The Gospels of Matthew (27:45), Mark (15:33) and Luke (23:44) all agree that, for the three hours that Jesus hung on the cross, there was darkness over the whole land. How incongruous it would have been for it to have been a sunny day – just as we today find it difficult to visit Auschwitz on a sunny day, or Anne Frank’s home on a sunny day, or Bataan on a sunny day, or the Roman Catacombs on a sunny day.
In addition to an unnatural darkness, there was wind, and earthquakes, tombs opened, and the dead walking. Nature itself was repulsed by creatures killing the Creator, the beloved killing the Lover, patients killing the Great Physician, humankind showing no mercy to the All-Merciful. The moral order had been upended by human beings more than Adam’s disobedience, Cain’s murder of Abel, the brothers selling Joseph into slavery, David’s adultery and murder, and Solomon’s idolatry. The execution of Jesus was the ultimate abomination, the ultimate sacrilege. The rupture between God and man was forever and deep – and yet simultaneously bridged by the Son.
Today, darkness covers the entire land of the United States. We see it in the attempt by legislatures, courts and governors to unite in marriage by their sheer will (see Nietzsche) what physically cannot be united in marriage. Same-sex marriage is untethered to human history, to human biological reality. Our political leaders are trying to remake man in the tradition of Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union and China.
We see it, too, in the attempt by the Obama Administration to provide free birth control to the girls (there is no lower age limit) and women of this country. Again they seek to be released from human biological reality. Obama wants utter equality between males and females. He wants girls and women to have the same ability as men to engage in sexual intercourse without the consequence of pregnancy. As he declared on the 39th anniversary of Roe v Wade:
"we must. . .continue our efforts to ensure that our daughters have the same rights, freedoms, and opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams".
Again, our political leaders are trying to remake humankind in the tradition of Revolutionary France, Nazi Germany and Communist Soviet Union.
In light of what President Obama has done with regard to abortion and birth control and same-sex marriage during a first term (when, with respect to same-sex marriage, he says his position is “evolving”), imagine what he will do in a second term released from the need to be re-elected.
President Obama loves saying that we’ve tried x, y and z policies under the Republicans, that they haven’t worked, and we won’t return to them. Well, we’ve been trying Democratic policies that destroy marriage -- and women and men -- for over 40 years with results like the ones I cite immediately below. Maybe, Mr. President, we should try something else.
The Centers for Disease Control
(CDC) reported in its National Vital Statistics Report of November 2011 that, of the 4.1 million births in the United States in 2009, 41% of them, 1.7 million, were to unwed mothers. For black non-Hispanic babies, it was 73%. Over 15,000 children were born to girls age 15 and 5,000 to girls under age 15. Each of these girls was a victim of statutory rape. In a November 2011 report, Abortion Surveillance for 2008, the CDC reported
3,700 girls under age 15 had abortions.
These, too, were victims of statutory rape. And some portion of the 117,000 girls ages 15 to 19 who had abortions were under 16 at the time of conception and were also victims of statutory rape. These statistics do not reveal the much larger numbers of underage girls who are violated who have not become pregnant – either because of natural infertility, contraception, the natural odds against becoming pregnant, or anal or digital penetration.
The darkness, the moral decay, the defining of deviancy downward, is apparent to anyone with eyes. But still, Obama, Biden, Reid, Pelosi, presidential aspirants Governors Cuomo and O’Malley and the Democratic rank-and-file press onward. And they will brook no conscientious opposition. Their souls are gravely disordered.
After the Fall of Dunkirk, Winston Churchill uttered his famous lines on June 4, 1940:
We shall go on to the end,
we shall fight in France,
we shall fight on the seas and oceans,
we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,
we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be,
we shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,
we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;
we shall never surrender!
Analogous to the British of World War II, we will fight in the legislatures, we will fight in the courts, we will fight in the media. But, in the end, we have to face the possibility of losing on all fronts. What then?
We have seen this scenario played out so many times and in so many places. We know the drill. (I say “we” not to refer to us as historians, but to us as members of the Body of Christ through time and space.) First, they will bring out the big lies, like we don’t care about people once they’re born. Hogwash: People are learning that 12% (600) of the 5,700 hospitals in the U.S
. are Catholic. And we were facilitating adoptions, until we were barred because we wouldn’t place children with homosexua
l or unmarried heterosexual couples.
They ignore the late Cardinal O’Connor’s offer to help any woman tempted to commit abortion. While they don’t ignore our pregnancy counseling centers, they criticize them and sue them for not providing abortion referrals – and ignore the help they give to pregnant women.
