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"Collective guilt"

“Collective guilt” is the theory that all members of a group or association bear responsibility for the actions of a few. For example, from 1791 to 1804, the slaves on Haiti successfully rebelled against their French masters. Their cause was certainly just: they wanted freedom. Their means were not just. The leaders of the rebels judged all Frenchmen as collectively guilty. They killed the entire families of all plantation owners. They even killed the non-slave owning French who supported their cause. Their rebellion did bring freedom from slavery, but new injustices and internecine warfare soon began. Today Haiti is a nation wracked with poverty, kidnappings, gang warfare, crime and political instability.

In the last 100 years, Communists thought that if they just eliminated the bourgeoisie, Nazis thought that if they eliminated the Jews, and some Hutus thought that if they just eliminated the Tutsis (Rwanda, 1994), that all would be well. But things did not turn out well in any of these cases; instead, millions of innocent people were killed or victimized.

Assigning “collective guilt” is not Christian. In Ezekiel (18:20) we are told: “The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son…”

Therefore, the Russian and Chinese people as a whole are not responsible for the crimes of the Communists; Germans as a people are not responsible for the crimes of the Nazis; and Hutus are not guilty for the crimes of other members of their tribe against the Tutsis. Only those individuals who have knowingly and willingly cooperated with these crimes bear guilt.

Recently, some public schools have started to include the teaching of Critical Race Theory --- assigning collective guilt to all American white people --- in their curriculum. In Colorado, a black man spoke against this occurring in his public school. He said, “I can think of nothing more damaging to a society than to tell a baby born today that he has grievances against another baby born today simply because of what their ancestors may have done two centuries ago.”

Regarding this tendency to ascribe guilt to others, Bishop Sheen wrote: “The loss of personal morality is compensated for by an intense devotion to social morality. Social conscience takes the place of individual conscience. That is why the followers of the new demonic mysticism feel that by blaming others they relieve themselves of blame… they dispense themselves from the guilt of their own injustices… in all totalitarianism there goes hand in hand a great passion for social reform with a complete disinterest in the need of individual reform.”

In contrast, Bishop Sheen wrote: “Christianity does not begin by reforming society; it begins by reforming men.”

How do we go about “reforming men”? Bishop Sheen said, “…violence has to be restored.” What did Bishop Sheen mean? He was alluding to Matthew 11:12, “…the kingdom of Heaven suffereth violence and only the violent bear it away.”

The Lord brought a sword. It’s not the sword that’s thrust out against the enemy. It’s a sword that’s thrust against ourselves, cutting out the seven pall bearers of the soul: pride and covetousness and lust and anger, envy, gluttony and sloth…” He continued “…peace is never corporate--- it’s never social---until it’s first individual.”

In his book Communism and the Conscience of the West (p. 171), he wrote: “The old-fashioned and despised insistence on individual holiness as a condition of social apostolate produced a far better social order than the present one based on idealistic ideologies and anti-moral actors in ideologies.”

This is the goal of St. Michael Broadcasting: to help each of us grow in holiness so that we become a leaven unto the world. We ask you to continue to support this apostolate through your prayers, by offering to volunteer, by telling others, by asking if you may place program guides in your parish’s literature rack, and if possible, a financial contribution.

Ad majorem Dei gloriam


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