Catholic Culture Overview
Catholic Culture Overview

Churches burning, Satan out in the open: Overplaying his hand?

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 29, 2021

Yesterday’s news story that two more Catholic churches have been burned down on indigenous land in British Columbia is just one more example of the increasing overt hatred and mockery of the Catholic Church. The unholy litany continued today with a vandalized cathedral in Saskatchewan and a bomb in a Catholic church in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Catholic statues and buildings have been defaced, damaged and destroyed in increasing numbers throughout the world in recent years. In some regions, attacks on the Church and her members are even more extreme, including imprisonment, displacement, torture and murder.

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All of this is both horrifying and shameful. But it is not a surprise.

One of many different sub-patterns in history is the way in which diabolic manifestations change over time. Where the Catholic Church is generally respected and the basic social virtues are upheld in the dominant culture, the Devil typically manifests himself as an angel of light, speaking sweet reason in ways that subtly undermine both civic and personal virtue. Every immoral goal is advanced under the guise of some reasonable good. But as societies grow more vicious, Satan is emboldened to “show his hand” with increasingly severe direct assaults especially on Catholics and their churches which, by their very presence in society, bear witness to the Good.

We are entering an historical cycle—indeed, we have already entered it—in which the most outrageous anti-social and anti-religious attacks can be launched against Catholics, and indeed against society itself, because the diabolical hatred of the Good has been able to come out in the open and reveal itself in all its ugliness. Less and less now does Satan disguise himself as an angel of light. But few are horrified, because most are already conditioned to love much of what Satan loves and hate much of what Satan hates. The goal of destroying obstacles to “progress” justifies any actions which would otherwise appear excessive.

It is hard to defend against these attitudes. While the Catholic Church in herself stands against every form of evil, Satan continuously urges us to believe both that some of these alleged evils are really goods and that the shortcomings of Catholics prove the Church to be built on a fundamental hypocrisy. The Church is thus easily portrayed as maintaining an illusion of piety while fostering nothing but abject sinfulness. So we have two things at work today. First, everybody knows that the Church stands in some sense as a sign of contradiction to the principal vices of our dominant culture, and so she is hated as all sinners hate the light. But, second, everybody also knows that huge numbers of Catholics fail to live in accordance with Church teachings. And so the Church is attacked all the more as the source and summit of…hypocrisy.

No points for trying

There is and always has been a double-standard at work in the world. Insofar as one professes only the moral convictions of the dominant culture, one is given great credit for trying to find happiness in whatever way one can. Insofar as one professes moral convictions which in effect judge the dominant culture, one is condemned both for one’s convictions and one’s failure to live up to them. To Satan, there is no evil in those who give themselves over to evil; and he admits no good in those who fall short of the goods they seek. How much easier it is to forego the entire struggle, so that we can be approved by others, or—at the very least—left alone!

But conscience seldom leaves us entirely alone, and the devil uses even conscience to breed despair in us. Thus as Satan emerges more clearly as himself, nobody is ever left alone. He sees to it that to be welcomed into the dominant culture he has worked so hard to create—I mean, in the Scriptural sense, to be welcomed into “the world”—we must not only fail in our genuinely good intentions but we must condemn these same good intentions. For the world, under Satan’s banner, is always at war with God.

This reality could be illustrated with a thousand examples. We see with growing clarity every day that in Satan’s world it is not enough to admit our own sinfulness. No, we must rather deny that our sins are sins and condemn those who uphold genuine virtue as hypocrites. Ultimately, we find that only those who embrace as virtues the vices of our time can be deemed worthy of praise. But increasingly this is the praise of a frenzied mob, whether found in high places or in the gutter. This is Satan’s voice, as Satan reveals himself more and more openly, howling, laughing, destroying and enslaving as he goes.

A reaction?

One good aspect of all this is that the dreadfulness of the evils into which we are so often willingly led becomes clearer over time to those who remember what it is to be good, even if we sometimes grow increasingly blind to reality as we sink into sin. Satan is supremely proud; therefore, at some point he always overplays his hand. He always eventually tells a lie that is too big to swallow for those who are haunted by the memory of goodness. When that happens, for each of us as for all the world and its sinful culture, the greatest need is to avoid Satan’s ultimate object, which is our own despair.

This is why the Church is most fully herself not when she seeks worldly status by affirming or even excusing sin but when she loves her children precisely as sinners. The Gospel is always the light of hope in deep darkness. Its message is not that God and Satan are one in ignoring sin, but that Satan’s goal is the multiplication of sins unto an incapacitating despair while God’s goal is the multiplication of mercy unto a repentant love. The Church, filled with sinners, transmits this message only imperfectly. She is the Body of Christ in and through her fallen members, and so her strength is always in some ways hidden within her weakness. Thus we continue to have immense work to do in extracting her light from the bushel of sins into which it too often falls. But if Divine mercy has sinners as its object, the repository of Divine mercy must for that very reason be the Church of “here comes everybody”, the Church of sinners, the Church universal, the Catholic Church.

Moments of engraced triumph come through conversion, and these moments are triggered in different ways in different places and different times. Such moments are created by the sacrifice of all kinds of martyrdoms, whether small or large, which mysteriously “make up what is lacking in the sacrifice of Christ for the sake of His body the Church” (Col 1:24). But a moment of grace always comes to those who remain open because they cannot completely deny their sins. Sometimes it comes only to individual souls, but sometimes it comes more broadly historically, as a new movement here on earth, a movement that will begin to push human culture once again toward the protection afforded by Him who cries out continuously: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (Mt 23:37; Lk 13:34).

Mercy is ours for the asking, both for ourselves and our fallen world. It is certain that our “salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed” (Rom 13:11). So let us ask Jesus Christ for the mercy of awakening, of recognition, and of conversion, in ever-greater confidence. Let us ask Him now. Let us ask Him often. And let us ask Him through our tears, as we would for life itself.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 30, 2021 9:22 AM ET USA

    Every revolution led by Satan has one goal: to overthrow true religion. Consider the French Revolution, the 2 Mexican Revolutions, the Soviet Russian Revolution, the Mao Revolution, Castro, Pol Pot, Chavez, and now the most hideous of all - the destruction of Western civilization by aggressive sexual and tribal bigotries. Last year virological warfare did not go far enough. This year the plague of "vaccination" reinforces the plague of abortion, which reinforces the plague of depopulation.

  • Posted by: td4207 - Jun. 29, 2021 8:45 PM ET USA

    There has been legitimate outrage over the discovery of previously hidden graveyards of native children who had been placed into Church run residential facilities. Suspect this factors into this vandalism.

  • Posted by: christosvoskresye5324 - Jun. 29, 2021 8:21 PM ET USA

    "Satan is supremely proud; therefore, at some point he always overplays his hand. He always eventually tells a lie that is too big to swallow for those who are haunted by the memory of goodness." 1. There is a suicidal aspect to evil. I'm not sure it is always pride, but it is always an excess of some vice. 2. It's not always memory; sometimes it is the Law written on each heart. 3. The main temptation now is to despair of the possibility of goodness, and so to try to redefine goodness.