Pope Leo XIII
(I originally posted this in 2010. I think I will begin posting it on each September 29, the feast of the Archangels.)
In 1947 Father Domenico Pechenino related what he had witnessed over six decades before.
“I do not remember the exact year. One morning the great Pope Leo XIII had celebrated a Mass and, as usual, was attending a Mass of thanksgiving. Suddenly, we saw him raise his head and stare at something above the celebrant’s head. He was staring motionlessly, without batting an eye. His expression was one of horror and awe; the colour and look on his face changing rapidly. Something unusual and grave was happening in him.
“Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: ‘Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?’ He answered: ‘Nothing, nothing.’ About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, (St. Michael: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle) beseeching God to send Satan back to hell.”
Cardinal Giovanni Batista Nassalli Rocca di Corneiliano wrote in his Pastoral Letters on Lent: “the sentence ‘The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls’ has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual. He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day.”
The Prayer written by the Pope is of course the famous prayer to Saint Michael:
Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.
Amen. Continue reading
David Solway at PJ Media gets to the heart of not only Potty War but what ails the West in general: a pernicious, wholly political, game of let’s pretend:
It is as if the Soviet pseudo-scientist Trofim Lysenko has risen from the grave and, by a mordant historical irony, infected not the burgeoning Russian empire but a weak and decadent West that has succumbed to a sterile and perilous sort of intellectual vernalization—a term glibly misused by Lysenko to describe the process, mistakenly thought heritable, of forcing winter cereals to behave like spring cereals. As plant biologist Richard Amasino writes, Lysenko’s belief that vernalized transformations could be inherited “fit the Marxist ideology that…a Marxist society could produce heritable changes in attitude, and, thus, if the proper environment was provided, future generations would consist of improved citizens. Lysenko’s efforts,” he continues, “to obtain or fabricate results that supported a political ideology…had disastrous consequences for Russian genetics.” Where the speculative and the real are in flagrant contradiction, the results are almost always catastrophic.
The West is now busy at work across the entire field of social, cultural and political life promoting its own version of Lysenkoism, a misconceived exercise of supposedly vernalizing reality by transforming fact into fantasy and truth into lie for the purpose of creating the perfect society and the redeemed human being, transferable across the generations. Its assumptions about the world are guided not by common sense or genuine science but by the precepts of ideology and political desire.
Examples abound of the ubiquitous tendency to replace ontology with myth, the determinate with the fluid and the objective with the delusionary. A modest inventory of such noxious miscontruals would include:
- Biological sexual differentiation must yield to voluntary gender identity.
- A cooling climate is obviously warming.
- The demonstrable failure of socialism wherever it has been tried is proof that it has not been properly implemented.
- Democratic Israel is an apartheid state.
- Islam with its record of unstinting bloodshed is a religion of peace.
- Illegal immigrants are undocumented workers.
- Terrorism is workplace violence.
- A child in the womb is a mass of insensible protoplasm.
- The killing of the old and the ill is merciful, even when the recipient of such tender concern is not consulted.
- There is no such thing as truth, an axiom regarded as true.
- Green energy is a social and economic good irrespective of crony profiteering, exorbitant cost, wildlife devastation, and unworkability in its present state.
- Storms, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis and mortality itself are natural phenomena, but Nature, which cares nothing for human life, is nonetheless sacred, vulnerable and at the mercy of human indifference.
- Women are disadvantaged in the workforce, academia and society at large despite the fact that high-end hiring practices, legal judgments, custody protocols and university appointments, as well as student enrollment, wholly favor women to the detriment of men.
- An enemy is a friend.
- Criminality is innocence.
- Losing is winning.
- Prosperity is avarice.
- Redistributing wealth, i.e., robbing the affluent and productive, is a form of compassion and basic justice.
- Those who claim victim status are always credible.
- Accumulating debt is an economic stimulus.
- Big government is a boon to mankind.
- War is passé (so 19th century).
