‘He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him’ (Prov 13:24).
The natural love that parents have for their children is such that they are even willing to sacrifice their lives for the good of their offspring is familiar to all. Due to this love, parents experience much concern when a young person begins to take the wrong path… They must teach them, reprehend and warn them, and when necessary, resort to a more severe measure: punishment.
Later on, those who were brought up in this way will show themselves to be people of character and virtue, giving many fruits through their good works. Therefore, a tenderness that omits the truth, with the illusion of eliminating the pain caused by severity, is simply a misnomer. By using this erroneous tactic, parents end up fomenting the bad tendencies of their children, who, without a real formation in the truth, might even end up losing their souls eternally.
The Church as our Holy Mother takes on the essential duty of proclaiming the truth, also utilizing its authority in announcing the Gospel. Consequently, it has never laid aside the efficacious means of salvation such as severity, reprehension and even punishment when it deems necessary. In this way, it follows the example of the Divine Master who did not hesitate to expel the vendors from the temple with a whip, or to vehemently rebuke the Pharisees.
So we are left with just one doubt: Does the Church really do good when it evangelizes exclusively through gentleness, fraternity and love? Moreover, what harm does the Church do when it fails to preach the truth in the name of gentleness, fraternity and love?
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The thought comes to mind of the temptation
, which perhaps we might have and which so many have of condemnation, of connecting the proclamation of the Gospel with inquisitorial blows. No, the Gospel is proclaimed with gentleness, with fraternity, with love.
(Homily in the Church of the Gesù, Rome, January 3, 2014
Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.
The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church ‘has an endless desire to show mercy’. Perhaps we have long since forgotten how to show and live the way of mercy. The temptation, on the one hand, to focus exclusively on justice made us forget that this is only the first, albeit necessary and indispensable step.
But the Church needs to go beyond and strive for a higher and more important goal. On the other hand, sad to say, we must admit that the practice of mercy is waning in the wider culture. In some cases the word seems to have dropped out of use. However, without a witness to mercy, life becomes fruitless and sterile,
as if sequestered in a barren desert. The time has come for the Church to take up the joyful call to mercy once more.
(Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, no. 10, April 11, 2015
What would you respond to those who, even among Christians, think that mercy loosens the claws of justice, and, therefore, is unjust; to those who think that mercy cannot be the response to – for example- those who persecute us or perhaps due to an unjustified fear, construct walls to defend themselves instead of bridges?
Yes, ultimately there exists the problem of moral rigidity,
right? The older son was morally rigid: “He spent the money on a life of sin, so he can’t be received like this”. Rigidity: always in the place of the judge.
This rigidity is not of Jesus. Jesus reprehended the doctors of the Church: he was very, very much against rigidity. He used an adjective for them that I would not like to be used for me: hypocrite. How many times did Jesus use this adjective for the Doctors of the Law: hypocrites. It’s enough to read Matthew, chapter 23: “Hypocrite.” And they theorize, mercy yes…but justice is important.
In God – and among Christians because they are in God – justice is merciful and mercy is just. They cannot be separated: they are one thing. And how can this be explained? Go to a theology professor and he’ll explain it to you…And after the Sermon on the Mount, in Luke´s version, comes the sermon of the plain. And how does it end? “Be merciful as the Father”. It doesn’t say: be just as the Father. But it is the same thing!
(Interview with TV2000 on the Year of Mercy, November 20, 2016
Conversion is not easy, because it means changing one’s life, changing one’s ways, changing so many things, even changing the soul. But this path of conversion will give us the identity of a people who knows how to bear children, not a sterile people! If we, like the Church, do not know how to bear children, something is not working! The great challenge for the Church today is to become mother
: mother! Not a perfectly organized non-profit, with so many pastoral plans…. We need them, sure… But that is not essential, it is just a help. A help to what? To the motherhood of the Church. If the Church is not mother, it is sad to say that she becomes a spinster, but she does become a spinster! That’s how it is: she bears no fruit. The Church not only makes children, but it is part of her identity to make children, that is, to evangelize, as Paul VI says in Evangelii nuntiandi. The Church’s identity is this: to evangelize, that is, to make children. I think of our mother Sarah, who grew old without children; I think of Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharius, old without children; I think of Noemi, another old woman without descendents… And these barren women did bear children, they were given descendents: the Lord is capable of doing that!That is why the Church must do something, must change, must convert in order to become mother
. She must be fruitfull! Fruitfulness is a grace that we today need to ask from the Holy Spirit, so that we can go forward in our pastoral and missionary conversion. This is not a question of seeking to proselytize, no, no!
