Angelo Stagnaro has taken on a hugely ambitious task in his 450+ page book titled A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium. Yet, the breadth of undertaking makes sense when you see that it is a modern understanding and reworking of Venerable Louis of Granada’s original ‘A Sinner’s Guide.’
Venerable Louis de Granada was an influential and beloved Dominican preacher and writer of the 16th century. His Sinner’s Guide is a classic Catholic spiritual work; written for the common man, yet a major influence on some of our greatest saints like Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint John of the Cross and Saint Charles Borromeo.
Stagnaro has indeed followed in formidable footsteps and does so admirably. Most important for the reader, the length of the book should cause no anxiety. It is not a cover-to-cover read, but a true guidebook, a valuable directory of sin – what sin is, what kinds of sins there are, how they are manifested in our times and how we can work to avoid them. And despite the guilt-inducing subject matter, A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium is quite an engaging and even enjoyable read as Stagnaro writes with compassion, humility – “my expertise in writing this book is that I have been, and still am, a spectacular sinner,” he says – and refreshing flashes of humor. The book is timely. In an age that has forgotten that sin is an objective thing – as Stagnaro says, “atheists and other secularists deride the term” – nonetheless, “living without values is a sure ticket to self-destruction.”
The Modern Sinner’s Guide outlines the seven deadly sins and then explores the sins pertaining to each of the Ten Commandments, but with some interesting modern developments. For example, under the deadly sin of anger, Stagnaro talks about the nature of anger and hatred, with subsections on gossip and Schadenfreude. To describe the latter, Stagnaro makes use of current cultural references (as he does throughout), in this case, the popular animated series The Simpsons:
In one Simpsons episode, Lisa, angry at her brother, Bart, managed to feel a modicum of pity for his lowly state. She said, “It’s amazing how I can feel sorry for you and hate you at the same time . . . the Germans probably have a word for it.” The Germans, being master wordsmiths, actually do have a word for it: Haßliebe (pronounced: hassliebe). This may not be as well-known to Americans, but another German word is much more popular in English. Once learning of it, one becomes instantly ashamed and worried that they themselves might be guilty of it: Schadenfreude. This is the shameful joy we experience when we delight at the misfortunes of others. When we think about the emotional and spiritual damage we do to ourselves when we enjoy another’s hardship, it is clear that this is completely unacceptable. One of the worst aspects of Schadenfreude is that the emotions it engenders in the soul can turn to even worse sins such as envy and anger. After all, bad feelings become bad thoughts and bad thoughts become bad actions.
The section based on the Fifth Commandment (You shall not kill) is in itself a stand-alone primer on the sins of the culture of death. The discussions are interesting and sometimes unexpectedly thorough. For example, in the section on suicide, after the sin itself is described, we have an explanation of instances of indirect suicide, which can be “heroic self-sacrifice:” Stagnaro points to Saints Damien of Molokai, Maximillian Kolbe and Edith Stein. But he also points out when indirect suicide can be “other than altruistic,” like purposefully refusing to leave a burning building or provoking an armed soldier or police officer into using lethal force (suicide by cop).
What really stands out in this part of the book is the section on abortion as Stagnaro names and refutes (often with many outside sources) 119 top pro-abortion myths. There is so much good, logical information here that I can imagine it could be used to both educate and arm Catholics on how to advocate for the lives of the unborn. Here is one myth, #37, the refutation of which gets hardly enough notice: “Pro-abortionists are law-abiding, compassionate, peace-loving, nonviolent people . . . unlike Christians.” Stagnaro refutes this, in the passage that follows, writing specifically about abortion providers and whether this myth describes them:
Putting aside the 43 million children killed as a result of the legalization of abortion, which can hardly be considered compassionate, peace-loving and nonviolent, the number of abortion providers who are violent felons is staggering, in particular considering how few there are. The Abortion Crime Report, published by California Right to Life offers a list of newspaper articles about abortionists who have been convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, torture, kidnapping, rape, theft, medical fraud, stalking, death threats, bombing, reporting falsely reporting bomb threats (and falsely blaming pro-lifers), sex crimes, conspiracy, drug crimes, property crimes, medical crimes and stalking among dozens of other crimes. The report of pro-abortion violence lists 2297 incidents of pro-abortion violence and illegal activities. The source for much of the information came from the Medical Board of California, which is responsible for licensing and bringing disciplinary action against state physicians. To this number, we should add the 347 women killed by legal abortions since 1973.
