May is once again upon us, bringing that mad dash in which you sprint from parish to parish, rubbing oily crosses on the smooth foreheads of gawky teens, confirmandi mentally and spiritually armed to do battle with the dragons facing God’s holy Church. My youngest son, who is even now preparing to receive from you his own dab of chrism oil, recently spent a Wednesday evening with his classmates discussing whether God was more like a sofa or a recliner. (If we’re making God a chair, I would opine for a buoyant chaise lounge on the Titanic.) Ah, those dragons: We can only pray their teeth are marshmallows, their fiery breath the result of too much hot sauce.
But just suppose, Excellency, that some of those dragons really do want to destroy the Church. How will they go about it?
The National Catholic Register reports that the Connecticut state legislature’s Judiciary Committee has attempted to enact legislation that would remove control of a parish and its facilities from the priests and bishops. Supported strongly by Voice of the Faithful, that aged group of heretics opposed to Church teachings on female ordination, abortion, and homosexuality, Raised Bill 1098 seeks to give any Catholic church within the state of Connecticut the power to organize its own corporation, found a board, and so bypass diocesan control of the individual parish. Though Connecticut’s bishops, priests, and laity have managed thus far to avoid this fate—Hartford Archbishop Henry Mansell denounced the bill from the pulpit, and Bridgeport Bishop William Lori went so far as to call the measure payback for the Church’s defense of marriage vis-à-vis homosexual assaults—the door has nonetheless been cracked open. We may expect to see similar bills in other states.
(The time is possibly drawing near, Your Excellency, when politicians, encouraged by greed, necessity, and secular indifference, will begin investigating the taxation of churches. Launch a media campaign in which the vast untaxed Church properties are publicly listed, arouse by propaganda the ire and envy of those who pay property taxes, and even the worst of our elected officials could soon persuade many voters, including churchgoers, of the necessity of taxing Church property, a move that might make Henry VIII look like a piker.)
Connecticut homosexuals also keep banging on the doors of the Church. In addition to its call for complete recognition of homosexual “rights,” Connecticut State Bill 899 would demand affirmative-action quotas for homosexuals, bisexuals, and the “transgendered.” If such a measure becomes law, in Connecticut or elsewhere, the rainbow on the walls of our diocesan offices and classrooms will assume new meaning.
The attack on the Church and on Christianity in general continues on other fronts. Barack Obama attends a racist, nut-house church for years and gets elected president; Sarah Palin suffers vicious smears for belonging to an evangelical church. Openly supportive of abortion, government funds for embryonic stem-cell research, and sexual dalliances of all stripes, Catholic politicians continue to pop into Mass without fear of excommunication. Since we may confidently assume that these politicians take their stand knowing full well they are in opposition to Church teaching, and since they continue to receive Christ in the Eucharist, we may further assume that they are adding sacrilege to their sins, all with the tacit approval of certain bishops and priests. (I wonder, Your Excellency: if the floors of hell are paved with the skulls of bishops, what part of hell is built from the skulls of bad priests?)
When in pursuit of a goal, the political elites in our country have come to accept certain tactics as legitimate: bullying, lies, slander, and intimidation. Yeats’ monster is roused and is slouching toward Bethlehem, toward Jerusalem, toward Rome. In this beast’s train march many of the hate-filled American media, certain Hollywood entertainers, and a host of secularists of all stripes. Even among ordinary Americans, more and more people are turning their backs on Christianity.
Some in the Catholic Church—good priests, courageous bishops like yourself, and those members of the laity whose spines remain intact—will doubtless stand strong against the blows that may soon rain down on the Church. Yet what of the others—priests, bishops, laity—whose ill-formed spiritual educations has left them ignorant of the tenets of faith? How many of those poor, weak souls will endure the blows of ridicule and harassment?
My son and his friends realize the ridiculousness of the questions put to them during their confirmation class. Yet I suspect that few of those friends are offered any alternative to soft questions and the easy way. Like their parents, many of them will make easy targets, unable to defend what they do not understand.
I have no idea what sort of a chair God might be. But I do see the Church these days as an embattled fortress in need of stouthearted protectors. When the crunch comes, I only hope there will be enough of the faithful left to make a stand.
Vale, bone episcope,