Is the Rosary Always the Right Political Message?

Politics these days is about capturing the narrative. What is the story received by the public? Is it our story or theirs? To take just one example: the “War on Women” is one of the great narrative thefts of all time.

The reproductive rights radicals have long understood that the Catholic Church is their enemy. They have also recognized the utility of old and nasty prejudices, chief among them anti-Catholicism. Couple anti-Catholicism with the charge that old white men in robes will dictate our reproductive lives, and you have a pretty potent message.

Because of this, savvy Catholics, including several bishops, have understood that not everything has to be drowned in holy water. No longer do we cite Scripture and hardly even papal encyclicals.  These may certainly inform our inner lives and our convictions, but they are not the most potent element in swaying voters.

And here an important distinction must be made. What is good for religion, what is good for your soul and others, is not always what is most effective in politics. This is not to denigrate the faith, merely to state a fact.

The conundrum here is that the pro-life movement is still largely Catholic. Go to the March for Life and you’ll see images of the Blessed Mary everywhere, and crowds of kids reciting the Rosary. What motivates most pro-lifers is not science, but faith.

But pro-lifers have come to understand they must speak the lingua franca of our age and, therefore, have learned science. In fact, in most debates today you hear faithful Christians citing science – biology, embryology, genetics, and much else – while abortion absolutists cite Scripture in order to goad pro-lifers into revealing their “true motivations.”

Now, the media want to retain the old narrative, old white men in robes, blah blah blah. So when you get a bunch of young women out there holding pro-life signs and then off to one side is an old white man holding up a Rosary, which picture do they take?  The one that maintains their narrative, not ours.

On the very day that the Hobby Lobby decision was handed down, our side absolutely dominated the front of the Supreme Court. Some who were there say our side has never been better organized in front of the Court. First, we had the stairs right in front. News photographers want that picture of protestors with the Court behind them. Our side got there early enough to set up in the prime position.

We had drums and chants. We hardly ever have chants good enough or crowds large enough to drown out the other side. But on Hobby Lobby day, we did. And the other thing we had was the narrative. Our narrative is that young women support religious freedom and that young women oppose the contraceptive and abortifacient mandate. So it helped that, in front of the Court, was a long line of beautiful, young, pro-life women.

They were laughing and singing and chanting and honestly looking quite fetching compared to the often-slovenly sexual left. It must have broken the hearts of the photographers that they did not have some old white men with Rosaries!

Then, all of a sudden, they did. Not an old man but a young one, in a business suit, walked up and plopped himself right in front of these women and their signs. He whipped out, you guessed it, a Rosary and began praying. The news photographers giddily fired away. At long last the narrative they longed for. They even got a picture of a young lady standing beside him with the sign “Keep your Rosaries off my Ovaries.” It was perfect – but how last century, how very “war on women.”

Michael Hichborn, a very fine man, runs the Defend the Faith Program at American Life League, and I do not question his belief that a man praying the Rosary was the most effective political message to have been delivered that day. His American Life League colleague Rey Flores wrote a column at LifeSite that explained their thinking:

In the middle of all this, there was one sublime moment involving a man who was neither seeking attention nor scheduled to speak at the event.
While many of the rally organizers stood there preening for the cameras, yelling through bullhorns, and being as loud as possible, one man did the bravest thing any man or woman can do: He dropped to his knees, clutched his rosary, and asked the Virgin Mary and our Lord Jesus Christ for their help.
This simple act of faith drew media photographers away from the predictable protestors and provided a genuine unexpected photo opportunity.  

It is hard to think that he was not seeking attention, maybe not for himself but certainly for his message. After all, he could have said the Rosary off to one side, behind the cameras. Or in his car driving to the event, as my wife did, who was one of the “preening” speakers at the press conference. I suspect that most of the women behind the banners who were whooping up the crowd also said the Rosary that morning.

I have said the Rosary every day for more than twenty years. It is the most effective tool in our arsenal. And it is the best prayer in front of abortion clinics, where I have also said it.

But was it the best message in front of the Supreme Court that day? Was it the best message to convey to millions of Americans who may fear that we are nothing more than the Catholic Church trying to impose our faith on them?

I have to think that even the Blessed Mother would agree that sometimes the shiny faces of happy young women is more effective politically than even that most sublime Rosary.

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse

Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-Fam.

