No Triumphalism, Only Persecution

I refrained from commenting on Msgr. Charles Pope’s much-discussed article from the National Catholic Register, “Comfort Catholicism Has To Go; It Is Time to Prepare for Persecution,” mainly because I didn’t think there was much I could constructively add to it. As most of you who have read me for some time know by now, I am fully convinced that, barring a miracle, my children will be compelled to choose between apostasy or persecution—up to and including martyrdom—in their respective lifetimes. I don’t say that flippantly; the very thought fills me with horror. It is one thing to expect and prepare for that great choice in one’s own life. It is something else altogether to contemplate those we love the most having to experience it. Should I be “off” in my timeline and the harsh persecution Msgr. Pope and many others see on the horizon arrives during my days on this earth, I pray that my fellow faithful and myself will have the fortitude to choose Christ above all of the temptations of this world, but that is not something anybody can predict. If the last 2,000 years provides any basis for predicting the future, the chances are painfully high that a great many Christians—Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant—will depart from their Father’s house at the cost of their very souls.

Disappointing, then, that I should come across a statement on the Ad Orientem web-log where a commenter, an Orthodox Christian named Gregory Manning, could write the following:

[W]e [Eastern Orthodox] have one “advantage” [regarding persecution]. Irrespective of how much many of us actually know about the actual practice of asceticism (as opposed to giving it lip service), many Orthodox understand that it is a requisite factor in living the Christian life. They may not like it in practice but the principle isn’t foreign to them. One’s ability to endure the “suffering” inherent in the ascetic life serves at least to prepare one for the suffering of the age we now find ourselves in and which the good Bishop has realized is upon his own flock. If I may use my extensive family as an example (some “Catholic” and the rest Protestant), the very idea of anything resembling the discomfort inherent in an ascetic life is anathema. To a “man”, they firmly believe that God just wants us all to be happy-however each person understands that. The suffering which accompanies persecution will devastate them as it will the Bishop’s flock and our own co-believers who have avoided as much spiritual heavy-lifting as possible.

Better late than never but the Bishop has an uphill battle trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. Once you’ve persuaded your people to adopt and get used to living out indulgent and moralistically relative lives it’s going to be nearly impossible to change course.

Don’t believe the hype. Orthodox Christians, particularly those living in the West, are no less bourgeois, hedonistic, relativistic, and thin-skinned on average than Catholics and Protestants. Like all Christian communions living under the horizon of secular liberalism, Orthodoxy has been made into a “private affair,” a “personal expression” of spirituality subject to individual preference. While Orthodox spirituality does place a heavy emphasis on the ascetic life, so does Catholic spirituality. Regardless of whether or not Orthodoxy does a better job promoting this ascetical aspect more than Catholicism, the sad reality is that they are no better prepared for persecution in the West than any other Christian group. Granted, Catholics ought to be better prepared; we have less of an excuse than Protestants, many of whom have been misled by a belief in a “one time, last time” profession of faith which serves as a one-way ticket to Heaven. However, don’t expect the Orthodox to be standing on the front lines holding up icons while Catholics cower down at the pub, waiting for the whole thing to blow over.

If Orthodox living in the West have any advantage over Catholics when it comes to persecution, it lies in the fact that many have no idea who they even are. Remember: There are more Catholics in the Archdiocese of Chicago than there are Eastern Orthodox in the United States. For those who seek to destroy the last remnants of Christendom, Catholicism, not Orthodoxy, is the most savory target. Already we have seen how Catholic hospitals, charities, and educational institutions have been attacked by militant liberals seeking to bring the Church under their thumb. High-profile Protestant groups have been—and shall remain—ripe for assault as well, far more than the Orthodox. The only question really is how far will the various Protestants sects go to in attempting to square their amorphous beliefs with the Zeitgeist. I have to think at some point, many will stand up and say, “Enough is enough!”

I make mention of this not to cast aspersions upon the Orthodox but to call attention to the fact that none of us will escape the coming persecution even if some of us will be able to delay its effects. Moreover, no Christian communion should assume that it will automatically endure while all others falter. Now is the time to implore our Lord Jesus Christ for the strength to stand firm for Him. Catholics and Orthodox alike should implore the Blessed Virgin Mary for her protection and look to the lives of the martyrs for inspiration in these dark times. It would be a joyous thing indeed if all Christians in the West were united together in the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of God so that we might better buildup and encourage one another while receiving sustenance from one Chalice containing the salvific Body and Blood of Christ. In the meantime, may all find the courage they need to resist apostasy and stand as witnesses to the truth amidst a secular storm of lies, hatred, and violence.

