Having written what he wrote about personal sin, Pope John Paul II turns to so-called social sin:
At this point we must ask what was being referred to by those who during the preparation of the synod and in the course of its actual work frequently spoke of social sin.
The expression and the underlying concept in fact have various meanings.
To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.
This is right: one dimension of sin is that it impacts other people. Some of us might think some of our sin is private, hidden stuff. But we would be surprised at how much of an impact our wrongdoing really has.
We know people have a positive impact, too. With God’s helpful grace, it will work:
This is the other aspect of that solidarity which on the religious level is developed in the profound and magnificent mystery of the communion of saints, thanks to which it has been possible to say that “every soul that rises above itself, raises up the world.” To this law of ascent there unfortunately corresponds the law of descent. Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.
I think most insightful people of faith, even non-Christians, have a sense of this. Certainly when people in power commit sin, and use social contacts to enforce their will, this is the social dimension of sin taken to the extreme.
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