To the Catacombs or to the Counter-Revolution of the Cross?
“ The greater the lie,” wrote Adolf Hitler in Mein Kampf, “the greater the chances of it being believed; since most people due to the primitive simplicity of their minds, more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a little one, since they themselves lie in small matters, but would be ashamed of lies that were too big. Such a falsehood would never enter their heads.”
The “Big Lie” tactic used against the Church throughout the centuries should not unduly surprise us for two reasons. Firstly because the Lord warned us of what was coming and why: “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you….It is to fulfil the word that is written in their law, ‘They hated me without a cause.’” (Jn.15:20;25)
Secondly because the “Big Lie” is a warped way of recognizing that the Catholic Faith is the “Big Truth”, the Greatest Story, the Supreme Reality that exists on this earth.
Our enemies are quick to taunt the Church with failure because of the crimes of some of her members. As Chesterton remarked: “Christianity was never allowed to be enough of a success to be properly called a failure….It ought to show, as it really could show, that social evils have not come from its presence, but rather from its absence.”
“The Church”, wrote Pope Pius XI in the face of the Nazi assault, “whose work lies among men and operates through men, may see her divine mission obscured by a human, too human a combination, persistently growing and developing like the cockle among the wheat of the Kingdom of God. Those who know the Savior’s words on scandal and the giver of scandals also know the judgment which the Church and all her sons must pronounce on what was and is sin. But if, besides these reprehensible discrepancies between faith and life, acts and words, exterior conduct and interior feelings, however numerous they be, anyone overlooks the overwhelming total of authentic virtues, spirit of sacrifice, fraternal love, heroic efforts of sanctity, then he gives evidence of deplorable blindness and injustice. If later he forgets to apply to other organizations in which he happens to be interested the standard of severity by which he measures the Church he hates, then his appeal to an offended sense of purity identifies him with those who, for seeing the speck in their brother’s eye, according to the Savior’s incisive words, cannot see the beam in their own”. (POPE PIUS XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, n.19.)
In our days we are living through such an onslaught against the Church – tolerated by many Catholics – to the point that the non-Catholic intellectual, Philip Jenkins, has called this new anti-Catholicism, “the last acceptable discrimination”. The assault is quite understandable because the battle lines are being drawn with ever greater clarity in the great “clash of civilizations”, between the forces of the Culture of Life headed by the Catholic Church and the forces of the Culture of Death. As the Culture of Death has gained ground introducing abortion, euthanasia, embryonic experimentation, legal same-sex unions, Catholics are living increasingly in “enemy-occupied territory”. Besieged and shouted at by a mass-media with the “ABC” rule -“Anything but Catholicism” – priests are urged to raise the white flag of political correctness and to become “Peace Priests”.
While many Catholics have allowed the Church to be beaten up by her enemies, some of the Church’s Jewish friends have fought back in her defense – and without mincing their language. In April 2010 the Jewish former mayor of New York, Ed Koch, wrote in a blog of “The Jerusalem Post” that while recognizing the crimes of the handful of priests, he sees clearly that “continuing attacks” by the mass media on Benedict XVI and the priesthood have become “manifestations of anti-Catholicism.”
Koch remarked that “many of those in the media who are pounding on the Church and the pope today, clearly do it with delight, and some with malice.”
“The reason, I believe, for the constant assaults is that there are many in the media – and some Catholics as well as many in the public – who object to and are incensed by positions the Church holds, including opposition to all abortions, opposition to gay sex and same-sex marriage, retention of celibacy rules for priests, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to birth control measures involving condoms and prescription drugs and opposition to civil divorce.(April 8th, 2010 at http://cgis.jpost.com/Blogs/koch/entry/he_that_is_without_sin)
He and our Jewish friends who organize themselves to fight vigorously against anti-Semitism, can teach a lesson or two to so many Catholics who in recent decades have developed a mental block, a certain squeamishness about looking our enemies in the eye recognizing their anti-Catholic agenda for what it is: a certain reluctance to bite the bullet and stand up in Congress, parliaments, city halls, military academies, university lecture rooms, high school classrooms and declare – intelligently, winsomely but forcefully – the Catholic position.
And let’s not ask the Catholic laity to shoulder the blame for this. People follow the example of their leaders. Before the lay people will stand in the public square, they should firstly see us priests standing in the pulpit fearlessly proclaiming the truth – the whole truth – of Catholicism. Secondly they must see us putting some muscle into the laity’s formation: we must put into action an effective plan for the intellectual preparation of Catholic children, youth and adults, involving not just a thorough catechesis (rock-bottom level) but also apologetics as found in great apologists such as George Weigel, Scott Hahn, Monsignor Ronald Knox, Archbishop Michael Sheehan, C.S.Lewis, Peter Kreeft and others. Thirdly they must see the priests inspiring, arousing and leading Catholic laity with vim and verve to organize themselves socially and culturally in order to change our society – and encouraging muscular political participation.
