The Drumbeats of Persecution and the Dawn of the New Missionary Age
By Deacon Keith A. Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"...the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God." John 16:2
I see the dawning of a new missionary age, which will become a radiant day bearing an abundant harvest, if all Christians, and missionaries and young churches in particular, respond with generosity and holiness to the calls and challenges of our time. (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 92)
At least for many peoples, however, the present time is instead marked by a formidable challenge to undertake a 'new evangelization,' a proclamation of the Gospel which is always new and always the bearer of new things, an evangelization which must be new in its ardor, methods and expression. (Pope John Paul II, The Splendor of Truth, 106)
I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission "ad gentes". No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples. (Pope John Paul II, Mission of the Redeemer, 3)
Our neighbors to the North have followed the pied pipers, the new cultural alchemists. They have attempted, by legislative fiat, to turn the relationship between homosexual paramours into a "marriage" like the alchemists of old attempted to change impure metals into gold. They have done so with the might of the State behind them. Sadly, this will only result in a further unraveling of peace and injury to the common good in Canada.
It may also signal a shift for the continuing mission of the Church in this neo-pagan age. As she remains faithful to the truth about the dignity of every human life and the ontology of true marriage, the Catholic Church is being viewed as a looming threat to those who continue the ill-fated and sad attempts at this "new" (actually very old) Cultural Revolution. Proclaiming their efforts as somehow moving Canadian society forward to some perceived "liberation", they are in fact moving it backward to precisely the kind of debased and deformed vision of a former pre-Christian paganism.
Lifesite News, an excellent source of news for Christians, other people of faith and all people of good will, reported the following:
"On July 19, Canada's national public radio CBC Radio (has) aired a commentary by a retired professor from the Royal Military College calling for state control over religion, specifically Catholicism. While parliamentarians dismissed warnings by numerous religious leaders and experts that such laws would lead to religious persecution, former professor Bob Ferguson has called for "legislation to regulate the practice of religion."
"Given the inertia of the Catholic Church, perhaps we could encourage reform by changing the environment in which all religions operate," Ferguson began his commentary in measured tones yesterday. "Couldn't we insist that human rights, employment and consumer legislation apply to them as it does other organizations? Then it would be illegal to require a particular marital status as a condition of employment or to exclude women from the priesthood. "
Ferguson continued, "Of course the Vatican wouldn't like the changes, but they would come to accept them in time as a fact of life in Canada. Indeed I suspect many clergy would welcome the external pressure."
The former professor pitched his idea as a boon to religious freedom. "We could also help the general cause of religious freedom by introducing a code of moral practice for religions," he said. "They will never achieve unity so why not try for compatibility? Can't religious leaders agree to adjust doctrine so all religions can operate within the code?"
Ferguson, would see religion regulated by provinces in the same way professions are regulated. "I am an engineer so the model I am thinking about is rather like the provincial acts regulating the practice of engineering," he said. "For example, engineers must have an engineering degree from a recognized university or pass qualification exams. They must have a number of years of practical experience and pass an ethics exam. The different branches: mechanical, electrical, civil and the like have a code of practice that applies to everyone. Why can't religious groups do the same?"
Continuing his comparison Ferguson stated, "I envisage a congress meeting to hammer out a code that would form the basis of legislation to regulate the practice of religion. Like the professional engineers' P.Eng designation, there would then be RRPs (or registered religious practitioners). To carry the analogy to its conclusion, no one could be a religious practitioner without this qualification."
Ferguson also suggests 'obvious' prohibitions on religion including preaching of 'hate'. "I won't try to propose what might be in the new code except for a few obvious things: A key item would have to be a ban on claims of exclusivity. It should be unethical for any RRP to claim that theirs was the one true religion and believers in anything else or nothing were doomed to fire and brimstone. One might also expect prohibition of ritual circumcisions, bans on preaching hate or violence, the regulation of faith healers, protocols for missionary work, etc.," says Ferguson.
The retired professor concluded his comments aired on CBC yesterday morning saying, "Now what is the point of proposing this? I do it because I am worried that the separation between church and state is under threat. Religion is important in our lives, but it can become a danger to society when people claim that the unalterable will of God is the basis for their opinions and actions. Yes religion can be a comfort and a guide, but we cannot take rules from our holy books and apply them to the modern world without democratic debate and due regard for the law."
Wow! I can hear the drumbeats. They are growing louder in Canada. However, they have also been heard in America for quite sometime now; at least by those who have ears to hear.
Last year, 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 either did not understand the theological teaching of her own Church concerning the reception of the Sacrament we call the Eucharist or was intentionally attempting to confuse the public by misrepresenting that teaching. The article read as though she was theologically informed, 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 dissented from the teaching of the Catholic Church and actually tried to change it by using a public forum to articulate her own agenda and make it sound "learned" so as to confuse others. This is called scandal and it is a serious matter in Catholic moral teaching.
That author and some other either misinformed, poorly catechized or dissident Catholics have been engaged in continuing willful acts of scandal. In a section entitled "Respect for the souls of others" the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains scandal:
2284 Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads another to do evil. The person who gives scandal becomes his neighbor's tempter. He damages virtue and integrity; he may even draw his brother into spiritual death. Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense.
