Persecution, Or Lack Thereof

armenian-refugeesI noticed Msgr Charles Pope’s commentary on religious persecution on his NCReg blog. I don’t know that his “stages” aren’t really more symptoms–they don’t seem to have a natural progression about them. When I first read them, it struck me that they certainly have been applied to both major party candidates for US president, plus persons or groups with whom the Church itself has been at odds.

1. stereotype
2. vilify
3. marginalize
4. criminalize
5. persecute

That last one seems a bit repetitive on the theme, but let’s go with it.

  1. Human beings as a whole stereotype persons, groups, and even experiences they haven’t fully understood. So people naturally attribute present events as of a kind with occurrences in the past. For example: my boss yells at me–this plays the tape of a parent’s disapproval, and I react with less than optimal maturity. Maybe we can’t always stop to understand a new situation. Or maybe we’ve never met Muslim folks who have experienced profiling or unfair treatment in society. It’s easier to associate dark-skinned non-Africans with terrorists. Bosses with mothers. And so on.
  2. It seems that a lot of conservative Catholics recently vilified American women religious for crimes exaggerated, petty, or imagined. No doubt a few women religious said or did things that raise questions. One might ask why abortion escorts or non-Christian speakers weren’t approached personally, instead of an issue for the entire group. Especially since an entire association was criticized for overblown crimes such as feminism. Or listening to non-Catholics. Or focusing on the poor and needy.
  3. I also recall a lot of otherwise loyal Church employees losing jobs–not for explicitly immoral acts, but merely for refusing to march in lockstep with the more extreme factions of the so-called pro-life or pro-family movements.
  4. My facebook feed is still peppered with calls to send Mrs Clinton or Mr Trump to prison. Enough said.
  5. Msgr Pope wrote, “Already in Canada and in parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with ‘hate crimes’ for preaching Catholic doctrine on homosexual activity.” I think it’s one thing to take a stance on the Church’s moral position. It’s another to step into the middle of someone else’s business and be a boor about it. We all know what happens when a liberal goes to a conservative blog and begins to offer Church teaching that doesn’t fly with what the majority wants to hear. Heaven forbid that prudential opinions a offered to the contrary of group-speak. And let’s be honest: the experience is similar for conservatives who visit and comment on liberal sites. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God … or wait: you don’t really want to hear about that, do you?

The fact is that human beings don’t deal well with a lack of uniformity. Catholics like Msgr Pope have a comfortable position in the Church. A parish pastor can certainly order a faith community the way he wants it. Leaders often insulate themselves from the real world, and problems that don’t fit the mold. We all know people in authority who just don’t want the bad news.

Sometimes, the matter is personal. A bride and groom may not like, for example, that they can’t have a Catholic outdoor wedding. Their perception is that they are being persecuted, especially given the popes have outdoor Masses during high-profile events all the time.

Sometimes persecution is just plain-and-simple conflict. Something that needs talking out, listening, and diplomacy. In some quarters, that kind of thing is vilified for being “too nice.” But in reality it is just a matter of good manners.

I’d suggest that Msgr Pope’s “stages” are a matter of sociology–how groups react when a minority surfaces that upsets the status quo. Not a step-to-step guidebook for marginalizing organized religion. The Church, our local parishes, and social media are not immune from these symptoms.

Serious persecution does happen. It has serious signs. When refugees travel across a good chunk of a continent to escape violence. When the people who don’t escape are wounded, enslaved, or killed. When people in safe havens refuse to open their borders and doors to those in need, and the midnight knock at the door goes unanswered.

To be sure, people losing jobs and friends is a serious personal matter for any human being. It is compounded when added to the list of losses are family members, homes, schools, art, religious sites, and whole communities.

If we look to the Gospel example, Jesus doesn’t preach about when we lick our own wounds, bandage our own injuries, feed and water and clothe ourselves, we did it for him. The Lord invites the Christian believer to do it for others. Showing mercy and kindness to non-Catholic victims of religious persecution is a demonstration of the Lord’s agency in the world. If our Muslim, Jewish, or Protestant sisters and brothers want to stand up for us, by all means, let’s express gratitude for that.

But when it comes to American Catholics standing up for real persecution, let’s broaden our horizons. And if we’re really afraid to go overseas, let’s start with standing up to bullies within our own borders. Let’s stand against punks who steal lunch money, damage personal property, stereotype minority students, vilify the un-cool kids, marginalize the non-athletes, criminalize the ones who have committed mistakes and not crimes, and who suffer persecution as the Lord knew: abuse by leaders, abandonment by friends, humiliation, or even death at the hands of overzealous authority figures.

Meanwhile as I ponder the Latin American refugees I’ve known, my grandmother’s relations murdered in Nazi Germany, and pictures of people like those Armenian refugees above, please count me out of the religious persecution schtick. I’m a proud Catholic, and I want no part of it.

Image credite

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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6 Responses to Persecution, Or Lack Thereof

  1. FrMichael says:

    “Especially since an entire association was criticized for overblown crimes such as feminism. Or listening to non-Catholics. Or focusing on the poor and needy.” Where was I sleeping when this happened? I recall associations being investigated for having heretical and apostate speakers, but I don’t recall anybody being criticized for listening to non-Catholics and serving the poor and needy.

