Cartoonist Gary Larson’s Far Side once portrayed a herd of deer gathered around one of their number with an unfortunate bull’s eye on his chest. Another deer remarked that’s a bummer of a birthmark! Faithful Catholics are like that deer. They have an indelible bull’s eye over their hearts because of their assent to Jesus Christ and the teachings of his Church. This should come as no surprise. In all four Gospels, Jesus warned his disciples of the coming persecution.
As a grim reminder of the ultimate price of being Catholic, one need only read about the countless 1000s of martyrs who have shed their blood for their faith over the centuries. The recent rise of the bloody Islamic State throughout the world and the judicial approval of homosexual marriage and its dangerous implications for religious freedom of worship and practice have once again put Catholics in the left’s crosshairs.
This is nothing new! American History has been tainted with an anti-Catholicism that predates its Constitution. Catholic bigotry’s random appearance has found favor among a loose federation of Bible Protestants, freethinkers and atheists beholden to the anti-clericalism of the French Revolution. Its influence has permeated the so-called American Mind. This thinking has degenerated under President Obama to a way of thinking that may be easily characterized as practical atheism.
The arguments against Catholic Orthodoxy throughout history and even into the present have remained fairly consistent. Penn State Professor Philip Jenkins’ book The New Anti-Catholicism provides an overview of this history. His exposition and analysis of the usual arguments utilized in this frontal assault on the Catholic Church, such as the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the other past black legends is honest and comprehensive. The very mention of the Crusades, the Inquisition and any other of these historical distortions often creates a Pavlovian response of distrust in the public and even in many indifferent Catholics.
Jenkins explains that the Crusades were a reaction to the Muslim invasion of Europe. Massacres and bloody brutality characterized all religious warfare during the medieval times. He argues that to single out the Catholic examples of this brutality is unfair and intellectually dishonest. The Inquisition accounted for the execution of no more than 6,000 people over a period of 300 years. Secular governments have been responsible for far more murders than any pope.
Black legends are old accounts of historical distortions, such as Foxe’s Book of Martyrs that falsely depicted the Catholic Church as a den of anti-Semitism, racism, and mythological accounts of Spanish colonial greed and savagery.
These blatant misrepresentations of Catholic history have become popular fallacies that have been used periodically to discredit and denigrate the Church. Author Daniel Goldhagen’s virulent attacks on Pope Pius XII and the Church are a modern example of the depth of vilification used against the Church and its leaders.
Cultural acceptance of Catholics has come at an enormous cost. Membership in mainstream America often required Catholics to distance themselves from the moral principles of their faith. In his comprehensive study, Catholics, and American Culture, Jesuit Mark S. Massa traced the deep-seated need of American Catholics to belong to the American social order.
The 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy illustrated a changing paradigm. Throughout his campaign, Kennedy danced a secular jig around the religious question. He finally admitted that his Church’s teachings would never prevent him from doing his duty for the American people as if there was some inherent conflict. His stance was a far cry from that of St. Thomas More who lost his head in 1535 for his refusal to bow to King Henry VIII’s blasphemous demands.
In the 21st century, Catholicism has been Americanized to the point that religion is a private concern something akin to a devout hobby that should have no influence on how one behaves in the public arena. Kennedy’s religious indifferentism has served as a model for a legion of Catholic politicians who have shamefully defended a woman’s right to kill her unborn child.
This cultural attitude has filtered down to the pews where many Catholics have become complacent or acedic in their practice and defense of their faith. Catholics are fully admitted to the cultural mainstream, only to the extent they accept and approve the cultural and moral decline that has characterized the progress of the modern era.
The cultural acquiescence of so many Catholics today underscores the fact that this threat has been much more subtle than anything Catholics had ever experienced. The new approach revolves around the Kulturkampf and the Catholic faith’s consistent opposition to the pathological evils of abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, and pornography.
Father Massa’s last book, Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice deftly exposes the roots of this new wave of anti-Catholic prejudice that has permeated the social fabric. Attacking Catholics and their Church is an acceptable prejudice because the ruling elite, especially the media, all share the same distrust and animus toward Catholics.
The Church is especially hated because of its allegiance to a foreign pontiff whose approach to life is hierarchical and anti-feminist. This puts the Church and its followers at odds with the growing religious tendencies of the American democratic faith.
Establishment Protestant leaders have always feared Catholic power because of its numerical strength and devotion to community moral principles that run counter to the existential individualism of the country’s’ religious heritage.
In many ways this attack on Catholicism is just an extension of the Marxist plan to subvert and destroy the Church. Liberals and secularist humanists have used their influence, especially in the media and Hollywood to demonize the Church for every scandal or flaw in its public edifice.
Birthmark Catholics need to put on the moral and intellectual armor of the Church militant and fight the left in every corner of the cultural arena and the public square. They have a divine mandate to ensure that the gates of Hell do not prevail against the Church in their own backyard.