The early Christian martyrs were charged with a rather unusual crime: “atheism.” They were called such by the civil magistrates, and and many of the pagan Roman citizens, since they refused to worship the official gods of the Roman Empire. Further, in calling Jesus “Lord” they were directly indicating that they were at odds with the official declaration of the Senatus populusque Romanus (the Senate and the Roman People), that Caesar was “lord.” Their use of the word Evangelium to reference their sacred writings was considered a usurping of a word associated with divine emperor, who alone could utter an Evangelion, a word that was good news of great joy that will be for all the people (cf Lk 2:10).

Yes, the opinion of many at the time was that these Christians were trouble makers who upset the civil balance. They were considered impious and unpatriotic in failing to worship, and thus placate, the gods. Their “atheism” could bring forth bad things for the civil order. They were therefore unjust in their failure to recognize the political, social and sacred order. The Emperor too, was seen as a mere man. This might undermine the authority and respect he both had and was due.

Hence to withstand the Christians, and to attempt to force them to comply with the “just” demands of the law, was seen as a virtuous and praise worthy stance by many in the Roman world. Whatever penalties, might be necessary to compel Christian observance of these “just” norms was seen by many as necessary and good. Further, ridicule, persecution and even death were seen as something these unjust and unpatriotic people deserved. The sporadic persecutions that broke out against the Christians flowed essentially from this mentality.

Today, many of the same ingredients are setting up against Catholics, and other Bible-believing Christians, who have not simply caved and accepted all the increasing demands of a secular culture. And this secular culture has developed a kind of religious fervor around its central dogmas of abortion on demand, the Gay (LGBTQ) agenda, Gay “marriage,” Gay adoption, embryonic stem cell research, euthanasia, separation of Church and State, and the removal of all religious influence from the public schools, and public squares.

This agenda is presented with a dogmatism far more severe than the religious opponents they accuse of being inflexible dogmatic. The PC police will immediately swoop in any even mild transgressions of the secularist sensitivity code. Even an unintentional lapse of the tongue must be punished with immediate resignation or forceable removal, no matter how sincere the apology, or how significant the context of the remarks.

And those Christians and others who fail to adopt this new secularist and sexually revolutionary social order are called: hateful, bigoted, harsh, intolerant, reactionary, homophobic, and just plain mean. Many of these extreme secularists consider themselves not only permitted to speak of us in this way, but see themselves as righteous in doing it. Further, any attempts to eject or exclude us from partaking in the public discussion, exercising our right to free speech, and having equal access to public monies or grants to serve the poor, are seen by the extremists, not only as permissible exclusions, but righteous ones.

For in a way we are “atheists” to their new secularist dogma, which many of them hold with religious fervor.

And while many of them accuse us of “imposing our values” on others, it is really they who, now gaining significant power and influence, are imposing their values far more than they imagine. They not only demand tolerance but insist on approval, and dramatic changes in civil law and longstanding cultural norms. And anyone, like the Catholic Church, that will not conform, must be legally compelled in stages to comply through desertification, exclusionary policies, defunding, endless legal challenges, and so forth.

And all the while the extreme secularists call us bigots, refusing to see their own bigotry. They refuse to accept, for even a moment, that our opposition to much of their agenda is rooted in principled, sincere adherence to long standing religious teaching, a teaching that we believe to be given us by God himself. No indeed, not only will they accept our sincerity, but the Scriptures themselves are openly ridiculed and scorned. Never mind that we consider the Scripture to be sacred. That does not stop increasing numbers of supposedly “open minded and tolerant” secularists and others from spoofing, mocking, ridiculing and scorning Scripture. They also misuse it, quoting verses out of context and in ways that give no acknowledgment of long held interpretive principles.

But yet, we are somehow the bigots, somehow, we are the insensitive and intolerant ones who seek to impose our agenda. Well look again oh ye accusers, and heal yourselves. For despite all the talk that the Gay Lobby, and the Secularists have about their status as victims, they look awfully powerful, influential and well ensconced in high places.

