A Prophet New Inspir’d

Francis Cardinal George of Chicago is credited with saying that he expects to die in his bed, his successor to die in prison, and his successor to die a martyr. In other words, the persecution of American Catholics is coming, and it’s a matter not of if, but of when.  In a recent column in the Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago, Cardinal George writes that “when” is “now”.

Cardinal George is in declining health, past the retirement age of 75, and in a position in which he has nothing to gain by clinging to the church of nice. In his column, “A Tale of Two Churches” he pits the Church founded by Christ against the religion of the current American establishment and states that the two are completely incompatible.

The column is refreshing in its honesty and troubling in its conclusions. His Eminence sounds a bit like John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II, “a prophet new inspir’d” citing the sins of a corrupt regime and ruin of a once-great country. Like Gaunt, the Cardinal is not afraid to tell it like it is:

“There was always a quasi-religious element in the public creed of the country. It lived off the myth of human progress, which had little place for dependence on divine providence. It tended to exploit the religiosity of the ordinary people by using religious language to co-opt them into the purposes of the ruling class.” This is resulting in a situation where “those who choose to live by the Catholic faith will not be welcomed as political candidates to national office, will not sit on editorial boards of major newspapers, will not be at home on most university faculties, will not have successful careers as actors and entertainers. Nor will their children, who will also be suspect. Since all public institutions, no matter who owns or operates them, will be agents of the government and conform their activities to the demands of the official religion, the practice of medicine and law will become more difficult for faithful Catholics. It already means in some States that those who run businesses must conform their activities to the official religion or be fined”.

This is grim stuff, but it’s not anything new. Many faithful Catholics have been thinking these things for years. What’s startling is to see it in print, and see it written by a member of the hierarchy.

Cardinal George compares this treatment to non-Muslims living under Sharia laws. But unlike Filipino workers living like slaves in Saudi Arabia, we have our own co-religionists to thank for much of the damage done. How many “Catholic” legislators helped to create this situation? How many “Catholic” voters keep electing them? How many priests and bishops refuse to correct or denounce laws and legislators that continue to make Christians second-class citizens in their own country? How many people in the pews only live their faith for an hour a week and then spend the other six days and twenty-three hours being “good Americans?” How many will agree to live under the restrictions the Cardinal described above, or will comfort trump Truth as we enter our own penal times? In another history play, Shakespeare has King Henry V tell a subject that his duty to the state is important, but limited: “every subject’s duty is the king’s; but every subject’s soul is his own.” When it comes to choosing between following laws and saving our souls, which will we choose? This was much on Shakespeare’s mind; he may have watched the great English martyrs such as Edmund Campion and Robert Southwell go to their deaths, traitors in the eyes of the state, but true sons of the Church to Christ.

In a sermon on St. Thomas More preached in 1948 in London, Monsignor Ronald Knox reminded his listeners of how much they have in common with those great saints of English penal times. “We live, like the men of the sixteenth century, in an age of new horizons; and for us, as for them, the old question still presses, How much can we afford to fall in with the spirit of our times? I say, ‘afford’; I am using commercial language, as our Lord used to. There comes a point at which, in reaching out for earthly prizes, we may lose the heavenly.”

Our politicians constantly ramble on about prosperity and opportunity, but they never tell us how much it costs. Perhaps because they are too ashamed to admit how much their own prosperity and opportunity has cost them. Vice-President Biden recently used the phrase “the gates of hell”; perhaps he knows where that it because he has been offered retirement property there by the local landlord. Following the Cardinal’s lead, it’s time for all of us help to explode the “myth of human progress”. Those new horizons of a better day are a false dawn if they take our eyes off the true light of Christ. Our land of opportunity can only be found in heaven; our prosperity is only found through the Cross.

Cardinal George’s complete column can be read here:



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