The Solemnity of Our Lord
Jesus Christ the King
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“The Five Stages of Persecution”
by Dan Halley, OSF
This article is strongly based on a web-blog posting by Monsignor Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington [State]. Here is the link to his article:
It is a mystery for me to see how once respected segments of American life – – Catholics and other Christians – – are becoming vilified and hated, almost overnight. The Catholic Church, along with many Protestant denominations, have become increasingly “marginalized” and out-right “hated” by many in society today. I believe things are only going to get more difficult for the Catholic Church in, at least, the near future.
This is a significantly rapid, and scary, transformation. Usually, the time for transformation – – from “respect” to one of “vilification” – – moves in stages over long periods of time, growing in intensity as it follows its destructive path.
There are five general or basic stages of persecution. The first is “stereotyping”. Not everyone engages in stereotyping to the same degree, but there are basic catchphrases of stereotyping to look out for when talking to, or observing others. The general environment, conditions, and perception of stereotyping set the foundation for each of the next four stages which follow. They are at the heart of all stereotyping, and then feed off of the stereotyping dynamic building upon each step.
These “Five Stages of Religious Persecution” originated with a talk given to a group in Washington DC, by Johnette Benkovic of the “Women of Grace” show (shown on EWTN). Ms. Benokovic puts across a sober vision of how we have come to this current place wherein our Countries culture is increasingly, and overtly, “hostile” to Christians – – and to Catholics particularly. These stages are from her talk:
1. Stereotyping the Catholic Church & other Christians, individually, & as a group
- We are exaggerated in the media as “Bible thumpers”, haters of science, hypocrites of others, self-righteous, old-fashioned, and many other negative metaphors;
- We are accused of harboring a phobic guilt, a hatred and an aversion to “sexuality” and, of being part of a “sexist tradition”;
- Catholics are “stuck in the past”, having too many rules, being rigid, controlling, and even dictatorial in the “rules”; Catholic clergy are categorized as sexually repressed; and are further stereotyped as ALL being homosexuals or pedophiles;
- We are seen as a sad, angry, boring, backward, and repressed group. Moreover, we are seen as a laughable group who are tragically caught in a superstitious mindset and an out-dated past, incapable of throwing off the shackles of an “old and antiquated” faith.
Sounds bad already; and we just started! From here, we go to the second step: “vilification”:
2. Vilifying the Catholic Church with alleged crimes and/or misconducts
- Catholics are described as “close-minded” and “harmful” to others’ dignity and freedom;
- We are labeled as “intolerant”, “hateful”, “bigoted”, “unfair”, “homophobic”, “reactionary” – – and just plain “mean”;
- The Catholic Church’s past actions, such as the crusades and inquisitions, are constantly brought-up in conversations, intended to demean the Church, while forgetting about ALL the good works produced by people of the Catholic Church;
- We Catholics supposedly “feared” and “hated” Galileo – – and ALL of the physical sciences.
After “stereotyping” and “vilifying” the Catholic Church and its members, it is a very easy step to “push” us out of the way – – leading to disconnecting and separating the Catholic Church from public intervention. This leads us to the third step, cited by Ms. Benokovic:
3. Marginalizing the Catholic Church’s role in society
- Society (Government, other groups, and/or individual people) will only allow us to have our hymns, worship, rituals, etc. – – as long as they are hidden within the four walls of our own Church buildings, PERIOD! Displays of any kind of faith must be banished from the public square, and from the public’s eye;
- We are told that nativity sets must go; we must remove Christmas trees from the public view; some schools and government buildings even bar the colors green and red at “holiday time”;
- In many public schools, students are not allowed to say the words “Christmas” or “Easter” anymore;
- Mentioning Jesus, or publicly thanking Him in a valedictorian address, could very well have a Circuit Court Judge forbidding, even penalizing the Catholic Christian for doing so – – BY LAW;
- Thanking the “Madonna” is fine, as long as you are referring to “the singer”, a cultural “role model” who publically exhibits approval for sexual promiscuity, public nakedness, pornography, adultery, and so on;
- Catholic and Christian groups and clubs are forbidden from high schools and colleges, but a “LGBT” (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender) group or club is welcomed;
- These organizations are allowed to set up displays and pass out “rainbow colored” condoms; in contrast, Christian groups are FORBIDDEN to pass out bibles, rosaries, crosses, or any other “Propaganda”;
- Here’s a fact! NO Bibles or Christian pamphlets can see the light of day anywhere in public schools or other government buildings. Walter Reed Military Hospital had BARRED Bibles and other Christian reading materials and artifacts (for a short time) from the property, not even allowing items to be given away or used during a visit. (This rule was rescinded after a major outrage and protest was made public by veterans groups, citizens, and military clergy – – during an election year!)
