Monday of the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time
(I Corinthians 5:1-8; Luke 6:6-11)
Although the Church is popularly thought to have put many people to death with the Inquisition, in fact it did not do so. The Inquisition was a Church office that sought out heretics for most of the second millennium. The Church typically assigned spiritual and physical penances for guilty parties, but it was the state that generally meted out capital punishment. A prototype of what occurred is found in today’s first reading.
St. Paul is scandalized by the report that a member of the Christian community in Corinth has been living with his father’s wife. The crime, forbidden both in Jewish and pagan cultures, even seems over the top to contemporary ears. When Paul suggests that the man delivered to “Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” he likely means that he be turned into the secular authority for some kind of corporal punishment. Whether the punishment was execution or something less, it would likely elicit an act of repentance.
Although we find the practice endorsed in the Bible, we should not think of corporal punishment as a remedy for infractions of sexual boundaries. Tolerance is more in order for today’s cases of promiscuity. But this does not mean that sexual crimes should be either celebrated or ignored as often done in contemporary life. Young and old should realize that such sins are shameful. Also, we should pray for the sinner and for ourselves as well that we do not fall into temptation.