois and have six children.

© Paul V. Esposito 2018. Culture of Life. Permission to copy and distribute for pro-life purposes is granted. Visit us at and on Facebook.

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