To go ring the bell: “Would you like to come to this association called the Catholic Church?…”. We need to make a card, another member… The Church —Benedict XVI told us — does not grow through proselytism, she grows through attraction, maternal attraction, offering her motherhood: she grows through tenderness, her maternity
, the witness that generates ever more and more children. She is a little aged, our Mother Church
… We shouldn’t call her “Grandma Church”, but still she is a little older… We must rejuvenate her! We must rejuvenate her, but not by taking her to the plastic surgeon, no! This is not the true rejuvenation of the Church, it doesn’t work. The Church grows younger when she is capable of generating more children
; she grows younger the more she becomes mother.
(Address to participants in Rome’s Diocesan conference, June 16, 2014
I like to dream of a Church who lives the compassion of Jesus. Compassion is to “suffer with”, to feel what the others feel, to accompany them emotionally. It is Mother Church, who caresses her children with compassion like a mother. A Church that has a heart without borders, and not only the heart: also the gaze, the sweetness of Jesus’ gaze, which is often much more eloquent than so many words. People expect to find in us the gaze of Jesus, sometimes without even knowing it, that serene gaze, a happiness that seeps into the heart. (Address to participants in Rome’s Diocesan conference, June 16, 2014)
God always opens doors, he never closes them. He is the daddy who opens doors for us.
The second thing he says is: don’t be afraid of tenderness. When Christians forget about hope and tenderness they become a cold Church, that does not know where to go
and is entangled in ideologies and worldly attitudes, whereas God’s simplicity tells you: go forward, I am a Father who caresses you. I start to fear when Christians lose hope and the capacity to embrace and caress
[…] The Bible clearly shows that God’s main virtue is that He is love. He waits for us; he never tires of waiting for us. He gives us the gift and then waits for us.
(La Stampa Interview, December 16, 2013
Teachings of the Magisterium
Enter in the various parts of our study
I – Evangelization should be based above all on announcing the truth
II – Should the truth be omitted in the name of ‘charity’?
III – Fear, severity and threats are also means of salvation
I – Evangelization should be based above all on announcing the truth
The time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but diverted to myths
The time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but diverted to myths. For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth and will be diverted to myths. (2Tim 4:3 – 4)
The Church may not desist in showing firmness and intransigence when transmitting morals
Against this doctrine, which had never been refuted throughout the centuries, there now arise difficulties and objections that must be clarified. […] The first step, or rather, the first blow against the edifice of moral Christian norms would be the separating them – as is intended – from the constricted and oppressing vigilance of the authority of the Church. […] The “new morality” affirms that the Church, instead of fomenting the law of human liberty and love, insisting on it as a worthy dynamic of the life of morality, rather bases itself, on the contrary, almost exclusively and with excessive rigidity, on the firmness and the intransigence of moral Christian laws, frequently resorting to the terms ‘you are obliged’, ‘it is not licit’, which has too much of an air of a degrading pedantry. In reality: The Church desires, on the contrary – and it manifests this clearly in the formation of consciences – that the Christian be introduced to the infinite richness of the faith and grace in a persuasive manner, in such a way that they feel inclined to penetrate them profoundly. But the Church may not abstain from warning the faithful that these riches may not be acquired nor conserved if not at the cost of concrete moral obligations. (Pius XII. Radio message La famiglia, on the occasion of the celebration of ‘Family Day’, March 23, 1952)
From the exact maintenance of the laws, which the Church cannot renounce her right to proclaim, depends the solidity of any national and international order
