Catholics Will Likely Relive Past Persecutions

Man is a social being and doesn’t invent his own world. To orient himself and understand what his life is about he has to find his proper place, which is an order of things where he can feel at home and to which he can give undivided allegiance.

To deserve that allegiance the order of things must include ordinary human connections but also transcend them, so that it supports all things necessary for man’s well-being. Our ideal as Christians is thus a social world that encompasses everyday life but is oriented toward God and the good, beautiful, and true in all its aspects. In our time the phrases “culture of life” and “civilization of love” have been used to refer to basic aspects of such a world, but Christendom seems the best name for it overall.

The ideal is of course impossible to achieve perfectly in this world. That would be the Kingdom of God on earth, which won’t be fully with us until the Second Coming. Still, the Lord’s Prayer has to do with the present as well as a future that may be very distant, so the coming of the Kingdom and the realization of God’s will on earth are with us even today. And in any event we must find some way to live here and now. As social beings we must live with others, and as Christians we must live with God, so the question of the connections, loyalties, and obligations by which we should live always has some sort of answer.

That answer defines Christendom as it exists from time to time. It’s the system of connections, loyalties, and obligations by which Christians live, to the extent they are living as Christians, and to which they owe their highest earthly allegiance. In one form or another it has always been present in the lives of believers, in the Church, and in social arrangements generally, in so far as they orient themselves toward what is good, beautiful, and true.

Christendom may be gone as a matter of public law, and perhaps in the consciousness of most believers, but it’s still here as a substantive reality. Obedience and loyalty form a hierarchy for Christians, with God at the top, the Church and secular connections farther down, and natural law helping to sort and order the pieces and hold together the ones that can be used. If something in our present life finds a place in that hierarchy, it’s part of Christendom.

Its manner of existing has changed over the years. Before Constantine, Christians lived among pagans under a pagan government. They were distinct from their neighbors in some important ways. Their moral code was stricter, and they abstained from popular festivals and entertainments that were based on pagan religion or had obscene or murderous elements. They were subject to mainly sporadic but sometimes severe persecution, and often had to worship in secret.

Nonetheless, they didn’t try to set themselves apart but in most respects lived in the same way as other people. They prayed for the emperor, sometimes held positions in the army and government, and accepted Roman authority within the limits of God’s law. Those affiliations were consistent with living as Christians for whom Christ was the final standard and the Kingdom of Heaven their ultimate homeland. So Christendom—the social world to which Christians are loyal as Christians—included the Church, but it also included the Roman Empire and its laws, and the customs and connections of its people, to the extent they were consistent with Christianity.

After Constantine the Empire came to recognize itself as part of Christendom. That was a step forward, just as the conversion of a man or the founding of a religious order is a step forward. To say problems arose as a result of the Christianization of the Empire is not to say the step should not have been taken. Government is always based on some understanding of man and the world, and it is better for the understanding to be as close as possible to the truth of things. Claiming a commitment to Christian understandings won’t make a government or society perfectly Christian, but the same could be said of our own individual commitments. The fact that we do not carry them out perfectly does not make it wrong to make them.

The new situation simplified matters for Christians in important ways. It was now recognized that legitimate social order is oriented at least implicitly toward God, and that law and custom lose authority when they oppose divine or natural law, so Christians could be good citizens of earthly kingdoms in the way those kingdoms understood good citizenship. They were no longer required to reject social arrangements, like the imperial cult, that secular rulers considered fundamental. Conflicts continued among rulers, ecclesiastics, and other believers, but they were conflicts within the Church among Christians.

The situation became complicated again when the Protestant Reformation split the Christian world. In England, for example, Catholics found themselves in much the same position Christians had held in Roman times. They might view themselves as loyal subjects of the Crown, but they were long subjected to disabilities and penalties on the grounds that they rejected a fundamental part of the English constitution, the Established Church. They believed that certain aspects of English society were not part of Christendom, so they did not recognize those aspects as properly authoritative, and their idea of good citizenship was accordingly at odds with the royal one.

With the coming of the Enlightenment, the belief grew up that the problem of religious differences within a single political society could receive a final solution. Christians of various denominations (and eventually non-Christians) could view each other as full and equal citizens because governments would concern themselves only with topics of general concern and not those of specific religious interest. Under such conditions any basic opposition between Christendom and society in general would vanish, so that the concept of Christendom would become unnecessary even though society in general was not Christian. In time many in the Church came to accept such a view, because it seemed that natural law could provide the common ground that would allow Catholics and others to support the same government and social order in the same way. Under such circumstances “Christendom” seemed only an historical reference.

Since then the ambitions and activities of government have grown, and the outlook of governing elites has become more and more at odds with Christianity and natural law. As a result the expectation that modern liberal society would be hospitable to religion in general and Christianity and Catholicism in particular has come to appear misconceived. Every society, it seems, has a system of ultimate commitments that functions as a religion, and that system will always be held to trump all others. Recent government decisions regarding healthcare and marriage have driven the point home for Catholics. Those who run things expect us to toe the line whenever we participate in practical life, so photographing same-sex weddings and providing abortifacients are now treated as non-negotiable aspects of citizenship for professional photographers and employers. Since it is hard to live without participating in practical life, the problem for Catholics is obvious.

In substance we’re back where English Catholics were before Catholic emancipation. The laws are more gentle in many ways, but they are also more detailed and all-pervasive. If anything, the democratic aspects of public life today add to the difficulty, because they make us all responsible for government. They tell us that Catholics have a duty as citizens to speak out and vote, but what we say and support as Catholics increasingly stands in radical opposition to official principles.

The effect of all these tendencies is that Christendom is becoming once again a clearly distinct system of connections, loyalties, and obligations by which Catholics live when they live as Catholics. That system is likely to be ever more at odds with worldly powers in the coming years, but it is the one we recognize as authoritative, and it will survive as long as the Church does and Catholics continue to adhere to her. Time will tell what the practical consequences will be.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared November 1, 2013 on Catholic World Report and is reprinted with permission.