I will not tell you there are no bigots in any Catholic or Christian Church. In what may be as many as 1.5 billion Christians on this planet, you just might find a few. But simply refusing to burn incense at the new altars of secularism, does not simply equate with bigotry, and it is time to stop labeling Christian opposition to the radical secular agenda that way. And if their are any true bigots among Christians, shame on them. Any Catholic should read the Catechism at #s  2357-2359 to discover a proper and balanced view.

But it is also time for many of the extreme Secularists, the abortion advocates and extreme members of the Gay lobby to see their own bigotry as well. Who is asking them questions, and having them render an account for their pressure tactics and ridicule of Christians and the Christian faith? They have every right in this Country to differ with us and to take part in the public discussion of moral issues. But the ridicule of the Christian faith and the use of terms such as hateful, intolerant etc., and the use of legal pressure to force compliance bespeaks a bigotry and religious based discrimination and it ought to be confronted for what it is.

In this video Newt Gingrich turns the tables on the media that, to my mind, have a one-sided view of this issue. My use of this video should not be equated as an endorsement in the current political campaign. This blog does not, and cannot take specific stands on particular candidates, other than to comment on things they have said related to the faith. In this matter I wholeheartedly agree with Mr Gingrich’s articulation of the matter and appreciate him confronting the media on their line of questioning, and also the questions they fail to ask.

37 Responses

  1. Nick says:

    Let us hold fast to Christ Jesus. He has condemned evil, conquered evil, and delivers us from evil.

  2. Kinana says:

    The State (the Beast?) will and does demand obedience. The role of the individual is to submit and conform to forces larger than him/herself. The public square belongs to those who shout the loudest. The bruised reed will not only be broken it will be crushed underfoot. Until and unless people of good will, in growing numbers, unite in their opposition to this 20th century tyranny. Thank you Msgr for your analysis and encouragement.

  3. Taylor says:

    Prophetic. It’s “The New Atheism.”

    The response to religious norms from an ultra-secularist can be quite emotional, unyielding and even threatening. Interestingly, an ultra-secularist can claim to feel threatened by a person who supports religious norms. We need to find ways to remove the fear element so that good, reason-based dialogue can occur.

    Moreover, our country was based in part upon the principle of “Freedom of Religion.” Now, if an ultra-secularist fears a person who honestly and peacefully practices their religion, then we can also see that they fear our nation’s basic founding principles. Another principle is that the majority has a right to vote and conclude on a matter of law in their own favor over the minority who may disagree. While the majority which founded this nation was Christian, it seems that a vast number in our country have moved away from loyalty to God and are choosing loyalty to self and to those who honor this “self.” This is a deviation away from the “founding fabric” or values and norms on which our country was built.

    While there has been a separation of Church and State (a good), those leaders in the State had always leaned on the Church (whether in their upbringing or in their present lives) to understand what is validly right and moral. Now, the ultra-secularist begins to lean on the “self” to determine what is right and moral – making oneself the “supreme validator” of right action. This is a huge deviation away from a “bastion” of multi-millenium wisdom to a shaky “mud hut” of 22-year-old post-pubescent striving for personal independence without due care for wisdom.

    No, we’re not bigots. We’re more like loving parents who are daily dishonored by their children.

    • Yes, at times the Church must be the adult in the room and speak to those who want to wholly ignore fundamental moral principles and be under no authority whatsoever. Of course, anarchy leads straightway to tyranny .

  4. Linus says:

    Go Newt!!! Well said!!! You are absolutely right Msgr. we seem to be facing a secularist bigotry unheard of since the hayday of ancient Rome. And will it be long before they actually hit on a ” real ” idol or perhaps try to enforce worship of a ” divine ” leader, or even a ” divine ” President!!!! Will it be long before they start rounding up sincere Christians of every stripe as did the Communists and Nazis of 30s, 40s and later, as they are doing now in the Islamic world!!!