[…] as the ‘Pillar and Ground of Truth’ and guardian, by the will of God and the mandate of Christ, of the natural and supernatural order, the Church cannot renounce her right to proclaim to her sons and to the whole world the unchanging basic laws, saving them from every perversion, frustration, corruption, false interpretation and error. This is all the more necessary for the fact that from the exact maintenance of these laws, and not merely by the effort of noble and courageous wills, depends in the last analysis the solidity of any national and international order, so fervently desired by all peoples. (Pius XII. Radio message for Christmas, December 24, 1942)
The greatest duty of the Vicar of Christ: ‘to give testimony to the truth’
We feel We owe no greater debt to Our office and to Our time than to testify to the truth with Apostolic firmness: ‘to give testimony to the truth.’ This duty necessarily entails the exposition and confutation of errors and human faults; for these must be made known before it is possible to tend and to heal them. (Pius XII. Encyclical Summi pontificatus, no. 19, October 20, 1939)
Hiding the truth is like a diabolical conjuration
Where does respect for the truth exist on this earth? Are we not, at times, and even very frequently, faced with an unabashed and insolent anti-Decalogue that has abolished the ‘no’, this ‘no’ that precedes the clear and precise formulation of the five commandments of God that come after ‘honor your father and your mother’? Is not contemporary life practically a studied practice against the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth commandments: ‘Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not be impure, Thou shalt not rob, Thou shalt not bring up false witness?’ It is like a contemporary diabolical conjuration against the truth. And, yet, always valid and clear is the commandment of the divine law that Moses heard on the mountain: ‘You shalt not bear false witness against your neighbor’ (Ex 20:16; Deut 5:20). This commandment, as the others, remains in effect with all of its positive and negative consequences; the duty to say the truth, to be sincere, to be frank, that is, to conform the human spirit with the reality, as well as the sad possibility of lying, and the even sadder factor of hypocrisy, of calumny, that ends up clouding the truth. (John XXIII. Radio message for Christmas, December 22, 1960)
How strong and terrible is the commandment of never speaking falsely against your neighbor!
What is most important to retain and perceive is that the attitude to know the truth represents for man the sacred and very grave responsibility to cooperate with the plan of the Creator, the Redeemer, the Glorifier. And this is worth even more for the Christian who carries, in virtue of the sacramental grace, the evident sign of his belonging to the family of God. Here is evident the dignity and the greater responsibility imposed upon man, and even more so upon each Christian, to honor this Son of God, Word made flesh, who gives life to both the human composite as well as the social order. […] In this light, how beautiful is the invitation to always speak the truth to your neighbor and how strong and terrible is the commandment of never speaking falsely against your neighbor! ‘You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor’ (Ex 20:16). (John XXIII. Radio message for Christmas, December 22, 1960)
To keep silence when clamors are raised against truth is to insult God and to favor the enemies of the faith
To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae, no 14, January 10, 1890)
Christ left the Church He founded to be the supreme teacher of the peoples so that men be preserved by the truth
The only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, who came on earth to bring salvation and the light of divine wisdom to men, conferred a great and wonderful blessing on the world when, about to ascend again into heaven, He commanded the Apostles to go and teach all nations (Mt 28:19), and left the Church which He had founded to be the common and supreme teacher of the peoples. For men whom the truth had set free were to be preserved by the truth; nor would the fruits of heavenly doctrines by which salvation comes to men have long remained had not the Lord Christ appointed an unfailing teaching authority to train the minds to faith. And the Church built upon the promises of its own divine Author, whose charity it imitated, so faithfully followed out His commands that its constant aim and chief wish was this: to teach religion and contend forever against errors. (Leo XIII. Encyclical Aeterni Patris, August 4, 1879)
The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to a pseudo-science of well-being. Mission is an issue of Faith.
