Penance: Pain as a Scapegoat Which Carries Away Moral Evil

At the beginning of Lent 2015, it is appropriate to reflect on penance. I hope to clarify my thought that penance is choosing an inclination frustration – pain- to remove or cleanse from oneself a negative feature or stain on oneself which resulted choosing an immoral act.

Since these blog posts are on sexual morality, let us consider the point of doing penance for sexual immorality. The focus is on an act of male masturbation. The act itself has no significant consequences in the world outside the man who masturbated. I do not want to be distracted by consideration of needs to restore some damage done by the act. Also I do not want to consider penance as a either a way of building strength of character or a way of somehow deterring oneself from masturbating again. Penance may strengthen character and be a deterrent. However, I hope to clarify a thought and feeling that somehow penance cleanses a person from a morally evil condition he has produced in himself

An immoral sexual act is bipartite. Both parts are immoralities One part is the act performed. In masturbation this part is the self-stimulation to orgasm. The other part is self inflicted moral damage in the person who chose the wrong act. The moral damage or moral evil is whatever it is in the person which now justifies passing the judgment upon him: He is now a man who chooses to do what is wrong to gain a sexual inclination satisfaction.

This moral damage seems nebulous, intangible and invisible. How can it be removed?

Nothing can be done to remove the past choice to masturbate for an inclination satisfaction. Nothing can remove the fact that he had enjoyed the inclination satisfaction which is now gone. However, the point of penance is to cancel out that wrongly gained inclination satisfaction by inflicting on oneself a greater inclination frustration. Choosing to connect an overriding inclination frustration with the wrongly chosen inclination satisfaction transforms the moral damage into complex condition of moral evil connected with a balancing natural or non-moral evil. This complex of moral and natural evil is not so nebulous. It is certainly tangible if not visible. Because of its natural component this complex can fade away with time as the natural pain of frustration diminishes.

Penance is a “scapegoat.” The penitential pain attaches to the moral evil and as the pain fades way so does the moral evil it carries with it.

I introduce my thoughts on moral evil in my book Confronting Sexual Nihilism

My book Confronting Sexual Nihilism: Traditional Sexual Morality as an Antidote to Nihilism was released by Tate Publishing on March 11, 2014. See Book Web Page for information about the book. The publisher’s listed price is $26.99. Printed copies can be purchased here by credit card for $12.99, plus $3.71 for shipping and handling.

To purchase the printed book by check, send check of $16.70 per copy. Send to:
Charles F. Kielkopf
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