October 27, 2013

October 27, 2013 Column Father De Celles

Persecution of Christians. Whether by the laws of governments, or the bullying voices of the media, or the bloody attacks by both governments and other religions, the persecution of Christianity is growing throughout the world.

Most frightening is the dramatic increase in violent persecution. Three weeks ago Taliban suicide bombers killed 85 worshippers at All Saints’ church in Pakistan. Two months ago Islamists attacked 63 churches in Egypt. Last month Syrian Christians begged President Obama not to bomb President Assad, because he is their only protection from the Islamist rebels. I could go on and on.

Yet the media and our government has been mostly silent. But what would we expect, when they too have joined in the persecution?

The media mocks us and calls us bigots and haters, simply because we reject the immorality they embrace. And our government continues to try to marginalize faithful Christians, especially Catholics. The most high profile of these attempts is the HHS mandate related to Obamacare, which (in spite of ongoing lawsuits brought by over 78 businesses, charities, universities and Catholic Dioceses) now requires most Catholic employers to provide insurance for their employees that pays for abortion inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization.

Sadly, last month the Little Sisters of the Poor had to join in those lawsuits or face millions of dollars in penalties. As one sister said: “We cannot violate our vows.” Think of that: those beautiful little nuns, who visit us every year around Christmas radiating the very love of Christ through their work with the poor… Our government says they aren’t really part of the Catholic Church, so they have to violate their Catholic morals in order to continue to work with the poor.

But the persecution doesn’t stop there. For most of the last year Virginians have witnessed a very disconcerting race for governor. On one side, we find a Catholic who, although not perfect, is strongly faithful to the Church’s teaching on the most important moral issues of our time: abortion, traditional marriage and religious liberty. And on the other side we find his opponent, a “Catholic” who is strongly opposed to those key teachings.

For months the faithful Catholic has been attacked viciously and incessantly by his opponent for supposedly being “anti-women” and “anti-gay.”

He’s repeatedly attacked for being “anti-woman” simply because he’s against abortion. In particular, they attack him because he supports new restrictions on abortion clinics. But who is anti-woman: the faithful pro-life Catholic who also wants to protect women from unsafe and unsanitary clinics, or his pro-abortion opponent who doesn’t seem to care?

And they attack him because he supposedly tried to take away women’s contraception. What he actually did was support a law that would define tiny babies as “persons” from the moment of conception. That has nothing to do with contraception, which by definition takes place prior to the moment of conception.

But the most despicable attack is the lie his opponent keeps repeating, supposedly quoting him saying “gay people are soulless.” As the Washington Post (who endorsed his opponent) reported last week: “What [he] actually said… was, “When you look at the homosexual agenda, I cannot support something that I believe brings nothing but self-destruction, not only physically but of their soul.” That’s not a bigot who hates homosexuals. That’s a Catholic who is concerned for homosexuals because he believes their behavior hurts them.

Some say they’re just attacking his political positions, not persecuting him for his Catholicism. But that ignores the context; the Catholic Church stands as the major stumbling block to those advancing the secular pro-abortion/pro-gay agenda. So they systematically attack the Church and all faithful Catholics, through the media, regulation and political campaigns. In the end they effectively say that all faithful Catholics are disqualified from holding public office because they are bigots and haters. And that, is, by definition, religious persecution.

But it shouldn’t be this way—not in America. After all, Article VII, Section 3, of our Constitution provides: “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” And the 1st Amendment to that Constitution guarantees that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

And it especially shouldn’t be this way in Virginia, which planted the seed of American religious liberty, when, in 1779, Thomas Jefferson introduced the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. “…[A]ll men” it said, “shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of Religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge or affect their civil capacities….” Because to do so would “be an infringement of [a] natural right.”

Religious persecution of Christians abounds in today’s world. And no one seems to care.

But we care, don’t we? Because WE ARE Christians: and when they persecute our brothers and sisters in Christ they persecute us. As Pope Francis asked, just a few weeks ago: “Am I indifferent to that, or does it affect me like it’s a member of the family? … Does it touch my heart, or doesn’t it really affect me….?”

Do we not care about the Christians in Syria, Egypt, Africa, China, North Korea or Vietnam? Are they too different or too far away for us to care about them? What about our fellow countrymen? Are the Little Sisters of the Poor too insignificant or is the faithful Catholic politician too damaged by false accusations for us to care about?

Who will defend persecuted Christians if Christians won’t—if we won’t? So we must. But what can we do?

First we remember that the Lord is all-powerful, “the maker of heaven and earth,” so that “nothing is impossible for God.” And second, we must not cease to call on that power in constant prayer.

Third, we must take action. In particular we must no longer be silent when our brothers and sisters are persecuted. We must speak out in our homes, jobs and schools, with our family and friends, and with our government officials.

And finally, we must participate in the political process. In particular, faithful Christians must run for public office, and when they do the rest of us must support them, to the extent possible, with our prayers, time, voices, money and with our votes!

Above our altar hangs a Crucifix, representing the very first persecution of Christianity. But the Cross was also Christ’s perfect prayer to His Father. So let us join our prayers to the prayer of our Crucified Lord, made present today in the Eucharist, begging His Father to give us the love to care for and the courage to defend our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ, whether they live across the globe or in our own beloved Virginia.

Quick Request: We are in dire need for additional Eucharistic Adorers for the 11am-12pm and 12-1pm hours on Fridays. “Could you not watch one hour with me?”

Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles