Yesterday’s post asked whether personal insult is ever permissible.  Just by asking the question I may have scandalized those who think mockery utterly inconsistent with Christian ethics.

It is quite true that insults should be borne with patience, and that in general, words should be gentle.  But against the proud, there is a time when only mockery will suffice.

John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers.”  Christ called the Pharisees “whitewashed tombs” which are beautiful outside but full of bones and decay.  Of those who insisted on circumcising Gentile converts to Christianity, St. Paul said he wished they would cut something off from themselves too – leaving the rest to the imagination.

These are exceptions.  St. Thomas says “For the purpose of correction may one say a mocking word to a person whom one has to correct.”  Yet as St. Augustine warned, “seldom and only when it is very necessary should we have recourse to invectives, and then so as to urge God's service, not our own.”

Something like the same rule should apply in politics.  For the sake of what is decent and good, one may mock a contemptible opponent just in those ways in which he has made himself contemptible.

So I do not think even The Demagogue should be mocked for the diminutive size of his, ahem, hands -- about which we can only conjecture, and which would hardly be his fault anyway.

But go ahead:  Lampoon his proud ignorance and hypocrisy.  Condemn his contempt for his followers.  Mock his vanity, vulgarity, and vice.  The Devil cannot bear to be scorned.