Monday, September 10, 2012

Excommunicate the evil-doer from your midst.

The Bible tells me so.

Last night I read a couple of chapters in Deuteronomy.  Sometimes I just read from the Bible where I happen to open to - mostly when I'm tired after the night rosary.  Anyway - I opened to the precepts regarding marriage - who shall die for what offense, and so on.  "Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst."  Usually by stoning.  The Law was so strict that even a man who had a nocturnal emission during the night had to go outside the camp the next day, and purify himself before returning after dark.

I went to bed thinking the readings were interesting but didn't really pertain to our lives today.  Then after today's first reading at Mass, my lectio made more sense.  Paul told the Corinthians that the man living with his father's wife should be excommunicated "from their midst... handed over to Satan for the destruction of his flesh."  [1Cor. 5:1-8]  That's pretty severe.  Thus we are reminded that the early Church was nearly as severe as Old Testament Israel. (Pius V had some things to say about the 'filth in the Church' of his day as well.)  The Church today can also discipline, rebuke, sanction, or even excommunicate to clear out the old yeast and freshen the dough.

Yet the modern Church has been much more tolerant.  When I was little, Italian actresses, Sophia Loren and Gina Lollobrigida were designated 'public sinners' by the Vatican.  It was big news in those days before the Council.  People were still publicly condemned, some excommunicated - but after the Council, not so much.

Not many days ago, Cardinal Burke spoke on how Canonical discipline was abandoned after the Council:

Cardinal Burke: anti-canonical priestly culture devastated Church after Vatican II

Lamenting a clerical culture dismissive of canon law in the decades following the Second Vatican Council, Cardinal Raymond Burke addressed a Kenyan canon law convention on August 28 about "the essential service of canon law in the work of the new evangelization."
"After I began my studies of Canon Law in September of 1980, I soon learned how much the Church's discipline was disdained by her priests, in general," he recounted. "Institutes of the Church's law, which, in her wisdom, she had developed down the Christian centuries, were set aside without consideration of their organic relationship to the life of the Church or of the chaos which would necessarily result from their neglect or abandonment."  "The 'hermeneutic of discontinuity and rupture,' which has tried to hijack the renewal mandated by the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, is marked by a pervasively antinomian culture, epitomized by the Paris student riots of 1968, and has had a particularly devastating effect on the Church's discipline," he continued. "It is profoundly sad to note, for instance, how the failure of knowledge and application of the canon law, which was indeed still in force, contributed significantly to the scandal of the sexual abuse of minors by the clergy in our some parts of the world." - Source
"How much filth there is in the Church..."

Today some Catholics are clamouring for dissenters and abusers to be excommunicated - if not burnt at the stake.  Indeed, the Church has the power to cleanse itself from the filth Cardinal Ratzinger spoke about in his Way of the Cross meditations so many years ago.  Yet canonical discipline continues to be rarely implemented, and dissenters are rarely rebuked, save by ultra-traditionalists and some Catholic bloggers - who have no canonical status.

In the past, Cardinal Burke himself has been fairly lenient in enforcing the rules, at least as regarding religious discipline; nothing liturgical however...  he's pretty strict about that stuff.  Bishop Finn too.

What can I say?


  1. I've been really distraught over the Deuteronomy stuff lately. What bothers me is that it was just as severe as the most fundamentalist of Islamic societies today. It really did encourage fathers to kill their daughters without remorse, did encourage husbands to have their adulterous wives killed, etc. Even if a person repented, it was mandatory to kill them.

    I know a man whose wife had an affair. At first he divorced her civilly, but then she asked him to forgive her, and he did, even having marriage civilly reinstated (it was never annulled). They have been happily married for ten years since then, and I am in awe of his humility and power to forgive.

    What grates on me about Deuteronomy is that not only is such forgiveness not urged, but is actively discouraged. The image of a bunch of men righteously stoning a sinful woman as a communal cathartic experience - an image for which we hold societies like Afghanistan in contempt. It bothers me that God really ORDERED people to act that way. More confusing than that is that the very same Divine Word did what He did in the Gospel - but didn't He himself order them to stone an adulterous woman without remorse, to treat her as lower than human?

    Also are the weird things like how a man who suspected his wife of not being a virgin could have her killed by stoning if they could not provide proof of her virginity - not that they could prove her fornication. And even so, no man was killed for fornication. The parents were expected to enthusiastically hand her over and rid themselves of such scum.

    And just for the record - most men and women I know - even the best Catholics, were fornicators at once. If a Catholic man finds that his daughter is sleeping with a boyfriend, he may be angry, but he will still love and pray for his daughter, not want her dead. Even in the early Church, severe penances were dealt out, but the Church did not have people executed for sins.

    What I keep wondering is, what grounds to be have to criticize the Taliban for their barbaric and inhumane practices, when we believe in a God who also ordered such things to be done? The Deuteronomic code is in several places even stricter than Shariah!

    1. I knew you'd like this. ;)

  2. I guess my point is - we scoff at Islamic dudes who kill their daughters for being slutty, or what they perceive as such. How is this different than what was ordered in the Bible?

    1. Christians and Jews stopped doing that stuff - Muslims haven't. I dunno.

    2. Muslims clam we chickened out.

      There's a story in the Hadith (or maybe in the biography pf Muhammad) where an adulteress is found out and the Jews urge clemency. Muhammad answers by making the Jews quote their own scripture, which clearly calls for the killing of an adulteress. Reluctantly they concede his point.

