In our contemporary culture, people often view sins and faults as primarily individualistic with little or no bearing on others. Society tends to view sin as a kind of moral norm dictated by personal beliefs, whether it is a personal conviction or a religious system, and as such sin is viewed as lacking a social dimension. Although it would be impossible to refute the complex arguments that can be made in support of such a position, I would like to offer a Catholic perspective in the form of a case study.
The case would involve a typical middle class family in which the father in the family has become a habitual user of pornography. Although on the surface, the father continues to perform his functions as a husband and father, his dilemma is greater than just getting the job done. In the Christian context, the father is called to be a model of Christ’s sacrificial love. He is called to be more than a mere functionary who provides for his family, he has a supernatural vocation which involves his relationships with others.
Because of his use of pornography, he is unable to give his family the true love they need and desire. This goes beyond simply being present for them. His wife begins to sense that her husband has a divided heart. His love for her lacks the warmth and depth of Christian love, and his children sense the imbalance in the parents.
Furthermore, sin in one area often affects the will in other areas of life. Sin destroys the vitality and vigor of virtuous living. Early Christians often noted the connected between vice and a kind of lethargy that sets in with sin. If not lethargy, then the opposite extreme is often present and this is a kind of frenetic doing in which the father would lack true peace. In the case of the father, he shows signs of both. At times he gets very excited and rushes into activities in a kind of frenetic rush, and at other times he seems tired and bored. He alternates between these extremes, never really being satisfied with the moment.
This lack of the fruits of the Holy Spirit would ripple out and affect everyone. A person who lacks inner peace often brings that disorder into the work and social relationships. In such a situation, the other virtues are lacking as well. People who lack the authentic freedom of the virtues will tend towards injustice, imprudence, and other imbalances that run contrary to virtue.
Ultimately, sin has to be understood as being against authentic human flourishing. We should obey God’s will not just because if we don’t we will be punished, but because it is the path to true human happiness. This happiness is greater than momentary pleasure, and involves a deeper, loving relationship with God and neighbor which is patterned on the love Christ showed on the Cross. Although this little example is by no means a kind of airtight “proof,” I hope that it has helped in building understanding about the wisdom of the Church. God bless.