  • Rich in MN

    Austin, I think you are touching on an important insight. I might even say that you are channeling your inner “Timothy Dolan” — a cardinal ability, if ever there was one, that might be called, “inducing meditation on the macro level.” People cannot hear their own inner voice of truth, reason, goodness and beauty when they are focused on fighting some external foe. The trick is to be present, speak the truth, live the truth, but don’t give the other person anything to hit. Now most of us, myself included, if we were to win the “Mitre for a Day” lottery, would come armed with a Code of Canon Law that contained only Canon 915. Then, if some baptized Catholic Governor promoted a host of intrinsically evil things and created public scandal and then said I was not even welcome in his state, I would pull out my one cannon — I mean, canon — and break that bruised reed faster than you could blink. But, thank God, there is no such lottery, and I would not buy a ticket if there was. Instead, New York has a Shepherd who will stand in there but won’t give the Governor anyone to fight, any target to hit.
    I think you are onto something with your observation about thinking carefully about the public face of natural law and religious freedom struggles. We are trying to win converts by inducing meditation in our society, a society armed with inaccurate cliches and heavy chips on the shoulder, looking for someone to hit.

  • Myshkin

    How to best get to a goal? You have to have a strategy, then choose tactics to achieve the strategy’s planned objectives.

    Some definitions:

    A goal is a broad primary outcome.
    A strategy is the approach you take to achieve a goal.
    An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy.
    A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy.

    What Mr. Ruse is arguing for is a particular set of media tactics. I’m sure he agrees with the American Life League’s goals, strategy and objectives. But he simply advises a more media savvy tactic in this post.

  • schm0e

    ‘I might even say that you are channeling your inner “Timothy Dolan”‘ — I don’t think you know how right you are.

    There are no “tricks”. This isn’t about photo-ops and soundbytes. You play their game at your own risk because they own the playing field, change the rules at will, control the images.

    The Church is its own worst enemy.

  • Manfred

    @/Austin: Good points. The “Hobby Lobby victory” was not a Catholic enterprise as the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby and paid to bring their case to the Supreme Court, are Evangelicals. Most Catholic institutions, Notre Dame, Georgetown, the Archdiocese of N.Y., to name a few, had abandoned the fight. In fact, if the Catholic Chief Justice Roberts had done “the right thing” initially, the A.C.A. (Obamacare) would have been voted down by the Court and the whole question would have been moot! Praying the Rosary is a meditative prayer best said privately or in small groups. I have resented the trivialization of this devotion in these contentious settings for decades.

    @Rich in MN; you may want to do some more research on Cdl Dolan. It was he who described pro-abortion, pro-sodomy, pro-adultery (he lives with a woman not his wife) Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a Catholic in “good standing”.

  • Jim Sedlak

    I’m sorry, but we disagree on a very basic point. You see this as a “political” fight. I do not. We will never win this politically. To my mind, this is a spiritual battle and can only be won with God. It is not exclusively a Catholic fight. Catholics, protestants, evangelicals, orthodox Jews, Muslims and many other religions all understand this. What we need is more people of all faiths publicly praying for the conversion of the United States.

    The real tragedy of the scene in front of the Supreme Court was not that one Catholic kneeled and prayed. It was that no one joined him in prayer – whatever prayer would be appropriate for their faith.

    Christ tells us in Matthew 10: Whoever proclaims me before man, I will proclaim him before my father in heaven.

    We got a lot of proclaimin’ to do before we see the ultimate victory.

  • grump

    I don’t like it, nor does God apparently, when people pray in public. Jesus said, “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” Matthew 6:5-6

  • Paul

    Pardon me, but you are wrong. “Let he who has ears to hear, hear.” We don’t control the soil on which seeds fall. But we must sow. Is a lamp to be placed under a bushel basket? No, every one of us must place our light in public view and shine it boldly.

    We can’t manipulate the media into showing a positive pro-life message. Let them show a young man praying. They may think it works against us, but there will be some who have ears, and hear.

  • Greg Eastwood

    Give me a flipping break. Are you kidding me. You cynical old man. Yes, lets condemn him for praying the rosary, invoking the intercession of the mother of God in a moment of inspiration. It’s people like you, sitting high in your ivory tower, “praying your rosary everyday everyday for 20 years” criticizing those actually doing something that are the reason the church herself is ill. You and your savvy bishops have done a marvelous job, you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing since 1973. Keep it up, you have it all figured out. Bravo. Well done.

