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"Whenever the Church speaks of situations of sin or when she condemns as social sins certain situations or the collective behavior of certain social groups, big or small, or even of whole nations and blocs of nations, she knows and she proclaims that such cases of social sin are the result of the accumulation and concentration of many personal sins. It is a case of the very personal sins of those who cause or support evil or who exploit it; of those who are in a position to avoid, eliminate, or at least limit certain social evils but who fail to do so out of laziness, fear, or the conspiracy of silence, through secret complicity or indifference; of those who take refuge in the supposed impossibility of changing the world, and also of those who sidestep the effort and sacrifice required; producing specious reasons of a higher order" (Reconciliatio et Paentientia 16, quoted in Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, note 65, Pope John Paul II).

Pope John Paul II speaks often of "structures of sin" that oppress the poor. These are rooted in the personal sin of individuals, out of which over time, develop systems that enable, encourage, facilitate, and propagate social sin and oppression (Catechism 1869). To understand society's structures of sin, we must first consider the problem of the personal sins of individuals. This analysis contributes to a better understanding of structures of sin that oppress poor people, just as the discussion of societal sin helps us to understand forces and situations that are driving, enabling, and facilitating personal sin.

General Considerations regarding Personal Sin

Personal Sins of the Rich and Powerful.........Personal Sins of the Poor and Powerless

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