This put a grin on my face. I hope it does the same for you.
Have a blessed Sunday, my friends.
Militant secularism is on the march throughout the Western world.
It began with court cases concerning what were clearly government entities in nature. The first court cases focused on things that were problematic.
It didn’t take long for these court cases to move past the clearly problematic to a frontal assault on any mention of faith in any guise in even the most quasi of public situations anywhere in the country. In a few years, it broadened to include attacks on Christian public officials, which I have experienced myself. Verbal hazing and hectoring became such a commonplace that many public Christians began to self-censor their remarks to avoid it.
The reason for this is that public life is difficult and insecure enough without adding extra problems to it. Public officials and other public figures get worn out from the constant harassment and misery of being attacked 24/7. Also, the use of slander and mockery, can, over time, destroy their reputations and make it impossible for them to do their jobs.
So, they backed down. They self-censored Jesus out of their vocabularies. It was easier to keep quiet about their faith than to take it on the chin, especially since most of the American Christian world was cocooned in a rock-a-bye world of their own and largely indifferent to what was happening.
However, public figures are not the only targets these days. More and more, the courts have become a means of harassment and oppression of Christians who are private citizens simply trying to live their faith in their private world. Thus we have bans on student-initiated prayers in school, censorship of religious viewpoints from valedictory speeches and, lately, the banning of Christian groups from college campuses.
It was and is the Martin Niemoller poem, coming to life again.
I wrote a post yesterday, Atheist Governments: Failed Experiments in Godless Goodness which referred to this situation. This post is an extension of that.
One of the more interesting examples of forced removal of Christian art from public grounds is the Soledad Cross. This cross was designed by architect Donald Campbell and is part of a memorial for war veterans.
Americans were outraged when Al Queda blasted ancient Buddhas in Afghanistan because they offended their religious sensibilities. But they do not see the parallel in the forced removal of religious art from public places in our own country at the behest of a well-organized movement of militant secularists.
You can find a list, of the cases the Freedom From Religion group in Wisconsin is involved in now on their website. I would guess that this list is relatively small compared to the numbers of threatening letters concerning Christian art, speech and actives that it churns out on what appears to be a continuous basis. The Supreme Court has ruled that historic monuments may be preserved, but there are no guidelines as to what constitutes a historic monument.
The deluge of court cases that are brought by a couple of groups and dumped on public entities, coupled with the threat of costly litigation, usually results in people backing down without a fight. This is using the courts as a club to bully and intimidate ordinary citizens into giving up their rights.
The ACLU has joined with the Freedom From Religion Foundation in some of these lawsuits. They have also filed suits of their own. They claim, like the Freedom From Religion Foundation, that they are “defending” the Constitution and the American people from the dangers of statues in parks, plaques, and commentary in graduation speeches.
Both these groups often file lawsuits that are aimed, not so much at government policy, but the individual expressions of faith by government employees. They have worked assiduously to drive religion in general and Christianity in particular from the public square. In case after case they have filed suit against city parks, state governments, and courthouses all over the country. They have forced them to remove statues, and ban celebrations that smacked in any way of a Christian viewpoint.
You would think the mere sight of the Ten Commandments on a plaque was a threat to our liberty equal to say, banning prayer in schools, even when they are student-led, censoring personal religious comments out of student speeches or requiring college faith-based student groups to put atheists in charge.
Of course, that is exactly what has been happening in more and more places around the country. Here a few examples that I found of censoring student speech and attempting to force student religious organizations to admit unbelievers as members and leaders of their groups. I found these with a simple google search that took about 10 seconds.
Censorship of Christian’s Free Speech in Schools Christian’s Valedictorian Speech Censored by Principal District Pulls Plug on Speech Attorneys Win Settlement in Cases Involving Censorship of Religious References from Valedictory Speeches Student Says Testimony About God Censored From Speech
There are a number of cases of Christian student groups being kicked off college campuses because they refuse to put non-believers in positions of leadership in their organizations, or because they require that members be people of faith. There are many of these incidents. Some of them involve numerous press releases with denials and counter charges that go back and forth. However, I doubt that there would be any back and forth if the initial discrimnatory actions by the universities in question had not been taken.
Discrimination on College Campuses University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club Off Campus Campus Crackdown: Restricting Religious Freedom Vanderbilt Christian Groups, Citing Religious Freedom, Follow Catholics Off Campus Rollins College Boots Student Religious Group Off Campus College Forces Christian Group Off Campus Christian Groups Face Hostility on Campus Universities Across Nation Kick Christian Groups Off Campus Christian Group Kicked Off Campus at Brown University
If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. That’s one of the nifty little sayings pro-abortion advocates are fond of tossing around. However, in real life, they are using political clout with the president to create an abortion hegemony in which organizations, including the Church are forced to refer for abortions or be severely penalized.
