Monday, April 30, 2012

Shooting and breaking the legs of sheep and heretics

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 1:201 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?

23 comments:

Tonia Marshall said...

The story of the Lost Sheep doesn't end with the shepherd breaking it's leg or excommunicating it.

Dissent needs to be recognised and addressed but sending them to the eternal fire with Satan seems a little heavy handed!

Presbyter Monasteriensis said...

What a nice and fitting post for the feastday of pope St. Pius V. (novus ordo)!

vpstartcrow said...

@Tonia--I think you missed the last clause--salvation on the day of judgement is where we are ending up. The reason Jesus' references to the Good Shepherd don't include commentary about leg-breaking is because that was common knowledge for his audience, just as you don't mention turning the key in the ignition of your car when you say "I drove." At a time when we are more concerned for our comfort than for Truth, it is a consolation to know that even extreme measures will be taken to save us from hurting ourselves.

Fr Ray Blake said...

I suspect the injunction about the paschal lamb not having a bone broken is that it had never wandered from the flock.

GOR said...

With all the talk about priests just ‘speaking their minds’ in Ireland and nuns doing the same here in the US, the Holy Father had some words about this long before he became Pope. As I noted elsewhere, Andrea Tornielli on Vatican Insider quotes from a homily he preached as Archbishop of Munich in 1979:

“The ecclesial magisterium protects the faith of the ordinary people; of those who do not write books, who do not speak on television and cannot write newspaper editorials: this is its democratic task. It has to give a voice to those who do not have one.”

It is not the learned who determine what is true about the baptismal faith; it is the baptismal faith which determines what is true in scholarly interpretations.

It is not intellectuals who measure up the ordinary people, but the ordinary people who measure up the intellectuals. Scholarly explanations are not the measure of the profession of the baptismal faith, it is the profession of the baptismal faith, in its naive literality, that is the measure of all theology. The baptised individual, who is in the baptismal faith, does not need to be taught. That individual has been offered the final truth and carries it with them with faith itself...

It should finally also be clear, that saying that someone’s opinion is not in line with the doctrine of the Catholic Church, is not a violation of human rights. Everyone should have the right to be educated and to freely express their own opinion. With the Second Vatican Council, the Church declared itself to be in favour of this and it still is so today.

But this does not mean that every external opinion should be recognised as Catholic. Each person should be able to express themselves as they wish and as they are able to before their own conscience.

The Church must be able to tell its faithful which opinions correspond to their faith and which do not. This is its right and duty, in order to ensure that a ‘yes’ remains a ‘yes’ and that ‘no’ remains a ‘no’ and in order to preserve the clarity it owes to its followers and to the world.”

Michael Petek said...

The point at which the matter of heresy touches on the matter of religious liberty is that, for the civil authority justly to repress religious error, it must first enact a just law defining the crime and stipulating the punishment.

To be just, a law must be at least useful and beneficial to the temporal common good which the State has the care of.

Where the civil right to religious liberty (according to international law) is vested, the bar is set a little higher. A law which takes away religious liberty must be not only useful but also necessary, not just to any common good but in the interests of public safety, order health or morals, or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

At that point, heresy disappears as a useful concept. An heretical doctrine is not heresy if professed by an unbaptised person, though it may be harmful just the same under the head of sedition or - if the Divine Name is invoked in favour of it - of blasphemy.

Consider, for example, Boko Haram who go around blowing up churches and slaying Christians at worship.

This looks like a job for the Cossacks.

Cosmos said...

Its funny to me that people connect the rise of "tolerance" with a deepening appreciation for scripture rather than the more obvious cause: the modern world's disinterest in religion.

When scripture explictly states "deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh," and the response is "isn't that a little harsh," my suspicion is that people are less concerned "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" than they used to be.

The whole idea of an actual judgment day with actual punishment is simply not part of the modern imagination. Since we see tolerance and open-mindedness as such essential democratic virtues, we assume that God is either really, really tolerant or nothing at all. We are very confident that scripture as a whole supports this view, regardless of the litany of verses to the contrary.

Cosmos said...

It's funny to me that people connect the rise of "tolerance" with a deepening appreciation for scripture rather than the more obvious cause: the modern western world's general disinterest in religion.

When scripture explictly states "deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh," and the response is "isn't that a little harsh," my suspicion is that people are less concerned "that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" than they used to be.

