No, you haven’t accidentally stumbled onto a site that reviews horror movies. It’s still Word Incarnate, and I’m still writing about the Gospel of Christ. But our Lord does use some graphic images at times: “if your hand…causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you… And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than…to be thrown into the hell of fire” (Mt. 18:8-9). Though we cannot merely dismiss such language as idiomatic semitic hyperbole, I want to share today an allegorical interpretation that I recently came across.
St Chromatius of
All who are in any sort of position of authority need to take warning here. St Chromatius says that, according to Jesus’ words, if the eye or the hand causes others to sin, that is, cause scandal in any way, they must be cut off and cast away. We can assume that he enjoins this radical measure only after remedies have been applied unsuccessfully. If a person has a diseased or injured eye or hand, he doesn’t immediately opt for amputation, but tries to find healing in whatever way is possible. But let’s say the hand is full of gangrene. It must be cut off to save the rest of the body, to save his life. And that is St Chromatius’ point. If the faithful are so scandalized as to be led into sin (e.g. being taught by word or example that things condemned by Scripture or Tradition are now acceptable), or that the spiritual health of the body is so jeopardized that the salvation of souls is at stake, then the offending eye or hand must be removed so that the Body can live and be restored to health. For it is better, echoing Jesus’ words, that the “eye” or “hand” be cut off than for the whole body to perish with them intact, having been allowed to spread their disease.
This is a serious word for today’s Church. We are faced with the grievous specter of some bishops and priests who give scandal to the faithful by their immoral lifestyles and/or their teachings that do not correspond to the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church.