Fr. Blake on “Shooting and breaking the legs of sheep and heretics”

Please use the sharing buttons!  Thanks!My friend Fr. Ray Blake, reknowned p.p. of Brighton, has on his blog an interesting entry about “the Good Shepherd”. Be sure to visit his great blog.

I remember hearing about a school inspector telling a class of Yorkshire children the parable about the Good Shepherd, then asking them what their dad’s, most of whom were sheep farmers what there dads would do. One little girl said, “Sir, ‘e’ll shoot the b*gger, once one runs, he’ll teach the rest of ‘em to run”.

Jewish shepherds would leave the flock, and go in search of the lost one, the reason why he would carry it on his shoulder is because he would break or dislocate its leg, which meant until it healed the shepherd needed to carry it around.

The important thing was that whilst it was getting better it was also learning to stay with he flock and while it was disabled it could not teach the rest of the flock to run and it itself learnt to listen to and follow the shepherd.

So what do we do with sheep who run off from the flock and teach others to do the same? In the past we might have called them heretics, now we call them dissidents, redolent of the political prisoners of the Soviet Gulags. The problem is that they remain to teach others to leap the fence, indeed, their role as “dissident” seems to give them importance in the secular world, and the “Liberal Catholic” establishment to comment on the Church and to condemn it.

The Church has moved on from Pope Zachary’s (741-52) Rite of Anathema and by doing so seems to have broken from Tradition and scripture 1 Timothy 1:20; 1 Corinthians 5:5.

“Wherefore in the name of God the All-powerful, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, of the Blessed Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and of all the saints, in virtue of the power which has been given us of binding and loosing in Heaven and on earth, we deprive N– himself and all his accomplices and all his abettors of the Communion of the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we separate him from the society of all Christians, we exclude him from the bosom of our Holy Mother the Church in Heaven and on earth, we declare him excommunicated and anathematized and we judge him condemned to eternal fire with Satan and his angels and all the reprobate, so long as he will not burst the fetters of the demon, do penance and satisfy the Church; we deliver him to Satan to mortify his body, that his soul may be saved on the day of judgement.”

The problem with dissidents, (can we still call them heretics?) touches the whole issue of religious liberty, do we tolerate heretics, is this the message of scripture?

Yes, Fr. Blake, we can still call them “heretics”, though they must be – in fact – actual heretics.

The word is often thrown around too easily in the interwebs by people who don’t know what heretic means, what the parameters of dissent or the obligations of religiosum obsequium are, or what the actual doctrines are they think a person is straying from.  On the other hand, there is also a reluctance on the part of others to use the word when it ought to be used.

 

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36 Responses to Fr. Blake on “Shooting and breaking the legs of sheep and heretics”

  1. William says:

    A propos: Dan Maguire was on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning calling Rep. Paul Ryan a Catholic heretic!

  2. brotherfee says:

    It seem to me that the Church is hesitant to use excommunication on those who insist on spreading heresy. Whether this is for public relations, I don’t know. I remember a priest telling me several years ago that the Church used to be “mean” in the old pre-Vatican II days. But, rules are rules, and to allow people to publicly make dissident/heretic statements without repercussions just does not make any sense.

    The message of Christ, the Good Shepard, can clearly be seen in “do penance and satisfy the Church”. The message being that the Savior loves His flock, but will admonish them if they stray, but is always willing to forgive and welcome them back.

  3. Midwest St. Michael says:

    Before somebody asks:

    “Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”11 (CCC 2089)

    [11 CIC, can. 751: emphasis added.]

    MSM

  4. BaedaBenedictus says:

    The reason they were so hard on heretics in previous ages is because they feared the catastrophic results if the cancer was allowed to spread in the Body of Christ. Not just the public witness, but the integrity of the Body would be horrifically compromised. Is that not what we have today? Frankly, after the recent destruction of authority and unity of faith, it will take generations to restore it, if ever.

  5. Joe Magarac says:

    “[T]he modern world has retained all those parts of police work which are really oppressive and ignominious, the harrying of the poor, the spying upon the unfortunate. It has given up its more dignified work, the punishment of powerful traitors the in the State and powerful heresiarchs in the Church. The moderns say we must not punish heretics. My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else.”