- Diplomacy and talk—the higher Twitter—will prevail over barbarism.
- The most gynocentric society ever created is a rape culture.
- Palestine is a historically legitimate nation.
- Uniformity of thought and action equals cultural diversity.
- An exploded lie merely confirms what it lies about (e.g., Rigoberta Menchu).
- Morality is relative.
- Merit is an unearned distinction.
Or in other words, what is, is not, and what is not, is. Continue reading
When God in his mercy determined to accomplish the work of man’s renewal, which same had so many long ages awaited, he appointed and ordained this work on such wise that its very beginning might shew to the world the august spectacle of a Family which was known to be divinely constituted; that therein all men might behold a perfect model, as well of domestic life as of every virtue and pattern of holiness: for such indeed was the Holy Family of Nazareth. There in secret dwelt the Sun of Righteousness, until the time when he should shine out in full splendour in the sight of all nations. There Christ, our God and Saviour, lived with his Virgin Mother, and with that most holy man Joseph, who held to him the place of father. No one can doubt that in this Holy Family was displayed every virtue which can be called forth by an ordinary home life, with its mutual services of charity, its holy intercourse, and its practices of godly piety, since the Holy Family was destined to be a pattern to all others. For that very reason was it established by the merciful designs of Providence, namely, that every Christian, in every walk of life and in every place, might easily, if he would but give heed to it, have before him a motive and a pattern for the good life.
To all fathers of families, Joseph is verily the best model of paternal vigilance and care. In the most holy Virgin Mother of God, mothers may find an excellent example of love, modesty, resignation of spirit, and the perfecting of faith. And in Jesus, who was subject to his parents, the children of the family have a divine pattern of obedience which they can admire, reverence, and imitate. Those who are of noble birth may learn, from this Family of royal blood, how to live simply in times of prosperity, and how to retain their dignity in times of distress. The rich may learn that moral worth is to be more highly esteemed than wealth. Artisans, and all such as are bitterly grieved by the narrow and slender means of their families, if they would but consider the sublime holiness of the members of this domestic fellowship, cannot fail to find some cause for rejoicing in their lot, rather than for being merely dissatisfied with it. In common with the Holy Family, they have to work, and to provide for the daily wants of life. Joseph had to engage in trade, in order to live; even the divine hands laboured at an artisan’s calling. It is not to be wondered at, that the wealthiest men, if truly wise, have been willing to cast away their riches, and to embrace a life of poverty with Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
From Breve Neminem Fugit, June 14, 1892, in which Pope Leo XIII instituted the feast of the Holy Family
There is no doubt that in the sphere of politics ample matter may exist for legitimate difference of opinion, and that, the single reserve being made of the rights of justice and truth, all may strive to bring into actual working the ideas believed likely to be more conducive than others to the general welfare. But to attempt to involve the Church in party strife, and seek to bring her support to bear against those who take opposite views is only worthy of partisans.
Leo XIII, SAPIENTIAE CHRISTIANAE (1890)
The unshrinking defence of the Holy Scripture, however, does not require that we should equally uphold all the opinions which each of the Fathers or the more recent interpreters have put forth in explaining it; for it may be that, in commenting on passages where physical matters occur, they have sometimes expressed the ideas of their own times, and thus made statements which in these days have been abandoned as incorrect. Hence, in their interpretations, we must carefully note what they lay down as belonging to faith, or as intimately connected with faith-what they are unanimous in. For “in those things which do not come under the obligation of faith, the Saints were at liberty to hold divergent opinions, just as we ourselves are,”(55) according to the saying of St. Thomas. And in another place he says most admirably: “When philosophers are agreed upon a point, and it is not contrary to our faith, it is safer, in my opinion, neither to lay down such a point as a dogma of faith, even though it is perhaps so presented by the philosophers, nor to reject it as against faith, lest we thus give to the wise of this world an occasion of despising our faith.”(56) The Catholic interpreter, although he should show that those facts of natural science which investigators affirm to be now quite certain are not contrary to the Scripture rightly explained, must nevertheless always bear in mind, that much which has been held and proved as certain has afterwards been called in question and rejected.
