From a Zenet interview with Catholic therapist Andrew Sodergren on the elimination of sin in modern psychology.
Q: Can you explain what you mean by sin, in terms of character deformation rather than mere legalism?
Sodergren: In order to overcome the loss of the sense of sin, it is essential to recover a proper understanding of the nature of sin itself.
Sin is not simply a violation of a norm, rule, or law. Yes, it is that, but it is much more and its effects are far more insidious. It is crucial to widen our understanding of sin and avoid reducing sin to a merely legalistic view.
A renewed sense of sin begins with an acknowledgment of sin in its different manifestations: original sin, actual sin and social sin.
The Church’s doctrine of original sin is often neglected today. By choosing themselves over God and thus rebelling from his command, our first parents marred their likeness to God. Their human nature was wounded by this rupture. We are all affected by the deleterious effects of original sin.
Every evil in the world is traceable back to this fundamental disruption at the beginning of time.
Since human nature consists of a unity of body and soul — see the Catechism, No. 365 — and the human soul is a spiritual soul — see No. 367 — original sin has then physical, psychological and spiritual effects.
In addition, man is a fundamentally relational being, which means that original sin necessarily disrupts his interpersonal relationships. Thus, disharmony is introduced between man and God, between human beings, within the human subject, and even between man and the cosmos.
Actual sin refers to the sinful actions that human persons commit. The character of the human person is shaped through his moral actions, which lead to the formation of dispositions. If his actions are righteous, the person develops virtues.
If, on the other hand, man’s actions are immoral, his state in the world — already disordered by original sin — is worsened through the development of vices. This condition inclines him to commit further sins thus moving him toward further disintegration.
Seen in this way, sin can be seen as a dynamic, insidious force that is somewhat like a disease or addiction that works to unravel the human person, making him a slave of sin and alienating him from his ultimate end.
A psychology that ignores sin and its effects is like a doctor who only treats the visible effects of a disease and not their underlying causes. When guilt becomes the problem instead of a symptom of an underlying problem is it no surprise that the cures are not effective. Dr. Sodergren talks about the "dictatorship of relativism" and how it would not have been possible in the first place without the loss of the sense of sin in the first place.