The same kind of thing is at work with gay marriage. If you don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t get gay married, the slogan goes. But Christian groups on college campuses are being penalized for following their faith concerning what is rapidly becoming a gay hegemony. At the same time, Catholic adoption agencies in many states have been forced to close because they will not place children with anyone except a married man and woman.
This is militant secularism run amuck. It not only violates the religious freedom of American citizens, it deprives orphan children of loving homes and trafficked women of the help they need to get out of that life and move forward. Here are a few examples I found, again, with a quick google search.
Direct Discrimination Against Churches and Church Ministries Illinois Catholic Charities Closes Adoption Over Rule Same-Sex Law Forces Catholic Charities to Close Adoption Program Bishops Say Rules on Gay Parents Limit Religious Freedom Discrimination Against Catholic Adoption Services Oregon Catholic Charities Loses Grant Because It Will Not Refer for Abortion Kentucky Catholic Charities Shutters Aid to Traffickers Over Refusal to Refer for Abortion
I could go on with this, but I think I’ve made my point. The increasing harassment and move toward overt legal discrimination of Christians is so widespread and has been in the news so often that I honestly believe it is public knowledge. Anyone can find all the cites they want about it in a matter of a few seconds. I’m sure that what I’ve given here are not the best examples. I didn’t aim for that. I literally just took the ones at the top of the many pages of hits I got when I googled. They are also not meant to be comprehensive.
They are indicative. They indicate what is happening and why the concerns of Christians about the rise in overt anti-Christian activity on an official as well as a social level is well-founded. They also indicate a growing problem with how ideas like “inclusion,” “tolerance” and “equality” are being codified and used to create enforcement that produces exclusion, intolerance and inequality for Christians.
After 17 years in political office, I am familiar with many of the tactics political bullies employ.
One of the most commonplace — and effective — is disruption. I’m not sure when this began, but I do know that both the Communists and the Nazis used it to good advantage, and that it then moved onto the scene here in America in the last half of the 20th century.
The methodology is quite simple. Simply go into a meeting, an on-line discussion, a classroom or whatnot and make yelling speeches out of turn, ask strident and abusive questions, call people names and take over the place. Stop other people from talking by shouting them down.
The so-called “new atheists” employ this tactic constantly in on-line spaces where Christians gather. They often swarm on Public Catholic like a bunch of angry wasps. One of the tactics they employ (along with sending me a barrage of name-calling, abusive messages when I won’t allow them to post their name-calling, abusive comments on this blog) is to demand ridiculous levels of “proof” of any statement that anyone makes in favor of Christianity.
If you say that water is wet, they want a cite.
This is both tiresome and diversionary. It pulls the discussion away from the main points of the post in question, and refocuses it on the yelling blather of the disrupter. This is an especially good tactic to employ when you don’t have any valid points to make, as in, say, trying to argue against the simple fact that 20th Century atheist governments murdered many millions of their own citizens.
Just for the fun of it, I tried googling to find a source which gave totals of the people atheist regimes slaughtered in the past century. I found a lot of sites. Interestingly, the totals were pretty much the same, wherever I looked. So, instead of giving you a clickable site for what is common knowledge, I’m going to suggest a book. If you want to learn about deaths under the atheist regimes of communism, go to amazon.com and order this:
If you want to learn about the tactics you’ve seen employed on this and other Christian on-line sites, go to amazon.com and order this:
In the meantime, here are the generally-accepted death counts from atheist regimes of the 20th Century. I think it’s important to note that these figures are the most conservative I could find. For instance, Stalin’s death toll is only for the 1930s.
Hitler is a special case in that he is a right wing rather than a left wing killer. What this means in practice is that Hitler pandered to Christianity in his early rise to power, then took over the churches once he got in power. He enforced this by imprisoning and killing large numbers of bishops and Catholic priests as well as protestants. Anyone who tried to stand for the Gospels in his regime was signing their own death certificate. According to documentaries I’ve seen on the History Channel, Hitler made fun of faith and religious people in private.
In my opinion, claims that Hitler was a Christian at the time he committed these crimes (he may have been as a child, I don’t know) or that Stalin was a Christian, which I’ve also heard, put the claimants in the same intellectual space as holocaust deniers.
Another important point is that most of these deaths were the result of government leaders, killing their own citizens. Again, Hitler is a special case in that he also killed civilians in conquered territories of the Reich. Whether or not this made them citizens is a point of law. I think it does, since he was responsible for their governance.
There are a plethora of places where you can verify these numbers, if you are so-minded.
Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,00 people murdered
Jozef Stalin (USSR 1932-39 only) 15,000,000 people murdered
Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000 people murdered
Kim II Sung (North Korea 1948-94) 1.6 million people murdered
Tito (Yugoslavia 1945-1987) 570,000 people murdered
Suharto (Communists 1967-66) 500,000 people murdered
Ante Pavelic (Croatia 1941-45) 359,000 people murdered
Ho Chi Min (Vietnam 1953-56) 200,000 people murdered
Vladimir Ilich Lenin (USSR, 1917-20) 30,000 people murdered
Adolf Hitler (Germany 1939-1945) 12,000,000 people murdered
That sounds simple enough. But, as usual, when you add politics and questions of power to the discussion, simplicity flies away. Political definitions, especially when they are trying to obscure reality, quickly become something too complicated for ordinary mortals to either understand or take action against.
Persecution, in the hands of politicians, becomes a tiny target that almost no one except the few that the politicians have decided (usually for reasons other than the persecution itself) they want to help. The reason for this is that slippery words like persecution are problems for politicians who hold the responsibility for nations and organizations in their hands.
If the definition of persecution is too easy, then they will find themselves faced with a moral responsibility to act, and actions from political units always mean committing the resources, and sometimes the lives, of their citizenry. Any good government takes care of its own people first. No head of state, either secular or religious, wants his or her options for governance directed by open-ended definitions of words like “persecution.”
This isn’t hubris. It’s necessity. Heads of state have been entrusted with the lives and well-being of their citizens. They cannot commit them wily-nily to the righting of every wrong there is. In the first place, righting every wrong is a practical impossibility. There too many wrongs for any one entity to right, even if that entity is a government. Also, evil and cruelty are hydra-headed. Chop off one evil and two more grow in its place.
Governments are very careful about what they chose to call persecution because persecution is a loaded word that demands a morale response and moral responses lead to demands for action. Actions by government, any government, are big moves that result in endless ripples of effect that can not be either controlled or predicted.
Governments shy away from easy access to their power through words like “persecution.” They create nuances and artificial qualifications in their definitions of the word that force almost all the people who suffer real-life persecution, sometimes even to the death, outside of its meaning.
In this way, they can excuse themselves from becoming ensnared in demands for action against the hydra-headed monster of persecution of innocent people that flares continuously around the globe.
What becomes problematic in this is that they also can try to stop the rest of us from acknowledging the truth of what’s happening, as well. A lot of governments are more afraid of their own people than anything else. The more oppressive a government is, the more this is true.
They do not want their citizens going off and naming persecution as what it is because they fear what might happen if this catches on in the popular imagination. They are afraid of having to act and they fear that people who call things for what they are might involve enough other citizens in their concerns that the demands for action will get out of hand.
This critical balance between necessary government conservatism about committing itself and its citizens to causes, fights, wars and troubles that are not its own, and the clear-cut facts of merciless situations leads to almost laughable twisting and turning of language. People use the tools at their disposal, and government has legal definitions of things at its disposal.
Government can create any definition of any thing that it wants. It can call the mass murder of millions a “final solution.” It can define medical murder as “death with dignity.” It can write definitions with such pinpoint specificity that no one except those it wants to let in will fall under those definitions.
I believe that is what has happened to the word “persecution.” So many people are suffering and dying all around the globe that no government, no entity, can hope to respond to it. If any one government tries, it will end up exhausting its resources and accomplishing nothing.
This is not evil. It is necessity. It is responsible care-taking of the people whose lives are in a specific government’s hands.
However, that does not oblige you and me to go along with these pin-point definitions of persecution which defy common sense and rational thought. We are free to look at reality as it is, without the varnish of legalese. We do not have to accede our personal vision to the blinders that government wears. We can look at things as they are.
Is there Christian persecution in India? Unless a lot of sources from a lot of places are all colluding in a massive confabulation, the answer is yes.
Here are two videos I found on YouTube. The second one is an actual video of an attack on Christians which resulted in their deaths. So be warned, it’s hard to watch and not for everyone, especially children.
Years ago, I had a conversation with a nice woman who held a responsible position in the Episcopalian (or Anglican, as it is called in most countries) missions agency. She kindly agreed to introduce me to several African Anglican bishops. In the course of our conversation, she told me that none of the Christians in the countries where these bishops presided were suffering “pure” persecution, since what they were going through did not come by direct government order. Her contention was that “persecution” could only happen if a government ordered it.
She introduced me to a number of bishops, despite the fact that I did not agree with her on this. They gave me an entirely different story. They had no doubt that what they and their people were undergoing was persecution, many times to the death, for their Christian faith.
One bishop from Northern Nigeria told me that five of his churches had been burned to the ground, that his daughter had been seized, and that a member of one of his parishes was murdered by a mob that put the man over a sawhorse and cut off his head. I can still hear the pain and horror in his voice as he described this to me.
