Chesterton, the Church, right and wrong

Catholic Memes has a new one going around FB, attributed to G. K. Chesterton:

I don’t need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I already know I’m wrong; I need a church to tell me I’m wrong where I think I’m right.”

Two things about this struck me the moment I saw it: 1) Chesterton did say something like that; and 2) Chesterton would never have phrased himself so awkwardly. What he actually said was: “We do not really want a religion that is right where we are right. What we want is a religion that is right where we are wrong.” The Catholic Church and Conversion

Chesterton’s explanation/elucidation of the point is worth reading:

It is a very different matter when a religion, in the real sense of a binding thing, binds men to their morality when it is not identical with their mood. It is very different when some of the saints preached social reconciliation to fierce and raging factions who could hardly bear the sight of each others’ faces. It was a very different thing when charity was preached to pagans who really did not believe in it; just as it is a very different thing now, when chastity is preached to new pagans who do not believe in it. It is in those cases that we get the real grapple of religion; and it is in those cases that we get the peculiar and solitary triumph of the Catholic faith. It is not in merely being right when we are right, as in being cheerful or hopeful or humane. It is in having been right when we were wrong, and in the fact coming back upon us afterwards like a boomerang. One word that tells us what we do not know outweighs a thousand words that tell us what we do know. And the thing is all the more striking if we not only did not know it but could not believe it. It may seem a paradox to say that the truth teaches us more by the words we reject than by the words we receive.

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St. Francis: God can work through anyone

I have been all things unholy. If God can work through me, He can work through anyone. — Attr. St. Francis of Assisi

  1. General Google search turns up nothing.
  2. Not on Wikiquote, even in the unsourced quotations list on the discussion page.
  3. Earliest Google Books hit is from 1996, sans source.
  4. Not in the Little Flowers.
  5. Not in The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi, which I found here and which has a handy text file of most of St. Francis’s known writings; I searched for “anyone” and “unholy.”

It doesn’t sound completely impossible for St. Francis, but I’m skeptical.


An Italian-speaking friend searched the original-language text of the Little Flowers and it’s not there either. He did point me to Part I, Chapter IX of the Little Flowers, where St. Francis accuses himself of unholiness but God prevents Brother Leo from agreeing with him. At best, the quotation in question might be a very free paraphrase–at least the first half of it (which is the half that sounded more Francis-like to me in the first place).

Blessed Mother Teresa and judging

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

–Attr. to Blessed Teresa of Calcutta

This quotation is all over Facebook today since this is the anniversary of her death and thus her feast day in places where it can be observed. (Since she’s a blessed and not a saint, her feast day is not extended to the whole Church–only to places associated with her in a special way, houses of the Missionaries of Charity, etc.)

The Google search was actually helpful this time because it took me straight to the “Quotes falsely attributed to Mother Teresa and significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements that are not her authentic words” page on motherteresa.org, where this quotation is found in the “Quotes that are significantly paraphrased versions or personal interpretations of statements Mother Teresa made; they are not her authentic words:” section of the page. You can see it for yourself.

I could wish that they gave the statement underlying this that she did make, but I’m not quite OCD enough to go hunting for it.

It was also removed from her page on Wikiquote in 2009 as unsourced and no one has since provided a source.

Verdict: Fauxtation