Category Archives: Anti-Catholicism

Sep 14 – Triumph of the Cross, Cross or Crucifix?


-St. Vincent de Paul Church. Huntington Beach, California

Often in an ecumenical chapel, the crucifix (the moment of our salvation) facing the congregation is turned around displaying a plain cross for Protestant services.  The devil in me imagines Jesus turning his back on Protestants.  😉  Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.


-by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers

“The new empress had converted to Christianity the year before and was eager to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Her son, the emperor, although not yet a Christian himself, gave his mother permission to use the imperial treasury to buy up whatever sacred relics she could find during her stay. With that, St. Helena headed off to see the sites of Christ’s earthly ministry, intent on locating what physical relics remained from his public life.

Helena’s most important discovery is reputed to have been the cross on which Christ was crucified. According to traditional accounts, after ordering the destruction of a pagan temple built near Calvary by a previous emperor, Helena had her men excavate the site. There they found three crosses. To determine which one was Christ’s, Helena had a mortally ill woman touch each of the crosses. When the woman was miraculously healed after touching one of them, Helena proclaimed that cross the True Cross.

In honor of his mother’s find, Emperor Constantine ordered a church to be built on the site. That church became known as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (known by the Orthodox as the Church of the Resurrection). Most Christians believe it to house both Calvary and Christ’s tomb. The first day that the True Cross was brought outside the church for adoration by the faithful, September 14, 335, would become the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, which we celebrate today.

Protestants often are deeply uncomfortable with Catholic devotion to the crucifix, a sacramental that depicts the corpus (body) of Christ on his cross. They want to know why Catholics don’t simply have empty crosses in their churches, as is the custom in many Protestant churches. After all, they claim, Christ has been raised from the dead. Doesn’t a bare cross better show that he is risen?

Despite their affinity for crosses, many Protestants are also skeptical of the Church’s claim to possess the True Cross and to make relics from that cross available for veneration by the faithful. Not only do they doubt the authenticity of the relics, but some anti-Catholics even scorn the value of the True Cross itself. As the late Bart Brewer wrote:

It is said that if all the pieces of the [true] cross [of Christ] displayed in Catholic churches were assembled together, it would take a ten-ton truck to carry them. It is clear that most “relics” are frauds. Furthermore, there is nothing in the Bible that supports the veneration of relics, even if they are genuine.

So, on the one hand, many Protestants object to crosses that display Christ’s body in favor of bare crosses—and, on the other, they often reject the value of the True Cross itself, even if pieces of it were real. How do we as Catholics answer these objections? The story of how Helena recovered the True Cross may be useful in answering both objections.

As we saw, when Helena and her men excavated the site where Calvary had been located, they found three crosses. Naturally, they assumed that two of the crosses belonged to the two criminals executed with Christ (Matt. 27:38). Not having any interest in the thieves’ crosses, they sought to determine which cross was Christ’s and accepted a miraculous healing as proof of the True Cross.

Bare crosses alone, such as the ones Helena found near Calvary, were of no interest unless she could prove which one of them was Christ’s. The other crosses might have been interesting archaeological finds, but had no lasting value to her.

But even without Christ’s body hanging upon it, the actual cross on which Christ died is sacred because of its relation to him. Think of a throne without a king, a bench without a judge, or the presider’s chair in a church without a priest. Even when not in use, thrones, judicial benches, and presider chairs do have inherent value as symbols of the authority of the one who uses them. In like manner, the True Cross is sacred and worthy of Christian devotion because the one who used it is God himself.

From its beginning, the Church has reverenced the image of Christ on his cross and has considered the manner in which Christ died to be an integral part of the gospel. St. Paul wrote:

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:21–24, emphasis added).

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that we do not merely preach Christ’s resurrection but the resurrection of the one who was crucified, which acts as a confirmation of the divinity of God the Son:

The truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his resurrection. He had said: “When you have lifted up the son of man, then you will know that I am he.” The resurrection of the crucified one shows that he was truly “I AM,” the Son of God and God himself (653, emphasis added).

When Protestants ask why Catholics use a crucifix instead of a bare cross, the answer then is twofold. We don’t separate Christ’s body from his cross because we value both his body and his cross. God the Son died as man to save the world, which means that his human body is sacred and worthy of our worship. And since he chose to die by crucifixion, the cross on which he died is worthy of our veneration because that was the means by which he saved the world. A bare cross has no value unless it is clearly his cross. As Paul said:

Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal. 6:14).