The hair on my neck is now standing up. We have now gone from “stereotyping”, through “vilification”, to “marginalizing”, to an increasingly serious step of not just pushing followers of Christ out of the way, but actually “criminalizing” aspects of our faith:
4. Criminalizing the Catholic Church and its works
- The HHS mandate (Need I say any more!);
- Local governments and courts are attempting to COMPEL Catholic hospitals and “pro-life” clinics to provide information and/or referrals for abortions, even going further, actually demanding these organizations to provide “emergency contraception” upon request;
- Catholic Charities throughout the United States have already been “de-certified” by various State and US authorizes. They are no longer allowed to perform adoption work because these Catholic organizations will not allow children to be adopted by single-sex “couples”;
- The State of Connecticut, in 2009, sought to regulate the organization and administration of Catholic parishes itself. (Is that “separation of Church and state?! I think not!! Luckily, the attempt was unsuccessful.);
- Recently, a number of Christian valedictorians in various States of the Union were presented with legal “injunctions” – – court rulings and court orders – – when it was discovered that they intended to mention God and/or Jesus specifically in their talks. These legal injunctions banned them from doing so under severe penalty of law!!
Not only are Catholics and other Christians being “stereotyped”, “vilified”, “marginalized”, and “criminalized” for being “seen” displaying our faith, but also, Catholics can be (and are) sought out specifically FOR persecution by the government and the larger society. This leads us to our last step:
5. Persecuting the Catholic Church out-rightly and overtly, as a single religious group, as well as independent individual citizens of faith
If current trends continue:
- Catholics and other Christians, especially the religious leaders – – out-spoken Priests, Bishops, and even the Pope – – will be straining under their personal cross of heavy fines and incarceration for their faith, and for their “sheep”.
- Already, in Canada and parts of Europe, Catholic clergy have been arrested and charged with “hate crimes” for preaching Catholic Doctrine and other teachings on such topics as homosexual activity.
- Individuals in St. Louis, Washington DC, and or cities have been arrested and charged with various trespassing, loitering, and “hate crimes” for “praying, and witnessing” – – PEACEFULLY – – at abortion clinics, and in front of the White House and other government buildings as well.
There are more examples for each of these progressive steps. After reading this SHORT list of anti-Christian, anti-Catholic stages of persecution, I feel disheartened about our current societies’ (and politicians’) approach in scrutinizing and segregating the Catholic Church as a societal and political ENEMY of the American society at-large. Many believe true Christians and Catholics are an “out-dated” group no longer needed – – or wanted – – in America today. Even supposed “Catholic” politicians – – and not just Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Biden – – have decided to “pick and choose” which tenets and Catholic beliefs to follow within the changing culture of America.
In closing, let’s keep always on our lips the following prayer, given to us by an angel who appeared to three children of Fatima (Portugal) in 1916, just before the outbreak of WWI in 1917:
“O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I adore you profoundly. I offer you the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the OUTRAGES, SACRILEGES, and INDIFFERENCES by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”
Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by Pilate about the charge brought against Him – – that He is “King of the Jews”. So, who’s the true “Royalty”?
(NAB John 18:33-37) 33 Pilate went back into the praetorium and summoned Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here.” 37 So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”
Today is the last Sunday of the Catholic Church’s liturgical year. On this specific Sunday, we celebrate (and reflect on) the “Solemnity of Christ the King”. On this day in the Church year, we read a portion of the “Passion” from John’s Gospel, the very same reading proclaimed each year on Good Friday.
In today’s reading, Pilate questions Jesus about the accusations brought against Him by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish “Supreme Court” that He is a “king”. Caiaphas, the Roman-appointed Jewish high priest, and Jesus’ major antagonist, along with the other high priests, have charged Jesus with a religious and political crime – – a crime requiring a death penalty.
Pilate, in his words and actions, seems to be attempting to distance himself from the Jewish leaders who are accusing Jesus of a very heinous crime: blasphemy. Pilate is a Roman and not a Jew. In reality, he probably wanted very little to do with this Jewish affair, but was forced to participate over a fear of rebellion.
“Are you the King of the Jews?” (John 18:33)
In response, and in knowing of the “rumors” and accusations rampantly spreading among the populace, Jesus answers by asking:
“Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” (John 18:44).
Pilate, a proud Roman, in saying he is “not a Jew”, is relating to Jesus that he had even heard the talk about Jesus’ claim of being a “king” in His own right. Pilate also wanted to make clear to Jesus that His OWN people – – Jewish people – – have brought the Roman government’s wrath upon Him, for execution purposes:
“I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:35).
I love Jesus’ response to Pilate’s finger pointing; his putting the blame for Jesus’ arrest (and future crucifixion) on others of His “clan”:
“My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants [would] be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here” (John 18:36).
Jesus is identifying a final proof that His kingdom is not of this world. If His kingdom were of this world, then there would be people fighting to save Him (and winning). In this regard, we hear echoes of John’s “theme” – – salvation is worked out through a cosmic battle. It is helpful to return to the first chapter of John’s Gospel to understand the context for Jesus’ words to Pilate:
“He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him” (John 1:10).
I personally believe this statement in today’s Gospel, about being “not of this world”, had to throw a bit of mental confusion into Pilate’s thinking. For me, and probably for Pilate as well, this statement from Jesus was a verbal puzzle, a divine “head trip” of sorts. In reality however, Jesus is simply speaking the truth. John reiterated this fact of faith twice before: the aforementioned verse (John 1:10), and this verse from chapter eight of his Gospel:
“He said to them, ‘You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world’” (John 8:23).
“Through Him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:4-5).
I believe Pilate tired of the “head games” and the humbleness being presented to him by Jesus while questioning Him. Pilate wanted a simple “yes or no” answer to his questions. He also perplexed about the accusation being brought against Jesus by His fellow Jews and Temple leaders. So, Pilate sarcastically concedes, inquisitively, to Jesus:
“Then you are a king?” (John 18:37).
However, Jesus is not done with His teaching of the faith through this unique moment of opportunity graced to Him by His Father in heaven. He does not actually say He IS “the king”, but this verification is inferred and hinted to in His word dynamics:
“You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)
By saying, “You say I am a king”, Jesus is, in a way, offering a veiled affirmative answer to Pilate’s (and many others) inquiry about Him and His “nature”.
“You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:37)
Jesus Christ is testifying to His truth, AND to the “truth” found in “hearing” and following Him, belonging to Him in every way possible:
“Whoever belongs to God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not listen, because you do not belong to God” (John 8:47);
John is not the only one in Holy Scripture to write about “truth”. Paul writes in His awesome first letter to Timothy, warning against “false teachers” who stress knowledge, teaching Timothy to focus on the persistent “hearing” of Jesus’ true “truth”:
“I charge [you] before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Timothy 6:13).