A big lie upon which I would like to focus is that Catholics oppress women by, for example, not allowing them to be ordained priests, not giving them positions of power in the Vatican, keeping them “barefoot and pregnant” by opposing contraception, holding up marriage for life (vowed marriage) as a realizable ideal, honoring virginity, including consecrated (vowed) virginity. Hogwash: They ignore the teachings and example of Jesus, and of the history of His Church, in its profound respect for the dignity of women. See, for example, John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem
(On the Dignity and Vocation of Women) (1988), And they ignore how this Christian view of women has yielded abundant fruit in the laws, institutions, and culture of the Western world and thence to the rest of the world.
One piece of evidence of this development, just one piece but often neglected, is the Christian custom of naming of places after women. In California, the Spanish Franciscans established 21 missions among the Indians from 1769 to 1823. Three of them were named after angels (Gabriel, Rafael, Michael), three after Jesus’ mother, Mary, and three after other women: Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Inés (Agnes).
Let’s go back further – to the first centuries after Christ. There are some 900 churches in present-day Rome, most of them Catholic. Twenty-three were initially constructed in the Fourth Century, that is, just after the legalization of Christianity. Those named after women other than Mary are four: Santa Susanna, Santa Anastasia, Santa Pudenziana, and Basilica di Santi Vitale e Compagni Martiri in Fovea (Saint Valeria, her husband Saint Vitalis, and their sons, Saints Gervasius and Protasius). If we turn to the Fifth Century, sixteen churches were initially constructed. Four of them were named after women other than Mary: Santa Bibiana (or Viviana or Vibiana), Sant’Agata dei Goti (St. Agatha), Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, and Santa Prisca.
The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
in Washington, D.C., is the largest church in the United States. It has, as one would expect from its title, a large number of chapels devoted to Our Lady according to her various titles. There are also chapels and statues and mosaics of a great many other women. In the Upper Church are Saints Louise de Marillac
In the Crypt Church
are Saints Elizabeth (Mary’s cousin), Anne (Mary’s mother), Susanna, Catherine of Alexandria, Margaret of Antioch, and Brigid
. In the Hall of American
Saints on the lower level are Saints Elizabeth Ann Seton, Frances Cabrini
, Katharine Drexel, Rose Philippine Duchesne
, and soon-to-be-Saint Kateri Tekakwitha
.. Opposite this Hall is a statue of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
In addition, there are mosaics in the Crypt Church of seven women whose names appear in the Roman Canon (“Eucharistic Prayer I”) of the Latin Church’s liturgy, the Mass, from at least the time of St. Pope Gregory the Great (pope, 590-604 A.D.). Thus, they have been venerated at every Mass throughout the world for over 1400 years. They are all martyrs from the earliest centuries: Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia and Anastasia. This Agnes is the same woman for whom a California mission was named. And Anastasia, Agatha and Cecilia are the same women for whom the earliest churches in Rome were named. We should pray to them in our darkness today.
Saints Felicity and Perpetua were martyred in Carthage, in north Africa, in the Third Century A.D. Felicity was eight months pregnant. She feared that she wouldn’t be allowed to be martyred because the law forbade executing pregnant women. Two days before the date of execution, she gave birth to a daughter, who was adopted by a Christian woman. Felicity was a slave. Her mistress was Perpetua, age 22, a married woman who had a child who had not yet been weaned. Perpetua’s account of events leading to their deaths is apparently historical and is written in the first person. It is likely the earliest surviving text written by a Christian woman.
St. Agatha was a virgin martyred in Sicily in the Third Century. While we are certain of her martyrdom, by legend we are told she spurned the professions of love by her suitor Quintianus, who then had her cruelly tortured, even ordering her breasts cut off. These wounds were miraculously healed, but she died of other cruelties.
St. Lucy was a virgin martyred about 304 A.D. in Sicily. She had converted to Christianity after the miraculous healing of her mother at the shrine of St. Agatha. According to the Basilica’s website, “her fiancè, enraged by her conversion and renunciation of all her wealth, identified her as a Christian to the Roman authorities. Lucy survived numerous indignities and tortures only to be stabbed to death. According to legend her eyes were plucked out. Lucy's conversion experience and the metaphor of sight are central to her story, for in Latin her name means, ‘light.’”
St. Agnes was a 13 year old virgin when she was martyred in Rome. Having consecrated her virginity to Christ, she refused marriage to the governor’s son. The prospective father-in-law ordered Agnes, naked, dragged through the streets to a brothel. But she prayed and her hair grew and covered her nakedness. She was then decapitated. Saint Agnes is the patron of young girls.