Leo XIII, PROVIDENTISSIMUS DEUS
Those who rule the commonwealths should avail themselves of the laws and institutions of the country; masters and wealthy owners must be mindful of their duty; the working class, whose interests are at stake, should make every lawful and proper effort; and since religion alone, as We said at the beginning, can avail to destroy the evil at its root, all men should rest persuaded that main thing needful is to re-establish Christian morals, apart from which all the plans and devices of the wisest will prove of little avail.
Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum-Paragraph 62
The problem with papal encyclicals when they delve into economic and political issues is that they tend to be long and fairly complex. They are also bound by the historical events surrounding them at the time when they are promulgated. People with axes to grind will usually pick and choose rather than reading the entire encyclical in its historical context.
Rerum Novarum was written in 1891 at a time of huge worker unrest and when both anarchism and communism were beginning to take root. The living conditions of workers were often appalling. Pope Leo, while making a full throated defense of property, also wanted to indicate sympathy for the workers and their often legitimate complaints.
In regard to paragraph 36 of Rerum Novarum Pope Leo in his final sentence indicates a concern that the State not take more action than is necessary to remedy an evil: “The limits must be determined by the nature of the occasion which calls for the law’s interference – the principle being that the law must not undertake more, nor proceed further, than is required for the remedy of the evil or the removal of the mischief.” Continue reading
Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.
Pope Leo XIII
From the foundation of this nation, Catholics have fought and died in defense of American liberties. American Catholics, a very small percentage of the population of the 13 colonies, 1.6 percent, were overwhelmingly patriots and played a role in the American Revolution out of all proportion to the small fragment of the American people they represented. Among the Catholics who assumed leadership roles in the fight for our liberty were:
General Stephen Moylan a noted cavalry commander and the first Muster Master-General of the Continental Army.
Colonel John Fitzgerald was a trusted aide and private secretary to General George Washington.
Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of Illinois, whose aid was instrumental in the conquest of the Northwest for America by George Rogers Clark.
Thomas Fitzsimons served as a Pennsylvania militia company commander during the Trenton campaign. Later in the War he helped found the Pennsylvania state navy. After the War he was one of the two Catholic signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787
Colonel Thomas Moore led a Philadelphia regiment in the War.
Major John Doyle led a group of elite riflemen during the War. Continue reading
Gabriel Sanchez, a Catholic author I know and respect, has written a critique of my – as he calls it – selective “hermeneutic” of libertarian Catholicism at Ethika Politica. Specifically he is critiquing my critique of Mark Shea’s indictment of libertarianism as heresy at Crisis magazine. It seems he at least agrees with my point that libertarianism is not heresy, but that may be where the agreement ends There are some broad points of his critique I want to address.
First there is Sanchez’s claim that my argument regarding the limits Leo places on the state with respect to taxation and charity is “strange.” The part of paragraph 22 that Sanchez says I “overlook” is irrelevant; in context, it is clear that Leo does not believe that the state has a duty to expropriate and confiscate wealth in the name of charity. I could have quoted more of that paragraph to support my point, such as “[n]o one is commanded to distribute to others that which is required for his own needs and those of his household; nor even to give away what is reasonably required to keep up becomingly his condition in life, “for no one ought to live other than becomingly.”” After this, the part I did quote:
“But, when what necessity demands has been supplied, and one’s standing fairly taken thought for, it becomes a duty to give to the indigent out of what remains over. “Of that which remaineth, give alms.”(14) It is a duty, not of justice (save in extreme cases), but of Christian charity – a duty not enforced by human law.”
