Bellocution lessons: Part 1: The cultural crisis foretold
By Alisa Craddock
One morning recently as I went to Mass, there was a woman picketing outside the front of the Church. Her sign read "The Catholic Church is controlled by the Mafia." We all had a good laugh over it, joking about whether we followed St. Corleone or St. Alfonse Capone and scratching the neck with the ring finger wheezing, "I'm gonna offer you a prayer you can't refuse." Of course, some belligerent ex-Catholic with an ax to grind will probably write a play based on it, and some twisted leftist will pick up the idea and embellish it, then dig up some "facts" to support the notion, and voila, a new anti-Catholic myth will be born. We're used to it. From the Inquisition to the demonization of Pius XII, from the myth of Pope Joan to the myth of Mr. and Mrs. Jesus Bar Joseph and son, Judah, someone is always inventing or exaggerating the history and sins of the Church. Through it all runs a consistent theme: The Church has been lying and covering up the truth for 2000 years.
That's taking conspiracy theories a bit far, isn't it? It's rather ironic when you think about it. People who see the beginnings of a North American Union in the Security and Prosperity Partnership are called "wing nuts". Those who see Big Brother in government wiretapping, implanted data chips and the Federal ID are paranoid. But no one even raises an eyebrow at the multitude of ridiculous claims made about the Church.
Even in her worst periods of moral lapse, she was better than the world she was set into, for despite the weakness of her all-too-human membership, she has Christ as her head who protects her and draws her back. He is drawing her back even now. How frustrating that is for those who have striven so hard to see her undone. "Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more." (Rom 5:1).
It is said that "As the Church goes, so goes the World", and I find comfort in the return to sacred Tradition and the reassertion of ancient but recently forgotten truths of the faith under the present Pontiff. But even as I watch the listing Barque of Peter righting herself, the attacks on her increase in their boldness and outrageousness. There are a constant stream of reports and incidents of the most flagrant, public, and egregious anti-Catholicism, scarcely mentioned in news media and largely ignored by the public, to inflame even the most patient Catholic heart. What is particularly appalling is the duplicitousness of the media and the government when it comes to confronting and condemning "bigotry". Yet those who scream loudest about "separation of church and state" are quickest to try and impose the state's ideology, or their own, on my religion, while trying to pretend that I don't have the right to participate in shaping the culture in which I live based on the idea that my values are religiously derived. Unless you're a godless heathen, folks, you are not allowed to participate in your government unless you agree to check your morals at the door, lest you impose your "religion" on other people.
But mere bigotry is not sufficient. No, there are starting to be legal difficulties for Catholics. There have been laws passed and efforts to pass others designed specifically to force the Church to violate her sacred canon—laws such as forcing organizations run by the Church to provide contraceptives for their employees, forcing pharmacists to dispense them, forcing Catholic doctors to perform abortions, forcing them to hire people who practice a lifestyle that violates the moral teachings of the church (or trying to make them pay if they fire them), forcing Catholic adoption organizations to adopt children to homosexual couples, forcing priests to violate the seal of the confessional. Though many of these efforts have not come to fruition, here and there a court rules against their First Amendment rights, and the process of appeal and the constant barrage of attacks is exhausting.
One of the most perverse and offensive incidents of anti-Catholicism I have witnessed recently is the resolution unanimously passed by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors last year condemning the Catholic Church which expressly referred to the Church as "a foreign country" whose moral teachings are "hateful," "insulting and callous" , and that called Catholic beliefs "defamatory," "absolutely unacceptable," "insensitive," and "ignorant." In case you don't recognize the character of this bombastic, sneering snootful of venom, the resolution was a condemnation of (you guessed it) the Church's refusal to participate in gay adoptions. A U.S. District Court Judge agreed with the resolution, (which is being appealed by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights and two San Francisco Catholics), including the name-calling, so it will now go on to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals where, if they are consistent, the blatant bigotry will be further validated. Now, it is one thing for the members of the Board of Supervisors to express their opinions individually, but to act as a governmental body and issue a governmental resolution against an established religion for adhering to the tenets of its faith is utterly outrageous…and downright un-American.
The second incident involved the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and its lynch mob instigation mentality with regard to St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke's decision to resign from the board of governors of the Cardinal Glennon Children's Foundation because of its unwillingness to cancel an appearance by pro-abortion activist Sheryl Crow at a fundraising event. As William Donohue of the Catholic League relates it, "KMOV…wants to know why Archbishop Burke did not raise questions over other fund-raising celebrities who were arguably offensive. The Archbishop is too mannerly to say what we're not afraid to say, take a walk—it's none of your business. KMOV is also playing voyeur by asking Protestants, Jews, Muslims, agnostics and atheists to stick their noses into the business of another religion."