  • Austin Ruse

    Jim, it’s both. Moreover, as I said in the piece, everyone there are pray-ers! And the difference between us, if there is any at all, was what was the best message at what was a political event.

  • Bill Hocter

    Why not young women with rosaries too?

  • Mr. Levy

    Thank you for your sensitive and thoughtful analysis, Mr. Ruse. You make a strong case.

    I am not sure, in the end, that we should be any more concerned about our marketing than the other side is. They have won politically (so far) because they did NOT care what the average person thought of them, and because they were willing to make the strongest possible statements against their opponents, and because they did these things over and over, year after year, decade after decade. They gained a majority not by dint of careful marketing, but by stentorian slogan-chanting, shaming and intimidating dissenters, and impressing those in the middle with their zeal and determination (since those who waver will always favor those who seem more powerful).

    If we refrain from expressing our own zeal and determination, if we pull our punches for fear of offending others, if we fret over whether we have conveyed exactly the most appealing message – we risk coming across as overly conciliatory or otherwise weak.

    In any case, we cannot win the marketing game when the instrumentalities of marketing (the press) are owned and run by our opponents. They will tell the story they wish, even if they have to fabricate “facts,” and they will ignore the real facts that do not fit.

    But, again, I think you have made a strong case, one worth considering seriously and repeatedly by anyone in this fight. Thank you.

  • Doc Kimble

    The amount of false advertising involved in the pro abortion mind washers is staggering and they have almost total control of the information flow, so there’s no way the picture of the happy women was going to get into the flow anyway.

    I take the approach that there’s a lot more going on during a demonstration than meets the eye, and we live by faith, not by sight. When a pro abort mocks a man praying the Rosary on his knees at an important demonstration at an important historical event, she is the one who is brainwashed by mocking the man praying the Rosary.

    The “unseen picture” here is what is happening in the minds of the women who are mocking the Rosary-praying man. When the emptiness of their message, the shallowness of their message, is later examined by their human conscience as they look at that picture of Michael, it will be sending back, “Is this all we can do is mock the enemy? Is this all the truth about abortion amounts to is to be against a man who is praying the Rosary at this most important political event? If that’s the case, then we have missed the message that we are telling ourselves about the importance of abortion.”

    Then it may happen that the pro abortion woman who is being accused by her conscience will remember the smiling faces of the pro life women demonstrators at the important political event. The “turning away from” image is provided by the man on his knees praying the Rosary; the “turning to” image was provided by the happy pro life women.

    There was no “divided message;” there weren’t “two sides” to this, as the author suggests. All were working as one. Our Lord wouldn’t allow the Blessed Mother’s Prayer prayer to be wasted. I call Our Blessed Mother “Our Heavenly Social Director.” She places us all where we should be when our hearts are turned toward her Son.

    I caution against selling the human conscience short; it is placed there by God Himself as the guardian of and the advocate for the Truth, and in the final analysis, it will be our conscience itself which will be examined by God. And in that moment, they will know exactly why that man was praying that Rosary. Things aren’t always what they seem. We walk by faith, not by sight.

    What they have meant for evil, God will use for good. God’s plans never change, they never collapse, and with God, all things are possible.

  • Mike

    The best message at “what was a political event”?

    For one man apparently it was this: I am unafraid to proclaim my faith, and contemn assertions by pagans and Laodiceans that I should confine it within the boundaries they try to draw around me.

    A better message by far than the shamefaced message of this article.

  • James Swetnam, S.J.

    In the United States Catholics live objectively in two spheres–the sphere of faith and the sphere of reason (the latter is also known as the public square). The sphere of faith is owned by the Church, so to speak. The sphere of reason is owned by neither Church nor State. In the public square the sole guide is reason, though reason can be the result of faith as illuminating. To imply, as some Catholics do, that faith is necessary for defending a truth of reason illumined by faith can be quite misleading. (I remember a pro-life meeting in London in 1975 in which a self-identified atheist vigorously defended a pro-life position.) To act, even unwittingly, as though faith were essential for defending a pro-life position does the pro-life position a disservice. Here, as often in life, sincerity is not enough. Bravo for the column, Austin Ruse. James Swetnam, S.J.

  • Austin Ruse

    Actually Greg Eastwood, I run a pro-life group that keeps the UN from creating a right to abortion. Even now, as I type this, my team is at UN headquarters blocking abortion from a document you have never heard of but one which will guide the world for the next 15+ years called the Sustainable Development Goals.