The whole idea of an actual judgment day with actual punishment is simply not part of the modern imagination. Since we see tolerance, diversity, and open-mindedness as essential democratic virtues, we assume that God is either really, really tolerant or nothing at all. We are very confident that scripture as a whole supports this view, regardless of the litany of verses to the contrary quoted by the unschooled.

love the girls said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debt Relief said...

Oh my. That is very interesting about the broken leg. I have run off and I thing I have a broken leg now. I hope it heals quickly.

Patricius said...

I should be interested to know where the evidence for the claim that shepherds in antiquity broke the legs of straying sheep may be found.

Fr Ray Blake said...

Patricius,
The earliest reference is L'agriculture de la Lavant et Moyen-Orient, H. Leclerq, Paris 1873

chiarth said...

Thanks for the reference Father. Have there been any sources that link this practice to the story, making it more definitive? The older, the better. I've only been fed the sentimental, 'nice' Jesus version.

Copernicus said...

"Nowadays however, the Spouse of Christ prefers to make use of the medicine of mercy rather than that of severity."

Richard S said...

Fr. Blake, this idea about breaking the lost sheep's leg surfaces from time to time, but I can't find any solid evidence that this was widely practiced in Jesus' time. Can you offer any sources for this practice?

Very sad person said...

This makes me sad. I'm not a catholic but I am a Christian. Am I a heretic? It's just the way I was brought up. A catholic once deeply upset me and never made it right with me. Any thoughts I used to have about becoming a catholic have stopped. So this sort of hurts. Unless I've misunderstood.

Anonymous said...

This seems very unlikely as a way of treating your livestock. Sheep generally always follow thier flock unless they accidentally get lost. Doing anything else would be very unhelpful as a survival mechanism. Does anyone have any evidence for this as a theory?

Judith

Anonymous said...

The more I think about this the more unlikely it seems- how would the lamb eat - how many lambs would the shepherd be carrying round for a couple of months??? What do you do with the lamb while you sleep? How many lambs would this involve in a flock??? How would you do the rest of your job?


Judith

Fr Ray Blake said...

Judith, The little girl from Yorkshire puts forward the alternative to maiming a sheep which is to kill it.

A sheep that causes the others to stray endangers the whole flock and the livelihood of the shepherd.

As rams were more likely to stray than ewes the Passover can be seen as a mass culling of potential "jumpers"

Fr Ray Blake said...

Judith,
I believe both the stories; rather than simply saying "bah you are wrong" perhaps you might research alternative ways dealing with wandering sheep, I think it is quite easily done on the internet!


Have you ever tried catching "a jumper"? They are pretty quick!

Spanish wandering shepherds will often bash the lower leg of a sheep that tends to wander, with a stone, to bruise it rather than break it, life is too short to run after a dissident sheep.

A sheep with a limp can easily eat, it just can't run very fast or jump.

We are talking about a crop, not pets.

Anonymous said...

I've tried googling but can't find anything helpful - do you ahve any links you can share?

Judith

Julianne said...

I'm not sure the context of the parable in Luke or Matthew supports this idea.

In Matthew, Jesus precedes the parable with "Do not despise these little ones" and with saying that the Father is not prepared to let any of the little ones perish.

In Luke, the Pharisees have been mumbling among themselves about the awful sinners Jesus is sitting and eating with. Jesus does not, on this ocassion, engage in debate with them, but tells a story. He uses the image of sheep and shepherd. The Good Shepherd in the Old Testament is an image of God. So the shepherd, realises a sheep is missing and leaves the "Good" sheep (Pharisees still listening) and goes in search of the lost one. When the sheep is found the shepherd rejoices, and calls his friends to rejoice. Jesus finishes by saying that there will be more rejoicing in heaven over the return of one who is lost than all the good ones who stayed behind.

In both versions the story is about the despised, those who are considered lost and about how God will search them out and bring them back home. These are not stories about punishment or 'teaching a lesson' to bad people. They are about God's search for sinnners, motivated by his love.

There are plenty ofpassages we can use to talk about how, within the Church, leaders need to deal with heresy. I'm not sure this is one of them.

uprosperto said...

In my opinion as a life long Catholic, not excommunicating the likes of Nancy Pelosi, the Kennedy's etc. is leading many Catholics to hell. if a prominent public "Catholic" can condone and promote abortion without the church shepards publicly denouncing them what are other Catholics to think?