The Concept of Blasphemy
Last week, I summarized the message of Fatima by referring to what has been called “The Peace Plan from Heaven”. The last point in this “four-point” peace plan was the communions of reparation on five first Saturdays. Our Lady of Fatima specifically asked for reparation for blasphemies committed against her Immaculate Heart. Five specific blasphemies are mentioned: Blasphemies 1) against her Immaculate Conception, 2) against her virginity, 3) against her divine maternity at the same time refusing to recognize her as Mother of men, 4) of those who openly seek to foster in the hearts of children indifference or contempt and even hatred for this Immaculate Mother, 5) of those who directly outrage her in her sacred images.
Today I will write something about the concept of blasphemy itself, because the word has fallen into disuse and its meaning has been forgotten. Then in the weeks that follow that follow I will write about the very real ways in the five aforementioned blasphemies are present in the world today.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “Blasphemy is directly opposed to the second commandment. It consists in uttering against God – inwardly or outwardly – words of hatred, reproach, or defiance; in speaking ill of God; in failing in respect toward him in one’s speech; in misusing God’s name. … The prohibition of blasphemy extends to language against Christ’s Church, the saints, and sacred things.” (CCC 2148) The Book of Revelation tells us that in a special way blasphemy is a work inspired by the devil; it speaks of the human agents of the devil as uttering blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling [the Blessed Virgin and the Church] and those who dwell in heaven. (Rev 13:6)
We can also distinguish between objective blasphemy and intentional blasphemy. Denial of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin is, objectively a blasphemy, whether one acts in ignorance and without malice, or one intends thereby to insult her. An objective sin has negative consequences, even if the perpetrator is not culpable for the sin. We recognize the principle easily in physical matters: if someone eats unhealthy food their health will suffer, even if they act in ignorance. So also in the spiritual order; if someone commits sinful actions, there will be negative consequences, even if they acted in ignorance.
Indeed, the evil of blasphemy, even unintended, should be fairly evident since the bad word about God and the saints, whether printed or spoken, will tend to undermine in the minds and hearts of those who hear it or read it the reverence due to God, the Virgin, or the saints. When a gossip carelessly speaks badly about other people, he damages that person’s reputation in the minds of his hearers, even though he may have meant no harm. So it is with blasphemy, only much worse, because it is the holiness God’s name that is harmed in human estimation.
Well, the typical American response to all this would be, “So what?”
We Americans are a practical people. Truth about God and about the Blessed Virgin seems too abstract, remote, and irrelevant. We are inclined to say, “None of that really matters so long as you are a good person and do right by others.”
That means we have lost the connection between truth and action; it also means that we no longer recognize that it is very important that we acknowledge and honor our origins, regardless of any here and now practical benefit, but simply because it is right and just. Yet that is what the worship of God, adoration, is all about: simply acknowledging, honoring, and giving praise to God because of who he is, the source and origin of all that exists. We do this for no other reason than because it is right and just. The rightness of divine worship is the foundation for all right and just human action. Without it, we are bound to go wrong; we will never really get it right it in trying to do right by others.
There is an old saying that a small error in the beginning leads to a large error in the end. Failure to worship God because it is right and just is no small error in the beginning; it means missing the start of the road altogether. Yet worshipping God means worshipping God in truth, which means honoring him not just for the act of creation, but also for all that he has wrought for our salvation in Jesus Christ; in means honoring him in his works and in his greatest work, the holiness of the Immaculate Virgin, the Mother of Jesus, our Lord, God, and Savior.
August 18, 2017