In one of the more amazing moments of the ultra liberal MSNBC’s recent broadcast history, Chris Matthews was reporting on the conflict between the Obamacare HHS Mandate that Catholics will have to fund abortion and contraception against their conscience or be fined out of existence as a legal institution when it dawned on him that there was a stark choice to be made. The teaching that many of us learned as children, that we would choose conscience over compromise, even if it meant suffering or death, arose from some primal Catholic place in Mr. Matthews and he said clearly that Catholics could never choose to cooperate with the Mandate, no matter what. He has not repeated that opinion to my knowledge, nor do I wait or watch for it to happen. Even Chris has editors and producers to whom he must answer. But it was striking to see the instinct to stand up for the faith even in somebody who so often sides against the Catholic position on these matters. The frontal assault which the Church is facing from an aggressive and dismissive Obama administration stirred in him the stuff of Christian martyrdom.
Persecution and martyrdom was once thought of as ancient tales from Butler’s Lives of the Saints, often fraught with historically dubious details, cleansed of the ambiguities of the real situation. Today, as the world has drawn smaller through the internet and photos and videos of every activity, we see that persecution and martyrdom are a part of being a Catholic. Voting well in the Catholic interest is no parlor game! Real lives, real schools, real hospital care, real adoption agencies and real bishops, priests and laymen and women are immediately affected by the type of regime under which they live.
The fact is that Catholics have been out of favor through history more than they have been in favor. Persecution, force and demands of compromised conscience have not been so rare. We see it today around the world. Churches are bombed in Egypt and Nigeria. Kenya has seen increased attacks on Christians. In Somalia, the world watches as a heroic mother refuses to renounce her faith in Jesus Christ and hopes to escape a death sentence after her child is born in prison. Iraqi Christians have been on the run and some are facing likely death and terror as ISIS sweeps across that broken nation, machine-gunning the populace for whom they have no use. Read here of the lives of those Christians: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/06/22/the-tragic-exodus-of-iraq-s-christians.html
The popes have noted that martyrdom, even of non-Catholic Christians who have died for Jesus Christ, binds us together more closely. Some have seen the ecumenism of the last sixty years as a direct result of the suffering of Christians, Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox and Protestant, during the grinding years of the holocaust and battles of the Second World War. St. John Paul the Great wrote: “Meditation on the tragic vicissitudes of our century allows us to see that «at the end of the second millennium the Church has once again become the Church of martyrs. The persecutions of believers – priests, Religious and laity – has caused a great sowing of martyrdom in different parts of the world» and to say that «Witness to Christ, borne even to the shedding of blood, has become a common inheritance of Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Protestants, as Pope Paul VI pointed out in his homily for the Canonisation of the Ugandan Martyrs» (ibid.).”
“Following on from this thought, the Holy Father continues: «The greatest homage which all the Churches can give to Christ on the threshold of the third millennium will be to manifest the Redeemer’s all-powerful presence through the fruits of faith, hope and charity present in men and women of many different tongues and races who have followed Christ in the various forms of the Christian vocation»” More here: http://www.vatican.va/jubilee_2000/magazine/documents/ju_mag_01031997_p-56_en.html
Without declaring the Obama administration The Beast, it is realistic to understand that the secularism which it represents as well as the radical Islamic jihad which it seems to favor politically is making real martyrs of real Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic. The degrees of persecution vary. The responses are not all heroic, although many are. The cooperation of Christians with the evil that besets the faith varies as well, but just as the consequences struck Chris Matthews in an unguarded moment on air, it is the task of Catholics for Ohio to rally voters to the best interests of the Church in order to preserve the harmony between Church and state wherever and whenever possible.
Follow Evangelical and Protestant struggles here: https://www.persecution.com/public/aboutVOM.aspx?clickfrom=%3d6d61696e5f6d656e75 The Vatican lists martyrs of the 20th and 21st century, updating the list annually. While martyrdom is a glorious witness to the gift of life that Jesus himself gave, it is not something to be invited or wished upon our families or friends. St. Paul expresses ambiguity about whether it is better to be martyred or to stay and work as an Apostle. Famously St. Ignatius of Antioch pleaded with his followers not to interfere with his martyrdom in Rome in the second century. But there is so much suffering and destruction involved with real persecution, it is hard to embrace it. If it comes, it come. But stand up for your Church while you can and ask that we be spared the trial.