Memorial of Saint Alphonsus Ligouri, bishop and doctor of the Church
(Exodus 40:16-21.34-38; Matthew 13:47-53)
Moral theologians are something like a fisherman who throws a net into the sea as in today’s gospel. They treat of many things, most of which need to be sorted out and evaluated. Their job is to judge acts first as either good or bad and then the bad ones as gravely or venially sinful. To do this well they examine how the passions of the agent affected her actions. Very importantly, they propose virtues which will support the will to do what is right and resist the desire to do evil.
Today we celebrate the patron of moral theologians, St. Alphonsus Ligouri. He was an accomplished man in many respects. He founded a prominent religious congregation and was made a bishop. But Alphonsus is best known for infusing the academic discipline of moral theology with common sense. When laxists were looking for grounds to dismiss every act as non-sinful and rigorists were ready to condemn, Alphonsus promoted a middle ground. He wrote that an act may be dismissed if it has as many arguments for dismissal as for condemnation. For example, some theologians say that getting a tattoo is almost always wrong. Others are not so sure. If, after weighing the reasons that either group of theologians makes, there are equally good arguments for body tattoos as there are against, then they should not be condemned.
We should be ready to promote good actions and be cautious to condemn bad ones. If we have to condemn, let our object be the action and not the person. Let God judge the person without forgetting that the parents in the home and the state in society take the role of God. In this way we will give all their due – the essence of justice.