The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Religious Persecution, American Style

A few days ago, a parishioner corralled me after Mass complaining about the U. S. Bishops' "Fortnight for Freedom", the two-week time of prayer and awareness leading up to tomorrow, Independence Day. He thought it was all overblown and didn't see the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate as a "very big deal". This mandate, requiring Catholic institutions to include and pay for abortifacients, contraception and sterilization in their health care plans, is more than a "big deal"; it's a huge deal. 

What I actually said to this particular parishioner need not be repeated here. My fear, though, is that far too many Catholics think just as he does. But this is not a "Catholic" issue. It's an issue of religious freedom affecting all Americans, something that should disturb all people of faith. Cardinal Francis George, Archbishop of Chicago, clearly described what's at stake:
"This is the first time in the history of the United States that a presidential administration has purposely tried to interfere in the internal working of the Catholic Church, playing one group off against another for political gain. What isn’t always understood is that the Bishops of the Church make no attempt to speak for all Catholics; they never have. The Bishops speak for the Catholic and apostolic faith, and those who hold that faith gather around them. Others disperse." [See his comments here.]
Cardinal Francis George
As faithful Catholics we are truly blessed that our bishops have shown the courage and wisdom to rise up and confront this threat publicly. We must "gather around them." Some of us believe it's been a long time coming, something that should have been addressed years ago. For decades now the faithful have been scandalized by nominally Catholic politicians who love to show off their ashes on Ash Wednesday but consistently join with the determined secularists in their attacks on the Church and its teachings. We must pray for these politicians, storming heaven with pleas for their conversion. But at the same time we must not abdicate our responsibility as citizens. In the United States "We the People" are sovereign, not the president, not the congress, and not the courts. When the government we put in place begins to trample on the rights of the people, it's time to elect a new government, one that will restore and respect those rights. This we can do on November 6th.

And the threat is by no means "overblown." Our republic has withstood much in its long history, but its strength and longevity rest on one thing: respect for the Constitution. Once that respect begins to diminish -- and far too many of today's politicians openly question the value and the values of that document -- things can change very quickly. This was perhaps best predicted by Cardinal George when in 2010, after the passage of legislation that enabled same-sex civil unions in Illinois, he stated in all seriousness:
"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison, and his successor will die in the public square.”
Can't happen here? Not in the good ol' USA? Believe me, it can, and quite likely will unless we accept our responsibility to fight it openly in the public square. Subtle and not so subtle persecution of Christians is already well advanced in much of Western Europe, and even in Canada, our northern neighbor. And in Asia and Africa the persecution is not at all subtle, but is creating martyrs to the faith almost daily. There's no reason to believe the United States is somehow immune to these forces. [Read more here.]

Of one thing we can be certain: Satan is behind it. The Father of Lies loves to confuse, to obstruct, to destroy, to make his lies seem so very believable and reasonable. Satan, of course, is creation's greatest loser and all his machinations will ultimately lead to nothing. But in the meantime, he can certainly cause much chaos and distress, and lead many to eternal death rather than the eternal life God offers them. [More here.]

We must join our bishops as they fight for the Church established by Christ Himself. If we don't...well, get ready for the coming persecution.

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