Many in Catholic media have taken to warning that religious persecution is coming. Yet, such statements seem oblivious to what is already taking place. The persecution of Christians and especially Catholics tends to target individuals (and families) over groups, which makes it easier to miss. We are so disconnected from our neighbors in the pew that we can neither fight alongside them in their battles nor help them to bear their crosses. These are among the tragic consequences of the lack of community that exists today.
A realistic appraisal of current trends would reveal that no one in the modern age, neither government agency nor politician, makes neutered decisions out of fear of “upsetting the Catholics”. Those days have passed. There was a time in which Catholics as a body were more acknowledged, but that was when they were not trying too hard to blend with the world, nor did they care to apologize for their distinctiveness.
They didn’t join in eating hotdogs after a Friday night game, because Fridays were reserved for fish. At a Saturday night party, Catholics would stop eating and drinking at midnight (at least those planning on receiving Holy Communion the next day), because that was the requirement of the Eucharistic fast. These stricter rules caused Catholics to be differentiated from the rest of the world. It occasioned them to be seen, and known as Catholics, willing to be counted as such. That would have been uncomfortable at times and in some crowds, but certainly not the stuff of martyrdom.
The Faith and its adherents now appear less serious and present. It is for this reason that when a follower of the Church makes a choice based on his faith, such as rejecting a gig as the photographer of a “gay wedding” or declining to instruct an immoral sexual education class in schools, it appears so foreign to the secular world. Maybe the example seems extreme or ridiculous, but the difference in the acceptability of forcing a Christian to violate his faith versus doing so with another religious group is stark. One major contrast is that the expectation of outrage from the oppressed group and their defenders is much larger than if a Christian were subjected to similar abuse. Why? Perhaps because Jews and Muslims have set a standard in which they are expected to live differently, and to take their religious beliefs seriously.
A man of my own parish lost his management position at a major grocery store chain because he was asked to supply Plan B (the emergency contraceptive) to customers who requested it after the pharmacy had closed. He refused to comply with that dangerous and immoral directive. That’s a noble (and theologically correct) position for the parishioner, but it’s an example of a lived faith that is not only rare, but has come to be unexpected. The grocery store chain wasn’t afraid of “upsetting the Catholics”.
The main aggressor against the faithful is not corporate America, but the mighty boot of the government. When a federal or state agency targets the Christians for their faith, they don’t often single out large groups or institutions. Instead, they persecute an individual or a single family, isolated from their support structure and the larger Church.
Take the case of families in Oregon who cannot bear children of their own and who decide to adopt. Doing so requires first fostering the children, which involves agreeing to the state’s “standards”–including condoning promiscuity by teenagers, without forcing moral values upon them. It requires the promotion of LGBT exploration, along with exposing those children to “Pride events”. Of course, a practicing Catholic cannot agree to do something so immoral to a child in his care. Oregon is not the only state to mandate that they do so.
Jessica Bates filed a lawsuit earlier this year against the Oregon Department of Human Services for precisely this reason. The state’s policy is impossible for her to obey, on account of her faith. Is the state anti-Christian or merely explicitly pro-LGBT? That’s a distinction without a difference. In fact, this is the primary method of anti-Christian bigotry and selective persecution in the modern age. It is done by claiming that agencies are not anti-Christian, they are just opposed to Christian values, such as by favoring LGBT ideology. More precisely, they claim to be acting against Christian ‘disvalues’, that is, against the Christian lack of enthusiasm for immoral ideologies and practices. It is an attempt to falsely claim religious impartiality, by implying that those promoting sexual degeneracy are in fact doing what all people of common sense and goodwill would do, regardless of the presence or absence of religious conviction. Thus bureaucrats aren’t choosing between religions, only between religious observance and secularism. But the ideology of the modern left has all of the hallmarks of a religion, and a bad one.
