The Dark Gulf Before Us

In March of 1938, when the naïve among his contemporaries still thought they might cut a deal with the National Socialists, Winston Churchill saw his country “descending incontinently, fecklessly, the stairway which leads to a dark gulf.” A gulf beckons today, and no amount of forced optimism or self-conscious jollity will stop the descent to its shadows. There is nothing inevitable about what lies ahead, but providence will overcome fatalism only if people absorb what Pope Benedict XVI said last January to a group of American bishop on their “ad limina” visit: “…it is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres.”

Those words would probably confuse the comfortable man who objected to me about a prayer that mentioned “enemies of the Faith.” He said with suburban unction that “there are no enemies anymore.” He was unaware that somewhere around 200 million Christians live under daily threat in 131 countries. Last year, nearly 100,000 Christians were killed because of their Christianity, in lands from North Korea and China, to Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia, Laos, Sudan, and on and on, including some supposed allies of our nation, such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt.

The man who saw no enemies might plead with good reason that the media have, to put it mildly, inadequately publicized these persecutions. That kind of plea, however, can no longer be sustained when elements of our own government have declared war on the Church, and persecution both subtle and blatant has gone domestic. Catholics have not been prepared to deal with this, and some have even been compliant. If we rely only on institutional bureaucracy to be our line of defense, we may find it to be a Maginot Line. The Allies were unprepared when Churchill spoke in 1938 because people wanted butter not guns, but found soon enough that butter was being rationed, and guns were pointing at them. The continued course of our nation’s freedom depends on the disposition of its people to heed the warning signs of threats to its moral integrity. Churchill was half-American, and so it was especially fitting that the British government lend the White House a bust of him by Sir Jacob Epstein as a token of common bonds after September 11, 2001.  Immediately after his inauguration,  President Obama returned the bust, which now waits nearby in the British Embassy. Churchill was accustomed to waiting.

Pope Benedict told the American bishops:

“Of particular concern are certain attempts being made to limit that most cherished of American freedoms, the freedom of religion. Many of you have pointed out that concerted efforts have been made to deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices. Others have spoken to me of a worrying tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience.”

It is not possible to look through stained glass windows, so that man who saw no enemies outside his air-conditioned and centrally heated church will be surprised if he tries to visit a Catholic hospital two years from now and finds that there is none, only dark gulf. The Archbishop of Chicago has considered that possibility if the Health and Human Services regulations are not rescinded.

Hope is a theological virtue. Optimism is not. The wise have warned that pessimists are unhappy fools and optimists are happy fools. But the hopeful are not foolish. Christ began his war with a forty-day battle in a desert filled with wild beasts, but as they prowled about, He could hear angels.

Fr. George W. Rutler


Fr. George W. Rutler is pastor of St. Michael's church in New York City. He is the author of many books including Principalities and Powers: Spiritual Combat 1942-1943 (South Bend, IN: St. Augustine’s Press) and Hints of Heaven (Sophia Institute Press). His latest books are He Spoke To Us (Ignatius, 2016) and The Stories of Hymns (EWTN Publishing, 2017).

  • It is a fine line, a delicate walk, to be an activist for our Church.  We must obey our bishops, but we are ready for action, and what is there to do? We can write articles like this (a good one) and there are many out there to read.  But is anyone but the choir reading them???  What ELSE can we do.  Should we not be engaging those who support the “dark side.”  I am impatient, and I suppose much of that is required.  If someone thinks of truly Catholic Action that we can take, please advise.

    • Alecto

      The action should be first to contact your state representative and senator and urge them to introduce legislation to oppose this federal attack on religion, then contact your federal representative and senator and call, email and get as many people as you can to follow.  Don’t stop contacting them -be the squeaky wheel, which is loudest during an election year!  Also ask them to defund Planned Parenthood and yes, public broadcasting which carries the water for the Democratic party. 

      Action can also be praying, and I am praying at every opportunity for the Supreme Court to void this law and for the cowardly Congress to defund it, and all of the bureaucracy that goes with it.  Say novenas, and I think making whatever sacrifices we can to help this cause is good. 

      I think it’s also important to show unity with Catholic institutions now in giving time and money.  And yes, to urge these institutions to break the ties with government which is the reason the bishops have so reluctantly and timidly approached this issue.  Donate to the Becket Foundation for Religious Liberty and other institutions like Ave Maria and various colleges mounting legal challenges.  It is absolutely crucial not to let this slip out of the public’s 5 second attention span by blogging, by engaging people online or in person or wherever. 

