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A modern dictionary of Catholic terms, both common and obscure. Find accurate definitions of words and phrases.

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IMPERFECTION, POSITIVE

A lack of greater perfection in a human act that is clearly adverted to and deliberately chosen. Positive imperfection occurs if one excludes an action that is better than another, from the standpoint of content and meaning, or more clearly suitable to the person who performs the act. This may be on the basis of a direct analysis of the action itself or a clear inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It implies the choice between doing and omitting something, or between acceptance of what is good and refusal of what is better. This refusal cannot be due to a reasonable motive. It can only be one of the many forms of egoism, and therefore makes such positive imperfections venially sinful. Some theologians argue that, in theory, even positive imperfections may not be morally wrong. In practice, however, the more common doctrine holds that there is at least some selfish, and to that extent sinful, motivation whenever a lesser good is deliberately chosen in preference to a greater one that could, then and there, be performed.

All items in this dictionary are from Fr. John Hardon's Modern Catholic Dictionary, © Eternal Life. Used with permission.

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