James Kalb


James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    “In time many in the Church came to accept such a view, because it seemed that natural law could provide the common ground that would allow Catholics and others to support the same government and social order in the same way.”

    This view was supported by the dominant Neo-Thomism. The Neo-Thomists had developed a theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation of St Thomas. They had talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. This “two-tier” account of nature and grace was based on this view that the addition of “grace” was something super-added to a human nature that was already complete and sufficient in itself and apart from any intrinsic human need.

    But “natura pura” is an abstraction. As Jacques Maritain declared, “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology, either to become integrated with or at least subalternated to theology. . . . Here is a philosophy which must of necessity be a superelevated philosophy, a philosophy subalternated to theology, if it is not to misrepresent and scientifically distort its object.”

    Maurice Blondel, too, had insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    This lay at the heart of the battle between the Neo-Thomists and the Nouvelle Théologie.

    • It’s all rather complex, though, isn’t it? Once could conceivably say that natura pura doesn’t really exist but the abstraction is good enough for government work. Also, the more positive view of political liberalism and pluralism that grew up post-WW II didn’t coincide with a victory of Neo-Thomism over the Nouvelle Théologie. I seem to recall that Maritain eventually came to such a view, because he thought the world had been permeated by the gospel or some such.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        Maritain maintained (what I suppose no one would be disposed to deny) that “men possessing quite different, even opposite metaphysical or religious outlooks, can converge, not by virtue of any identity of doctrine, but by virtue of an analogical similitude in practical principles, toward the same practical conclusions…” He was, after all, one of the co-authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Nevertheless, “an analogical similitude in practical principles” falls a good deal short of the “natural law” theory of the Neo-Scholastics.

        Blondel was far more uncompromising; for him, “bare results” could never be separated from the spirit that animated them.

        Both would have agreed with Lucien Laberthonnière’s denial that the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.

    • ColdStanding

      I’ll trump your Maritain with a quote from St. Paul in 1st Romans:

      Because that which is known of God is manifest in them. For God hath manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made; his eternal power also, and divinity: so that they are inexcusable. Because that, when they knew God, they have not glorified him as God, or given thanks; but became vain in their thoughts, and their foolish heart was darkened.

      Here St. Paul clearly describes the natural human reason of the Gentiles as capable of knowing God, that This capacity is darkened is another thing, even after the Fall of Adam. Ergo natura pura est. As man lost all supernatural graces, perhaps save prayer, at the fall would suggest that, indeed, man’s natural reason alone is sufficient in potential for knowing God.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        St Paul is not suggesting that there is a natural order, which participates with God in an “unbroken” manner.

        As Cardinal de Lubac explains, Nature is not a divine seed, but rather an emptiness which is “ordered” to its fulfilment in Christ precisely because it exists as a privation. Nature for de Lubac is no sort of divine seed, or immanent movement toward the supernatural, rather it is instilled with a desire for the supernatural that is born precisely out of its own poverty. “Between nature as it exists and the supernatural for which God destines it, the distance is as great, the difference is as radical, as that between non-being and being: for to pass from one to the other is not merely to pass into ‘more being,’ but to pass into a different type of being. It is a crossing by grace of an impassable barrier.” (The Mystery of the Supernatural, 83) What de Lubac denied in his controversy with Neo-Scholasticism was the claim that the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends in and of themselves.

        Scripture confirms this in many places: “You know neither me nor my Father; if you knew me, you would know my Father also” (Jn 8:19) and “No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mt 11.27) and “No one who denies the Son has the Father” (1 Jn 2:23).

        • ColdStanding

          I fail to see how, entertaining the thought that de Lubac was right, it then follows that I have to give up any realistic prospect of a Catholic life centered around the Immemorial Mass of the Ages; that I have to swallow the pablum a la carte de jour, AND swear publicly that what I’m ingesting IS tradition.

          As to your counter-quote from scripture, St. Paul and Christ Jesus can’t be taken as talking about the same thing. Well, they are both speaking about God, ’tis true, but in different modes. St. Paul is speaking about natural reason’s ability to make sound inferences about the general characteristics of God-Being through observation of Creation (thereby seeing the Creator), where as Jesus Christ, as the second person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, is talking about His personal and particular knowledge of God the Father, the first person of the Holy and Undivided Trinity as pertains to the possibility of man participating with Jesus in His relationship with His Father through the Holy Spirit. Surely, you grasp the distinction.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            ColdStanding, your distinction is precisely the sort of extrinsicism I reject.

            The fallacy of “pure nature” can, perhaps, best be exposed by St Thomas himself, rather than the travesty of him produced by his later commentators.

            Ethics cannot ignore man’s last end and St Thomas teaches that “the beatitude of any rational creature whatsoever consists in seeing God by his essence” [In IV Sent, d. 49, q. 2, a. 7:] and that “one has not attained to one’s last end until the natural desire is at rest. Therefore the knowledge of any intelligible object is not enough for man’s happiness, which is his last end, unless he know God also, which knowledge terminates his natural desire, as his last end. Therefore this very knowledge of God is man’s last end.” {SCG III, c. 50.]

            He insists that “even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.] and that “The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

            St Thomas would never have admitted (and by implication denies) that that the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends in and of themselves.

            • slainte

              Are the respective ends of nature and the supernatural an imperfect knowledge of God as to the former, and a more perfect knowledge of God as to the latter?

            • ColdStanding

              I’m sorry, I just don’t understand your point. Your quotes all make sense in that I agree with what they say on their own, I just don’t see how your arrangement of them is supposed to strike against the extrinsistic faults of my reasoning.

              I could hazard a guess that the (supposed) diagnosis of extrinsicism is closely related to the finding of accretions in the liturgy (in the diagnostician’s schema of ills, that is).