Mission is an issue of faith, an accurate indicator of our faith in Christ and his love for us. The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world a ‘gradual secularization of salvation’ has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension. We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind, and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation. (John Paul II. Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, I, no. 11, December 7, 1990)
Those who preach the truth are always inopportune for the evil – preach always nonetheless
We say that the preacher must always preach opportunely, if he adjusts to the rule of the truth, but not to the false esteem of the listeners, who judge the truth as inopportune; because he who preaches the truth is always for the good opportune, [and] for the evil inopportune. ‘Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God’ (Jn 8:47). ‘How irksome she [Wisdom] is to the unruly! The fool cannot abide her’ (Sir 6:21). If one had to wait for an opportunity to speak only to those who wanted to hear, it would be only of advantage for the just; but it is necessary that at times he also preach to the evil so that they convert. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Commentary on the Second Epistle of Timothy, Ch. 4, lec.1)
Pastors: your principal duty is to be Teachers of the Truth
And as Pastors you have the vivid awareness that your principal duty is to be Teachers of the Truth. Not a human and rational truth, but the Truth that comes from God, the Truth that brings with it the principle of the authentic liberation of man: ‘you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free’ (Jn 8:32); that Truth which is the only one that offers a solid basis for an adequate ‘praxis’. To be watchful for purity of doctrine, the basis in building up the Christian community, is therefore, together with the proclamation of the Gospel, the primary and irreplaceable duty of the Pastor, of the Teacher of the faith. How often Saint Paul emphasized this, convinced as he was of the seriousness of the accomplishment of this duty (cf. 1Tim 1:3 – 7; 18–20; 4:11, 16; 2Tim 1:4 – 14). Over and above unity in love, unity in truth is always urgent for us. (John Paul II. Address at the inauguration of the Third General Conference of the Latin America Episcopate, Puebla, Mexico, January 28, 1979, Ch. 1, no. 1)
The Church today, despite all the difficulties, cannot speak in a way different from that which Christ spoke
You, in virtue of your Episcopal office, are authentic testimonies of the Gospel and teachers […] of the Truth contained in the Revelation, of which your magisterium is nourished and should always be nourished. To be able to face the challenges of the present, it is necessary that the Church appear, at all levels, as the ‘the pillar and foundation of truth’ (1Tim 3:15). The service of the Truth, which is Christ, is our most important task. This Truth is revealed. It is not born of a merely human experience. It is God Himself, who in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, makes himself known to man. Consequently, this service of the revealed Truth should be born of study and contemplation, and should grow through this continuous exploration. Our firmness will come from this solid foundation, since the Church today, despite all of the difficulties that surround it, cannot speak in a way different from that which Christ spoke. (John Paul II. Address to the second group of Chilean Bishops on their ad limina apostolorum visit, no. 2, November 8, 1984)
Today it is necessary to labor with more than ordinary zeal to strengthen the faithful with wholesome doctrine
Surely in these, our days, it becomes necessary to labour with more than ordinary zeal and piety to nourish and strengthen the faithful with sound and wholesome doctrine, as with the food of life. For false prophets have gone forth into the world, to corrupt the minds of the faithful with various and strange doctrines, of whom the Lord has said: I did not send prophets, yet they ran; I spoke not to them, yet they prophesied. In this work, to such extremes has their impiety, practiced in all the arts of Satan, been carried, that it would seem almost impossible to confine it within any bounds; […] For, to say nothing of those illustrious States which heretofore professed, in piety and holiness, the true Catholic faith transmitted to them by their ancestors, but are now gone astray wandering from the paths of truth and openly declaring that their best claims to piety are founded on a total abandonment of the faith of their fathers there is no region, however remote, no place, however securely guarded, no corner of Christendom, into which this pestilence has not sought secretly to insinuate itself. (Catechism of Trent. Introductory)
The world has fallen by its arrogant rejection of divine revelation
Amidst all the aberrations of human thought, infatuated by a false emancipation from every law and curb; and amidst the awful corruptions of human malice, the Church rises up like a bright lighthouse warning by the clearness of its beam every deviation to right or left from the way of truth, and pointing out to one and all the right course that they should follow. Woe if ever this beacon should be – We do not say extinguished, for that is impossible owing to the unfailing promises on which it is founded – but if it should be hindered from shedding far and wide its beneficent light! We see already with Our own eyes whither the world has been brought by its arrogant rejection of divine revelation, and its pursuit of false philosophical and moral theories that bear the specious name of ‘science.’ That it has not fallen still lower down the slope of error and vice is due to the guidance of the light of Christian truth that always shines in the world. (Pius XI. Encyclical Ad catholici sacerdotii, no. 24, December 20, 1935)
It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles
The Church, to which Christ the Lord has entrusted the deposit of faith so that with the assistance of the Holy Spirit it might protect the revealed truth reverently, examine it more closely, and proclaim and expound it faithfully, has the duty and innate right, independent of any human power whatsoever, to preach the gospel to all peoples, also using the means of social communication proper to it. It belongs to the Church always and everywhere to announce moral principles, even about the social order, and to render judgment concerning any human affairs insofar as the fundamental rights of the human person or the salvation of souls requires it. (Code of Canon Law. Can. 747 §1-2)
II – Should the truth be omitted in the name of ‘charity’?
