Put up yer dukes: welcome to the Church Belligerent

Some astute analysis of where we are today, from Rev. Paul Scalia (son of Antonin):

The Church, like a nation, must defend herself and her faith. She must fight for the truth and for the salvation of souls. This demands doing battle, for which reason we call ourselves the Church Militant. Like a nation, however, the Church also encounters a danger: that the fighting spirit of the Church Militant turn against her. The danger is not of fighting—but of only fighting, and fighting in the wrong way. The danger is that the Church become not the New Jerusalem, but the New Sparta. And Sparta was known for only one thing: fighting. Ruthlessly, effectively, heroically at times, but only fighting. Sparta produced no great artwork, poetry, plays, or philosophy. It produced only war.

In short, the risk is to cease being the Church Militant and to become instead the “Church Belligerent.” This term describes not so much a specific group of people as a certain attitude, mindset, or approach. It indicates the necessary fighting spirit of the Church Militant severed from the principle of charity. And it constitutes a hazard—not for those who think that the past forty years have been a catechetical and liturgical success, not for those who see no need to evangelize, not for those waiting for the Church to be updated. Rather, it poses a threat precisely to those—to us—who take the demands of the Church Militant seriously, who see the crisis in society and within the Church, who recognize the catechetical and liturgical fallout of almost four decades, and who desire to enter into the battle for souls.

Evangelization and apologetics try to unite two things: God’s truth and the human heart. Let us keep in mind these two things are meant for each other. To effect this union we must possess a love for both the truth and the person. The goal is not just to prove our point or, worse, to prove ourselves correct. Rather, the purpose is to bring people to Christ and to establish his truth in their hearts. To do that we must possess the truth. But we must also keep hearts intact. We depart from the right path when we prize a certain principle or truth and run roughshod over the person in our delivery.

In short, the Church Belligerent succumbs to the temptation to win arguments instead of hearts—to break the bruised reed and quench the smoldering wick. A friend, once having acted less than charitably when arguing with someone about Eucharistic adoration, confessed, “It was as though I had taken the monstrance and smashed it over his head.” A shocking image, perhaps. But it describes the danger well. The human heart desires the truth. We ought not wield the truth as a weapon, a club for beating people into love for Christ and his Church. If we do, the truth may remain intact, but the heart will be crushed or—worse—hardened.

Read it all. 


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