During the Middle Ages the idea that self-deprivation led to higher levels of sanctity and holiness grew in popularity within Catholicism. In monasteries and convents, self-deprivation often led to extreme forms of asceticism as practitioners attempted to quell the desires of the flesh and offer penance for sins through self-inflicted pain and suffering. Adherents slept on cold floors, wore hair shirts, heavy chains, coarse ropes, or “cilices” (a metal-wire device secured around the thigh that inflicts pain with inward-pointing spikes). Self-scourging (flagellation) also became quite popular. Some famous “saints” went to an early grave as a result of voluntary starvation.
Some would argue these extreme examples of asceticism were confined to a less-enlightened, bygone era but forms of self-mortification are practiced right up to the present day in Catholicism. Reports surfaced in 2010 that “saint” Karol “John Paul II” Wojtyla, had regularly whipped himself with a belt and “blessed” Anjeze “mother Teresa” Bojaxhiu wore a cilice every day.
Defending Wojtyla’s self-scourging, “cardinal” Jose Saraiva Martins said, “It does seem like something from another age, but it is not. It is an instrument of perfection, not just in religious life, but in human life. It is not acting against oneself, but striving to perfect oneself.”
I wonder if the current pope, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio also inflicts pain upon himself as part of a “spiritual” discipline? I’m a little naive when it comes to self-mortification protocol. Maybe a Catholic can help us out? Do Catholic men flagellate themselves and Catholic women wear cilices or are both practices gender neutral?
Yes, accepting Jesus as Savior and following Him as Lord may mean physical persecution. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The Bible does talk about self-denial and fasting but nowhere does the Bible teach Christians should inflict pain upon themselves. In contrast, the Bible identifies such practices with pagan idolatry:
“At noon Elijah began to taunt (the worshippers of Baal). “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.” – 1 Kings 18:27-28
Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit and mistakenly believe that by inflicting pain and suffering upon themselves they can affect spiritual perfection leading to their salvation.
I am so grateful the Lord freed me from the chains of Roman Catholicism and saved me by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
Related terms: corporal penitence, corporal discipline