Wednesday, May 02, 2007

"The church is a whore...

Riding the seven-headed Beast.
Russian Engraving from 1800s
(Image from Wikipedia)

. . . but she's my mother."

I read these words this morning for the first time in my life. I'm pretty sure that I've never heard them quoted before either, which surprises me since this is the sort of shocking remark that ought to have come to my attention already.

Well, the quote came to my attention early this morning, about 3:30 a.m., as I was reading an online article, "Why the Church Is Important," excerpted in Christianity Today from chapter six of Tony Campolo's Letters to a Young Evangelical (Basic Books, 2006), where it can be found on page 68.

Campolo attributes the quote to Augustine of Hippo, which I found even more shocking, for Augustine already had a mother, Monica, whom he considered a saint -- which leaves me very skeptical that he actually ever uttered such a thing in the form quoted by Campolo.

So, I Googled the expression "The church is a whore" and found a couple of minor variants --"The church is a whore, but she's still my mother" and "The church is a whore, but she's my mother all the same" -- and a handful of plausible and implausible sources but usually either Augustine or Luther. The bawdiness of the quote reminds me more of Luther than of Augustine, but given Luther's context -- leaving the mother church -- would he have uttered such words?

A much more elaborate rendering -- in a blog post all on its own -- reads:
"Yes, the Church is a whore; but that whore is the bride of Christ and your mother, and you have no right to abandon her."
I found this variant on the blog See Life Differently, who attributed it to "Anonymous," but that seems unlikely because it's a rather elaborate thing for "Anonymous" to say. Backing me up is RS (aka Ryan), who posted a comment informing us that "This post isn't anonymous and I know who said it!!!" But reticent Ryan didn't say who.

For what it's worth, this "Anonymous" version sounds less like Luther -- who surely would never have counseled anyone not to abandon the church -- and more like Augustine.

I can imagine an Old Testament inspiration to the underlying meaning -- the book of the prophet Hosea comes to mind (cf. Hosea 1.2, 2.2, 3.1, et al.) -- but can anyone soundly document who actually first uttered the words "The church is a whore"?

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32 Comments:

At 11:35 AM, Blogger Chris Weimer said...

Are you sure it's not anonymous? I've heard it before, but never heard of a single attribution except to anonymous.

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, I do wonder if the most elaborate of the variants is truly anonymous, and Ryan S. did claim to know the author -- which may mean that it was authored by one of the contributors to the blog See Life Differently.

The shorter versions might well be anonymous, for if a source were traceable, I probably would have located it on the web.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:45 PM, Blogger Dave said...

There is this attributed to Sartre:

"Your church is a whore: she sells her favors to the rich."

But I think that what you are looking for probably dates to the Reformation.

 
At 7:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Dave, there may actually be a long tradition behind this sort of statement about the church, and it likely goes even further back than the Reformation -- as today's blog entry on Dante's puttana sciolta would seem to suggest.

I suspect that a lot of people have uttered similar words.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good morning.
I'm doing a rhetorical analysis of churches in late capitalism, and this necessarily means looking at the phraseology of posts like Campolo's yesterday. I am s o g l a d to see that someone addressed it. Thank you. I spent hours last night revisiting Augustine, searching elsewhere, and trying to ascertain why Campolo would make the appropriation he did, to no avail. So, thanks.
Cheers,
M.Marie

 
At 6:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

M. Marie, thanks for dropping in. Campolo and others seem to attribute this to Augustine (or Luther), but I can't find any clear citations, as you know.

See my next blog entry, too, if you haven't already.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:10 PM, Blogger Andrew said...

Hey, you don't know me. I found you blog on a google search of the quote in question. I was also shocked when I read it for the first time today in Donald Miller's "Searching for God knows what"; he attributes it to Augustine as well. If Augstine did indeed did say this then I am curious what the context was.

 
At 1:17 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Andrew, thanks for dropping by. I also wonder in what context Augustine might have uttered this, but God knows who actually uttered it first -- or in what context!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:20 PM, Blogger David Knepprath said...

I'm kinda bummed you guys were never able to solve this dilemma. I'm trying to do the same...

