Catholicism in the Culture: Sin, Crime, and the Duggars

Catholicism in the culture: Sin and Crime @emily_m_deardo

Earlier this week, I read this article in the Washington Post about Josh Duggar’s inappropriate (and quite frankly, gross) actions against several of his sisters and another family friend. That alone isn’t worth blogging about, though. What is worth writing about are are similarities and difference between sin and crime–something that the author of this piece doesn’t seem to understand. The author seems to think that “repentance” is equal to getting off scot-free, and that there isn’t any sort of price to be paid for committing sin, whereas with a crime, there is a cost–jail, usually, or a fine of some sort.

When you treat this as a sin instead of a crime, you let everyone down…The behavior alleged was a crime, not a sin.

Actually, it’s both. If I commit murder, I have sinned and committed a crime. Same with theft, abuse, using illegal drugs, etc. There are some things that are sins but aren’t crimes, like adultery. You can’t go to jail for sleeping with your co-worker’s wife. No one’s going to lock me up for not observing the sabbath or for taking God’s name in vain (at least in the United States).

Let’s look at a few terms, here, because the author didn’t, and that’s a big problem.

First off, what is sin? Here’s how the Catechism defines it:

1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”121

1850 Sin is an offense against God: “Against you, you alone, have I sinned, and done that which is evil in your sight.”122 Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,”123 knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to contempt of God.”124 In this proud self- exaltation, sin is diametrically opposed to the obedience of Jesus, which achieves our salvation

There are also different types of sin. 

We see, in this definition of sin, that no sin only hurts one person. Sin is an offense against God. It is opposed to grace. Sin removes grace from your soul, and places you farther from God.

Now, what is crime? According to Merriam-Webster, crime is:

: an illegal act for which someone can be punished by the government

: activity that is against the law : illegal acts in general

: an act that is foolish or wrong

So both sin and crime are about doing things that are wrong, whether by God’s law, the law of the state/country/county, or by Natural Moral Law.  Essentially, Natural Moral Law states that even if you never met a Christian, read the Bible, or ever heard of Jesus Christ, there are some things that humans know are intuitively wrong. As Catholicism for Dummies puts it:

Moral law is natural because it’s known by reason — not written in stone or on paper, like the Commandments or the Bible. It’s moral because it applies only to moral acts — actions of human beings that involve a free act of the will. (It doesn’t apply to animals, because they don’t have the use of reason.)

What Josh Duggar did (and he confessed to doing it, so this isn’t alleged behavior) is both a sin and a crime. He committed a sin by violating one of God’s commandments–sexual acts outside of marriage are wrong. (While the Duggars have some pretty extreme courtship measures, the general message of “no sexual activity until you’re married” is a tenant of Catholicism, as well. But full-frontal hugs are allowed, and I never dated with my siblings as a chaperone, etc. The Duggars embrace a pretty hard-core version of purity, which the article discusses.) So that’s sin. However, it’s also illegal to perform sexual activities on others without their consent, so that’s the crime portion of the situation. Both require confession and punishment/penance, but they go about it differently.

If the Duggars were Catholic, they would have strongly suggested that Josh confess this sin (you can’t compel a confession. The penitent has to come to it of his own free will and with a proper spirit of contrition), and he would have received a penance.  After the penance was completed, Josh would have been fully absolved from the sin, thus returning to a state of grace and a state of friendship with God. The Catechism says (my emphases)

1468 “The whole power of the sacrament of Penance consists in restoring us to God’s grace and joining us with him in an intimate friendship.”73 Reconciliation with God is thus the purpose and effect of this sacrament. For those who receive the sacrament of Penance with contrite heart and religious disposition, reconciliation “is usually followed by peace and serenity of conscience with strong spiritual consolation.”74 Indeed the sacrament of Reconciliation with God brings about a true “spiritual resurrection,” restoration of the dignity and blessings of the life of the children of God, of which the most precious is friendship with God.75

1469 This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it. In this sense it does not simply heal the one restored to ecclesial communion, but has also a revitalizing effect on the life of the Church which suffered from the sin of one of her members.76 Re-established or strengthened in the communion of saints, the sinner is made stronger by the exchange of spiritual goods among all the living members of the Body of Christ, whether still on pilgrimage or already in the heavenly homeland:77

It must be recalled that . . . this reconciliation with God leads, as it were, to other reconciliations, which repair the other breaches caused by sin. The forgiven penitent is reconciled with himself in his inmost being, where he regains his innermost truth. He is reconciled with his brethren whom he has in some way offended and wounded. He is reconciled with the Church. He is reconciled with all creation.78

(The entire section on confession is worth a read, if you’re interested, or this post)

So, not only would Josh’s sins have been forgiven after confession, but he also would’ve received grace to strengthen him against committing sin again. (as I tell my first graders–GRACE IS AWESOME.)