Yet, by the definition I had heard none of this would qualify as persecution.
I had an interesting conversation earlier today with a sophisticated and knowledgeable Catholic who holds the same view. If I understood him correctly, the only persecution that can be officially accepted as such is that which comes as an official action by an official government of the type that occurs in North Korea, Saudi Arabia and China.
I’ve been chewing on this all afternoon. I understand — or at least I think I do — the difference between government-enforced persecution and that which comes from groups of people in a society. There are few things more draconian that government-enforced persecution. However, to label everything that is not government-enforced as “not persecution” just doesn’t jibe with me; not if the horror stories I’ve read and been told are true.
I’ve spent a fair lifetime in the world of political jargoneering, and I have an admittedly cynical view of it. When people parse the meanings of words to avoid the obvious fact that other people are being murdered, it triggers enormous emotional and mental resistance in me.
I tried to find the United Nations definition of persecution by looking online, and all I found were definitions related to refugees. I’ll quote the salient parts as I discuss them.
The first definition, which is a definition of persecution itself, says:
51. … From Article 33 of the 1951 Convention, it may be inferred that a threat to life or freedom on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group is always persecution. Other serious violations of human rights – for the same reasons – would also constitute persecution. (Emphasis mine.)
I’m not versed in International law, but taken on its face, that seems to say that what the bishop from Nigeria described to me, as well as most of the other things I’ve heard and read, fit this definition of persecution.
The second part of the definition goes to what both the two people who think persecution only occurs at the behest of a government are probably referring to:
65. Persecution is normally related to action by the authorities of a country.
However, the same definition goes on to say:
It may also emanate from sections of the population that do not respect the standards established by the laws of the country concerned. A case in point may be religious intolerance, amounting to persecution, in a country otherwise secular, but where sizeable fractions of the population do not respect the religious beliefs of their neighbours. Where serious discriminatory or other offensive acts are committed by the local populace, they can be considered as persecution if they are knowingly tolerated by the authorities, or if the authorities refuse, or prove unable, to offer effective protection.
The violent persecution I’ve described on this blog and heard about in my discussions with people from these countries seems to fit this definition to me.
All this came from a Google search. I may have the wrong definitions. However, it does show that at least part of the United Nations definitions of persecution include situations such as those I have been writing about.
The reason I’m going over this is because I believe that people are being murdered, imprisoned and otherwise mistreated in large parts of the world today because they are Christians. If I am wrong about this, I want to know it.
If, on the other hand, I am right, I intend to persist in calling it out so long as it continues and I am able to say anything about it.
My thoughts run along these lines:
This was not a government action.
But it was persecution.
This is not a government action either.
But it also is persecution.
I am trying to understand how we can work around the intractability of legal definitions which narrow the meaning of persecution to the point that it allows things like these and does not call them by name.
Christian persecution in our world today seems to occur at junctures where competing ideas meet.
In the Middle East, the juncture is mostly between Islam and Christianity. In India, it is mostly between Hinduism and Christianity.
Atheists often claim that if we would just do away with faith, these types of bloody conflicts would end. But the juncture of competing ideas between Atheism and Christianity has proven just as bloody and even more oppressive in every government that has been dominated by atheists and atheist philosophy. Also, the people saying this ignore that they are themselves engaging in hazing, hate speech and other forms of attacks against Christians of a type that always leads to violent persecution if it goes unchecked.
Militant secularism in the West has become just as much a competing idea with Christianity as Islam and Hinduism is in the East. Militant secularists in America and Europe are quite aggressive in their verbal attacks against Christianity and Christians. They also have managed to pass laws which interfere with the practice of Christianity and the freedom of Christian churches to function. This move toward discriminatory laws appears to be gaining momentum as each new law is passed.
The specific junctures where Christianity runs into the most aggressive attacks varies from culture to culture. In the West, the movement right now is to strip Christianity and Christians of legal protections concerning their right to practice their faith, while at the same time creating ever-broadening restrictions on any expression of Christian thinking in public life.
We have prayer bans, attempts to either deface or destroy public monuments that mention God and constant threats and demands aimed at public Christians to refrain from mentioning God in conversation, debate or speeches. By far the most draconian expression of this move to destroy Christian influence in Western society is the HHS Mandate. This is an all-out government attack on the rights of religious institutions to follow the teachings of their faith.
This kind of secularism is distinct from the healthy secular society that most people, including me, support. Healthy secularism keeps government out of faith and allows people space to believe and practice their faith in peace and harmony. Militant secularism, is the antithesis to this.