Maybe we live in two different semantic universes, but in mine, when someone says “no one is commanded”, “not of justice”, “not enforced by human law”, the meaning is clear: the state has no obligation to confiscate the private property of citizens and distribute it to whomever it deems worthy. Whether to give and how much to give is a matter for each individual to decide. I suppose it is arguable that the state could do these things with the consent of the people, but it is not required to do so and the libertarian argument against them would remain quite valid.
Hello again TAC! It has been nearly a year since I posted here, and it is good to be back. I have a long one for you this time, but I think you will find it interesting and my hope is that it will contribute to an ongoing discussion about an important topic.
In December of last year John Zmirak, a Catholic author I know and respect, wrote a piece for Aleteia.org titled “Illiberal Catholicism.” In it, Zmirak takes to task a growing tendency among both Catholic traditionalists (bear in mind I consider myself a traditionalist) and various leftists to denigrate liberalism in general and America’s classical liberal heritage in particular. The piece rubbed quite a few people the wrong way, as several hundred Facebook posts I skimmed would attest. There were lengthier responses from some corners of the Catholic blogosphere as well. If I had to offer the thesis statement of the piece, it would be this:
[T]here is something very serious going on in Catholic intellectual and educational circles, which — if it goes on unchecked — will threaten the pro-life cause, the Church’s influence in society, and the safety and freedom of individual Catholics in America. The growth of illiberal Catholicism will strengthen the power of the intolerant secular left, revive (and fully justify) the old anti-Catholicism that long pervaded America, and make Catholics in the United States as laughably marginal as they now are in countries like Spain and France…
From there, Zmirak provides us with an overview of the lack of tolerance in Church history that was bound to rankle traditionalists, as well as an endorsement of political and economic liberty that anti-capitalist traditionalists and leftists could not but despise. He also explicitly identified with “Tea Party” Catholicism – what could be more philistine for the enlightened anti-capitalist crowd, traddie or leftie?
It has always been the habit of Catholics in danger and in troublous times to fly for refuge to Mary.
Pope Leo XIII
Pope Francis at noon CST today will be consecrating the world today to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Non-Catholics I think have a hard time understanding what Mary means to us. Chesterton, a Catholic convert, comes close I think to conveying some of what Mary means to us in The Ballad of the White Horse:
And when the last arrow
Was fitted and was flown,
When the broken shield hung on the breast,
And the hopeless lance was laid in rest,
And the hopeless horn blown,
The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.
One instant in a still light
He saw Our Lady then,
Her dress was soft as western sky,
And she was a queen most womanly—
But she was a queen of men.
Over the iron forest
He saw Our Lady stand,
Her eyes were sad withouten art,
And seven swords were in her heart—
But one was in her hand. Continue reading
Nothing is more fitting for the feast of Corpus Christi than the great encyclical by Pope Leo XIII on the Eucharist, Mirae Caritatis. My bride and I taught our kids to say to themselves at the times of consecration, “First it’s bread, now it’s Jesus.” and “First it’s wine, now it’s Jesus.” This is the first Corpus Christi that I will have since his death when I will be unable to hear my son Larry repeat those words quietly to himself at the consecration, but I know he will be repeating the words in Heaven:
ENCYCLICAL OF POPE LEO XIII ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
To Our Venerable Brethren, the Patriarchs, Primates, Archbishops, Bishops, and other Local Ordinaries, having Peace and Communion with the Holy See.
Venerable Brethren, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
To examine into the nature and to promote the effects of those manifestations of His wondrous love which, like rays of light, stream forth from Jesus Christ – this, as befits Our sacred office, has ever been, and this, with His help, to the last breath of Our life will ever be Our earnest aim and endeavour. For, whereas Our lot has been cast in an age that is bitterly hostile to justice and truth, we have not failed, as you have been reminded by the Apostolic letter which we recently addressed to you, to do what in us lay, by Our instructions and admonitions, and by such practical measures as seemed best suited for their purpose, to dissipate the contagion of error in its many shapes, and to strengthen the sinews of the Christian life. Among these efforts of Ours there are two in particular, of recent memory, closely related to each other, from the recollection whereof we gather some fruit of comfort, the more seasonable by reason of the many causes of sorrow that weigh us down. One of these is the occasion on which We directed, as a thing most desirable, that the entire human race should be consecrated by a special act to the Sacred Heart of Christ our Redeemer; the other that on which We so urgently exhorted all those who bear the name Christian to cling loyally to Him Who, by divine ordinance, is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” not for individuals alone bur for every rightly constituted society. And now that same apostolic charity, ever watchful over the vicissitudes of the Church, moves and in a manner compels Us to add one thing more, in order to fill up the measure of what We have already conceived and carried out. This is, to commend to all Christians, more earnestly than heretofore, the all – holy Eucharist, forasmuch as it is a divine gift proceeding from the very Heart of the Redeemer, Who “with desire desireth” this singular mode of union with men, a gift most admirably adapted to be the means whereby the salutary fruits of His redemption may be distributed. Indeed We have not failed in the past, more than once, to use Our authority and to exercise Our zeal in this behalf. It gives Us much pleasure to recall to mind that We have officially approved, and enriched with canonical privileges, not a few institutions and confraternities having for their object the perpetual adoration of the Sacred Host; that We have encouraged the holding of Eucharistic Congresses, the results of which have been as profitable as the attendance at them has been numerous and distinguished; that We have designated as the heavenly patron of these and similar undertakings St. Paschal Baylon, whose devotion to the mystery of the Eucharist was so extraordinary. Continue reading
Christians are born for combat.
Pope Leo XIII
To recoil before an enemy, or to keep silence when from all sides such clamors are raised against truth, is the part of a man either devoid of character or who entertains doubt as to the truth of what he professes to believe. In both cases such mode of behaving is base and is insulting to God, and both are incompatible with the salvation of mankind. This kind of conduct is profitable only to the enemies of the faith, for nothing emboldens the wicked so greatly as the lack of courage on the part of the good. Moreover, want of vigor on the part of Christians is so much the more blameworthy, as not seldom little would be needed on their part to bring to naught false charges and refute erroneous opinions, and by always exerting themselves more strenuously they might reckon upon being successful. After all, no one can be prevented from putting forth that strength of soul which is the characteristic of true Christians, and very frequently by such display of courage our enemies lose heart and their designs are thwarted. Christians are, moreover, born for combat, whereof the greater the vehemence, the more assured, God aiding, the triumph: “Have confidence; I have overcome the world.”(13) Nor is there any ground for alleging that Jesus Christ, the Guardian and Champion of the Church, needs not in any manner the help of men. Power certainly is not wanting to Him, but in His loving kindness He would assign to us a share in obtaining and applying the fruits of salvation procured through His grace.
Pope Leo XIII
3. This world-wide and solemn testimony of allegiance and piety is especially appropriate to Jesus Christ, who is the Head and Supreme Lord of the race. His empire extends not only over Catholic nations and those who, having been duly washed in the waters of holy baptism, belong of right to the Church, although erroneous opinions keep them astray, or dissent from her teaching cuts them off from her care; it comprises also all those who are deprived of the Christian faith, so that the whole human race is most truly under the power of Jesus Christ. For He who is the Only-begotten Son of God the Father, having the same substance with Him and being the brightness of His glory and the figure of His substance (Hebrews i., 3) necessarily has everything in common with the Father, and therefore sovereign power over all things. This is why the Son of God thus speaks of Himself through the Prophet: “But I am appointed king by him over Sion, his holy mountain. . . The Lord said to me, Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance and the utmost parts of the earth for thy possession” (Psalm, ii.). By these words He declares that He has power from God over the whole Church, which is signified by Mount Sion, and also over the rest of the world to its uttermost ends. On what foundation this sovereign power rests is made sufficiently plain by the words, “Thou art My Son.” For by the very fact that He is the Son of the King of all, He is also the heir of all His Father’s power: hence the words-“I will give thee the Gentiles for thy inheritance,” which are similar to those used by Paul the Apostle, “whom he bath appointed heir of all things” (Hebrews i., 2). Continue reading
This Labor Day I recall an episode in both the history of labor in the United States and in the history of the Catholic Church in America. The last half of the nineteenth century was a time of labor strife, as businesses grew larger, the fruit of the ongoing Industrial Revolution, and workers fought for improvement of working conditions that by any standard were frequently abysmal. Prior to the Civil War apologists for slavery often argued that the average slave in the South was better fed, better housed and better clothed than the average industrial worker in the North. This of course overlooked the entire question of liberty, but there were enough terrible examples of wretched working conditions in the North to give the argument facile support.
