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Dear catholic.com visitors: This website from Catholic Answers, with all its many resources, is the world's largest source of explanations for Catholic beliefs and practices. A fully independent, lay-run, 501(c)(3) ministry that receives no funding from the institutional Church, we rely entirely on the generosity of everyday people like you to keep this website going with trustworthy , fresh, and relevant content. If everyone visiting this month gave just $1, catholic.com would be fully funded for an entire year. Do you find catholic.com helpful? Please make a gift today. Thank you. Wishing you a blessed Lenten season.

I Keep Hearing about “Social Sin” and “Structural Sin.” Whatever Happened to Personal Sin?

Question:

I keep hearing about "social sin" and "structural sin." Whatever happened to personal sin

Answer:

Nothing. Unfortunately, it’s alive and well. The Church hasn’t abandoned the idea we commit personal sins. “Social sin” and “structural sin” are legitimate terms, but shouldn’t be interpreted as negating personal accountability.

In his encyclical on social justice, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, Pope John Paul II says “social sin” or “structural sin” proceeds from the accumulation of personal sins. It is, says the Pope, “a question of a moral evil, the fruit of many sins which lead to ‘structures of sin.'”

Since the source of “social sin” or “structural sin” is personal sin, the solution to it rests with our personal actions. We must do more than change “the system,” as important as that may be. We must change ourselves.

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