Should You Punch a Heretic?

The Protestants in Greenville got together with the Catholics for today’s Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. For the most part it was an example of cordial co operation. However, there was a fervent Catholic lady handing out literature laden with Bible verses that prove Catholic doctrine, and across the street some Protestants were protesting that the Catholic Church was “unBiblical”.

Such is religion in Greenville, SC–the buckle of the Bible Belt. It was nice, therefore to stand up and say, “I stand before you as a graduate of Bob Jones University and a Roman Catholic priest…”

But what were we to do with the protestors across the street? St Nicholas famously punched the heretic Arius in the mouth during the Council of Nicea. There’s a passage in St John Chrysostom in which he recommends a similar treatment for those who willfully misinterpret the Scriptures. Fr Z. quotes it here. The interesting thing is that the rather long homily of St John Chrysostom from which this excerpt comes is a long diatribe against teetotalers. He says that the Scriptures clearly teach that wine is not only permitted, but that one should take a little wine for his health reasons. (I Tim. 5:23) The saint writes,

Paul is not ashamed, and does not blush, after the many and great signs which he had displayed even by a simple word; yet, in writing to Timothy, to bid him take refuge in the healing virtue of wine drinking. Not that to drink wine is shameful. God forbid! For such precepts belong to heretic …  But since our discourse has now turned to the subject of blasphemy, I desire to ask one favor of you all,  in return for this my address, and speaking with you; which is, that you will correct on my behalf the blasphemers of this city  [i.e., blaspheming against God by saying that wine is evil] And should you hear any one in the public thoroughfare, or in the midst of the forum, blaspheming God; go up to him and rebuke him; and should it be necessary to inflict blows, spare not to do so. Smite him on the face; strike his mouth; sanctify your hand with the blow, and if any should accuse you, and drag you to the place of justice, follow them thither; and when the judge on the bench calls you to account, say boldly that the man blasphemed the King of angels! For if it be necessary to punish those who blaspheme an earthly king, much more so those who insult God.

Remembering this passage, and with the example of holy St Nicholas and the instruction of St John Chrysostom firmly in mind, I gathered together the Knights of Columbus who were present and asked them if they wished to mount a charge on the heretics across the street. They were hesitant.

“Come lads!” I cried, “Why call yourselves Knights if you cannot ride out to glorious battle?”

Silence. So I turned to some of the good Catholic ladies. I am thinking of those who live in my part of town and who have a militant streak. “What ho ladies!” I cried. “Remember St Therese who says, ‘Sanctity! It must be won at the point of a sword!’ Are there any noble latter day St Joan of Arcs who wish to cross the road with me and engage those heretics with swords instead of words?”

The ladies were willing, but were unarmed. “Next time” they said, “we will come with stout cudgels and give the rascals a beating!”

Unfortunately our local Knights of Columbus–while in attendance–neglected to wear their regalia, plumed hats and swords. Had they been so attired and armed they would, perhaps, have been more valiant.

As it happened they convinced me to step across the street and enjoy a decent lunch at a local eatery.

I exaggerate slightly for effect.

Ecumenical fisticuffs are really not in order I fear, and should I have planted a punch and been hauled off to the Greenville County Detention Center I doubt if the officer in charge would be much impressed if I had said boldly, “That man insulted the King of the Angels.”

Bashing Baptists on one side–what should one do with Protesting Protestants? Read more.


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  • Woody

    I wish I would a been there with ya, Fadder! Yous and me would a given ‘em what for by golly!

  • Contra

    Its certainly not in order, but it might have made you feel better.

  • Elizabeth D

    Our Stand Up Rally in Madison, WI was less than a block from the headquarters of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and although they may not have been aware of the first Stand Up Rally, there were probably a dozen there, including apparently the adult daughter of the founders. Fortunately, I had a handmade sign: “FFRF: Freedom FOR Religion Forever!” I made sure they all saw it and I happily let them know how much I love being Catholic and following all the Catholic teachings and how much I love our bishop and the Pope, and that I love them and already pray for them (which they really did NOT like), and that Jesus wills that they be saved through His body and bride the Catholic Church. They had obnoxious signs and chanted and yelled obnoxious things through the whole rally and tried to drown out the speakers. The rally concluded with prayer, and Fr Rick Heilman asked us all to turn and face the FFRF folks and pray the Our Father for them. A couple of excellent chant singers sang it in Latin for the benefit of the loudest protester, who didn’t know what to do. They went silent. At some point while a large number of people were praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy on our knees, they departed. “Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! … Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.” I really take it as a good sign, in a beatitudes way!