    • Nigeria especially comes to mind. Also in some other western countries such as Canada and Britain where freedom of speech is less expansive, we are already seeing clergy brought up on charges for speaking against homosexual activity.

  5. Jim from Easton says:

    What the ultra-secularists are really about is “Hating the good for being good.” This happens over and over as people who want to practice evil with no recriminations become hateful of anything or anyone who might remind them of their conflicts with their own consciences, even if those which cause the reminding are attempting no coercion on them whatsoever. Sad but true.

  6. Jon White says:

    Monsignor, you wrote, “…the opinion of many [Romans] at the time was that these Christians were trouble makers who upset the civil balance. They were considered impious and unpatriotic in failing to worship, and thus placate, the gods. Their “atheism” could bring forth bad things for the civil order. They were therefore unjust in their failure to recognize the political, social and sacred order.”
    I must say that I winced when I read this, because I know that one could write today that, “the opinion of many Christians is that these atheists, homosexuals, and hedonists are trouble makers who upset the civil balance. These atheists, et al. are impious and unpatriotic in failing to worship, and thus placate God from visiting His wrath on the USA. Their “atheism” can bring forth bad things for the civil order. They are therefore unjust in their failure to recognize the political, social and sacred order.
    So, you see, government IS regimentation – it’s just a matter of who is to be coersed into regimentation and who will go voluntarily into regimentation, because they see it, for some reason, as beneficial.
    I agree that persecution of Christians in the USA is increasing, and will continue to do so.
    What the above observation shows is the need to DEMONSTRATE LOVE for those who persecute us BY DOING GOOD TO THEM. We must only HATE THE SIN, not the sinner. We must always and continuously LOVE THE SINNER – and we should take real comfort in that maxim because WE ARE ALL SINNERS together. And if Christianity ever gains ground in the culture war, we must remember how painful it was when we were the exiles, and always speak the truth in tenderness, kindness, and love to those who, in truth, walk in darkness, for there, but for the grace of God, go we.
    It is natural for our competitive human spirits to assume an “Us versus them” mode of thinking, but the mind and heart of Christ only allows such an approach with respect to truth versus evil; with respect to the human beings who are speaking the truth or evil, Christ’s mind and heart make no distinctions – He loves them all, even from His cross, forgiving them who know not what they do. So must we also.

    • Well Jon, your comment is not without merit but it lacks distinctions and you fail to articulate that “showing love” does not exclude calling others on their own bigotry. These are the things they are doing, this is about their tactics. This post is about that. This post is equal time and is premised on the concept of certeris paribus (other things being equal). A post cannot say everything. No need to wince Jon, perhaps waking-up is a better “W” word to recommend.

      • Jon White says:

        Monsignor, of course you are correct to say that showing love includes pointing out the bigotry of others. And, again, I agree with you that “a post cannot say everything.” In fact, I find your posts most edifying. The reason for my comment was concern over the real possibility that some Christians’ zea (including mine)l for the triumph of the truth may eclipse their equally-necessary Christian duty to demonstrate Christ’s love to those in darkness. This concerns me because I am foremost in being derelict in this matter of forgetting to demonstrate Christ’s charity toward persecutors of Christians. When I perceive injustice, my sense of outrage against the persecutors easily hijacks my pride, and whatever sense of personal humility I may have had evaporates, leaving me feeling superior to the persecutors because I have the truth on my side, and blind to the fact that, formerly, I myself was a persecutor until God reached out and saved me from the darkness and death that is atheism.

      • Dennis says:

        Hello, Msgr. I was wondering if you could ponder and eventually write on ‘hate the sin but love the sinner’. Peter Kreeft says in Handbook of Christian Apologetics (under The Problem of Evil): “To love evil is to become evil, to succumb to it. But to hate evil is also to succumb to it. For it is practically impossible (1) to avoid Pharisaic self-righteousness and (2) to hate the sin without hating sinners. Finally, (3) to hate at all is to become hard and dark and negative; even hating evil hardens us into haters.”