Unions sprang up to represent workers. One of the largest in its day was the Knights of Labor founded in 1868. Successful in several large strikes, by 1886 the membership totaled 700,000, perhaps a majority of whom were Catholic. In 1886 the Archbishop of Quebec condemned the Knights in Canada based upon the secrecy that attended the meetings of the organization and forbade Catholics to join it.
The American hierarchy voted 10 to 2 against condemning the Knights. Archbishop James Gibbons was going to Rome in 1887 to receive his red hat as Pope Leo XIII had made him a Cardinal. While there he took the opportunity to submit a lengthy letter in support of the Knights. Although the letter bears the name of Gibbons, it was probably written by his friend Bishop John Ireland of Saint Paul, who had long been active in support of the rights of workers. The letter did the trick and the Vatican announced that the Knights were not to be condemned. The arguments made in the letter had an impact on Pope Leo XIII and helped lay the groundwork for his historic encyclical Rerum Novarum (1891) in which he defended the rights of workers to organize to seek better working conditions. Ironically the subject matter of the letter, the Knights of Labor, was in decline, too many of its strikes having involved violence which the leadership of the Knights condemned, but which tarnished the Knights in the eyes of the public. The Knights would cease to operate as a labor union in 1900, newer unions taking the place of this pioneering organization.
The letter of Cardinal Gibbons stressed that Catholic workers in America who belonged to labor organizations were not hostile to the Church as often occurred in Europe where Unions were organized by Leftist and Anarchist groups. In America most Americans supported the workers in their struggle to improve their lot, with both major political parties vying to pass legislation aiding workers. In short, the letter explained American labor and political conditions to the Vatican and how these differed substantially from those existing in Europe. The letter and the decision of the Vatican were good examples of effective communication between American ecclesiastics and Rome. Here is the text of the letter: Continue reading
The words “Ryan” and “poverty” are almost never more than a few words apart these days. Here at TAC, and elsewhere in the politosphere, Paul Ryan’s views on government spending and poverty are just about all anyone can talk about. The main anti-Ryan talking point is that he is a heartless Objectivist who is fundamentally opposed to the interests of “the poor.” If the definition of “racist” these days is “anyone who is winning an argument with a liberal”, the definition of “Objectivist” these days might be “anyone who is winning an argument with a Catholic liberal.”
Personally, I don’t think Ryan is “against the poor.” But not for the reasons you might think. Many people are defending his budget on the grounds that it does not harm “the poor.” While I agree that his budget does not harm the interests of low-income Americans, this is not the primary reason I would defend Ryan’s ideology. I have a different reason.
I do not believe poverty exists as a meaningful category in the United States, with some exceptions that I will make clear as I proceed. Very few people in the United States are truly poor, and most of those who are live an environment of such wealth and opportunity that simply defining them as “poor” does not tell us much about their objective status. Lest I suffer the fate of Todd Akin for appearing cruel and insensitive to those who struggle with problems associated with poverty, let me clarify.
We are approaching the most important U.S. Presidential election for us – by “us” I mean theologically orthodox, politically conservative Catholics – possibly since 1960, when the election of the first Catholic president seemed so possible and actually occurred. I’m grateful to be a contributing member of The American Catholic during this election season, which is one of the most widely-read Catholic blogs in the country. This certainly won’t be the last thing I have to say about the presidential race, but rather the first.