      Churchill is a model of resolute courage in the face of overwhelming odds.  Recall his words, “We shall not flag nor fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in
      France and on the seas and oceans; we shall fight with growing confidence and
      growing strength in the air. We shall defend our island whatever the cost may
      be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the
      hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment
      believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then
      our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry
      on the struggle until in God’s good time the New World with all its power and
      might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old.”  We may not be engaged in a World War, but we are engaged in a spiritual war.  We need to invoke God to give us the will and the way to fight this.  He will certainly show us the way. 

      • Tout

        To ALECTO:  You want action,see my text to Jothet.Always receive H.Host on tongue, never in hand. Thus you propagate to others, let Jesus in immediately. Is there a statue of Jesus,or saint outside, pray there, even if only once a year; try once a month in good weather; copy my text that I hang beside me. Do you understand this work: in every parish a cros or holy statue outside, persones coming, praying there for a moment in public (alone or small groups). Get a procession in your parish as I did. You want to talk or write to others; fine. But also act yourself in public. No, you are not doing it alone; others are doing it.

        • Alecto

          I do receive the host on my tongue.  And lately I’ve been praying the rosary as much as possible and picturing the mother of God when I am at work or driving and asking her, imploring her to help us cross the dark gulf.

          And I think it’s interesting I ran across this picture of Jesus in Ravenna, Jesus the Warrior:

    • Jplatek53

      I have been wondering this same thing.    At some point, I’d like to see discussion on what we as lay catholics can do if we really are called to stand against coersed participation in government mandates that would require us to pay for contraceptives, abortion-inducing drugs, etc.  through our insurance premiums.    Do we drop our insurance, refuse to pay the fine, or what?    I’m inclined to do that, but strength lies in numbers too.

      • Tout

        To JPLATEK: read what I do in public. Strenght in numbers ? I weekly pray all alone at a Mary statue downtown. See my text at JOTHET. I started a May-procession, display a sing asking people to pray. Please, always H.Communion on tongue ! Hope you find my ACTIONS in public to evangelize. I do not know all the answers, but I dare evangelize thru my public silent actions. Remember, you are not alone ! 
        Know  and others. 

    • Tout

      To JOTHET:  You want to be active ? I started making sign of cross befor eating my lunch at work. Cross myself before any meal,in restaurant,alone or with others who don’t. For years, I pray at Mary-statue downtown, hang sign “Wether glad,sad or wary, pause a while,say a Hail
      Mary”.A young man came,prayed,left. Girl (19 ?) knelt down, prayed,left. Woman joined me praying the rosary. Old woman came,prayed, lef; I go once a week if good weather.  Wanted a procesion, but how ? One Sunday in May I went alone, praying rosary in hand around a housing block. After 6 times,finally in 2005, a few came with me. 2008, woman took over, made beautiful job, 50 people praying, singing, carrying big Mary-statue from one church to other church; there Mary-crowning. I don’t preach, I act, show others. I always receive H.Host on tongue,never in hand, the only one in this church. Please, stop communion in hand.Some priests,alone, give always on tongue. All of you, dare to join those who act. Talk if you want, but start doing where you are. You may have some friends who join you. Young or older people, if you have belief, show to others !  

  • Alecto

    Yet a third option remains:  disobedience to the unconstitutional mandates.  Keep the insitutions open, refuse to pay the fines, refuse to obey the illegal and unconstitutional mandate and sue, fight and do everything possible and impossible to stop this advancement of evil.  I never will, and never want to live in a country where my right to publicly and physically challenge such a blatant violation of individual rights, every individual’s right to exercise faith, is denied by an oppressive regime with such openly malicious intent.  The Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution give ultimate power of governance to the people, not to the feds.  We have a God-given right to exercise our faith, that right cannot be revoked or curtailed by the federal government.  We also have a God-given right to challenge and rebel against these infringements on our liberties.

    The trend is not in our favor.  Does the Archbishop of Chicago believe that by appeasing the minions of Hell (aka Democrats) by closing Catholic institutions the assault will end?  Based on other actions by the ever encroaching federal government, all indications are not.  The question should be how much are you willing to sacrifice to defend the faith?  You can’t do that on your knees alone, but I am a big fan of prayer, and in particular, ones that reference “enemies of the faith”.  The Israelites fought with the blessing of God and we should, too.   It’s time to deliver the sermon on fighting, on defending the faith, not turning the other cheek to the eternal enemy of God that seeks the ruination of souls.  You with me here?  It isn’t a Maginot line, it’s a line in the sand and we need to dare them to cross it.

    St. Michael the Archangel is depicted wearing a breastplate for a reason, good Reverend.  So should we, so should we….

    • Absolutely right, Alecto. We must fight and fight well, both on the political and spiritual fronts. Only then Obama and his minions will not prevail.

