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It's time for our Church -- for our hierarchy -- to "go to the mountain."

Let's take first the issue of persecution.

It's simple to tell that Catholicism is the Mother Church simply through the fact that everyone else (born-againers, evangelicals, Pentecostals, Muslims, New Agers, Scientologists, agnostics, atheists, secularists, media, academia, scientists, and various Christian cults) so ardently attack it (while the Church besmirches no one). Did you hear about that recent ad in The New York Times -- calling on people to quit Catholicism, this by a group called Freedom from Religion?

To a degree -- not a large degree, but a degree -- we are seeing persecution (albeit not like in India and Indonesia and Africa!). Perhaps it is good. Persecution can purify. Pope Benedict XVI said he doesn't mind if the Church shrinks into a remnant, as long as there is pure Catholicism and more adherence to Tradition.

Actually, there are now more Catholics -- nearly 1.2 billion -- than ever. And if you want to talk about a True Church, how about one that has been around for, count them, twenty centuries. A priest crisis, yes, in the corrupted cultures of the West. There has been a decline. Around the world, at last count, there are more priests -- 412,236 -- than ever, however, more than there are people in cities like Buffalo. That's a whole lot of men dedicated to a vocation (and in the majority of cases, celibacy).

But let's be honest; let's be blunt:

We have issues and as Moses sought inspiration at Sinai and others at Horeb or Tabor (here, at a mystical event, were two apostles)  our good bishops and cardinals as successors to those apostles perhaps need also to head for a mountain (or desert) and ask themselves (as we ask ourselves):

How do we shake the disease of worldliness?

How do we best imitate Jesus (His ministry)?

See Exodus 19:3-6:

"Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain, saying, 'Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob and tell the sons of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings, and brought you to Myself. Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine; and you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the sons of Israel."

Exodus 19:22: "Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, or else the Lord will break out against them."

It's a time of the year when we think of the apostles and when we think of them we think of men who converted people. Who healed. Who cast out demons. Who were out there among the faithful.

It would be a great thing and a mighty force against persecution for bishops to circulate among the faithful like those first disciples and raise the hand of deliverance and fly the flag of St. Michael and heal and cast out and battle.

The apostles weren't afraid of how others viewed them. They weren't afraid of the world (define this today as science, psychology, the press). They weren't even afraid of martyrdom.

Can you imagine if bishops roamed our streets (throwing blessed salt in front of every tattoo parlor and strip joint and abortion clinic and school and certainly every Catholic hospital and college)?

(Secularists would howl, scoff; sinners would scatter.)

But right now in our great Church we are hobbled by a great chasm between religion and spirituality, a divide most noticeable in the cold, sterile atmosphere of too many dioceses (where paperwork, and the mechanical, obscure the Spirit). There is too much devotion to Institution, instead of God. There is more focus on newspapers than on Scripture.

And so perhaps we all need to ascend the heights in sackcloth and prayer and mull over how bureaucracy -- idolatry of an institution -- led to liturgical problems and the abuse cover-up crisis and dilemmas such as the migration of so many Catholics to evangelicalism, Pentecostalism, or agnosticism.

Let's get them back.

Let's recover the cradle Catholics.

Let's let the Spirit come alive (as at Pentecost!).

We are the mystical body of Christ -- and if we act that way -- if we move with the force that belongs to us, if we live as we believe -- a protection will cover us and fewer will stray (at least, in our opinion). It was a lack of mystical sensitivity and a blinding by a spirit of bureaucracy that allowed the invasion of evil in the abuse crisis.

While our dear bishops mustered a loud opposition to the recent federal health mandate on birth control, they did so as an institution and were lectured down to by the White House because they were perceived in institutional terms and on those terms, as an institution, can not measure up to raw worldly federal power.

It is spiritual force, when we use it, that elevates us (far) above the White House.

It was spiritual force that allowed John Paul II to transcend any politics.

It is the spiritual pursuit that is our best shield against nascent persecution.