And not only does the cross attain value by its relation to Christ—we too can become distinguished by our connection to the cross. Have you ever seen an icon or holy card of Helena? In practically every image created of her, iconographers and artists render her as holding a cross. That’s because Helena is most readily identified by Christians not by her relationship to her son the emperor, but by her relationship to Christ and his cross.

Today’s feast commemorates not just the death of Christ (as does Good Friday) but invites us to venerate the Cross itself, by which He redeemed the world.”

Love, Jn 19:30,
Matthew

Anti-Catholicism in the USA


-A 1894 print by Udo Kepler shows the pope’s nuncio (ambassador) Archbishop Francesco Satolli, who was appointed in 1893 as the first Papal Delegate to the United States, casting a shadow (looking a like Pope Leo XIII) in 1894 holding a crosier, sitting atop an enormous dome labeled “American Headquarters” and casting a large shadow in the shape of Pope Leo XIII across the landscape of the United States. Several cities, some with buildings labeled “Public Schools,” are encompassed by the shadow of the Pope, including New York City, the U.S. Capitol building, “Memphis, New Orleans, El Paso, Denver, [and] San Francisco.”  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Trent Horn

“In 2014 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. that some businesses were exempt from the Affordable Care Act contraception mandate if they had a religious objection to it. After the decision was released, Ronald Lindsay, an advocate for atheism and author of the book The Necessity of Secularism, penned an online essay titled, “The Uncomfortable Question: Should we Have Six Catholic Justices on the Supreme Court?” Lindsay mentioned past Catholic prejudice and his own risk of sounding bigoted, but he still argued that the Court’s ruling could be explained only as the result of Catholics following the rule of the pope rather than the rule of law.

Imagine the outcry if Lindsay had complained about a group of female judges he claimed were biased against men. What if Lindsay had complained that there were too many Jewish judges on a certain appeal circuit? In those cases there would be widespread condemnation, but because Lindsay attacked Catholics, he was given a free pass.

This double standard is nothing new. When we trace the history of Catholicism in the United States back through the centuries we see that not only is anti-Catholicism the last acceptable prejudice, it was also one of the first.


-famous 1876 editorial cartoon by Thomas Nast showing bishops as crocodiles attacking public schools, with the connivance of Irish Catholic politicians.  Please click on the image for greater detail.

Religious “freedom” in the New World

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, British colonists traveled to the New World in search of religious freedom and they found it—but only for their respective churches. Most of the colonies established some form of Anglicanism or congregationalism as their official religion while other Protestants, not to mention Jews and Catholics, were subject to persecution if they did not attend these worship services.

Some colonies would not even tolerate the existence of these religious groups, which is evident in Massachusetts’s “Act against Jesuits and Popish Priests,” passed in 1700, which gave Catholics several months notice that they had to leave the province. Even the colony of Rhode Island, whose tolerance for members of religious minorities earned it the nickname “Rogue’s Island,” forbade Catholics from serving in public office.

Why were Catholics treated so poorly? Many of these early eighteenth-century restrictions were a response to the so-called “Jacobite uprising” in England in 1745 that attempted to install the Catholic Prince of Wales, James Stuart, to the English, Scottish, and Irish thrones. The plan failed, leaving the prince’s father James II as the last Catholic monarch to ever reign over the British Isles.

The other prominent location of Catholics in America was the colony of Maryland, which its founder George Calvert actually called terra mariae, or Mary Land. Even though this colony would become home to the first American diocese, it still had a majority Protestant population. After Calvert’s death, his son Cecil gave the following instructions to the governor of Maryland in hopes that a Protestant majority would not erode the religious freedom Catholic’s enjoyed: “[I]nstruct all the Roman Catholics to be silent upon all occasions of discourse concerning matters of Religion; and that the said Governor & Commissioners treat the Protestants with as much mildness and favor as Justice will permit.”

The Great Migration

By the mid-nineteenth century, the industrial revolution drew hundreds of thousands of Americans out of the farmlands and into urban areas. In the 1840s the Catholic population in these areas exploded after the Irish potato famine brought millions of Irish immigrants to cities like Boston, New York, and Baltimore. These Catholics formed labor unions to protect themselves from violence and discrimination, the latter of which could be seen in “Irish need not apply” signs that littered storefronts across the United States, some as late as 1909.

