Quote of the day

“It is impossible to interpret Jesus as a violent person. Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God, it is a tool of the Antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes.”

– Pope Benedict in yesterday’s Angelus, discussing the cleansing of the temple.

Read more. Full English translation to come.


  1. Great point. As a catechist, I’m always a bit concerned about how to convey this passage from the Gospels (Jesus’ cleansing of the temple). Of course, we don’t portray this as violence, but is it not OK to share that Jesus was exhibiting a justifiable measure of outrage and righteous wrath and indignation?

    Would appreciate any insights from scriptural exegetes among the faithful readers of The Deacon’s Bench.

  2. It is ironic though that without violence Jesus would have never been able to open the gates of heaven and fulfill the scriptures.

  3. George, it is not “ironic” but the revelation of divine love; “by his wounds we are healed”
    he conquered the violence of sin and power of death by death on the cross. “it was our sins that he bore….” i mean the whole passion and cross shows how he took it all on himself and bore it all in trust and love. Lamb of God who took away all the sins of the world, have mercy on us sinners!

  4. While Jesus was not a violent person, He used a great deal of violent imagery in His teaching to illustrate what awaits those who reject God’s love and mercy, who do not abide God’s law of love-especially in serving the poor and the least.

    He often speaks of the fires of Hell: In Matthew 25, in the parable of the rich man and the poor man Lazarus, in the teaching that the wicked will be tossed in the furnace. He cursed the fig tree that did not bear fruit, and upon His return with the disciples, the tree was dead.

    Regarding the cleansing of the temple, it wasn’t just that the money changers were financially corrupt. I think the cleansing also has to viewed in light of Jesus’ outreach to the Gentiles and the promise that if He be lifted up (crucified), He would draw all men to Himself. The money changers set up shop in the Court of the Gentiles, which was the lowest area in the Temple complex, but an area for the Gentiles to come and worship at the Temple of the Lord. This area of worship had been coopted by the Jews and used as a marketplace where fellow Jews were shortchanged.

    Thus, the offense was multi-faceted. Not only was sacrifice of the Jews an occasion of theft, but the Gentiles were being denied the only place for them on the Temple Mount. I think the cleansing was a foretaste of the Judgement, a muscular underscoring of His prophetic teaching.

  5. when it comes to scripture we must always keep the text in the context. the cleansing of the temple has a different context especially in the synoptics and the gospel of john.

    I am not sure what the bible says about the “a muscular underscoring of His prophetic teaching” but for sure the gospels and st paul all speak of the wisdom of God made manifest in his suffering servant who reveals this wisdom that puts the wisdom of man upside down. the world says when i am muscular i am strong, the gospel says when i am weak, meek, humble….i conquer.
    by our wounds He has healed us…….

  6. I think the pope here is indirectly condemning those “religions” which foment violence or justify it as something compatible with God. There is an enormous amount of persecution and violence being visited upon Christians in regions of the world we are fortunate enough not to be in and which we rarely hear about (though Deacon Greg had a good post on this yesterday). Benedict has to hear and worry about it every day as universal pastor of the Church.

    I haven’t heard a papal reference to the Antichrist in quite some time and I found that interesting.

  7. ron chandonia says:

    The issue goes beyond biblical exegesis to the very heart of Christian morality: If Jesus was truly nonviolent, can those who claim to follow him dare to be anything else? Fr. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy of the Center for Christian Nonviolence just sent out an email blast that opens with the Quote of the Day from Pope Benedict and then offers this Lenten reminder:

    Jesus did not simply “suffer and die,” just as Abel did not simply “suffer and die.” Jesus was “tortured and murdered,” and He responded to His torturers and murderers with a Nonviolent Merciful Love. “Suffered and died” are minimizing, obscuring, evasive, amnesia-inducing, all-purpose, generalizing words. They do not convey properly the Gospel history of what took place on Golgotha. They do not convey properly the revelation and glory of God in Jesus during His final hours on earth, nor do they convey properly the revelation of the redeeming and redemptive Way of God through Jesus. The raw animal pain of suffering and death is not what saves. Identification with Jesus being tortured and murdered is identification with Jesus loving—loving the Father by doing the Father’s will and loving those responsible for His torture and murder. Communion with the tortured and murdered and risen Jesus Christ is communion with a love that conquers any evil and is stronger than death.

    Sounds great in theory, but today’s Catholics are more likely to see the Zealots of Jesus’ time as the “realistic” ones when it comes to fighting violence with still greater violence. After all, while Jesus was executed, the Zealots endure to this day . . . don’t they?

