When I was young and the Martyrology was read in the refectory
at noon before lunch, the tales of persecution seemed remote
and incredible. Movies of course focused on the Christians in
the Coloseum being herded into the main arena where lions
awaited. Sicut leo rugiens circuit, quaerens quem devoret.
Technicolor softened the effect much as the graceful statue of
Santa Cecilia in Trastevere did.
Growing up in a civilization that could still be
called at least the remnant of Christendom, the possibility of
persecution was unthinkable. After all, the post-Enlightenment
states all embraced the freedom to worship as one wished,
making it all seem a matter of individual and doubtless
irrational choice, but nonetheless there seemed no menace in
that indifferentism. For a time at least, the waning
conviction that a just polity entailed the acknowledgment of
God was something to lament, but even on Caesar's coins one
could still read, In God We Trust. How swiftly all that has
The European Union is deliberately forgetful of the
Christianity that shaped the old continent. And, as the case
of Rocco Butilgione made clear, any politician who has the
termerity publicly to adhere to the most basic precepts of
natural law as firmed up by the Church, is decidedly person
non grata. The faith disqualifies one for public life.
Militant secularism has been a growing force in the
United States, with believers increasingly regarded as menaces
to the public weal. The key issue for some thirty years has
been abortion. One whole political party has transformed
itself into the party of abortion, and although its opposite
has spoken its actions have seldom matched its words. Nothing
has been sadder than Catholic politicians who embraced the
abortion creed, until recently with impunity. Now at least
bishops are reminding them, in number and out loud, that
support for abortion separates them from the Church.
The infiltration of Islam into the western
democracies has found them unable to deal with a group hostile
to the supposed principles of those democracies. Freedom of
worship? Count the Christian churches in Muslim countries. The
natural rights which are the pride of secular republics are
now used against them in order to undermine them. Sharia has
come to be recognized as an alternative system of justice,
with of course the Archbishop of Canterbury doing the now
familiar Anglican shuffle on the matter.
Where will it all end? The battles of Vienna and
Lepanto are now being re-fought in the heart of once Christian
lands where Christians of robust faith are in short supply. It
is no longer unthinkable that in some future Martyrology this
generation or the next will figure prominently. Et alibi
aliorum plurimorum sanctorum....