Feminists Attack But the Meek Will Conquer

Belgian Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard was participating in a debate on blasphemy at the Free University of Brussels on April 23rd when he became the target of a blasphemy. Four topless women emerged from the attendees and mobbed the prelate, dousing him with water from bottles shaped like the Virgin Mary and screaming accusations of homophobia against him. Their bodies were smeared with slogans such as “my body my rules” and “anus dei is coming.” Throughout this barrage that created a startlingly demonic tableau, Archbishop Léonard remained calm, his eyes closed, his hands folded. A silent pillar of strength besieged by writhing, psychotic wrath.

The protesters were members of the radical Ukrainian feminist organization Femen, an extremist group that orchestrates lewd demonstrations against religion and sexism. Their repulsive attack on the Archbishop was in response to a recent interview where he condemned “abnormal” homosexual acts, encouraging celibacy and abstinence to those who struggle with such temptations. It is not the first time this brave apostle has undergone the torment of persecution for speaking and teaching the truth, and it will probably not be the last time. This necessary, apostolic endurance is rooted in humility—the humble selflessness to have a martyr’s courage. Our world is plummeting down a cultural rabbit hole to a place more like Underland than Wonderland, and the first step in taking control of our earthly inheritance, as Our Lord teaches, is humility.

Archbishop Léonard was silent in his humiliation at the hands of hate—and this was the proper and heroic response. His modest patience juxtaposed with naked frenzy was a striking icon of the current world war over culture. The Catholic Church was ordained to stand firmly and unwaveringly in the storm of irrational and freakish assaults on human nature and human salvation. Silence, however, is not always the proper mode of steadfastness, as it was in Brussels. There is dire need for American bishops to break some of their silences if American Catholicism is to gain ground in the battle over culture. The bravery to live and declare the unpopular truth requires first the humility to be reviled and despised by the world—to be Christ-like. Our Lord taught us to be humble before men and before God; He taught us to turn the other cheek and to turn over the tables as well. Only these seemingly opposed manifestations of humility can face and reverse the cultural corruption of our times by being active or passive at the right time. In an effort to emulate the humility of the Archbishop of Brussels, Catholics should make every effort to avoid an automatic negative reaction to homosexuals, but only to homosexual acts. The appropriate reaction against these errors, and all errors that affect culture, must be acts of love, not hate. The Catholic reaction is to tolerate the sinner, not the sin.

The banner of tolerance is one that liberals hoist high over the modern world. Though tolerance is salubrious, too much of it can be suicidal. In the effort to accept and acclimate, there exists a real need to preserve identity and integrity as a people, a nation, and a Church. There is a type of tolerance that can ultimately compromise nature, society, and the soul, and undermine culture by changing it into the chameleon called diversity. Culture without definition and distinction in values is no longer culture—it is confusion. People cannot be themselves if they do not know who they are. The type of western tolerance that embraces homosexual civil unions or welcomes the enemies of western civilization within its borders must not be tolerated. Without the effort to remain true to who we are, it will be impossible to remain true to Him who died that we may live. He told us, after all, what to expect. Being branded as a “homophobe” or an “Islamophobe,” or a “bigot” is the call to crucifixion in our time; and a sincere humility is prerequisite to take up that cross and follow Him. Followers like Archbishop Léonard are leading the faithful with the power of their humility—the power that will prevail over persecution.

The world is also receiving signals of a much-needed humility from our new pontiff, Francis. If he has made anything clear in the first month as the successor of St. Peter, it is that he is a humble man. He has declined the solid-gold ring for a gold-plated one. He has chosen to reside in a small suite at the Domus Santa Marta guesthouse instead of the regal Apostolic Palace. He has rejected the red velvet cape and the red leather shoes. A simple white chair without elevation has replaced the Papal Throne. Pope Francis’ willingness not to stand on ceremony suggests that he may prove humble enough to be a giant. He may renew that humility that can conquer hubris, especially the kind that abuses trust or disorders what God has ordered. Pope Francis’ humility may prove the balm to heal the ravages of a widespread egotism and vanity as uncompromisingly as he refused the ermine-lined cloak.

