The Pope Told You So

Our many fellow Catholics now enchained for the Faith of our Fathers in such places as China, Syria, and Egypt are, as Father Faber’s hymn says, “in heart and conscience free.” But what happens when a government tries to chain the conscience itself?

A few weeks ago, in a remarkably unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the attempt of the present Administration in Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran  Church and School v. EEOC to restrict religious freedom by interfering with the hiring of ministerial personnel. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the Administration’s argument that the First Amendment does not guarantee the right of religious organization to choose its leaders, was an “extreme” infringement of the free exercise clause.

Undeterred, and menacingly on the cusp of the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Department of Health and Human Services has issued an “interim final rule” which requires all private health plans, including those of  Catholic hospitals and schools, to include coverage of prescription contraceptives, female sterilization procedures, and abortion counseling.

For a while, various Catholic leaders had hoped that they might reach an understanding with the Administration, and some even felt more at peace with the president’s assurances. But “peace for our time” only lasts until Poland is invaded. Cardinal Mahony, whom no one would fault for intransigence, now says, “I cannot imagine a more direct and frontal attack on the freedom of conscience than this ruling today. This decision must be fought against with all the energies the Catholic Community can muster.” Cardinal-elect Dolan  said, “In effect, the president is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our consciences.”

When a writer for The National Catholic Reporter supports the Catholic Church against the Obama administration,  one wonders if it might be the effect of solar radiation, but it has happened now.  And The Washington Post joined the ranks with an editorial saying that “requiring a religiously affiliated employer to spend its own money in a way that violates its religious principles does not make an adequate accommodation for those deeply held views.”  We have already seen the removal of hospitals from their Catholic associations.  The bishops seem united against government policy in their defense of principles as never before.  In St. Petersburg, Bishop Robert Lynch, not a man of conservative temperature,  speculated about the possibility of “civil disobedience” and Father John Jenkins of Notre Dame University, who gave an honorary degree to President Obama, has suddenly been awakened to the consequences of naiveté: as William McGurn pointed out in The Wall Street Journal, penalties mandated by the government’s Health and Human Services for non-compliance,  would cost Note Dame $10 million annually.

It would never had occurred to Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina to honor Mr. Obama, and a suit which it has filed in the District Court in Washington,D.C. over compulsory coverage of prescription contraceptives, could well be invoked to block the Health and Human Service’s aggression.  Its president, William Thierfelder, has made clear that he would sooner close the college than submit to a violation of the First Amendment.  Of course,  a question for the bishops as they take their place on solid rock, is how will they deal canonically with Catholic public officials who cooperate with evil, which is something worse than twisting the U.S. Constitution.  Vice President Biden said once with his customarily infelicitous use of English that he would “shove my rosary beads” down the throat of anyone who suggested that the Obama administration was hostile to the Church.  Mrs. Pelosi more recently complained that the Catholic bishops have “this conscience thing,” and the secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius, boasts of her Catholicity while threatening the Church with civil penalties.

At the time of the last presidential election, some may have thought that I overstated things in finding parallels with the dystopian world described in Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World in 1907,  in which Julian Felsenburgh makes eugenics “a sacred duty.”  Felsenburgh was a previously unknown man from the American Midwest who suddenly appears with enormous financial backing to promote a One World government, something like the European Union metastasized.  In spite of no record of any sort of accomplishment, he cuts a swath through the populations of nations with a cold condescension, reading carefully crafted speeches that cause people to sob and faint.  He promotes himself as an arbiter of cultures, with himself as a universal president.  He proposes pacifism, pantheism and the eradication of poverty by distribution of wealth.  His chief obstacle is Christianity.  He employs the useful idiocy of treasonable clerics: those utopian idealists who had grown impatient with the religion they were ordained to serve.

Since our Lord did not humiliate the frightened apostles by saying “I told you so” when he rose from the dead, I shall not say “I told you so” to any who, just three years ago,  underestimated the plottings of social engineers whose audacity is only an audacity of hopelessness.  But in 1992, long before he became Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger cited The Lord of the World in a lecture at the Catholic University of Milan, and invoked Felsenburgh, as an apocalyptic prototype who should be a warning against the consequences of materialistic humanism. He said of Felsenburgh: “The anti-Christ is represented as the great carrier of peace in a similar new world order.” He told you so.

So did another giant  of intellectual history,  the Blessed John Henry Newman. In Discussions and  Arguments on Various Subjects, Newman cited the prediction of an eighteenth-century Anglican bishop and scientist, Samuel Horsley of St. Asaph:

The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretense  of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries… For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none.

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).

