They knew Jesus was the Messiah, and they killed him anyway

Some persons commit sins, without fully realizing the immorality of their acts. They should have known, and so they are guilty of negligence in learning faith and morals. But other persons know full well that certain acts are gravely immoral, and they commit those sins anyway.

{12:42} So the Lord said: “Who do you think is the faithful and prudent steward, whom his Lord has appointed over his family, in order to give them their measure of wheat in due time?
{12:43} Blessed is that servant if, when his Lord will return, he will find him acting in this manner.
{12:44} Truly I say to you, that he will appoint him over all that he possesses.
{12:45} But if that servant will have said in his heart, ‘My Lord has made a delay in his return,’ and if he has begun to strike the men and women servants, and to eat and drink, and to be inebriated,
{12:46} then the Lord of that servant will return on a day which he hoped not, and at an hour which he knew not. And he will separate him, and he will place his portion with that of the unfaithful.
{12:47} And that servant, who knew the will of his Lord, and who did not prepare and did not act according to his will, will be beaten many times over.
{12:48} Yet he who did not know, and who acted in a way that deserves a beating, will be beaten fewer times. So then, of all to whom much has been given, much will be required. And of those to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be asked.

We Catholics know the eternal moral law better than anyone else, or at least we should. So we may have a greater reward in Heaven, or a greater punishment in Purgatory or Hell.

{20:9} Then he began to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, and he loaned it to settlers, and he was on a sojourn for a long time.
{20:10} And in due time, he sent a servant to the farmers, so that they would give to him from the fruit of the vineyard. And they beat him and drove him away, empty-handed.
{20:11} And he continued to send another servant. But beating him and treating him with contempt, they likewise sent him away, empty-handed.
{20:12} And he continued to send a third. And wounding him also, they drove him away.
{20:13} Then the lord of the vineyard said: ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Perhaps when they have seen him, they will respect him.’
{20:14} And when the settlers had seen him, they discussed it among themselves, saying: ‘This one is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours.’
{20:15} And forcing him outside of the vineyard, they killed him. What, then, will the lord of the vineyard do to them?”
{20:16} “He will come and destroy those settlers, and he will give the vineyard to others.” And upon hearing this, they said to him, “Let it not be.”
{20:17} Then, gazing at them, he said: “Then what does this mean, which is written: ‘The stone which the builders have rejected, the same has become the head of the corner?’
{20:18} Everyone who falls on that stone will be shattered. And anyone upon whom it falls will be crushed.”
{20:19} And the leaders of the priests, and the scribes, were seeking to lay hands on him in that same hour, but they feared the people. For they realized that he had spoken this parable about them.

The vineyard loaned to settlers is the Israelite community. The leaders of that community rejected one prophet after another, sent to them by God. Then Jesus arrived, as the Son of God. Some of the leaders of the Jews at that time, not all the Jews and not even all the leaders, but some few leaders, realized that Jesus was the Messiah. “This one is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance will be ours.” In some sense, they knew that Jesus was the promised Messiah, and they killed him anyway.

The vineyard loaned to settlers is the Church. Some of leaders and teachers in the Church teach grave errors or commit grave sins themselves. But some few leaders are worse. They realize that their teachings are gravely contrary to what Jesus and His Church actually teaches, and yet they teach the errors and even claim, disingenuously, that these errors are the proper understanding of Church teaching. They know that they are giving people mere rationalizations for acts condemned by the Church as grave sins, and they don’t care. They teach error deliberately and without repentance.

A certain set of errors in moral theology has become popular in recent years. These errors are taught in theology classes at Catholic colleges and universities as well as in seminaries to future priests. And the teachers of these errors, radical revisionists as I call them, claim that their theological rationalizations for grave sin are merely a correct understanding of the teaching of Jesus and His Church. Now some of these false teachers are simply weak in faith and weak in intellect; they have badly misunderstood magisterial teaching. But I’m convinced that some few teachers of radical revisionist ethics are like the Pharisees who condemned Jesus to death. They know what they are doing, and they pretend they don’t know. They know that the acts they justify are grave sins under Church teaching, and they justify those sins anyway.

