Thoughts on the Tiber Tea Party

First of all, hat tip to Ed Peters. Worth a read in light of the Vatican’s statements on the issue. Oh, and for those still trying to claim the statues were of Mary or Mary and Elizabeth (which I totally thought how it would plausibly be explained), the Vatican itself clarified that they weren’t. See link in Ed’s piece.

So, my very non-moral theologian self thinks this is PROBABLY the scenario. Again, I’m not making any hard proclamations, just trying to provide some perspective for the “What in the @#$%!% is going on?” crowd.  In short, I think the Principle of Double Effect is probably in play, so I don’t think the idol dunkers are guilty of “Thou shall not steal.”

So, what is the Principle of Double Effect for my equally non-moral theologian readers? Here is a good description, although the examples most often given are medical.    What can I say? We are in strange times. I would read the full article but here’s the snapshot.

  1. The action must be morally good, or indifferent, as to object, motive and circumstances.

  2. The bad effect(s) may only be tolerated, not directly willed.

  3. The good effect must be caused at least as directly as the bad.

  4. The good effect(s) must be proportionate to compensate for the bad effect(s).

I’m not omniscient but I’m pretty sure everyone involved actually had the desecration of the church and praying to idols in mind, not petty larceny. My bet is that they were American seminarians (because we Americans just do stuff like this – it’s in our historical DNA). Like I said, I think they felt motivated to stop people from bowing down to idols AND to stop the desecration of the churches. So that action and motive would be morally good. Check box number one.

On to number two! Stealing (many have used the term relocated) or smashing idols, offending the indigenous people, etc., was presumably not the direct will of the actors. By the way, do you know how many saints have smashed idols??? Lots. Nobody accuses them of theft. I have to wonder, if the idols were simply smashed in the church, would anyone actually say boo about this? The outcome is the same. Idols are gone. Tossing them in the river is a historically traditional Catholic way of doing things like this. Sounds like idols and the remains of heretics have been tossed into rivers for centuries, so the actual method of disposal kind of shows even more good intent.

They’re good on number three, because placing these idols in a church or bowing down to them is WAY worse than anything else of which the idol dunkers could be accused.

And number four really depends on whether or not you like said idols. If you do not and you hold to the First Commandment (not sure why nobody mentions that one, and it’s all about trying to pin breaking the Seventh Commandment on the idol dunkers), you’re going to see a HUGE good effect in getting rid of them and zero bad effect.

The stealing issue is where people are trying desperately to hang their hats. So here are some questions.  What if I took someone’s gun because they were clearly having some mental issues and I thought they might shoot themselves or others? I took the gun. Would people consider that stealing? How about if I took my drunk friend’s car keys? What if I took an acquaintance’s porn magazine and tossed them in the garbage? Put a stack of campus flyers from Planned Parenthood in the trash? Protection of others is always the intent. So can that be said of this incident? Some are going to say yes and some are going to say no, but I think this act shows a level of commitment to spiritual health and safety. It can be more abstract to faithful Catholics than we realize. Isn’t that supposed to be our utmost concern? I think we all forget this on our best days, but from time to time, it is in the forefront and I think that’s where these gents were yesterday. Bowing down to idols and desecrating a church with them is a HUGE spiritual danger to the soul. This wasn’t an anthropological museum. It was churches and the Vatican.

And one last little note to those who suggest this just shows peoples’ hate for the indigenous people, the pope, the synod, puppies and kittens, etc., etc., etc… Is that what motivated the canonized saint idols smashers of the past?  Nope. It’s actually their love of God and for the pagans led astray. I’m sure this isn’t going to stop those hyperventilating over this, but maybe it’ll help those saying “Hmmmm…”  To all the moral theologians out there, feel free to use the comment box. This is just my guess about it all but in light of the fact that all the idol disposing saints of the past have not been accused of breaking the Seventh Commandment, I really can’t see accusing these guys.

If you’re going to give me a scolding, please make it educational and cite your sources.



26 thoughts on “Thoughts on the Tiber Tea Party

  1. Folks who tossed pagan Idols into the river Tiber were motivated by Jesus Christ. He Jesus himself tossed the moneychangers from his father’s house in Jerusalem for the exact same reason. .


  2. I wonder what the modernists would say about Moses destroying the golden calf. Moses must have really hated the indigenous Egyptians, destroying their symbol of fertility and whatever.



