“There’s nothing wrong with being a leper”

I’m guessing most of my Catholic readers got subjected to their yearly anti-discrimination sermon–whoops, I mean “homily”– today.  We all heard the story about how Jesus cured a leper.  The priest then tells us solemnly that lepers were “considered unclean” back in Biblical times, and that there was an awful “social stigma” attached to leprosy.  People would be mean to lepers, segregated them, and imagined that non-leprosy is somehow “better” than leprosy.  Jesus, however, was all about breaking social barriers that keep people apart.  So Jesus found this leper, (cured him) and made people stop discriminating against him and start treating him equally (by taking away his ghastly and potentially contagious disease).  Let us all think about who the “lepers” are in our communities, and do likewise.

Morons.  Morons.  Morons.

First, let’s look at what’s wrong with this on the literal level.  Leprosy is not a social construct; it is caused, not by prejudice, but by the bacterium Mycobacteriumleprae.  It causes skin lesions, disfigurement, and severe nerve damage.  And although official sources–more worried about preventing “stigma” than preventing spreading–like to say that it’s not “very contagious”, it is contagious.  Note the recommended means of prevention:

Prevention consists of avoiding close physical contact with untreated people.

The “treatment” indicated did not, of course, exist until modern times.  So, how many of you oh-so-morally-superior modern pricks feel like kissing a leper now?  If you were an ancient people, and the only way you knew to stop the spread of a horrific disease was to quarantine those infected (and note only those definitely infected–not everyone who could have been exposed), would this be an entirely irrational and mean-spirited thing to do?  In any event, should a Catholic priest be criticizing the Jews for doing what sacred scripture explicitly tells them to do?  Remember, we believe as a matter of faith that the Torah comes from God.  Even if we didn’t, it hardly takes a leap of religious faith to see the obvious and overriding common interest served by Moses’ law in this matter.  Sure, segregating lepers might have made them feel bad, but it saved lives.  Notice also that Jesus Himself never criticizes the Mosaic law on lepers.  In fact, he has the leper he cured follow the regular procedure on reintegration into the community.  Thus, it’s also silly for us to lament that ancient and medieval Christians “betrayed Jesus’ legacy” by continuing to quarantine lepers.  No, they weren’t being bad Christians; they just weren’t being stupid either.

Leprosy, as I said, is a horrible disease, and comparing today’s pet minorities to lepers is just grotesque.  On the other hand, the curing of the leper does have a symbolic value that previous generations of Christians did recognize.  Instead of thinking of ourselves as the excluding Pharisees (as the VII priestards want us to do), let us realize that we are the lepers, that our souls are diseased and disfigured by sin as a body is by leprosy, and that Jesus Christ alone can cure us.  This is supposed to be the point of the story.  Unlike the “learning to accept the Other” story, it doesn’t trivialize a very real physical affliction.  Someone with a sense of the gravity of sin–that is, the holy ones of previous generations–would realize that what sin does to the soul really is as bad as what leprosy does to the body.  It really is that big a deal.  As is the redemption from so ghastly a state brought by our Saviour.

One can see why our priests don’t preach that lesson from the Gospel:  they have no sense of sin.  They don’t believe that there is really anything wrong with anyone.  They believe it so strongly that they are forced to the absurd conclusion that there’s nothing wrong with leprosy.  Admitting that leprosy is a really, really bad thing might contribute to the social stigma which is the only evil they can recognize.  Since there’s nothing really wrong with anybody, Jesus really doesn’t have any healing or redeeming to do, so that part is always deemphasized as much as possible.  The only remaining point of Christianity is to carry the Good News that everyone is fine the way he/she/it is, and so we should therefore “accept” each other.

“There’s nothing wrong with being a sinner or a leper.”  It’s a reducio ad absurdum of the Spirit of Vatican II, if another was needed.

19 Responses

  1. What is a “VII priestard”?

  2. I’m looking for a good term of abuse for dim-witted, PC-spouting “spirit of Vatican II” priests, but I haven’t come up with anything good yet. Yes, I know, this is juvenile of me, but do let me know if you come up with something catchy.

