The best newspaper column I ever read was written by Mary McGrory during the trial of Jean Harris in the 1980s. At the end of the trial, Harris was convicted of murdering her ex-boyfriend, Dr. Herman Tarnower, father of the “Scarsdale Diet.”
According to McGrory, Harris, while under cross-examination, seemed to imagine that the prosecutor was her friend. Prosecutors are, of course, never friends of accused criminals; they are always sworn enemies. It is important for defendants to remember this. Small wonder Harris was convicted.
In politics, too, it is important to know your enemies. I say this as an ex-politician (I was for twelve years a member of the Rhode Island Senate). Perhaps the biggest mistake a politician can make is to fail to notice who his enemies are. And not just his actual enemies, but his potential enemies too. The guy who seems friendly to you today may already be carrying the knife that he will later stick in your back. I could show you scars.
The leaders of a religion, for example, the Catholic religion, should also be able to recognize their enemies, and not just who their enemies are, but also how much enmity they bear. It is one thing if your enemy wishes to break your arm. It is quite something else if he wishes to destroy you utterly.
In the United States today, there are many powerful individuals and groups who wish utterly to destroy Christianity in general and the Catholic Church in particular. Yet most of our bishops and parish priests seem not to know that. They are like Jean Harris. They don’t recognize their enemy – perhaps don’t want to believe so strong an enemy exists – even when he’s standing right in front of them.
Some Jesuits don’t seem to know this. I’m thinking, for example, of Fr. Matt Malone S.J., editor-in-chief of the Jesuit magazine America. In the September 12 issue, Fr. Malone (in his column, “Of Many Things”) said that – even though he himself is strongly pro-life on the abortion question, so strongly pro-life that he believes abortion should be illegal in the United States in “almost every circumstance” – he would have joined the fellow parishioners of Sen. Tim Kaine in applauding the radically pro-abortion VP nominee of the Democratic Party rather than join the pro-life protesters who stood outside Kaine’s church.
I’m also thinking, with great regret, of another Jesuit, the one who happens to be the Bishop of Rome. Pope Francis, I’m sure, is a far more complicated case than Fr. Malone, but I cannot help wondering if the pope, wise man though he is in many ways, really understands the enemy we face. If he did, would he be even a teeny-weeny bit sympathetic to the point of view of those who have small use for the ancient Catholic idea of the indissolubility of marriage? (An ancient Catholic idea, by the way, that seems to have originated with that famous Palestinian preacher, Jesus of Nazareth. Have German liberals heard of this gentleman?)
Who are these enemies of Catholicism? They are, to begin with, those who promote fornication, abortion, sodomy, and same-sex marriage. These things have always been incompatible with Christianity, and whoever says they are right also says that Christianity is wrong. Yet our religious leaders don’t seem to appreciate that. Oh, they sometimes issue condemnations of these things, but they are bloodless and abstract condemnations. And even these poor condemnations are rare. How many American Catholics have heard their parish priest stand in the pulpit and quite emphatically remind the parishioners that Catholicism considers the above-mentioned sins to be not just wrong but damnably wrong – that is, to use the Catholic terminology, not venial sins but mortal sins.
The enemies don’t stop, however, with their own endorsement of fornication, abortion, etc. They want the rest of us to endorse these things too. They insist, for example, that the public schools of America must teach that homosexual sodomy is morally good and that anybody who disagrees is morally bad. The man or woman – or the boy or girl – who disagrees is a bigot and a homophobe. Religions that disagree are homophobic and bigoted religions. And parents who are so wicked as to instruct their children in accordance with traditional Christianity are bad parents. We are perhaps not far from the day when such parents will be charged with child abuse and neglect.
Who are these enemies of Catholicism? They are the people who call themselves “liberals” or “progressives.” Their aim is the utter destruction of old-fashioned Christianity – of which genus Catholicism is the most conspicuous species. They don’t mind liberal Christianity (for example, the Christianity of Tim Kaine). For liberal Christianity cheerfully goes along with 90 percent of the anti-Christianity agenda. Liberal Christianity is a kind of self-deceived anti-Christianity.
The aim of these enemies is to destroy the belief system and the morality system of old-fashioned Christianity and to replace it with something new – something as yet not totally defined.
This great anti-Christianity movement (liberalism or progressivism) has seized control of one of our two great political parties, the Democrats (my old party, by the way – and I’m still a registered Democrat despite my current hatred for the party).
There are few signs, I am sorry to say, that the clerical leadership of our Church understands the nature of the enemy or what its ultimate goal is. Real fighters would say something like this, “We have met the enemy, and they are ours.” Our leadership says, “We have enemies, do we? Well, let’s be courteous. And try dialogue. Let’s not make a fuss.”