What is a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:15).

Wolf in Sheep's clothing

Perhaps the greatest Commentary on the Gospels, that of Cornelius à Lapide, states of this verse: False teachers

“teach that the way to heaven is not strait, but easy, and … thus send those who follow them not to heaven but to hell. They teach that we need not fast, nor go to confession, nor preserve virginity nor religious vows; they allow all sorts of liberty to the flesh, and take away all merit from good works” (vol. 1, p. 362).

It is clear why false teachers are wolves: They do not really love those to whom they preach. They hate them.

“But why do you say that? After all, they come in tenderness, with words of mercy and consolation.” The reason is: To love – really to love – is to will the good of the other. And what is my good? To gain what I want? To gain the world? No, to gain God! Thus, the only love that is true is that which runs to the end, that which wills the beloved’s salvation. Everything else is either immature or sham. Immature: For an adolescent thinks only of the present tenderness, not of love that takes root and endures. Sham: For the liar seeks to feed his own ego or belly, or perhaps something else, and he will take you with him to hell, as you praise him for covering your shameful nakedness with empty, powerless words.

But why sheep’s clothing? Because the false prophet feigns saintliness, gentleness. He appears gentle against a double backdrop. First, He does not appear in the rage of heathen, as an open heretic or Church enemy would. Nor does he accept the fatherly burden of genuine discipline, a task which is (most often, in this vale of tears) at first is resisted by those who know not how to love themselves but who feed on wine and women until their diet is husks for swine. The wolf in sheep’s clothing acts neither of these roles. He is not a foreign enemy but appears within the very bosom of the Church. He bears not the fatherly burden, the difficult path of righteous (just) mercy. True mercy demands, and yet makes possible, repentance with a firm resolve to amendment. Cruelty falls on either side of true justice. For it is cruel never to forgive one who repents or to make repentance more arduous than it needs to be. It is also cruel, perhaps more so, more insidiously cruel, more a mockery of Christ, to let the sinner remain in his sins, even though one has the powers by which the sinner might awake from his slumber. Thus, the clothing is just apparel; his tenderness is cruelty.

What are the trappings of sheep’s clothes? À Lapide states:

“The sheep’s clothing … are meant to conceal and veil their errors and heresies, first, under the plea of liberty of conscience; … 3. Under pretext of reforming the morals of the Church, especially those of the clergy and ecclesiastics; 4. By the simulation of meekness, simplicity, and piety; 5. By soft speeches, and a garrulous eloquence by which they cover their wolfish ferocity and cleverly insinuate themselves into the minds of their hearers, so as to infect and destroy them then with their errors, and to empty their purses and devour their riches. In order to serve their belly, they lose the souls of the sectarians and send them to hell, which is certainly a wolfish voracity and fierceness (ibid., p. 363).

À Lapide had in mind those who seek to feed their bellies. I suppose he had not a Marxist met. A Marxist! — The greatest perverse imitatio Christi the devil has yet constructed. To the idealistic, the Marxist is much more attractive than the obviously greedy Classical Liberal who grabs property at your expense, after you have labored and sweated in his vineyard and borrowed from his account or printing press.

Yet again, A Marxist! — Feignedly feeble of feet, a loser for whom everyone cheers, self-deprecatingly denigrating all standards of decency, … but from the beginning ferocious of appetite. Ferocious not for the belly…. And so, for what? For what? For Whales? The world? No, that was the Liberal’s aim. What then? Envy, perhaps? Pale-faced envy? Bloodless envy of those who fight for and acquire something real (albeit lowly), something you can get your hands on?

Yes, perhaps envy. Envy that perversely defines love as selfless. Yes. Nietzsche was right about that element of the Marxist. Weakness, pusillanimity that defines love as selfless. But real love is not defined in terms of its direction away from you, the lover! Imagine your beloved being thrilled that your love for her had nothing to do with your desire for happiness! A woman thrilled by a bore? Not likely. But the Marxists among us – no not the philosophical ones; the living ones – define love by its direction away from the lover. Thus they condemned eros a long time ago: “It is un-Christian,” they say.

So, they drag you down before your very Gospel, when you presume to say, “Zeal for your house shall consume me, O Lord.” Yes, when you stick to Truth as Truth, they call you an egoist. When you say that Dogma is true forever, they pronounce you judgmental, self-righteous.

But this is all sick, their diagnosis; their law of anti-eros. While eros is not identical with true love of the other, it is ingredient in real love.

The question in love is not its direction but its being genuine and having the right object. Do not run away from zeal when your zeal is for the Lord and his house! You were on your knees before Truth. You were not “dogmatizing” over helpless babes. You were adoring Truth, Loving Truth. Truth was above you. You bore witness to it. You worshipped him. You loved him. And now they are taking you out into the street – these deceitful Marxists – so that they can dispose of you once for all as an egoist who loves truth. Meanwhile, they continue with their sundry perversities in the dark. For every man who neither loves God nor loves Whales nor women nor lusts unnaturally, is probably a liar. Else, why does he plod along this vale of tears making things miserable for others at every party he attends?

Pure Marxism: Pure selfhatred. Most diabolical. But at first seemingly so sweet in contrast to the ugliness of the Liberal and the discipline of a loving father.