 
At 6:32 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yeah, DK, it is a puzzle (though not a dilemma). If you find the answer, please let me know.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:41 PM, Blogger Christian said...

As the person who wrote the See Life Differently post, I can clean up at least a little bit of the mystery - I heard it from a friend at seminary, (this was the 'source' Ryan mentioned) - but I have no idea where he got it from, although I've since heard it attributed to Augustine.

Of course, the truth of such a quote should be self-evident regardless of who said it (assuming you understand the dual nature of the church).

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Christian, thanks. I had thought that the 'quote' sounded too detailed to be just anonymous. Your friend at seminary was perhaps filling in some details -- or perhaps quoting a professor who had done so.

This clears up one mystery but brings us, of course, no closer to the original source.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:11 AM, Anonymous Luke said...

I have been working on this mystery too. I think the quote is compelling, but attributing it to someone as noteworthy as Augustine or Luther without reason is irresponsible.

I contacted two of my old professors, one of them is a Luther scholar and one is a Patristics scholar. Neither of them had ever heard the quote before, and my Patristics professor said this:

"In all my studies of the fathers, I don’t ever recall hearing that Augustine said anything like that. In fact, it is very unlikely that he would refer to the church as a whore. [The Church] is the bride of Christ and is holy. That is not the kind of thing he or any of the church fathers would say. If your source did not provide a citation for the quote, I would think it is probably inaccurate."

I've also written to Tony Campolo for a source, but I haven't heard back yet. I'll let you know if I come up with anything.

 
At 6:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Luke, thanks. If you do find the source, then do indeed let me know. I posted several blog entries on this but got no closer to a source.

I wonder if the saying is a modern one, for it even sounds rather cynical . . . depending upon how one reads it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:29 AM, Blogger ryan sutherland said...

Hey Jeffrey,

This is really funny that I came across your blog while doing a search on this same phrase trying to finally nail down for myself who said it! I had forgotten that I commented on it a few years ago.

I too heard it attributed to Augustine and I too am skeptical of that attribution. My comment on the See Life Differently Blog is simply a joke because the author of that post and I had a seminary class together and he posted that right after a classmate said during a presentation.

So I really don't know who's originally to blame. But I did hear a guy named Will Rienmuth quote it in a class! But Will's not original enough to make it up!

Would love to know who actually said this if you ever find out.

Thanks!

 
At 5:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Ryan, thanks for visiting. I don't think that I'll ever uncover the source. But if you do . . .

By the way, my name has the unusual spelling of "Jeffery," which causes many to stumble.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:57 PM, Blogger Selah said...

If Tony C. quoted it and cited Aug. as its source, why doesn't he come forward and give the exact reference, seeing that so many are doubting his credibility on this issue?

Selah!

 
At 10:15 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

He's probably not the first to cite Augustine, but the citation looks mistaken to me.

I doubt that he reads my blog, though.

Thanks for visiting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:47 AM, Blogger Corey said...

Hey guys,

I stumbled across this blog entry while searching for a conclusion to this very debate which arose between myself and a friend. He argues that it was Luther who said it, and the attributing to Augustine was as a result of Luther being an Augustinian Monk. An argument I find a little weak given Luther's personal fame.

I wonder myself if it couldn't be that Augustine originally said it, and Luther quoted him during the Reformation; leading to both men being cited for the phrase.

Just thinking aloud,

Corey

 
At 12:35 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I came to the conclusion that we simply don't know who first said it -- and possibly for good reason, for who would wish to take credit?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:22 PM, Anonymous Dominic said...

Daniel Berrigan - a Jesuit saint - a worthy son of the Church - uttered these immortal words.

 
At 5:01 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Was he the first to utter them?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:47 PM, Anonymous Dominic said...

Mr Horace,

The Church has been referred to as a whore for more than a millenium.

Daniel Berrigan said this:

"The Church is a whore, but she is my mother."

In the Romero-movie (starring Raul Julia) you hear this:

"But the Church is a whore; she will spread her legs to the highest bidder."

 
At 3:12 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks. Do you have a source in which Daniel Berrigan said this?

By the way, I go by "Jeffery."