              • Michael Paterson-Seymour

                It has absolutely no bearing on the liturgy.

                To repeat, the Neo-Thomists taught there was a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel.

                But this is false, for as Blondel insists, “one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny.” Likewise, Maritain says, ““the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account”

                Or, as Pascal said, long ago, “Thus, without Scripture, which has only Jesus Christ for its object, we know nothing and see only obscurity and confusion in God’s nature and ours.”

                “Natural Law” divorced from Revelation, is an illusion, for it ignores that we are miserable, corrupt, separated from God, but ransomed by Jesus Christ.”

                • ColdStanding

                  First off, thank you for the generous gift of your time and talent in dealing with me. I am a slow in apprehension, poor in judgement, and unskilled in reason. I hope I do not unduly vex you.

                  Perhaps I can illustrate why I am surprised at your revulsion with the natura pura program. If you look at the effort by those that undertook it, as an attempt to rebuild the natural reasoning capacity of man; as an effort to restore a natural virtue; as an effort to show the means of cultivating this natural virtue over a lifetime – which is precisely how natural, as opposed to infused, virtues are cultivated – it becomes clear why it was undertaken in the first place. That is, when you look at the historical circumstances, namely: conversion of souls. Especially those that, through intellectual pride (the most dangerous) have slipped from communion with Holy Mother Church.

                  Let me turn now to a very brief comment upon those that undertook this program of enabling anew the cultivation of the natural virtue: reason. These churchmen (now under the cloud of opprobrium) were all, daily, hourly, suffused with a supernatural life of prayer, sacraments and penance centred upon our Risen Lord. Supernatural graces abounded in them. I think especially of Luis of Granada, a thorough going Thomist if ever there was, as I know him in his “Sinner’s Guide”. Even Cajetan, who I know of only second hand through those that have been strongly influenced by him – Mercier and Vonier – seems to be very solid spiritually and intellectually. I read Mercier’s Manual and think, “This is fantastic! I’ve so longed for such clarity and organization.” So I’m baffled at their rejection and find the justifications for their dismissal insubstantial.

                  It is inconceivable that these men were suggesting that one would even entertain attempting to live a life without or as if there were no supernatural grace. The working out of our salvation is already fraught with difficulty with supernatural grace, without it… folly. However, for a great many of their contemporaries, a life without the sacraments and supernatural graces was a reality. Reconstructing Natura Pura was an attempt to either reach them through reason to convert by showing what their natural capacity to reason shows them to be true, or, failing that, match their productions and deflate their influence by debilitating their conclusions with reasoning of a sound and true quality.

                  These men were going out into the world (take that spirit of VII!) doing works of spiritual charity by correcting and restoring natural reason – as a side project!! – from their normal profession of a life in service to Our Lord and Redeemer! What “divorce”?! It boggles the mind. Cajetan would disagree with nothing of what Maritain or Blondel said in your quotes, save that the charge that they, themselves assert that man could fulfil even his natural ends without the supernatural graces.

                  And, yes, all this does very greatly affect liturgy.

                  • Michael Paterson-Seymour


                    Father Peter Bernardi, S.J offers this analogy: “Imagine a two-story house with a ground floor that is partitioned into several rooms. This floor is completely furnished and fully habitable. The windows provide sufficient light to carry on the tasks of daily life. The family residing on the ground floor has no real need of an upper floor. However, there does exist a second floor, to which access is gained when trapdoors are opened from above and portable staircases let down. Only then does the family come to know of the existence of this upper level, of which they had no previous inkling. Furthermore, they are told that a superior life awaits them above and that they must choose to ascend to the second floor under threat of being thrown out of the house altogether.

                    The ground floor is comparable to a supposed ‘pure nature’ that has its own, self-contained consistency and fulfilment. The partitioning of the rooms corresponds to the divisions among the various sciences that are only externally connected with each other. By God’s gift, a supernatural destiny (the second floor) has been added and staircases have been let down from above (God’s salvific plan actualized in the sacramental ministry of the Church) by which the ground floor inhabitants gain access to supernatural life. However, there seems to be nothing in their native experience that would make such a move to a higher, supernatural life a compelling necessity, except for the fact that a summons, a revelation ‘from above,’ has been issued.”

                    • But aren’t there multiple routes to overemphasizing the autonomy of the secular? See for example Benedict’s comments (before he was Benedict) on Gaudium et Spes, summarized here (—17) in the section beginning “The pastoral constitution Gaudium et Spes.”

                    • ColdStanding

                      But there are no men in Europe for the past 1000 years that don’t know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God sent to redeem fallen man from the Sin of Adam. They might not agree, they might denigrate the assertion, but none are unaware of the claim. All men know that it is claimed that there is a heaven. All men already know of the second floor. They might be of ill-will and unwilling to climb, but they know, at the very least, that it is claimed to be there.

                      Therefore, it can not be said that the purpose of the project to restore natura pura is spread the Good News. It’s already spread, for the Good News is simply (ha!) that Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. All else flows from this fact. No, the purpose of project to restore natural reason to it’s original fully functional capacity, through metaphysical speculation, is not to announce for the first time that Chirst has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again, in other words: to evangelize, but to re-evangelize and clear up confusion. It is a work-around; a fix, a ladder dropped down to the willing. It simply can not be asserted* that the architects of the natura pura project would dream that the reason restored to it’s pure state would mean that you could live one’s life by bread alone; by reason alone, any more than by faith alone or scripture alone or any alone.

                      * OK, yes, it can be asserted, because, obviously it has. Perhaps better to say “credibly” asserted.

                    • Michael Paterson-Seymour


                      You wrote, “They might be of ill-will and unwilling to climb, but they know, at the very least, that it is claimed to be there.”