    I am not condemning Michael for saying the Rosary at the Supreme Court and I don’t think you can point to anything in the column that does so. I am saying that sometimes the Rosary is the wrong political message. It is always the right religious message though…

    Two questions.
    First, What do you have against saying the Rosary every day for twenty years?
    Second, Old?

  • Augustine Thomas

    I tend to agree that Ruse and his ilk are out of touch. They never stop failing and then telling us how it is.
    George Weigel, Austin Ruse, The Catholic Thing, First Things, etc. have failed miserably. Why should we take their advice even one moment longer?

  • Patti Day

    Won’t the other side have won if we take God (or His mother)out of the picture? I agree that it is exhilarating to see young, smiling,high-spirited women (and men) whooping it up in the sunshine, versus old, unsmiling, sombre white men (and women) huddling in the rain, but the latter group kept the message alive all these years so the former could be out there openly reveling in the victory. I’ll gladly give way to youth and beauty to stand in the background, so long as I can still bring, and pray, my rosary, which is what brought us this far.

  • Nick P

    Austin, I’m with you on this. Different tactics fit different situations, AND one must be consistent in one’s tactics given the situation. Simple example, I detest most so-called Church music written in the past 25 or 30 years, from the self-absorbed and banal Dan Schutte ditties to the happy-clappy stuff. My youngest fell in among Life Teen as a high-school student. Their Masses are filled with music that I would deplore at my Sunday 8 AM, but I love the Life Teen Masses, too. Never the twain should meet.

    There is a time for publicly visible prayer. And a time for private prayer.

    You describe a media-stereotype-challenging gathering on the steps that day. Those gathered, especially the women, failed to provide a they’re-crazy hook for their opponents, especially those in the press looking for a photo-op that would discredit the group. I would guess that every one of those gathered loves the Rosary, Our Blessed Mother, and Our Lord. Fervently. But the besuited man spoiled the consistency, giving the press its “hook.” Not to psychoanalyze, but his action appeared to be more about him than anything else.

    My daughter is now president of the (non-denominational) Life Society at a very large UK university. She would gladly have joined those on the steps if it had been possible. She would have fit right in. When she and I discuss life-related issues, especially her tactical approach to them, my first impulse at times is to disagree. Yeah, I’m an old traditionalist. But she explains to me the common sense, and “fit” of her approach to its audience. She certainly knows 20-somethings better than I. Much better. And a consistent approach. Again, our objectives are the same. She has shaped her battle plans to the terrain and opponent.

    What you described, Austin, is just that “fit,” and how it can be broken even by a supporter of the cause.

  • Judy

    I disagree with this piece. The power of the Rosary is greater than the power of the press. You strike me as someone who wants his faith to not offend anyone, much like the Dolan strategy. Stop thinking everyone is going to like you and agree with you if only you make it vanilla enough. Embrace a radical faith in the power of God, who could wipe out abortion with a thought. Whom does he want you to serve? Is it important to show up being perky and photogenic? Read up on the battles throughout history that were reversed by groups praying the Rosary. And I agree that every Catholic there should have hit their knees and prayed in unison. Don’t try to please the media. They have cast their lot with Satan.

  • Tom

    I agree with what you are saying basically and I understand the point.
    That said, there is a larger issue that I would like to point out about the pro-life movement. I think the Church ought to emphasize Marian devotion and our love for the Blessed Mother as part of the pro-life, pro-woman picture. I think that the Church is in a tough position right now. However, we can only be criticized so much for promoting Our Lady and praying the rosary etc. The media would have a hard time saying “look at the bigoted Church honoring Mary!” I don’t mean to dispute your point about this post…only to add a side note that I think doesn’t necessarily apply to the exact issue you mention, only to the pro-life movement and the Church as a whole.

    As Mary said to St. Dominic “One day, through the Rosary and the Scapular, I will save the world”

  • E G Lewis

    It seems to me that you are ashamed of your rosary. This isn’t about politics. As St. Paul said, “For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places.” The Blessed Virgin and a strong faith is the only thing that can ever bring victory.