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:08 AM, Blogger Zach Aument said...

Without any doubt the author of this quote is Cyprian of Carthage. Not St. Augustine. If you get a chance, pick up some of his writings. I would recommend De Unitate Ecclesiae, where you'll find another of his great quotes: "he can no longer have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother."

 
At 8:56 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Zach Aument, thanks for the comment. I looked up the quote that you provide:

"Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adultress is separated from the promises of the Church; nor will he that forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is an alien, a worldling, and an enemy. He cannot have God for his Father who does not have the Church for his Mother . . . . Does anyone believe that in the Church this unity which proceeds from the divine stability and which is welded together after the heavenly patterns can be divided, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? Whoever holds not fast to this unity holds not to the law of God; neither does he keep faith with the Father and the Son, nor does he have life and salvation."

According to the site that I borrowed this from, Echoes of Eternity, it is indeed from St. Cyprian of Carthage, and the blogger identifies it as from "The Unity of the Catholic Church," [AD 251/256], quoted in The Faith of the Early Fathers, (Vol.I) (The Liturgical Press, Minnesota, 1970: 221).

But this quote seems inconsistent with the statement that "The Church is a whore." Do you have a citation for Cyprian as the author?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:01 AM, Blogger minbee66 said...

In the "Catholic Worker" newspaper, January 1967, pp.1-2, article entitled "In Peace Is My Bitterness Most Bitter," author Dorothy Day wrote: "As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother."
I am searching to find her repeat use of this phrase in her other writing, where she attributes it to St. Augustine.
Dorothy Day remained a Communist throughout her long life; she never renounced her belief in class warfare, revolution (she hoped it would be nonviolent, but overlooked the violence and endorsed the regimes of Ho Chi Minh and Castro), and the withering away of the state. Her "pacifism" including fomenting class warfare and calling for general strikes in World War II. In an April 1948 article in her newspaper, "Catholic Worker," she declared that it would be better that the US "be liquidated" than that it engage in warfare. She castigated the US for participating in the "arms race," even as she mentioned that the USSR was working on a new bomb. Incidentally, in 1948, the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia and began the siege of Berlin, to starve the city into surrender. President Truman intiated the Berlin Airlift to preserve Berln.
Her cause is up for sainthood with Cardinal John O'Connor claiming that she gave up all her Communist ideas and connections when she converted. I guess he didn't read the "Catholic Worker"!

 
At 4:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

A lot of people cite Augustine, but none are specific in their citations, so I'm betting that she isn't either.

As for her politics, she sounds typical of many naive folk on the left looking for an earthly paradise.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:47 PM, Anonymous Dimitri Pravdin said...

Yes, the original quote is from Dorothy Day: "As to the Church, where else shall we go, except to the Bride of Christ, one flesh with Christ? Though she is a harlot at times, she is our Mother. We should read the book of Hosea, which is a picture of God's steadfast love not only for the Jews, His chosen people, but for His Church, of which we are every one of us members or potential members. Since there is no time with God, we are all one, all one body, Chinese, Russians, Vietnamese, and He has commanded us to love another" (http://www.catholicworker.org/dorothyday/daytext.cfm?TextID=250). Forget Augustine (Tony Campolo cited this wrong in his Letter to a Young Evangelical), Luther, Luther King, etc. Q: isn't there a famous whore called Babylon in Scripture? Could she be the true mother of Western Christians, seeing that both her & them have a long history of violence and bloodshed (genocide vs native Americans, Vietnamese, Afghanis, Iraqis, etc)? - Dimitri Pravdin

 
At 7:20 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

DP, I see you've copied and pasted from your blog . . .

Anyway, I guess I was right to link the quote to Hosea, but was DD the first to state that the church was a whore, but also one's mother?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog and discussion on great whore. I can't seem to find where to connect to receive blog each time it's updated? How do I do that? Pastor and great fan of NW AR here
Lduckn@aol.com

 
At 4:53 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Pastor, I also don't know how you could receive updates to this blog entry, or to my blog generally. I'm rather low tech. I guess you just need to check this entry from time to time. As for the blog itself, I post every day.

Jeffery Hodges

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