                      Indeed and, if the Neo-Thomists are right, “there seems to be nothing in their native experience that would make such a move to a higher, supernatural life a compelling necessity, except for the fact that a summons, a revelation ‘from above,’ has been issued.” “Nature” is already complete without it.

                      But St Augustine says, “You have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” We are not in the two-story house, but in the Pantheon. “In the architectural design of this ancient Roman building, the lines of force of the circular walls converge on the open space above, the primary source of light. Standing within the windowless building, one notices that no part of the cavernous interior is “compartmentalized,” but the eye is directed upwards to the incoming light. Though the lower part of the structure has solidity, it has no self-contained status. There are no ‘walls of separation’ that divide one section from another. Furthermore, without the light that descends from above, it would be impossible to take adequate account of the lower levels.”

                    • ColdStanding

                      “…seems…” my good man, “seems”! If we are made for God as my quote from St. Paul asserts we will, in natura pura, naturally turn towards God as a concept and then in His personality.

                      I am not wanting for explanations. Nor, do I fail to understand the model. It is not as if I do not grasp the analogy. I disagree with your assertion that the Neo-Thomists

                      Pace your reply to hombre111 below on the danger of separation of Church and State leading to separation of politics and religion, leading to an absolute privatization of religion, I think have a better grasp of the motivation for your caution. However, I find that the response has been disproportional to the fault. (“Decadent!” Oh, my!) A simple inquiry as to if, in fact, the Neo-Thomists actually believed that, ultimately, man could fulfill the end to which he is directed by living a life without grace would have been met with flat denial.

                      Yet all their work is all in the skip and we have chaos. There is something else going on here than simple misunderstanding. And I don’t mean between you and me.

      • Andrew Patton

        Knowing God requires grace, but God’s Law can be known through pure reason.

  • thomistica

    True, U.S. Catholics–i.e., the variety that goes to Mass on Sunday, goes to Confession, and are not out to deconstruct the tradition–are progressively entering into a Recusant sort of existence. But there’s still time to work against the oppression of religious liberties that is so much more dire in other parts of the world.

    The major barrier is one of temperament. Most Catholics of this type are not activists, noisy, and visible. They have to become far more so and especially get rid of their faith that the Constitutional framework will “work”. (Understandable, we’ve had a good “run” in this country). They have no one else to blame if they don’t shake off their apathy and complacency.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    There is only one option left to us, and it is a doozy- armed, fortified intentional communities. Before this is over, we will see the return of the walled monastery, and small self-sufficient imitations of Ave Maria, Florida spring up across the nation.

    • thomistica

      MacIntyre’s talked about a ‘completely different St. Benedict’. I’d argue not for a cloistered variety, but rather for parishes in their current form, or suitably reinvigorated, to become the loci, i.e. serving as havens for people to recharge spiritually before going out and visibly participating in the public square.

      I have reservations about statements attributed to the current pontiff, but one of his valuable themes is the need for engagement in the street.

      • TheodoreSeeber

        That will only last until the gays become more violent.

    • slainte

      Mr. Seeber, Holy Scripture instructs us to Stand against evil, not retreat.

      Ephesians 6: 10-18:

      “….. 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,[c] against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

      14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints…”

      • TheodoreSeeber

        We’re about to start wrestling against flesh and blood. It’s easy to see it coming.

        • slainte

          The answer is not to withdraw from the culture in Fear, rather Stand and engage the culture energetically and peacefully, building relationships and alliances among all people of good will.
          Take reasonable precautions for personal safety….Yes. Withdraw and isolate …No.
          God has shown us the strategy to win the battle in Ephesians 6. We need to keep the Faith and put it into action. Recall that our side does win. 🙂

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I don’t know very many people of good will, anymore. Not when 98% of the country voted for the lesser of two evils last election (when you vote for the lesser of two evils, you’re still voting for evil).

            Our side will only win if our side survives. But we survived the fall of Rome, we survived the fall of France, we survived the fall of Spain, we survived the fall of England, and we will survive the fall of America. In each of those instances, it took hiding the clergy away from the greater society- and many contemplative saints were created in prison.

            The body of Catholic America is the businessman beaten, robbed, and left on the road for dead. It’s too late to do anything other than bind his wounds and get him to the inn.

            • slainte

              I am an optimist Mr. Seeber, I have no doubt that difficult times are approaching, but as Providence continues to be present in time through the Holy Spirit, I am encouraged that God will affirmatively guide His Church through every snare laid in its path.
              With prayer and daily Holy Eucharist comes a faith and assurance that all things will be well. Fear not…He is with us.
              May I suggest that you consider attending daily mass; its benefits are many.

    • Adam__Baum
      • TheodoreSeeber

        A gun is good, but charity is better. The way the Benedictines survived the fall of Rome was with hospitality, not the sword.

        • Adam__Baum

          Good grief man, what is this propensity of yours for 180 degree turns made on a dime that leave nine cents change?

          As a reminder- now don’t go off track here you wrote this:

          “There is only one option left to us, and it is a doozy- armed, fortified intentional communities. Before this is over, we will see the return of the walled monastery”.

          Sorry but that doesn’t exactly sound like you were promoting a hostel for weary travels.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The Benedictine Monasteries survived for centuries by closing their doors to armies and welcoming in their neighbors.

            I don’t care how many guns you have, if you’ve got a thick enough door.

            • That’s what drones are for…

              • Adam__Baum

                And about 2700 armed personnel vehicles and 1.7 billion rounds of ammo.

            • musicacre

              Nothing built that can’t be destroyed. Destroying is always easier than building…

              • Adam__Baum

                What was the old phrase about any jack*ss can kick down a barn, but none can build one?

            • Adam__Baum

              Geez you can’t even stay on your own point;

              “.. doozy- armed, fortified intentional communities.”.

              “I don’t care how many guns you have,”

            • Adam__Baum

              But you said “ARMED and fortified”. You can’t even keep your own thoughts straight.

