This is my attempt to envision an examination of conscience that more explicitly deals with the intersection between interpersonal and structural-social sin. NOTE: The absence of certain “traditional” sins, like masturbation, for example, is not in itself a statement about the sinfulness of those “traditional” sins. In other words, I do not primarily intend this to be a rejection of standard examinations of conscience as I do a supplement to them. I am also assuming a United Statesian context. Also, let me confess from the start that I am guilty of the vast majority of these…
If you are in the military, have you educated yourself about church teaching on war? Have you ever followed an order you knew to be unjust? Have you ever fought in or contributed to the fighting of an unjust war?
For all people: have you ever supported or failed to speak out against your country’s participation in an unjust war, such as the Iraq War? Do you place loyalty to the nation above loyalty to the life and message of Jesus Christ?
If you are a business owner, executive, or manager, have you ever paid any of your workers less than a living wage? Do you see your business as a way to amass wealth and make a profit or do you see it as a way to serve the common good, with a preferential concern for the flourishing of the poor?
For all people: do you support the rights of unions to organize and strike? Do you actively work to create a society in which all people have access to meaningful and dignified work? Do you uncritically embrace the ideology of liberal capitalism? Do you value the right to own private property above the right of the poor to flourish? Do you think that owning private property entitles you to do with it whatever you want or do you use property for the sake of the common good?
Do you live a life of wealth and privilege, while others go without? Recognizing that the earth was created for the sustenance and well-being of all, do you share your excess wealth with the poor? Do you receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist while failing to receive and be a home to the body of Christ in the persons of the poor? Do you take Jesus’ teachings on wealth seriously or do you try to explain them away or spiritualize them?
Do you participate in structural sin and/or fail to be in solidarity with the oppressed?
If you are a man, have you ever thought yourself to be “better than” a woman? Do you make an idol of your own masculinity by thinking or speaking of God as more masculine than feminine? Do you make or laugh at sexist jokes? Do you participate in a culture in which sexual abuse and sexual conquest are encouraged? Have you ever attempted or actually succeeding in any sort of sexual contact with a woman without having first received her explicit consent? Have you ever attempted to put a woman “in her place?”
For all people: keeping in mind the example of Jesus’ encounter with the woman with the flow of blood, do you seek to create a world in which women are not marginalized, thought to be dirty or made to bear in their bodies a disproportionate share of the weight of sin and suffering?
Keeping in mind Jesus’ intervention on behalf of the woman about to be stoned, do you, like Jesus, recognize that women too often bear the burden, both in shame and in suffering, for our society’s sexual sins?
If you are a woman, do you acquiesce to sexist and misogynistic social conventions?
For all people: excepting very grave reasons, do you vote for political candidates who support policies that promote economic inequality?
Excepting very grave reasons, do you vote for political candidates who wage unjust wars?
If you are a white person, do you actively work to overcome your own racist thoughts? Have you actively sought to educate yourself on the history and ongoing reality of white supremacy in the United States?
Do you live in a predominantly white neighborhood? Do you or your children attend predominantly white schools? Do you feel more comfortable in predominantly white social settings?
Do you support institutional and political measures that will achieve racial justice and finally end white supremacy? Have you failed to support the efforts of people of color to achieve racial justice? Do you support reparations for slavery, Jim Crow, the war on drugs, the creation of the racialized ghetto, and the ongoing denial of racial justice?
Have you or any of your ancestors benefited from racially discriminatory and white-privileging governmental policies and laws? Have you taken responsibility for the way that you have been privileged by your whiteness? Are you willing to relinquish your white privilege for the sake of the common good?
For all people: do you work to oppose and dismantle white supremacy, resisting its seductions and false promises?
Do you live in a nation that justifies its use of torture and imprisonment without trial and due process?
Do you visit the imprisoned and work for prison reform so that your nation’s penal system will more fully respect the dignity of the human person and more truly be a mechanism of justice and social healing rather than a source of injustice itself?
Do you seek to restore land rights and cultural and political sovereignty to indigenous peoples? Do you seek to prevent indigenous peoples from suffering further loss of land, culture, and life? Do you live on land that was stolen from indigenous peoples without trying to in some rectify that injustice?
Have you ever failed to foster an environment in which all persons are welcome and in which the needs of all are met and in which the gifts and talents of all are celebrated?
Do you respect the well-being, integrity, and “goodness” of all God’s creation? To the extent that you are financially able, do you eat animal products that are cruelty-free? Do you bring an attitude of intentionality and awareness to your society’s food system, cognizant of the way it degrades the land, pollutes the environment, and oppresses farm workers?
Do you support the dignity of immigrants? Do you strive to make your church, your community, your nation, even your home, and a place of welcome for those who have come from somewhere else? What is more real to you—the unity of Christians as the body of Christ or the national borders that presume to divide the body of Christ? Do you stand up for the rights of migrant farm workers, especially the right to organize and receive just remuneration for their work?
