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The growing secular totalitarianism—and our Catholic response

It will take great spiritual strength, utilizing the grace of the sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, much prayer, and much fasting, to bear holy witness to the timeless Truth of the Magisterium.

A woman holds a crucifix during the 35th annual Pax Christi Metro New York Way of the Cross/Way of Peace April 14 in New York City. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

A Republican congressman shot; a Republican Senator threatened with death if he doesn’t vote the left’s way on Obamacare; an elite software developer who spent almost a half-a-billion dollars promoting gay marriage calling for the “punishment” of Christians who refuse to participate in gay weddings (he describes them as “the wicked”); a failed talk show hostess promoting a game pushing the President off a cliff; a grade-D comedienne posing with a mock, severed-head of the President; a Democratic operative pushing a #HuntRepublicans Twitter theme; a reproduction of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar depicting the assassination of a Trump look-a-like; a major-media outlet, CNN, threatening to expose a private citizen to ridicule and potential violence simply for committing the thoughtcrime of posting a video poking fun at the network.

These are just a few of the many examples of the thirst for suppression and violence which characterizes the totalitarian impulse inherent in our secular, progressive elite.

Yet, as distressing as the individual actions of secularists may be, a far more startling piece of news has apparently slipped under the radar regarding the macro-, or mass, opinion of secularists.  According to a new poll, almost half of all millennials believe the State has the right to take from a family any child who seeks to ‘transition’ to its opposite gender if the parents object to the transition.  Think about it: almost half of the upcoming generation is perfectly prepared to destroy a family should said family stand in the way of their predilection for perversion.  They see nothing wrong with this; they believe it a positive good.  And, like the 20th century totalitarians who came before them, they will not hesitate to undermine and even destroy one of the primary institutions—the family—standing in the way of achieving their ideological goal.

There has been much talk in recent years of the ‘soft totalitarianism’ of today’s liberal democracy.  The hope seems to be such ‘soft totalitarianism’ will always obtain under our liberal, secularist political order.  But we should be prepared for a change.  The violence and hardness of heart of secularists is definitely increasing.  Indeed, we have been ‘slouching toward Gomorrah,’ as the late, Robert Bork put it, for quite some time now.  We should consider the very real possibility that the totalitarian impulse of the Left is about to get—and, indeed, is getting—‘harder.’  The poison of our contraceptive culture, horribly expressed by legalized abortion, has had almost fifty years to penetrate and harden the hearts of its supporters.  For many, abortion has become a sort of secular sacrament.  Even videos showing abortionists joking about selling body parts have failed to move mass opinion, so hardened has the dominant culture become.  We should not expect those who so regale in the termination of an innocent life to draw some sort of line when considering taking or destroying the life of those they’ve arbitrarily deemed, “guilty”  of violating secularist protocol.

Devout Catholics have recently been debating a so-called Benedict Option.  We should consider in such debates whether such an ‘Option’ will even be possible under a secularist regime which more and more seems committed to violence to achieve its goal.  The mere existence of Christian truth, even if isolated in the mountains of Wyoming, the plains of Kansas, or the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, is likely to draw the wrath of secularists who have already determined, ‘they will be as God.’

It is here that the true challenge for devout Catholics will become paramount, for the easy course to be followed by our fallen human nature will be to strike back, to lash out.  This we cannot and mustn’t do.  We must be, as Our Lord and the early Church martyrs were, “meek and humble of heart (Mt 11:29)  We must look to Him and them for our examples.  And it’s not going to be easy.

In his seminal work, The Life of Christ, the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in discussing Our Lord’s, “Sermon on the Mount,” offers a parable on Our Lord’s admonition to ‘turn the other cheek’ which speaks to what we are likely to be called to do.

He tells us to imagine:

[I]f one preaches hate and violence to ten men in a row, and tells the first man to strike the second, and the second to strike the third, the hatred will envelope all ten.  The only way to stop this hate is for one man (say the fifth in line), to turn his other cheek.  Then, the hatred ends.  It is never passed on.  Absorb violence for the sake of the Savior, Who will absorb sin and die for it.  The Christian law is that the innocent shall suffer for the guilty.

We are called to be that ‘fifth man,’ to be those innocents who suffer for the guilty.

The world teaches that to be ‘meek and humble of heart’ is to be weak and passive.  Just the opposite is the case.  It will take great spiritual strength, utilizing the grace of the sacraments and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, much prayer, and much fasting, to bear holy witness to the timeless Truth of the Magisterium: that all life, even life in the womb and life in its end state, is sacred; that marriage is a holy sacrament between one man and one woman; that you cannot separate the unitive and procreative purposes of human intimacy; indeed, even that there is a God and He has revealed to us the means of salvation and true joy.

Proclaim these truths justly and with love, and we will face the wrath of the demons which oppress the secularists in the same way even the mere presence of Our Lord so excited the demons in the region of the Gerasenes (Mt 8; 28-34). Already, we see such proclamations of truth happening.  In just the short time in which this article has been composed, protesters have twice interrupted the aforementioned play depicting the assassination of the President.  In just the last few years Christian bakers, photographers, and others have valiantly refused to bow down and offer the incense of acquiescence to our modern-day Caesars.  Each of us, in some manner, is called to do the same.  But, in order to do it well, we must, first, be very clear about the state of our culture, and, second, drive from our hearts even the thought of violence as commanded by Our Lord.  Love of Truth, love of God, and the fortitude to stand for both must rule our hearts.

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About Alan L. Anderson 17 Articles
Alan L. Anderson teaches theology at the Chesterton Academy of the Sacred Heart in Peoria, Ill.


  1. A well formulated telling article. Vile language, humiliation, threats mock, real, and actual violence, deadly assault are definitively evil. Hysterical non stop attack on Pres Trump and the Rep Party its platform included. Persecution of Christians as noted. I would add to this conflagration similar attack [so far sans violence] within the Church toward orthodox Catholics. Alan Anderson correctly names it a form of totalitarianism. It’s total and uncompromising. The anti Christ Left are showing their fangs. Enraged. It used to be hyperbole, religious sensationalism to say Satan is pulling the levers. Not anymore.

  2. “But, in order to do it well, we must, first, be very clear about the state of our culture, and, second, drive from our hearts even the thought of violence as commanded by Our Lord. Love of Truth, love of God, and the fortitude to stand for both must rule our hearts.”

    BS. Even violence can be used in a just manner in defense of community and family. While spiritual conversion is necessary, just resistance may be prudentially proper in some circumstances and to exclude that option absolutely on a false pacifist understanding of Christianity is wrong.

    • “BS. Even violence can be used in a just manner in defense of community and family. While spiritual conversion is necessary, just resistance may be prudentially proper in some circumstances and to exclude that option absolutely on a false pacifist understanding of Christianity is wrong.”

      I see. So in your view, the Venerable Fulton Sheen offers a ‘false pacifist understanding of Christianity.’ Fascinating. Given that His Excellency was seen at the time as one of the more forceful and staunch anti-Communists of his day. Further, nowhere do I state that “just resistance” is uncalled for. Indeed, I offer several examples -i.e. the resistance of Christians to participate in gay weddings and the protesters who spoke out at the ‘Julius Cesar’ play.

      When I speak of violence, perhaps I speak sloppily. What I mean is violence based on the deadly sin of wrath. Violence of a vengeful sort. Certainly, righteous anger has its place. And violence perpetrated out of such anger, also. (see Our Lord chasing the moneychangers out of the Temple.)

      However, as St. Francis de Sales warns in his Treatise on the Love of God, even righteous anger can be a dangerous thing. He likens it to a spark of fire being dropped in a dry forest which can suddenly become a raging conflagration consuming all in its path.

      That’s what I mean when I say “it won’t be easy.” You hit the nail on the head noting we need “just resistance” -I’m just emphasizing it must truly be “just” and not based on vengeful wrath.


      • Allow me to offer a few further thoughts for your consideration, SOL. I often have told my students that it’s a lucky thing for them that I wasn’t their savior for without doubt at the strike of the very first lash I probably would have called a legion of angels to come and wipe out the soldiers surrounding me as well as, probably, the entire Roman Empire. I stand in awe of the sheer strength and will Our Lord exhibits in not uttering such a word. We are called to be like Christ and surely this is what Sheen means when he says we, as innocents, are called to ‘suffer for the guilty.’ Even more amazing, I have no doubt that had Our Blessed Mother, whose heart was being pierced with the prophesied sword at that very moment, also could have stopped the whole thing with a simple word. She doesn’t.

        Thus, maybe even more than ‘just resistance’ is being called for, here. “Just resistance” implies a sort of ‘ eye for an eye’ type of justice characteristic of the Old Covenant. Our Lord calls us to something deeper –a resistance which at its heart is based on considerations of love. Far be it from me to even question, let alone dispute, the Church’s teaching on the permissibility of self-defense or, in its larger context, “just-war theory.” Rather, I would note all resistance must have at the center of our hearts the love and example of Our Lord which surely informs said Church teaching, hence the numerous conditions extant in the Church’s teaching –i.e. chance for success, etc.

        I suspect you already know this, hence your notation that ‘spiritual conversion’ is necessary. I thought I’d just expand on it a bit.


        • So Alan let me get this right, you are OK in using violence to defend oneself. If that is what you are saying I agree with you. To not defend yourself would basically be committing suicide which is a sin.

          • Might it be that the concepts of “force” and “violence” are being confused? The two words are NOT synonyms. “Violence” is defined by Catholic theology as being the “unjust use of force”. The operative word is “unjust”. While all violence is a form of force, not all force is violence. That said, we may well have to consider just uses of force. It may well be sinful to eschew just uses of force as much as it is to engage in true violence.

      • Yes, at a time when there are counterfeit forms of Christianity that condemn anger simply or advocate absolute pacificism, it would behoove writers of essays aimed at mass consumption to be careful with their words. The souls of others depends upon it.

  3. a time to rend, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
    a time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time for war, and a time for peace.
    – Ecclesiastes 3:7-8

    There is also a time for peaceful, nonviolent civil disobedience, similar to that of Lech Walesa’a Solidarity union, which eventually took down the militantly atheistic Soviet Union, which was more brutal by far than our secular culture.

    And, as Urban II decided when he called the first crusade, after two thirds of Christendom had been eradicated by Islamic jihad, there is indeed a time for war.

  4. Self Defense is admirable and necessary SOL, but I suggest that it is not the same as perpetrating violence on those who disagree.

    • “but I suggest that it is not the same as perpetrating violence on those who disagree.”

      The left not only disagrees but seeks to take away your rights because you are hateful. The left and the cultural Marxists started the war.

      • Somehow, this comment reminds me of this little interplay between the Jets and the Sharks in “Quintet,” from late in Act I of the musical “West Side Story”:

        JETS: “Well, they began it!”

        SHARKS: “Well, they began it!”

        JETS AND SHARKS (together): “And we’re the ones to stop ’em once and for all……TONIGHT!”

  5. The most distressing aspect of this development is ignored by this article, which is that to all probability the Church’s hierarchy will side with the secularists and the totalitarians. We see this tendency clearly in the leading figures, such as Cardinals Kasper, Marx, Cupich, Schönborn, Wuerl, and a whole lot of new Vatican functionaires appointed by Pope Francis, for instance in the Pontifical Commission for Life.

    The present hierarchs see new possibilities of gaining political influence in the domain of Climate Change and other environmental issues, if they make concessions on matters of traditional morality like divorce, admission of LBGTs, &c.

    So don’t count on the institutional Church for support on matters of life and family anymore. You will be crushed or thrown before the lions by the new Modernist Inquisition. Catholics will be entirely on their own in this upcoming war. They will be persecuted by the secularists and betrayed by their own shepherds. That’s the terrible but true situation.

    • Case in pt: after fruitless meetings with Bishop R_ we pulled our children from “Catholic” school bc of graphic, anti-family/Faith/life sex-ed. Principal Sr. P_ then notified the sheriff who issued a warrant for my arrest for home-schooling. We sought help from a faithful, diocesan-persecuted priest who enrolled the kids is his school in another town, while letting us quietly continue home-schooling. This was back in 1980’s & h.s. laws have changed for the better, but alas, our Church is ever more persecuted from without and betrayed from within Her ranks. How painful beyond words to see the evil effect of all this on our dear children…May God grant us perseverence in fidelity to Christ through His Blessed Mother’s intercession.

      • I’ll bet that that graphic, anti-family, “contra Fidem,” anti-life sex education program in your “Catholic in name only” school back then was “Becoming A Person,” which was the subject of great controversy and argument in my home parish (in the Archdiocese of Chicago) back in the 1970s.

    • Quite correct. In past decades, we had many of our clerical worthies urge government actions to promote and enforce a number of mostly left wing causes. Now this government is presuming to tell religious institutions how they should act. No surprise ther and no surprise at the mostly silence from the pulpits.

  6. The new religion with its theological virtues of diversity, tolerance and inclusion, and its cardinal virtues of ecology, socialism, indifference and promiscuity seems to be spreading so well, it even seems to have taken hold in the Vatican and in many diocese around the world.

    When one asks, “what is a faithful Catholic to do?” I have to assume they will have to get by without any help from the church. Even when some true leader arises, the pope will probably scorn him.

  7. If you’re opposed to totalitarianism (and who isn’t), then why tolerate Christianity? It really doesn’t get much more totalitarian than “worship, praise, and obey me – or perish” does it? Heaven is worse than North Korea.