    1. I had never read the full story of the golden calf until I did Exodus 90 last year and we read all of exodus. Moses’ solution to the Golden Calf was to grind it up, force people to eat it, and kill thousands of his followers. Abomination deserves swift retribution. Honestly, a tiber-toss is letting ’em off easy. Not saying we go old-testament on ’em, but there’s precedent for extreme measures.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I, for one, was cheering from Canada! This is 100% the fault of the Vatican, which is responsible for the following: 1) setting up displays in churches so that they resemble kindergarten classrooms more than sacred spaces; 2) refusing to clarify for the Faithful what exactly the grotesque Pachamama statues are; and 3) routinely ignoring/ridiculing the Faithful whenever we are concerned about, you know, the Faith. Well done, Gentlemen! They should wear red crusader crosses, they have earned them!


  4. Anyone who is concerned about stealing or double effect can put their fears at ease. This is a clear case of Abomination of Desolation (google the phrase). The abomination (Pachamama) desolates (drives faithful away from the Church). The abomination being removed is a virtue. Matters of private property are subordinate to due worship to God. Give unto Caesar that which is Caesars, give unto God that which is God’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OK, I have to ask: Did YOU Google the phrase, and follow it to the Bible passage? “When therefore you shall see the abomination of desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place: he that readeth let him understand. Then they that are in Judea, let them flee to the mountains: And he that is on the housetop, let him not come down to take any thing out of his house: And he that is in the field, let him not go back to take his coat.” Maybe you would like to explain exactly where Daniel the prophet spoke of this South American nonsense? Or perhaps where the bit about seizing the abomination and chucking it in the river is written? But you DON’T want to look into why Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the standards of the Roman Army standing at its gate the first time.

      If you want to back your case with a Bible verse, choose a Bible verse that actually fits.


      1. I wasn’t quoting a bible verse, I was calling attention to the concept of Abomination of Desolation, the bible verse also refers to this same concept. Abomination is something that is detestable. From latin ab (off, away from) + omen (portends of good or evil). Used biblically in the sense of being ceremonially impure.

        Desolation means destruction or expulsion, from de (completely) + sole (to make lonely).

        Thus, an Abomination of Desolation in the biblical sense is something which is ceremonially impure, which destroys or expels people. The Pachamama statue is an abomination of desolation: it is a pagan idol in a holy place. per Canon Law Blog, Canon 1210 affirms a positive requirement to only keep in holy places those things which aid worship. I.e. things which are neutral or which detract from worship ought not be in a holy place. Pachamama actively defiles a holy place, with the consequence of desolating it, or driving people away from it.

        Thus, we can draw a positive, active duty to remove the abomination from the holy place.

        I am pleased that you are a biblical scholar, but please don’t give me sass before you’ve taken the time to understand my point.


      2. ” But you DON’T want to look into why Christians fled Jerusalem when they saw the standards of the Roman Army standing at its gate the first time.”

        Let’s see. I believe the first time Jerusalem was conquered by the Romans was about 63AD. By my figuring, I can’t seem to find any Christians around at that time. And seeing that Christ was born into an already existing Roman Empire under Augustus Caesar who were these preexisting Christians in 63AD?


          1. Sorry, but you are wrong on essentially every point, and since you are too lazy to do any research, you really do not belong in this discussion.
            The Crucifixion is generally held to have taken place around A.D. 33, but it really makes no difference if it was a year or two earlier or later. The Apostles were told to remain IN JERUSALEM and pray, so that is where they were when the Church was born on Pentecost.
            Now please read the Acts of the Apostles. It is impossible to miss the fact that not only did Christians remain in Jerusalem, but Jerusalem remained a center point of Christianity. The Temple was there, which St. Paul visited on fulfillment of an oath, and the Holy Sepulcher is still there today. St. James ended up becoming the bishop of Jerusalem. He was martyred near the beginning of the First Jewish War, as is recorded in Josephus.
            The Roman Army under Vespasian got to Jerusalem in A.D. 69 and began a siege. The Christians minority in Jerusalem saw the Roman standards (which were indeed worshiped by the troops, and which were an omen of desolation) as the fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy, so when Vespasian lifted the siege to take the purple after the death of Nero, the Christians of Jerusalem did as they had been commanded, and fled for the hills. The Jewish population, on the other hand, saw this as an indication that God would protect them; they also trusted the impressive fortifications and the ample supplies that had been laid up (though infighting destroyed many of these supplies). The Romans returned under Vespasian’s son Titus, and Jerusalem fell in A.D. 70 on the anniversary of its initial fall to the Babylonians.