St. Cecilia was martyred in Sicily between 176 and 180 A.D. following the martyrdom of her husband and his brother.
St. Anastasia suffered martyrdom at the beginning of the Fourth Century during the persecution of the Roman emperor Diocletian (emperor, 284-305). She was beheaded in Sirmium, in present day Serbia. After several attempts to make her apostatize, she was burned to death.
These women have been venerated from the earliest times. There simply has never been a “glass ceiling” preventing girls and women from becoming holy – and preventing the recognition of their holiness by men.
In addition to the big lies, the enemies of Christ will try to separate us from our bishops by undermining our bishops. They argue that the bishops have no moral authority after countenancing sexual child abuse. They won’t say, however, when, if ever, the bishops will ever satisfy their unarticulated criteria for having their moral authority restored.
They will belittle our Faith and our bishops by claiming that a numerical majority of persons identifying themselves as Catholic define Catholic Church teaching. Thus Frank Bruni
and Gary Gutting
in the New York Times
. There were many “false
prophets” (yes, that is how they are described) in ancient Israel – false
although they were in popular and royal favor. By what substantive and procedural (e.g., polling) criteria should we lay Catholics decide that particular teaching about faith and morals by the bishops, including the Bishop of Rome, is wrong? And who decides that Bruni and Gutting are Catholic, but the Pope is not?
They will try to persuade us that doing things their way is in accord with the true Catholic Faith, morally correct, not a violation of our consciences, eminently reasonable and for the common good.
They have power over us. They have bullied us. They can do a lot worse to us. But, friends, God will win. It took 300 years before the Roman Empire legalized us, 300 years before the United Kingdom legalized us, 70 years before the Soviet Union legalized us. We will outlast them and they, not us, will be on the ash heap of history. Because history is God’s history, not theirs.
When Thomas More was in prison he wrote two books. The first was rather lengthy. It was written when he had been sentenced to life imprisonment. The second was much shorter. It was written when he realized that the king wanted his death.
This second book is a meditation on the Passion (the Suffering) of Christ. He entitled it “The Sadness of Christ.” Toward the end, he repeats, several times with great effect, the phrase used by Christ after the betrayal and arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane: “[T]his is your hour, the time for the power of darkness.” (Luke 22:53). Yes, we will know when we will have to yield because it is the hour of the enemies of God, the time for the power of darkness.
Why should we think we in the United States would be immune from betrayal and arrest, any more than the Master? We have the history in the twentieth century alone of one million believers martyred in Spain, Mexico, the Soviet Union, Red China, Nazi Germany, and elsewhere, and, in many such instances, the leaders came to power through elections. See Robert Royal, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History (2006).
Finally, in this time of darkness, I want to instill hope. After Good Friday, there is Easter. On July 13, 1852, Father John Henry Newman addressed a synod of English bishops, just a couple years after the Pope had reestablished the hierarchy following 300 years. Newman’s talk, entitled “Second Spring,” is regarded as one of the finest in the English language. The full address is available on the Web in several places including here
and here .
I provide two excerpts:
Three centuries ago, and the Catholic Church, that great creation of God's power, stood in this land in pride of place. It had the honours of near a thousand years upon it; it was enthroned on some twenty sees up and down the broad country; it was based in the will of a faithful people; it energized through ten thousand instruments of power and influence; and it was ennobled by a host of Saints and Martyrs. [But the Church was eradicated in England until 1850.]
* * *
It is an innovation, a miracle, I may say, in the course of human events. The physical world revolves year by year, and begins again; but the political order of things does not renew itself, does not return; it continues, but it proceeds; there is no retrogression. This is so well understood by men of the day, that with them progress is idolized as another name for good. The past never returns—it is never good;—if we are to escape existing ills, it must be by going forward. The past is out of date; the past is dead. As well may the dead live to us, well may the dead profit us, as the past return.
This, then, is the cause of this national transport, this national cry, which encompasses us. The past has returned, the dead lives. Thrones are overturned, and are never restored; States live and die, and then are matter only for history. Babylon was great, and Tyre, and Egypt, and Nineve, and shall never be great again. The English Church was, and the English Church was not, and the English Church is once again. This is the portent, worthy of a cry. It is the coming in of a Second Spring; it is a restoration in the moral world, such as that which yearly takes place in the physical.
Spero columnist James M. Thunder is an attorney based in Washington DC.