  3. Oooohhh…I though it was 7, not V-2

  4. O.M.G.

    I thought I was the ONLY one who has had to sit through this CRAP, and I heard it from the pulpit twenty years ago! I knew then that is was utter BS, but to hear it how you talk it, I realize one can only laugh at the presupposition that we (non RC Clergy and RC Laity) are THAT STUPID, not to see the incipient Marxism/Talmudism behind all this!

    Thanks. You made my day, just laughing at those I once considered ‘shepherds of the faith.’

    – Fr. John+

  5. In my small rural community, we had a very informative homily in which Father explained that lepers were segregated to prevent the spread of disease. He commented on the both practical and spiritual reasons for many Jewish laws in the time of Christ. He spoke about the possibility that other skin conditions, such as eczema, might be mistaken for leprosy and thus the need to see a priest to have the “unclean” restriction removed if the condition cleared up. No social commentary at all.

  6. I lucked out, I guess. This morning we heard no social commentary either. In fact, we heard essentially the same exegesis you have provided, plus a nice lesson on the medical aspects of leprosy. It is transmitted the same way as the common cold, so it’s pretty easy to catch, and quarantine makes a ton of sense. Just think if AIDS was transmitted that way. Think we’d have AIDS colonies? You betcha we would.

  7. @Kristor – “Just think if AIDS was transmitted that way. Think we’d have AIDS colonies? You betcha we would.”

    Actually, we probably wouldn’t, not in Britain anyway. And this is a measure of the pervasive dishonesty of our society. The ruling elites would very probably deny AIDS was contangious, and claim that the people were dying from something else – discrimination probably.

    When AIDS arrived in Britain, and the government was running terrifyng TV averts about icebergs of disease, and people very high up were genuinely concerned that there might be a wiping-out of the younger generation – nonetheless clear and vital facts were deliberately concealed from the public.

    In particular it was stated again and again that *everyone* was at risk, nobody was safe. Later it emerged that hetero-sexually transmitted AIDS was almost 100 percent confined to a very small group of recent immigrants from certain parts of Africa, almost entirely living in London.

    This was a high risk population, the government knew, but the UK public was never allowed this information, and was indeed fed upon lies – presumably some people caught AIDS and some died as a result…

    It was an early example of the politically correct airport ‘security’ policy, where anyone *could* be a terrorist (even if such people never have been terrorist so far in the history of the world); so the checks are ‘random’ (yeah…) and include detailed spot searches of young children travelling in families (it happened to us!), 85 year old grandmothers etc. Meanwhile, known and obvious high risk groups waltz-through ‘security’.

    Our ruling elites are serious about PC. Societal annihiliation from leprosy would, for them, be a price they were prepared to pay.

    Yet it cannot be said that this is acting nobly, stoically, on principle; because they would lie about the reality – lie to themselves and lie to others.

    If the elites were to say clearly – leprosy is an incurable and terrible disease which is contagious – nonetheless we should allow lepers to live among us as equals because discrimination is the worst of evils; and the result will probably be that eventually nearly everybody will have leprosy – including you and me and our children; but that we should nonetheless do this because we should act by the highest principles of morality and the highest principle is non-discrimination…

    If the PC elite would say something like that, they that would be respect-worthy, so far as it went. To suffer, deliberately, in pursuit of high goals is noble.

    Because that would lead to questions of where this specific non-discriminative principle of morality comes from, and why it should be primary; and to this question they have no answer, because there is no answer.

    But the ruling elites don’t, they don’t ever state honestly the truth as it is known – not even to themselves in private.

    They would say that the threat of leprosy was exaggerated, mistakes in diagnosis were made, it was possible to make transmission unlikely, maybe some people were resistant, that it is actually curable, that the problem with leprosy is exaggerated and most due to prejudice against people who look strange, that it was a disease mostly of the poor and some ethnicities – they would raise up a dust-storm of psuedo-doubts and red herrings until real leprosy had disappeared and been redefined as being an *arbitrary label* imposed due to prejudice.

  8. Correct Bonald. And missed on Sunday where I worship (it is the revised (ahem) common lectionary — the reformed and the anglicans use it as well).