Its practitioners use the tools of unjust discrimination to further their aims, including hate speech, verbal harassment, shunning, social isolation and legal discrimination to further their goal of driving those who don’t share their ideas from the public sphere. They also show up at religious discussions and try to take over the discussion and hijack the debate, thus making it impossible to religious people to interact in a positive manner. This is especially widespread in on-line discussions such as this blog.
All this tawdry behavior is done in the name of a utopian claim that if only religion were driven from the world, evil would go away along with it. One of the many debating tricks these people use is to hold God (who they say does not exist) guilty for human depravity. Thus, if children die of starvation, they ask why a “god” would allow this. If five men rape and torture a young girl, they condemn god for allowing it, not the five men for doing it.
Underlying this logic is an extreme disrespect for human freedom. This disrespect for human freedom manifests in their attempts to use the law, shunning, slander, and verbal hijacking to silence anyone who speaks about faith. They don’t believe that other ideas should be heard, and they use every tool available to them to stop this from happening. The things they try to blame on God are results of human freedom, used to sinful aims.
The question arises, what if they win? What if they succeed in driving faith and people of faith into intellectual and actual ghettos of silence and subservience? What kind of society will we have where the only people who can hold responsible jobs, ranging from government officials to medical personnel to court typists and clerks, are those who are willing to violate their faith and bend their knee to the secular god of license?
Will our society be better when the Churches either close their hospitals and schools and do away with their charitable organizations or recast those organizations to follow whatever the latest anti-Christian fashion dictates? Will our society improve when religious leaders are silenced and afraid to say one word about what they believe outside their sanctuaries?
Is the key to world peace, prosperity and endless harmony, simply a matter of destroying the civil and human rights of people of faith? That is the basic claim of militant secularists and atheists. Do away with religion and we will do away with sin.
What sort of world will we have if they succeed in their goals? Sadly, we already have a number of examples of what happens when religion is driven to ground in a society. All we have to do is consider the bloodbath of the 20th century. From Stalin to Pol Pot, we have a wide swath of godless governments to chose from in our consideration. If what they offer is utopia, I do not understand the word.
There are two ways of bringing religious faith under the government heel. The first is to suppress it, as the Communists, or those on the left, do. The other is to co-opt it as the Nazis and those on the right do.
If you want to see a fine example of government co-opting Christianity, look no further than the Third Reich. Hitler overtook and controlled Christianity, first by claims of phony fealty, and later by brute force. He didn’t shut down the churches, he twisted them to his own propaganda ends. This is a form of militant secularism that we ignore at our peril. I call it militant secularism because it puts government in control of the churches and destroys them just as surely as the secularism which seeks to end religion.
With either form of militant secularism, we end up with a tyranny of the mind which leads to human beings reduced to chattel which their government may dispose of as they wish. The end result of militant secularism appears to be slavery, misery and mass murder of millions.
Atheist governments are failed experiments in godless goodness. Rather than leading us to a utopia where freedom reigns, they inevitably take us to the pit, where freedom is abolished and murder becomes arbitrary.
Militant secularists promise us a brave new world with lots of drugs, sex and rock and roll. They teach us the moral value of killing and degrading with impunity with their support of abortion, euthanasia and medical experimentation on embryos, “designer” children, farming women for eggs to sell, drive to legalize prostitution and support of pornography. They trample the building blocks of society with their attacks on family and home.
They seek to gain power by selling us on the fun of participating in our own cultural suicide.
But what, when they gain power, do they actually give? A world in which people are without self-discipline is a world that requires severe government discipline. A world in which people do not value any life but their own becomes a world in which no life is safe. A world that admits of no power higher than brute force is a world in which the biggest and the meanest get to make all the rules.
Instead of freedom, the governments we find at the end of this yellow brick road of license are totalitarian and cruel. Instead of being expressions of our liberty, the abortion clinics and on-line sites where women are bought and sold are harbingers of our universal future in this world of godless goodness.
Atheist governments have been tried. Many millions of people have died in their goodness. Millions more have lived their lives as chattel slaves of the state.
It is time we exposed the lies at the core of these promises of a utopia for all of us if we just oppress religious people into silent subservience to the state. They are lies told by liars who are pied pipers of people who want what they want and do not care what or who they destroy to get it.
I admit it.
I don’t have a lot of sympathy for the three priests and one former priest who torpedoed Cardinal Keith O’Brien.
For those who don’t know, Cardinal O’Brien was an outspoken opponent of the move to redefine traditional marriage. In what appears to at least some people to be a hit job, three priests and one former priest came forward recently with accusations that the Cardinal had made passes at them 30 years ago. All of these men were adults when this is supposed to have happened. One of them even admits that the passes occurred after “late-night drinking.”
They also admit that this occurred over 30 years ago in 1980.