The priest’s first loving gift to his neighbors is to serve truth and refute error in any of its forms – to fail on this score is to betray God and the real welfare of people
This charity is the apostle’s indispensable weapon, in a world torn by hatred. It will make you forget, or at least forgive, many an undeserved insult now more frequent than ever. This charity, intelligent and sympathetic towards those even who offend you, does by no means imply a renunciation of the right of proclaiming, vindicating and defending the truth and its implications. The priest’s first loving gift to his neighbors is to serve truth and refute error in any of its forms. Failure on this score would be not only a betrayal of God and your vocation, but also an offense against the real welfare of your people and country. (Pius XI. Encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge, no. 35 – 36, March 14, 1937)
It is our mission to proclaim the whole of God’s will, in its totality and ultimate simplicity – even when inconvenient
This is important; the Apostle did not preach an ‘à la carte’ Christianity to suit his own inclinations, he did not preach a Gospel to suit his own favourite theological ideas; he did not shrink from the commitment to proclaiming the whole of God’s will, even an inconvenient will and even topics of which he was personally not so enamoured. It is our mission to proclaim the whole of God’s will, in its totality and ultimate simplicity. But it is important that we teach and preach, as St Paul says here, and really propose the will of God in its entirety. (Benedict XVI. Lectio Divina given at the meeting with the parish priests of the Rome diocese, March 10, 2011)
A great danger: that in the name of ‘love’, truth be either silenced or compromised
Furthermore, concerning the position of the Magisterium as regards the question of divorced and remarried members of the faithful, it must be stressed that the more recent documents of the Church bring together the demands of truth with those of love in a very balanced way. If at times in the past, love shone forth too little in the explanation of the truth, so today the danger is great that in the name of love, truth is either to be silenced or compromised. Assuredly, the word of truth can be painful and uncomfortable. But it is the way to holiness, to peace, and to inner freedom. A pastoral approach which truly wants to help the people concerned must always be grounded in the truth. In the end, only the truth can be pastoral. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Concerning some objections to the Church’s teaching on the reception of Holy Communion by divorced and remarried members of the faithful, no. 5, January 1, 1998)
The truth is one, it lasts forever, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of the times
When by a kind of prudence of the flesh they show themselves liberal in concessions to science falsely so-called, under the fatal illusion that they are thus able more easily to win over those in error, but really with the continual danger of being themselves lost. The truth is one, and it cannot be halved; it lasts forever, and is not subject to the vicissitudes of the times. ‘Jesus Christ, today and yesterday, and the same forever’ (Heb 13:8). And so too are all they seriously mistaken who, occupying themselves with the welfare of the people, and especially upholding the cause of the lower classes, seek to promote above all else the material well-being of the body and of life, but are utterly silent about their spiritual welfare and the very serious duties which their profession as Christians enjoins upon them. They are not ashamed to conceal sometimes, as though with a veil, certain fundamental maxims of the Gospel, for fear lest otherwise the people refuse to hear and follow them. (Pius X. Encyclical Iucunda sane, no. 25 – 26, March 12, 1904)
The use of merely complacent language harms the faithful
Another way to do harm is that of those who speak regarding religious matters as if they were to be considered according to the norms and convenience of this passing life, forgetting the eternal life to come: they speak brilliantly of the benefits that the Christian religion has bequeathed to humanity, but not of the obligations it demands; they preach the charity of Jesus Christ our Savior, but say nothing of his justice. The fruit that such preaching produces is insignificant, because any worldling who hears it becomes convinced that he is a good Christian, and that he has no need to change his life, as long as he says: I believe in Jesus Christ. What kind of fruits do such preachers expect to reap? They certainly have no intention other than that of gaining at any cost the favor of their listeners, flattering them, and, as long as they see the church full, they do not care if the souls of the faithful remain empty. Consequently, they do not even mention sin, the four last things, or any other important topic. Rather, to obtain acclaim and applause, they use complacent language, with eloquence more fitting for worldly speeches than an apostolic and sacred sermon. Against such preachers, Saint Jerome wrote (Ad Nep.): ‘When you teach in the church, you should not merely provoke the acclamation of the congregation, but rather, compunction: may the tears of your listeners be your praise.’ (Pius X. Motu proprio Sacrorum antistitum, September 1, 1910)
The primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas
But Catholic doctrine tells us that the primary duty of charity does not lie in the toleration of false ideas, however sincere they may be, nor in the theoretical or practical indifference towards the errors and vices in which we see our brethren plunged, but in the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, August 23, 1910)
Jesus did not respect the false ideas of sinners, however sincere they might have appeared
Further, whilst Jesus was kind to sinners and to those who went astray, He did not respect their false ideas, however sincere they might have appeared. He loved them all, but He instructed them in order to convert them and save them. Whilst He called to Himself in order to comfort them, those who toiled and suffered, it was not to preach to them the jealousy of a chimerical equality. Whilst He lifted up the lowly, it was not to instill in them the sentiment of a dignity independent from, and rebellious against, the duty of obedience. Whilst His heart overflowed with gentleness for the souls of good-will, He could also arm Himself with holy indignation against the profaners of the House of God, against the wretched men who scandalized the little ones, against the authorities who crush the people with the weight of heavy burdens without putting out a hand to lift them. He was as strong as he was gentle. He reproved, threatened, chastised, knowing, and teaching us that fear is the beginning of wisdom, and that it is sometimes proper for a man to cut off an offending limb to save his body. (Pius X. Encyclical Notre charge apostolique, August 23, 1910)
The Apostles did not address the weak in accordance with their opinion at the time, but according to revealed truth
For the apostles, who were commissioned to find out the wanderers, and to be for sight to those who saw not, and medicine to the weak, certainly did not address them in accordance with their opinion at the time, but according to revealed truth. For no persons of any kind would act properly, if they should advise blind men, just about to fall over a precipice, to continue their most dangerous path, as if it were the right one, and as if they might go on in safety. Or what medical man, anxious to heal a sick person, would prescribe in accordance with the patient’s whims, and not according to the requisite medicine? But that the Lord came as the physician of the sick, He does Himself declare saying, ‘They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance’ (Lk 5:31 – 32). How then shall the sick be strengthened, or how shall sinners come to repentance? (Saint Ireneaus of Lyons Against heresies, Book 3, Ch. 5, no. 2)
“Veritas Domini manet in aeternum”
We are living within two notions of human conviviality. On one hand, the reality of the world, sought for, desired and actuated just as in the plan of God. On the other hand – we do not hesitate to repeat it – the falsification of this same reality, facilitated by technology and the human artifice, modern and most modern. Faced with the quadruple ideal of thinking, honoring, speaking and acting in truth and the daily spectacle of the manifest or disguised betrayal of this ideal, our heart is not able to dominate its anguish and our voice trembles. Despite all and everyone, veritas Domini manet in aeternum ‘the truth of the Lord lasts forever’ (Ps 116:2) and wills to shine more and more before eyes and be heard by hearts. In many there has spread a little of the sensation that the times through which humanity is passing are dreadful. […] and despite the clamorous or astute voices of the most violent, we are very certain that the spiritual victory will be of Jesus Christ qui pendet a ligno. (John XXIII. Christmas Radio Address, December 22, 1960)
III – Fear, severity and threats are also means of salvation
Exhort and correct with all authority
Holding fast to the true message as taught so that he will be able both to exhort with sound doctrine and to refute opponents. For there are also many rebels, idle talkers and deceivers, especially the Jewish Christians. It is imperative to silence them, as they are upsetting whole families by teaching for sordid gain what they should not. […] As for yourself, you must say what is consistent with sound doctrine […]For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, […]
