|Ludolf Backhuysen - Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee|
A storm is approaching. We've been watching it build on the horizon for decades, and now it's here. The first sprinkles of rain have already hit us, and with the wind now whipping up, we know the torrent to follow cannot be far away. Flashes of lightning and claps of thunder now surround us. The full fury of this tempest cannot be far off now. I'm speaking metaphorically of course, but the illustration of a storm could not be more accurate. I'm speaking of the political, social and economic storm that is soon to hit the Catholic Church in the United States.
While a lot of hope is riding on this 2016 presidential election, I am here to tell you that no matter who wins, the storm is still going to hit us.
If Donald Trump wins the presidency, some of the ill effects of this storm can be postponed. The Church will be given some more precious time to prepare, perhaps four to eight years at the most, but the storm will still come. I want to make this perfectly clear so there are no misunderstandings. A President Donald J. Trump CANNOT stop this storm. He won't have the power to stop it, nor the necessary support. He can postpone it a bit, and maybe even lessen its damaging effects, but he cannot stop it.
If Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, the storm will hit us hard and fast. There will be little time for the Church to prepare, perhaps no time at all. The intensity of this storm, and the damage it will cause to the Church, will reach maximum effect. Some of the damage will be felt immediately, within the next four to eight years, and some of it will be felt over the long term, the next ten to thirty years. A President Hillary Rodham Clinton, and those whom she surrounds herself with, is the worst possible combination for creating what is often called "the perfect storm," reaching maximum intensity for the worst possible damage.
Like all storms however, there will be survivors. The Church will survive this storm, but what it looks like after it passes depends a lot on us, how faithful we are, and how we apply our faith to civic life, particularly in the votes we cast.
DEFINING THE STORM
So what is this storm? Exactly, what am I talking about? I am talking about the growing level of anti-Catholic prejudice in society, media and government. This is coupled with a general anti-Christian prejudice, which particularly affects Evangelicals as well, but it is shrouded in praise and reward for Catholics and Protestants who oppose traditional Catholic-Christian teaching on morality. So it's a sneaky kind of prejudice that shrouds itself in an apparent tolerance (even embrace) of Christians who DON'T abide by traditional Catholic teaching on morality, but is made manifest by its open resentment of Christians who DO abide by traditional Catholic teaching on morality. So in essence, the prejudice is anti-Catholic at its core, but because many Evangelicals abide by a large portion of traditional Catholic morality, they become targets of it too.
Please note, many Evangelicals would simply call their moral beliefs "Biblical morality," but that is a misnomer, because liberal Protestants consider their morality "Biblical" too. They just redefine morality based on their own Liberal interpretation of the Bible. Evangelicals who hold to the principle that abortion is a grave sin, homosexuality is wrong, same-sex "marriage" is not marriage at all, and that sex is for authentic marriage alone, are abiding by a traditional and historic CATHOLIC interpretation of the Bible on these things. Therefore, they are abiding by Catholic morality, and since the new anti-Catholicism is directed against traditional Catholic teaching on morality, these Evangelicals are finding themselves as targets too. The same goes for such aberrant religions as Mormonism and Watchtowerism (Jehovah's Witnesses). They only suffer from this form of prejudice insofar as they embrace traditional Catholic teaching on morality. If any of these groups simply jettisoned traditional CATHOLIC teaching on morality from their churches, they would immediately cease to be targets of the new prejudice. Make no mistake about it. This new prejudice is, at its core, and anti-Catholic prejudice, and it is particularly focused on traditional Catholic moral teaching.
The storm that is coming, indeed is already here, is the phenomenon of this anti-Catholic prejudice flowing through society, the media, and now into government. As the government is infiltrated by officers who subscribe to this anti-Catholic prejudice, the storm intensifies. What we got under President Barack Obama was just the first breeze of the storm, combined with a little spritz of drizzle. It was the front of the storm, but that is now passing. This was manifested in Obama's HHS Mandate, which requires all providers of medical insurance, including religious providers, to cover the cost of abortion and artificial contraception. While this battle has been playing out in the courts, small Christian businesses have been destroyed by other lawsuits, alleging "discrimination" for failing to provide non-essential services to same-sex "weddings." As horrible as a violation of religious freedom this was, it is but the tip of what is to come. These are just the outer edges of the storm. Now that is coming to an end, and the only question that remains is, shall there be a temporary lull before the main storm hits? This will likely happen if Trump is elected. Or will the edge of the storm immediately be followed by a gradual increase into the full tempest, without an interlude to prepare? This will likely happen if Hillary is elected.