Now, that being said–confession heals the person’s relationship with God. When criminal activity occurs, the Church believes that the process of law and due process has to happen for the common good of society. For example, if a murderer comes and confesses his sin, the priest will strongly urge that person to confess to the authorities, as well. It’s part and parcel of justice, which is a virtue. If you steal, you not only confess it–you have to pay back what you stole.

So, yes, Josh’s parents would’ve had to turn him in to the authorities. What happens after the crime has been admitted is a different thing in different localities, and thus outside the realm of this discussion.

However, the thing to remember is that sin hurts everyone. When you sin, you don’t just confess and get off scot free. There has to be penance, there has to be contrition and yes, you have to do your penance. The author of this piece is wrong when she suggests that sin and crime are different things, and that one is more or less serious than the other. Sin and crime are both offenses against other people, and both must be dealt with accordingly, whether sacramentally or judicially.

Grace will lead me Home


There’s been a lot of talk lately about Brittany, the girl in Oregon who is 29 and has decided to end her life in a few weeks, because she has cancer.

I was going to write about this. But then Ann Voskamp put this on her blog, and…all I can say is yes.

Yes, five thousand times yes.

Suffering is pain. Suffering is darkness and doubt and horrible things, and there are times when in that suffering and pain we want to end it all, to end in on our terms.

I know. I’ve been there. I’ve almost said no so many times. So many times I wanted to close my hands, like Ann says in her book, and say no, God! No God, I will not take this from your hand! 

No, no, no. I will not.

But the thing is…..that’s where the pain all comes from. From saying no.

What kicked Lucifer out of heaven?

Saying, no, God. No, God, I will not do this. I will not serve. 

And finally….

Thousands of years later….the world was healed and saved with yes.

Yes, God. Yes, I will do your will. 

“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”

–John 6: 38

I have laid in the bed, in the dark nights, with tubes in my body and pain in my mind and thought I can’t.

I have fought against that will. I have wanted to stop.

But then I realized that God is in all those details. He knows when I sit and when I stand, and He has marked out my day aright.

There is a plan…it’s just not one I know, all the way to the end. But to end the story before it’s really over? To deny myself, and others, any of the precious days that God gives?


I can’t.

We have to–all of us have to–trust in the plan. Open our hands and say “yes” to whatever is placed in it.

God is always good. Always. No matter what is happening.

In the suffering is the good, the glory…its beauty.

And I say that as someone who knows it, and who has wanted to run away from it and deny it and has wished for something that would be easier.

But that’s not His plan for me. His plan is for me, right here, and right now, with this body.

When He calls me, I’ll go. But until then….He’s the author of my story.


Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 43

saint catherine of alexandria reading a book by marinari

Happy Feast of St. Catherine of Alexandria, Co-Patroness of the Dominican Order! 🙂 

Outside my window::

Getting dark, and it’s COLD. Like in the teens at night cold. Brrr!


Black v-neck dress with a deep blue camisole, and black flats earlier, but those are off. My “grover” (my furry North Face Fleece, which is bright blue) is getting a lot of use as well these days.

In the kitchen::

Pasta, cacio e pepi, which is basically pasta with lots of cheese and pepper.


St. Catherine of Siena’s dialogues. I should finish this tonight!

Fun links::

Pride and patridges: Jane Austen and food. 

Knitting as a feminist issue? 

Praying for::
Angela in her “cancer eradication” surgery today. 🙂 (That’s what she’s calling it)

My pregnant friends

Around the house::

I have to start wrapping Christmas gifts. I did a lot of cleaning this weekend and my Advent wreath and my Nativity are both us. The tree is this weekend’s project. I only have work until Wednesday at noon, so a nice long holiday is in my future! Plenty of time to clean and deck the halls.

Being creative::

A bit less than 9,000 words left in NaNoWriMo sweeps! Yes! I also ordered a ton of new yarn today for a ridiculously low price, so I want to finish the scarf I have going on now and then clear my needles for the yarn that’s coming!

