An interesting quote came my way on Twitter:
God hates the sacrifices of these [i.e., heretics] and pushes them away from Himself, and whenever they come together in the name of the Lord, He abhors their stench, and holds His nose…
Fortunately the tweeter had a reference:
Comment in Amos Proph, P.L. 25 1053-1054.
Those are dramatic words. But the first question with any quotation is the same: is it accurate?
The PL 25 is online, and col. 1053 is here (or here). As soon as we open it, and find ourselves in the Commentary on Amos (Commentariorum In Amos Prophetam Libri Tres), book 2, chapter 5, we find that the context is the well-known words of God through Amos, vv. 21-22, to the corrupt Israelites, “I hate your festivals…”.
The words are these (1053 D):
Horum Deus odit sacrificia, et a se projicit, et quotiescumque sub nomine Domini fuerint congregati, detestatur foetorum eorum, et claudit nares suas.
Jerome is, then, simply addressing the words of Amos to the heretics also, and with good reason.
The phrasing is shocking to our polite sensibilities. We tend to think of “heretics” as us: people of sincerity and goodwill, who merely happen to hold some mistaken opinion, perhaps even unknowingly, and are sought out by malicious and narrow-minded people bent on condemnation.
But a better example in our own time is the Caiaphas kind of churchman, full of his own “piety”, full of “holy” phrases, yet ever eager to acquiesce in, or to advance vice of any and every kind, so long as it is to his liking. The heretic has contempt for Christian teaching. Our Lord condemned such people in the strongest terms, and they are not absent from our own day, as anyone who has followed the sad story of the American episcopalian church will know. The problem is rather that we are far too reluctant to identify these infiltrators as such.
The ancient term still has value. It is a characteristic of these people today that they demand the name of Christian for themselves. In consequence they tend to scream at anyone who dares to suggest that some people might not, in fact, be Christians. In fact it is a fingerprint of the heretic that they refuse to allow anyone to suggest that someone else is not a Christian. More than one Christian has found himself censored, when responding to an attempt to point out that such and such a view – happily accepted by the heretics – is not Christian.
Worth remembering. The words of scripture do have a contemporary application, and we mustn’t let ourselves be intimidated in applying it when it is earned.