The Beginning of a Persecution Against Catholics is also the Beginning of a new Missionary Age.
By Rev. Mr. Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
On the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord I read an article in my local newspaper, the Virginian Pilot, entitled "Catholic Church officials should Not Use the Altar as a Battlefield." The article was written by a Catholic attorney who did not understand the theological teaching of her own Church concerning the reception of the Sacrament we call the Eucharist. Oh, the article read as though she did, citing sources from the rich tradition that is Catholic Christian theology. However, as lawyers can do so well, she cited them in a manner that was completely incorrect. She did not agree with the teaching of her own Church and sought to change it by using a public forum to articulate her own agenda and make it sound "learned".
This author and others like her are engaged in a form of "guerilla war", theologically disagreeing with their own Church and using public forums to do so. That same week, I was invited to debate Linda Pieczynski, a leader of "Call to Action", (a dissident Catholic group) on a Public Radio Station, WHY in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the discussion I noted that it is not the Clergy who are turning the issue of receiving communion into a political battlefield but rather some Catholic politicians who, though holding open positions in complete opposition to the teaching of their own Church, insist on coming forward to receive the Sacrament of "full communion" knowing full well that they are not in full communion. By taking this approach, they have put the Clergy of their Church in a very tenuous position.
Above the protestations of this Catholic belonging to the dissident group "Call to Action", I pointed out the clear language found in the pertinent Canon Law of the Catholic Church (Canon 915 in the West with a parallel Canon in the Eastern Code) which not only addresses those who are excommunicate but also those who obstinately "persist in grave sin" - which is what these politicians are doing. The teaching of the Catholic Church on the inviolable dignity of every human person from conception to natural death and the absolute intrinsically evil nature of every procured abortion is beyond dispute. Catholics in public life who politically support this intrinsic evil, as a legal "right", while professing something different in their identification with the Catholic faith, need to repent, go to confession, and then act in a manner consistent with the truth both privately and publicly.
They should also refrain from receiving the Sacrament of Full Communion until they are back in full communion with their Church. Out of a concern for their fellow Catholics as well as their own public witness, they should refrain from receiving the Sacrament in order to avoid causing grave scandal to the faithful. Finally, out of respect for the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, the hierarchy of the Church, they should act with both religious and personal integrity and stop fomenting dissension and public confusion concerning this matter. It is their public behavior that has occasioned their own breaking of communion and they should not add to a growing "feeding frenzy" by turning to public forums in an attempt to change the unchangeable teaching of their Church. Yet, they have done just that and the hostility they have unleashed against the catholic Church is growing.
The altar is NOT the battlefield; it is the place of safety, love and welcome for all who approach in full communion. The real war is being waged in the first home of the whole human race, the womb. The weapons being used on our first neighbors in the womb are chemical agents, instruments of torture and the errant sanctioning of the taking of human life as a legal "right." Now, a new "thought police" from a growing culture of death and instrumentalism, are using a new "fifth column" (a portion of a co-operative Press that has lost all sense of objectivity) to attempt to obfuscate the issue.
Masterfully, a propaganda effort is underway to make the Catholic Church and her leaders look as though they are "forcing" their position on others. When, in fact, it is dissident Catholics (and others) who are attempting to force their own beliefs on the Church through the use of calculated public efforts and the power of an increasingly hostile State.When I returned to my home office that evening, I had three very disturbing messages on my phone. They were all from a "fellow Catholic" who expressed disdain, rage and intent to physically harm me. The hostility and rage in the voice of this caller were palpable.
The clear, consistent and unbroken teaching of the Catholic Church is that the reception of the Eucharist is reserved not only to Catholics (and Orthodox in proper circumstances), but that the reception of communion connotes that the one coming forward to receive is in a "state of grace" (free from serious sin) and in "full communion" with all that the Catholic Church teaches. Though some other Christian communities practice what they call "open communion" (which to them means that all are invited to the sacrament), the Catholic Church has never done so. In fact, when Christians from other communities attend a Catholic Liturgy, they are welcomed to fully participate in the Liturgy of the Word, but are respectfully asked NOT to receive communion precisely because to do so means that they fully and completely assent to all that the "Teaching Office" of the Catholic Church teaches to be true.
