Yet on the other hand – and in reaction to Pharisaism – the later half of the 20th century will go down in history as a period when even some elect fell into confusion. The word “compassion” became the alfa et omega of authentic Christianity. Condemnation under any form was condemned as harsh and unloving. The anathema was anathematized.
But thanks to the “baptized genius” of St. Augustine – one of the great treasures of Christianity – we are given a key that helps us to combine an ardent love for God’s truth and a loving attitude toward heretics who reject dogmas and sinners who are affected by deadly moral diseases.
The saint wrote “Interficere errorem; diligere errantem” which means, “kill the error; love the one who errs.” Kill is not an equivocal word. It cannot possibly be misread: it means war until the enemy is dead.
How dangerous it is to be mild on both heresy and sin because of a distorted “compassion” for the heresiarch and the sinner. To reject and trample upon revealed truth is something so grave that, from the very beginning of the Church, the word “anathema sit” has been repeatedly used. A heresy is a slap in the face of Christ who declared Himself to be The Truth. To wallow in grave sins is so grave that apart from the offense of God, it is also the deadliest enemy of the sinner. The intensity and purity of our love for the latter, can be measured by our abomination of his sin. I recall that years ago, Professor Jerome Lejeune told me, with a fierce expression on his face: “You cannot imagine how I hate disease.” His passionate love for his patients was powerfully expressed in these words.
It is because every Christian has a strict duty of charity to love the sinner, that he should abhor the sin. Rape, sadism, pornography, heresy are odious, and to look for some good “behind them” is to fall prey to a very serious intellectual confusion. Why did Christ say about those “who scandalize little ones” that it would be better for them to have a millstone put around their neck, and thrown into the sea?
Because the gravity of this sin is such that it calls for the fearful condemnation that Christ gives. He certainly did not look for the “good behind the evil,” because there is none to be found. What was the “good” hidden behind Judas' betrayal? No word in the New Testament is as fearful as the words of Christ: “it would have been better for him had he not been born.” Every time we read those words I tremble. Existence is such a great good, but Christ tells us that there are cases when not to exist is preferable.