    • aimee

       I agree.  I am so tired of seeing Catholic institutions – the last wave being adoption agencies – simply fold up and disappear instead of putting up a fight.  I think photos of law enforcement going in to shut down non-compliant hospitals would be a great wake up call for people.  That is if the Supreme Court allows this to stand, which I don’t think it will – but I am sure that there are many more forms of harassment to come, especially if our current administration remains in office.

    • Walt J.

       I whole heartly agree with Alecto!  If the Catholic (or any other) institutions close their doors rather than comply they will be doing precisely what this administration is hoping for.  In the absence of these providers of medical services the citizens of this nation would have no alternative to submitting to the imposition of nationalized healthcare.  Fait accompli!
      If those institutions follow Alecto’s suggestion, then the administration will then have to decide if they are willing to attempt to close them by force.  I very much doubt that is an option they would care for.

      • Cat

         Nobody has to close anything by force. The government will simply stop paying Medicare clients’ bills. Within a few months, the hospital won’t be able to afford the electricity bill.

        • Walt J.

          Unfortunately, you are probably correct!  However, in the event it were to come to that,  the institution need avail itself to all ‘social media’ in explaining precisely why they are closing the doors.  And especially why so many employees are being laid off due to the policies of this so called pro job administration.

    • Bob

      Agree totally, Alecto. Pope John Paul II told us we must be prepared to be red and white martyrs on the issue of abortion, and obviously, on the Contraception/religious liberty issue. We must look and pray to St. Thomas More and be prepared as Catholics to spend time behind bars, it is that serious. we must become martyrs:”to witness.” most importantly, in November, vote to PUT OBAMA ON THE STREETS!!!!!

  • Nonny

    Yep, it’s time to pay hard ball.  No compromise, no negotiation. Our First Amendment rights are our First Amendment rights, and, beyond that, God-given, not bestowed by man. We should not bend one single bit. What are they going to do, put every bishop in jail and take care of all the sick from our closed hospitals themselves? Well, perhaps but even so…we should not bend to these evil laws one iota, and where we have already done so in the states, we should turn back and cease doing so now. I hope the courts will do the right thing. If they don’t, we have to obey God and not man.

  • Bco67

     Personally, I have started writing to the Catholic Groups, President Obama suggested that the Bishops should listen too.  I remind them, in their good intentions there are ramifications.  For instance, I was one when younger used birth control, now I cringe every time I hear that statistic. In my naivete I have unwittingly helped the liberal argument.  Just as these groups need to remember when they call them selves Catholic they represent a much larger group and should use caution when agreeing to such “counter offers”. 

    I also wonder, when such praise is offered regarding the European socialist model, do they correlate any relation between the sharp decline in the belief in God?  Only 23% of Swedes believe in God.  Is that really what they want?

    • Tout

      Consider: Jesus asked Peter to be the leader after His(Jesus’) death. So, Peter became the first Pope. In matters of DOCTRINE, Jesus (thru Peter) leads us.Regardless of the bad  lifestyle of a few Popes, only they receive the DOCTRINE (different from DISCIPLINE)  which they then teach to the people. The one who rejects the Pope as the keeper and teacher of Christ’s DOCTRINE, rejects Jesus leadership, and creates his own doctrine (and his own discipline). Discipline can change,  Jesus’ Doctrine never changes. At a low point in the Church, Luther broke away; now many make their own Doctrine(religion).Hundreds claim to know better, starting just an other Church. Many return to the real Doctrine. But there will always be those who choose their own doctrine.

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  • Mark Midas

    When Lenin and Stalin took charge of Russia (both were initial members of the Politburo) in 1917 (or 1918), one of their first acts was to rule that churches be separate from state and schools. Today we don’t mention schools, just church and state, but obviously, in practice, schools are now seen as part of the state. The decree was largely against the Russian Orthodox church and, in the years that followed, thousands of priests, nuns and monks were treated brutally; many were tortured in work camps before their deaths. Yet our history teaches us nothing about the close association with such barbarism and the current the Obama adminstration, which is heavily Leninist and Stalinist.

  • Fr. Rutler is an outstanding priest and speaker.  He Christ in the City series on EWTN in particular, was truly outstanding.  I think it is now time for the Church pastors to speak out against the abuses of the priest and bishops, whose abuses are undermining the moral integrity of the Church.  I assure you that the New York Times nor the pagan government in Washington will destroy the Church, but rather it is corroding from within.  Evidence the growing dissatisfaction with the current Novus Ordum, a liturgy that is more like a Calvinist social gathering rather than the true worship of the Tridentine Mass.  It is the bishops and priests who are destroying the Church.

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  • Margaret

    some of the people commenting here ask what they can do to protest government infringement of religious liberty. one step is participation in the country-wide protest planned for 23 March. People in at least 50 cities have signed on. I will be marching at the HHS building in Washington, Dc and hope there is a huge and noisy turn-out. here is some information: