Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Kill the Cathlics"

Various crimes have targeted Catholic churches in California in recent years. In January one or more vandals spray-painted the misspelled phrase “Kill the Cathlics” on churches in Anaheim and Irvine.[1]

Sometimes it seems that we Christians aren’t happy if there’s no way we can convince ourselves that we’re being persecuted. At least, that’s what many non-Christians believe, and there were times in the past I would have agreed.

But I felt a frisson climb up my spine when I read this paragraph in a story about the burning of St. John Vianney in Hacienda Heights, California. How is this different from “Kill the Jews” or “Kill the n*****s”? How is this different from any church burned down in the Deep South in the time between the Civil War and the Civil Rights Act?

So okay, nobody’s died yet. No priest has been lynched; no bishop is sitting in a jail cell on trumped-up charges; Catholics aren’t wearing yellow crosses or being forced to the back of the bus. So why won’t my hackles lie flat?

Now, we can run through a series of events in the last couple of years, from the religious harassment that followed in the wake of the passage of Prop 8 to the targeting of religious groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” for their pro-family orientation, to efforts by yellow journalists to act as unpaid advocates for anti-Catholic activists.

But the bare fact of the matter is that St. Thomas Vianney isn’t the first Catholic church in the USA to be burned simply for being Catholic. While Debbie Schlussel makes the valid point that two out of every three religious hate crimes are committed against Jews, and that anti-Islamic crimes outnumber anti-Catholic crimes, it’s still true that anti-Catholicism has been an American pastime since Plymouth Rock. And while that hatred rarely bursts into violence, it’s always been there.

I realize that, in many respects, I’m preaching to the choir. Yet even though we’re regularly sullied and libeled by the pseudo-journalism of sock puppets like Laurie Goodstein and talking empty heads like Glenn Beck, the naked anti-Catholic bias of the media is second only to the rabid conspiracy theorists, such as used to be spouted by Tony Alamo, that run under the surface of our national memory.

Nor is anti-Catholicism considered politically incorrect; the left still considers it a valuable political tool. Let me take you back to a column by Pat Archbold, showing a postcard distributed by the Minnesota DFL (Democratic-Farmer-Labor): a priest wearing a button which reads “Ignore the Poor”. Then we have, who in 2006 printed a cartoon of Pope Benedict with a gavel in his hand, standing in front of the doors of the Supreme Court, with the caption: “God already has a job …… [one ellipsis isn’t enough?] He does not need one on the Supreme Court.”

In 2003, a Jewish businessman named Sam Miller, speaking to the City Club of Cleveland, reminded his audience: “This prejudice against your religion, and mine has never left this country and don’t ever forget it, and never will. Your people were called Papists, Wops, Guineas, frogs, fish eaters, ad infinitum.

“And then after the Civil War, around 1864, the fundamentalists, conservatives, Protestants and a few WASPs began planting burning crosses throughout the country, particularly in the South. And today, as far as I’m concerned, very little has changed. These gentlemen now have a new style of clothing; they've gone from bed sheets to gentlemen’s suits.

But “Kill the Cathlics”? Your ordinary anti-Catholic nutjob is a little more discreet … not to mention a little more literate. Ordinarily, anti-Catholics go for the grandiose sweep, such as passing laws against foreign immigration or slapping unreasonable tax bills against archdioceses. (Or, in the case of former Connecticut state senators Mike Lawlor and Andrew J. McDonald, writing laws targeting the Catholic Church’s administrative structure.)

Besides the concerted effort by the liberal media and legal establishments to marginalize Catholics and other religious people who stand with us on moral issues, we must mull the possibility that the persecution may take a more lethal turn. The California Catholic Daily adds some detail to the increase of crimes against Catholic churches; while some of them look like ordinary burglaries, others have positively satanic overtones.

And in one case, vandals spray-painted swastikas and the message “Niederauer, Ratzinger – where is the love” on the front walls of Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco. Given the viciousness displayed against supporters of Proposition 8, it’s not hard to imagine who the criminals were in this particular instance. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’re capable of realizing the irony of their behavior.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mt 5:10-12).

As we enter the Triduum, we’re forced to contemplate the cost our Lord paid for—among other things—speaking the truth in love. The prophets were persecuted for speaking the truth in love; in persecuting them, the wicked souls of their generations were trying to kill their own consciences. We’re called to repent for our own sins, and to call others to repentance with us.

We don’t require the feeling of being persecuted to be happy. In fact, like other people, we’d just as soon not be persecuted at all. Like Sir Thomas More in A Man For All Seasons, we do none harm, we think none harm; and if that be not enough to keep us alive, then why should we wish to live any longer?

Just remember that when they come to kill the Cathlics.