In the CD player::

Oh yeah, it’s Christmas music. 🙂

Plans for the week::

In no particular order: Thanksgiving (well, on Thursday, duh); three Pure Barre classes; my brother coming over with his girlfriend; the OSU Michigan game; putting up the tree; seeing Frozen, and going to a production of A Christmas Carol on Sunday. And I want to see Book Thief too!

Head over to Suscipio for more CWAs!

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 31



Happy St. Cecilia’s Day!

She is the patroness of all musicians, so I love this feast. And here’s the poem for this day, by John Dryden.


Last March, you may remember I visited the Dominicans of St. Cecilia in Nashville, TN. So happy patronal feast day to all the sisters there as well!

Statue of St. Cecilia at the Nashville Dominican Motherhouse.

Statue of St. Cecilia at the Nashville Dominican Motherhouse.


I know I have been terrible AWOL here lately, but between NaNoWriMo (I’m still chugging away, less than 20K words to go!) and random chaos, the blog muses haven’t been hanging around. I’m hoping that changes soon. NaNo takes most of my writing energy at the moment.


Last week’s adorable CCD quote:

Me: (Talking about the fourth commandment) And how do we honor our parents?
Anthony: We don’t stick our tongues out at them.

I love my class so, so much. And we managed to get through the entire story of Moses (well, minus the vivid plague descriptions) and the 10 commandments in one day! This week we’re covering the Annunciation and talking about Advent, since we’re off next week for Thanksgiving break.


Speaking of that–how the heck is it less than one week to Thanksgiving?! WOW! Fortunately I have inherited my mother’s early shopping gene, so I’m about done with my Christmas gifts. I still need to get two more things but I’m ordering those today. For Turkey Day, “we are going out to eat”, and I’m taking Pure Barre class that morning so I can eat sans guilt. 🙂


Reading: I’m re-reading the Royal Diaries and still in Abandonment to Divine Providence. And I have a beef with B&N.

B&N: I love you. But please put only NEW books (as in, released in the past month) in the “new books’ section,  not books that were released in March and thus are not new anymore, and then it’s hard to find legitimately new books. Pleaaase fix this! Why do you do this?!


Watched Man of Steel this week. I generally really liked it. How could I not with three of my favorite actors in it (Amy Adams, Henry Cavill and Russell Crowe?) But I did find two essentially back to back scenes of massive fighting and destruction a bit…wearying. But I know much less about Superman than I do about say, Batman, so maybe this is how it goes?

Seven Quick Takes Friday Vol. 28




Hi! No. I’m not dead. I’m not “in the resort” (code for the hospital.) I’ve just been really busy. 🙂 


First item of busy: The show. We start run throughs, completely off book, tonight, so I’m excited about that. I think it’s really coming together (at least what I’ve seen of it; since I’m only in Act I before being done away with, I haven’t seen the whole thing in rehearsals). My character shoes are being sufficiently broken in and I think I’m getting really comfortable with my character and her interactions with her ne’er-do-well husband, even if I still can’t figure out what she’s doing with him.  We open October 18th and run for two weekends. If you’re local, you can get tickets here: 

The cast is great. I’m having so much fun with them and we all get along very well. 


Second item of busy: finding a workout I like. Yes, it has happened–Emily found a workout she likes! I’ve been doing pure barre for the past two weeks. One of the girls in the show works at their Dublin location and she turned me on to it. It is super hard, but it’s only a 55 minute class, so I’m not ever looking at the clock going let me out of here, and it’s fun. Some of my friends actually take the same class with me, which I didn’t know about beforehand. Bonus! Also, class is at 5:45 and done by 6:45, so I’m home around 7:00, which is great. I don’t have to totally sacrifice my evenings to do this. 

My goal is to attend 100 classes by the end of April. When you reach 100 classes you get a pair of red sticky socks and get to sign the barre in the studio. Right now I’ve taken 5 classes. So I’m 5% of the way there….I’ve been taking three times a week, so far, and pondering adding a fourth day, but that probably won’t happen until post show. 

(Of course it’s not a cheap workout…my mom used to say I needed to marry someone really wealthy. It’s not my fault I like things that are expensive….but I’m expensive to keep up, anyway. And my doctors will be so psyched I’ve found a workout I like. So, it’s a medical expense. Right? Right.)