“Like other periods of the history of the Church,” wrote Pope Pius XI to the German Catholics attacked by the Nazis, “the present has ushered in a new ascent of interior purification on the sole condition that the faithful show themselves proud enough in the confession of their faith in Christ, generous enough in suffering to face the oppressors of the Church with the strength of their faith and love. May the holy time of Lent and Easter, that calls for interior renewal and penance, turn Christian eyes towards the Cross and the risen Christ; may it be for all of you the joyful occasion that will fill your souls with heroism, patience and victory. Then we can be sure that the enemies of the Church, who think that their time has come, will see that their joy was premature, and that they may close over the grave they had dug. The day will come when the Te Deum of liberation will take over from the premature hymns of the enemies of Christ: a Te Deum of triumph and joy and gratitude, as the German people return to religion, bend the knee before Christ, and arming themselves against the enemies of God, again resume the task God has laid upon them”.(Mit Brennender Sorge, no. 42)
Our enemies would be satisfied to see an emasculated conformist priesthood: “peace priests” who salute the Dictatorship. The choice is ours to make: either to retreat into the modern-day catacombs of a “private” Faith, hiding in the dark and secret underground passages far from the public square where culture is decided or to stand and hold our ground.
Archbishop Charles Chaput speaking about secularization and the Church stated the importance of the right paradigm of a “resistance”movement to the “Dictatorship of Relativism”:
“My first point is this: Ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have bad consequences. Today we are living in a world that is under the sway of some very destructive ideas, the worst being that men and women can live as if God does not matter and as if the Son of God never walked this earth. As a result of these bad ideas, the Church’s freedom to exercise her mission is under attack. We need to understand why that is, and we need to do something about it.
“My second point is simply this: We can no longer afford to treat the debate over secularization – which really means cauterizing Christianity out of our cultural memory – as if it’s a problem for Church professionals. The emergence of a “new Europe” and a “next America” rooted in something other than the real facts of our Christian-shaped history will have damaging consequences for every serious believer.
“We need not and should not abandon the hard work of honest dialogue. Far from it. The Church always needs to seek friendships, areas of agreement, and ways to make positive, reasoned arguments in the public square. But it’s foolish to expect gratitude or even respect from our governing and cultural leadership classes today. Naïve imprudence is not an evangelical virtue.
“The temptation in every age of the Church is to try to get along with Caesar. And it’s very true: Scripture tells us to respect and pray for our leaders. We need to have a healthy love for the countries we call home. But we can never render unto Caesar what belongs to God. We need to obey God first; the obligations of political authority always come second. We cannot collaborate with evil without gradually becoming evil ourselves. This is one of the most vividly harsh lessons of the 20th century. And it’s a lesson that I hope we have learned.” (August 25, 2010)
That there will be a titanic conflict and struggle between the Church and the “Dictatorship of Relativism” is now seemingly inevitable. The modern West has already travelled so far down the road of social engineering with its intrusions into marriage, family,education and the public rights of the Church that the battle-lines are already drawn.
Before the struggle escalates, it is important that we priests prepare our lay faithful to live and act and struggle on this new battlefield. There must be a renewed conviction that only in the Catholic Faith, where the fullness of divine revelation resides, will mankind find the resources for the creation of a truly human society respectful of the dignity of every man.
There must be no false complexes among us to start off with. We Catholics must always be aware that the modern world owes most of what it glories in – economic power and hi-tech – to the intellectual groundwork laid by Catholic thinkers, many of them priests. Within the air-waves, inside the genetical engineering and amid the satellites in outer space of post-Western civilization there lie encrypted the names of the Catholic thinkers – philosophers and scientists – who made it all possible – and who in turn owe everything to the culture of Catholicism.
We as Catholics have all that it takes from our heritage of 4,000 years to create a new civilization in the future, grounded on the truth of Jesus Christ, on any continent or on every continent, respectful of the dignity and freedom of every man. We saw the beginning and the end of many threats to the Faith and we will face the new totalitarianism in the same way we faced the old dictatorships: underneath the sign of the Cross and with the same conviction : In Hoc Signo Vinces! [ Under this Sign you will Conquer!]
For two thousand years Diocletians, Hitlers and Stalins, mob violence, guillotines, gulags and Dachaus and nowadays certain TV channels and newspapers have sought to annihilate or domesticate the Church. And, unfortunately, at times allied with them have been the “peace priests”; indeed, in some periods of history “peace priests” have dominated causing such harm to the Church that the lay faithful have been tempted to despair.
SANDRO MAGISTER, “Autobiography of a Pontificate” Why they are Attacking Me” at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1344604
SANDRO MAGISTER, “When the Tribunal of the World condemns the Church for Heresy” at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1344457
SANDRO MAGISTER, “Matilda of Canossa, Champion of Church Freedom” at http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/206404
SANDRO MAGISTER, “How to Pilot the Church in the Storm. A Lesson”: Benedict XVI has taught it to the faithful in a general audience, against those who call for a new beginning for Christianity, without hierarchy or dogmas. The secret of good governance. http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1342531