    What is interesting is that the leper said…if you choose to heal me. Jesus could have healed without touching… but this man knelt in worship before him.

    Which is what the sermon at my kirk was about. Us reformed have our own liberals to bear, but they are (thank God) generally retired 🙂

  9. My priest did not say anything about discrimination. He talked about lesions on the soul and how we should pray to God to heal our souls.

  10. We were told that the moral of the story of the leper is that we should hug people more often, especially if they are HIV positive. And yes, there was an inordinate amount of grappling when the time came for the sign of peace. Sin was mentioned in the homily, but sin wasn’t described as something we humans actually do, and for which we must repent. It was represented as a sort of virus one contracts, perhaps from toilet seats, to which Jesus is the antidote. This isn’t altogether wrong, of course, but it does tend to make the sinner appear as the victim of sin, not the perpetrator.

    I know this may be hyper-critical, but our recessional hymn was “How Can I Keep From Singing.” I like the song, and like singing it more than most of what is printed in the Music Issue, but it is a Quaker hymn expressing ideas about personal inspiration that are hard to reconcile with Catholicism. I don’t think the Church actually condemned quietism when it first appeared among Catholics in the 16th century, but it did warn that not all things that speak directly to our souls are good.

    I’m glad to read in this thread that some parishes heard a good homily yesterday.

  11. When AIDS first came to public attention in the mid 1980s, I remember reading a long article about it in, I believe, The New York Review of Books. When I finished reading the article, I recall thinking that the disease was terrible, but that it should be relatively easy to contain if infected persons were required to bear a discreet tattoo, say on their right shoulder. This would not have been a means of public humiliation and stigmatization, but would have communicated vital information to anyone proposing to have sex or share a needle with the infected person. No sooner had this thought occurred to me than it was being shouted down in all organs of polite opinion, with plentiful allusions to the tattoos of concentration camp inmates. This insanity caused the first big crack in my liberal worldview. Obviously, in this worldview, the right to sex was more important than the right to life. Then I saw the same logic behind pro-abortion arguments. Second big crack. Tens of thousands of young men have died, and untold billions have been spent, because a simple public health measure was rendered unthinkable by the erotomania of the liberal zeitgeist. I understand that this very mild sort of quarantine would not have eliminated the disease, but I’m fairly certain it would have saved tens of thousands of lives.

  12. I got two different sermons on this text Sunday morning. Our parish (Anglican) has two services, an early short and simple, said Eucharist from the Book of Common Prayer, and a later, longer Eucharist which adds elements from mainstream evangelicalism and from the Catholic tradition, to the basic Anglican liturgy. I regularly attend the early service, and sometimes stay for the longer one. This Sunday I was at both. Our rector gave the sermon at the early service, but the bishop presided over the second service and gave the sermon. Both compared the Gospel passage with the Old Testament reading (about Naaman). Neither, mercifully, preached an anti-discrimination sermon.

  13. No antidiscrimination component to my homily at yesterday’s mass – at a more liberal, guitar-and-piano parish I have to occasionally attend out of circumstance. The priest is a young, accented mestizo, however, which accords with the theories you’ve put forward.

  14. Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to mine. I rarely do.

  15. Why do you rarely pay attention? Is it your policy, or the fact that they always turn out not to be worth paying attention to, or some other reason?

  16. Right. But this was the response to a disease that was hard to transmit. If AIDS were as easy to catch as leprosy or the common cold, the response might have been different. In that case, the public health officials and their children would have been in immediate danger, and they would have responded defensively, from their guts. Liberalism and PC are luxuries – like art and drama. They are after all an elaborate game of “let’s pretend.” When the chips are really, really down, everyone gets traditional really fast, for the same reason that there are no atheists in foxholes, and even nihilists avoid car accidents.

    But, perhaps things have progressed so far that this would no longer be the case. That can happen when despair has set in.

  17. I am blessed to be free of pernicious homilists. I am not, unfortunately, blessed with particularly engaging ones.

  18. […] the same thing with medical scientists and health agencies, as I’ve said before when discussing leprosy.  They’re not trying to tell me things I want to know–like how to actually avoid […]

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