The pity of Christ
By Fr. George W. Rutler
Christ cannot be psychoanalyzed because he is perfect. It would be like seeking flaws in pure crystal or long shadows at high noon. That is why he may seem from our fallen state in a singularly ill-contrived world as both severe and merciful, ethereal and common, rebellious and routine, rustic and royal, solitary and brotherly, young and ageless. His perfection is a stubborn enigma to the imperfect, but if there is to be one hint of the art that moves his mind, it will be in his pity. It will be in his pity for the whole world when he weeps over Jerusalem; but most wrenchingly it will be in his pity for each soul when he sees us scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd.
He warned about wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt.7:15) and that disguise was the cunning deceit and dark tragedy of the modern age. The modern wolves, those seductive tyrants and demagogues, wandered freely and devoured as they did because they were given fertile pasture and friendly forests by a stranger creature in more subtle disguise. Churchill detected it when he called Clement Attlee a sheep in sheep’s clothing. Here is the moral weakling who thinks the wolf is a sheep because he sees no difference between the two and if he did, he could not care less. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in “The Great Liberal Death Wish”:
Not Bolshevism, which Stalin liquidated along with all the old Bolsheviks; not Nazism, which perished along with Hitler in his Berlin bunker; not Fascism, which was left hanging upside down, along with Mussolini and his mistress, from a lamp-post—none of these, history will record, was responsible for bringing down the darkness on our civilization, but liberalism. A solvent rather than a precipitate, a sedative rather than a stimulant, a slough rather than a precipice, blurring the edges of truth, the definition of virtue, the shape of beauty; a cracked bell, a mist, a death wish.
Now that Planned Parenthood has been exposed for those who have willfully been blind during these years of its atrocities, all that its CEO could sheepishly manage to say of a Senior Director of Medical Services sipping wine as she cited prices for infants’ body parts, was that her “tone” was “inappropriate” and “unacceptable.” Cecile Richards, who employs Dr. Nucatola, draws a salary of half a million dollars from the $528 million dollars of taxpayers’ money which our government contributed last year to Planned Parenthood’s annual budget. That same week, 94-year-old Oskar Gröning, who had been a functionary in Auschwitz, was convicted by a German court on 300,000 counts of accessory to murder. He admitted knowing something was wrong when a camp guard grabbed a crying baby and smashed its head against a wall. With untutored diction and uncoordinated syntax, Dr. Nucatola blithely spoke of ways to crush a baby’s skull. Affecting Latinity with which we may assume she is otherwise unfamiliar, she called it a “calvarium.” Has anyone heard of Calvary? In terms of the number of inflicted deaths and consequent dismemberments and experiments, Dr. Nucatola makes Dr. Mengele seem like Florence Nightingale.
Yet Richards, a sheep in sheep’s clothing, could only manage to say that her “tone” was “inappropriate” and “unacceptable.” But the next day, Richards angrily backtracked and insisted that such horrific procedures promote scientific research. Benjamin Franklin said, “Never ruin an apology with an excuse.” Richards ruined it. Her words were a descant on those of the Nazi doctor Julius Hallerworden, trying to justify himself at the 1945 Nuremberg trials: “If you are going to kill all these people, at least take the brains out so that the material may be utilized.” A few days later, and awkwardly for Richards who insisted that the body parts were not being sold for profit, another “medical director,” the coarse Mary Gattner, was filmed saying, “It’s been years since I’ve talked about compensation, so let me find out what others are getting, and if it’s in the ballpark then that’s fine. And if it’s still low, then we can bump it up—I want a Lamborghini.”
For several years, the Manhattan headquarters of Planned Parenthood [has] been directly across the street from my church and its school building, where children learn to read and write while smaller children are being dismembered in the opposite building. They have sold their 70,000 square feet of condominium space for $35 million and have moved downtown near the Church of Our Lady of Victory where I also once served. I thought of the dutiful exterminator—an indispensable figure in New York—who came with his fatal sprays on Memorial Day. I expressed surprise that he had come on a holiday, to which he replied, “Rev, roaches don’t take holidays.” True, they move from one place to another, always “roaming about” like Satan—and like abortionists.
