ASK FATHER: Is it a sin to ask God to strike down an enemy of the Church?

michael_fighting_the_dragon1From a reader:

Is it a sin to ask God to strike down an enemy of the Church?

Christ the Lord has commanded us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44).

Love for “enemy” comes in different forms.  It can be expressed different ways.    We all know about “tough love”.

That said, we must be vigilant that hatred toward our enemies is vigorously resisted.  We obey Our Lord.

If they are our enemies because they are opposed to the Church, opposed to goodness, then our love for them means that we desire they be converted.    When and if they do, we must be ready, not to forget but to forgive.  The one thing the Lord went back to explain in teaching His disciples how to pray, is the need to forgive, and that if we do not forgive, we shall not be forgiven.

I forgive my enemies.  I forgive you for what you have done to me.  I forgive you for your evil deeds against the Faith.  Convert or risk Hell.  I’d rather see you in Heaven.  Therefore, I pray that God will visit upon you exactly what is the very best for your soul.   I pray that you will accept it.  He knows all of us better than we know ourselves.

Love for our enemies means that we will their good.  That is, we will their salvation.

There are many enemies.  They are personal, human and angelic.  Angels cannot change their minds, so praying for fallen angels is pointless.

Living breathing human beings can change.  Praying for them is obligatory.

Can we – ought we – pray that God strike down the enemies of the Church?


Consider the Book of Psalms.

The unfashionable “maledictory – cursing – psalms” (5, 6, 11, 12, 35, 37, 40 52, 54, 56, 58, 69, 79, 83, 137, 139, and 143) call for judgment and disaster to fall upon the enemies of God and God’s people.

Some of the “maledictory psalms” were edited or even wholly excluded from the revised psalter used in the Novus Ordo Liturgy of the Hours, but that’s a different crock of bagna cauda.

Some of these psalms, when we pray them, will probably reduce the thoughtful Christian to tears and true reverent fear of God, knowing that there but for God’s grace go we, sinners all.

Holy Scripture is full of prayers offered for the defeat of the enemies of God.   Some will sputter that that was then and this is now.  That was the Old Testament and this is the New Testament.  Those people are virtually Marcionites.

We certainly are within our rights to use the psalms in our prayers.  All of them.

You know what?  Living is hard and there are dangers for us in the Church Militant, in this vale of… what was it a vale of again?  “Mourning and weeping in this vale of… vale of… of… hugs, fluffy kitties and daisies!  That’s it!”

There really are enemies of things good, true and beautiful who wish us harm.

There are many traditional prayers that ask God to visit calamity upon our enemies, not out of hatred or vengeance, but out of legitimate desire for peace and their their good.  True charity aims at the good of the other.  Therefore, sometimes we wish calamity on people if that is what it will take to turn them around and amend their lives.

Strong stuff.  We are not use to this sort of thing these days.

For example, in the traditional Missal we have the Mass “Pro defensione ab hostibus… For defense from enemies“.  Here is the Collect, in my translation:

Shatter to pieces, we beseech Thee O Lord, our enemies’ pride and by the might of Thy hand throw to the ground their insolence.

Some might object that we should, because the Lord says to “turn the other cheek”, simply allow ourselves to be attacked, allow the wicked to rise up in the Church and to abuse the faithful, twist the Church’s teaching and worship.  It is one thing to turn one’s own cheek.  It is another to turn the cheeks of your wife and child and all your neighbors, brothers and sisters in the Faith.  Depending on one’s state in life, some must rise and resist.

Can we argue that, by being somewhat passive, as if we were being like a lamb before the shearers (Is 53:7), we are being more Christ-like?  Sure.   I had an email not long ago that suggested Benedict XVI gave up his active ministry in the Church, that he finally did “run from the wolves”, precisely because by doing so the wolves and their wolfish plots would be exposed to the light of day.   Similarly in Robert Graves novel I Claudius the old Emperor does nothing to stop the vile predations of the up and coming Nero precisely because he knows that when people saw him for what he was, they would rise up and restore the Republic.  “Let all the poisons that lurk in the mud, hatch out.”  That was a fantasy, of course.   It didn’t work.

Truckers in Canada and 9.7% inflation in these USA might produce some action, however.  But I digress.

No matter what, we can and must pray and fast for and against enemies: for their conversion and against their plans.  We pray for the protection of Our Holy Mother the Church against all enemies.  We pray that those who oppose Her to be stopped.

Stopped.  That’s the first step.  In the Collect, above, we ask God to throw down their insolence and pride.  If it takes throwing them down to get through to that pride, then so be it.  Whatever it takes to remove the threat they represent and to secure for ourselves peace so that we can live our vocations properly.