What can we expect when the storm reaches its height? We can expect an all out assault on religious liberty. On a social level, this will include a general social prejudice toward good Catholics who adhere to the Church's moral teachings. Bad Catholics, or Fake Catholics, who ignore the Church's moral teachings will be lauded and praised for their "bravery." (You'll notice that Obama and Hillary always surround themselves with these types, because they shield them from the charge of anti-Catholicism.) This social prejudice will get worse. It may start to manifest in the workplace, as subtly as co-workers looking down upon us, or as overtly as our employers asking us to sign statements supporting same-sex "marriage" as a condition of employment. This media prejudice will get worse too, as television shows are filled with Catholics who don't practice their faith, and/or the moral teachings of the Church are directly assaulted in entertainment. This will be accompanied by media news reporting wherein the Catholic Church (and Catholic leaders) can do no right, unless the faith is denied and liberal morality is embraced. This, of course, will be linked to a steady reminder of clerical sex-abuse, wherein less than 5% of Catholic clergy (many of whom were defrocked decades ago), will be portrayed as representing "most" or "nearly all" of the clergy. That will only contribute to the social prejudice of course, making it easier for our employers and co-workers to view us as "intolerant" or "backward" people.
Where we are really going to feel a difference, however, is the anti-Catholic prejudice that will most certainly trickle into government in the upcoming years. The recent Wikileaks email scandal in the Clinton campaign, dealing with anti-Catholic comments made by Hillary's campaign manager, and his admission that they are trying to affect a "revolution" in the U.S. Catholic Church, in attempt to get it to break with Rome on moral teaching, is evidence that this storm will hit us much sooner if Clinton is elected President. These are the kinds of people she likes to surround herself with, and when confronted with the overtly prejudiced nature of these things, she sends out her FAKE Catholic vice presidential nominee, Tim Kaine, to tell the media that the comments are no big deal, good Catholics are to blame, and there will be no apology for them. If you ask me, that's sort of like telling a battered wife it's her own damn fault, she deserved getting slapped, and she should stop crying and get over it. That seems to be where the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party is going with this. So if they win in November of this year, look out! This is the attitude toward anti-Catholic bigotry we can expect from the Hillary Clinton administration. The courts will begin to side against Christian businesses in greater number. Christian employees will loose all their worker's rights when it comes to conscience protection and personal beliefs. If a corporation wants all its employees to agree with its stand on abortion or homosexuality, then it will enforce that upon their employees, and any resistance will be met with job termination and courts that back it up. Then they'll go after the churches themselves. The government will define what kind of morality can, and cannot, be taught from the pulpit, and with the right Supreme Court justices in place, they will be able to get away with it, in spite of the Constitution. Some churches will lose their tax-exempt status, based entirely on their refusal to back down from traditional Catholic morality (whether they're Catholic or not). Some Catholic priests and bishops, along with some Protestant pastors, will be sued for "discrimination" and/or "hate speech," simply for teaching Catholic morality. In time, these same religious leaders may face prison for the same. Faithful Catholic media, like for example; Church Militant, EWTN, or even this blog, might become targets for censorship, as the government reintroduces a beefed up version of the "fairness doctrine" mandating that all media outlets grant "equal time" to opposing viewpoints. All of this is real, and it is in our future. The questions are simply twofold. When will it come? And how long will it last?
We cannot answer the second question, because there is no way of knowing how long it will last. What we can answer is the first question. When will it come? And if we can answer the first question, we can indirectly address the second, because theoretically speaking, if it comes later, it shouldn't last as long.