The Dominican Friars of our province have a glorious project–the Hymnarium

The Hymnarium O.P. is a hymnal  for the Liturgy of the Hours that makes available the Dominican heritage of liturgical hymnody.  It is has been published by the Liturgical Commission of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph in response to the 2010 Provincial Chapter’s wish that “the Dominican and wider Gregorian Chant traditions in the Conventual Mass and Office” and the desire of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council that chant “be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

They are currently fundraising for this project and are halfway to their goal! If you have some extra cash to spare, please consider donating. 


It’s NaNoWriMo prep time! Last year I did this and won, so I’m excited to do it again. This year the novel involves three bachelor brothers (one of whom is a duke), and two women in a car crash. And a fictional royal family. Oh yeah. Should be exciting!


Reading goal for the year (180 books) met. I feel awesome. I’m also currently reading Elizabeth Gilber’s The Signature of All Things and am enjoying it thus far. Hopefully that continues. 


And finally–Let’s Go Bucs! Pirates are in the MLB playoffs

This is either a Miracle of God, or a sign of the Apocalypse. I can’t decide which. 


Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 38

A sunday version, this week. 🙂

I am wearing::

A grey BR pleated skirt; a Boden sweater w/ a Peter Pan color in navy and plum (plum at the collar, waist and wrists); tiny sparkly earrings from Touchstone Crystal. I taught CCD today and the girls like it when I wear jewelry. 🙂

Outside my window::

Sunny and blue skies, low sixties. It’s a lovely first day of Fall here.

In the CD player::

Joyce DiDonato, ReJoyce! Let me tell you: her “You’ll Never Walk Along” is stunning. Go give it a listen.


The Last Olympian; Back to Virtue; Relish (which is so much more than a cookbook, it’s got some great tips in it.)


Christmas Scarf No. 5 in a beautiful cobalt blue yarn. I just love it.

Being healthy::

I’m taking my first pure barre class tomorrow. Gulp. We’ll see how this goes! One of the girls in the show works here and she told me all about it. I know I do better in a class when I can’t just quit early, and when I have to be accountable for it. So I’m a bit nervous but also excited to try this!

From the kitchen: 

Tonight is Ina Garten’s weeknight bolognese, which I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. Also this week are some new chicken and pasta recipes that I’ll share as I try them out. Also planning a menu for a Saturday night dinner party!  (Small–only two other guests–but still fun!)

Around the house::

Clearing out the closet and sifting through clothes I could donate; vacuuming; clearing off the kitchen table.  I’ve got friends coming over for dinner on Saturday so we have to have a place to eat!

Praying for::

Thomas Peters

my friends who are pregnant


Wendy, a member of my third order chapter, who is having a biospy in the near future

The kids in my CCD class

Plans for the week::

Lunch w/ my dad tomorrow

My parish’s 160th anniversary is on Wednesday, so I’m planning on attending the special Mass that evening.

Another Pure Barre class on Thursday

Friday/Saturday/Sunday: Show rehearsal!

Saturday: Dinner party

Sunday: CCD class. ALSO the Master of the Dominican Order is visiting our parish and concelebrating the 9 AM Mass, so I will make a special effort to get up for that!

Catholic Women’s Almanac No. 37

A midweek edition.


Blue top, blue patterned skirt, blue shoes…a theme? 🙂 Shirt and skirt from Talbot’s. I love their full skirts and try to get a new one every fall so I have lots of them to wear. They’re sort of my uniform.

In the CD player::

Renee Fleming, Guilty Pleasures (her new album)


Just finished Having a Mary Heart In A Martha World. Some good insights here and things I know I need to work on. Also re-reading The Kane Chronicles and Percy Jackson, because, really, there isn’t a bad time to do those things. Also reading Back to Virtue by Peter kreeft.

In the kitchen::

Tonight is a spring pasta, although it’s, you know, Fall. It’s pasta with asparagus and peas.  Here are two things I made last weekend that I loved:

Panko crusted salmon

Summer vegetable stew

I tried eggplant parm on Monday. Yeah, I just don’t like eggplant. It’s official.

Around the house::

Vacuuming, dusting the first floor and the vents in the master bath. Oh joy!


Thomas Peters

Pregnant friends



Christmas scarf No.4, which is almost done!

Plans for the week::

Dinner w/ Tiffany tomorrow; rehearsal Fri, Sat.., Sunday; teaching my CCD class on Sunday. We’re talking about Heaven. 🙂