Say these things. Exhort and correct with all authority. (Tit 1:9 – 11; 2:1, 11 – 12, 15)
Christian admonishment is always moved by love and mercy
I am thinking of all those Christians who, out of human regard or purely personal convenience, adapt to the prevailing mentality, rather than warning their brothers and sisters against ways of thinking and acting that are contrary to the truth and that do not follow the path of goodness. Christian admonishment, for its part, is never motivated by a spirit of accusation or recrimination. It is always moved by love and mercy, and springs from genuine concern for the good of the other. (Benedict XVI. Message for lent, 2012, no. 1, November 3, 2011)
Since some are found to be prone to vice it is necessary to be restrained from evil by force and fear
Man has a natural aptitude for virtue; but the perfection of virtue must be acquired by man by means of some kind of training. Thus we observe that man is helped by industry in his necessities, for instance, in food and clothing. Certain beginnings of these he has from nature, viz. his reason and his hands; but he has not the full complement, as other animals have, to whom nature has given sufficiency of clothing and food. Now it is difficult to see how man could suffice for himself in the matter of this training: since the perfection of virtue consists chiefly in withdrawing man from undue pleasures, to which above all man is inclined, and especially the young, who are more capable of being trained. Consequently a man needs to receive this training from another, whereby to arrive at the perfection of virtue. And as to those young people who are inclined to acts of virtue, by their good natural disposition, or by custom, or rather by the gift of God, paternal training suffices, which is by admonitions. But since some are found to be depraved, and prone to vice, and not easily amenable to words, it was necessary for such to be restrained from evil by force and fear, in order that, at least, they might desist from evil-doing, and leave others in peace, and that they themselves, by being habituated in this way, might be brought to do willingly what hitherto they did from fear, and thus become virtuous. […] Men who are well disposed are led willingly to virtue by being admonished better than by coercion: but men who are evilly disposed are not led to virtue unless they are compelled. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica I-II, q. 95, a. 1)
Our object is to reform the human race: either by the threats of punishments or by promises
In the next place, Celsus, as is his custom, having neither proved nor established anything, proceeds to say, as if we talked of God in a manner that was neither holy nor pious, that ‘it is perfectly manifest that they babble about God in a way that is neither holy nor reverential;’ and he imagines that we do these things to excite the astonishment of the ignorant, and that we do not speak the truth regarding the necessity of punishments for those who have sinned. And accordingly he likens us to those who ‘in the Bacchic mysteries introduce phantoms and objects of terror.’ With respect to the mysteries of Bacchus, whether there is any trustworthy account of them, or none that is such, let the Greeks tell, and let Celsus and his boon-companions listen. But we defend our own procedure, when we say that our object is to reform the human race, either by the threats of punishments which we are persuaded are necessary for the whole world, and which perhaps are not without use to those who are to endure them; or by the promises made to those who have lived virtuous lives, and in which are contained the statements regarding the blessed termination which is to be found in the kingdom of God, reserved for those who are worthy of becoming His subjects. (Origen. Contra Celsus, Book IV, no. 1)
God threatens the sinner; then fulfills the threats, or undoes them if man repents
Sometimes the Lord commands to be said that which He has in his high counsel and eternal will determined; and that will take place, without any doubt. In this way he commanded that it be said to King Saul (1Sam 15:23) that he would cast him out and chose a better one in his place. And also he threatened the priest Eli, and it was so fulfilled (1Sam 3:13). And in the same manner he threatened King David that he would kill the son that he had from his adultery with Bathsheba (2Sam 12:14); and even though the king begged for the life of the child with prayers, fasting and penance, it was not granted, because God had determined that the child would die. But at other times he commands something to be said, not what He has determined to do, but what He would do if such and such a man would not amend. And