So, other than indicating that Cardinal O’Brien attempted to commit sexual sin with another adult in 1980, when he was not a cardinal or even a bishop, what does all this mean?
It means that a vigorous voice in support of traditional marriage has been silenced at a critical point in the debate. It also means that the British Isles will have no representative in the upcoming election of the next pope.
I do not want to give the impression that I think that what then Father O’Brien did was right.
However, as I have said in other posts, just about any woman in public life could make similar accusations against numerous powerful men. If you want to go back 30 years for these things, I doubt very much that there is a man in public life who could emerge from that kind of open season on their past unscathed. I also don’t think that many women would be in such good shape if you drug out every stupid thing we ever did or said in the name of sexual attraction and then declaimed it as unforgivable.
The last thing I feel like doing is to go into a faint and start fanning myself like Aunt Pittypat from Gone With the Wind over news that priests, bishops and, yes, cardinals, have committed sins at some time in their lives. My basic reaction to all this is, “where’s the beef?” Or, maybe I should say, “What’s the beef?”
I am not dismayed or scandalized to learn that leaders in the Church have committed sins. I expect that this is true of every single person on this planet.
There is a world of difference between a drunken priest making a pass at another adult and a bishop or cardinal transferring child molesters around, thereby enabling them to continue molesting children. If you don’t see that, then I don’t think I’m going to try to explain it to you.
One of the more predictable bits of commentary about Cardinal O’brien’s very public disgrace has been that he is a “hypocrite,” since it appears that he is gay and at least somewhat actively so, while he speaks against gay marriage.
This raises a question that has bemused me for a while. The whole basis of this contention about the Cardinal’s “hypocrisy” seems to be founded on the idea that if a person is homosexual, then they must be in favor of gay marriage and if they say otherwise, they are lying. I think this contention is inaccurate.
Christians often have to chose between what members of “their” group want and following the Gospel. These choices are painful. They frequently result in bitter accusations of betrayal and hypocrisy directed at the Christian by their former friends.
I don’t know Cardinal O’brien, but I do know many gay people, some of whom are deeply committed followers of Christ. At this point in history homosexuals’ standing under the law is in flux. When the question concerns things like civil rights, there is no conflict for a homosexual and their Christian beliefs. In fact, Christianity is, or should be, their strongest advocate.
But the question of gay marriage puts homosexual Christians to the test. If they are a priest or someone else in Christian leadership, the conflict will be even sharper for them simply because they can not sidestep it. They will have to chose between following Christ in matters such as the legal definition of marriage and following the gay community, and they will have to do it publicly.
Before anyone goes off and throws a pity party for homosexual Christians, I would like you to consider the challenges that women face in their fealty to Christ. The whole question of abortion balances on the shoulders of young women, many of whom are in desperate situations and who were brought to this pass by brutality and misogyny which is often ignored and allowed by various religious leaders. Yet women who follow Christ may not, can not, advocate for the killing of innocents. We are forced instead to advocate for an end to the brutality of abortion and at the same time work for an end to the brutality of misogyny.
That can be difficult, but it is our call as Christian women.
In a similar fashion, Christians who are also homosexuals are called to live out their Christian walk as people who have been the objects of discrimination but who may not take the easy route of following the crowd as they work against this discrimination. They must, like all the rest of us, chose Christ.
It just doesn’t jibe with me that every person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction must, by definition, think and behave exactly like every other person who experiences same-sex sexual attraction. It certainly does not apply to Christians, who must, by definition, be the change agents for the Gospel in a fallen world.
The way that fits Cardinal O’brien’s situation, as well as every other priest, is that whether or they are homosexual or heterosexual, they must be priests and Christians first. It is not hypocrisy for a priest to follow the teachings of his Church. I think it would be hypocrisy for him to do otherwise.
I am not defending Cardinal O’brien. I don’t know him. I don’t know his accusers. I am aware that, as often happens, there may be other charges that come to the fore that change my evaluation of him.
However, as of now, I do not see him as a hypocrite. I see him as a human being who has sinned, but who has also remained faithful to his charge as an officer of the Church.
Every single human being sins. Sexual sin, simply because the temptations are so powerful and universal, are the downfall of many people. However, in my opinion (and this is just my opinion, not any Church teaching) sexual sin like this, which involves adults in a consenting situation, is perhaps one of the most understandable of sins, coming as it does from our longing to love and be loved.
Is a homosexual priest who follows the teachings of the Church concerning marriage a hypocrite who deserves to be pilloried and disgraced? Absolutely not.
If the men who made these accusations against Cardinal O’brien were, indeed, politically motivated, they were successful. They have done much harm to the cause of traditional marriage in Britain. They have also made certain that someone who supports Church teaching will not take part in the election of the next pope.
