Destruction is Not Loving
By Father Kenneth Wasilewski
In my last column I wrote about the theft and attempted destruction of the Amazonian statues (commonly referred to as the pachamama) that took place in Rome this October. This was in keeping with my columns on the Seventh Commandment. 
Part of my motivation was the commentary surrounding the events, much of which was foreign to the Church’s moral teaching, even by people who were sincere Catholics. I saw this as a teaching moment. 
Given the previously mentioned commentary, I expected some negative comments myself. Nevertheless, I was surprised by the amount and tone of some of them. There were a few consistent objections to what I wrote. Therefore, it seems appropriate to address them here in an attempt at further clarification. 
One objection was that the man’s actions were not actually theft as I had claimed. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear when it defines theft as, “usurping another’s property against the reasonable will of the owner” (CCC 2408). 
Furthermore, it also reminds us that, “Willfully damaging private or public property is contrary to the moral law and requires reparation” (CCC 2409). Given these citations, making the claim that no theft was involved seems a difficult position to maintain.
This leads to another common objection. Namely, that sometimes one is justified in doing something wrong (like stealing or lying), if it accomplishes something good. This has never been acceptable moral reasoning for Catholics. 
Just ask St. Paul. In Romans 3:8 we read that we are not to do evil so that good may come from it. In other words, the end does not justify the means. St. John Paul II, definitively ended any serious debate about this in his encyclical, Veritatis Splendor (nos. 75-77).
The most universal objection to what I wrote though, was that the man who stole and attempted to destroy the statues was doing the same thing that Jesus did when He cleansed the Temple in Jerusalem (Matthew 21:12,13; etc.). On the surface it may seem a natural comparison, but there are critical differences. 
To understand these, we first must realize that throughout Jesus’ ministry He did things that revealed His true identity as God. For example, His miracles, His forgiving sins, and His Sabbath practices, to name a few. Many who saw these things accused Him of blasphemy. Had some of His words or actions come from other people, they would have been blasphemous. 
The difference is because of who Jesus is — He’s God, not someone pretending to be God. Therefore, He has the authority to do things like cleanse the temple. 
There is another problem with the comparison as well. Jesus did not take the money changers money and throw it into a river. He disrupted their activity, but did not destroy their property. An analogy might help clarify further. 
I have authority to put a sign in my yard because it’s my property.  If someone puts a disagreeable sign in my yard, I am free to take it down since I have authority over my own property (just as Jesus had authority over the Temple because, as God, it was ultimately His). 
I’m not however, free to steal or destroy a disagreeable sign in my neighbor’s yard. I am free to express my displeasure, even object to authorities if warranted, but basic Christian respect, civility and the Seventh Commandment prohibit me from crossing certain lines. 
Besides, Jesus teaches His disciples a better way. When James and John ask to call down heavenly fire to consume inhospitable Samaritans, Jesus rebukes them. Rather than teaching destruction of one’s enemies (or their property), Jesus teaches us to love even those we disagree with (religiously or otherwise). 
We show the true glory, goodness and strength of our Christian faith, and our love of God, not through the destruction of inanimate objects of another religion, but through loving acts toward all, even those we may find the most disagreeable.