Catholic Culture Dedication
Catholic Culture Dedication

St. Augustine's warning to pastors

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Sep 18, 2014

If you’re a Catholic pastor—and especially if you’re a bishop—today’s Office of Readings, from St. Augustine’s sermon On Pastors, isn’t easy to dismiss lightly.

The defects of the sheep are widespread. There are a very few healthy, fat sheep – that is, those that are made strong by feeding on the truth, by God’s gift making good use of the pastures-– but they are not safe from the bad shepherds. Those shepherds not only do not look after the sick, the weak, the wandering and the lost, but they do as much harm as they can to the strong and sleek among the flock.

St. Augustine does not mince words. A shepherd who gives bad example, he says, “is killing the strong sheep; and if the strong, then what of the rest?”

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Sep. 20, 2014 10:43 AM ET USA

    To put it in the vernacular, we sheep could benefit from a book titled, "Infallibility for Dummies"--with lots of pictures.

  • Posted by: - Sep. 20, 2014 10:33 AM ET USA

    I happened to read this post right after reading Fr. Most re 3 types of magisterial teachings: 1)those declared infallible, 2)those NOT declared infallible yet STILL infallible, and 3)those worthwhile but with wiggle room. With Augustine's teaching as well as common sense re weaknesses and needs of the sheep, it seems to me a clear lack of shepherdly duty for the Church to ever use the 2nd method, when the 1st method is what the sheep always need.

  • Posted by: koinonia - Sep. 19, 2014 4:03 PM ET USA

    When the Good Lord speaks in the NT to the fate of those who give scandal or who lead others astray it's not pretty. Particularly today when just about anything is at ones fingertips, when so much out there that allures is not real- or not really what the beholder perceives, and when solid, informed intellects and disciplined wills dependent upon grace tremble before the peril all around ("even the Elect.."); the "bad shepherds" become destroyers. And there is diversity- among those affected.

  • Posted by: shrink - Sep. 19, 2014 1:23 PM ET USA

    Any christian who wishes to engage the secular culture risks being absorbed by that same culture. We hear a lot about evangelization, but not so much about the hazards therein.

  • Posted by: jg23753479 - Sep. 19, 2014 9:16 AM ET USA

    I think today we have a surfeit of shepherds who are neglecting the weak sheep and doing as much harm as possible to the strong and sleek among us. And their depredation is all the more effective thanks to a world press that eagerly magnifies their every word.