“Ask a Priest: Why Do Sins of the Flesh Seem to Get More Attention?”

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Q: I notice that priests have a different emphasis in their homilies. Some priests show stronger disapproval for the sins of the spirit, such as judging others, hate, etc. Other priests discuss the sins of the flesh like sex, drugs, excessive drinking. Are sins of the flesh less serious than sins of the spirit? I feel worse when I hate, judge, curse, etc. People often cite how Jesus was the harshest toward the close-minded, judgmental, self-righteous legalistic hypocritical religious leaders, yet Jesus showed the most mercy toward the tax collectors and prostitutes. People who disagree cite how in Virgin Mary’s apparition in Fatima she warned that most souls are condemned to hell due to sins of the flesh. Are churches speaking too much about sins like fornication, contraception, etc., while ignoring the deplorable sins of racism, greed, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia, child abuse, domestic abuse, etc.? How is committing fornication a mortal sin and murder is a mortal sin? They carry far different consequences and do different levels of harm. Most people consent to fornication. No one consents to be murdered. There is no victim in regards to fornication. – I.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: It’s true that some people in the Church give more attention to sins of the flesh than of the spirit.

There are various reasons for that. For one thing, sins of the flesh are more external and can have a quicker and lasting impact on individuals and families and societies. We can think of some of the fallout from sins of the flesh, including divorce, broken families, abortion, and injuries and deaths from drunken driving.

It’s not correct to say that there are “no victims” in fornication. Many people have been left heartbroken because of promiscuity. And many children have been born of fornication and grow up without a stable home life.

Fornication can lead to a greater incidence of divorce later, since spouses didn’t learn the virtue of chastity during their time in the single life. And, of course, there are the countless abortions and subsequent psychological and physical problems that many women suffer because of those abortions.

Moreover, sins of the flesh are popular — which is why they are especially insidious.

This doesn’t mean that other sins aren’t worse. Murder is certainly at a different level than fornication. And, regrettably, many people fail to see the grave nature of sins such as racism, anger, detraction and greed.

If Jesus showed mercy toward tax collectors and prostitutes, it’s partly because they were some of the most repentant people.

(By the way, Ask a Priest can’t recall anyone ever complaining about “the churches” speaking up too much about contraception.)

The point is, a whole range of grave sins can lead to the eternal loss of a soul. The devil will be content with any sin that leads a soul to hell.

In any case, a soul lost because of sins of impurity will find little comfort in knowing that others in hell are suffering worse for their sins.

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One Comment
  1. The question asked about why those deplorable people so emphasize the ‘wrong’ of fornication, abortion, drug and alcohol abuse while they ignore such things as hatred, sexism, homophobia, and greed–is entirely
    subjective judgment of right and wrong ACTIONS.

    Your reply, Father, was objectively correct when stating that SINS of the flesh (S-elf I-ndulgent N-ature) do bring about other sins and a LOSS OF SOUL. Agreed, when Jesus ate with the tax collector or prostitute, it was not done to say ‘let’s just agree to disagree.’ You do your truth and I will proclaim my truth, which is the truth of His Father in heaven.

    Let me elaborate on the specifics of those who disregard Mary, spiritual mother, who spoke ‘not my will but yours be done Lord’ was speaking of putting GO(O)D actions FIRST, thus reaping being directed, by God, on how to act ‘in the world.’

    What this person seems to be doing is passing judgment, on ‘who are bad, rather than what is bad.’ All SIN offends God. ‘The world’ are always judging those ‘hypocrites’ in ‘that church.’ Those ‘hypocrites’ are called ‘penitent Christians’ working out their salvation ‘in the world.’ They are in the pew praying for self AND OTHERS while they in ‘the world’ merely gripe and complain about the greedy, the hateful, the judgmental. The world ‘takes personally’ those who are speaking of wrong ACTIONS called sin. (‘the world’ has been indoctrinated, since late 1960’s that ‘they are free to do whatever they have a mind to do.’) It is ‘the devil’ at the root of the dilemma. (we don’t like to mention him much, less we give him his due.)

    Question: is it GREEDY to want sexual satisfaction without the stating of commitment to love before witnesses? (Holy Matrimony) The SEXUAL GREED, without the adult responsibility (also spoken as response ability) The response ability that shows love by attending to a five day-a-week job, whatever the negotiated wage and non-taxable benefit package, in what was a free enterprise America. Such work supplying the basics of food and housing for this soul one vowed to LOVE, honor, support as well as that little blessing that comes from love, before God and witnesses, before buying the latest electronic toy, clothing fashion, or ‘in’ vehicle, car or pick-up truck or SUV? Is it RACISM, when abortion laws are passed that enable ‘more of the same’ non-committed love that kill more of the non-caucasian population? Though caucasians are catching up. Is it CLOSE MINDED when those ‘in the world’ want their definition of freedom to rule with words as ‘my body, my choice’ or ‘your truth will not change my truth.’ Not giving thought to that ‘cell’ that develops and is born? Ignoring that they were once ‘just a cell?’ How about the HATE to those who attend THAT church (whatever house of worship) religiously and ‘miracle of miracle’ they do have their material needs met, can save their dollars so as to have wealth in the future, and they have spiritual needs met as well: spiritual maturity, sharing with the gripers and complainers, good health of mind, body, spirit in this life, and the FAITH, HOPE, AND LOVE (wholeness of God within, like Mary had) so as to live eternally with Him, one day. Any Christian church or any house of worship; where objective praise, thanksgiving, petition is done to THE GOD, who directs the steps in how to ‘go forth to love and serve ‘the world.’

    Those in the world gripe: ‘how dare that church ‘tell me’ I can’t do whatever I feel like doing.’ (forgetting the words of Mary, who with the purity of love, said: ‘not my will, but yours be done.’

    May the objective Go(o)d again rule souls, which comes because of FAITH in God and those 10 commandments.

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