    - GK Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday

  6. anilwang says:

    True.

    Heretic is definitely misapplied. It originally meant “to choose freely”, so a heretic of old would be a Cafeteria Catholic in modern parlance. Unfortunately, so many heretics have co-opted the term that they have begun calling Catholics “Cafeteria Catholics” if they don’t hold non-defide positions (e.g. Rick Santorum was regularly panned as a Cafeteria Catholic because he was in favour of the death penalty and other positions which Catholics of good conscious can disagree on) or they don’t hold to “the (evil) Spirit of Vatican II”.

    This sort of co-opting is fatal if left unchecked. Anyone who has seen how the Anglicans/Presbyterians/Methodists/Lutherans fell apart and how the Baptists are also, can see the results of leaving the cuckoo eggs grow into adulthood in their adoptive homes.

    Unfortunately, calling people heretics is not limited to liberals. If you visit Eastern Orthodox forums, it’s quite common for Catholics to be called heretics for cultural differences (e.g. for using unleaven bread…”a heresy introduced at the time of the Great Schism, and here is a list of Jesuits that confirm this…”) that existed since the beginning of the Church. Moving closer to home, sedavantists and neo-sedavantists and schismatics do the same.

    More than ever, we need a unified voice stating what is and isn’t heresy. I don’t know how it’ll happen, beyond the biological solution and persecution, but I am comforted this isn’t a new problem in the Church, nor is it the greatest threat to the Church in the Church’s history. It seems every 500 years something seems to shake up the Church and forces it back to the deposit of faith.

  7. Tantum Ergo says:

    Yes, heretics must be prevented from spreading error, and I’m enthralled with Pope Zachary’s excommunication edict, but this story about the shepherd (Shepherd?) breaking the legs of wandering sheep is pure myth. It first in the 1955 book “What Jesus Said” , written by Robert Boyd Munger. In 1979, it was included it in a book for pastors, “Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.”
    I myself had wandered waaaay away, and had fallen into a pit. When I called for rescue, Jesus did not “break my legs”… no need, perhaps because my heart was already broken. Just like Jeramiah was rescued from the pit with ropes and rags to put under his arms so the rope wouldn’t hurt him, Jesus drew me out of the pit with both ropes of love and rags of mercy. He drew me out with no mighty tug, but oh, so gently… bit by bit.

  8. Bea says:

    Boy is that “off-the-wall” !!!! I can’t imagine Jesus (bow head) breaking the sheep’s legs.
    However I can imagine Him “excommunicating” heretics.
    eg: shaking the dust from His sandals and leaving the town.
    If the first heretics (dissidents) in our time had been excommunicated in the beginning it might have deterred future dissidents.
    Dissenters are Catholics in name ONLY. Why should they stay and poison the rest of the flock?
    Bring back the Inquisition and purify the Church of errors.

  9. jmgazzoli says:

    This calls to mind the famous scene from Becket:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ym6Qgj55e3Y

  10. PostCatholic says:

    Thank goodness he’d already got to the bit about the plank in one’s own eye. I’d hate to have some sort goon squad looking to kneecap me.

  11. Subdeacon Joseph says:

    On the link you can hear the Protodeacon read the anathemas and the choir sing anathema according to the Byzantine Rite. It is in Slavonic but the music combined with the Protodeacon’s bass voice is chilling and quite haunting. HERETICS BE SCARED! This Rite of Anathema is done in the presence of a bishop on the first Sunday of Great Lent.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ATmuhI-vpY

  12. robtbrown says:

    William says:

    A propos: Dan Maguire was on Wisconsin Public Radio this morning calling Rep. Paul Ryan a Catholic heretic!

    As long as the liberals were still in power or left alone, they could pretend to be nice. All the time behind the scenes they have been working against the Church. Now they are emerging from under their rocks.

  13. rcg says:

    This practise is also called ‘hobbling’ and can be done with alternative, restrictive, means. We might consider the fruits of misguided charity wherein we finance and therefore enable bad behaviour. It saddens us to withhold from people who need help, just as it is painful to break the leg of a tiny lamb. Yet our usually self-serving compassion is a path to far greater evil. We can look back on our current Road to Hell and from this very point in history mark our progress with numerous good intentions.