That religion seeks to deny reason (such as in its denial of the most basic elements of biology), to force outsiders to accept and repeat their mantras, and to ignore horrendous evils enacted by their adherents (as with abortion). Of course it’s religious. Man is a religious creature, so he who feigns atheism is merely denying who his gods are. We must note the irony of those seeking what are, in effect, blasphemy laws that would punish those who use the wrong pronouns—while decrying Christians for their intolerance and zealotry.
The judicial system has been leveraged against the faithful. The FBI has admitted to not just investigating traditional Catholic communities, but actively placing undercover agents inside of them. This is a move that sows distrust among communities and invades the privacy of people who have done nothing wrong. It falsely connects traditionalism with immorality, as if praying an Ave Maria were a sure stepping stone to violence or terrorism. Intriguingly, one of the FBI’s alleged chief concerns about traditional Catholics was that they were not approving of LGBT lifestyles. In other words, the FBI really had a problem with doctrine, and those who follow it.
When the FBI was asked by Representative Jefferson Van Drew if it was okay to be Catholic, he was met with an eerie silence, before someone decided to conform to public appearances with a much belated yes.
Mark Houck is a pro-life activist who pushed a Planned Parenthood volunteer who had gotten in the face of his then 12-year-old son, shouting that the son should, “Go home and masturbate”. They had been standing outside of the abortion clinic to pray. In any other context, this tussle would not have even made local news. Yet, in this age, abortion clinics and their workers get special protections, which resulted in FBI agents descending on the father’s home, arresting him, and charging him with two counts of violating the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. The charge carries an 11-year prison sentence.
The trial and charges were so ludicrous that it took the jury less than an hour to dismiss them. Yet the emotional turmoil, financial distress, and burden upon the family cannot be overstated, nor can the chilling effect that such abusive prosecutions have upon the thousands of people who pray in front of abortion clinics around the country. There is no equivalent law to offer special protections to pro-life centers, even as the list of clinics attacked and vandalized continues to grow.
While men like Mark are being prosecuted for attempting to defend children, there hardly seems to be an avalanche of prosecutions against those who are harming juveniles. When Forsyth Tech Community College in North Carolina posted a drag event that resulted in high school students receiving lap dances, no prosecution was expected nor begun. Those who have children perform highly sexualized roles at drag events likewise never face prosecution. Children have become collateral damage in an ideological battleground.
Immediately after taking office, the Biden Administration notoriously dropped charges against those on the political left who had engaged in city burning as an act of protest. It did so while it aggressively pursued those who attended the January 6th protest–even those who neither engaged in assault nor damaged any property.
It’s easy to embrace the convenient illusion that persecution won’t happen to oneself or one’s own family, to assure ourselves that it’s something that happens out there, to “other people”. Yet, as demonstrated, the victims are not usually major figures or large Catholic organizations, but vulnerable individuals.
We must stop pretending that persecution may be coming someday, and face the awful truth of what has already begun. Our brothers and sisters are suffering persecution right now–and there are no signs of relief or better days on the horizon. They shouldn’t be suffering alone. We must join with them to serve a two-fold purpose: to provide real compassion to those suffering and to fight back.
Close-knit communities that are devoted to God and each other can help victims to fund legal expenses, change laws, activate ignorant or indifferent representatives, and prevent abusive agencies from singling out one of the faithful to destroy in the darkness. We must force them instead to confront the Body of Christ in the light.
Disconnectedness causes a vulnerability that is already being exploited. It is made worse in America because the national ideal lauds self-reliance and individualism, but it isn’t possible to fight these battles alone. Moreover, we are not meant to. We are innately social creatures, designed for community. In isolation, we are less than we could be. Collaboration and allyship cause us to grow, surround children with those striving for virtue, and have opportunities for stewardship that aid our rightful paths to Sainthood.
There have already been casualties stemming from the solitary mode of living that has become normal (and which was perversely encouraged during the covid years). Building a Christendom that might exist parallel to the rest of the world will be an essential mode of survival. It begins with forming groups and networks within parishes of those serious about living the faith.
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