  • Clare Krishan

    Re: Myshkin on ends and means as subsidiarity in solidarity with the unborn:
    “Some definitions » A goal is a broad primary outcome » A strategy is the approach you take to achieve a goal » An objective is a measurable step you take to achieve a strategy » A tactic is a tool you use in pursuing an objective associated with a strategy”

    An outcome can’t be a “tenet” in our hands, for all agency lies in God’s hands: a goal can only ever describe a present act not a future one (herein lies Marxism’s error to presume sacrificing today’s certain goods for a putative utopian ‘tomorrow’ that never comes. So presuming a common end to all our political agency, as printed on our American currency, In God we Trust, Catholic activists may wish to follow a business strategy as social enterpreuners, but lest we succumb to self-deception, we need to be convinced of one *primary* fact that, in the social realm, all our acts are forms of communication. Thus our goal is primarily one of COMMUNing in trust with those God had entrusted to us, we do not stand alone as one man against the tide… as this photo opportunity appears to imply. The goal of any Christian communications has to be to quell Babel’s confusion with Pentecost’s tongues of fire, love spoken in truth for the common good (a) in the grammar of beneficial charity expressed (b) in rational rhetoric of advantageous reasonableness of (c) of concrete features recorded as discrete fact-acts by the ears and eyes of their beholders.

    The problem with the bureaucratic be-suited gentlemen with his rosary beads kneeling on law-court steps is that IN THE EYES AND EARS OF THE BEHOLDERS his political communication is a Babel-like incoherence [What does he want? Rosary beads! When does he want it? Now!] to both of the constituencies he has set himself betwixt in some sort of tilting-at-windmills homage to Don Juan.

    This cannot be the proper message for gentlemen-culture-warriors of the 21st Century (unless what they want to communicate is that the Pentecost Flame-Divine Presence dwells not in our midst as promised, but is arrested as a hollow echo of the Pauline ‘clanging cymbal’ from Corinth of 1st-century common-era vintage. All militaristic relativists tempted by the selflove of tooting their own trumpets fail the Logos’ mission given to every age: love. His grammar is universal not constrained, his rhetoric attracts never repels, and his logic creates human value never harms it.

    If value is to be gained in communicating on the court steps, by being present in the public square as God’s work, we must be faithfully creative, attractive and universal. Otherwise we aren’t doing God’s work, we are tyrannically relatizing in a dictatorship of our own ideology, a potent temptation amidst the American cult of exceptionalist pride of individualism. Humility remains the best policy — for any act certainly — but especially for political acts. The women gathered to creatively, as attractively as God made them, to claim a universal human right for their fair sex: they don’t need the goverments coercive force to chose how to care for their reproductive health, they’re big girls and can take care of themselves. But this gentlemen couldn’t let it rest at that: he had to imply that no they weren’t God’s gifts that day, he and his rosary beads were. What rosary beads have to do with reproductive health he trusted to let the media answer for him (and her, and her, and her and all the other sisters-in-faith he dissed that day).

    Machos do not make good culture warriors, to paraphrase Christ’s critique of Peter cutting off Malchus’ ear (he having slept during the period set aside for prayer the night before, recall).

  • Daniel O’Connor

    I think you should choose whatever strategy in this battle against the Culture of Death that you feel called to, and not concern yourself with those who use others. This article strikes me as just another cause (as if we needed another) of needless infighting. Perhaps the good man pictured felt he was being tempted to sin by anger (which tends to happen with angry feminists yelling at you), and knew he needed, in that moment, the channel of grace that is the Rosary on one’s knees. How will this article look on Judgment Day if that was the case?

  • Austin Ruse

    Hey Grump, would you clue Judy in that I’m definitely not from the church of nice.

  • Schm0e

    I am astounded at the naïveté of those who see political sophistication as valid. Surely it was the same infatuation with cool that joined Saul Alinsky and the CCHD at the hip, preparing the ground for Obama and all his assaults on the Church and the Nation.

    I remember when Evangelicals had the same admiration for Images. I judged them to be about 5 years behind the secular curve. Reading this today suggests that some Cathics are ten years behind the Evangelicals.

    As was previously observed, what has “savvy” done for the Kingdom of God since 1973? Besides, that is, the aforementioned siring of Barack Obama?

    These are his fellow travelers applauding this approach. It’s a distraction from the truth.

  • Myshkin

    So what Mr. Ruse writes here fits very nicely with the political thought of St. Thomas More; is St Thomas More a coward; is he afraid to offend, how traumatized you’ve become by the daily battle we live. When I read many of these critiques defining Mr. Ruse as trying to hide the Faith or trying to please the media, I am confounded. Have you never experienced the world through the eyes of a 20 – 40 year old pro choice woman; because I have bad news for you, she is crucial to winning this battle, and the picture of the man kneeling in prayer doesn’t even cause her to take a second look, but the picture of the women who look like her, except they have joy, that causes her to take a second look, and that second look might be followed by a second thought and praise be to Our Lord and his most lovely Mother, it may end in her conversion, and that is the point. Peace.

