The coming persecution?
Strong New Anti-Catholicism On Rise From Europe And Americas To Australia
Are we paying attention to the warning signals?
There is a rash of statue thefts. Representations of Christ Crucified or the Blessed Mother have been stolen in recent days from Australia to California, from churches to front-yard gardens. An angel statue was taken last week from the grave of a baby in northeast Oklahoma. In Worthington, Ohio, a four-foot- corpus of Christ was pried from the cross at St. Michael's Catholic Church. In Adelaide an Australian brewing company had to offer six cases of beer to anyone who returned a statue of the baby Jesus stolen from a nativity scene.
And so on.
Granted, some of these are simply isolated incidents -- pranks or individualistic deviances. But they also come at a time when anti-Christianity and specifically anti-Catholicism are increasingly in the open.
In many places (see Palm Beach), there can be no Nativity theft because the Nativity scene has disappeared from the public, along with other religious symbols.
Meantime Target, the huge store chain, has banned Salvation Army bell-ringers while in Denver, a Christian group is not allowed to participate in Denver's annual Parade of Lights because church members sought to sing yuletide hymns and proclaim a "Merry Christmas" message on their float. "However," noted a news story, "the event, now in its 30th year, will include homosexual American Indians, Kung Fu artisans, belly dancers and, of course, Santa Claus."
National Public Radio has a story out right now on whether "Christ" will be completely pulled out of Christmas!
In Europe they want to all but do away with acknowledgements of the Christian heritage -- to the point where Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger repeatedly has had to warn about the danger of "radical secularism." In Canada, Catholics are all but disdained in many quarters as non-churchgoers become the second-largest group in religious surveys.
"We are in a very grave moment, radical secularism may destroy humanism," reducing everything to mere materialism, trade and the "predominance of the market," the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said Wednesday when addressing a meeting of Salesians. He noted that Europe looks at itself in the thesis of the Enlightenment, not its Christian and Catholic (underline Catholic) heritage.
In Argentina Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, Archbishop of Buenos Aires, called on the faithful not to persevere (and not be afraid) in response to a blasphemous art exhibit taking place in the Argentinean capital. “For some time public expressions of ridicule and insult of our Lord Jesus Christ and the Most Holy Virgin Mary, as well as numerous exhibits against the religious and moral values we profess, have been on display throughout the city,” the Cardinal warned.
The Cardinal made his statement "in response to an art exhibit by Leon Ferrari, a well-known militant atheist who has made hundreds of anti-Catholic works such as saints burning themselves in a toaster, the Blessed Mother in a frying pan, and a statue of the Last Supper in which Christ and the Apostles face a pack of rats," noted yet another news agency.
And in the U.S.?
Let's let Cardinal William H. Keeler of Baltimore address that.
“We live in a culture in which anti-Semitism, homophobia and racism are rightly condemned. Yet anti-Catholicism is tolerated,” he said in a comment published in the Baltimore Sun, November 28, adding, “most Catholics seem resigned to it.”
The cardinal noted that it has taken on different forms, “evolving across the years from violent expressions and the outright denial of basic human rights, to rumors of papal conspiracies, to behaviors we now too often witness in the public square—policy-makers who defame our clergy and assault our doctrinal beliefs, policy initiatives that not only promote abortion and gay marriage but also ridicule our Church's teachings in those matters,” he commented.
“Regrettably, religious groups that should defend one another against such calumny sometimes do not,” he said, pointing out that “on sad occasion, they support it.
“Signs of a reviving anti-Catholicism are also apparent in the mainstream media, recalling a time when it was ‘vogue’ to depict Catholics as abnormal or unpatriotic,” he said.
As news reports point out, the cardinal cited a 2003 book, The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, by Philip Jenkins, who states that in modern American history "no mainstream denomination has ever been treated so consistently, so publicly, with such venom" as has the Catholic Church.
Dangerously, it comes at a time when respect for the clergy is at a low due to the sexual-abuse crisis.
Today, Catholics seem resigned to this treatment of their Church and faith, and some even engage in Catholic-bashing, the cardinal pointed out, except for two groups.
The cardinal said Catholic immigrants and youth actively defend their beliefs and are “unapologetic about their Catholic heritage and about what it means to be Catholic.”
Other Catholics, he said, should be emboldened by their example and follow suit.
Are we listening?
December 3, 2004
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