  14. RichardC says:

    In a comment in a different article, I used the adjectives, heretical/apostate, to describe some of these oders of nuns. I am not of student of what orders of nuns teach nor do I have a clear understanding of when someone or some body becomse formally heretical or apostate. I didn’t use a watered-down adjective and I admit that I may have been using those words with less precision than the Churchs demands. If I used those words too loosely, I beg that the Church correct me.

    I think the laity, more than any other group in the Catholic Church, needs up-building.

  15. I reflected on this business of not calling a heretic a heretic a while back.

  16. “Nice” = heretic
    Charitable = Catholic

  17. Diane at Te Deum Laudamus says:

    The word is often thrown around too easily in the interwebs by people who don’t know what heretic means, what the parameters of dissent or the obligations of religiosum obsequium are, or what the actual doctrines are they think a person is straying from. On the other hand, there is also a reluctance on the part of others to use the word when it ought to be used.

    Father Z – Could you do a post on this some time and explain it in detail? I’ll include myself among the ignorant with regards to the distinctions.

  18. Kathleen10 says:

    I don’t know at all what constitutes a heretic or what to do about them.

    I only feel strongly that our church is being attacked more and more aggressively, and much of what we see borders on outright hatred. People who are not even Catholic are joining in the “discussions” of what Catholicism is or should be, and that’s absurd. People who probably haven’t seen the inside of a church for thirty years are joining in the discussions of what Catholicism should or shouldn’t be, and that’s annoying.

    If I may say my impression, I mean no disrespect at all. It has been a long time that we have taken note of “liberality” in the church. A long time that “dissident” voices were heard, and openly taught, in our churches and seminaries, apparently. The horse is not just out of the barn, he is down the road and over the hill! Whatever correction there may be, it is up to the Bishops and beyond to enact it, and we the people to support it. For me, I will continue to defend my Pope, the Magisterium, the Bishops, the Priests, and religious. I will not support what does not support THOSE.
    I will try to pray more and ask Jesus and His Mother to help us. We are in some trouble.
    If we do not elect a GOP president in the fall, more trouble is coming.

  19. Art says:

    This is very interesting. While Jesus’ audience may have understood that leg breaking was implied, have there any references that indicate that this is the correct interpretation? I’ve heard of nothing but the sentimental, ‘nice’ Jesus version. Any help would be appreciated.

  20. Kathleen10 says:

    and, I might add, whatever corrections must come, I personally welcome them, because they are apparently long overdue, as in the current case of women religious. I am shocked and scandalized that this has been allowed to continue unabated for as long as it has.
    There are other changes that I hope have occurred or are occurring in the seminaries as well.

  21. oldcanon2257 says:

    Bea says:

    Bring back the Inquisition and purify the Church of errors.

    I’m with you 100% on this, Bea… And we need inquisitors as holy and as sharp as Saint Robert Bellarmine, S.J.

    My nick is “oldcanon2257″, a reference to Canon 2257 in the old 1917 Code of Canon Law which mentions the official formula in the old Pontificale Romanum for anathematizing (same as the form by Pope Zachary mentioned above).

    Of course our beloved Holy Father, being the Supreme Legislator of the Church, could use it whenever he so chooses. I only wish he would use it for some heretics at least once during his pontificate. Certain “dissident” clergy (from all orders of Holy Orders) in Austria would be good candidates for the use of such formula. It would be 10 times better if the Holy Father delivered it in a dramatic manner same as seen in “Becket”. Or he could have his legate do it at the high altar in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna, have it recorded professionally in multi-angle and have it broadcasted and posted on the web. Imagine “Fiat, fiat, fiat” echoing throughout the cathedral. Imagine the dumbfounded look on the faces of liberals everywhere. Imagine the headlines in both Catholic and secular/catholic media the day after. :D

  22. Read Part II of Part II, Question 11 of the Summa, where Aquinas deals with heresy. Basically, heresy requires: (1) that the person start out as a Catholic. Persons who were never members of the Church who hold heretical ideas are thus not heretics by definition, even though they may be gravely in error. (2) A false opinion about a matter of faith (as opposed, say, to a false opinion about geometry or physics). (3) An adherence to error that is willful and deliberate (i.e., not the product of a mere misunderstanding or ignorance).

    A heretic, then, is a renegade Catholic who deliberately prefers his own opinion to the doctrine of the Church, knowing that he is refusing to assent to a doctrine that he is bound to believe.

  23. ContraMundum says:

    I only wish he would use it for some heretics at least once during his pontificate.

    That only has a good effect if either (1) the excommunicate has enough faith remaining to be awakened to the danger to his or her soul, or (2) the excommunicate fears the loss of temporal goods due to the excommunication. Both of those probably applied when Becket excommunicated Henry.

    Would they apply today? I think most of the people you would want anathematized would probably feel either a sting of hurt pride, or even a perverse pride in the anathema itself, rather than a fear for their souls. As for temporal loss … you and I both know they would easily make up in book sales and speaking fees any loss of wealth. It could also revive a sagging political career in many places.

    No, I don’t think the Holy Father should reward today’s heretics with a showy excommunication.

  24. Chrysologus says:

    Right you are! The difference between a dissenter and a heretic becomes particularly striking when one considers that some of the greatest Catholic theologians of last century — and theological architects of Vatican II — were dissenters during the reign of Pope Pius XII. To wit: Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, John Courtney Murray, and Yves Congar. Of course, this fact has not been lost on the SSPX either. Two ways of reading the story, I guess.

  25. I took a photo last year of our oldest son, Zachary, standing in front of a statue of his namesake (Pope St. Zachary) at Monte Cassino, Italy.
    Thank you for sharing a bit of Pope St. Zachary’s history here.

  26. ContraMundum says: Would they apply today? I think most of the people you would want anathematized would probably feel either a sting of hurt pride, or even a perverse pride in the anathema itself, rather than a fear for their souls. As for temporal loss … you and I both know they would easily make up in book sales and speaking fees any loss of wealth. It could also revive a sagging political career in many places. No, I don’t think the Holy Father should reward today’s heretics with a showy excommunication.

    Do you not see that this is an argument for moral paralysis? According to this line of reasoning, we should never punish anyone for anything — a manifestly unjust result. But punishment is not solely to bring about the conversion of the tortfeasor. There are other purposes to punishment, that we neglect to our cost. Punishment vindicates the aggrieved (ultimately, God). It edifies onlookers, who have the satisfaction of seeing that transgressors do not have free rein, and the security of knowing that they are still protected by law. It deters future wrongdoing. It prevents scandal.

    Instead of worrying about whether someone will turn an excommunication to his benefit, we ought to just focus on doing the Will of God, as expressed in the teachings and laws of His Church. Then we can safely leave the imponderables to Him. Otherwise, we are just rationalizing disobedience.

  27. Hidden One says:

    The trouble with calling down the Inquisition on somebody else is making sure that one’s own doctrines are all the right ones.

  28. JonPatrick says:

    I think there is a third way, between the Becket style excommunication and doing nothing, which is the way the Holy Father is currently dealing with groups such as the LCWR. The showy excommunication might make us feel better but I don’t know that it would accomplish anything, as ContraMundum has pointed out.

  29. NoraLee9 says:

    I’m glad someone else thought of Richard Burton’s Becket besides me. Just shows to go ya that back when that movie was made, someone still remembered the Rite of Excommunication. Also, I enjoyed the Byzantine Link and music. Wow.
    This morning I was asked to put together a Powerpoint by my hubby-the-Animation-teacher, who is also a server at the EF. His class has been asked to create an opening animation about the presenters at the World Science Festival. It seems that the general feeling is that kids are too stupid to learn any other way, so digesting some of the required coursework into Rap music is considered a stroke of genius. This Baba Brinkman (have you any wool?…. Sorry) is rapping about Darwin (when he’s not tearing apart Chaucer). Of course the presentation is one-sided and offensive. On the tab labelled “Writing,” he has a jpeg of Our Lord holding a dinosaur instead of a sheep.
    Hubby said that he was going to present it to the students as meerly a theory. It’s funny, because he’s an art teacher, and yet this year, he’s been asked to infuse his curriculum with Essay Writing and now “Science.” In the course of Essay Writing, he was asked to present the pictures from the offensive Brooklyn Museum show, in order to “stimulate” the students to write. His students are over 50% Hispanic, and what it stimulated was a near riot. Several of the girls broke into sobs. (Proving once again that quite often the kids get it right, when we get it so, so wrong). Incidentally, this Baba character did his act down in Tennessee, where the students brought him up short. See his blog. Didn’t make much of a dent in Baba’s thick head, however.
    But I digress. How are we in the Public Education field to respond when compelled to present material which offends our consciences? Hubby needs this job. Catholic schools quite often don’t pay enough. This is the problem with heresy and its friends. The perfidious get policy-making jobs, and then the rest of us end up having to march to the beat of a faithless drummer.