At the time of the Planned Parenthood exposé, a young Muslim killed five armed forces personnel in Chattanooga and the White House issued no formal statement. During a conversation on other matters, President Obama managed sheepishly to say that it was a “heartbreaking circumstance” and then he issued a statement wishing Muslims “Eid Mubarak”—a blessed last day of Ramadan—and in New York, rather than dimming in grief, the Empire State Building was lit up in Islamic green lights. One remembered how Obama said in a United Nations speech in 2013: “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” While he was quick to go into deep mourning for Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, and Freddie Gray, Obama neglected to grieve for Kathryn Steinle whose murder by an illegal immigrant was politically inconvenient. Only after several days did he yield to public pressure and lower the White House flag to half-mast for the soldiers.
In contrast, a mere few hours after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex unions, he had the White House, a national building, turned into a political billboard illuminated in rainbow colors. Obama’s “heartbreaking” epicene angst was another instance of a sheep in sheep’s clothing, and as the bodies of the soldiers were being prepared for burial, he attended a Broadway show and played a round of golf. The liberal death wish became raucous when CNN national security analyst Tom Fuentes said of the shooter Muhammad Youssed Abdulazeez, “I know what the name sounds like, but we don’t know it’s a Muslim name.” Now, the murderer was not Luther Abdulazeez, or Calvin Abdulazeez, or Wesley Abdulazeez. There are few Lutheran or Presbyterian or Methodist chaps baptized Muhammad.
In The Abolition of Man, C.S. Lewis called these sheep in sheep’s clothing “men without chests” because their perception of reality lacks objective moral reason. Consequently, they really have no heart, if the heart is the seat of a righteous will, and thus they are ruled by whim, incapable of courage. The eagle on the Great Seal of the United States has arrows and an olive branch, but the sheep in sheep’s clothing would carry a limp pre-Raphaelite lily. For them infanticide is no big matter provided it is described in gentle tones; and the shooting of unarmed soldiers (deprived of defensive weapons by the sheep in sheep’s clothing) is just “heartbreaking.” That is easy to say for men without true hearts, but it is not what men with chests would say. Varro did not wispily call the slaughter of his sixteen legions at Cannae “heartbreaking,” nor did Boudicca of her 80,000 lost men, nor did Lincoln when cannons fired on Fort Sumter, nor did Congress when Pearl Harbor was attacked. For that matter, Jesus did not say that the collapse of the tower of Siloam was heartbreaking. He said, Repent (Luke 13:4). And we know what he said about those who harm the least of these little ones. From the depths of the sea, they may find the “tone” of God’s judgment “inappropriate.” And they will learn that Obama’s blasphemous prayer in Washington on April 26, 2013, “God bless Planned Parenthood,” fell on deaf ears in the heavenly realms.
It is telling that Obama once masqueraded as an august moral paragon to define sin as “Being out of alignment with my values.” Thus speaks the sheep in sheep’s clothing. Thus speak men without chests. They are in our legislatures, and universities and corporate headquarters and sometimes sadly in our churches, for offensive to the Good Shepherd is a sheepish shepherd who has no chest on which to hang his pectoral cross. Their fabricated world is like the Ivor Novello song “The Land That Might Have Been” that dreams: “Somewhere there is another land / Different from this world.” In that other land, it is even considered courageous for those without chests to proclaim that men are women and women are men, and that marriage can be turned inside out by the opinion of a Supreme Court judge who lamely thinks that he is a philosopher by the merits of ingenious telepathy from hell. But because “The Land that Might Have Been” is fantasy and not heaven, it is devoid of all joy and soaked in perpetual melancholy.
General Patton was thought by some not to have much pity. But he had a chest. When he entered Ohrdruf, the sub-camp of Buchenwald, his reaction to the corpses and crematoria surprised his soldiers. He did not say the lurid scene was “inappropriate” or “unacceptable” or “heartbreaking.” He bent over and vomited [emphasis by Abyssum]. And the medals on his chest rattled. When the people who lived outside the camps protested that they did not know what had been going on, General Eisenhower ordered them to walk through the fetid buildings and look at the corpses. Perhaps there will be a day when remnants of our sheepish generation are dragged through the moral carnage of our land and feel some of the pity that Christ feels for us.
Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and, most recently, Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press).
This article was originally printed on July 28, 2015, in Crisis Magazine. It has been reprinted with permission and can be found at http://www.crisismagazine.com/2015/the-pity-of-christ.