As the late, great Fr. James Schall reminded us, “St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the greatest service that we can offer our neighbor is to know the truth, to speak the truth.” Austin Ruse offers this greatest service in his new book, Under Siege: No Finer Time to Be a Faithful Catholic.
Full disclosure: Austin and I are friends. Twenty some years ago, we had our first heart-to-heart chat in the way men should, over copious quantities of cognac, late one evening at a Fellowship of Catholic Scholars conference in the Midwest.
I also have seen Austin in action at his Center for Family and Human Rights. I had the privilege of participating in a weekend off-the-record meeting in New York of United Nations delegates with whom Austin worked in assembling a pro-life caucus. The broad coalition of people he had put together took my breath away. He tells the story of the near miraculous success of this organization in upholding the sanctity of human life and the natural family in the U.N. deliberations, against all odds.
Near the beginning of The Day Is Now Far Spent, Robert Cardinal Sarah says, “I do not want to put you to sleep with soothing, lying talk.” There is no danger of that happening in this book, either—no happy talk. Rather, if you don’t know how bad things are, you will after reading the horrifying first chapter, which is so devastating in its catalog of contemporary depravity that it could be potentially paralyzing.
But we need to know. Some, no doubt, would rather engage in what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn called “the desire not to know,” thinking that ignorance will save them from the obligation of doing anything about the evil surrounding them. As Austin warns, they bury themselves in manic internet diversions and entertainment. However, things are so bad today that one can hardly not know. These are hard times for Pollyanna.
This book is for those who are unafraid to look into the depths of depravity into which we have fallen so they can learn what to do about it—how to man up in the face of it. Austin is a man in full: a husband, a father, a fighter. He is fearless and formidable. Not only won’t he back down, he doubles down—as readers of his Crisis columns will already know. Under Siege gives us our marching orders—not to retreat home or to your local Catholic community (and there wait for the end with your rosary beads), but to charge the snipers nest, charge the machine gun. Austin has charged. He can lead us against the big lie.
The original description of the big lie appeared in Mein Kampf. Although Adolf Hitler was speaking of the Jews, his description more appropriately applied to himself: “in the primitive simplicity of their [the broad masses’] minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”
Think of Hitler’s big lie in his race theory of history. How could anyone capitulate to something that insane? Simple. Look around. Do you think the current disorder is any less than in, say, 1935 Germany at the time of the Nuremberg Laws? The lies proffered about humanity today are just as profound as they were then. Who conformed then, and who did not? And what was the cost of conformity?
Albert Camus said, “To call things by the wrong name is to add to the world’s misfortune.” Indeed, each wrong name is a lie and is lethal. Today’s lies kill unborn babies, despoil the sexual innocence of children, lead parents to mutilate the bodies of their daughters who want to be sons, and lop off the genitalia of their sons who want to be daughters.
Austin points out that something called the National Women’s Law Center claims that abortion is “an act of love, an act of compassion, an act of healing, an act of selflessness.” The inversion of reality is complete. It reminds me of Dr. Karl Brandt’s testimony at the Nuremberg trials. Brandt, Hitler’s personal physician, had been in charge of the Nazi Aktion T-4 euthanasia program, which he justified to the Nuremberg judges. “Death is life,” he exclaimed. He soon found out if this was so when they took him to the gallows.
One ought to notice how the lie spreads itself. As Austin says, it has a very aggressive character. Why? Napoleon once said, “I must conquer to survive.” He knew his rule, obtained by a coup d’état, was illegitimate. So, he had to rationalize it through constant conquest. So, too, the lie. It must conquer to survive—because reality is everywhere and threatens it at every turn. It has to smother reality, or violently attack it in the form of abortion or transgender surgical disfigurations.
Austin points out that there are now more than 50 gender designations. To fill out the medical form to receive my first COVID-19 vaccine shot, I was presented with six questions on gender and sex. We’ve gone way beyond male/female. Next, Austin predicts, transgenderism will morph into transhumanism. What is there to stop it?
Why is there such silence on these subjects from those who know better? We can find part of the answer in St. Augustine’s City of God. In Book one, Chapter 9, he wrote: “we tend culpably to evade our responsibility when we ought to instruct and admonish them [the ill-doers], sometimes even with sharp reproof and censure, either because the task is irksome, or because we are afraid of giving offense; or it may be that we shrank from incurring their enmity, for fear that they may hinder and harm us in worldly matters, in respect either of what we eagerly seek to attain, or of what we weakly dread to lose.” Today, the explanation for silence is more certainly fear than irksomeness.
Austin Ruse is not afraid. Like his wife, Cathy, he is a happy warrior. However, it is not enough to be a happy warrior unless you’re also a good shot. Austin hits the target every time. They haven’t arrested Austin yet, but someday they will, unless there are a lot of other Austins in the interim, not necessarily doing what he does but who, at a minimum, refuse to participate in the lie. He tells us how to do this in Under Siege.
It was Fr. Schall, again, who reminded us that Plato warned that the worst thing is a lie in one’s soul about “what is.” We’re inundated daily with such lies and asked to ingest them voluntarily before they are force-fed to us. (A friend of my wife was confronted by a neighborhood woman who brought over her young daughter, who had “transitioned” to a boy, and demanded that the woman and her grade-school-age sons apologize for not using her new pronoun.) Under Siege advises: refuse; teach your children to refuse. Once you lie, you are lost. Not only don’t participate in the lie, but call it out. I know of no one who is more unrelenting in doing this than Austin.
Austin’s call to arms is for those who accept that there is no more glorious cause for which to fight than the Way, the Truth, and the Life. We just need to get on His side. That’s a harder thing to do now because the costs have increased; so it will be all the more worthwhile. Others have done it. Austin tells very moving stories of contemporary saints, including several children whose holiness will take your breath away and bring tears to your eyes. Austin also reminds us of today’s many martyrs. One of the outstanding young priests in our diocese recently said during a Holy Week sermon, “if you’re not suffering, you’re not doing your job [as a Christian].”
Under Siege is a summons. Austin says, “God the Father knows what He is about. He knows, He knew, what a horrific epic this would be. He knew from the founding of the world. He knew everything would be under attack. He knew about abortion, pornography, divorce, drugs. He knew about homosexuals coming to attack our Church from inside and out. And whom did He send? You. And me.”
Rather than Spenglerian gloom and doom, this rousing book is imbued with a Chestertonian sense of wild romance. “We were made for union with God in Heaven,” Austin writes. “But on this earth, we are made for fighting.” So, join the winning side. Draw the sword of Truth. Under Siege will inspire you to do so.