  • RJO

    This was one of your BEST blogs!

  • Jade

    Could you explain the Pope Petrus Romanus thing? I’ve read your books and really don’t have anyone else to ask or to explain it to me. I don’t know how to answer my Evangelical friends and family. I’m not smart enough to understand it on my own. It’s making my Catholic decision (though decided) start to have sneaky uncertainty seep in. It’s probably weird I’m coming to you when I don’t even know you for help but I think I read you use your website as part of your ministry, right? I’m just at a complete loss on the subject and I don’t trust everything I’ve read. As a representative of Jesus, I’m asking the next best person to answer besides my prayers to Jesus Himself. I don’t want to bother you because I’m sure it’s not a simple explanation or answer and I’m not even going to pretend I’d be smart enough to comprehend it but I do need something and I know God is going to somehow provide a way for me to understand what I need to understand, even if it’s not much :)
    So thank you, in advance, for your time and consideration. I do appreciate it. God bless and see you in Heaven someday.


  • David A

    While everyone fights, the Old Monk listens, smiles, and waits.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    send me an email to discuss.

  • David

    Thank you Father, for this and so many excellent posts. I was at the Custom House in Charleston for a really outstanding program, and only a couple of counter-protesters.

    Underlying your

  • Howard

    I also come from a Fundamentalist background. I can honestly sympathize with them; most of them do not willfully misinterpret Scriptures, they’re just taught the wrong way to understand the Bible.

    Besides, as I have already explained to my Protestant friends, the swords of the Knights of Columbus are purely symbolic. We do our real fighting with machine guns.

  • David

    Your strategy in disarming the usual questions is as deft as it is devastating, as it first neutralizes the otherwise stacked deck and reframes the discussion to a single practical point requiring no Bible verses or theological ping-pong.

    I’m sure you have seen many books or tracts or heard many broadcasts which end with an invitation to pray the sinner’s prayer, followed by an admonition to seek out a nearby “Bible-believing” church to nuture the newfound faith. What is never really disclosed is the menu is loaded with 30,000 varieties, as the one thing on which they all agree is of course the Catholic Church is beyond consideration. So the poor soul who has just had this monumental experience of grace has no basis for making an informed choice and so may as well use a dartboard covered with the yellow pages.

    Suppose, however, by a miracle our new Christian is given a sort of infused knowlege of all these distinctions, and is ready to order his theological omlette: “Let’s see, I’ll have 4 points Calvinism, 2 Lutheran sacraments (with full immersion Baptism, however), on a bed of the 1611 King James, topped with a meringue of charismatic pentacostalism, and pop-style praise & worship music on the side. We’ll finish with baked rapture, & please hold the fire & brimstone!”

    God bless!

  • A.J.

    Fr. ,

    Why doesn’t the Holy Spirit guide us all into a correct understanding of the scriptures? I’m Catholic, with a fairly good amount of knowledge of theology and scripture and If I don’t watch out, I could come up with a heresy right here on the spot and not even know it. Could it be that what Protestants say occurs, doesn’t really because it would be a violation of our free will. If the Holy Spirit guided us to correct interpretations automatically, the human element would be lacking and God can’t violate that? I don’t know, I was just wondering. Maybe it’s because God has ordained that the Church do the job of official interpretation and teaching and not just the individual. Therefore, God doesn’t give the individual card blanche to interpret how he feels like.

  • J

    I take it your post was mostly in jest, but either way, St. Nicholas received ecclesiastical censure for slapping Arius. It was only through the intervention of the Mother of God that he was reinstated. Therefore, I’m not sure the conclusion to draw is that is is ordinarily all right to treat heretics in this way.

