Putin, Peter, and the Wolf

A few weeks ago I wrote a column entitled, “Prepare for the Rise of the Right,” in which I observed that in the face of radical Islam, aggressive homosexualism, rampant violence, promiscuity, breakdown of the family and economic disaster, there were an awful lot of ordinary folks in the United States and across Europe who were fuming, frightened, and fed up.

All that is needed, I suggested, is for a strong, righteous leader to emerge who will offer to clean things up in God’s name. All that is needed is for a sober, seemingly Christian man to call for a crusade and the ordinary folks would rise up and elect such a man as their national, if not their international leader. Furthermore, they would welcome a strong military power abroad and tolerate a strong police presence at home.

I received this email in response:

Father there is such a man you describe. . . . His name is Vladimir Validimirivoch Putin and although I am not Russian he has my loyalty because for exactly the reasons you describe. 
I WANT him to overrun Europe, I welcome Russian rising as Our Lady says at Fatima that Russia will save us. Putin knows that you have to fight dirty with the Islamists. Twelve years ago a Russian flagged vessel was seized off Somalia. The Russians didn’t bother with negotiations, they sent a Spetznaz squad, who after taking the ship back, overflew the local town and sprayed it with fire from a helicopter gunship. The pirates now know that seizing a Russian flagged vessel is a one-way ticket to explaining their misdeeds to St. Peter and keep away from Russian Vessels. 
Viva Russia! May the Third Rome save the Seat of St Peter and may God keep and convert President Putin, make his name blessed on the face of the Earth and deliver him not into the will of his enemies.
My response was this: Psalm 143:6. For those readers who did not memorize their Bible verses in Sunday School: “Do not put your trust in princes, who have no power to save.”

What might Vladimir Putin put his mind to in the face of weak leadership in NATO and the United States? The conquest of Ukraine is a clear ambition, but have you looked at the map recently?

       Putin can frolic in water; he cannot walk on it.

It’s only a short march through the tiny countries of Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Turkey – and Russian forces would be in Northern Iraq. Putin is already chums with Syria’s Assad regime to the West. And if he cozies up to the Shia Muslims in Iran and Baghdad he could easily dominate the area, and with it the largest oilfields in the world. The Chechen terrorists are Sunni Muslims, so Putin already has no love for the Sunni.

In the face of a now absent and non-interventionist United States, why wouldn’t Putin decide to sort out ISIS, and while he is at it dominate Iraq?

Any American who sees Vladimir Putin as the savior of the world and the savior of the papacy should think again and read history. The powers of this world care nothing for the pope unless the pope is a pawn. Catholics should not imagine that a savior will come from Russia. Neither should they expect a savior from their own land. Totalitarianism can arise just as easily from the right wing as from the revolutionaries, and no country is immune. The American eagle could just as easily be the standard of the conquering armies as it was the standard for the armies of Rome.

Instead Catholics should remember Psalm 146:3. The believer invests in the kingdom of God, not in the kingdom of this world. We are not to put our trust in princes, presidents or prime ministers. We look for another country whose make and builder is God. Catholics should be involved in politics and power if that is their calling, and sometimes when a clear and present evil arises in the world, Catholics should engage in the military efforts to defeat it, but they should not imagine that the powers that step in after the victory will be much better nor should they ever imagine that they will bring about a Catholic utopia.

This world is not our home. We’re just passing through this vale of tears. While here we are called to be in the world, but not of the world. The Catholic sees the bigger picture, always gleaning what is true and good from any political or economic system and always criticizing what is venal, criminal, vain and corrupt.

All men of power are corrupt and vain because those who are honest and humble are not ambitious. We therefore accept our leaders as flawed and broken men with flawed and twisted ambitions. We are watchful and alert for wolves are everywhere. We are vigilant towards all the political players and men of power. Always hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

Sheep should be wary of wolves, and the rulers of this world are invariably wolves. As for Peter, he should never play with the wolf or hope to be rescued by him. History shows that when the papacy plays with political power it nearly always ends in tears, and often ends in blood.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an Anglican convert to Catholicism. He is married with four children and lives in Greenville, South Carolina where he serves as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church. He is an acclaimed author and blogger.