              Of course, with you I can’t discount the possibility that “arms” means a catapault, (with trajectories plotted using that rope computer) and a well trained band of monastic archers.

              One MOAB and whatever you build is smithereens.
              Sorry Theodore, but the days of yore are gone.

              • Art Deco

                Adam, we are just not a truly free society if the local knight is compelled to attend the Diet and submit to his liege. The accursed Article I, Section X sees to that. A truly free society looks like this…


                • Adam__Baum

                  “Diet and submit to his liege.”
                  Uh, you got me. I’m assuming you mean “Diet” as in Diet of Worms and not the South Beach variety. Care to elaborate?

                  • Art Deco

                    I am sticking it to Mr. Seeber, whose signatures are a rant about that particular Constitutional provision and a proclamation that localities should be able to field armies. He never specifies the dimensions of the localities he has in mind.

                    • Adam__Baum


            • slainte

              Our rational minds cannot accept that with the help of God small actions faithfully executed can take down giants.
              David likely trembled at the sight of Goliath and doubted that he could defeat him. Yet it came to be.
              Who would believe that emaciated and traumatized concentration camp survivors of the 1940s could form and cause to flourish the state of Israel.
              Keep the faith and stay close to God through prayer.

      • hombre111

        True to my roots in my red state, I like to go target shooting with my brother-in-law and we have noticed how hard it is to get ammunition, especially .22, .38, and .45. Was talking to the gun clerk at our local Cabelas. He said as soon as pistol ammo appears, a couple of guys come in and buy it all. One guy bragged that he had ten thousand rounds of .22. They have to restrict its sales, and it is really a few relentless loonies who have fueled the ammunition shortage.

        • Adam__Baum

          Your capacity to concoct fairy tales to ignore the obvious, if it were useful in an an Olympic sport would garner a chest full of medals that would make Mr. Phelps jealous.

          Worse, you are a liar or you believe liars. The people who maintain large inventories of ammunition don’t keep thousands of rounds of .22, unless it’s the .223 goes in an AR-15, because the lethality of a .22, except in limited circumstances is hardly assured.

          It is actually DHS greed. DHS’ personnel shoot 4-5 times per peson more than the ARMY.

          The money phrase:
          “Chaffetz noted that DHS bought more than 103 million rounds in 2012 and used 116 million that same year for about 70,000 public employees. Chaffetz said the DHS is shooting up between 1,300 and 1,600 rounds per person, while the U.S. Army goes through only about 350 rounds annually per soldier. These numbers led some gun bloggers to cry conspiracy; though, many others noted that 350 rounds per soldier is a pretty stingy way to train..”

          Also, they have been on a buying spree.

          • hombre111

            The guy who sold me my ammunition had no reason to lie about the guy having 10,000 rounds of .22. It is perfectly believable because the gun crowd includes a lot of gun nuts. As for how many rounds DHS uses, a bunch of them showed up in official cars at the desert range where I routinely shoot, and blasted away for three solid hours, mostly close contact work. At the same time, my brother-in-law and I went through about 250 .22’s apiece and maybe 50 .38’s (mine, I shot a whole box of reloads) and his–a box and then some of reloaded 9 mms. If the feds go through similar training every month or so, they are going to need all the rounds they got, and more. And for their safety in dangerous situations, I hope they get lots of practice.

            • Adam__Baum

              Have you ever heard of the concept of a “fish story”? People lie all the time, they love to tell tall tales, especially in the braggadocio, testosterone fueled environment of the gun culture.

              In my business, there’s an old saw about figures lyin’ and liars figuring. I would think working in a prison and listening to confessions should have made you a little more skeptical than “he had no reason to lie”. Perhaps you should visit a pilot’s lounge or a railroad crew room, you’d see lying in some places is regarded as sport, rather than a violation of the Decalogue.

              For the sake of argument, I’ll assume you actually heard such a statement. To buy 10K rounds of .22 is, to borrow a phrase, “not even useless”. To brag about it should be embarrassing.

              It’s interesting that you see something that supports, even if only anecdotally that the cause of the ammunition shortage is the DHS (and I quote)

              “a bunch of them showed up in official cars at the desert range where I routinely shoot, and blasted away for three solid hours, mostly close contact work, sometimes emptying a whole clip at a time. They also played around with AR-15 type weapons. Left tons of .40 and .45 brass behind for gleaners like me.”

              But yet you attribute the shortage to gun “nuts”, even as you brag about unloading hundreds of rounds in an afternoon.


              • hombre111

                The guys on the frontline on this are the guys who sell the ammunition. They say that the shortage is created by those who buy it up in huge lots for whatever reason. To quote the guys I was talking to in the local Cabelas, “If people would buy ammunition as they really need it, there would be no shortage.” This is their conclusion, not Fox News.

                • Adam__Baum

                  I realize you worship the state, so it must be faultless, but the “people” that are sucking up the production is the DHS. My local Gander Mountain has been limiting purchases for a year and a half and I’m going to Bass Pro some time this week to see if they have any 45 long colt.

                  If we didn’t have a screwball hoplophobe in the White House, there’d be no hoarding at all.

                  But I guess you just buzzed over the testimony linked above.

    • hombre111

      Oh, what a delusion. Ooops, I see you recanted in your response to Adam.

  • Elat

    the US is becoming more like the Roman Empire every day.

    • Barfly_Kokhba

      Yes, but even pagan, pre-Christian Romans were actually quite religious in their own way. They also placed a very high value on family loyalty and honor. They also expected tangible military victory and demonstrated martial prowess from their leaders. Rome simply had a different national character.

      The Rome/America comparison is something we like to tell ourselves for the purpose of either bragging or complaining. But it’s highly overstated in either regard. Our trajectory is starting to look closer to that of the Dutch empire at this point.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The Romans were a people who hated work, despised commerce and lived by plundering and enslaving their neighbours. To be successful at this (and they were very successful) it was necessary to cultivate certain very real virtues: courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, devotion to the community.