There is a clear expiration date on the Leftist persecution of Christianity in America. That expiration date comes when Europe goes up in flames. You see, what American Leftists are trying to do right now is make America more European, but when they say European, they don't mean the quaint little villages in in the mountains of Austria or the sophisticated museums and restaurants of Paris. No, what they mean is an America that is essentially non-religious, and churches that have become museums. That's what they mean by more European. So long as Europe remains intact, and somewhat functional, they have a model to aspire to. As soon as it goes up in flames (and it will someday), that model is gone, along with all their hopes and dreams of a totally Secular society built on free sex, abortion and artificial birth control. So you see, the most ideal situation good Catholics (and Evangelicals) in America can hope for is a delay in the storm, a lull or interlude, before the storm begins. Because the longer it takes to get started, the shorter its duration will be before Europe implodes and burns. Once the smoke starts rising over Paris and Rome, the American experiment in anti-Catholicism will immediately come to an end. This is because Americans (all Americans) will watch the fall of Europe in horror on their television screens, and begin to question "how can we prevent that from happening here?" The only solution of course will be a return to Christendom.
So the storm means anti-Catholic prejudice run amok, the U.S. Catholic Church under serious legal pressure from the government, and U.S. Catholics (and Evangelicals) dealing with anti-Catholic bias in the workplace and among employers. Christian businesses will become impossible to operate if they offer any kind of service that could be construed to cater to homosexuality. In other words; Christian-run bakeries, flower shops, wedding services, etc. will soon go extinct. All of this WILL HAPPEN. The only real question we can address is WHEN? We'll have a better idea of that after the 2016 election is over. If Trump wins, the heavy storm begins in five to ten years from now, has less intensity, and will end whenever Europe burns (whenever that comes). If Hillary wins, the heavy storm begins within a year or two from now, has stronger intensity and won't end until Europe burns (whenever that comes).
WEATHERING THE STORM
So now that we've defined what the storm is, when it might start, and how long it will probably last, let's define strategy. How do we as Catholics deal with it?
Since compromising our faith is NOT an option, we're going to have to make some uncomfortable choices. We need to accept that. The first will be where we go to mass, and the second will be where we work, which will undoubtedly affect where we live. This strategy is geared more toward lay Catholics. Clergy don't have a strategy. Their only option is to remain faithful and accept whatever consequences come their way. Lay Catholics, however, have some options. We can remain faithful, and smartly move around in ways that protect our families.
Where we go to mass will be our first major change. We need to make sure our families are placed in a parish where the faith will be taught and lived, so that when the more uncomfortable changes come, they will be ready to make the sacrifice. Allowing our families to continue in parishes that are unfaithful to Catholic morality, or are watered-down in their approach, will only leave our families in a weak position, and unable to cope with the changes that may need to follow at critical times. So plugging your family into a GOOD PARISH that is faithful to the moral teachings of the Church, is absolutely essential to our survival strategy. Remember we are trying to survive as a faith community -- as good Catholics! Our lives are not in danger here, but our Catholic faithfulness is, as well as the eternal destiny of our souls. So the time to make this change is RIGHT NOW. There is no time left for delay.
Consider looking into a traditional Catholic Latin-mass parish. These are almost always solid on moral teachings and are least likely to compromise under social and legal pressure. Also consider looking into an Ordinariate parish (see here), these celebrate mass in traditional English instead of Latin, but they are similar to Latin mass parishes in their unwillingness to compromise on Catholic moral teaching. None of this is to say that you can't find good moral teaching at a regular Catholic parish. You most certainly can, but you'll have to do a little digging to make sure. The general attitude of parishioners will give you a clue as to where the pastoral leadership stands. Parishes that have many members who are worldly and compromising on moral issues, reflect leadership that tolerates this, and might actually promote it. So be observant and discerning.
The next thing you're going to need to look at is your general location, and this is something that is surely going to be uncomfortable. If you're single, or an older married couple, this may not be such a big deal. However, if you've got young children, this will be a very important issue that you must address. Some states and cities will be more anti-Catholic than others. In those states and cities, where anti-Catholicism abounds, it will be much more difficult for Catholic parishes to uphold traditional Catholic moral teaching. Those few that do, will undoubtedly come under the full fire of the state and local government during the storm. Therefore, for the sake of your young children, getting out may be the best long-term option.
Let's go through some examples here. States like California, Oregon, Washington, New York, and all the New England states are a lost cause. There is virtually no hope for them. Anti-Catholic laws are already in the works there, which will make good Catholic parishes rare, or virtually non-existent, when the storm heats up.