  5. Ed Peters has one sentence at the very end that bears repeating, a lot: “Over time the disregard of law by those in charge eventually brings about disregard of law by those subject to it.”

    It underlines the growing sense, noted with some despondency by a canonist priest I know, that a great deal of the hierarchy is acting with growing lawlessness in this pontificate.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am so glad this happened! I couldn’t believe idols in a Church and none of the hierarchy from the top down let them stay there. Jesus cleansed the temple and St.Boniface cut down a tree pagans were worshipping. I suspect now he will be condemned by the German bishops! I only wish that the blasphemous poster also would’ve been destroyed. I only hope that these brave guys aren’t found, but if they are, I for one will donate the money I would’ve spent on one of the suspicious Church collections we have throughout the year where we aren’t sure who it is helping.


  7. Rosemary……I understand from certain reports, that the disgusting ‘poster’ in the Church is GONE. If this is true, this time no fan fare about it… video, no statement. It’s just GONE. Again if true, we don’t know if someone let it ‘go for a swim’ or Church officials took it down to avoid what they call ‘vandalizing’ yet again. Just thought I’d pass on updated info.


  8. I think there are several ways to analyze the situation. For example:

    1. The Example of the Saints

    (Because they are moral authorities.)

    2. PDE

    (Because the act at issue has the symptoms of a PDE problem, i.e., the act seems right in one light yet wrong in another.)

    3. Rights and Duties

    (Because the reason why something seems right yet wrong is the competing rights and duties of the parties involved.)

    I think using any of these approaches will probably yield the same answer — the Catholics in the video were justified (no theft). Another concept to assess the situation is:

    4. Reasonable Will

    Fagothey defines theft as the “unjust seizure of another’s property” and adds that the “seizure is unjust when it goes against the owner’s reasonable will” (Right and Reason, 2nd, p. 448). Fagothey’s exactly right. Really, it is just common sense. So we can ask:

    Did removing the pagan idols from the church oppose their owner’s reasonable will?

    That seems impossible. The idols were desecrating a sacred place of Catholic worship and giving grave offense to God. However:

    Might the destruction of the idols oppose their owner’s reasonable will?

    That seems impossible too. Otherwise, it would seem Catholics have a duty to care for pagan idols placed in their possession and, therefore, to care for the very things they have a right to hate.

    So, I see no grounds at all for charging theft here. I don’t even see grounds for alleging wrongful destruction of private property. Peters’ claim, then, that what the Catholics did in the video isn’t of “good order” seems misplaced; the claim itself appears to be out of good order.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A+ Cam! When one group is saying “They’re guilty because they are, are, are!” I don’t think it’s productive to say “No because they’re not, not, not.” People want to know why one way or another. Thanks for spending the time!


      1. Glad to chime in!

        Also, for what it’s worth, LifeSiteNews reports the following from Cardinal Walter Brandmüller:

        These two young men who threw these tasteless idols into the Tiber have not committed theft, but have done a deed, a symbolic act as we know it from the Prophets of the Old Covenant, from Jesus – see the cleansing of the Temple – and from Saint Boniface who felled the Thor Oak near Geismar.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Bad news. Apparently the idols have been found and are being held by the Roman Police. PF has now said that “On Sunday those images will be in St. Peter’s Basilica at the closing Mass of the Synod …“


  10. According to Gloria tv Pachamama did make it to the altar at St Peter yesterday.

    Bishops Threatened To Boycott Pachamama Closing Mass: Did Francis Fool Them?
    Several bishops warned they would not attend the Amazon Synod’s Closing Mass, if Pachamama idols were to be displayed, reports (October 28).

    As a matter of fact, the idols were not visible during the Mass.

    However, Regina Magazine reports that Pachamama was present in another form.

    In fact, during the offertory procession, Francis received a “bowl of earth” that was even put on the altar.

    The article on Pachamama writes under the heading “New Age worship” that modern pagan communities in the Andes use a “bowl of earth” to represent Pachamama and her status as “Mother Earth.”



    1. I think Regina and or Gloria to be wrong. There actually was a bowl of earth in the Vatican garden (although it was all about the statues even though a mandala was also present.) It was a potted plant. Whatever they meant it to be, it was not the cruddy statues that got tossed into the Tiber. one of those was supposedly on display (probably for reparation in their mind) over at the Santa Maria in Traspontina. At least they were not on display at St. Peter’s.


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