        Liberty meant sharing in the government, which is to say, in overseeing the sharing of the spoils and the most honourable as well as the most lucrative professions were those of the soldier, the politician and the jurist.

        I would say the Roman spirit pervades the modern West.

        • Elat

          Yes you’re right, the Roman spirit does pervade the west. The Roman empire persecuted Christians, had millions of slaves, killed millions of ppl, had the opposite of Judeo-Christian values re: sexuality, they were pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, pro-pedestry etc etc. I don’t know what family values you’re referring to but I for one don’t admire the values of the Roman Empire.

          • Barfly_Kokhba

            So the Romans were lazy thieves who rose, maintained and administered huge estates and farms, and then built a vast military and economic empire, while they cultivated the virtues of courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, and devotion to the community, but they were also pro-abortion, pro-homosexuality, and pro-pederasty, in addition to being indolent plundering slaveowners.

            Got it.

            • Elat

              it’s pretty scary that you defend the Roman Empire and what they did.

              • Barfly_Kokhba

                I’m not defending them, I’m saying it is usually bitterness or arrogance which lead people to compare America to the Roman empire. Both Michael and you gave reasons why you disagree and I indicated why I feel that you both might be mis-characterizing Roman culture. I never offered any personal value judgment on Rome itself.

                However, for teleological reasons, I don’t see how any Christian can flatly condemn and dismiss the Roman empire as an unqualified bad. To me that seems to imply that you wish it had never existed. Yet Christianity–not to mention Christ–was born in the Roman empire.

                • Elat

                  wish they never existed? what a strange way to put it. and re: israel, they were oppressed under the Roman Empire. I suggest you read some history. There’s plenty from that time era. No, I will never ever defend the Roman Empire. They tortured and killed millions and did countless horrific things. And they executed Jesus.

        • Barfly_Kokhba

          Your first two sentences are a complete contradiction, and “hated work” is broad and hyperbolic to the point of meaninglessness. How are you defining “work?” Should they have spent more time behind desks, at cubicles, or in front of computer monitors? Should they have been wearing overalls, capping bottles on an assembly line? Are you accusing the Romans of laziness or indolence? It’s more accurate in my opinion to say that they chose to enslave others rather than be enslaved.

          And are you therefore claiming that the virtues of courage, perseverance, self-control, prudence, discipline, constancy in misfortune, and devotion to the community “pervade the modern West?” I must admit that you would be maybe the first person who has ever offered that perspective to me.

        • Andrew Patton

          While the Romans did engage in plunder, most Roman soldiers who survived 20 years in the Legions retired to become farmers.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            Usually on recently captured land and with the assistence of one or more slaves. Like Hesiod, they believed every farmer needed an ox, a wife and a slave (probably in that order of importance)

      • Andrew Patton

        That was true at one time, but 200 years of Pax Romana made them soft. Bread and circuses depleted the Treasury while corruption multiplied. Things just happen faster today because the world is more fast-paced.

  • The sad consequence will probably be the same that made English Catholics Anglicans overnight: they didn’t care enough about the faith and had no qualms apostatizing if it meant keeping their worldly possessions.

  • JERD

    Add to the historical persecution experiences of the church, the new technologies that enable modern governments to snoop and gather information about its citizens. However effective past governments may have been at finding, then controlling and punishing Christians, will only be multiplied by the use of modern technology.

  • Brian Flanagan

    I would like to make contact with James Kalb. My email is

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  • AugustineThomas

    I don’t know why so many religious folk are so committed to secularists and secularism when that culture has done everything in its power to destroy proper, orthodox Christian belief.
    “They murdered fifty million babies, but heaven forbid we’re mean to them in any way.”

    Did you guys ever think that God’s children are more important to him than whether or not you feel self-righteous and welcomed by your godless, leftist, baby murdering friends?
    “My eternal soul? Meh! The leftists think I’m hip and modern though right?!?!”

  • Christopher

    The renaissance popes would have a lot to teach us here….

  • hombre111

    Mmm. Leaves out some history on the persecution in England. The pope excommunicated Queen Elizabeth and “freed” English Catholics from their duty to owe her allegiance. This medieval ploy had worked in the past, because it encouraged the dukes and other ambitious high level subjects to work against their king. But Henry VIII had already purchased their loyalty by giving them Church property. There was no general movement against the queen. The pope was hundreds of years late in his calculations, failing to note the rise of nationalism, especially in England, which had already rebelled against the omnipresent Papal tax system. People were English first and Catholic second. This gave ruling Protestants they excuse they needed to persecute Catholics, because now they could be accused of disloyalty to the Crown.

    • Any 1400 word piece that covers 1700 years of a basic issue like the relation between Catholics and secular rulers will, as you say, “leave some history out.” Your substantive point, possibly, is that my comment that English Catholics “might view themselves as loyal subjects of the Crown” is dubious when applied to the 30 year period the excommunication etc. was in effect. That may be so, but most English Catholics don’t seem to have paid much attention to it, and the period during which they had legal problems was more like 300 years.

      • hombre111

        Grateful for your reply. My real point was, the pope gave the English Protestants the club they needed to beat Catholics with, and so began the longest, and most successful, religious persecution in history. One can only guess how it would have turned out if the pope had faced up to the reality of English nationalism and dealt with Elizabeth in some other way. A saint he might have been, but he was two hundred years late in understanding the flow of history. And it is not the Democrats, but our culture, influenced in large part by the Protestant outlook and reinforced by the Supreme Court, that sees religion as a private matter. There is an article in the Nov. 15 Commonweal that explores this matter in a discussion about the philosopher Charles Taylor.

        • Adam__Baum

          “And it is not the Democrats, but our culture, influenced in large part by the Protestant outlook and reinforced by the Supreme Court, that sees religion as a private matter.”

