Catechesis On Anger
On December 31, 2019, New Year’s Eve, Pope Francis angrily slapped the hand of a woman who excitedly grabbed his arm after greeting a long line of well-wishers at Saint Peter’s square. Some said that “his defensive reaction was instinctive and completely reasonable.” The Pope wanted to be free from the grip of the woman. That was a “normal reaction to an abnormal situation.”
Why is a feeling of anger not sinful?
“Anger is defined as deep feeling of displeasure or hostility” (Fr. Morrow). That anger is not sinful in itself. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 1765 and 1772), the feeling of anger is one of the passions, there is neither moral good nor evil. We cannot control when we feel angry, since that depend on events that occur outside of us.
“We can control what we can do about the feeling. It is how we act based on this feeling that determines whether we sin or not.”
What is a sinful anger?
If anger reaches to the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously hurt or wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is mortal sin. (CCC 2302)
In the gospel, Jesus said, “whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgement….”Here, he asked for peace of heart and denounced murderous anger and hatred as immoral.
Why anger is called a capital sin?
Pope Gregory the Great taught, “anger is one the capital sins.” Capital is from the Latin “caput” which means head. A capital sin is a source of others sins. If anger is not controlled, it will give birth to other sins. The feeling of anger can become thoughts. And these evil thoughts that are entertained can become evil plans. These evil plans can become evil actions intended to verbally or physically harm a person.
What is virtuous or righteous anger?
“Anger can be noble if it is directed toward maintaining justice and correcting vice” (CCC 2302). This is being angry about the right things and in the right way. Saint Thomas Aquinas notes how it is a vice not get angry over things one should. Jesus was angry with those who turned the temple into a marketplace (John 2:13-16). It is the anger that seeks the change of evildoers.
God’s indignation is directed towards wrongdoing (e.g. Roman 1:18) Anger at sin is a virtuous anger.
How do we manage our anger?
“We must try to express or anger in a rational way. We must try to convert our anger into fully good.”
We can tell a person in a nice way the feeling of anger we have for him because we do not want to dwell on that feeling of anger. We suffer when we are angry. We want to be free from anger because we want peace especially within.
I find this advice on Facebook: “If you are angry with someone, think before you talk. If a person is junior to you, (your children, your student, your kasambahay), count up to 10 and then talk. If the person is equal to you, count up to 30 and talk. If the person is your senior (your parents, your teacher, your boss), then count up to 50, then talk. (Joke: If the person is your wife, keep counting, don’t talk. If the person is your husband, keep talking, do not count.)”
We must always remember this advice of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (Eph. 4:26) “If you are angry let it be without sin. The sun must not go down on your wrath; do not give the devil a chance to work on you.”
-Fr. Gerome Pelagio