How to Treat Gentiles and Tax Collectors

How to Treat Gentiles and Tax Collectors August 12, 2020

Today’s Gospel is the instruction on what to do with erring members of the Church:

If your brother sins against you,
go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.
If he listens to you, you have won over your brother.
If he does not listen,
take one or two others along with you,
so that  every fact may be established
on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
If he refuses to listen to them, tell the Church.
If he refuses to listen even to the Church,
then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.

It’s a timely message, as we have a presidential candidate who is campaigning on his Catholic faith and on his support for killing innocent people and a pledge to force the Little Sisters of the Poor to fund contraception (instead of, say, requiring employers with objections to any given medical treatment to simply give employees an equivalent amount of cash in a health care savings account, which employees can then use to cover that treatment or any other).

Longtime readers can easily predict who I’m not voting for. I’m sticking to 2016’s strategy because we still have no morally viable candidate from either of the major parties; I think my rationale for doing so has in fact borne some fruit. That said, I recognize there are no easy answers for persons of goodwill in the coming election, and refer you to the USCCB’s document Faithful Citizenship for more authoritative guidance.

(If you have a proclivity for Godwin’s Law, you might enjoy Mit Brennender Sorge instead. And see below at the photo explanation for more on that theme.)

Meanwhile, back to the Gospel.

What to do about the Bidens of this world?

In terms of voting, today’s Gospel seems to leave open the possibility of  voting for a terrible Catholic: If you could vote for a pagan or tax collector (what is the Commander in Chief if not a tax collector?) with the same qualifications and policy positions, then perhaps you simply scratch out “Catholic” in your brain, set aside the issue of scandal for the faith, and proceed to vote for whichever pagan is least objectionable.

Scandal for the faith and concern for the well-being of Biden’s soul, however, involve far more than just voting.  I’ve analyzed previously the question of whether Joe Biden should receive communion.

For those wondering about the merits of excommunication, here’s a reputable canon lawyer on that topic, and here’s an example of a recent case of an excommunication (on other grounds) that gives a good feel for what excommunication is and what it does.

Important notes:

  • Denial of communion is not the same thing as excommunication.
  • Neither denial of communion nor excommunication are meant to be permanent.

The firm hope for all pagans, tax-collectors, and terrible Catholics is that we will come to our senses, turn to the Lord, and discover the joy of a loving, intimate, eternal relationship with God.

If your base instinct is to hope that the wretched person who wounded you so cruelly and destroyed all you hold dear is dammed to hell, that’s a pretty normal reaction; it is not, however, to be our final word.

So.  What exactly are we to do about pagans, tax collectors, and presidential candidates?  300 pages right here, readable and to the point.

File:American Flag and Cross in Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.jpg

Photo: An American flag with “Merci” (“Thank You”) written on it, at the grave of Sgt Robert B. Seyler in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, public domain. This was the best of the early results when I searched for a photo of “Cross and American flag.” 

–> For something completely different, here’s the Epic Vacation pages 1 and 2 from several years back, including all kinds of fun stuff and also my post “What it Takes Not to Be a Nazi”, where I tour a concentration camp and also a military battlefield cemetery containing some grave markers you might not have expected.

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