As someone who has worked for decades in authentic ecumenical work concerning the fundamental human rights issue of our age, the right to life of every human person, I fully understand the implications of this teaching. It breaks my heart that Christians are not all in "full communion" with one another and thus able to partake of the one Eucharist. I pray that, even in my lifetime, we will find that full communion restored. However, until then, as a Catholic Christian, I believe that this Sacrament is the Sacrament of "full communion" and the sad fact is that the Body of Christ is divided.
I have had painful experiences with other Christians with whom I have worked on vital issues concerning basic human rights and social justice struggles over the years regarding this distinctive Catholic teaching on the nature of the Eucharist as the Sacrament of full communion. In fact, some of my most painful memories from the nineteen- nineties stem from when I had to decline from participating in communion with an evangelical leader with whom I once worked because of my deeply held beliefs as a Catholic Christian. He did not understand and was offended by my actions. Perhaps, years later, seeing the growing storm clouds on the horizon over this issue, this passionately pro-life Protestant leader might understand a little bit more. At least I hope so.
Now, this morning, as I prepared to celebrate the Birthday of the Church, the great Feast of Pentecost, the word comes from Chicago, that another group of dissident Catholics intends to politicize the Altar. "Rainbow Sash", an openly homosexual group that completely rejects the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of and Divine design for human sexuality, including sexual expression as reserved for a chaste marriage, intends to present themselves for communion in Chicago and other Catholic Churches throughout the Nation. Their purpose is very clear. They want to disrupt services in order to publicly disagree with the Church that they profess to be members of so as to force their worldview and practices on the Catholic Hierarchy and the Catholic Church. They will not succeed.
Make no mistake; though these actions have begun with dissident Catholics, their intent and potential reach goes much further. They may signal a coming persecution against Catholics. That is something that other Christians; other people of faith and all people of good will need to pay very close attention to.
This past week, the Internal Revenue Service was asked by a group that is hostile to the Catholic Church and many other religious groups, "Americans United for the Separation of Church and State" to investigate whether the Roman Catholic Diocese of Colorado Springs somehow violated the law by "endorsing political candidates". What happened? Colorado Catholic Bishop Michael J. Sheridan wrote a pastoral letter warning that Catholics who voted for candidates who favored abortion rights, stem cell research, homosexual "marriage" or euthanasia were putting their salvation at risk and should refrain from taking communion.
Well, the Bishop is simply teaching what the Church has always proclaimed. He is showing concern for the souls of the faithful in his care. "Americans United" is now attempting to argue, much as my opponent on National Public Radio tried to argue, that the bishop's letter was effectively a command to vote in a certain manner. This approach signals a new tactic in an ever-increasing effort to silence the Catholic Church and other faithful Christian Churches. The I.R.S. prohibits churches and other nonprofit groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates. So, you see what the new enforcers of the Culture of death are attempting to do? They are beginning to lay a new foundation in their efforts to silence the catholic Church. They will accuse Catholics of being poor citizens.
This insidious tactic is not without historic precedent in the 2000 year history of the Christian Church. In 1999, Evangelical theologian, Harold O.J. Brown of the Howard Center for the Family, Religion and Society noted a "similarity between the way the Roman authorities charged Christians of that era with "odium humani generis" [hatred of the human race] and the way the political and media establishment charge contemporary Christians with creating a "climate of hate." This charge against the early Christians of "Hatred of the Human Race!" was leveled by some within another culture that had lost its respect for the dignity of all human life while claiming to be enlightened. That empire was First and Second century Rome. It proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age.
