"Big Four" Highlights


‘Little Sins’

Laugh with author Elizabeth Scalia as you learn to kick your bad habits

Sin is no laughing matter, but that doesn’t mean we can’t chuckle at ourselves as we strive to root out the small moral slips that lead to confessing the same sins again and again. Elizabeth Scalia, a popular blogger and U.S. editor of the website Aleteia, says that an honest look at our weaknesses can include a humble humor that gives us the hope we need to get up and try again. She develops this theme, with some serious underlying reflections, in her latest book, Little Sins Mean a Lot: Kicking Our Bad Habits Before They Kick Us (Our Sunday Visitor).

She answered a few questions from Fathers for Good, and even commented on her possible relation to the late Supreme Court justice.

Fathers for Good: Is there a hint of scrupulosity to the title?

Elizabeth Scalia: Actually, I caution against scrupulosity, which comes with a host of its own problems and makes us forgetful of God's infinite mercy. The book is more a reminder that we must be on guard against our near-constant social repetition and rationalization that we are fine as we are, that our little sin "doesn't make me a bad person," or that the choices we make, or the allowances we make for ourselves (particularly these "little" allowances) are fine "as long as I am basically a good person." We always leave what makes us good or bad persons rather vaguely defined. 

The problem is that these "little sins" are all connected in small or larger ways to the deadly sins, and that's why – although we should guard against scrupulosity – we still need to be aware of what we're doing, and work on ourselves for the sake of our relationship with Christ and each other.

FFG: Are you really the awful person you make yourself out to be in the book?

Elizabeth Scalia: Well, there's nothing I write about in the book that isn't something I'm working on in my own life. The exception, perhaps, is the sin of "Deliberate Spite," which has never been part of my nature, although I'm sure passive aggression has been. You have to read the book to find out just how awful I am, and I'm pretty honest.

FFG: Explain your point about "Catholic guilt" and "Catholic conscience."

Elizabeth Scalia: “Catholic guilt” is an overplayed, cheap joke that people use to denigrate the notion of sin. As with any cliché, there is an element of truth to it – there have certainly been instances where Catholics have been so imbued with a sense of shame that it could distort perspectives about what is human and difficult – but it's a small element and one that really isn’t relevant anymore. Perhaps in the 1960s or 70s that element of shame and self-loathing, thanks to church harangues, might have been a true contributor to the "Catholic guilt" cliché. But I'm not sure people coming through CCD and religious education, or Catholic schools, in the past 30 years can claim to be victims. The continuing narrative of "Catholic guilt" is just an intellectually lazy broadside against the idea of sin-as-reality.

What is represented as "Catholic guilt" today is simply a well-formed conscience about the things that endanger our souls, make the world a harder place, and dilute our relationship with God. Are some things really and truly sinful? Yes! Let's be able to say that, and let's be able to identify them beyond our ideologies, which often lead us astray.

Here's what everyone really wants to know. Are you related to the late Justice Antonin Scalia?

Oh, who knows? My father greatly resembled Antonin. I understand there was a great split in the New York family when someone married a woman from Naples. Some Scalias went to Queens and made great strides, some stayed in Brooklyn and reveled in the peasantry. I'm from the peasant side.