  8. Ron, how many times does it have to be said that we are not required to be pacifists if we follow Jesus. If that were the case, that post you just made would have been written in German or Japanese. Actually, you wouldn’t have posted it because Christianity would not have survived in the United States had the Germans and Japanese taken us over.

  9. ron chandonia says:

    Kevin, you richly illustrate my point: To modern Catholics, the Zealots were “realistic” about violence, and Our Lord was hopelessly idealistic. Can’t have anybody turning cheeks when the Romans are up to no good, now can we?

  10. It’s interesting to me how the discussion has immediately jumped away from the specific text of Sunday’s Gospel, i.e., the purification of the Temple, to positions regarding violence and non-violence in a political sense. Clearly, Jesus’ actions in the Temple (agreed upon by all the Gospel writers, where ever they place it in their narratives) were something more than polite requests that the traders cease and desist their activities. It would appear that Jesus used violent means to move them out. I think that the Pope’s words yesterday (and we only have a snippet sound bite here, not the full text, so it’s hard to judge the context completely) may have been directed at those who see this action of Jesus as implying that Jesus inclined to the zealot party and was, therefore, a revolutionary and that this is the reason for his crucifixion. The suggestion that He was a political revolutionary takes away the sacrificial character of the event and, therefore, makes Him just another of the many killed by Rome in their conquest of the known world. This totally earthbound view of the Cross also has a tendency to deny the divinity of Christ.

    That said, the Pope is absolutely right. Violence is the tool of Satan/Antichrist. For one thing, the smokey fires of violence and anger cloud the judgment, so that it becomes difficult to tell right from wrong.

  11. naturgesetz says:

    Good point, ron. By Kevin’s logic, if Peter hadn’t drawn the sword in the Garden of Gethsemani and Jesus had obtained the legions of angels to defend him, we’d all be pagans today.

    BTW, there’s nothing wrong with writing German or Japanese.

  12. I don’t think you realize how unChristian your sentiment actually is. If we hadn’t fought the Nazis and the Japanese, they would have overrun our country and slaughtered millions of men, women and children. The Catholic Church would not have survived. But I guess you would have been ok with millions of Americans being mowed down by the Axis powers.

  13. From the turn the discussion has taken, we need to step back a moment and make some critical distinctions. First, if by zealotry we are discussing advancing Christianity at the point of a sword, like the radical muslims do with Islam, then of course such violence is of Satan, and is not how Jesus would have us advance the Gospel. However, the violence of war is a bit more nuanced.

    The Church recognizes that war is intrinsically evil, but also teaches that there can be just and proportional reasons for resorting to war. In 1941, Japan and Germany both declared war on the USA. At that point, we were well within our rights to defend ourselves from unjust aggression. Turning the other cheek is what I do when someone offends ME. I don’t stand there watching a woman get gang-raped and turn the other cheek for her (One may wish to read Iris Chang’s “Rape of Nanking”). I do whatever is just and proportional to put her rape to an end, which may well involve engaging in violence against her attackers.

    None of this addresses the incident in the Gospels. Jesus IS God, and He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. There will be some pretty sorry souls He sends off to eternal fire, an image He used repeatedly. The cleansing of the Temple was a small window into the future. Just as He healed people and performed other signs and wonders to let people know that He was God, He cleansed the Temple and cursed the fig tree to show that He is also Eternal Judge.

  14. ron chandonia says:

    HUH??? The Catholic Church most certainly would have “survived.” Or have you forgotten the part about the gates of Hell not prevailing against it?

  15. ron chandonia says:

    Gerard, you make it sound as if Jesus was just kidding about the nonviolent stuff, perhaps playing Good Cop to some future vision of himself as Bad Cop. Seems to me logically incompatible with the forgiveness he expressed on the cross–and calls on us to express as well.

    But what of the idea that we do not turn to violence to defend ourselves personally but to protect the innocent in our care? That possibility has been discussed since the new converts of Constantine’s time (St. Ambrose among them) sought to rationalize their support for Roman militarism. But it was curiously absent from the behavior of the early Christian martyrs who laid the foundation for Christianity’s future success. As John Cadoux wrote in his classic study, The Early Christian Attitude to War, “When Plinius tortured the two Bithynian deaconesses, and when Sabina was threatened at Smyrna with being sentenced to the brothel, no Christian knight came forward to prevent the wrong by force of arms or perish in the attempt. Sabina said simply, in answer to the threat: ‘The holy God will see about that.’ Such conduct, amazing as it may seem to us, does not argue callousness, still less cowardice . . . . It simply means a strenous adherence to the Master’s teaching . . . ” It was an adherence which paid off in a way that violent retaliation has never paid off, and not just for the martyrs themselves.