If that was their motivation, they need to look at themselves as people. I am appalled by the tactics the gay rights movement sometimes uses in their fight to redefine marriage. If that is what they did, then I would say that Cardinal O’brien is something of a social martyr for the Church.
A Telegraph news article about Cardinal O’brien’s situation says in part:
The Cardinal Keith O’Brien Downfall video had been ready to run for ages. The story of three priests and one ex-priest complaining of inappropriate behaviour was timed to break when the Scottish prelate retired at 75 next month. The aim was to expose his alleged hypocrisy. To quote our blogger Stephen Hough, responding in the comments to his blog post yesterday, “I’m convinced that what he did (if he did it) was harmless enough, but he may not have thought it harmless if he’d caught other priests doing it … at least until this week.” If the scandal had come to light next month, that would have been nicely timed to ruin the Cardinal’s reputation just when the media would be running retrospective pieces about him. And, of course, it would throw a spotlight on O’Brien’s passionate opposition to gay marriage, effectively silencing the Scottish Catholic Church on this subject, and probably the Church in the rest of Britain, too.
What no one could have guessed is that Pope Benedict would resign, meaning that Cardinal O’Brien would be the only Briton with a vote in the next conclave. The Observer story was brought forward, with devastating results. The four complainants had the good sense – and, arguably, the courage – to inform the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Mennini, of their claims. (Mennini, it should be noted, is not in the pocket of the British bishops to the extent that previous ambassadors have been.) So the Vatican already had a file on Britain’s senior Catholic churchman, and Pope Benedict, on being informed of its contents, decided to bring forward O’Brien’s resignation as Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. In other words, the alleged victims of these inappropriate acts were helped by something that the Church’s critics have often refused to recognise: Joseph Ratzinger’s determination to purify the Church of sex abuse, right up until the last week of his pontificate. (Read more here.)
Supporters of traditional marriage are showing up to march all over the world.
Paris saw two enormous marches for marriage this past year. The last one drew close to a million people. Puerto Ricans joined in February 18 when more what media experts estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people marched for marriage. This is an enormous showing on an island with a population of only 3.5 million.
Despite this, the news coverage outside the religious press was scanty to non-existent.
It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. Be there, or be square.
A CNA article describing the march says in part:
The president of the United Ministry for the Family, Dr. Cesar Vasquez Muniz, said the demonstration came about “in response to threats against marriage and the family.”
The march “is an act to defend our rights and protect children,” he said.
Bishop Daniel Fernandez Torres of Arecibo, who took part in the pro-family march, said that when a society dismantles the traditional family, it is destined for ruin and destruction.
A parallel march organized by gay advocates attracted just hundreds of attendees, according to local media reports.
Puerto Rico’s Senate and House of Representatives are currently debating measures that would legalize gay unions, allow same-sex couples to adopt and change the curriculum relating to gender that is taught in schools.
Organizers of the march said the proposals constitute “a legislative attack against our freedom of conscience, freedom of expression and of religion.”
The passage of these measures would lay the foundation for legal discrimination against the Church and Christians, they said, and would lead to the marginalization of Christian values from the laws that govern the island.
It’s time for Americans to join in and do our part. The March for Marriage will be March 26, in Washington DC. For more information, go here.
Be there, or be square.
Nuns and brothers who took their perpetual vows in 2012 are mature adults with work experience who come from Catholic families.
That’s the basic result of a survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The survey shows that today’s newly professed religious are well-educated, individuals who have had to overcome discouragement from others in seeking a vocation to religious life.
One thing that interested me is that age appears to be no impediment for many of these people, since the oldest woman was 66 at the time she professed her perpetual vows and two of the men were over 60. I had always heard that no one who was over 40 could enter religious life. It appears I was wrong.
I think this is great news for people who have come to know Jesus later in life and who feel the call to live out their days as vowed members of a religious community. It is particularly important for women.
In a world where the enslavement and trafficking of women and children is growing apace with rape as an instrument of war and the use of child soldiers, the voice of strong Christian women is badly needed.
The Church needs nuns.
There is a female viewpoint that must be present when dealing with crimes against women and children. Also, many times, women are the only ones who can gain the trust and cooperation of severely victimized people.
I pray for women religious to step up to this challenge. They are so needed.
Here are a few facts from the survey that stood out to me. You can read the entire survey here.
The average age of newly professed women is 40, while the average of men is 39. Eighty-give percent of the respondents are cradle Catholics. Seventy-eight percent come from families in which both parents are Catholic. Ninety-six percent of them have at least one brother or sister; 45% have four or more siblings.
