Not the one in the Bible, but one published in French in 1845. Jean-Jacques Grandville was skilled in the art of caricature as well as that of lithography. He produced a gem, “Cent Proverbes Illustrés” (“100 Illustrated Proverbs”), which Alain Rey, France’s top linguist, has chosen recently to re-present, analyse and enrich. Examples of Grandville’s proverbs include : “There is no such thing as a stupid profession”; “Dress slowly when you are in a hurry”; “A dog which barks does not bite.” There is, of course, an exception to the first : the profession that was mine as a priest for seven years. The second makes surprising sense. But I take exception to the third, which obviously means that if a dog is barking then at least it can’t bite you. A neighbor’s mutt, dedicated to driving me nuts by incessant barking, stopped momentarily when I was visiting its owner recently, and damn near amputated my foot.
The best of the bunch is illustrated by a confessional, where the priest has the head of a wolf and the penitent, a young woman, the head of a sheep. The legend reads : “Folle est la brebis qui au loup se confesse” (“Insane is the sheep which to a wolf would confess”). A cruel example of Gallic anti-clericalism but one with a new relevance today when so many priests are in prison for sex-crimes. No wonder the confessionals not yet removed from many churches have become relics of a certain outdated credulity.
Of course, the vast majority of Catholic priests, of whom I was one, never deserved such caricature and the suspicion it deliberately provoked. But the claim to forgive sins is outrageous enough in itself to destroy their credibility.