        I wonder if that expression is (a) impossible as Dr. Kreeft says; (b) has the right idea but does not use correct phrasing; (c) is correct and applicable as is; (d) some other option I have surely neglected to mention.

        If you do not have the time, I understand :-)

        God bless, and thank you for your blog and service as a priest!

        • An interesting idea. As for Dr. Kreeft, I am not one to directly engage him in a negative sort of way. I would need to see the quote in the wider context. Also, I am aware that he sometimes writes in an edgy provocative sort of way to engage our thought and that seems to be so here. Simply taken in its denotative meaning (as opposed to its connotative meaning, hating evil is not wrong but I wonder if Dr Kreefts connotative meaning is that it is difficult for us to pull off in reality the theoretical distinction of loving the sinner but hating the sin

  7. Kerstin says:

    Amen!!

  8. Dismas says:

    Wow, till now I wasn’t aware of this etymology regarding the word atheism. I had always considered it a modern word. It’s ancient roots never occured to me or that it could have been applied in this manner at the time of the Roman Empire.

    What an amazing paradigm shift, thanks for this epiphany!

  9. Marius says:

    The name of the most powerful idol of secularism is “individual rights”. Everything – morality, the good of the society, the natural law, even common sense – is being subjugated to this absurd monstrosity. I call it absurd because, at some point, one person’s individual rights will of necessity clash with another person’s individual rights and then whose rights should come on top? The only solution will be violence. We are already seeing this happening even within the politically correct sphere: homosexual propaganda goes against multiculturalism, etc. This is also the end of true democracy. What does this mean for us Catholics and Christians? We must always be in this world but not of it. We must refuse to co-operate with evil, no matter what goody-goody mask it is wearing at present. We must not enter into any compromises whatsoever. As for the commercial media and its bigotry, hypocrisy and plain ignorance – well, that’s the nature of the beast. The less attention we pay to these clowns, the better.

  10. John Campbell says:

    Thank you for this post Msgr. Pope.

    I always learn something valuable from your posts and the comments generated.

    Best regards…

  11. Jeff Galloway says:

    There is a large element of the secular/athiest community that is virulently anti-faith and, in particular, anti-Christian. To focus on this vocal element is to do dis-service to the larger elements that are not overtly antagonistic. Many secularists and Christians share core outcomes and strategies – favoring dialogue over war to solve disputs for example. So we set ourselves up for failure and frustration if we view the relationship through a win-lose lens.

    Also, as you mention abortion and gay marriage Msgr, it is a mistake to state them as issues only led by or important too the “extreme secularists”. Many Christians and Catholics empathize with at least some of the positions taken by these people. Otherwise, as a majority Christian nation, we would not have legalized abortion and a seemingly unstoppable march toward the norm of gay marriage. Our own Church must do much, much better at explaining the Biblical justification for our positions. In my experience, most Catholics cannot present a coherent argument for the stances they promote. No wonder the secularists are gaining ground!

    • Ive done a lot of explaining here. So have many other bloggers. Here in Washington and in many other dioceses, there have been many initiatives to teach and clarify. The usual response to such explaining is extreme hostility from those who just want us to go away, not explain ourselves. I/we will continue to teach but i am far less sanguine than you about its capacity to get through to people who do not want to hear.

  12. Fran R says:

    Msgr: as usual, wonderful reflection. The historical context of that early time of persecution is informative for both “our times” and our soon-coming times! I would observe that early Christians did not overcome those pagans and ‘statists’ by demanding equal time or that they forsake their bigotry or that they recognize the ‘rights’ of the Christians. That early culture, indeed all cultures, have become “Christianized” by acts of love and self-sacrifice in the face of overwhelming persecution. Binding wounds, tending the dying, sharing starvation rations with hungry widows and children are the currency of love — especially when rendered in grace in the face of imminent torture and death. Living in faith demands this. Sadly most contemporary westernized Christians are not cognizant of this. Your reflection is most valuable for reminding us that our culture has rapidly, and almost without notice, slipped past the point where bemoaning media bias and ignorance is useful. It is already time for prayer and fasting and works of mercy. Lord help us, Lord save us all.