Despite this hostility, Catholic immigration to the United States accelerated, and anti-immigrant activists blamed increased public welfare spending and rising crime rates on the “hordes” of Catholics flooding the country. Some critics also saw the influx of Catholics as a threat to democracy itself because of Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of “Americanism,” or the heretical view that the Church should have no influence on public policy but should instead adapt to a changing culture.

Unfortunately, many people interpreted the pope’s exhortations for the Church to shape society as a mandate to conquer it and instill a theocracy. Ellen G. White even claimed that Catholics would force all citizens, including her fellow Seventh-day Adventists, who celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday, to worship on Sunday. (Some Adventists still promote this conspiracy theory in a book called National Sunday Law).

The combination of fear and resentment toward Irish, Italian, and German Catholics also fueled the rise of a semi-secret political society called the Know-Nothing Party. The name came from the group’s members who would say they knew nothing about whatever the organization was planning. It’s no surprise they stayed tight-lipped, given that the Know-Nothings used violence and intimidation to keep Catholics and other immigrants from being elected to public office.

On August 6, 1855, what is now called Bloody Monday, armed Know-Nothing mobs controlled the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and made a show of force to prevent Catholics from “rigging” the day’s election. What transpired were a series of beatings, lootings, acts of arson, and murders that resulted in the deaths of at least twenty-two people and the near destruction of the city’s cathedral.

Unfortunately, the Know-Nothings tactics won dozens of state and local elections in the 1850s, when they ran as the American Party. After one of their candidates, Levi Boone, was elected mayor of Chicago, he banned immigrants from the city’s government and police force. The Know-Nothings also sought to ban Catholics from holding public office.

Article VI of the U.S. Constitution specifies that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States,” but this applies only to positions in the federal government. States and local municipalities could exclude atheists, Jews, Catholics, and other religious groups from public office until the Supreme Court’s 1961 Torcaso v. Watkins case ruled that religious tests represented an establishment of religion and were therefore unconstitutional.

The Catholic “menace”

As quickly as the Know Nothings appeared, by 1860 the party was torn apart by the issue of slavery. Anti-slavery Know Nothings became Republicans, while the pro-slavery members joined the Constitutional Union party, which faded out of existence after losing the 1860 presidential election. But the demise of the Know Nothings did not end the spread of their anti-Catholic rhetoric.

The most infamous group that assumed the anti-Catholic mantle was the Ku Klux Klan. Decades before their assault on racial integration, the Klan fought to protect white, Protestant America from “papists” who it claimed were immigrating to conquer America by numbers and even by force. Many Klan members believed that every Catholic parish kept a stockpile of weapons to use in a future war against Protestants.

Even though Klansmen had no qualms about using violence and other intimidation tactics, they considered their most potent weapon against the Church to be mandatory public school attendance. In 1922 the Klan teamed up with the Freemasons to pass the Oregon Compulsory Education Act. They hoped public school would tech Catholic children “civic lessons” and wean them of their troublesome immigrant heritage, including their attachment to their Catholic Faith. The act would also have the practical effect of closing down every parochial school in the state.

Thankfully, after vocal opposition from parents and campaigning by the then-forty-year-old Knights of Columbus, the case was brought before the Supreme Court. In 1925 the Court ruled in Pierce v. Society of Sisters that the Compulsory Education Act was unconstitutional and that parents have a right to determine their child’s education.

The Kennedy legacy

Even though the Supreme Court sided with the Church on school choice, Protestant America still viewed Catholics with deep suspicion. In 1928 Al Smith became the first Catholic nominated for the presidency but he lost the election, at least in part, because of his Catholic Faith. In one case, Smith was accused of imposing his Catholic morality on the public because of his opposition to alcohol prohibition, a stance that drew heavy backlash from tee totaling Protestant moralists.

It would be more than thirty years before another Catholic ran for president, and Protestants opposition remained fierce. The famous evangelist Billy Graham convened a group of his fellow Protestants in Montreux, Switzerland, in order to devise a plan to halt the momentum of John F. Kennedy’s campaign.

In the face of this criticism, Kennedy realized the importance of keeping the “religion question” from sidelining his message to voters, so on September 12, 1960, he gave an historic speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association that provided the framework for future Catholics to assuage the fears of non-Catholic voters. He said:

“I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the Church does not speak for me. Whatever issue may come before me as president—on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling, or any other subject—I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.”

So where are we today? According to the Gallup polling agency, in 1958 only two-thirds of Americans were willing to vote for a Catholic presidential candidate. Today, 94 percent would do so, but that willingness often assumes that the candidate will not impose his faith on the American people. This includes not just the imposition of sectarian morality (like legislating mandatory Mass attendance) but the imposition of Catholic principles that all people should be able to recognize from reason alone, such as the right to life for unborn children.

Do Catholics still face prejudice in American politics today? Probably not so long as their Catholic identity is a line in their biography or a photo opportunity of something innocuous like helping at a Catholic food bank. But when Catholic politicians try to defend the unborn’s right to life or the natural definition of marriage, you can bet their faith will become a target for criticism.

But that cannot stop them or us from acting in accordance with our Faith in the public square. To do so would render in vain the many sacrifices Catholics have made that ensure you or I could run for office or even have a voice in the polling place and public marketplace of ideas.”

Love,
Matthew

Sep 14 – Triumph of the Cross

People suffer horrific things in this life. And, as Jim Morris sang, “Nobody gets out of here alive.” I have long held, if you can explain the contradiction of the Cross, not easy, but then you do understand Christianity; counter-intuitive. It takes the worst, and represents the worst-also, this life can offer…and DESTROYS it, forever. Praise Him. Praise Him. Praise Him, Church. Praise Him. There is no Resurrection without the Cross. Horrific and horrifying, yes. Absolutely required? Without question or hesitation. Praise Him. Praise Him.


The Triumph of the Cross, ~1380, Agnolo Gaddi (1350–1396), fresco, Santa Croce, Florence (please click on the image for greater detail)


-by Br Ambrose Arralde, OP

“For many Christians, making the sign of the cross can be as mechanical as brushing one’s teeth or clearing one’s throat. On the one hand, it’s beautiful that such a simple sign can contain such profound meaning. It’s very simplicity, however, makes it easy for us to perform without giving its meaning a second thought. A good meditation on this phenomenon can be found in Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter.

“But whenever we make the sign of the cross over ourselves or over anything that we want to protect with the cross, then we must remember how the cross was made sacred and what it means, and remember that with the suffering and death of the Lord, this symbol was given honor and power.”

The cross is not a symbol invented by Christians. At the time of the early Church, the cross was already a well known symbol imbued with meaning. The cross was the symbol of death and humiliation, intended to strike fear into the hearts of would-be malefactors. Every body hanging on a cross carried with it an implicit message for the passerby, “Do not cross the state, or this will be you.” The cross, however, lost its former power when it was used to kill Jesus Christ. His followers were not deterred by the threat of the cross, nor would they deny their Lord as they were being led to die his same death. One can only imagine that this must have been quite frustrating for Roman officials. But the cross no longer meant to the Christians what it still meant to the Romans. The cross had become a symbol of life because it had been defeated and shown to be powerless, similar to how the sign of surrender would later become the handing over of one’s sword.

The impotence of the cross, however, could only be revealed after it had been given free rein to do its worst, and its worst had been found wanting. Christ felt the full weight of suffering and humiliation. But the suffering, instead of breaking his mettle, became an occasion for heroic courage, and the humiliation, instead of causing him shame, became an occasion for him to despise shame itself (cf. Hebrews 12:2). It was only by dying that Christ could rise, and in losing all human glory he was exalted above every mere creature (cf. Philippians 2:8-9). It was only after Christ had emptied the cross of all the power it had once enjoyed that he could fill it with a new and greater power. “We must remember how the cross was made sacred and what it means, and remember that with the suffering and death of the Lord, this symbol was given honor and power.”

The sign of the cross has the power to strengthen us (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2157), and it is good for us to avail ourselves of it often, but it strengthens us precisely to meet the trials of life head on, rather than to keep them at bay. We are called to share in the life and glory of Christ, but only through sharing in His cross. There are still many Christians who suffer death for their faith in Christ, but we who are not so sorely tried can also show our Christian mettle by carrying our daily crosses, strengthened by the knowledge that the cross is the sign that points to the empty tomb.”

Love & glorious, inexpressibly joyful TRIUMPH in Him,
Matthew

Sep 14 – Exaltation of the Holy Cross

Agnolo_Gaddi_-_Discovery_of_the_True_Cross_-_WGA08367
-by Agnolo Gaddi, ca 1380, “Discovery of the True Cross”, fresco, Santa Croce, Florence, Italy, please click on the image for greater detail

albertthomasdempsey

-by Br Albert Thomas Dempsey, OP

“When the people of Israel complained against God during their wandering in the desert, God sent saraph serpents among them. It was not until Moses, at the Lord’s command, raised a serpent on a pole that all who looked upon it were cured (Num 21:6-9). The Church Fathers saw in this a prefigurement of Christ’s mounting on the cross, a promise that future generations would be saved by considering His passion and contemplating its instrument, the cross.

