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The ‘respectable’ sponsors of anti-Catholic violence

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jul 14, 2020

Today, July 14, is Bastille Day: the date when the French people celebrate their Revolution.

Or should I say, the date when some French people celebrate the Revolution, while others mourn the orgy of mob violence that it unleashed. At first, leaders in the newly independent United States welcomed the ouster of another king; later they recoiled at the senseless bloodshed, the headlong rush into another form of tyranny, the relentless use of the guillotine to eliminate political opposition. (In Paris the guillotine was set up at a site called the Place de la Concorde: an early indication of how totalitarians justify killing as a means of securing peace.)

But this year Bastille Day comes as Americans are living through a paroxysm of mob violence. And as in France in 1789, the mobs can look to intellectuals for justification. The Washington Post, for instance, today carries a column by Zara Anishanslin, a history professor who is anxious to tell us: “The American Revolution was violent and the destruction of property was critical to both American protest and military campaigns during the Revolution.” In case you miss the point, she later adds:

Whitewashing revolutionary history has long made it easier for those who wish to maintain the status quo to police protests as appropriate only if they are “peaceful.” But since the founding of the United States, political protest has never been entirely peaceful.

Thus the standard-bearers of fashionable liberal opinion blur the distinction between revolution and riot, between symbolic action and malicious destruction. Yes, it’s true that American patriots ruined private property in the Revolutionary era—as, for instance, when the “dumped the tea into the sea in seventeen-hundred and seventy-three.” But they did not demolish whole city blocks; they did not loot stores and burn out neighborhood shopkeepers. That sort of thuggery is the mark of brownshirt bullies, not honest rebels.

For Christians and particularly for Catholics, this spasm of violence is particularly worrisome, because—as in France in 1789—we are obviously prime targets.

And why would a Catholic church be a target?

Could it be because Shaun King, a leader of the Black Lives Matter movement, has proclaimed that “the statues of the white European they claim is Jesus should also come down”?

Or could it be the influence of someone closer to the ideological mainstream: someone like Howard Dean, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, who helped whip up hostility toward Christians with this Twitter post:

Unfortunately Christians don’t have much a (sic) reputation for anything but hate these days thanks to Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell and other Trump friends.

We don’t know exactly what motivated the truck-driver in Florida—or the vandals in Boston and New York—but we know that there’s a strong tang of anti-Christian bigotry in the air these days. The hostility can take overt and brutal forms (beating people as they pray), or it can take subtle and sophisticated forms (issuing regulations that effectively prevent public prayer). The one nourishes the other.

As an example of a sophisticated drive against Catholicism, it’s perhaps impossible to beat the legal crusade against the Little Sisters of the Poor. Yes, they prevailed at the Supreme Court last week—their third victory there in three tries. But as Hadley Arkes explains in The Catholic Thing their ordeal is not yet over: “The Little Sisters could be rattling around the courts for years to come.”

Why was it so important to the Obama administration, and why is it still so important to liberals, to force the Little Sisters to pay for contraceptives in their employees’ health-insurance plans? Arkes observes:

As the redoubtable Mark Rienzi remarked, if the aim of public policy was to diffuse contraceptives to the country, the Little Sisters of the Poor would be an implausible vehicle. And yet, it is strangely no longer enough, for “progressives,” that the program be funded by the government as a public commitment. For them, it is even more exquisite and morally necessary that it be used as a lever to force the recanting or humbling of those insufferably religious people who offer the most serious moral resistance to the program.

For years they’ve been coming relentlessly after the Little Sisters—not so much because they want to sell more contraceptives but because they want to eliminate religious resistance to their program. More generally they want to eliminate public manifestations of religion. So while the sophisticated liberals are coming after the Little Sisters, their cruder ideological allies are coming after the statues and the churches and the people who pray in public. Sooner or later they could be coming after you and me.

And when I say “they” may be coming after us, I suppose I am using the wrong pronoun. Because it is a self-identified Catholic, Joe Biden, who has vowed to undo the Trump administration’s policies that protect the Little Sisters.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: mgeorge884623 - Jul. 18, 2020 3:33 AM ET USA

    I am a Catholic from India, living in US, for the last 52 years, shocked at the statues destructions in several states. I thought it was only in 2 states. Thanks for the latest info. When the late Cardinal George stated,”I will have a natural death,my Cardinal after me will die in prison and the next will be martyred”, I thought no way. Now I am not so sure. In India, Christians are facing severe persecution by the Federal Goverment, BJP. 101+ will be declared martyrs by our Pope. Matt George