          Well then we have a lot of Democrats in the culture, starting with JFK, proceeding through Mario Cuomo and that truly detestable Joe Biden (along with the Caseys, a pox from Scranton, PA).

          I believe it was the late Charles Colson who expressed the view that there was a time that Evangelical Protestants (and I’m guessing the “mainline” variety as well) feared Catholic politicians (that might be an ipso facto oxymoron given the current crop) would follow the Pope, now they fear they won’t. I of course have no fear, if there was a betting market for such things, I’d be shorting their fidelity and cleaning up.

          Have you thought of reading something besides Commonsqueal?

          • hombre111

            Well yes. I am reading Crisis, among other things. I try to read both sides. And you?

            • Art Deco

              Both sides of what? Orthodoxy and heresy? Why would any serious Catholic interest himself in what Grant Gallicho says?

              Why not read back issues of Commonweal from the pre-conciliar era? They published much more text at that time and the jumble of condescension and vapidity that is characteristic of liberal ‘Catholic’ discourse had not taken hold. In the years immediately prior to the advent of electronic publication, about a third of their subscriptions were supposedly institutional orders – libraries, parishes, Newman centers, &c, places that ordered a subscription in 1950 and never bothered to cancel. I would wager most of the remaining 12,000 or so derive from members of the Church’s dissident middle management.

              • hombre111

                I have been a student my whole life. I read broadly: Scripture studies, theology, philosophy, history, science, literature. I appreciate good intelligent writing. I have seen some of this in Crisis, although I don’t always agree with the writer. But I like seeing thoughtful, challenging stuff there. And I can say the same about Commonweal. The writing there is as good or better than most. Sometimes you are interesting, Art. But often???

          • Carl


        • Every story is complicated if you know something about it, but it’s hard to finesse the most basic issues. Is there some other European country you’d hold up as the model the Church should have aspired to in the English situation?

          As to our present situation in America: Catholics need most of all to live as Catholics, which is the basic point of the piece. Also, the Democrats are progressives, which means they take the lead in working out the implications of basic cultural tendencies. The Republicans have fewer coherent beliefs, which means they are more willing to accommodate people who aren’t happy with those tendencies.

          • Carl

            “Every story is complicated if you know something about it, but it’s hard to finesse the most basic issues.”

            That thought is a keeper!

          • hombre111

            Thanks for the question. I would have to suspend some of my other projects and read some Church history, but if my memory serves me, I think the Church was totally stuck in the idea of a state church, and Europe was about to fall into the 40 (30?) year great religious war which killed up to 1/3 of the population and left the best minds of Europe completely disillusioned about the value of faith. This, of course, meant the turn to rationalism in the Enlightenment. How one thing grows from another!

            This points to the incredible solution offered by America’s separation of church and state. Rome, if I remember correctly, was so suspicious of this outlandish idea that it accused the US Church of the non-existent heresy of “Americanism.”

            As for the current question, I think it is time to go back and study John Courtney Murray, such as his “Religious Liberty.” He was the great theologian on this issue, and it seems to me that we have returned to the mindset of the 1940’s, which was when he began to write. The Vatican Council was in his debt.

            • Michael Paterson-Seymour

              The separation of Church and State is one thing; the separation of religion and politics is quite another. If politics and economics are self-sufficient and can be practised without reference to the supernatural, to a specifically Christian sense of justice, then the liberal privatisation of religion logically follows.

              • hombre111

                I agree. The Church has to insist on her right to offer a moral opinion. But it is a pluralistic society, which means she cannot try to impose a Catholic version of Sharia Law. What is left is the power of moral persuasion, which needs poetry and passion. Pope John Paul’s theology of the body would be a good example.

                • ColdStanding

                  The Church does not provide mere “opinion” on matters of faith and morals! She pronounces the the truth. Really, Padre, it’s all well and good to renounce the threat of chopping off the heads of others, but lets not chop off our own heads in the process.

                  • hombre111

                    Ahh, the glories of creeping infallibility. In the pluralistic world in which the American Church exists, no matter how the Church sees its role, what it offers is one opinion among others. Now I might think it is the truth, and I usually do, the Church cannot insist that Washington knuckle down and listen. Didn’t work, just now, with the Catholic John Boehner, who refused to listen when the Church pleaded with him about immigration reform.

            • Andrew Patton

              And ironically, the heresy named Americanism is far more popular in Europe than it ever was in America. When word of the condemnation of Americanism was received in America, the American bishops replied that they professed none of the condemned beliefs. Their only real issue with the Pope was that he was undermining them in front of American Protestants who had been persecuting Catholics not long before and were still highly suspicious of Catholics, thinking that they were trying to take over the government and rule by papal decree.

          • hombre111

            Thanks for your question. I feel obliged to read your work because you write with great skill and are not afraid to take stands. As for European history, hindsight is 30/30, and I wish there were an historical example I could point to. But I think the Church was totally trapped by the notion of a national church. Even in the 1800’s, she was struggling with the concept of religious liberty. The United States, with its separation of church and state, created a new model. Rome was really suspicious of this idea, leading, if I remember correctly, to the charge of the heresy of “Americanism.”

            I agree that Catholics need to live as Catholics. But I am not sure what this means. Along with being Catholics, we share the divisions that afflict America across the board, viewing reality from different personal perspectives. Right now, I am doing a lot of reading about the triumph of the left brain over the right brain, which goes a long way to explain some of the disagreements that afflict us.

            As for the question of religious persecution. I have gone back to John Courtney Murray, the great theologian on the subject of religious liberty. He played a major role in the document on religious liberty in the Vatican Council, but I think we have gone back somehow to the issues of the 40’s. That was when he started to write, and we need to think the whole thing through again.

            • ColdStanding

              If Americanism isn’t a heresy, then neither is Extrinsicism. Nor is it a fallacy.