From this belief arose both the practice of concentrating on a crucifix when praying and today’s feast, the Exaltation of the Cross, which honors the cross’ instrumental role in the salvation of the world. Yet, if Christ’s crucifixion occurred during the Feast of Passover in the springtime, why does the Church celebrate His cross on September 14, roughly five months later? To discover the answer, one must look to the earliest centuries of Christianity.

The hostility of Jewish leaders and the persecution of Roman authorities made it difficult for Christians to frequent places associated with the life of Christ. Moreover, the province of Judea was thrust into turmoil by three revolts against Roman authority in the century following Christ’s ascension (Jerusalem was razed in 70 AD and rebuilt as a Roman city in 135 AD). Nevertheless, the Christians of the Holy Land strove to preserve orally their knowledge of the locations associated with Christ’s life. Their efforts would bear fruit two centuries later.

Born of humble parentage in the middle of the third century in Asia Minor, St. Helena married an ambitious Roman soldier named Constantius and bore him a son, Constantine, in 272 AD. Though Constantius, who eventually became emperor, cast aside his wife for a more advantageous match, his son nevertheless remained faithful to her. When Constantine himself became the first Christian emperor of Rome, he honored his mother with the title of ‘Augusta’ and converted her to Christianity. The saint took to her new religion zealously, impressing her contemporaries with her abundant virtue.

When Constantine conquered the eastern half of the Roman Empire in 323 AD, at long last, Christians in the Holy Land could worship openly. In thanksgiving for his successes, the emperor ordered a number of churches be built with public funds at Christian sites throughout the Levant.

Despite being well into her seventies, St. Helena burned with a desire to walk the ground her Savior’s feet had trodden. Shortly after the Council of Nicaea, she set out on a pilgrimage to pray for her son and grandchildren, visiting numerous churches and bishops along the way and generously aiding the needy. However, she found that some holy places had been forgotten, while others were occupied by pagan temples to discourage worship. In Jerusalem, the site of the Lord’s burial had been itself buried under a mound of earth and surmounted by a temple to Venus; St. Helena ordered the temple razed, the earth removed, and a monumental church erected on the site.

The cross, too, had been hidden by the Jews, cast into a ditch or well and covered over. Moved by the Holy Spirit, St. Helena had sought it during her pilgrimage. Upon reaching Jerusalem, she prayed that the cross might not remain hidden and, lo and behold, three crosses were found among the rubble heaped over Holy Sepulchre.

Identifying the True Cross by its inscription, St. Helena rejoiced and sent the nails to her son, one for his crown and another for his bridle, a reminder, according to St. Ambrose, that rulers must be mindful of Christ and, by His grace, curb their appetites. St. Helena and St. Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem, confirmed the identity of the cross by laying it alongside the body of a dying man, who miraculously recovered.

St. Helena died shortly after returning to Rome at the age of eighty. The church she ordered constructed over the Holy Sepulchre was completed in 335 AD and dedicated on September 14, when the cross was brought outside for the veneration of the faithful. St. Helena’s discovery of the cross and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre have been celebrated jointly from the fourth century onward.

Medieval and Renaissance depictions of religious events are often, at first glance, puzzling: Christ is shown teaching not on the shore of Galilee but along the coast of Geneva, with its mountains and gothic spires; the martyrs tormented not by Roman centurions but Italian condottierri. Surely the artists knew better! In fact, most of them did. Yet they wished to impress upon their viewers that sacred history is not mythology: the gospels and the lives of the saints describe real events that happened to real people, as real as the windmills of Holland or the towns of the Rhineland.

Similarly, today’s feast and the life of St. Helena remind us of the fullness of Christ’s Incarnation: the Lord is not merely a tale told to children, nor simply a concept bandied about by theologians. Rather, in partaking of our humanity, He shared in our particularity. He lived not once upon a time, but at that time; not somewhere, but there; and He suffered, not in the abstract, but concretely, upon a cross, the fragments of which the faithful can venerate to this day. St. Helena, pray for us that we may never forget the historicity of Christ.”

Love,
Matthew