  • Dear Fr. George,

    Incredible post…Pope Benedict’s Mass at Nazareth (overlooking Megiddo) was chilling to me. He was where LOTW ends…

    I too saw the profound connection to the book LOTW.
    I blogged it back in 2008, and 2009 and I lament that it still has not made it mainstream. Yesterday I sent it to The Blaze (GBTV) for I hoped that Glenn Beck’s crew could feature it as a way to introduce it to the national audience. I am listening to Bill Donogue (Catholic League) on the web (GBTV) right now.
    The Bishops letter needs a grassroots immediate action plan.

    Please get Lord of the World in the specter of public discourse.
    Father, I also have an idea that I think could be a rallying point. I call it The Citadel. It is based on five key principles rightly or wrongly understood. The five are autonomy, dualism, hedonism, misguided compassion, utilitarianism. Rightly understood, these five provide mutual support and protect families and individuals with Catholic Truth against any assault on human life (contraception->euthanasia).

    The Citadel is simple to learn and transmit with your fingers as a mnemonic.

    Please email me or call at 361-563-2602.

    God bless you Father!

  • Carl

    “If people would do for God what they do for the world, my dear people, what a great number of Christians would go to Heaven! But if you, dear children, had to pass three or four hours praying in a church, as you pass them at a dance or in a cabaret, how heavily the time would press upon to hear a sermon, as you go for your pastimes or to satisfy your many detours would be taken o avoid going at all. But nothing is too much trouble when done for the world. What is more, people are not afraid of losing either God or their souls or Heaven. With what good reason did Jesus Christ, my dear people, say that the children of this world are more zealous in serving their master, the world, that the children of light are in serving other, who is God. To our shame, we must admit that people fear neither expense, not even going into debt, when it is a matter of satisfying their pleasures, but if some poor person asks them for help, they have nothing at all. This is true of so many: they have everything for the world and nothing at all for God because to them, the world is everything and God is nothing.” The Cure D’Ars, Roman Catholic Books, The Sermons of the Cure of Ars

    The Priest born of the French Revolution would probably also say “been their done that” and “I told you so” too!

    “What a sad life does he lead who wants both to please the world and to serve God!…you cannot follow the world and the pleasures of the world and Jesus Christ with His Cross.”

    Yes Father, I just finished your 1988 book on The Cure D’Ars—Ignatius. I’m now reading Father Monnin’s Ars biography.

  • Fr. Frank Jindra

    Ah! Great quote, Carl! I will chuckle with that one all the way to this coming weekend! I plan to use it, especially since our ordinary has a letter to be read specifically bout the HHS mandate.
    Fr. Rutler, I just finished reading the book you mentioned. It is available FREE via Google reader. TALK ABOUT UNNERVING! And yes, I see the parallels you speak of.
    What is that old saying: “hold onto your hat, Matilda, we’re going for a ride!”
    I traveled through Megiddo valley in 1991 after Desert Storm. I saw, at once, the sun rising and a full moon descending. Reading LOTW reminded me of that eerie trip. May God protect us all!

  • Carl

    Quotes come from Sermons:
    The World is everything—God is nothing.
    Follow one Master only

  • kerath25

    For those who prefer listening to their books, there is also a free audio version of LOTW here:

  • Liam Ronan

    Very powerful statement indeed, Father. Having read Monsignor Benson’s book a number of years ago it sent shivers down my spine when Obama was elected. I tried to persuade myself that my discomfiture was misplaced but the more this American Felsenberg struts upon the stage the more convinced I become that “The Lord of the World” was uncannily prophetic. God strengthen us for what must come.

  • Romulus

    William Thierfelder, has made clear that he would sooner close the college than submit to a violation of the First Amendment.

    One imagines how President Obama and Kathleen Sebelius would receive the news: “Oh, dear, what a shame. Well, you must do what you think best.”

    What Belmont College and the rest of us must do is not quietly fold up but defy, resist, and agitate.

  • Carl

    The Lord of the World, Benson, for Amazon Kindle users is a free download.

  • Carl

    1992, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, lecture at the Catholic University of Milan, anybody have a link to the text in English?

  • Richard C

    When I was a boy and I thought I had made some devastating point, I would cap it all off with, “So there!” I think it would be neat if the Pope did that–just for fun.

  • There’s a petition to the White House regarding this issue. Please sign it and share it with this link:

  • Felice

    Darkness is dawning appearing as light —- where have we seen this before? It behooves the bishops to begin to discipline the politicians or those in public office who while professing to be Catholic assent to (actively or passively) the destruction not only of the Gospel but of the most basic of human freedoms. The charade must stop. Bishops who have no courage need to step down and allow for the Word of God to be unleashed. The sad thing is that too many of them fear for their ‘careers’ more than they do for their souls.

  • Hugmimmer

    AMEN, a hundred times over.
    Eugene Smith

  • Frkiely

    Bravo, Fr. George!