In another contemporary twist, Stagnaro identifies the new seven deadly sins, which include environmental pollution, eugenics, drug trafficking and consumption. There are thought-provoking discussions on some of our modern age’s most contentious and problematic issues.
A brief review cannot comment on the majority of a work such as this, but one more section I will highlight as tremendously useful is The Art and Science of a Good Confession. Because after all the talk of what sins exist and how they can destroy, the great truth of our faith is that we can be completely forgiven – if we make a good confession. Preparing for a good confession is an essential tool for spiritual growth and health, and the exercises provided here, along with the encouragement to trust in God’s forgiveness, is a sign that God’s mercy is an essential part of the message of The Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium.
– Maria McFadden Maffucci, Editor, Human Life Review.
Stagnaro gives a loving and logical response to the tragedy of abortion. Dealing with 119 myths invoked in its support, from complex arguments rooted in medicine, ethics and jurisprudence to sheer urban legend, he decisively refutes the ‘pro-choice’ manifesto. Substantial medical research is drawn upon, proving the beginning of human life at conception and the medical risks of abortion to the mother as well as the child detailed convincingly. The terrible phenomenon of sex-selective abortion, in which so many female babies are disposed of with chilling demographic effects, receives merited observation as does the grisly reality of what actually goes in abortion clinics. The author is not afraid to tackle sensitive cases, such as the small minority of abortions in which children have been conceived through rape and incest, aiming at genuine compassion for all concerned.
No quarter is given to moral and logical fallacies, which are often dealt with, with a tough New York wit (my favourite example being his response to the myth “You are against abortion because you cannot get pregnant: Those who support abortion have already been born,” p. 49). The advocacy of artificial contraception as an alternative to abortion is shown to have no bearing in reality, the example of New York City among other areas being shown. What is needed is a Christian humanism, in which human life from conception to death is regarded as a sacred and inviolable gift to be embraced. Stagnaro also notes the dangers of genetically engineered ‘designer babies,’ with those who do not make the grade being dispensable. He understands that many of the arguments for abortion can and have been used to defend infanticide and many other horrors that even most pro-choice people would wish to avoid. Those who wish to fight for an authentic culture of life have a sword and shield in this book.
Christopher Villiers, Catholic theologian and poet.
Ours is an age of impending darkness. The modern eye is not sound. We trumpet about freedom, but do not perceive our hidden slavery. We are comfortable but depressed; we are addicted to technology, but forget being. We think it is possible to be fully human without loving God; we think that loving God is compatible with ignoring, or even rejecting, His commandments. The sources of this darkness are legion, but a primary factor is our neglect of sin. While it is possible that previous generations were overly concerned with sin (although I doubt this is the case given their actions), that is not our problem. We have gone astray precisely because we do not think it is possible to go astray.
We alternate between incompatible claims, which undercut the possibility of sin. Often, we claim that goodness and evil cannot be true or false. Each person should be free to define for him or herself what is good and true, what lifestyle is most human and fulfilling. There is no correct answer to ethical questions. Yet, simultaneously, we claim that certain interpersonal actions can be objectively good or evil, but there are also zones of ‘freedom’ from truth and goodness (e.g., the bedroom, the economy, etc.). If those do not work for you, you can claim that freedom is illusory, thus sin is neurosis, genetics or social pressure.
Although we are influenced by each of these to a certain degree and they are incompatible with each other, all are incorrect. Every action is either good or evil. There is no neutrality in this world and Our Lord does not have good things to say about those who pretend there is (Rv 3:16). It does not matter if the action occurs in the bedroom, at the store, or in our innermost thoughts. It is either good or evil; it is subject to praise or blame. Sin is not neurosis, social pressure or genetically determined actions. Sin is a freely chosen bad action; an action contrary to love of God and neighbor. By every action, we either draw closer to the fullness of life or reject it.
To many of us this feels oppressive; the truth feels oppressive. Yet, to ignore it is to choose blindness and fiction, to choose a new and hidden type of slavery. Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin (Jn 8:34). Since freedom is created for goodness and truth, every sin decreases our freedom. It enslaves us to the passing things of this world and to our errant desires. If continued, sin can create a vice which enslaves us in a more total way. A vice changes the way we think and feel about certain things. By doing so, it keeps us from coming to know the truth and achieving freedom. We are no longer children of the world and of God, but children of a fantasy in which Satan rules supreme. We know not the way things are, but only our own delusions. Imagine an army denying land mines exist, while crossing a field full of them, then screaming the denial all the more shrilly when they are injured. As this army is, so are we. We are often our own worst enemies.