The humility that religious offices should inspire is precisely the virtue to bring an end to the cultural crises of our times for these corruptions are bred of arrogance. In being truly humble, Francis will be truly Pope, truly Christ’s Vicar—and truly powerful against the enemies of Christ. Pope Francis together with his bishops and priests can, by meekness, effect change—not so much fundamentally as foundationally. Though the world would expect such change to involve a remodeling of the Faith to fit modern paradigms, it is a restoration to traditional principles that is required—even if that means dispensing with some traditional formalities or polite reticence.

Whatever ends up happening may not be pretty, but appearances do not seem to be high on the list of such leaders of the Church Militant. Instead, Catholics can find in these men an exemplary humility to do the difficult thing—and the humility to be abused for it. To borrow a Chestertonian phrase, getting into hot water is the best way to get clean. If anything will defend against the fate of the divided house it is humility. When faced with accusation or attack, the Church’s response has typically been to turn the other cheek—or to start a war. Humility and bloodshed have always been the paradoxical ensigns of the Faith and the very elements that will substantiate it in the end. For men will only debase themselves and die for things that make them great in the understanding that they are small. Catholics must be ready to die for their culture—otherwise it will not be a culture worth living in.

After the bare-breasted protesters were evicted by security, Archbishop Léonard picked up one of the Marian bottles they had used to insult him with and kissed it. May all of us have the humility to face persecution as bravely. Catholic Culture depends on it.

Sean Fitzpatrick


Sean Fitzpatrick is a graduate of Thomas Aquinas College and the Headmaster of Gregory the Great Academy. He lives in Scranton, PA with his wife and family of four.

  • tom

    Under so-called “hate crime” laws in Belgium, sentences are doubled if a person is attacked for his religious beliefs. Let’s see what happens to these ninnies. Then, we’ll see what happens when these criminals attack an imam….an unlikely plan, for obvious reasons. Who says Islam can’t teach us anything?

    • FernieV

      Islam cannot teach us meekness!

      • tom

        Yet, let us not forget that Catholics can feel just anger. Proverbs 8:13, “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride and arrogancy, and the evil way, … do I hate.” Self defense is also an established right in the Catholic Church, especially when we are deprived of the opportunity to try to correct an Evil. Meekness is certainly laudable….so is the just anger Christ showed against hard-hearted sinners as He guided them to the Light.

    • JoeDeCarlo

      We all know that there is a double standard when it comes to Christians & Muslims.

  • Objectivetruth

    It looks like Satan is very active in Belgium. Thank you, Archbishop Leonard, for an incredible example of Christ. We must pray for these women.

  • I am glad, Mr. Fitzpatrick, that you recognize the turning of the other cheek and the turning over of the tables as equally valid Christian responses, depending on the circumstances. Righteous anger is too often rejected off hand as supposedly being incompatible with the “religion of love” instituted by the “Prince of Peace”. But this is reading only half of the Gospel.

  • Reets46

    This Archbishop is profoundly Christ like. It brings to mind the painting by Caravacchio where Christ is bound and crowned with thorns and the Roman soldier is inches away from his face yelling at him. Christ looks at him with love. Archbishop Leonard has had pies thrown in his face as well because of his open promotion of the teaching of the Church on homosexuality. Standing strong with the truth is the loving thing to do.
    Here in RI, a state with one of the highest Catholic populations in America, we are about to pass a law that will legalize same sex marriage. There are many so-called Catholic legislators who have wavered, then voted in favor of this legislation. One state senator commented that she was proud to be Catholic, but after much agonizing, she decided to vote on the side of “love”. This misplaced “love” is causing the rapid degradation of our culture. It was misplaced love that helped to legalize abortion to prevent “back alley” abortions forty years ago. Fifty five million abortions later and women being treated like cattle in many abortuaries across America is certainly not a testament to love.
    Thank you for this beautiful article Mr. Fitzpatrick.

