Catholics/strange catholic quote


QUESTION: Why do "good intentions lead to hell"? Is this even in accordance with the Catholic view on hell and sin?
All I know is that it was said by a saint of the Church.

ANSWER: Saint Bernard of Clairvoix said "The road to hell is paved with good intentions" or something along those lines, in latin.  The phrase can also be translated as you did.  What Saint Bernard meant was that people have good intentions, but fail to act on those intentions, in which case they lost the opportunity to do something good or prevent something evil.  In which case, Bernard would say, these are sins of omission -- when you have the opportunity to do something good or prevent something evil from happening, and you fail to do it, it can be sinful.  Obviously it's a matter of degree. Hope this answers your question.

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QUESTION: Now I get it!
So...we all know that there are people with good intentions who may not always choose the right actions. Some people mean well but do wrong actions. How can one know what actions to choose when one has that good intention?

I think the idea is that if you have good intentions (that means your conscience has chosen an action that it thinks is good) and you don't carry it out, you may be on the road to hell.  If you do carry it out, even if it is objectively a bad thing, to act according to your conscience (assuming it's not deluded) is a good thing.  To not act according to your conscience is a bad thing.  
Whenever we mention conscience, we have to distinguish it from "impulse" or "what feels right".  A conscience means that I have carefully weighted the alternatives, that I have educated myself to seek the morally correct thing, and that I make an informed decision.  For example, Junipero Serra, a Spanish missionary, forcibly relocated Indians into his missions, re-educated them, replaced their religion with Christianity, and used the Spanish military to enforce all of this.  Today this looks truly awful.  But when you read his writings, you see that according to the best information he had and the time in which he lived, he saw himself as doing the best thing for the Indians ("civilizing" them, saving their souls).  If he truly believed that doing this was the right thing to do for him, and failed to do it, then that would be morally suspect.  Hope this helps.  


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Donald Higby


Most any question about Catholic teachings, the structure of the Church, issues related to Catholic teachings on sexuality and marriage; I also know a lot about biblical foundations for Catholic teaching, and apologetics. As a scientist and a deacon, I am conversant with the dialogue between science and religion.


Deacon, 13 years; Religion minor, Catholic University of America. Self study.

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Diaconal Formation, four years (college level courses) Catholic University of America, religion minor, philosophy minor. (AB)

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