Have you committed yourself to the preferential option for the poor?
In your town or community, is environmental degradation (for example, pollution) concentrated in poor communities of color? Do you bear your fair share of pollution? Have you ever supported efforts to place toxic waste dumps or polluting industries in impoverished neighborhoods or countries?
Do you support and/or profit from industries and businesses that actively destroy the environment, such as the timber, mining, and oil and gas industries? Are you looking out for the good not just of all people in all nations, but also for the good of all generations? Do you consume resources and relate to the environment in such a way that future generations will be able to flourish?
Have you ever turned your back on the call to discipleship because it would have cost you more than you were willing to pay? Have you ever sought “cheap grace?” Have you ever failed to foster an eschatological mindset, following prey to the false utopias of nostalgia or futurism?
Do you dine with the tax collectors and sinners of our time, or do you invite only your “friends, relatives, and wealthy neighbors” to your table? Do you let yourself be touched by the lepers of our day?
Are you an active participant in and servant of the church—not simply sitting in the pews, listening, but seek instead to take responsibility for your church and help it stay true to the gospel? Do you take your identity as one of the people of God seriously?
Do you see God in the way that Mary, the mother of Jesus, does? Like Mary, do you say “yes” to the God who “disperses the arrogant of mind and heart, [who] throws down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly;” a God who fills the hungry with good things and send the rich away empty; a God who “has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy, according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendents forever?”
Have you ever committed the sin of anti-Semitism?
Do you welcome those who, like Mary, are unwed, teenaged mothers? Do you make “room” for them in your communities?
Do you, like Joseph, seek to be an “Egypt” to infants and young children, protecting them from the “Herods” of malnutrition caused by unjust distribution of wealth, famine caused by war and ecological destruction, and the fate of being collateral damage in another nation or people’s war.
Recalling Jesus’ welcome attitude towards children who were not biologically related to him, as well as our own adoption by Christ at baptism, do you strive to be a parent for all children, not just those who are related to you biologically? Recalling Jesus’ creating a family based not on biology but on discipleship, do you seek, as much as possible, to extend your sphere of parental influence as wide as possible, whether through adoption, foster care, mentoring, or coaching? Have you ever made an idol out of the nuclear family?
 Catechism, 2313
 Catechism, 822, 2243
 John Paul II “Message to the Third International Meeting of Military Ordinaries” 11 March 1994.
 Quadregesimo Anno, 22, 220; Guadium Et Spes, 67; Laborem Exercens, 19.
 Centesimus Annus, 43; Mater Et Magistra, 53
 Laborems Exercens, 20; Guadium et Spes, 68
 Laborems Exercens, 6
 Solicitudo Rei Socialis; Martin Luther King, Jr.
 Guadium et Spes, 69; Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 42; Centesimus Annus, 41.
 Catechism, 2269; In his February 4, 2004 “Catechesis at a General Audience,” JPII called usury, “a scourge that is also a reality in our time and that has a strangehold on many peoples’ lives.”
 Matt 6.12
 Matt 6.9-12
 Exodus 21.2-6; Deuteronomy 15.1-6
 Matt 6.24
 Clement of Alexandria, “Will the Rich Man Be Saved?” Mark 10.21; Mark 10.25
 Laborem Exercens, 19
 St. John Chrysostom; Matthew 25
 Luke 4.18; Luke 6.20-26; Luke 12.33; Mark 10.21; Mark 10.25; Mark 6:8; Luke 16.9; Luke 12.13-21, 13.22-31; Mark 12.17; Mark 11.15; Matt 6.12; Matt 6.24
 Luke 6.20-26
 Matthew 25
 Solicitudo Rei Socialis, 11-22
 Matt 9.20-22; Mark 5.25-34; Luke 8.43-48
 John 8.1-11
 Mater et Magistra, 53
 JPII Address to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, Manaus, July 10, 1980; JPII, Address to the Indigenous Peoples of Australia, Novemeber 29, 1986; JPII Address to Native Americans, September 14, 1987.
 Leviticus 19.34; Genesis 19; Romans 12:13;
 Cesar Chavez
 Luke 10.25-37
 Keenan, James. Moral Wisdom: Lessons and Texts From the Catholic Tradition. Pg. 62.
 Puebla, Medellin
 Matt 5:44
 Matt 5.39
 Gaudium et Spes, 69; Populorum Progresio, 22.
 Centesimus Annus, 37; Octogesimo Anno, 21; Solicitudo Rei Socialus, 26, 34; Populorum Progresio, 17.
 Luke 14
 Luke 1.46-55
 Matt 2.13-23
 Matt 2.16-18
 Matt 19.14
 Matt 12.48-49
 Luke 14.26