And gather it does.

It comes many ways. It comes every time an evangelical preacher calls Catholicism demonic. It comes when the Church is blamed for hate crimes (in simply standing up for what the Bible declares, as with homosexual marriage). It comes when governments try to impose their moralities (or immorality) on Church institutions. It comes when talk-show hosts and "comedians" are allowed to say or write or draw virtually anything they want about Catholics with no worry about a public outcry. It comes with the occasional but seemingly relentless canard that the Church is more responsible for death than any institution since the dawn of mankind, when in fact -- in preventing wars, in caring for the poor, in establishing all those clinics and hospitals and charity organizations -- no institution comes close to it in saving lives here on earth, never mind in the hereafter.

We need to go to the mountain.

Here is the cloud of God and from up there we will see what the Lord has promised.

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[see also: Persecution watch: hundreds of thousands of Christians told to leave Sudan, and NY Times ad: 'frontal attack on Catholicism']

[Afterword: It is one of history's great canards, when, during a vitriolic attack on Catholicism, someone will try to claim that no other institution in history has been more responsible for killings.

Has the Church been perfect through its history?

Founded by Christ, it is an institution operated by humans. Humans make mistakes. There were the Crusades. It's estimated that between one million and three million died during these battles to free the Holy Land from the grip of Muslims. Short of defending against an invasion, war, in the view of current popes, is contrary to the Doctrine of the Church.

But who was at fault for the Crusades -- the Christian soldiers or the Muslims who had not only cut off Jerusalem from Christianity but also were invading Europe?

There were the inquisitions.

Here we find outright exaggeration.

"According to public news reports the book's editor," notes one website, "[a professor named[ Agostino Borromeo stated that about 125,000 persons were investigated by the Spanish Inquisition, of which 1.8 percent were executed (2,250 people). Most of these deaths occurred in the first decade and a half of the Inquisition's 350-year history. In Portugal of the 13,000 tried in the 16th and early 17th century, 5.7 percent were said to have been condemned to death. News articles did not report if Portugal's higher percentage included those sentenced to death in effigy (i.e. an image burnt instead of the actual person). For example, historian Gustav Henningsen reported that statistical tabulations of 50,000 recorded cases tried by nineteen Spanish tribunals between 1540-1700 found 775 people (1.7 percent) were actually executed while another 700 (1.4 percent) were sentenced to death in effigy. Jewish historian Steven Katz remarked on the Medieval Inquisition that 'in its entirety, the thirteenth and fourteenth century Inquisition put very few people to death and sent few people to prison; 90 percent of its sentences were canonical penances' (The Holocaust in Historical Context, 1994)."

There were the French wars of religion. Another two million may have died in those. There was the Thirty Year War. Another three to eleven million may have succumbed. But these wars, while possessing an initial religious element, were by and large waged by secular powers (and aristocracies): not Rome. How much of this was the fault of Catholics -- and how much breakaway protestant who relentlessly sought to take Catholicism down?

No killing is right. But we're curious if those who defame can cite exactly how many people have died at the edge of “Catholic swords” (a number, please) and how many have died at the edge of Muslim swords (during the invasion of Europe in the Middle Ages, as well as recently) and at the edge of Hindu swords in India and for that matter at the edge of occult swords (see: Nazis) or atheistic ones (see Stalin and Mao).

The estimates for World War Two alone go as high as 72 million. As many as 96 million died during the Lushan Revolution in China and later the Tatar and Mongolian invasions. You can add another 125 million during the conquest of the Ming Dynasty and the Taiping Rebellion. At least fifteen million died during World War Two. Up to ten million died during the Russian Revolution. As recently as 1998, close to 5.4 million died in the Congo.

The list goes on. Most Outrageously, they have tried to make it seem like Pope Pius XII -- one of the holiest popes in recent history -- was a tool of the Nazis (when in fact he protected Jews to the point, as mentioned, of risking an invasion of the Vatican!).]

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