4 comments

  1. Oh my eyes!! That excerpt…as the kids say, I can’t even.

    Don’t these konvertzi realize that this stuff totally turns people off? When they read the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, doesn’t something about it ring a bell?

    Reminds me of Dreher: bragging about his superior ascesis while treating those who disagree with him, no matter how slightly or politely, like dog turd. Because, you know, what’s love got to do with it? As long as I’m doing a bajillion prostrations in my backyard church and eating lentil soup, I’m home free, right?

    Also reminds me of the convert docent who gave us the sanctuary tour at the local Greek festival a few years ago. A very nice guy, actually, but with a bad case of convertitis. He went on and on about how much stricter and more truly ascetical Orthodox Lenten Fasting is. Well, the poor guy happened to be quite obese. I didn’t say anything during his speech, because, well, one can be obese and yet fast strictly, right? It happens. But later my husband (who doesn’t really have a dog in this East-West fight) remarked, “I got a kick out of that fat guy telling us how superior Orthodox fasting is.”

    Mea culpa, I hope the poor guy doesn’t read this. It’s highly unlikely. He seemed like a very sweet guy, though. Ex-Baptist, I think. But anyway, yeah…boasting about one’s superior ascesis. If that doesn’t have “Pharisee” written all over it, I sure would like to know what does. Bet this is another one of those dudes who treats his fellow human beings like pond scum. Because the greatest of these is fasting. :o

  2. I am one of those weaklings you speak of. Pope Francis’ behaviour in the last two years has served a real blow to a soul that was already struggling with encounters with suffering in my personal and loved one’s lives. The church used to be the one sure thing in my life and in this world. I feel like the pope took that away from me. Suddenly my confidence in the church waned in a manner I would have never thought possible. Through the abuse scandals and all else, nothing has been a bigger blow to the root of my faith than the apparent disbelief of the pope in the eternal truthfulness of the church’s magisterial teachings. It was as if I was being laughed at…”You fool, even we don’t believe it, why do you?” For a single catholic struggling with chastity I suddenly felt abandoned by God. Like my struggles had been ridiculous. I could’ve been having sex all this time and probably would’ve married by now if I had; chastity is a real barrier to modern day “dating” and “courtship”. I wanted to become Orthodox for the first time in my life but realized I couldn’t. If the church is a fraud it destroys my whole faith in the roots of Christianity itself. At best, I can only retain it in a syncretist Hindu fashion, where I believe that Catholicism and Jesus is a certain expression of truth for a certain type of human but not the only one.

    I am not sure where I am spiritually at the moment. I don’t disbelieve and yet I don’t know that I do. I don’t want to lose Jesus, but I no longer feel the firm conviction that the catholic church is the exclusive pillar of truth. I now understand why the church teaches scandal to be a real dangerous thing especially from the leaders. I have experienced fatigue being catholic always defending against someone out there, materialist, humanist, protestant, orthodox. Facing suffering in life like illness (mine or a loved ones) or other losses and disappointments has also always been super difficult. Yet nothing was a bigger discouragement than admitting to myself that the pope was working to change perennial teachings, in fact, teachings of Jesus himself!
    I feel no more obligated to attend Sunday Mass or retain my virginity if serious sexual sins can become benign so easily. It makes me feel like a clown. Maybe my faith should be stronger. It apparently is not. We will see if it is still there when the persecution comes.

    I do believe it is coming like you, because of all the willingness to embrace lies in service of their ideologies that I see in today’s establishment. The malignment of holy figures like Bl. Pius XII, St. John Paul II, St. Teresa of Calcutta and Holy Benedict XVI is almost diabolical. Like the frenzy that turned the crowds against Jesus causing them to believe him evil enough to deserve torture and death on a cross despite his blindingly obvious holiness. I almost understand Pope Francis. Who wouldn’t want to hide from that spirit? St, Peter certainly seemed like he would’ve understood him a tad!

  3. Jewel, trust in our Lord Jesus Christ and cling to His word. Ask Him to guide you through the prayers of His saints and angels. I do not follow church politics but this pope wouldn’t be the first to make a mistake. Not all hierarchs become true saints. For guidance focus on St John Chrysostom and check out the St Arsenios Psalter which uses specific Psalms as prayers for specific needs. May God bless protect and guide you through the prayers of His Most Pure Mother and all His saints and angels.
    Connie Bowers

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