Learning To Hate The Sin

Learning To Hate The Sin

Some time ago I ran across a poem composed by Blessed John Henry Newman entitled “Zeal and Love”. As I read it, I thought: “Wow, this is just what we need in the present age”. I resolved to post it then, but waited. With recent events in the Church, I think today that it will prove useful for a serious examination of conscience.

In the past half a century at least, we have, in the Catholic Church, made considerable progress in the art of seeing what’s good in other people and in other religions. No one is entirely evil. It is therefore a quality to know how to discern the good from the bad. It can also be helpful in many situations to know how to leave aside the bad in order to speak of the good. But when that diplomatic approach (frequently useful in politics) becomes the only approach to reality, and when one has become so accustomed to it that one neglects to see what’s wrong and do something about it, one ends up with catastrophic situations like those we have been hearing about of late, with shepherds corrupting their own flocks and nobody doing anything about it.

Perhaps if those who had authority to act had meditated on this little poem, many crimes would have been prevented and many souls saved. Hear John Henry Newman.

Zeal and love

John Henry Newman, Oxford November 20, 1832

And would’st thou reach, rash scholar mine,
Love’s high unruffled state?
Awake! thy easy dreams resign,
First learn thee how to hate:-

Hatred of sin, and Zeal, and Fear,
Lead up the Holy Hill;
Track them, till Charity appear
A self-denial still.

Dim is the philosophic flame,
By thoughts severe unfed:
Book-lore ne’er served, when trial came,
Nor gifts, when faith was dead.

“Learn thee how to hate”. The future Cardinal took that line straight from Holy Scripture. It happens to be in one of the psalms that the clergy are supposed to recite in the Divine Office: “The Lord loves those who hate evil” (Psalm 96 [97]: 10). And St Paul would write to the Romans: “Hate what is evil, hold on to what is good”.

So let’s relearn the art of hatred. Perhaps it’s not too late after all, if only we can convince ourselves that evil deserves every fibre of hatred that we can muster. For if “the Lord loves those who hate evil”, do we really think he loves those who don’t?