    “I also recall a lot of otherwise loyal Church employees losing jobs–not for explicitly immoral acts, but merely for refusing to march in lockstep with the more extreme factions of the so-called pro-life or pro-family movements.” Who and when? I recall a few (too few alas!) heretics, dissenters, and other promoters of evil getting canned from Church employ– rightfully so! When was someone fired from an AmChurch job because they disagreed from a hierarch on a matter of prudential judgment in morality?

    Your take on number five is incredible. When has any Catholic cleric “…step[ped] into the middle of someone else’s business and be a boor about it”? Were priests crashing into pro-same sex marriage strategy sessions and disrupting them? Were bishops dropping napalm on gay pride parades? Were talking about bishops and priests non-violently preaching Catholic doctrine from Catholic pulpits literally and figuratively, to Catholics and to the public square.

    As for number four, as a once-upon-a-time Secret Materials Control Officer in one of my units, if I or a member of the command ever treated classified material as Hillary Clinton did, we would have quickly been shipped off to Fort Leavenworth for court martial.

  2. Todd says:

    Like many Catholics, FrM, you have essentially redefined heresy as “church stuff I disagree with.” I think the resolution of the CDF/USCCB/LCWR dust-up is pretty clear. And I might add, disappointing to a few busybodies. As a parish pastor, if indeed you are one, you know the harm done by gossip, detraction, and innuendo in a faith community. Do you pay attention? Do you let it rule you? Are the vocal minority giving you and others marching orders?

    My take on #5 is simply a matter of human communication. The use of “you” language is not always welcome or accurate when religious leaders are involved. I’d like to know specifics: was a religious minister charged, prosecuted, or imprisoned for so-called hate speech? If so, under what circumstances?

    As for your response to #4, we all know military justice is far more strict, as a matter of cultural and practical necessity. State is not Defense. Mrs Clinton is not being held to a military standard, and neither, any more, are you. We also know that a number of politicians on both sides of the aisle, especially older folks like General Powell and President Bush weren’t always as circumspect with their handling of new technology as Mrs Clinton’s detractors seem to insist people should be. At any rate, I do thank you for reinforcing my point. Disagreement-with implies the need for prison. Msgr Pope’s analysis seems to apply across the board to all ideologies, and hence is a matter to be chalked up to social interaction. Not religious persecution alone.

  3. FrMichael says:

    Busy weekend followed by a trip on Monday, so no time for an in-depth response.

    The laws regarding classified materials are pretty uniform between civilian and military. Mishandling them on the civilian side can be a felony, such as the article the FBI Director cited in his speech where he recommended not charging HRC. The idea that civilians are allowed to mishandle classified materials to a lesser standard than military personnel makes absolutely no sense– it is against all training I ever received in the subject.

    In terms of legal actions against ministers, here’s a quick overview I found googling: It’s heavy on Canadian news but has other countries as well. Not just ministers, it’s a compendium of various actions taken in the public and private sector against those who oppose same sex marriage.

    • Todd says:

      One example I scrolled down to on that site; “Teachers who refuse to endorse gay marriage in the classroom could face the sack under controversial Government reforms, a legal expert has warned.”

      I didn’t see anything about the result of that expert’s opinion, but we do know that some Catholics have been pink-slipped for refusing to oppose same-sex unions. I think you help demonstrate my point that #5 is a matter of human behavior, not gay-on-Christian hate.

      You might believe that the handling of classified diplomatic material should be subject to military justice. But a lot of people would dissent from that view. We do not live in a military state. Mrs Clinton’s errors, however much they exist, took place in the realm of the Department of State, not Defense. To be sure, they are not exclusive from each other. But she was the target of significant investigation by the FBI, and no charges were filed. If some would say that is a result of her privileged position as a political celebrity, it only underscores my point: people say the same thing about Mr Trump being able to cheat, swindle, and get away with fraud.

      Again, I thank you for buttressing my point: the call for criminalization is rooted in a broad desire to eliminate those who disturb or confront a personal narrative. It may well be a sign of religious persecution. But it is not exclusively about persecution of people of faith.

  4. FrMichael says:

    “You might believe that the handling of classified diplomatic material should be subject to military justice.” No I don’t. Handling of classified diplomatic material falls under the civilian US Code, as does the handling of CIA and NSA classified material. Both military and civilian sides have the same classification system: confidential, secret, top secret, NOFORN, et al, and the various sub-classifications within Top Secret. Hilary should have been charged with the felony she clearly committed under civilian statute, not under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice. It is to the shame of the FBI Director that he did not recommend prosecution.

    • Todd says:

      Thanks for the comment. This post is not about political candidates as such, but about the various forms of persecution, real and imagined. Many of those people cited on your link did, in fact, break laws in Canada or elsewhere. Most seemed, like Mrs Clinton, to have been accused and investigated of a crime, but not prosecuted. It all seems the same to me, an underscoring of my point.

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