    • Nordic Breed

      So this legislator thinks “love” and her Faith are mutually exclusive. The real love would be in not voting for enshrining a delusion in law. We need to pray hard for our legislators.

      • Reets46

        Thomas a Becket pray for us.

        • Bono95

          Thomas More, pray for us also.

          • Roman

            St John Fisher pray for us as well!

    • Alecto

      I have to take exception to your description of “same sex marriage”. It cannot and does not exist and we cannot allow these people to usurp the language as they did with the birth control fight, and most importantly with abortion! It’s appropriately called “marriage redefinition” NOT “same sex marriage” or “marriage equality”.

      • Reets46

        Good point.

      • Yes, a man can no more marry another man than he can marry a dog or a chair or a hyperbolic paraboloid. These relationships are pseudogamous. It’s an ungainly word, but heck, what an ungainly thing! And let’s be clear about this too: let’s stop using the phrase “have sex.” Every human being has a sex. It is impossible for a man to have sexual intercourse with another man — intercourse that involves the sexes as such. It is only possible for him to do things that mimic sexual intercourse, just as it is only possible for him to dress up as a woman — not to be a woman.

  • poetcomic1 .

    I have begun to notice the ‘young and hip’ in my area, at the coffee house or on their cars sporting a circle with a cross and a line through the cross. A sweet looking young lady sits to work at her lap-top on which is a sticker ‘I Love Abortion’. All the signs are there. The transgressive acts, interruption of liturgy etc.such will be coming soon to America and we must prepare. I draw a strong distinction between this incident and interruption of Holy Mass. When it comes to the sacraments, we must become physical.

    • tom

      I wonder if they collect and save the aborted baby’s feet and hands in jars…like pigs’ knuckles? Their hero, Gosnell, charged in Philadelphia, apparently did that after he snipped a live, born, baby’s spinal column. Dr. Mengele would approve this “sacrament” of the Democratic Party. Mengele aimed his hate at “inferior” Jews while Gosnell eradicates “inferior” blacks.

    • sajetreh

      I understand your frustration, but we can never become physical when it comes to persecution of our religious beliefs. Having said that, we can become physical and owe it to our founders and the second amendment to do so as American Patriots. When we are no longer allowed to practice our beliefs in the public square and our 1st amendment rights are infringed upon now we can fight and should.

      • tom

        I think we can throw the Pharisees out on their collectivist arses, religiously and patriotically.

      • poetcomic1 .

        “we can never become physical when it comes persecution of our religious beliefs…” We. Are. Not. Quakers.

        Sorry, but if the consecrated host is about to be profaned I will get VERY physical, of course using minimum necessary force.

        • Hard truths

          Why stop at minimal?

      • I thought Christ got physical with the money changers, didn’t He?

  • Acts 5:41. God bless Archbishop Léonard.

  • Joe DeCarlo

    Liberals are supposed to be so open-minded, but they are really the most intolerant of any political group. Look around the college campuses and see what happens to conservatives who speak on campus. They have to be guarded by armed guards. When they do speak, the are drowned out by cat calls and boos.

    • msmischief

      Oh, this is open-mindedness and tolerance, because those are liberal things, and this is what liberals do.

    • “But modern tolerance is deafer than intolerance. The old religious
      authorities, at least, defined a heresy before they condemned it, and
      read a book before they burned it.” – Chesterton

  • Bono95

    Wow! Is that archbishop brave and holy or what? I would not have been anywhere near that calm under such circumstances.

  • Tolerance is a minor virtue. It means that we bear with the infirmities, the stupidities, or even the evils of our neighbors, when acting against them would cause more harm than good. It is a provisional virtue that falls under the category of prudence. The people who preach tolerance mean indifference, apathy, shoulder-shrugging in the presence of sin, or even a sneaky wink of approval. They are the most intolerant people around. The bishop there was a living, breathing example of tolerance; they were shrieking examples of madness.
    But sometimes timidity masquerades as tolerance. Let the bishop be tolerant; if I were the policeman, I’d have haled the sagging ladies off to jail just as they were, and made them sit in the waiting room or the holding cell just so, to endure the smirks and the jeers of criminals farther in wickedness but not so far in sheer lunacy as they were.