      There's another story that is supposed to illustrate Muhammad's great mercy: A woman commits adultery and gets pregnant. She confesses her crime, and Muhammad allows her to live until the baby is born. Then she begs him to let her live until the baby is weaned, which he agrees to. When the baby is old enough to eat solid food, they stone her to death, which MUST happen to fulfill God's will.

      It's a disgusting story that contrasts sharply with the Gospels and stories of the Saints. But it would seem very much in place in the Bible. I can imagine a similar story involving Moses or Joshua.

      Another story has men reluctant to stone a woman to death, but Omar (who will eventually be Caliph) exhorts them to man up, and smashes the woman's face with a rock, causing the blood to splash everywhere. This is seen as righteously carrying out God's will. Also seems jarring - but this is what God Himself commanded in the Pentateuch. And since Christ is the Logos, does it not mean it's what he commanded too?

    3. Maybe that is why Islam is rising again - we've all become much too decadent. It could happen.

    4. Perhaps.

      But I'd like to think it is ALWAYS wrong for a parent to want to kill their child, regardless of sin. Or for a man to want his adulterous wife killed. WE should want them to repent and to do penance (whatever the Church requires), but I would like to think we are rightly repulsed at the violent punishments of Shariah.

      But from the OT, it seems that not only was God permissive of such things at one time - he actually commanded it. The man I mentioned above who forgave his adulterous wife - that man was doing EVIL, not good, under OT morality.

      Or we are told that torture is always wrong, yet we know that God once commanded death to be carried out by tortuous means. Also, it seems it was easy for innocents to condemned under such laws (a woman had to prove her virginity to avoid being killed for fornication before marriage - no one had to prove her sin; and no requirement whatsoever was made of men to avoid all fornication.)

      But if we believe the morals taught by the Church are eternal, then how could God have permitted, even ordered people to do things that are so repugnant to the Christian mind?

      Wow, I have really hijacked all this.

    5. "But if we believe the morals taught by the Church are eternal, then how could God have permitted, even ordered people to do things that are so repugnant to the Christian mind?"

      I dunno. As my parents always told me, "Don't think about it." LOL!

  3. Terry, did you really cite TIA?

    Pius V also believed Protestants should be killed, and fully and completely supported the use of torture. I get his points, but who do we go with, him or the guidance of the Church as it is?

    1. I did cite them - LOL!

      Go with what the Church teaches now.

  4. A little levity for all...My father was staying at The Plaza in New York and he was waiting for a cab. Gina Lollabrigida was also waiting for a cab. Gina decided to place herself first in line. My father had cued up and was next in line. Never one to wait in line, he said to Miss Lollabrigida: 'you may do that elsewhere Madame; however, you may not do that in New York'. My father reached over Miss Lollabrigida and her suitcases and stepped into his cab. The cab driver was more than a little irritated ;)

    1. I love that story! Thanks.

  5. I get the old testament stuff.. God was severe, he is severe, only now he sees us through the blood of Christ.

    The loss of continuity in the Church in recent years makes me scratch my head... I like Church Militant better...

    1. I get that the punishment of sin is death. I really do. What I do not get is that He gave the punishment over to sinful and imperfect men to carry out. I do not see what the men in the story of the woman caught in adultery were doing wrong, given that God told them to do that in the first place.

      Nor do I get how we have a right to criticize the harshness of Shariah, nor its inherent bias against women. Deuteronomy calls for female fornicators only to be killed, and seems to make it so that women who are raped can be killed simply because they didn't cry out and alert people.

      I also do not understand why God woudl command people NOT to forgive, or make it so that men should enthusiastically have their adulterous wives killed.

      I know a man who forgave his cheating wife after she wronged him. He divorced her, then remarried (civilly both ways - the Church marriage was never declared null) after she begged his forgiveness. He was not obliged to do so, yet he did. And it woudl seem that in the Christian order the most virtuous thing one can do in such a situation is to humbly forgive.

      Not so before - the woman had to die, period, and the husband should have her killed. Serves the b**** right and all that. Of course, he could have other wives and concubines.

      So WHY do we criticize Muslims for killing and imprisoning women who are accused of adultery, or who have been raped? Or for their polygamy, and their killing of whom they perceive to be blasphemers?

  6. "only now he sees us through the blood of Christ"

    Since we are incapable of doing good on our own, or at least anything meritorious, I have the very Calvinist notion that God sees only our sins, sees us only as evil things that need punishment. How can he have patience for for sins, even little ones, Holy as he is? I have a very, very hard time understanding his compassion.

    1. But God sees our sins only until we confess them, when they're wiped away. He created us so He had someone to love. Remember what Jesus said to Peter who asked if we should forgive our brother 7 x. No, 70 x 7 we must forgive.

      The other thing I think you're forgetting is that Jesus brought us a new covenant, so while we look to the Old Testament, for us it is foreshadowing of the New Testament. Recall the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus clarified that he came to fulfill the law, not to abolish it.

      You worry so much but it's when you're the most worried that He holds you closest. He loves you. He loves all of us, even those who aren't Christian and those who persecute Christians.

      Remember that guy, Saul, who persecuted Christians? What happened to him can happen to anyone.

  7. Revelation has been gradual and fulfilled in Christ. Jacob was more privileged than Abraham, David more than Jacob and Gregory the Great more than all of them. I read that recently somewhere, or something like it. As my Old Testament lecturer used to say, "God meets people where they're at"


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