In an age such as ours, this book is a clarion call for the truth. “Sin exists. It is a matter of life and death that we recognize this salient fact.” It is destroying our lives, our communities and our humanity. Like a worm eating an apple, it corrupts everything from the inside out. Like a cancer, it spreads. The worst thing we can do is ignore it.
A Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium by Angelo Stagnaro takes its inspiration from an important and extremely potent spiritual work by Venerable Louis of Granada (1505-1588), also titled The Sinner’s Guide. Louis’s book is the sinner’s guide to salvation, to holiness, to fullness of life with God. It aims to guide those who are sinners to a life of holiness. The current work is a good complement for our times. We need not a sinner’s guide to happiness and fulfillment, but a guide to sin: its definition, types, causes, and remedies. One cannot be healed by a doctor until the disease is admitted and this book can serve as a diagnostic manual. It discusses not only the Ten Commandments, but also the seven deadly sins, a new seven deadly sins, sins against the Holy Spirit, ultimate sins, the unforgiveable sin, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Given this subject matter, one might be inclined to think the book grim. However, the book is far from it. The whole point is to alert us to the types of sins so that we can work against them, both through remedies and, more importantly, through confession.
Stagnaro, a Third Order Franciscan and prolific writer, is just the person to guide others through the types of sin, their remedies, and the sacrament of confession. By his own admission, he is an expert in sinning, but also (and more importantly) repentance. He is like the man sitting by the road calling out, “Jesus Christ, Son of David, have mercy on me” (Lk 18:38), and inviting others to do so as well. This is fitting, since only Christ’s light can cast out the darkness of our sins. Only His forgiveness in confession can scrape the scales from our eyes and renew our hearts. Then we shall see anew, see the world as it truly is, and be fully alive.
John Meinert, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Theology, Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady University.
The 500-page 7″ x 10″ reference work on hamartiology titled The Modern Sinner’s Guide for the Third Millennium by award-winning NCR editorialist Angelo Stagnaro, with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Archdiocese of New York. Based on the original sinner’s guide by Ven. Louis Granada. The Modern Sinner’s Guide will be available in paperback and ebook editions from Amazon, directly from ourselves at Hope & Life Press, and major booksellers. It will also be available at the Vatican libraries including the Gregoriana, the Angelorum, and the Pontifical College of North America.
Hope and Life Press is thrilled to announce the forthcoming release during the Christmas season of the first edition of the book Forty Italian Rustic Dishes: A Christmas Cookbook for Catholics by National Catholic Register award-winning editorialist and Holy See liaison Angelo Stagnaro, OSF. This is the second volume in Stagnaro’s series of Cookbooks for Catholics and the first in our new line. The book, which will be available in both paperback and ebook editions, has been granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur by the Diocese of Brooklyn.
Editorial note: This book, available in paperback and ebook editions, can now also be found at the Vatican libraries including the Gregoriana, the Angelorum, and the Pontifical North American College.
Book review by Brian Kiczek, D.C., Co-founder of the End of Abortion Movement
Angelo Stagnaro’s book The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual gives you well over 100 answers to common Pro Death Myths or pseudo arguments used to defend abortion. Each myth as he calls them is soundly and effectively rebutted using basic logic. One of the themes, besides answering all these myths soundly and decisively, is that when you depart from God you also depart from logic and sound thinking. You lose it basically.This book is perfect for anyone ready to defend life and also those on the fence regarding abortion and also anyone open to the truth. Continue reading here.
Editorial note: Angelo Stagnaro is the award-winning chief New York correspondent for the Catholic News Service, Holy See liaison, and editorialist for the National Catholic Register. He is also a Third-Order Franciscan and the author of several books on various aspects of Catholic spirituality and theology, all of which carry Nihil Obstats and Imprimaturs from various Catholic dioceses in the US. His most recent book The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual (with Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur from the Archdiocese of New York) has just been released by Hope and Life Press. Stagnaro is a recognized world expert on stage mentalism and cold reading.