    • God Our Father has willed us treasure,
      granting all good gifts from above
      in over-flowing measure,
      free will and mind
      to seek and find
      Our One True Love.

    • “And Simon Peter replied to him, “Lord, to whom shall we turn? You have the words of everlasting life. We have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God.””

      “And the truth shall set you free.”

      That truth, that everlasting life, that freedom, is found in only one place – and that is the Catholic Church.

      Our opposition to totalitarianism is precisely why we dare to answer “No” to secularism, to atheism, to the culture of death and the culture of hedonism and the culture of narcissism and the culture of selfishness so rampant in secular and atheistic society – and why we call ourselves Catholic.

      It is HELL which is worse than North Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, and “Brave New World” all rolled into one, not Heaven.

      • Dominic you can throw the word “truth” around as much as you like but that has no bearing on whether it is actually so.

        Also, I guess you don’t understand what a “culture of death” looks like. Here’s what that actually looks like:

        1. a cult which parades as its mascot and foundation the image and sculpture of a brutally murdered man nailed to a cross. DEATH.

        2. a cult which evangelizes as its bible and sacred text a bizarre collection of stories of child murder, rape, vengeance, and general lust for slaughter and carnage. DEATH.

        3. a cult which would rather see a broken unborn human child afflicted with a disease like zika be born and suffer a disgraceful existence of handicap and hardship its entire life rather than mercifully terminate it long before it ever attains self-awareness. DEATH.

        I could go on. So yes, you can find a “culture of death” out in today’s world, and the Catholic Church earns due recognition as such, and in spades. That is why we say “No” to Catholicism.

  8. Remember the Vendee and the Christeros. Remember the Crusades. Remember the revolt of the Northern Earls against Elizabeth. Remember Charles Martel and Charlemagne. Pacifism is not Catholic doctrine. We have a right and duty to defend ourselves and our families, not by striking the first blow, but by proportionate defense. Our great Captain of the heavenly hosts, St Michael, is a warrior. Father, if you are called to martyrdom, that is what the Lord wants of you. But if someone attacks my wife or children, regardless of the motive, they will have to do it by killing me first, and I will try not to make it easy for them. Check the catechism, Father: 2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for one who is responsible for the lives of others. The defense of the common good requires that an unjust aggressor be rendered unable to cause harm. For this reason, those who legitimately hold authority also have the right to use arms to repel aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their responsibility.” St Thomas agrees.

    • Byzcat you refer to Fr twice in your comment admonishing that the right to self defense is Catholic doctrine. Unless you are replying to Dominic Lombardo and I’m not aware he’s a priest [it’s not possible to identify replies with certitude in this new CWR format]. At any rate I’ve always taught my parishioners of their right to self defense within measured means, that is to avoid killing if possible. Furthermore, I’ve stressed the moral obligation to come to the defense of the weak. I disagree with the floating Church opinion that there is no such thing as a just war.

  9. A culture driven by its wants is at the mercy of its wants. We can remind secularists that their wants are not a reliable guide to happiness and often act in place of what is missing in their lives.

  10. A hard-hitting article that ends with a true solution. Thank you, Alan. It’s all too easy to strike back, and it’s so very difficult to stop the violence, but you are right. We must.

  11. The Cross of Jesus has always been the ultimate paradox for believers and non-believers alike. Jesus voluntarily suffered this ignoble suffering and death for love of us and, crucially, to free us from the effects of sin, death and separation from God. During the 3 days He was in Hades, He liberated all faithful souls from this “prison” in which they’d been trapped since The Fall. This supreme act of gratutuitous love must be our model. That’s what it took – God’s own mortal suffering and death at the hands of mankind, whom He has created – to conquer the effects of sin and break the power of evil over us. No, God doesn’t demand our weak submission to evil and violence but He does invite us to reflect on how we, with His grace, might become able to break the power of evil with love, which may require turning the other cheek in some way. This doesn’t mean offering oneself as a punch bag, rather it means standing our ground and absorbing insult, condemnation, unjust action and possibly injury or death. We have so many examples of martyrs to look to, who rightly read the times they were living through and responded with greater love so that Love would eventually be victorious. So let’s not think of it in terms of our “right” to defend ourselves but rather ask what response does Christ and Christian love request or require of me st this time? Then we must pray for the courage, grace and strength to do what is necessary. None of this is easy, quite the opposite, but Alan Anderson and others do ask us to open our eyes to the gravity of our times and our hearts to the right response.

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