    • Objectivetruth

      Interesting how the diocese is not pressing charges. I wonder how this whole story is playing out amongst the people of Belgium. In the court of public opinion, it must have shocked the citizenry. We are known by our fruits. God brings good out of evil. The Belgians have seen a clear example of the good fruit of the Archbishop, and the evil fruit of these women. Possibly this will stir the Holy Spirit in the Belgians hearts.

      • I wonder if the Low Countries are known now FOR their fruits …

  • Pingback: What Gosnell Did is Not Rare - BIG PULPIT()

  • AcceptingReality

    Great article, Sean. Really gets to the heart of living faithfully in the face of cultural adversity. Such humility is born of faith in God and trust in the true teachings of His Church. Thank you!

  • cestusdei

    Few are more hateful then radical feminists.

  • Baldwin04

    So Benedict XVI was not humble because he did wear red shoes, and the traditional ermine-lined cape? This beloved Pope should not be so easily dismissed for accepting the traditional and beautiful trappings of this divine office. I loved Benedict for his tender care for our beautiful choral and artistic traditions and am hoping Pope Francis will eventually accept the same and not look down on them as some sort of imperial pomp. There is no reason a Pope can’t wear the triple tiara one day, and attend the poor and sick in the slums the next.

    • STF

      There is absolutely no intended suggestion here that Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI is not a humble man. By way of a single example, it took profound humility to renounce his office. What this article is suggesting is that Pope Francis’ humble papal style should be welcome and encouraging—not that it is superior to, or humbler than, Benedict’s. The majesty attached to the Papal Office is, without doubt, fitting and just. We should, nevertheless, resist the reaction of the first Pope if ever we find Christ stooped at our feet. The message Francis is delivering is not that he simply condemns imperial pomp. It is something simpler still, something Christ-like.

      I heard a story that on the night Pope Francis chose to reside in the guesthouse instead of the palace, a Swiss Guard was stationed at his door. When Francis discovered the guard in the morning, he asked if he had been standing there all night. The guard replied that he had. Francis returned to his room, only to appear a few minutes later with a breakfast he himself prepared. He sat the man down and served him.

      Christ made breakfast for his disciples. Why shouldn’t the Pope?

      • Baldwin04

        I would have been much happier had that example been used. But when all of the other examples listed of Pope Francis’ humility are practices embraced by previous pontiffs, it makes it appear that they lacked the same.

  • St. Athanasius pray for us

    Great article. Loved the Chesterton quote “getting into hot water is the best way to get clean.” Let me ask a basic question: How were they allowed in? Why weren’t they stopped by security as soon as folks saw 1.) naked women 2.) them moving towards him and assaulting him.

  • Peggy Clores

    This piece is absolutely excellent. I will make it widely available. That being stated, may I humbly recommend that we shift away from the expression “tolerate the sinner, not the sin”. Though a prudent alternative to the common phrase “love the sinner, hate the sin”,
    It still muddies the message of truth in charity that must be our ultimate end if we are going to most effectively remove barriers to understanding.

    Those challenged with same sex attraction-even those who are not obstinate to Church Teaching but struggling-are often offended by the notion that they are persons to be “tolerated”. They do not readily understand that it is not their condition that makes them a sinner but their acting on it. In that regard, many of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters have unintentionally done the objective teaching on this a great disservice due to the fact that they make no distinction between the condition and the act. They erroneously believe that the homosexual person is in fact a sinner by virtue of who he i has chosen to be. They emphasize that if he or she believed more in Christ, they would be healed. They are correct in their understanding that homosexual persons are not born that way. They are incorrect in their perception that it is a choice. They are not born that way nor is it a choice. (Those needing to develop a greater understanding based on this excellent article should google “Courage Apostolate”). Thankyou for an excellent piece.
    As you generously recommend, let us humbly pray for these severely disturbed activists and draw inspiration and courage for this beautiful Bishop.