  13. MarkA says:

    “The Church has ever proved indestructible. Her persecutors have failed to destroy her; in fact, it was during times of persecution that the Church grew more and more; while the persecutors themselves, and those whom the Church would destroy, are the very ones who came to nothing. Again, errors have assailed her; but in fact, the greater the number of errors that have arisen, the more has the truth been made manifest. Nor has the Church failed before the assaults of demons: for she is like a tower of refuge to all who fight against the Devil.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church)

  14. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    To face down these secularist threats, the Catholic Church as well as other Chistian faith based organizations are coming to the realization the realization that you have to put money where the mouth is and that is the art of litigation. his country as well as most western civilizations were based on Christian principles. Such is the basis of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The secularist have long realized this and incrementally used activist council and courts to revise the very historical interpretation of these founding documents that acknowledge these God given inalienable rights. The secularist use of status authority and the destruction of individual liberty based on moral responsibility would place the authority in the hands of few and the expense of the majority. The CHurch is finding and this nation as a whole will have to make the legal investment and restore the authority of God and the individual to the rightful place as was originally intended for the sake of our individual freedom, moral civility and the ability to express our life in Christ. The Supreme Court decision yesterday is the second shot heard around the world and the beginning of a long protracted war. So dust of your your faith, your constitution and your Bill of rights and load your courts and legislatures with originalist who stnad for the things for which man was created to carry out in the name of the Father, the Son, and of the Holy Spirit

  15. Pepin the Short says:

    Well put. Thank you.

    At least, by way of small compensation, faith has scored one in the recent ’9-0′ court test case.

    ‘No indeed, not only will they accept our sincerity, but the Scriptures themselves are openly ridiculed and scorned’

    er, I don’t want to quibble, but didn’t you mean ‘not only will they NOT accept our sincerity’?

  16. Brian A. Cook says:

    Didn’t Fransico Franco demand absolute obedience? Didn’t medieval Christian monarchs demand absolute obedience? Didn’t they set themselves up as selected by divine decree that must never be questioned? Didn’t they violently punish the slightest digressions? Didn’t they round up dissenters? Aren’t fundamentalist Christians in parts of African trying to do the same? Don’t Islamic regimes already do the same? Don’t liberals try to get away from that?

    Don’t liberals have genuine ideals of justice and peace? Not once in my past posts did I say that they were perfectly consistent. I simply wanted to point out what I have seen from actual liberals. All this time, I have meant simply to raise further questions for further discussion.

    I offered once before to stop posting here after you accused me of wearing a mask. I am extending this offer again. I am trying to find truth wherever it is found. I have tried to offer serious challenges and warnings on other websites like this in an effort to spur serious discussion and find truth. May God bless you. May God help you in your ministry and help it mature and grow.

  17. TtT Engine says:

    The [LGBT] crowd is vitriolic against orthodox Catholic/Christians because when they are sexually active they are aware that their acts in addition to being gravely sinful, are intrinsically disordered, as per the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A child born out of wedlock can become a great saint. A homosexual union is smothered in evil and intrinsically disordered.

    • Brian A. Cook says:

      Actually, I get the impression that they are (unjustly, grant you) afraid that the Church is handing out a license to kill.

  18. CWill says:

    Talk about delusion heaped on delusion. The U.S. is THE premier religious first world country of the world. It is overwhelmingly Christian in demographics. Political leaders factor in religious blocks into their campaigns and many politicals(far more than people who expect) hide their atheism in order to not have the rabid horde of theocratic citizens howling for their removal.

    When was the last time you heard a politician or news media source talk about garnering the ever important Atheist vote,etc? Answer, never. And why because there isn’t one despite the fact what work on identifying the number of atheists in the US puts their numbers well above politically strong forces like many Jewish groups.

