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There was the reversal of the Susan G. Komen breast-cancer foundation, which suddenly decided to fund cancer screenings by Planned Parenthood after deciding no longer to do so just days before, to the elation of pro-lifers.

There was the decision by U.S. Health and Human Services to mandate health-coverage payments for contraception as well as sterilization and abortifacient drugs even for agencies and institutions operated by the Catholic Church that receive public funds and service a non-Catholic majority. (Abortifacients are drugs that induce abortion, contrary, it goes without saying, to our Faith.)

There are the desecrations:

Hosts trampled (in Mexico, in Texas), statues defaced (in New York), graveyards trashed, atheistic billboards mocking religion (or advertisements showing a church burning), "comedians" outright disparaging us.

There is no denying that an assault on religion is in progress at the same time that Christians are showing an ever-greater inclination to fight back, at least for now -- especially the young. (At Vanderbilt University, students are loudly protesting an administration move that would disallow campus organizations from dismissing members based on their beliefs -- even if the groups are faith-based organizations.)

Across the U.S., nearly all bishops had letters read at Mass or otherwise circulated a week ago announcing that Catholic organizations should not comply with that new federal health-care dictate -- the most direct challenge to Freedom of Religion, the first amendment, in memory.

The directive may not have been focused on religious freedom, but rather on keeping the new "health-care" law uniform, since it calls for reimbursing birth control and since there would be a large hole in it without the participation of Catholics institutions -- especially all the colleges, social-service centers, and hospitals. And it wasn't like requiring Catholic churches and dioceses to participate.

Nonetheless, it showed startling disregard for major Christian tenets and eroded religious rights in the same way that vandals have trampled those statues and every Catholic -- even if non-practicing -- should be alarmed (and should take a look at this petition).

(Would Muslim rights be comparably disregarded?)

It is a dynamic time.

Or is the word "chilling"?

The energy behind the bishops' response was impressive -- the greatest display of activism they have shown in (again) memory.

The question of the hour is whether the Christian counteroffensive will gain momentum or -- as is too often the case -- fizzle.

That momentum took a huge hit Friday when Komen reversed itself and demonstrated that while pro-abortion forces may be in the minority (according to polls), they have substantially more potent political and financial clout than pro-lifers. (What kind of faction has a passion for the right to kill unborn humans -- and does so in the name of compassion?)

In fact, the West is under the penumbra of what can only be described as a diabolic disorientation:

Komen funds Planned Parenthood breast-cancer screenings while Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest provider of abortions, which have been strongly linked in the majority of credible medical studies with breast cancer. Meanwhile, pro-life forces seem unable to marshal a laser.

Only if the bishops maintain their sudden, unaccustomed militancy will the Church stand a fighting chance against developing trends -- in the U.S. and elsewhere.

Perhaps of greatest moment -- more than the Health and Human Services dictate in the U.S. -- is the move in various Western nations and particularly the United Kingdom to pronounce Catholic teachings as "hate crimes." From Canada and the U.S. to Europe and Australia, priests and ministers are afraid to speak up against such matters as homosexual marriage -- a clear violation of Christianity -- because they might be criminally charged. At the famous Marian shrine of Knock in Ireland (which recently slammed shut its Vatican embassy), a bishop has been so threatened after a homily on precisely this subject, and that is outright persecution. (Notes a report: "The Catholic Bishop of Raphoe Dr. Philip Boyce is being investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions following a formal complaint that a sermon in Knock amounted to 'incitement to hatred', it was revealed today.")

There is direct persecution. Notes another news report from last week:

"Militant Hindus are charging that a Catholic nun 'wounded the religious sentiments of the community' when she disrupted a Hindu religious ceremony organized by a student during class in a Catholic school. Sister Ajaya Mary, head of the Nirmala Convent School, sent a boy home after he erected a shrine to the Hindu goddess Saraswati in the classroom, without permission from teachers. When Hindu groups protested her action, local officials asked her to allow the ceremony in the school. She refused, but under pressure eventually allowed Hindu teachers to lead the ritual. Unsatisfied, Hindu zealots are demanding her arrest."

Consider also the constant violence against Christians in Africa, Indonesia, India, and the Philippines.

Christians are being killed by both Hindus and Muslims and no one says much of anything.

Meanwhile, the rights of Muslims are scrupulously safeguarded, as if they have been an oppressed minority (and as if they were the victims of September 11).

Incredibly, this all has continued whether the government is controlled by liberals, moderates, or conservatives.

But it is the liberal faction, of course, that remains the most cause for concern, and the "Occupy Wall Street" movement has shown signs of radical anti-Christianity -- as in a recent protest at the National Prayer Meeting and as in their desecration of Hosts in New York and as in their attacks on pro-lifers in Rhode Island (including the throwing of prophylactics at young Christians):

"Days after the Diocese of Providence agreed to open an emergency day shelter at the request of the City of Providence to help reduce the number of homeless – including members of the Occupy Providence movement – about two-dozen anti-life protesters from Occupy Providence disrupted the Rhode Island State Right to Life Committee’s 39th annual Pro-Life Rally last Thursday."

And this is only the recent stuff. There are many other questions. Where are the vouchers for Catholic schools? Why are not the conservatives calling loudly for them? Why are not Catholics? Have we been lulled into indifference? Do we care only about football? Even England allows government money for Catholic education. Can't we at least get a tax deduction for it? Why, when they are elected, even if they can't control the Supreme Court, do not candidates supported by pro-lifers not then use their "bully pulpits" to rail against abortion (which would have an affect on young listeners, as no doubt all the pro-life billboard and bumper-stickers have)? (They seldom do, and ironically abortion rates don't drop under "pro-life" presidents [see chart of rates] anymore than under pro-abort ones.)

And so much more activism is needed.

There are the hopeful signs. In Florida, a U.S. senator has boldly pronounced that the U.S. will not fulfill its destiny until it halts abortion, and in that same state a legislature is moving strongly (with broad support) to bring back school prayer. There are more states allowing pro-life license plates. There are similar examples around the continent.

But as yet, they are scattered. They have not coalesced. They are undermined by politics (which have seen pro-lifers swarm to candidates and commentators who claim to be pro-life, despite ignoring other life issues like war, genetic manipulation, and toxic contamination,).

Catholics are a sleeping giant -- more than sixty-million strong in the U.S., and way over a billion worldwide (probably 1.2 billion, which is 1,200 million).

Sixty million!

But is this a Christian country? Did you see the level of paganism on display during the half-time show on this new national holiday of Super Bowl Sunday?

It is a question to ask ourselves as the paganism not only intensifies but in governance has turned malignant.

[see also: Army silences military chaplains, Standing with the bishops and Pennsylvania legislature declares 'year of the Bible']

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