As it says in the Post Communion for the same Mass:

O God, our Protector, look down and defend us from the perils of our enemies: so that, once all trouble is removed, we may with free minds serve Thee.

If the actions of enemies reveal that we (Church, country, families) won’t be safe without them losing the ability to breathe… then we purify our motives, ask God for help (for us to be effective and to not sin, and against or upon them to give them graces and/or sufferings adequate to change their minds and hearts.

Adequate.  Not more than is necessary.   As in what one learns in firearms training, first try to avoid conflict, then try to deescalate, and if there is no other option and you truly fear for your life or the lives of others, then you can use adequate force to stop the threat.  Once the threat is stopped, you stop using force.  If a punch will work, you don’t use a gun.  If the threat runs, you don’t shoot him in the back.  If it requires deadly force, you don’t keep shooting once the threat is down.

Purify our motives.  In the Secret for the Mass for Defense from Enemies, the priest prays:

O Lord, by the power of this mystery, may we be cleansed from our own hidden sins and delivered from the snares of our enemies.

In our prayer we desire the conversion of hearts.  When our enemies do convert, rather than continuing to seek bloody revenge, we rejoice in the magnificent grace of Almighty God who desires not the death of the sinner, but that he be converted and live. (Ezekiel 33:11)

We must examine our consciences and purify them.


Aedificantium enim unusquisque gladio erat accinctus.

And now, a prayer. It’s from a movie, but it has some great elements.

Moderation is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, ASK FATHER Question Box, Pò sì jiù, Si vis pacem para bellum!, The Coming Storm, The Drill, The future and our choices and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. If nothing else, if God cuts off the natural life of His enemies, that means not only an end to their offenses against Him, but also an end to their continuing to pile up greater and greater eternal punishments for themselves.

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  3. FranzJosf says:

    I’ll never forget visiting a Russian Orthodox church for Easter Day Vespers at 11:00 in the morning. It began with the priest declaiming, “Let God arise and scatter his enemies!” The room changed and we were off on a glorious liturgy with processions around the outside of the church.

  4. Thomas S says:

    On an unrelated note… Can we offer the Mass “for the election of a pope” while the current pope still lives?

    [I don’t see why not. After all, Popes come and go. Why wait for a Pope to die before praying for a successor? The man chosen to be Pope is chosen for a horrific amount of inter-disciplinary work. Praying that the Holy Spirit start to guide and form a future Pope seems a great idea.]

  5. Eugene says:

    Father you’re just asking for column about this from the Fishwrap AKA National Schismatic Reporter, aren’t you?
    Because we all know you VII, right!

  6. johnwmstevens says:

    Yet another good posting. Thanks!

    There is neuroscience to support this, by the way (no surprise, God being God).

    Pain will plasticize the brain, making it easier to rewire/change it.

    To pray that our enemies will receive that which causes them to change for the good is charity.

    Humility is exercised when we ask for the same thing for ourselves. That one is a bit harder to pray for.

  7. Chuck4247 says:

    Any reason to show that pic of St. Michael is a good one…

  8. Antonia D says:

    Thanks for this guidance, Fr. Z. This is an important post.

  9. Pingback: 16 Feb 2022 – Dark Brightness

  10. redneckpride4ever says:

    One of my favorite films.

    [Hard to watch.]

  11. Jacques says:

    Is it a sin praying God to grant his eternal reward to an enemy of the Church at soonest, even if this man is high ranked in the Vatican hierarchy ?

    [It is better to leave time-tables to God, even though we pray often in the Psalms and elsewhere, “How long, O Lord?” It is possible that the Church needs the “eucatastrophe” of enemies within in order to be purified. Examination of one’s own conscience seems to be the key. He knows what we need better than we do. Our prayer is, therefore, good for us.]

  12. Padre Pio Devotee says:

    Usually, I pray “for the confusion and conversion of the enemies of God, and the thwarting of their plans.”

    I believe Fr. Z had another blog post in the past concerning to old prayers or psalms that state “for the confusion and conversion of enemies.” I believe some of the Holy Face prayers also call for the “confusion of the enemies of God.” Regardless, we pray for the confusion to their evil plans and thus find conversion, and thus their souls saved.

    Similar to the Tower of Babel, where confusion just step foot and halted the entire project.

  13. bigtex says:

    “I forgive my enemies. I forgive you for what you have done to me. I forgive you for your evil deeds against the Faith….”

    Yes, we are to forgive those who have committed evil deeds against us, but only if they ask for forgiveness and are truly repentant.

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  15. only if they ask for forgiveness and are truly repentant.

    NO! And NO!

    Forget? Nope. Forgive. Yep.

    It’s the one thing that the Lord explained after teaching the Apostles the Our Father.

    It is what He did during His Passion.

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