Catholic Culture News
Catholic Culture News

The Blasphemy of Self-Worship

By Fr. Jerry Pokorsky ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 10, 2024

“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” (Mk. 3:28) The prospect of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is unnerving because the sin ensures eternal damnation. But when do we cross that bright red line?

In his catechism, Pope St. Pius X identifies six components of the sin against the Holy Spirit: 1) Despairing of salvation. 2) Presuming salvation. 3) Denying a truth recognized by the authentic Magisterium of the Church. 4) Envying the grace that God gives to other people. 5) Obstinately continuing in error even after receiving the light and help of the Holy Spirit. 6) Final impenitence resulting from an entire life of rejecting God.

Here’s the good news: If we are worried about committing that dread sin, we haven’t. The ordinary tools of the spiritual life keep us on the path to heaven.

Consider our devotion to the Blessed Eucharist. Under the appearance of simple bread and wine, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is sacramentally present for adoration, reception, and intimate prayer. We develop a spirit of detachment with gestures of reverence that cultivate our awareness of God’s presence after we receive Holy Communion.

Traditional spiritual practices, reinforced during the season of Lent, help us identify and remove worldly impediments to God’s will. Yet try as we might, we know our attachments to the things of this world distract us from the purity of our desire to receive Holy Communion and encounter the living God. Excesses in our pursuit of comfort sabotage our dependence on God and anesthetize the desire to know Him.

We accomplish great things when we’re absorbed in noble and productive work. But our absorptions can also be detrimental if we allow them to distort our primary duties to God and family. A Christian spirit of detachment permits us to set the correct priorities and maintain a lifeline to God and His will.

Loneliness, fear, and desperation often help us recognize unholy worldly attachments and bring us back to God. King David prayed in the wilderness: “O God, thou art my God, I seek thee, my soul thirsts for thee; my flesh faints for thee, as in a dry and weary land where no water is. So I have looked upon thee in the sanctuary, beholding thy power and glory. Because thy steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise thee. So I will bless thee as long as I live.” (Ps. 63:1-4)

The graces that motivate detachment nudge us across the spiritual finish line. At times, detachments are involuntary and abrupt. There is nothing like the fear of annihilation that sparks a sense of dependence on God. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962—as a declining number of Americans remember—the lines for confession in our churches extended into the streets. There are no atheists in a foxhole.

Holy martyrdom in witness to Jesus is the pinnacle of detachment from worldly entanglements. But detachment usually requires a lifetime of interaction with God’s grace that concludes with Purgatory. Purgatory is a linchpin doctrine that overcomes the residual effects of Original Sin and brings us to our glorious destiny.

With human nature wounded by Original Sin, we have powerful evil tendencies that compete with our naturally good inclinations. Purgatory helps us understand that our encounter with God’s grace (above all in the Sacraments) provides gradual—not magical—restoration of Christian virtue.

The Book of Wisdom hints of Purgatory: “But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed to have died, and their departure was thought to be an affliction, and their going from us to be their destruction; but they are at peace... their hope is full of immortality. Having been disciplined a little, they will receive great good, because God tested them and found them worthy of himself.” (Wis. 3:1-5)

Church doctrine does not define how Purgatory chastises and purifies the righteous. We have the freedom to formulate comparisons to enhance our understanding. Purgatory is like the aftermath of a successful surgery. The pain is healing, and we enjoy the certainty of our eventual entry into heaven. In the holy fires of Purgatory, God removes our unholy attachments. With every painful release, the soul experiences a profound increase in joyful anticipation to see God face-to-face.

We are in grave danger of offending the Holy Spirit when we abandon our struggle against unholy attachments because we surrender to our postlapsarian evil inclinations. We begin to construct idols of our worldly fixations and prepare ourselves for the ancient blasphemy of self-worship: “Ye shall be as gods!” The Prophet Isaiah identifies the root of the sin against the Holy Spirit: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil!” (Is. 5:20) Who among us are not distressed by the Godless moral madness that suffocates the culture? But the temptation to abandon all hope is also a component of the sin against the Holy Spirit.

Atheist Bernard Nathanson was among the high-profile villains of the 20th century who became a Christian hero. Although he was a prominent abortionist, the development of ultrasound revealed the horror of his work. The Holy Spirit did not abandon him. In 1974, he wrote, “I am deeply troubled by my own increasing certainty that I had, in fact, presided over 60,000 deaths”—including his own son. In 1984, Nathanson directed and narrated a film titled The Silent Scream. The movie contained the ultrasound video of a mid-term (12 weeks) abortion that exposed its ghastly methods. Dr. Nathanson died a believing Catholic.

The unexpected story of Bernard Nathanson and his return to sanity gives us—and our culture—hope in the eternal solicitude of the Holy Spirit. “You are great, and you do wondrous deeds. You alone are God.” (Ps. 86:10)

Fr. Jerry Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington who has also served as a financial administrator in the Diocese of Lincoln. Trained in business and accounting, he also holds a Master of Divinity and a Master’s in moral theology. Father Pokorsky co-founded both CREDO and Adoremus, two organizations deeply engaged in authentic liturgical renewal. He writes regularly for a number of Catholic websites and magazines. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: fatheratchley - Jun. 12, 2024 1:05 AM ET USA

    The six kinds of sin against the Holy Spirit is actually mentioned by St. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologiae,II-II, 14,2. Citing them is a bit confusing unless one understands how St. Thomas precisely defines this vice of malice: blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is exactly that, blaspheming, hardened opposition to the truth that forgiveness of sins by the Holy Spirit is not from Satan, but good (Mt. 12:31-2). Check out the fascinating explanation also in his Catena Aurea 12,9 on Matthew.