  30. Supertradmum says:

    Punishment is for at least three reasons. First, to bring a person to repentence, by separating him or her out from the community. This is an act of mercy. Second, to stop the scandal of false teaching and the spreading of error. Third, to publicly ask the Church to pray for the heretic, so that his or her soul is not lost. I believe the lack of excommunications is a scandal in itself, as those who are in error are not brought to fact the fact that their souls face damnation. Whether some authorities believe in hell or not may be part of the problem, as the heresy of universal salvation is the most common one in the West.

    Our pastor had a great sermon on the fact that the sheep in Christ’s part of the world look very similar to goats, not the fluffy white ones we see in the green fields of England, which are the result of hard genetic engineering starting in the 18th centuries with the breeding of fluffly white sheep over brown and scruffy ones.

    That Christ lets the sheep and goats graze together until the last day is a mystery of our Faith. But, separate them He will do, and punishment can help some of those wandering away come back to the fold.

  31. ContraMundum says:

    Instead of worrying about whether someone will turn an excommunication to his benefit, we ought to just focus on doing the Will of God, as expressed in the teachings and laws of His Church.

    1. The question was not whether or not there should be excommunications, but whether they should be done with all the flair of the excommunication scene in Becket.

    2. Why was Hitler never excommunicated? Because they Church saw that it would do him no good and others measurable harm. The Church may validly conclude today that the excommunication of a Nancy Pelosi or Joe biden would do likewise.

    3. Well then, which will it be? You say we should ” just focus on doing the Will of God, as expressed in the teachings and laws of His Church”, but the Church has decided (so far) not to excommunicate the people you or I might if we had the authority. But God in His wisdom has kept that authority from us. We should accept that and just focus on doing the Will of God.

  32. Tantum Ergo says:

    Which is worse… excommunicating someone who rails against Church teaching by promoting abortion and homosexuality, or the loss of innumerable other souls through the scandal these people cause?

  33. wmeyer says:

    Tantum Ergo: Since excommunication is not necessarily permanent, the answer is pretty obvious.

  34. ContraMundum says:

    As a concrete example, let’s look at Milingo. John Paul II tried very hard to avoid excommunicating him, due to the fear that it would create a schism. At first, this approach really seemed to work; Milingo appeared to genuinely repent. Then, after living quietly for several years, he began acting strangely again, to say the least. He was excommunicated, but stated that he declined to accept the excommunication(!). The schism John Paul wished to avoid is now a fact, and Milingo styles himself “Patriarch for Southern Africa of the Ecumenical Catholic Apostolic Church of Peace”. The only real effect of the excommunication and laicization is to make it clear (to those who really care) that he does not represent the Catholic Church.

    Was John Paul wrong to show patience in the beginning? I don’t think so. I would have dropped the hammer on him immediately, but the patient approach almost worked, and did work for about 5 years. If a gentle and patient approach had been able to prevent the schism altogether (while at the same time putting an end to the scandalous actions and assertions), it would unquestionably have been worth it.

  35. Pooky1961 says:

    The breaking of the lamb or sheep’s leg is urban legend, there is no historical proof to back it up, but plenty from actual sheepherder’s to say that a good shepherd would never purposely break the leg of a healthy animal. There is no sound logic to support such a notion, so to base an argument or a point of view on it is counterproductive. Christ never said in scripture that if we wander away He will break our leg. And it has been my experience that those who have wandered do not need their legs broken, but their hearts mended.