    • STF

      Your point is well made. Charity requires more than mere tolerance. It requires tenderness. The responses and attitudes inspired by love can heal and remove the stigma so quickly placed on people who have their struggles like everyone else.

    • Facile1

      Peggy Clores wrote:

      “Those challenged with same sex attraction-even those who are not obstinate to Church Teaching but struggling-are often offended by the notion that they are persons to be “tolerated”. They do not readily understand that it is not their condition that makes them a sinner but their acting on it. In that regard, many of our fundamentalist brothers and sisters have unintentionally done the objective teaching on this a great disservice due to the fact that they make no distinction between the condition and the act. They erroneously believe that the homosexual person is in fact a sinner by virtue of who he i has chosen to be. They emphasize that if he or she believed more in Christ, they would be healed.”

      Please refer to Matthew 5:27-32

      Jesus teaches that sin begins in the head.

      Evangelization is an act of Love and an act of Faith — both of which defy human reason. Love the sinner. Hate the sin. God does not ask us to win human minds. God asks us to crush human hearts.

      Thus, I reserve my arguments for Catholic blogs. But out there in the real world, like the good Archbishop, I prefer to hold my PEACE and endure.

    • SSR

      Singularly ignorant description of how homosexuals arrive at their sexuality. This makes no sense. Jesus taught love an acceptance, the complete opposite of what “Christians” preach.

  • Teresa

    I found the article excellent; until I came across the description and interpretation of “humility”; TRUE humility is never, ever, demonstrated by outer signs. Benedict XVI wore the lovely mozzetta, the red shoes, a golden cross and a golden ring.
    Would the authos suggest that Benedict XVI was lss humble, in douing so?
    Benedict XVI was incredibly humble and, as Peter Seewald said,” He will go to history as the most brilliant thinker Germany has produced in many hundred years, AND as THE MOST HUMBLE POPE in modern history”.
    I have seen how “humble” 99 % of the student were, in my native country, when, almost over night, it seemed that everyone, especially the intellectuals(so called), turned liberals/left wing. Oh, yes, they loved to think of themselves as “natural” and “the good people”. They hated the very sight of even the most discreet suggestion of make up, the sight of a small, innocent lace, or ANYTHING nice, caused them to sneer, or openly scoff at the “victims of the bourgeoise lost ones”, as they saw it. THEY HATED BEAUTY. In any form. And they viciously attacked anyone, who would dare to challenge their terror.
    Why does the liberal media love repeating, over and over again, the “simplicity” and “humility” of pope Francis? It is because they have geavely misinterpreted the true humility of Francis. Yes, he IS humble, which he has demonstrated even before he became pope.
    Interpretin tyhe absence of “red shoes”, “the mozetta” , the silver platina ring”, etc. is just too foolish, too naive.
    I am sorry having to say this, but the conclusions were simply -too simplistic!

  • Terry

    Forgive your enemies – it will make you a better person and it will drive them nuts trying to figure you out

  • Marion (MM)

    Well-trained, beautifully-behaved, extremely large and powerful dogs, together with their professionally-trained volunteer handlers, should accompany Catholic speakers who dare to attack the Culture of Death. Retired K-9s, half-a-dozen of them, standing at noble and proud attention near the speaker’ in horseshoe formation to his rear. Clearly under control, well-disciplined. And several professional-quality camera crew folks to document e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g that may transpire. Right up there with the speaker and the dogs.

    During the Celebration of Holy Mass, too, maybe someday, if need be.

    • Billiamo

      My first impulse is to agree, just as my first impulse when cut off on the freeway is to extend my middle finger and an F-bomb. But no.

      If Archbishop Léonard had been protected by a half-dozen Malinois we would have never been witness to his remarkable strength and humility in action.

  • Through evolution and with the add devotion people have the oneness with
    It. Gear music is an expression of joy, absolutely
    love and bravery.