The Internet is full of articles ignorant of or hostile to Catholicism, and it’s a good practice to mostly just ignore them. But sometimes you come across an article that is so ignorant and so hostile that you have to pause and contemplate whether it’s more stupid or more evil, or whether it’s the perfect combination of stupidity and evil that most anti-Catholics can only dream of.
A recent article by Daniel Panneton in The Atlantic, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” reaches these ignominious heights. Somehow Panneton is able to perfectly synthesize his ignorance of Catholicism with his contempt, and frankly, it’s a wonder to behold.
The general thrust of the article is this: so-called “radical-traditional” (aka “rad trad”) Catholics are weaponizing the Rosary and in doing so are joining with Christian nationalists in encouraging physical violence against their many enemies. I’ll understand if my Catholic readers need to take a minute to clean up their keyboards after spitting out their coffee reading that last sentence.
The howlers in this article come fast and furious and begin in the subtitle: “The AR-15 is a sacred object among Christian nationalists. Now ‘radical-traditional’ Catholics are bringing a sacrament of their own to the movement.” First, the Rosary is a sacramental, not a sacrament. Second, Panneton’s proof that the AR-15 is a “sacred object” among Christian nationalists is a link to a leftist website making that claim (and this is common in this article: to prove his points, Panneton mostly links to other leftist sites making similar claims.)
It would be painful—somewhat like watching a middle school play where none of your own kids are involved—to go through all the problems in this article, so I’ll just hit a few highlights.
The concept of the Rosary as a weapon has a rich history in the Catholic Church; it’s not some modern invention. But this “weaponization” of the Rosary is connected to something far deeper in Catholicism: the idea that we are engaged in a war, and each of us are called to be soldiers in that war. After all, Catholics here on earth have long been called the “Church Militant” for a reason.
As St. Paul wrote in the first century:
We are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12)
Being a Catholic means being at war. If you wish to ignore that war, then you cease being a practicing Catholic.
Of course, in our modern woke world all militaristic language has become politically incorrect. Heck, even the military shies away from this language in favor of promoting the diversity of their troops (“Look, we now have black transgender disabled overweight women flying our planes!”). Any military language is sure to run foul of the woke police, so it’s not surprising that the “Rosary is a weapon” language is considered highly suspect.
Panneton further considers the growing movement among Catholics to learn how to protect ourselves and become more self-sufficient as proof that “rad trads” are preparing for war. Yet he makes no mention of the increasing violence against Catholic churches and crisis pregnancy centers, the desire to force faithful Catholics out of their jobs and even out of society for their refusal to comply with transgender or other woke ideology, or the violent, I mean “mostly peaceful,” BLM riots of two summers ago. Hmm…I wonder why Catholics are starting to feel like just maybe they should prepare for bad times?
I also find it interesting that Panneton finds the Rosary as the “extremist symbol” of what he calls “rad trad” Catholics. The term “rad trad” originated among Catholics who didn’t like traditional Catholics. It was a way to ostracize them—to say, “Look, I’m a practicing Catholic, but I’m not like those Catholics. I’m safe!” Of course, as society has gotten more extreme in its anti-Catholicism, so has the simple practice of Catholicism become radical and traditional in today’s world.
You can see this in some of the examples Panneton uses to distinguish these so-called “rad trads:” they “actively campaign against LGBTQ acceptance in the Church;” they oppose “abortion-rights advocates;” and they resist the child groomers prevalent in homosexual and transgender circles. In other words, they act like Catholics.
Catholics of all stripes need to realize that it is Catholicism itself that is a radical traditionalist movement in the eyes of the world. Instead of fighting amongst ourselves in an effort to appear more acceptable to the world, it’s time we united under the mantle of Our Lady, with the Rosary as our weapon of choice.