If this were not enough by itself, this merely represents the most recent effort in an increasingly aggressive anti-Catholic campaign by that newspaper. "The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had to apologize to Catholics in January 1999 for allowing a glossy anti-Catholic pamphlet to be inserted into its newspaper," Donohue reports. "It apologized for not making it clear to the reader that it was paid for by an advertiser, but it didn't have the decency to apologize for allowing it to be inserted in the first place. The day before this happened, this same newspaper allowed another anti-Catholic group to take out a full-page ad in its newspaper. Now it's inviting non-Catholics to opine about an internal matter of the St. Louis Archdiocese, beckoning the bigots to post their hatred on its website. It has even gone so far as to run a punch line cartoon on this issue, asking the public to submit a caption."
The incidents are becoming more galling and the perpetrators more confidant with every new attack. Can you imagine if these sorts of campaigns were leveled at any other religion, at Jews or Muslims, or for that matter at gays or some other politically favored group? But it is now so "acceptable" to attack and slander Catholics and the Church that it is done openly, loudly, and with impunity. And our government encourages it by their complicity. Their silence suggests tacit approval, and the thinly disguised anti-Catholicism of congressional leaders grilling Catholic Federal Court nominees shows an open hostility, not only to Catholicism, but to right reason itself. Of course, it is not only happening here, but in all of the West. I'm only surprised that it should be so blatant in our society, who has listed first in our Bill of Rights the right to worship in our faith, without interference from others or from government. But the World is at war with the Catholic Church, and has been from its founding. "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you." John 15:18
Things did not seem as bad seven years ago when I was received into the Catholic Church, but neither was I aware of how bad they had gotten, or were going to get. I was never anti-Catholic myself, beyond the usual misgivings about the Inquisition (which I have since learned was grossly exaggerated) and about being told what I must believe. (I'm an American, after all, and that is part of the Protestant ethic upon which this country was founded). And yet, I knew as a teenager that if I ever accepted Christian scriptures and theology as true, I would become a Catholic. For me it was what they call a "no-brainer."
It is supremely ironic that all that "free thinking" that our country so prided itself on has enabled darker forces in our midst to manipulate and politically enslave a very large segment of our society—perhaps most of it, and where is the clear thinking coming from? The Vatican. The Church has never tried to redefine the truth, though some of her members have. My conversion to Catholicism came after I had recognized her Truths as the answer to the false promises and cultural degradation of secular humanism.
The Conservative Catholic gentleman who was most helpful in shepherding me into the Church recommended a number of authors whose works would be helpful to me in understanding the Church's teaching, authors who could be relied on for orthodoxy and integrity at a time in our Church's history where the lawlessness infecting the world had leeched its way into the Church. (Paul VI is known to have remarked that the "smoke of Satan had entered the Sanctuary" and I have come to realize that what happened in those years was a calculated and coordinated infiltration.)
My favorite of the writers I was introduced to is Hilaire Belloc. His concise, intelligent and accessible writing style makes him a very powerful and effective spokesman for the faith, though I did not at that time understand how powerful and prescient his writings were.
I had read his book, written in 1938, called The Great Heresies when I was still a candidate for acceptance into the Church. Even then, when I didn't "know anything", the final chapter on modernism had been an affirmation of what I had only really begun to perceive. However, as I have watched the culture deteriorating at a dizzying rate, and our freedom slipping away with it, I picked the book up again, and once more read the final chapter. Reading it now through the eyes of a soul cultivated in the rich soil of Catholic Truth, I recognize now how truly prophetic his vision had been, though there was nothing particularly mystical about it--he was merely taking his observations to their logical conclusion. Oh, but how right he was.
I feel so strongly that what he foresaw in those pages needs to be proclaimed loudly and widely to a world increasingly enslaved to false, destructive ideas, that I have decided to write a series of columns featuring excerpts of that most poignant 7th chapter, in the hope that, where I may be lacking in my ability to persuade or elucidate, you may find in his writings an epiphany. So in the coming weeks, I will be writing a series of columns highlighting the salient points of Belloc's essay on Modernism. (Some of the emphases in the excerpts are Belloc's, some are mine. For the sake of simplicity, I will not distinguish between them.) Let me begin by letting him elucidate the exact nature of the attack:
The enemy which the Faith now has to meet, and which may be called "The Modern Attack," is a wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith, upon the very existence of the Faith…The forces now opposed to the Faith design to destroy. The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic Church. And all, not a portion, of its philosophy….There is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other.