[1] Kevin J. Jones, “Calif. parish pledges to rebuild after arsonist destroys church,” CNA, 4/20/2011,, retrieved 4/20/2011.


  1. Good post.

    Part of the problem is the unwillingness of decent people to believe there is actually an anti-Catholic sentiment in this country. I need look no further than my wife for proof of that.

    She has always acknowledged an anti-Semitic bias on her paternal side of the family and would readily agree it remains a problem for America. Ditto for a continued undercurrent of racism in many areas of the nation. But when I first spoke of a bias against Catholicism I'd experienced over the years, it was chalked up to "kinda paranoid, ain'tcha sweetie?"


    That lasted until her own conversion. Since then she's had to deal with many of the same slights and barbs I'd refer to (Oh Sarah, I understand changing to another denomination but Catholic? Are you really sure? Why?).

    She's lost friends over it, had relatives on her mother's side question my supposed Svengali-like influence, the list goes on. If she'd become a Baptist, Lutheran, Pentecostal, etc. there'd have been less of a problem.

    But Catholic?

    Paranoid? Ah-yup. FWIW, she's admitted I've gotten the last laugh on that one.

  2. One of the first books I read by a convert, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David B. Currie, talks about that phenomenon, although the way he describes it, he got off light. The one statement, though, that sticks in my mind came from a minister with whom he'd gone to Trinity Evangelical Divinity School: "If you're gonna go through what you're about to go through for the sake of truth, then you care about the truth a lot more than I ever have." And I've listened to other converts on Coming Home, telling Marcus Grodi that they'd been cut dead, completely shunned by church communities with whom they'd been very close.

    But that's relatively minor compared to how bad it can get. My first real exposure to it (I'm "cradle") was when I read a broadsheet left on my buddy's windshield from the Holy Alamo Christian Churches (Consecrated): THE POPE IS THE ANTI-CHRIST AND ALL HIS FOLLOWERS ARE DEVIL-WORSHIPPERS! And that was just the headline. (I understand that Tony Alamo was convicted on several counts relating to sex with minor girls, and is now serving a 175-year sentence; whether that's consecutive or concurrent, I don't know.)

  3. I think part of the denial may come from 1) a lot of the attackers "were Catholic" or "grew up best friends with Catholics" and 2) a lot of the reasons folks hate Catholics are tied to politics and held by those whose self identity is deeply tied to "tolerance." (Meaning, of course, approval or even advocacy.)

    Thus, hating Catholics for being observant Catholics isn't hateful, and attacks aren't anti-Catholic, they're justified attacks on evil.

    Incidentally, I don't much trust hate crime reports. Depends too much on the guy classifying it not being an utter tool, and ignores that faked crimes are all too common.
    (I'm still suspicious about the "vandalism and burglary" at that Portland Mosque that just happened to take out only one room that happened to have their records in it when a member just did something public and evil, but I guarantee that it's counted as an anti-Muslim crime.)

  4. Actually, the Southern Poverty Law Center DID NOT assign the label of "Hate Group" to every group that opposed same-sexy marriages. I know that because I carefully read the Center's report. Furthermore, anti-liberal Catholics in France did something similar in a museum--not quite equivalent, but still similar--and I was grateful to read Elizabeth Lev's column "Defending Christ the Wrong Way" on Zenit.

  5. Oy... standard "refute what wasn't said" (on two fronts, even-- the "every group" angle and broadening it to "opposing same-sex marriage" rather than the actual statement: targeting of religious groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate groups” for their pro-family orientation) followed by the classic "change the subject" angle!

    Delightful. -.-

  6. Pardon me.

    I actually thought that he was was the one who was refuting what wasn't said. I must have been mistaken in my interpretation. I did read the report and the organization did submit its classifications to specific criteria, hence not labeling every group that disagreed as a hate-group.

    Moreover, I probably failed in my effort to prove a point. I did not intend to justify the burning of the Church. Rather, I intended to simply point out that sometimes Christians misbehave in similar ways.

    I'll leave it at that. I never wanted to start any strenuous argument during Easter Triduum. I suppose my failing was either in making an ill-conceived argument or failing to clarify the points that I wanted to make. I wish a blessed Easter for all of you.

  7. I did read the report and the organization did submit its classifications to specific criteria, hence not labeling every group that disagreed as a hate-group.

    Again, you are replying to what was not said-- including an implied accusation that 1) he did not read the report, and 2) I claimed you hadn't read it.

    Additionally, the recent damage to "Piss Christ" and what is probably the defaced image of the Virgin Mary (I've only seen it mentioned on the off-hand) is not even vaguely similar to the topic of the post. Such a claim also ignores that the primary response on the Catholic side has been "what idiots." All it does is try to wave a flag and say "look over here!" That's a very bad tact to make if you want to make a point, rather than try to score them.

    I hope your Easter goes well.


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