The Truth About Stage Mentalism and the Catholic Church by Angelo Stagnaro
I enjoy telling people, both magicians and lay people alike, of how I passed the entrance exam for the Society of American Magicians (SAM)―a prestigious organization of stage and close-up magicians―many years ago. The New York City chapter of the SAM required two performances; one close-up and the other on-stage. As I am a mentalist, a stage performer who specializes in stage tricks emulating what non-magicians would call telekinesis, telepathy, ESP and precognition, I concentrated only on those tricks. Continue reading here.
“Stagnaro refutes, with many outside sources, 119 top pro-abortion myths…So much good, logical information, it can be used to educate and arm Catholics on how to advocate for lives of the unborn” ~ Maria McFadden Maffucci, Editor, Human Life Review.
Hope and Life Press is proud to announce the release of The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual by award-winning National Catholic Register editorialist, Holy See liaison, and Catholic News Service chief NY correspondent Angelo Stagnaro. The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual presents the 119 top myths about abortion and detailed arguments against them derived from the fields of science, history, philosophy, logic and theology. Intended to foreground the distinction between truth and political correctness, science and pseudoscience, logic and pseudologic, history and pseudohistory, this manual similarly addresses in depth the topics of artificial contraception, genetic screening and designer babies. Several remedies against them are provided, together with a section on the five ways of natural family planning. The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual is available in paperback and ebook editions from Amazon, directly from the publishers, and major booksellers. The book has been granted the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur by the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual will also be available from next month onwards at the libraries of the Vatican including the Gregoriana, the Angelorum, and the Pontifical North American College.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Italian-American grant- and award-winning journalist Angelo Erasmus Stagnaro is a news correspondent with the United Nations, newspapers and international wire services in the United States of America (US), Europe and Australia. He is the principal liaison between the Consulate of the Holy See in New York City (NYC) and the Catholic News Service in Washington, D.C., as well as the Service’s chief correspondent in NYC. Stagnaro is a regular contributor to the National Catholic Register and his major articles have appeared in the Washington Post, Catholic Herald, National Catholic Reporter, America Magazine, US Catholic Magazine, and The Tablet among others. He is foreign correspondent for OnlineCatholics Magazine and a freelance journalist with MercatorNet.com.
Stagnaro is the author of The Catechist’s Magic Kit, The Christian Book of the Dead, How to Pray the Dominican Way, and A Lenten Cookbook for Catholics. These books have been granted the Nihil Obstat/Imprimatur by the Diocese of Brooklyn. A professional stage mentalist and one of the world’s experts in cold reading, he is also the author of eight books on stage magic/cold reading, all of which are seminal works that have been translated into the French, German, and Spanish languages. Stagnaro has lectured in more than 70 cities across North America, Europe, and Asia. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Smoke and Mirrors, the net’s largest ezine for professional stage magicians. He is also Guildmaster of the Catholic Magicians Guild, President of the Society of Concerned American Magicians, and Chairman of the Occult Investigation Committee of the Society of American Magicians.
Stagnaro holds a Master of Arts in Anthropology/Archaeology from the State University of New York at Albany, with specializations in the Ethnology of Religion, Ethnicity in America, Physical Anthropology, and Population Studies. He also holds a Graduate Certificate of Asian Studies from Kansai Gaikokugo Daigaku, with specialization in Contemporary Asian Religions, and pursued graduate studies in theology at the University of Notre Dame, specializing in Hebrew Wisdom Literature, Liturgy, and Catholic Spirituality. Stagnaro was awarded the 2008 Catholic Press Association Award (First Place) for Best News Writing for National Event with his coverage of Benedict XVI’s US papal trip. His article The Monastic Ways of the Wise Little Bee was included in the National Catholic Reporter‘s compilation Best Catholic Spirituality Writing 2013. Stagnaro is a professed member of the Secular Franciscans and has served as Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) catechist in NYC and Singapore.
A CHALLENGE TO THOSE IN FAVOR OF ABORTION
The author, Angelo Stagnaro, will offer $1000 to Planned Parenthood for any and all logical or factual mistakes found in The Pro-Life Apologetics Manual. If a challenge is made and found to be illegitimate or illogical, the issuer of the challenge must pay $500 to Bridge to Life, Flushing, New York and $500 to Stagnaro for each erroneous or spurious claim of logical error or factual inconsistency. Unique and specific to the challenger, proof of purchase of the book must accompany each claim. Contact Hope and Life Press at firstname.lastname@example.org for the full details of this challenge.