This is a highly educated group of people. Twenty-two percent have a graduate level degree with 60% having a bachelor’s degree. Eight-two percent of them had worked before entering religious life. Eighty-eight percent had participated in ministry activities before entering and 95% had regularly participated in private prayer activity. Sixty-nine percent had participated in Eucharistic Adoration.
Seventy-four percent of the respondents said that they were discouraged from entering religious life by one of more persons. Women were more likely than men to report that they had encountered discouragement about considering a vocation. Men were more likely than the women to be encouraged by their parish priests to think of religious life as a life’s vocation.
The youngest sister or nun was 23 at the time of her profession, while the oldest was 66 years of age. Eight women professed perpetual vows at age 60 or older. The youngest brother was 25 and the oldest is 62. Two of the men are age 60 or older.
Deacon Greg Kandra, who always has the story, published a recent post about a priest in San Francisco who removed the portrait of Pope Benedict XVI because members of the parish complained that they felt hurt by things the Holy Father had said about LGBTQ people.
The priest said he was “saddened” by this, but removed the portrait. In his letter to the parish, he wrote about people who “will not accept us as we are” and what we should do about them. His letter asked parishioners to “forgive” the pope, as if the pope had sinned by refusing to back down on Church teachings.
While I have not read every word Pope Benedict wrote, I have read quite a few of his statements on the question of gay marriage and the responsibilities of political office holders. None of the things I read said anything condemning homosexual people. So far as I know, the Holy Father has always supported the simple truth that homosexuals are human beings, made in the image and likeness of God and that they are precious in His sight.
Despite this, I admit that some of what I read was hard for me to accept. I had gay friends who meant a lot to me and I did not want to disappoint them by failing to support gay marriage. I wrestled with this, prayed about it and engaged in lots of long talks with my pastor over it. It was a tough one for me.
I ultimately decided that I have proven to myself by my past actions that I can not be the arbiter of what is morally right. I do not have the wisdom. I have made egregious mistakes that resulted in great harm to other people by assuming that I knew more about right and wrong than 2,000 years of Christian teaching.
It was not an easy step for me, but I realized that the only way to follow Jesus is to “trust and obey.” What that means for me, as well as for any other Catholic, is that I follow the teachings of the Church. What has happened since I made the decision to bow my head and stop trying to be my own pope is that I have found that the Church proves itself right in the long run. I may have difficulty with a particular teaching at first. I may be so deeply embedded in the world’s reasoning that what the Church says seems upside down to me at first. But I have learned that this is the nature of following Christ.
Jesus’ teachings have always seemed upside down to the world. I believe that is a natural outgrowth of seeing things through eternal eyes versus seeing them with our temporal, fallen vision. It you follow Jesus, you will often be at odds with the world. If you follow Jesus, you will often find yourself practicing one kind of self-denial or another. It may be that you find yourself denying your own selfish impulses to take the easy way out to instead follow Jesus through the narrow way. It may be that you have to go against the popular reasoning and place yourself at odds with the people around you.
This can cost you a great deal. It can cost you your friends, your comfort level with other people, even your job or livelihood. But if you persist in denying Christ with the words you say and the things you do you will inevitably come to a point where you have denied Him in total. You will no longer be His follower. You will be the world’s thingy person. The cost of that is your soul.
The priest in Deacon Greg’s post missed an incredible opportunity to stand for Christ. He side-stepped a chance to express his vows to the Church in living action in front of the people of his parish. I am sure there would have been painful consequences if he had done this. But I am equally certain that he would have been a much better priest and a much better witness for Christ if he had.
We are not called to duck and cover when the going gets tough for Christians. We are called to persist in following Him, come what may, until the end.
A priest who sidesteps this responsibility and in essence gives people support in their sins is not functioning as their shepherd. Instead of protecting them from the wolves of a culture that tells them their sins are not sins and they can do whatever they want and God Himself is wrong if He disagrees with them, this priest joined that culture and supported it in its contentions.
Gay people are human beings. There is nothing wrong with being a homosexual person. Nothing. Homosexuals are just people who are slightly different from heterosexuals, and that difference is not something that interferes with their functioning as productive people. However, some of the things that homosexual people do are wrong. I’m not going to be specific here, because I am not their priest and it is not my job.
But if it was my job, I would hope that I did not fail them by encouraging them to think that their sins don’t matter. That is not tolerance. It is, in fact the ultimate cruelty. It leads people away from God in the name of God. It is clerical malpractice.
For a Catholic priest to take down the portrait of the pope because parishioners don’t like things the pope has said concerning their sins, is weak in the extreme. Poor, sad priest. Poor, sad parishioners who have such a shepherd.
Click here throughout the Year of Faith, as the Catholic Channel at Patheos.com invites Catholics of every age and stripe to share what they are gleaning and carrying away from this gift of timely focus.