Other less conspicuous states, like Minnesota and the Dakotas, will also become problematic. We could say the same for the rust-belt states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. In fact, probably the best areas where Catholics can expect the most religious liberty is in traditionally non-Catholic states. I'm talking specifically about the Evangelical states of the Bible Belt. I know this may seem counter-intuitive, but probably the best place for Catholics during this coming storm is nestled deep within Protestant country. (Oh, the historical irony of that!) It's the truth though. The Bible Belt is filled with Christians who prize their religious liberty above everything else, and they have the guns to defend it if necessary. I'm not saying it will ever come to that. Rather, I'm saying that Washington D.C. knows this, and so they're less likely to push and issue in that kind of a region, when they could more easily push it somewhere else. So relocating to a Bible Belt state should definitely be on the radar of any faithful Catholic family having young children.
|Areas in Red are the Bible Belt|
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The main reason why we have such a terrible anti-Catholic problem building up in this country is because non-Catholics have a distorted image of what Christianity is. Part of this distorted image comes from Evangelicalism, wherein all Christians are stereotyped according to this template. At the same time however, the other part of this distorted image comes from weak Catholic clergy, who are derelict in their duty as shepherds, and have created a Catholic culture that is essentially devoid of any traditional Catholic moral teaching. That's not to say that such Catholic clergy don't exist in the Bible Belt, they most certainly do, but with smaller Catholic populations there; if more Catholics are to move in, and those Catholics demand more traditional liturgy and moral teaching, they will be more likely to get it. It's much easier for faithful Catholics to get what they want in small Bible Belt regions (where their voice is louder) and they consist of 50% of all Catholics there, than in large Catholic regions (like California for example), where they consist of maybe 5% of all Catholics. Do you see what I mean? A smaller Catholic presence in a region equals a louder Catholic voice for faithful Catholics in the local Church.
Now to illustrate this point, let me highlight two areas I am personally familiar with. I grew up in Southern California (a heavily Catholic region), but I've spent most of my adult life in the Ozark Mountains of the Southern Midwest (within the Bible Belt). Now, Southern California spans an area of about 56,000 square miles, and the Ozarks spans an area of about 47,000 square miles. These areas are within 10,000 square miles of each other, so they're pretty comparable in geography. Where they're really different is in population. Within Southern California there are approximately 7.2 million Catholics. Within the Ozarks there are only about 169 thousand Catholics. That means the Ozarks has only about 2% the number of Catholics that exist in Southern California. For every 1 Catholic in the Ozarks, there are about 50 in Southern California.
Now there is something very interesting going on here. In these geographical areas of approximately 50,000 square miles, there are 25 staunchly traditional Catholic parishes in Southern California. By this I mean Catholic parishes that have lawful canonical jurisdiction, and are defined by traditional liturgy (Latin or traditional English) and solid Catholic moral teaching. That's not to say that solid moral teaching doesn't exist in other parishes. I'm sure it does. I'm just using these 25 traditional parishes as examples based on their liturgical styles, since the quality of traditional liturgy often reflects the quality of traditional moral teaching from the pulpit. So for Southern California, I can only find 25 parishes that offer mass in traditional Latin or traditional English. In contrast, the Ozarks, a similar square mile area, spanning three states and three dioceses, has no less than 10 traditional Catholic parishes (see them here) comparable to the type I selected in Southern California. Again, the same disclaimer applies here too. I know we can find good teaching, from good parishes in the Ozarks, that don't meet this liturgical criteria. I'm just using this to make a point, so bear with me.
Now let's do some numbers crunching. Based on the numbers above, in the Ozarks, there is 1 traditional-style parish for every 17,000 Catholics. However, in Southern California, there is only 1 traditional-style parish for every 288,000 Catholics! In order for Southern California to compete with the Ozarks, having 1 traditional-style parish for every 17,000 Catholics, it would require no less than 424 such parishes. Yet it only has 25! So based on that alone, which region is more traditionally Catholic? Obviously it's the Ozarks, because there are more traditional-style parishes per Catholics here in the Ozarks than there are in Southern California.