Most (arguably all) those who are not Catholic (and many, sadly, who are) do not know or understand the Church's teachings (though most believe they do), so I don't necessarily expect people to recognize the truth of this statement. It is hard to miss for those of us who actually know what the Catholic Church teaches that literally every teaching is under attack. The Church teaches Charity, the world teaches tolerance (not the same thing. Charity involves persons, tolerance involves ideologies, ideas, behaviors. The Church teaches the sacredness of life, they teach the necessity of death (abortion, euthanasia, population control). The Church teaches equality in dignity and in the eyes of God, the world promotes sameness, egalitarianism (though in fact elitism is the actual result of modernist policies, the opposite of the equal dignity before God); God created two sexes, no, God's wrong. There are five genders (and counting). The Church promotes purity and virtue, continence and fidelity, the world insists that you must have diverse sexual experiences to be a "well-rounded" and fully developed human person, that marriage is enslavement, that continence is repressive. Need I go on? And in each case, they twist the evil to make it appear a virtue, for you cannot persuade people to embrace something so evil without persuading them first that the evil thing is somehow morally justified, and that to embrace it is virtuous, and to resist it is evil. With abortion, for example, you persuade people that the suffering of unwanted children, and mothers worn out from childbearing, justifies abortion. Even with all the evils that have come out of abortion, that original drumbeat still resonates with many, and so the conscience is adjusted to accommodate the evil thing. Compromise. And once a person has compromised on one issue, he finds it easier to compromise on others, while still clinging to the illusion that he is a Christian. But by that time, he no more resembles a Christian than Michael Jackson resembles the innocent, appealing little boy he was before the surgeon began cutting away his persona.
The attack upon the Church's authority is perhaps most responsible for enabling the rest of it. By treating Christianity as just another religion among many (and then just another superstition among many), by inventing various social consequences of Christian moral teaching (oppression of women, for example) and by challenging and denying the Divine nature of Christ, and thus nullifying his authority, even pretending his teachings are archaic and not relevant in the modern world, we see a gradual erosion and rejection of the Church's authority to teach. Add to that the scandals which have touched the Church from within, and the calumnies and exaggerated claims about her from without, and you have generations of people growing up with no fear of God, and no respect for the Church he planted in this world for their sanctification. Without knowledge of God and his law, one has no frame of reference. An "open mind" is not so desirable a thing as it appears when those who wish to possess it can deftly fill it with whatever information serves them, creating for itself an army of anti-Christs.
The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. We must attempt to destroy it as being the fully equipped and ardent enemy of the Truth by which men live. The duel is to the death.
Truer words were never spoken, nor more prophetic ones. The Church is accused of being rigid and intolerant, and so she is. She is dealing with Truth, and it's not something you can be flexible about. If God almighty showed Himself to you in all His glory and said "Thou Shalt Not", wouldn't you humbly obey? We can't change His Laws, no matter how many sociologists and gender benders tell us that "science" requires that we amend our moral tradition. The Church can forgive a sinner, but she cannot say the sin is not a sin, because she cannot say that a truth is not a truth. It is absurd. And yet, the denial of moral absolutes, what our Pope calls the "dictatorship of relativism" is being imposed on us with the precise purpose of cultivating moral laxity, for when you have justified the immoral act, that leads inevitably to hostility toward the Truth, indeed the very images that represent that Truth, because the conscience stings. Belloc rightly points out that we cannot tolerate it (the modernist attack, which he calls anti-Christ) any more than it can tolerate us, because we cannot compromise, and they can't tolerate that. Thus you have San Francisco Board of Supervisors passing a resolution to condemn the Catholic Church because it will not compromise the Command of God. His Law is not negotiable. The "faithful remnant" so described are those whose minds have not been breached, or who have recognized the "intruder", (the liar of old, whispering in our ear that we, too, can be like God, deciding for ourselves what is good and what is evil) and have cast it out. The presence of Catholics in the Church who proclaim one way or another that Divine Law is negotiable are not Catholics, but tares among the wheat. "An enemy has done this," Our Lord said. (Matt 13:28). "You are my friends if you keep my commands." (John 15:14). They are ravenous wolves seeking someone to devour.
Okay, so there you have a religious perspective. But all things are played out in an apparently secular field and can be examined from a secular viewpoint. So how might it look to someone who isn't aware of the spiritual or eschatological dimensions of the conflict? In the second installment of the series, I'll explore more of Belloc's startlingly accurate predictions of the rise of Modernism and its true nature.
Alisa Craddock is a columnist and activist in the culture war, a convert to Catholicism, and describes herself as a Christian Libertarian. She may be contacted at alisa.craddock at hushmail.com.
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