              • hombre111

                Rome had to admit it was shooting up the wrong tree. The American Church defended itself and Rome backed down with the usual non-apology.

            • Yes, in a combox discussion it’s often hard to do more than suggest issues. Which is useful of course.

              Anyway, the question is whether the American/John Courtney Murray idea of religious liberty has panned out, or whether there’s always something that functions as the religion of a political society, so that the non-Catholic modern state is going to end up with the same basic attitude toward Catholicism as the pre-Constantinian Roman state or the post-Henry VIII English state.

              It seems to me (and I say in the piece) that the American/JCM view depended on general acceptance of natural law in political life, and that condition isn’t there any more because man and human society are increasingly viewed as an artifact of human will and technology. Such a view is fundamentally at odds with Christianity, among other reasons because it makes it impossible to make sense of Incarnation, which requires the natural world to be intrinsically expressive. So there’s quite a basic problem.

              • hombre111

                You are right. I was thinking of this as I was preparing this Sunday’s sermon. I usually spend the week at this task. I read the rest of Malachi, which was full of condemnation of sin…the priests, divorce, witchcraft, cheating workers, oppressing the poor…. It ended with threats of painful judgment and the coming of the sun of justice. Which caused me to think about Original Sin. I did some reading in several theologians, who said in their different ways that everything we do or say is flawed because of our sinfulness. Our efforts to create a perfect world, for instance. Government, for instance. The liberals, who think that with more government, we will finally get it right, and the conservatives, who think with less government, we will finally get it right. One believes in bureaucracy, the other in a market driven by selfishness. Everybody kidding themselves. Please, Lord, send the Son of Justice. But in the meantime…. I think everybody was mad at me when the sermon was done.
                I am serious, Mr. Kalb. You and several other good writers are the reason I keep returning to Crisis. Thank you.

      • slainte

        As the absolute Catholic Church collides with the absolute U.S secular state, what sort of events do you foresee happening and what concrete actions might we Catholics do in preparation?

        • musicacre

          I realize this question is for James, but isn’t it obvious that the collision has been in the process for awhile already and one of the most immediate needs- aside from constant prayer – is the ensuring of the next generation apprehending the faith and passing it on themselves……This can only be done by parents waking up….fast! We woke from our lethargy when our school standards in Canada were brought down many years ago, (which happened to be around the time our first was almost school age) and decided to homeschool, long before it was an”option”; it wasn’t even in the public vocabulary yet.

          • slainte

            Musicacre, fear and panic are pervasive throughout some of the comments posted here. Frequent mass helps to alleviate the emotions while enabling a person to discern the nature of what may be coming, how it will manifest, and how to deal with it responsibly in alliance and solidarity with others. I posted as I did earlier to allay some of the fear.

            I agree that catechesis is important for youth and adults. Reciting the rosary as a family is also important not only because it teaches the mysteries of the faith, but because it strengthens familial bonds. Proactive campaigning against the Common Core trojan horse and ousting it from Catholic schools is an important goal.
            I want specifically to know from Mr. Kalb how religions and their congregations historically survived encounters with aggressive communism. The Russian Jews in shtetls were met with the pogroms. How did they survive? How did the Cristeros in Mexico survive? or the church supported nationalists in Spain? What lessons can we utilize from the past to navigate through our present debacle?

            • Beth

              slainte and musicacre–can I chime in? All of your ideas on what to do, how to prepare, seem spot-on to me–prayer, education, campaigning for Catholicism on our Catholic schools. But one great disadvantage we have now vs the Russian Jews and Cristeros is that our Catholic Faith in America is dying on the vine. We have NO Catholic culture in our families and no understanding of the basics of our faith by those 50 and younger(thanks to the priests and nuns in our nation that embraced ‘The Spirit of Vatican II’). Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples lays out that the priesthood shortage will no longer be a problem in a few years–not because vocations are on the rise, but because the exodus from the church is such that the Church has never seen in America. As the book suggests, we must be intentional in our faith–it is no longer just living our faith, we MUST evangelize if we want the Catholic Church in America to survive.

              • slainte

                Beth, you said, “…our Catholic Faith in America is dying on the vine…”

                While I agree with you and Musicacre regarding the need to evangelize and catechize children and young adults, I am not willing to concede that our faith is dying.

                On the contrary, I think there is a sort of Catholic “awakening” or
                “revival” happening in my part of Connecticut. I attend Latin mass most Sundays and the church that I travel to is filled to capacity with people of all ages, including children, young adults, and their families. Old and young of all nationalities are drawn to the beauty and “newness” of this traditional mass.

                In my home parish, the novus ordo masses are attracting more people than usual. I attribute the increase in attendance to tough economic times and senseless political machinations that are profoundly scaring people. When people are frightened and unable to control what is happening around them, many seek God for His peace.

                The “40 Days for Life” campaign that just concluded some weeks ago drew a good number of teenagers and college co-eds, especially on the weekends.
                In January 2013, approximately 500,000 young people showed up in Washington to march for life in the snow. It was a spectacular event.

                Just last month, October 2014, a student group at Yale University sponsored the first ever pro-life conference called “Vita et Veritas, Promoting a Culture of Life and Truth” which “seeks to make the pro-life vision intelligible on college campuses.” The conference took place at Yale’s St. Thomas Moore Chapel.



                Girls, I think if more moms and/or dads could make it to Washington for the March for Life and bring the children, we Catholics could direct a resounding statement to our political elite about the strength and endurance of our Catholic faith while also using the event to evangelize and catechize our children. Evangelization and good Catechesis require prayer and action.

                Tough economic times may be the leaven God uses to humble people to bring them home to Him. If God has managed to make inroads at Yale to support life for the least among us, He can also grant a new spring time for Catholicism.

                • Beth

                  That is great news to hear from CT! Sounds like intentional discipleship is already happening.

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