  • Paul V

    As most of you are aware the SCOC shot down our abortion law some time ago. The Conservative majority government won’t talk about it and the Liberal and NDP take every possible chance to prove their the most pro-choice party. Late term partial birth abortion — who could be for that? And who could perform one and sleep at night? Apparently a lot of people. If we can’t even win that argument may be prayer is the only hope.

  • WSquared

    Judy and others, you might consider that it’s actually the press as a medium that is blinding people to the power of the Rosary and rendering any witness that the Catholic faith might give ineffective. A radical faith also demands creative prudence– and a witness that chooses its target with precision, knowing that it can shoot straight and true– not recklessness.

    Being able to discern these things has nothing to do with not wanting our faith to “offend anyone.” If anything, Mr. Ruse is talking about how media-driven categories can contain the faith in certain predictable ways and therefore prevent it from offending– i.e. challenging– anyone at all in the way that it should. That’s not “pleasing the media.” That’s analyzing the nature of political culture, which has everything to do with the Church being able to read the Sign of the Times.

    “Don’t try to please the media.”

    If Mr. Ruse’s analysis is correct, we currently already have and do: we provide exactly the image that fits the media’s standard narrative, like the archetypical cartoon baddie that the good guys defeat, whereby all will be well. And if we’re not aware of what it means to conform to type, we will walk into that trap every time. It’s like knowing that others have been fed an endless diet of Thomas Nast cartoons, and then giving them exactly what they expect.

    In observing that “to act, even unwittingly, as though faith were essential for defending a pro-life position does the pro-life position a disservice” James Swetnam, SJ, is correct. Francis Beckwith outlines this better than I can here in his essay on “Sola Scriptura Secularism and Hobby Lobby,” and that much is poignantly illustrated when Joe Biden insists that life’s beginning at conception is something that he accepts de fide. Religious faith is not necessary for maintaining that life begins at conception, which is crucial when pushing back against any attempts to marginalize the pro-life position as “religious.” It does not follow that making the pro-life case on philosophical grounds ignores or makes no room for God. Certainly not for Catholics.

  • mark mitchell

    Austin, very interesting commentary, but I say, “why not both”? Young men and “old white” men, ditto with the ladies, being lovely for the cameras, BUT still saying the Rosary? I don’t think you’re implying “either, or,” are you? We just can’t obliterate who we are, we’re Roman Catholics, so just let it ALL hang out. But maybe that’s just me. God Bless.

  • Patricia Duffy

    I disagree completely Austin. The Rosary is NEVER a political message. It stands outside of politics. Therefore what this man did is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately no young women joined him.

  • johnnyc

    Political? We are in spiritual battle. Apparently we don’t hear much about sin, satan and hell in com boxes as well as in homilies. As far as the Pro Life movement being Catholic centric….. a good many protestants do not even see Catholics as Christian. I know a few who will not ask Catholics for prayer because they do not believe in the communion of saints. I don’t think we should hide the Blessed Mother and the saints for fear of offending.

  • Fr. Fizzlewit

    Mr. Ruse, I am grateful for all your work with C-FAM as well as your erudite, articulate discourse on matters of the Faith’s interplay with the world. I’m not sure, however, that I share your sentiments that publicly praying the Rosary in this specific venue can be detrimental to the Church’s endeavor to transform the world. I’m thinking that the only people who would find such activity offensive are those who already have their minds & hearts set against the Gospel. In the media’s showing this man in humble posture, soiling the knees of his suit, publicly invoking the assistance of the Mother of God while meekly enduring the loud and profane opprobrium and ridicule, the media was playing to those in the same camp of his persecutors. I’m unable to imagine an undecided person–the type of person we’re trying to reach, after all–looking at such a humble, prayerful public witness as offensive. If praying the Rosary in front of the SCOTUS is counterproductive, why isn’t doing so in front of abortion mills as well? I’m concerned that your article may, albeit unintentionally, serve to discourage such prayerful witness. For my part I intend to continue to lead the Rosary every week in front of our Planned Parenthood as I have done for years: in driving rain, sultry heat and below zero temperatures. I would humbly offer a suggestion that you reconsider expressing such sentiments as you did in this article for the sake of the Gospel. Thank you, again and may Almighty God bless you, your loved ones and your continuing work.

  • grump

    @Judy. Trust me, Austin is as ornery as me.

  • Austin Ruse

    Of course, the Rosary should be prayed in front of abortion clinics every day of the week…

    This particular case is a different and unique situation. Sadly we live in a time when affixing the word Catholic to things, particularly political things, tends not to convince. It can repel rather than attract. In this particular case we needed to show that young women support religious freedom and that this position welcomes all, even those who are not Catholic.

    The world’s media is not focused on the local abortuary. I have said the Rosary there myself!

  • Freewill

    How can Mr Ruse confuse the rosary as a political message? That’s the problem with his article. He should have run with the young lovely pro live ladies story and left the rosary prayer alone.

  • Graham

    Here we are again, the “opposing culture” aping the Culture. The media is never going to be “fair” no matter how much we go “clean for Gene” to call up an old phrase from the sixties with which the upper middle class baby boomer left understood what it took to gain and hold territory in that “march through the institutions.” The created should never separate the Creator from His Creation. Why? Because they very scientific understanding that we use in our arguments for choosing life is itself in many ways inseparable from our faith in the Creator. Our Faith and Our Church have been historic patrons of science and learning. Our habits of the Faith cannot be picked up or laid down as mere tactics in a strategy. Prayer is the heart of our opposition to the Culture of Death in which something far greater and distinctive than mere culture is offered to mankind. The Incarnation is not on a spectrum with human activity. As for Hobby Lobby; I don’t see this as a great victory for the unborn never mind the Free Exercise Clause that the left is determined to unpack into an empty suitcase of Constitutional rights replaced with emotionalism and bigotry. I saw it the day after the Election in 2008 — a coming of a post-Constitutional era. And this president and the other freakish creations of American wealth, power, privilege, and opportunity that now occupy Washington will not stop. Certainly Justice Sotomayor has shown her true colors in recent days. As has Justice Ginsberg. As Ms. Steinem admitted many years ago, abortion is the cornerstone of American and global feminism. As with President Andrew Jackson and his repudiation of the Supreme Court that led to the War of the Cherokee Removal, the entrenched and institutionally dominating Left will do what they want. Unlike us they have brute force and time on their side. One day Chief Justice John Roberts will learn the bitter lesson of Chief Justice John Marshal those many years ago.

  • Patrick J. Sheahan

    Greetings from Canada.
    Lots of talk about rosaries, young smiling pro-life women and media strategy. I think Catholics should be more concerned about the 3 female Supreme Court Justices who voted against the ruling. They speak loud and clearly for American women of all ages.
    Patrick Sheahan.

  • Romy

    Seems like you touched a raw nerve here, Mr. Ruse. Well, it needed to happen! My thinking on the direction of the pro-life movement has changed a lot over the past 15 years; we have to meet the enemies of life in the Court of the Gentiles.

    A good offense is to not always show what kind of artillery you have. I would tend to be a bit circumspect with how we pray the Rosary and keep it in the sacred space it deserves. It is a pearl of the Church and should not be exposed at rallies or in protest as a form of protest which is what it seems to look like. The temptation is to use a devotional practice like the Rosary as a weapon (I have heard it called this!). This is worrisome since it appears to position the Mother of God as a sort of enforcer who will have her way. This is not our Beloved Mother of the Gospel.

    I’m sure it was difficult for you to write this, Mr. Ruse.

  • Nick P

    Sorry to many of you, but the political does matter if our aim is truly 1) to end the scourge of abortion, and 2) to convert people’s hearts to the love of God and the way of Christ. Austin’s point has NOTHING to do with it somehow being wrong to pray the Rosary. It’s about consistency and the message that is HEARD by those whose minds we aim to convert. And Patricia, praying the Rosary can, indeed, be used as a “political message.”

    Let’s assume that a political candidate in a Catholic district is looking to build support. He’s looking to send a message. So, he brings Rosary beads to the pre-election debate, and makes sure he’s seen with them (photo op) sitting before the debate. Not political? Not that his praying with his Rosary would be wholly without merit, but the gesture and wink-wink exposure would be political.

    And, no, it’s not “always” appropriate to pray the Rosary. On my last flight to London I firmly hope that on landing the pilot was intent on safely navigating the buffeting English winds. He’d have plenty of time for prayer in the pilots’ lounge afterward. I do hope he prayed regularly before the flight!