When the GOP primary was getting underway, I was a firm Ron Paul supporter. I knew he would not and could not win, but I supported him anyway because I agree with him on most issues, particularly on the role of our government both domestically and abroad. To support Ron Paul was to support the drastic reduction of the federal government, to reject the arrogant assumptions of technocratic management of economic and social issues from the top-down, and to place a vote of confidence in individuals, families, and local governments to solve social and moral problems. I also believe that this is the fundamental political truth of our time: a state governed by militant secularists cannot possibly effect the common good as it is understood by Christians, people of other faiths, or even those secularists who recognize the value of the natural law tradition that has informed the politics of Western civilization since the time of Plato and Aristotle. And yet if we are destined to have secularists in power, we can at least work to limit their power by limiting government as much as possible.
The corollary of the political truth stated above is that one cannot simply discuss “the role of government” in the abstract, without considering who will actually run the state and what values and assumptions they take with them as they create and execute policies with coercive force. Who exactly will be deciding issues that affect your life and mine? Who will have coercive power over you and yours?
More important than what happens to me or my family, though, is how the Church will be affected by those who rule. Even in her most humiliated and rejected state, which the sex scandals have arguably wrought, the Church is still the light of civilization. If her light is extinguished, driven underground, or forced to hide in the shadows, then it is not simply we Catholics who will suffer (though there is certainly nothing wrong with suffering for the faith), but all of society. The Church can and has survived hideous persecution, but it is not clear that society can survive what it will inevitably become without the Church, as well as all of the other religious organizations that will be affected by federal policies, actively involved in public life. Finally, whether society recognizes its debt to the Church or not is irrelevant.
It may be that God has ordained this as a time of cleansing, a time during which the Church must be forced underground and reduced to a smaller size so that she can be tempered and purified. But we cannot know such things with any certainty. What we can know with at least a little more clarity, on the other hand, is what our duties are as Catholic citizens. It is my view that our first priority is to protect the right of the Church to publicly exist. Usually this doesn’t come up because usually the U.S. government does not enact policies that threaten this public existence. But the status quo has changed, and we now face the prospect of an open, vicious anti-Catholic regime in a lame duck Obama presidency. For this reason, I feel obliged as a Catholic to work for the defeat of Obama-Biden in 2012. In practical terms, this means supporting Romeny-Ryan for the Presidency.
Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:
On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First, Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.
Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to defend our most cherished freedom.
The fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.
We here at The American Catholic are participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day. This is the eighth of these blog posts.
America has been blessed by God in many ways but I suspect no blessing has been greater than His granting us George Washington to lead us in our struggle for independence and to be our first President. Catholics have perhaps more reason than other Americans to keep the memory of Washington alive in our hearts. In a time of strong prejudice against Catholics in many parts of the colonies he was free from religious bigotry as he demonstrated on November 5, 1775 when he banned the anti-Catholic Guy Fawkes celebrations.
“As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope – He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such Circumstances, to be insulting their Religion, is so monstrous, as not to be suffered or excused; indeed instead of offering the most remote insult, it is our duty to address public thanks to these our Brethren, as to them we are so much indebted for every late happy Success over the common Enemy in Canada.”
Order in Quarters, November 5, 1775
– George Washington
This stand against anti-Catholicism was not unusual for Washington. Throughout his life Washington had Catholic friends, including John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the US. He would sometimes attend Mass, as he did during the Constitutional Convention when he led a delegation of the Convention to attend Mass in Philadelphia as he had attended Protestant churches in that town during the Convention. This sent a powerful signal that under the Constitution Catholics would be just as good Americans as Protestant Americans.
Washington underlined this point in response to a letter from prominent Catholics, including Charles and John Carroll, congratulating him on being elected President: Continue reading