A giant of the Christian people, the "Saint of Calcutta," Mother Theresa, first proclaimed the connection between the growing violence in America with abortion and euthanasia, a connection that many hate to mention because it is, after all, politically incorrect. Fortunately, like all true prophets, she didn't bend truth to popularity. She prophetically warned that a "Culture of Violence" is unleashed when we lose respect for the dignity of all human life, especially the ones she called the "poorest of the poor," the innocent pre-born children. Her prophetic words and life still speak loudly from the grave.
In an eerie parallel, the history of ancient Rome reveals that the hostility toward the Christians grew as the citizens of this once great empire continued in their own spiraling moral decline. The citizens of proud Rome simply did not want to hear these Christians with their opposition to abortion and the practice of "exposure" (the killing of newborns), which abounded in their culture. Their infatuation with hedonism was threatened by those Christians' insistence on monogamy and the family as the first society and foundation of civilization.
One of the ancient Christian manuscripts from that age, written to a pagan inquirer, spoke of the distinctly different practices of the Christians:
"They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land. They marry like all others and beget children but they do not expose (kill or abandon) their offspring. Their board they spread for all, but not their bed."
The unwavering commitment of faithful Christians to the dignity of every human person and the witness of their family life eventually won the day and transformed ancient Rome. But it was not without hostility. So it will be once again. Only in the last 30 years has any faithful Christian, or Christian church or communion claimed any other position but that which is now called "pro-life and pro-family." Faithful Christians (Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox) will not waver on these issues because they flow from the heart of the Christian faith and worldview.
By their lives and their words Christians must always speak truth to unbridled power. In doing so they will expose the lies of a libertine counterfeit of authentic freedom. Why? Because they know that true freedom is never free. They follow the One who purchased it with the shedding of His precious blood. It comes with an obligation to defend the dignity of every human person. And while insisting on that foundational principle, they must also insist that the protection and promotion of the family only promotes the "common good" of every society. Though they respect the dignity of every person, Christians simply must not support the efforts to give promiscuous heterosexual or homosexual relationships the same status as monogamous marriage.
So the possibility arises once again; Christians may simply become more and more annoying as American history seems to be proceeding on an eerie parallel with ancient Rome. Apparently, out in front are Catholics who still insist that there truly are moral truths and that the hierarchy of the Church must insist upon them. So far the American regime has not charged them with "hatred of the human race." They have simply been branded "extremist" and "intolerant." But the signs seem to be growing in our midst that the proponents of the new Cultural Revolution intend to come into our sanctuaries and attempt to force adherence to their versions of acceptable practices.
The very same ancient manuscript cited above, "the letter to Diognetus," bears these insightful words:"... what the soul is in the body, that the Christians are in the world." Those of us who insists on remaining faithful as Christians (Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox) simply cannot retreat. Our obligation is to stand in solidarity with every human person and it requires that we stand for the truth. That position has never been comfortable. That's why we have as our sign a cross.
Our position is the opposite of hatred of the human race. It is love for the dignity of all men and women in their person, their bodies, their families, and their right to authentic human freedom. I encourage all my readers to pray. Pray for the leaders of the Catholic Church who have been signaled out by an increasingly hostile and vocal group who hate what that Church stands for. Pray for those deluded by the siren song of Neo-Paganism. Pray for our beloved Nation. Pray, on this great day when so many Christians celebrate the first Pentecost (even as faithful Jews end their own celebration of Pentecost) that the loving God of all men and women (even those who reject Him) will send forth a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit to stem the growing hostility toward truth and bring about a true renewal of the Church as she enters into and engages this new missionary age. Perhaps the beginning of a persecution against Catholics is simply the Beginning of a new Missionary Age. Let it begin. Come, Holy Spirit.
Deacon Keith Fournier is a married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, who also serves the Melkite Greek Catholic Church with approval. He is a human rights lawyer and a graduate of the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University, Franciscan University of Steubenville and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He the founder and Thomas More Fellow of the Common Good Movement and was a co-founder of Your Catholic Voice.
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