I can’t be sure which radical revisionists know they are teaching grave error, and which ones are simply incompetent. But so many different persons teach these grave errors, which are so clearly contrary to magisterial teaching, I can’t help but think that the parables of Jesus, about persons who sin knowingly, might apply to some of them.

The radical revisionists are like the builders who reject the cornerstone. They are rebuilding the Church in their own image, and the truth of Christ has no place in its foundation. But care for the vineyard is given to the settlers only temporarily. Later, the Lord of the vineyard will judge them all.

Consider the case of two hypothetical persons, A and B. Person A is a woman who gets an abortion or a man who decides to encourage a woman to get an abortion and pays for it. Later, person A repents and goes to Purgatory. Person B never gets an abortion and never pays for one. But person B teaches ethics, and justifies abortion to save the life of the mother, justifies abortifacient contraception for any good purpose or in any difficult circumstance, and justifies grave sexual sins. Person B teaches these grave errors publicly for many years, presents many different theological rationalizations to justify these sins, and claims that Church teaching should be interpreted such that these acts are not really sins at all. Later, person B dies and somehow ends up in Purgatory.

In Purgatory, person A will have a good deal of suffering, over the death of that one innocent, and then he or she will go to Heaven and be happy forever, having repented (before death) of that one grave sin.

But person B, in Purgatory, will be shown every innocent prenatal put to death because of their words, and every grave sexual sin committed with their words as a fig leaf of justification. Person B will be shown that their words continued to be read and to do harm for very many years after their death. Person B will be tormented in Purgatory by every grave sin that was committed with their words as an excuse, over the course of very many years — grave sins that might have been avoided, if they had taught the truth. I tell you that person B will be in Purgatory until the end of time. And if Heaven is like a wedding feast, person B will be like the least servant at that wedding, enjoying a crust of bread in the corner, while the faithful friends of the bride and groom enjoy great glory.

But if person B is truly like the Pharisees, who knew that Jesus was the Messiah and put him to death anyway, then, unless he or she repents with a full and sincere contrition, that person will be sent to one of the deepest parts of Hell, where those very Pharisees also dwell. And that person will be tormented forever by all the many grave sins and deaths of innocents caused by their teaching, which was presented in full knowledge that the true teachings of the Church are to the contrary.

Please do not misunderstand me. I speak out against certain few false teachers, whose errors are doing much harm, but I know very well that the number of false teachers in the world today is great. Truly, some of them teach error like the servant “who did not know”. And only some of those many teachers of error are like the settlers in the vineyard, who knew that “this one is the heir”. However, I cannot tell who is in good conscience, despite teaching grave error, and who is not.

Over at Catholic Answers Forums, there are many members with thousands or tens of thousands of posts, who are not discussing the faith, but teaching it. And they teach very badly. They teach many grave errors on faith, morals, and salvation. They claim that these errors are a correct understanding of Church teaching. Most have not studied theology and couldn’t pass a simple quiz on the most basic teachings of the Church in any area of theology. And yet they take it upon themselves to teach, without first having learned. And they have been teaching error for many years.

From time to time, some faithful Catholic, whether me or someone else, will post, at CAF, a correction of these errors. Some of the incompetent teachers will respond by continuing to argue for their own erroneous understanding. But others don’t merely argue or discuss, they respond to correction with malice and derision. They make false accusations and personal attacks. So I find it hard to believe that, when they teach grave errors, they are in good conscience. For their teaching is not enlivened by Christian charity.

This also occurs in other discussion groups, in blogs, and on various websites. The internet has become the foremost source of gravely erroneous teaching on the Catholic faith, errors presented with the false claim that they are a correct understanding of doctrine or sound theology. And many of the Bishops are so entwined in administrative tasks, or so poorly catechized themselves, that they do not or cannot correct these false teachers.

Countless souls are being harmed through the justification of grave sins, by persons claiming to teach what the Catholic Church teaches. And countless prenatals are being killed, through the justification of abortion and abortifacients, by persons claiming that these deaths are moral under Church teaching. And some of them know that Jesus is the Messiah, and they crucify him anyway.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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1 Response to They knew Jesus was the Messiah, and they killed him anyway

  1. Mark P. says:

    We need our priests to teach true Catholic morals, Church history, and the economy of salvation during the homilies. Too much focus on social justice issues at Mass and in the news. Those are important aspects of our faith, but not the only ones.

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