  • Nick P

    Again, I see Austin’s point being principally about consistency. A John 3:16 tee-shirt does not belong in place of a shirt and tie for wedding attire. If 10 members of a soccer team are playing with an agreed style and game plan, the choice by the 11th player to play a different style and plan could sink the team’s chances.

    We need to decide on our aims, if it is to end abortion and convert souls to Christ, we need to communicate in a way that has a hope of accomplishing that. Not in a way that makes us feel high, and mighty, and “holy.” I strongly recommend reading Bevil Bramwell’s TCT piece this morning “Pope Francis and the Hierarchy.”

    When I work with fresh-from-rehab alcoholics, I do not charge in with Rosary and Monstrance. Frankly I go pretty light on the “God talk” and focus instead on the man’s suffering and on my own experiences. That’s, frankly, all such a man is typically capable of hearing and willing to listen to. The first sign of Rosary beads and he’ll hightail it. That does NOT mean that Christ is not present. It does not mean that I don’t ask the Blessed Mother to intercede for him when I pray the Rosary in private. If my focus is on his “salvation,” however, I need to talk to him. Where he is. The other stuff can come later, and often does to my great joy. Friends of mine in recovery who’ve found (or re-found) their faith credit it to the subtle ways in which the faithful around them lived their lives. The sermon is in the life.

    If you just ask “Who am I trying to influence?” and “What is he CAPABLE of hearing?,” you’ll find the answer is often easy.

  • pgepps

    Austin, I can tell that you find the sloppy dualism of the pro-life site that insulted your wife wrongheaded as well as personally offensive. I wish both they and you had kept the focus on the reality beyond the narrative, rather than letting “the narrative” obscure the truth. Both winsome advocacy and prophetic obstinacy are necessary tools, both are real-world expressions of our willingness to sacrifice and risk rejection for truth, and both have a place side-by-side in the public arena. The real creativity is in finding a way to coordinate both of these impulses, and others, in the prophetic moment. Trying to drive off the inconvenient other is tempting, but self-defeating. Let us not be Manichaean about this!

  • Austin Ruse

    pgepps, you say a pro-life site insulted my wife? Where? Who?

  • Montenegro

    One man…ONE MAN…kneels and prays the Rosary publicly – possibly in thanksgiving to the Mother of God for helping us win this victory – interrupting Austin Ruse’s victory lap, and Ruse and the other neo-con Catholics freak OUT. Austin protests several times that he has prayed the Rosary every day for 20 years. Well, good on ya, as the Aussies say. You’re doing what Our Blessed Mother has asked us to do. But why do you get so upset about what other Catholics do, Austin? We don’t all look at the scoreboard like you do. We are not all called to the type of work you do. You really need to back off and let some more traditional Catholics into your tent. Don’t be afraid: God will not be outdone in generosity, and He will reward those who fear not to proclaim him publicly, even if you earthly creature fear it plays right into the leftist media “narrative.”

  • pgepps

    Austin, sorry if I misspoke; I was trying to acknowledge the force of this sentence: ‘Or in his car driving to the event, as my wife did, who was one of the “preening” speakers at the press conference.’ You seemed to rankle at the misguided language of that pro-life website. I didn’t want to quibble with something you said without acknowledging the perfectly just indignation you might be feeling. It also occurred to me that this emotional response might be putting a little more edge on your analysis than would otherwise seem best to you.

  • Joanna

    Austin, great article. It must be rather discouraging to see so many smug comments lacking even a modicum of deference. Take heart and be consoled: if many well intentioned Christians do not take Jesus’ command and example seriously, to pray in secret, not like the hypocrites in public places so as to be seen, and if Jesus’ shrewdness, who knew to address the crowds very differently from his close circle of friends, is neither noticed nor emulated, how much less is your opinion going to be pondered upon. I for one highly appreciate the work you and your team do at the UN. God bless.


    I agree with Austin Ruse, but what’s done is done.Pray that God will reach someone with a bit of truth.Before making a sign to go to a protest or rally, I think carefully about what ‘the message’ is and then make a pithy, succinct slogan to fit on a sign. My signs have made it onto the front page of the newspapers and in the the few seconds of TV news. Also, if I am interviewed, I also repeat the message in several ways.If the news media were open to our view, we would not have to work so hard at doing this. As it is, we have to almost ‘force’ the media to convey our message by making it easy and irresistible for them.