  16. Barbara P says:

    We really don’t know how it would have turned out if we met the horrors of Nazism or other violent atrocities with nonviolence. We have never really tried it. There certainly seems like there was no other way to stop the horror of Nazi Germany but even as we fought an evil, terrible acts were committed, like the firebombing of Dresden and Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Meeting violence and evil with nonviolence doesn’t mean there won’t be suffering – Jesus suffered terribly. But as Father Barron says in his video Jesus interrupted the violence and evil dysfunction by meeting it with His Love on the Cross and out of that brought about our salvation. If we meet violence with violence don’t we become what we are fighting and add to the darkness? Our world has not become more peaceful but maybe we just aren’t at that place yet in human development.

  17. I meant it wouldn’t have survived in the U.S. except possibly in an underground fashion. Of course the Church is indestructible but that doesn’t mean it can’t disappear from entire nations.

  18. Thanks for clarifying Ron. Some may find this very difficult to hear. The Gospel does turn our normal way of thinking up side down.

  19. Ron,

    Get the Church to rescind its teaching on “Just War” and we can talk universal pacifism. It is immoral to watch the innocent suffer and stand idly by and not assist.

  20. naturgesetz says:

    Very interesting point, which reminds me that the Church seems to be on the point of disappearance from Europe, now that Nazism and Communism have been defeated; and since we in the U.S. participated in their defeat we have seen the Church diminish here too.

    I’ve always believed in the Just War theory, but the older I get, the less seems to have been accomplished even by just wars, and the more I notice violations of jus in bello even by nations which began a war with jus ad bellum.

    We can’t really know what would have happened if England and France hadn’t declared war on Germany. Perhaps even more to the point, we can’t know what would have happened if the Austro-Hungarian Empire hadn’t declared war on Serbia, but it might well have been far better for Europe and the world.

  21. The disappearance of religion in Europe has more to do with the reformation, Lutheranism, Oliver Cromwell, and the Protestant movement. When the Church was diluted by these movements, the message was lost.

    Churches are empty in Europe and in many cases are being used as museums to their past and mosques.

  22. ron chandonia says:

    The Church’s teaching on “just war” is not the teaching of Jesus. It was concocted out of a mix of Roman militarism and Aristotelian hair-splitting. And even though it has lurked about for hundreds of years, it is certainly not irreformable. As a matter of fact, it appears to be going the way of that other infamous teaching on state violence: the one that justified capital punishment.

  23. ron chandonia says:

    Sorry, George, but it was the wartime Church’s determination to preserve its institutional prerogatives at all costs that led to the post-war sense that it was at best irrelevant and at worst detrimental to human progress.

  24. You cannot expect society to be martyrs. Perhaps specific individuals can be martyrs, and God bless them, but society would crumble if no physical deterence were present. Why have policeman? Why do you think police carry weapons? Was the 30 million people murdered by Stalin worth martyrdom? Or the 65 million under Mao? Or two million in Cambodia? Or one million in Vietnam?

    Do people feel comftortable in their pacifism to let such human slaughter go unanswered? Fr. Baron keeps saying that it was the pacifism of Pope JPII that caused the Soviets to fall. He keeps forgetting the millions of soldiers NATO put in Germany and the divisions of tanks and air craft carriers and fighter planes and bombers that were built and ready to use. In fact it was the threat of a Star Wars military system that was the final blow to the Soviets.

    The 100 million people killed under communism are worth the pacifism? Is that what I’m hearing? That’s easy to say if you’re not one of the killed.

  25. naturgesetz says:

    IOW we were wrong not to declare war on the Soviet Union and Red China? We should have defended those 100 million with our military might?

  26. It may not have been practical, but we certainly engaged them militarily in Korea, Vietnam, and a handfull of other less noticable places. But our response was to militarize, and if needed we were ready to use our ordinance, and that’s not pacificism. We certainly spent a lot of treasure and blood to contain the Soviets.

    Plus, if the Catholic Church was completely pacifist, why are there saints that were in the military? Should Joan of Arc, who led a military response to English conquest and presumably killed people on the battlefield, be considered saintly?

    Not sure what IOW stands for.

  27. naturgesetz says:

    IOW = In other words.

    But our response in Korea and Viet Nam ignored the plight of the tens of millions already behind the Iron Curtain, while going to great lengths to defend a far smaller number.

    I’m not saying that pacifism is morally obligatory, just that I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the supposedly justified warfare that has actually been conducted.

  28. Ok, I understand and I appreciate your feelings. As to the tactics of the cold war, people at the time judged what was practical. The time perspective both of theirs and ours can color judgements.

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