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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