    And the passage from St. Chrysostom does not say to strike heretics. It says to strike those who are heard to blaspheme. And even though the blog linked above severely edits the quotation to make it sounds as if the blasphemy in question were the rejection of wine-drinking, this is clearly not the case (perhaps you can alert the other blogger). St. Chrysostom has transitioned to another topic, and he purports to curtail blasphemy in the city and correct our brethren by an act of charity. And since he ends the discourse with an excursus on “protecting the community,” it hardly seems applicable. Not to mention your reticence to go to jail contrasts sharply with St. Chrysostom’s injunction that this be your “martyrdom” should you suffer consequences for such righteous action.

    Anyway, if you want a brawl, the Holy Sepulchre is known to erupt in interdenominational fighting. Also, be ready to receive as many blows as you give.

  • Kristine Schulte

    I’m sad & disappointed that a priest wrote that. Even though his rally to “punch heretics (protestants) in the mouth” was more a joke than a call to action, it’s still wrong.Would Jesus joke like that? Would Saint Francis Assisi? Would Mother Theresa? No! I’m not a religious scholar,but I believe they would have crossed the street & given their fellow CHRISTIAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS a handshake or hug and tried to be peaceful with one another. Articles like this make Satan laugh, he rejoices in seeing Catholics & Protestants dislike one another.The truth is, in the final days, ALL believers in the God of Abraham (Jews,Catholics,Protestants & Muslims) are going to have to unite to do battle against Hell on Earth. The time to treat one another with LOVE and RESPECT is NOW. Satan is banking on these 4 faiths to fail due largely to each faith’s myopic view that they are “the one true faith” and their constant passion to shove it down each other’s throat.

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    That’s right. The Apostolic Church rightly interprets Scripture–not individuals.

  • David Brunk

    I never read the Chrysostom quote before, but it reminded me instantly of Chesterton’s The Ball and the Cross.

  • Del

    This reminds me of story about St. Ignatius of Loyola in his early pilgrim days. He encountered another traveller who had nothing good to say about the Blessed Mother. Ignatius pondered whether he should run the fellow through with his sword or let him go. As they were coming to a fork in the road, he decided that if the infidel took the road separate from his, he would let the infidel go, otherwise, he would just not be able to tolerate the other fellow. Luckily for the heretic, they parted ways at the junction.

  • SteveD

    You are not a ‘Roman Catholic’ priest, you are a Catholic priest. How can there be more than one kind of Catholic Church? The addition of ‘Roman’ was an Anglican device to imply that there are other churches that are Catholic.

  • Misterd418

    I get the humor and the exaggeration. Thank you for that. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Having many family and friends still in the Protestant Church, I imagined what family gatherings would look like were I to assume that point of view.

    However, it is important to remember that our Protestant brothers and sisters are not typically heretics (people to knowingly and willingly teach contrary to orthodoxy), but rather are in error and most have been raid that way. The “former Catholics” probably never had a firm understanding of the faith in the first place. There apostasy was based on ignorance, not informed rebellion. Charity!

  • FrancesM

    William F. Buckley’s sister once felt it incumbent to give heretic Mary Daly a slap (at Notre Dame, if I remember correctly). Catholic Amazons Unite!

  • Gail Finke

    Plenty of saints would have joked like that. We are allowed to laugh.

  • EPG

    For Steve D. — The churches of the East consider themselves holy, catholic and apostolic. They maintain that is they, and not the Roman Catholic church, that bear witness to the fullness of the faith. And they do use the term, “Roman Catholic” to describe Roman Catholics. The term is actually fairly precise, and useful.

  • Kristine Schulte

    My question to you Gail is would Jesus make that kind of joke?

    I don’t think He would.

    I think He would advocate that the priest lead by example…go with his parishioners across the street & treat the fellow Christians with unending patience & kindness.Yes, even in spite of the fact that the Christian folks across the street were misguided and unkind by stating/shouting that Cathlolics are going to hell.

    Gail, very respectfully, I am not debating that Christians of any denomination are not allowed to laugh, that remark really misses my point. My point is this is not humorous, it’s sad. Satan delights in Christian folks, of all denominations, holding any resentments or anger in their hearts toward one another.