2285 Scandal takes on a particular gravity by reason of the authority of those who cause it or the weakness of those who are scandalized. It prompted our Lord to utter this curse: "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea."86 Scandal is grave when given by those who by nature or office are obliged to teach and educate others. Jesus reproaches the scribes and Pharisees on this account: he likens them to wolves in sheep's clothing.87
2286 Scandal can be provoked by laws or institutions, by fashion or opinion.
Therefore, they are guilty of scandal, who establish laws or social structures leading to the decline of morals and the corruption of religious practice, or to "social conditions that, intentionally or not, make Christian conduct and obedience to the Commandments difficult and practically impossible."88 This is also true of business leaders who make rules encouraging fraud, teachers who provoke their children to anger, 89 or manipulators of public opinion who turn it away from moral values.
2287 Anyone who uses the power at his disposal in such a way that it leads others to do wrong becomes guilty of scandal and responsible for the evil that he has directly or indirectly encouraged. "Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!"90
Catholics who knowingly and willfully dissent from the teaching of the Catholic Church on the dignity of every human life and the truth about marriage, and use their position in an effort to undermine the Church and her vital role in this age, ought to heed these clear warnings. They participate in the sin of scandal when they lead others to do wrong.
The same week that I read that article, I debated 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 turned 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, insisted on coming forward to receive the Sacrament of "full communion" knowing full well that they were not in full communion. By taking this approach, they put the Clergy of their own Church in a very tenuous position.
Above her protestations I pointed to 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 were 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 debate for Catholics. Catholics in public life who politically support the intrinsic evil of procured abortion as a legal "right", while professing something different in their identification with the Catholic faith, need to repent, go to confession, and act in a manner consistent with the truth both privately and publicly.
Then, while they seek to align their life with the truth and give their full religious assent of mind and will to the teaching of their Church, they should refrain from receiving the Sacrament of Full Communion. Out of a concern for their fellow Catholics as well as their own public Catholic witness, they should also refrain from receiving the Sacrament in order to avoid causing grave scandal to the faithful. At least until they are back in full communion with their Church. 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 own 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, at least some persist in an intransigent manner. The hostility that they have unleashed against the Catholic Church is growing. 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 communion), 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.
As we enter into the next National election cycle, I expect the efforts to attack the Catholic Church to accelerate. During the last cycle, 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". 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. The good Bishop was simply teaching what the Church has always proclaimed. He showed pastoral concern for the souls of the faithful in his care.
"Americans United" argued, 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. It was not. This approach signaled 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 specific political candidates. So, the new enforcers of the Culture of death and the champions of the new cultural alchemy are beginning to lay a new foundation in their efforts to silence the Catholic Church. They may soon accuse orthodox, faithful Catholics and other Christians 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, leveled against the early Christians, of "Hatred of the Human Race" was directed by those within an ancient Rome which had lost its respect for the dignity of all human life while claiming to be enlightened. They practiced primitive forms of abortion as well as "exposure", the killing of unwanted newborns. Additionally, the Emperor Nero in the first-century A.D. was not only overt in his homosexual relationships but sought to make them normative in the empire, to give an equal status between homosexual relationships and true marriage. First and Second century Rome was one of the first mission fields of the early Christian Church. It proclaimed itself the shining example to the world of its age while it embraced debauchery.
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. They simply did not want to hear these Christians and their opposition to abortion and the practice of "exposure" (the killing of newborns). Their infatuation with hedonism was also threatened by these 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 these Christians to the dignity of every human person as well as the witness of their faithful monogamous marriages - eventually - transformed ancient Rome. But it was not without hostility. So it will 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) cannot and will not waver on these issues. By their lives and their words Christians always speak truth to unbridled power. They also expose the lies of any libertine counterfeit of authentic freedom.
We are called to build a culture of life and a civilization of love in our day. We cannot support the efforts to give promiscuous heterosexual or homosexual relationships the same status as monogamous marriage, period. When such practices become enforced by the civil law of the State, we must be ready to experience hostility in opposing such laws proposing a better way. In so doing, we may also become more and more annoying to some as the West proceeds on a march toward a new paganism.
Out in front, speaking truth and refusing to worship the golden calf are faithful, orthodox Catholics who 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." However, the signs seem to be growing in our midst that some proponents of the new Cultural Revolution may seek to come into our sanctuaries and attempt to force adherence to their versions of acceptable practices. The news out of Canada is foreboding.
The letter to Diognetus also contained these insightful words:"... what the soul is in the body that the Christians are in the world." Those of who insist on remaining faithful as Christians (Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox) will not retreat because we are the soul of the world. Our obligation is to stand for truth. That position has never been comfortable. That's why we have as our sign a cross. We must now stand for the truth concerning marriage - and the family founded upon it - just as we stand for the truth concerning the dignity of every human life, from conception to natural death. Our position is the opposite of hatred of the human race. It is borne out of a love for the dignity of all men and women in their person, their bodies, and their families. It expresses our hope to see them experience authentic human freedom and flourishing.
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 the Church stands for. Pray for those deluded by the siren song of Neo-Paganism. Pray for our beloved America. Pray, for Canada. Pray for the West. Pray for the world. Pray that the Lord who established the Church and poured out His Holy Spirit upon her will send forth a fresh outpouring of His Holy Spirit as she enters into and engages this struggle.
May the Drumbeats of Persecution signal the dawn of the New Missionary Age.
Deacon Fournier is a Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia. He holds degrees from the Franciscan University of Steubenville, the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University and the University Of Pittsburgh School Of Law. He serves as the Senior Editor of Catholic Online and a Contributing Editor of Traditional Catholic Reflections and Reports. He is also the associate Director of Deacons in the Service of Life.
Third Millennium, LLC
http://www.catholic.org VA, US
Deacon Keith Fournier - Deacon, 757 546-9580
persecution and mission
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