    The propoganda of the secular machine in the United States is primarily a fabrication of the right wing and an outgrowth of right wing ideology in general as dependant on fear as the strongest motivating force to organize voters. It’s a boogieman that doesn’t exist but MUST exist so that the religious right can give it’s people a proverbial Other to hate in one form or another.

    Ironically on examination we see that what constitutes the atheist as bigot,etc is for the atheist to use free speech and the legal system available to all citizens. The truth is far uglier. The religious right simply hate non Christians by and large and are very much uniterested in such individuals using their civil rights to their full extent.

    • Your characterization is broad and unkind. You have a right to use the legal system and free speech to oppose us. But so do we. That does not equate to hate, either by you or by us. By the way, Catholics are not exactly the religious right. We do have “conservative” stances on the moral issues, but more liberal ones on immigration, capital punishment, care for the poor etc. But, the point here is that if the media is going to parrot claims from some extreme secularist and liberals that we are “bigots” etc., should not the media ask the tough questions going the other way too? Mr G did ask some real questions that are not unfair to ask. Your side may deny that it is bigotry, but ask one side about its bigotry and not the other?

  19. Wept says:

    Charles Pope is a opportunist who is “hateful, bigoted, harsh, intolerant, reactionary, homophobic” and serves no real God, but only himself and his organization, and its need to be fed the Almighty Dollar. Thousands of years of discrimination, murder and ostracizing of gay people is not a respectful religious “tradition” — it is an extermination. And it has never worked because there is no “new movement,” Mr. Pope. There is just generations of God’s Children being born unto this world the way he made them: gay, straight, bi, trans, and every other type of sexual orientation and gender.

    Taxpayers owe the Catholic Church nothing. If Charles Pope’s paycheck ever consisted of a single penny from a gay couple’s taxes, he will burn in Hell, right? For he is being supported by the radical, extremist, homosexual agenda that God forbids. He has compromised God’s Will, according to him, and his radical acceptance of radical secular currency is going to radically doom him to the extremities of Satan’s pit. Why don’t you admit that the Catholic Church and Catholic Charities are tax-exempt? Your properties and collections are free of government involvement right up until you start begging for millions of dollars in tax-payer funds.

    It is an abomination for the Church to accept any tax dollars because homosexuals, abortionists, and radical secularists contribute to that shared public fund. Right, Mr. Pope? If you receive them through the Church or your registered Charity, what is the difference? It all goes to funding you, to the property your church purchased, and to your namesake’s Italian castle-nation.

    Do you think Jesus had his own castle-nation? Do you think he asked the government to fund his deeds? Did he demand that his political opinions be inserted into the public record — so that he could deny people their equal legal rights? Did he walk around in fine robes and sit on a throne of gold and hold his hand out for people to kiss his jewelry? Is that what Jesus stood for — money and respect for the amassing of mammon?

    You are a disgrace to call yourself a person of Holy authority. You deserve no respect and if you had any humility you would feel ashamed. However, you are just another politician in a 25 cent dogma collar — a Pharisee full of judgement and self righteousness, just like everyone else. A sinner defiled by what falls out of your mouth and fingertips.

    You are a fool and pompous moron. Your filthy words and your filthy institution is on the way out. Most U.S. Catholics are good-hearted people and the vast majority of them support the legal recognition of same-sex unions. You and your repulsive ilk are down to just 25% in your own institution.

    Your views are in line with murderous Imams and Ayatollahs of the Middle East. Your views are in line with the tribal warmongers of Africa. Your views are in line with the neo-Nazis of Europe. Your views are in line with the far-right propagators of political fervor in this country, too. It is awful of you to align yourself with these people and call yourself a Holy Man.

    Shame on you, Mr. Pope. Christ bless you regardless of your chicanery. But, shame on you for perpetually claiming your personal political views are representative of His Word.

  20. FaithHopeCharity says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    You know you have done well to deliver the truth when the devil strikes back at you personally. We must all put on the armor of God and be willing to be persecuted for His sake. Thank you for your excellent example in this regard. Thank you for spreading the good news. Your work is inspiring and motivational. You are a source of light in this dark world!

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