  • SteveD

    @EPG – Latin Rite not Roman Catholic

  • William H

    I recommend reading some of our saints like Jerome. You will find that saints are very much human, and these were the good ones. Also, be careful of Chesterton and Hillaire Belloc. Those men also used the same sense of humor as Father D.

  • William H


  • flyingvic

    @SteveD – Latin wrong, surely? Since the improvements of Vatican II the liturgy is in the vernacular.

  • David


    Jesus used irony to effect on occasion. In the parable of the Good Samaratin, the first two passers-by were a Levite and a priest, who avoided the stricken man in order to maintain ritual purity. These were highly esteemed members of the community, & at least some of his listeners would have found their action (or inaction) entirely in keeping with their distorted understanding of the law, which by this point had emphasized form over substance. So when the hero of the piece is a despised Samaratin, the Pharisees grudgingly admit he is the one who did rightly according to mercy, but even then they could not bear to refer to him except in general terms.

    So this story had a lot of “bite” in the ears of His hearers; this sort of tough love was not at all gentle, though entirely civil. Father’s approach above is analagous, under cover of humor. He is not at all advocating discourtesy, much less violence, but is actually relating a very effective method to meet this kind of challenge.

    I also live in SC, where Catholics comprise about 3% of the population. I am in Charleston, which is considerably more tolerant than the Upstate, where Father is located. Our Protestant bretheren are frequently clueless about of what the Church actually teaches, which can give rise to some potentially frustrating exchanges.

    As I mentioned above, the technique Father describes avoids an enormous amount of conflict while defending our Church effectively and gracefully in terms these folks can understand. From there a dialogue may ensue, but at the least the other party will be hopefully disabused of at least some of his prejudice.

    In this environment, that is the starting point in such encounters, and the first thing they need to know is that we stand up for our faith and are prepared to discuss it reasonably, as we are directed in 1 Pet 3:15. This is no time for weakness or ignorance; charity must prevail.

    Pray for us, St Francis de Sales!

  • EPG

    @ Steve D. — Actually, I was referring to the Orthodox Churches (who have their own structural and jurisdictional issues), not the Eastern Rite jurisdictions who acknowledge the authority of the Pope. I apologize for the confusion.

  • CW

    Thank you for going Elizabeth! I offered my day, such that it was, for the event. Madison is a tough town, but with our wonderful Bishop and the truth, we can do much! I loved your description of the event. I really felt the “sock it to ‘em with prayer” attitude. That is how we can punch them. Remember, all, there are some that can only be removed with “prayer and fasting.” I believe the members of the Church are finally figuring this out after so many years.

  • Chris

    Take the bible at face value. You dont have to interpret anything. It means what is says. When you say the catholic Church interprets, you mean it twists.

  • Chris

    Protestants got it all wrong. Error is widespread. Look at their church services. They dont even have statues to bow to. No images to kiss. No golden cups. Im glad im catholic, i dont make protestant errors.I bow to images and love the Pope

  • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

    If you don’t have to interpret anything and you can take the Bible at face value why do you Protestants not believe it when Jesus says over the bread, “This is my body” and “Do this..” and “Unless a man eat my flesh and drink my blood he does not have life within him”?

    If you took those verses at face value you would believe what Catholics believe. You don’t you twist them and make them mean what they don’t mean.

  • Elizabeth D

    Thanks for being with us in spirit!! If you click my name, it will take you to my blog where there are photos. There are also going to be Rosary Rallies “for life, family and the conversion of the world” 7pm every Thursday evening at the State Street steps of the capitol, starting 6/21. I also think prayer+fasting are beginning to be rediscovered.