in this way He commanded to say that the city of Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days (Jon 3:4), and then, due to their penance He revoked this sentence: because He had not determined to destroy them, for He did not; but He commanded that it be said that their sins deserved it, and what would come to them if they did not amend. And even though from the outside it seems like an alteration to say: ‘It will be destroyed’, and then not destroy it; however, in the lofty will of God it is not, for he had never decidedly wanted to destroy it. For, as Saint Augustine says: ‘God changes the sentence; but he does not change the counsel’, which was for it not to be destroyed, through penance, to which he wanted to incite them through the fear of the threat. […] From which we understand, […] that just as one who repents, ends up undoing that which he had done, so He will undo the sentence of chastisement that he had made against man, if he does penance; and He will undo the good that He had promised, if man strays from God. (Saint John of Avila. Audi, filia — Listen, O Daughter, Ch. 83)
Imitate Christ by warning, teaching, exhorting, admonishing and advising
Knowing this, then, let us also not intermit to do all things unto them that sin and are remiss, warning, teaching, exhorting, admonishing, advising, though we profit nothing. For Christ indeed foreknew that the traitor was incorrigible, yet nevertheless He ceased not to supply what could be done by Himself, as well admonishing as threatening and bewailing over him, and nowhere plainly, nor openly, but in a concealed way. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily on Saint Matthew, Homily 80)
Employ all your zeal toward the fruitful care of spiritual things
It is absurd, in fact, that we cannot bear that an evening pass without a lamp aflame in our house; and on the other hand we are tranquil to see our soul without the lamp of doctrine. The greater part of our sins result from this: that we do not immediately light the lamp in our soul. From this, it results that which we stumble each day. From this, it results that we glean many things with the mind, but as if by chance and in passing; in effect, barely has the divine word been heard, before even having crossed the vestibule of the Church, we empty ourselves of this word and having extinguished the light, we walk in profound darkness. If by chance this has happened to us before, may it not happen in the future; but rather may we always have the lamp lit within our mind; and may we adorn our soul before our home. For the latter remains here below; but the soul goes with us to the other life: it is then only just that we should be more consider it as needing greater care. But there are some so foolish as to adorn their homes with golden artwork, and on the floor they put mosaics of various colors, and add pictures of flowers and the splendor of columns and many other ornaments of all sorts; while on the other hand they abandon their soul to a worse state than the most deserted inn, full of dirt, of smoke, bad-smelling, and entirely in abandon. And all of this happens because the lamp of doctrine does not remain alight continually. That is why things that are necessary are neglected, while we diligently occupy ourselves with what has no value. And I say this not only to the rich, but also to the poor. Because many of these also adorn their homes according to their means, while on the contrary they leave their souls uncared for. Consequently, I direct my teaching to one and the other, and I exhort you to take little care of the business of the present life, and to employ all your zeal toward the fruitful care of spiritual things, which are the necessary things. (Saint John Chrysostom. Homily in honor of the Holy Martyrs to the people of Antioch)
The people of God perishes for want of knowledge
Hear the word of the Lord, O people of Israel, for the Lord has a grievance against the inhabitants of the land: There is no fidelity, no mercy, no knowledge of God in the land. False swearing, lying, murder, stealing and adultery! in their lawlessness, bloodshed follows bloodshed. […] But let no one protest, let no one complain; with you is my grievance, O priests! You shall stumble in the day, and the prophets shall stumble with you at night; I will destroy your mother. My people perish for want of knowledge! Since you have rejected knowledge, I will reject you from my priesthood; Since you have ignored the law of your God, I will also ignore your sons. One and all they sin against me, exchanging their glory for shame. They feed on the sin of my people, and are greedy for their guilt. The priests shall fare no better than the people: I will punish them for their ways, and repay them for their deeds. They shall eat but not be satisfied. (Hos 4:1 – 2, 4 – 10)