Now granted, that's just a numbers game, but the point is this. It's not that the Ozarks dioceses are more traditional. They're not. The leadership is similar to what you might find in Southern California. Rather, the reason why you have more traditional-style parishes (per capita) in the Ozarks is because there simply aren't as many Catholics in the Ozarks. The dioceses are smaller in population. So traditional-style Catholics, who want traditional-style liturgy with traditional-style moral teaching, just have a louder voice. They make up a higher percentage of the Catholics in the area too, namely because they have a louder voice. The end result is, more traditional-style liturgy (and teaching) available in the similar 50,000 square mile region. That's my point. Faithful Catholics have a better chance at getting what they want, in the way of more traditional-style parishes, if they will just pack up and move to Bible Belt dioceses where there are smaller Catholic populations.
The Bible Belt, with a high concentration of Evangelicals, ready to fight for religious liberty, makes an appealing environment for faithful Catholic families with young children. These state governments will work hard against the growing anti-Catholic prejudice of Washington D.C. They already are, with strong religious liberty and conscience protection laws, generous homeschooling provisions, and public acknowledgement of the good of religion. My own home state of Missouri has demonstrated strong work in all of these areas.
Then there is the added benefit of ripe missionary fields for sharpening the faith and bringing Evangelicals into the Catholic Church. This is where we want to be during the full intensity of this coming storm. We don't want to be in a state, like California for example, which is already working to curtail religious liberty, and certainly won't stop once it's fully enabled by a federal government willing to assist it in this area. Faithful Catholics with young children, who take their faith seriously, need to get into solid parishes in the short-term, and in the long-term get their families moved to the states that already protect religious liberty, and are most willing to fight against the radical anti-Catholic (anti-Christian) prejudice that will eventually be coming from Washington D.C. So that's the three-step strategy to weathering the storm.
- Get into a solid Catholic parish that has traditional liturgy and teaches traditional Catholic morality.
- Get the family moved into the Bible Belt, preferably close to a similar type of Catholic parish that is solidly traditional.
- Get involved in state politics there and work to preserve religious liberty.
What we need to understand is that the current 2016 election is a symptom of the problem, not the problem itself. The only way an anti-Catholic candidate, like Hillary Clinton, can be nominated for president is if the culture at large has already slipped into a similar form of anti-Catholicism. If she's elected, we know that culture has now reached a majority.
Western Civilisation is lost. That's the cold hard truth. We know this by looking at Europe. It is now a continent filled with atheists, agnostics and Muslims. The number of practicing Christians is now so small that it's almost unnoticeable. The churches of Europe are now mostly museums, and they've been that way for a long time. The only population that is now religiously devout is the Muslim population, and as more Muslims enter Europe, the whole continent is heading for a clash of civilisations unlike anything we have ever seen in modern times. Eventually it will reach a climax, and when it does, the riots will escalate into wars. That's when Paris will burn, and so will Rome, Berlin, London and Stockholm, along with many other cities. That day is coming. We can't know when. It may be as soon as 10 years, or as long as 30 years. Who knows? But when it happens, Americans will watch it all in horror, and only then will they begin to question the wisdom of this nation's anti-Catholic trajectory. This current 2016 election only determines when that trajectory begins. Will it start within the next few years, or later on, within a decade or so. If Trump wins, we get a short reprieve and the storm is postponed. If Hillary wins, there will be no reprieve and the storm will be upon us very soon. How long Catholic Americans (along with Evangelicals) must endure this storm, depends entirely on when it starts.
Either way, Western Civilisation is lost and it cannot be recovered. What Catholics need to start thinking about right now is how to rebuild Christendom from the ground up. We're literally going to be starting over from scratch. Evangelicals may be able to help us fight the prejudice and weather the storm, but they don't have the tools to rebuild a civilisation. Only Catholics can do that. So Evangelicals need us just as much as we need them. We'll need them for the next few decades, but after that, they'll need us even more. As more Catholics move into the Bible Belt, more Evangelicals will convert, and many who don't convert will be more willing to work with Catholics as the storm rages on. When the storm is over, and its time to re-evangelise North America and Europe, the American Bible Belt (looking a lot more Catholic by then) will serve as an excellent base of missionary operations.
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'
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