  • William H

    Wow! Umm, yeah…

  • David


    Above, I wrote that “our Protestant brethren are frequently clueless about what the Church actually teaches”. Now, I don’ t mean that to sound judgemental or negative; rather, it is merely a statement that like most others, you have not studied what the Church says about herself. Instead, you have (for the most part justifiably) on your pastors and other Protestant sources, who unfortunately know no better than what they were taught, so myths, distortions, & outright lies are passed on. Father can speak to this more than I, but to prove my point, watch “The Journey Home” on EWTN (8:00 p.m. Mondays, with encores through the week

  • David


    When you refer to “bowing to images”, etc., you merely prove the point I’m making, though you can’t know that yet. At this point, rather than get into the details of this specific issue (which will answer Biblicly & logically ever objection ever posed), let me ask you this: Would the world really be better off, if all religious art, sculpture, architecture and so forth were to miraculously vanish?

    A case in point: some years ago when some poor deranged soul took a hammer to Michaelangelo’s “Pieta” ( which depicts Mary receiving the body of Our Blessed Lord from the Cross), there was an outcry all over the world that this beautiful, moving work was wantonly destroyed. By a painstaking and expensive effort, the pieces were reassembled and the figure is now on display under a protective transparent shield.
    This incredibly moving work has helped make the Gospel “come alive” for millions of people viewing it, as it helps them put themselves on Calvary more vividly than they could before they saw it. Nobody worships it, or believes that it has any intrinsic power other than to convey to them concretely what that awful but necessary event was like.

    Did you go see “The Passion of The Christ”? If you did, you probably experienced the Passion of Our Blessed Lord more vividly & viscerally than your imagination could convey to you without that imagery, sound, & drama. That certainly was my experience, and millions of others.

    Put it another way: suppose by some unknown means an accurate, verifiable, video or photo album of the entire Passion were discovered. Would you look at it? If so, would you worship the media or the Savior it depicts? Do you begin to get it now?

  • Chris Balding

    I’m thinking the “bow to statues and lvoe the Pope” comment was sarcasm??? Look back to the Old Testament, when Moses erected a snake on a staff. I forget what type of metal it was but it was clearly an object to bow before. OR even the ark of the covenant, a metal box with angels on the top with the ten commandments and Arron’s staff inside, clearly another object to bow before. The commandment that speaks about not having any other gods before God, is not talking about these “objects”. It’s anything foreign from God, meaning not having anything to do with Him. You have pictures of your dead ancestors around the house to remind you of them and what they were like. Thankfully Catholics also have pictures or “statues” to remind us everyday that there have been others before them that lived Holy lives AND that we can do the same.

  • Chris Balding


  • Macc

    The question is:
    Should You Punch a Heretic?

    This Catholic vs Protestant stuff must cease!

    If you really want to get physical don’t fret. Your time will come. With the threats from the obama adminstration against the Catholic Church, the HHS mandate, and the rapid rise of Islam you may very well get your chance!

    Then we’ll see how tough everyone really is!

    Who will “submit?” And who will stand?

    To go after the Protestant “heretics”, even in jest is fool headed.

    Concentrate on real threats to our Liberties!

  • Elvia

    Father, you’ve made me have a lot of fun!! Your post is simply great!! You should read “the ball an the Cross” by Chesterton if you haven’t yet. You’d enjoy it!! God bless you

  • Al Bergstrazer

    Thank you, I was trying to understand why calling wine evil would be considered blasphemy, that does not follow unless the wine were consecrated but then that would be sinning against the sacrament.

  • Eric Pinola

    Macc – AMEN – the real enemy does use divide and conquer very effectively and we The Body of Christ need to see past this. There is a growing storm against our religious liberties and all need to awaken and take prayerful action now, before….

  • Chris M

    Chris- ok, let’s start with ‘which version of the Bible’? because they don’t all say the same things or they say things in ways which lead to different interpretation. Or, better yet, could you point me to which denomination does NOT interpret scripture, but only let’s it say what it means? Because it seems like there’s a lot of disagreement about what the Bible says it means amongst people who read it.

  • Chris M

    well, in my little town we have a Melkite Catholic, a Byzantine Catholic, a Maronite Catholic and many churches which have Roman Catholic on the signage. Your point is well taken, but Roman Catholic is common usage now, even within the Church.

  • Chris M

    and all those Japanese bowing to each other! Heathen idolaters I tell ya! to the stake and fire with em! And my Grandma has silver cups at home, the vile ol’ pagan she is!