How good are YOU doing at following His true “truth”? Personally, I find it very difficult quite often; but then I ask Him for help.
In Jesus’ responses to Pilate’s questions, Jesus distinguishes His kingdom from the political powers of this world. “King” and “kingdom” may be appropriate terms for Jesus’ mission and promise, but only by similarity. Jesus IS “king”, but not the kind of king we typically imagine or expect! And, He certainly was not the kind of “king” Pilate worried about or feared.
Jesus submits to Pilate His [Jesus’] “kingdom” is “not of this world”. Recall, in His prayer during the Last Supper discourse (cf., John 17:6-18), Jesus prayed for His disciples who are in the world – – but do not belong to the world: His faithful believers. However, like Jesus, they also were (and are) sent into the world – – for the world’s salvation. (I feel humbly important now, um, I think?!)
OK, let’s go on. “Truth” is an important theme in John’s Gospel. We see it emphasized in today’s conclusion during the dialogue between Jesus and Pilate. Those who “know the truth” will recognize Jesus as “king” and will know how to interpret this truthful perception and self-awareness given to us by Him personally. However, Jesus’ kingship was hidden from many of His contemporaries, even His own disciples and Apostles. His kingship is still hidden to many even today. Only the “chosen”, those who have the “eyes” and “ears” of faith, are able to see and hear the “truth”. As contemporary disciples of Jesus, we also struggle at times to recognize Jesus as “MY” “king”, personally. We are being invited to “see” and “hear” with eyes and ears of faith so that we might recognize that Jesus, through His crucifixion and death, truly is indeed the true “king” of me, and for me, and the “Messiah Savior King” of ALL mankind.
Understanding today’s “Feast of Christ the King” may be particularly challenging for some of us “faithful”. While most of us do not have a direct experience with kings or royalty (such as me), we possess a sense and image of kings and royals (again, such as me). We know that royalty have sovereignty (rule and power) over their “kingdoms”. We know that those who are subjects (someone ruled) to royalty offer them allegiance and honor. (Who hasn’t seen a knights and damsels in distress movie? That’s the way it works – – in this world!)
To understand how Jesus Christ is “our king”, we need to extend and magnify – – amplify – – what we know to be proper and “true” from the best of human royalty. Jesus Christ’s kingship extends to ALL places, ALL people, and ALL times – – past, past, and future. Jesus manifests His kingship through His death on the Holy Cross, a death He offered to us for redemption and salvation to EVERYONE who believes and hears Him. Those who can see and hear with eyes and ears of faith truly recognize Jesus Christ to be the proper and “true” heavenly king we need.
As you celebrate today the “Feast of Christ the King”, let’s ask, what does it mean to be a king or queen – – royalty (such as me)?; How do those who are subjects behave toward royalty?; Does Pilate treat Jesus like royalty? [Nope.]; What does Jesus say about His kingdom? [It is not of this world.].
So, how then do you honor and obey our “king”, Jesus Christ? (Yea, I can improve as well.) Let’s ask God the Father to help us act in ways which show we do truly recognize and honor His Son, Jesus Christ, as “King”, as our “King”, and as “MY Personal King”.
P.S. – – Re-read the title of today’s blog posting:
“Who’s the Royalty Here, Me or You?!”
What was your FIRST impression of this title? Has it NOW changed?
Please let me know.
I would like to know for a special reason. Remember, I feel there is basically NO wrong answer because it comes from the Holy Spirit working though YOU, if reflected on, and answered, sincerely.
“Prayer To Christ The King”
I renew the promises I made in Baptism,
when I renounced Satan and all his pomps and works,
and I promise to live a good Christian life
and to do all in my power
to procure the triumph of the rights of God
and Your Church.
Divine Heart of Jesus,
I offer you my efforts
in order to obtain that all hearts
may acknowledge your Sacred Royalty,
and that thus the Kingdom of Your peace
may be established throughout the universe.