Are the Dark Clouds of Persecution Beginning to Gather?

July-August 2009By F. Douglas Kneibert

F. Douglas Kneibert is a retired newspaper editor and a 1999 convert from Protestantism. He writes from Sedalia, Missouri.

Mention the words "persecution of the Catholic Church" and eyes begin to roll. What persecution? Are churches in the West being burned, priests being hunted down, and believers being thrown into prison? Obviously, no. But those are the wrong questions. In Western democratic societies, persecution seldom bursts forth on the scene full-blown. It's more likely to come in steadily escalating phases, often disguised as something else -- even as something good. Might we be in the early stages of just such a progression?

To speak of persecution of a religious minority is to be directed to Holocaust studies, which constitute the most exhaustive historical examination we have of how democratic civil and religious rights can be undermined and lost in a remarkably short timespan. The manner in which this process unfolded may have something to say to the Catholic Church today. Obviously, there are vast differences between Germany of the early 1930s and the U.S. today. But there are also some unsettling similarities.

It hardly bears repeating that Germany in the early 20th century was heir to a rich cultural heritage that was far removed from its barbaric origins. Or so many thought. The Constitution of the Weimar Republic, out of which the Third Reich emerged, granted civil and religious rights to its citizens in conformity with the European norm at the time.

Although Germany had a long history of hostility toward the Jews, the first stage of the process that led directly to Hitler's "final solution" was centered in the popular culture during the waning days of the Weimar Republic and the early years of the Nazi regime, which assumed power in 1933. A virulent anti-Semitism found its voice in the media, in books, in motion pictures, and even in children's literature. When it came to demonizing the Jew, Adolf Hitler had literally written the book with Mein Kampf.

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Back to July-August 2009 Issue

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I remember a story Bishop Sheen once told about a Chinise girl gunned down infront of the Blessed Sacrament during the Boxer rebellion, if they want to find us there shall we be. Posted by: Jack Hughes 123
August 18, 2009 08:46 PM EDT
Please archive this article for future reference in case the environment worsens. It will be interesting to list the stages the United States passes in its disintegration to savagery. Posted by: joreill
July 23, 2009 12:12 PM EDT
The school prayer was a major loss Posted by: Henry Patrick
July 28, 2009 03:32 PM EDT
and ironically the pursuers were Jews. Posted by: Henry Patrick
July 28, 2009 03:34 PM EDT
Yes, the incursions into our religious freedom come step by step because we don't know our faith so well as we should and because we don't challenge misstatements by both Catholics and non-Catholics. Interestingly, at the same time that Catholicism is being attacked (actually all of Christianity) so also is our democracy being attacked. Both are required to rid this world of the American Republic and replace it with a secular progressive government. We are losing both our freedom to worship and our freedom, period. President Obama has named people to his staff, cabinet, Czars etc. that have various philosophies all of which are antithetical to Catholic Church teachings. Even our Founding Fathers realized that a successful democracy required an informed and disciplined citizenry. The latter depended upon a society of faith that practised self discipline. The former depends upon an independent press that would keep the citizens informed and the abusers exposed. Likewise, in our Faith, we depend upon a faithful press and courageous clergy and lay people to set the record straight and defend the faith. Yet, in my parish, there is never any homily that reminds us of either, except for the usual biblical treatise that depends upon an informed audience to have any real effect. Posted by: awunsch
August 28, 2009 12:45 PM EDT

We've already got a secular progressive government, and have for a long time. The previous presidency just had superior window dressing. The American people have acquiesced every step of the way in the curtailing of "freedom." We prefer to engorge ourselves on Big Macs and be dazzled by celebrity talent shows than practice self-discipline and become an informed citizenry. That's not entertainment. The founding fathers could never have predicted what the citizenry would become.
Posted by: Jack_Straw
August 28, 2009 01:39 PM EDT

You are correct. However, we can't say that they didn't warn us both as to what was required of a citizenry and that we have a republic "if we can keep it".

As for the secular progressive government, we're not there yet but the Obama administration will severely damage this country (well beyond the compassionate Bush) if we let him. I'd like to think that the tea parties show that there are a lot of people that are catching on and don't like what they see. Can we get people to stop thinking when a problem occurs: "What's the Gov going to do about it?", I don't know. Too many liberals in the school system.
Posted by: awunsch
August 30, 2009 07:21 PM EDT
September 13, 2012 06:18 PM EDT
You mention that the 'NAZI' persecution of the Jews came 'from the Right'. This is incorrect. When you trace the origins of 'National' 'Socialism' back to its origins among Chech socialists in the late 19th Century, it can be seen easily that it belongs on the Left not the Right. Posted by: Gene Carr
September 14, 2012 05:43 AM EDT
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