Swords and Shields

And the Pope has cast his arms abroad for agony and loss,
And called the kings of Christendom for swords about the Cross…
Lepanto by G. K. Chesterton

I have sympathy for the sentiment Emily expresses. I do. I know it’s a lament shared by many Catholics when they look at the state of the Church now. It’s important we acknowledge past sins of omission — personal, pastoral, institutional. It’s important that we get our history straight.

But why? So we can better shape the future.

I agree that we can’t win this fight for the culture on the legislative or legal fronts alone. But these are important fronts we cannot afford to abandon. Culture isn’t just shaped by personal conversations and conversions. It’s also shaped by foundational structures such as law and government. That’s why Catholics need to be active warriors in the public square. The fight for religious liberty, after all, is a battle to preserve the right to have those personal conversations and conversions.

Basically I’m arguing that we need two specific things: optimism and priorities. Optimism because the resources at our disposal are immense. In addition to our human potential, we have Christ. So ultimately, we win. But to avoid the cost and unnecessary suffering which would result from a domineering state denying our religious liberty: we have to win this critical battle first. It’s the most important priority, because everything the Church stands for in public and everything the Church safeguards concerning the common good is premised on the right of the Church to be free to do so.

There is a time for sackcloth and ashes — it’s after the battle has been won. But when the innocent are threatened and the one thing standing in the way of government tyranny is the Church and the right of Christians to believe in peace and live out the truth, now that’s a time for swords and shields.



  • Tantumblogo

    I’ve got to support Emily again. This is an excellent opportunity to give our all both on the legislative front AND in terms of catechesis and leadership from the pulpit on this issue. This crisis presents an opportunity for pastors, priests, and bishops to give solid exegesis on the Church’s beautiful belief regarding marriage, the marital embrace, the procreative and unitive aspects of that embrace, and the dread evil of contraceptive use. I don’t see the need for an either/or situation, unless there are still leaders in the Church who just can’t/won’t face the laity on this issue.

    I think Peters is afraid that sermons condemning contraceptive use are going to lead to a falloff in support for the bishop’s position. That people will have more sympathy for Obama/Sebelius if they find their OWN contraceptive use, with which they have grown so comfortable and frankly planned their lives around, is challenged. Hence, framing this as an issue of governmental over-reach, the assault of the secular pagan left, etc. If bishops condemn the contraceptive use of their people, they may not be so minded to support the bishops in the fight. Perhaps so. But that, to me, only underscores how badly needed catechesis is, and NOW. Not a year from now, when this threat is defeated and we can go back to the comfortable status quo. I fear that is just what will occur.

    The Church, meaning primarily the clergy, must start fighting this issue within the Church on a broad scale immediately. The time is almost past where they can. Because if the bishops don’t get the laity to stop this contraceptive use, sterilization, support for abortion, etc., the next time, they will get run over. The next time, 8-10 years from now, or even just a few, the culture will be so far gone, including within the Church, there won’t be a base to fight from. And how many souls will be lost in the interim?

    • bpeters1

      What’s to keep the Church from (i.) for strategic reasons that will rally the most voices, framing this as “an issue of governmental over-reach” as well as one of a mandate for abortifacient drugs, and thus having the best chance of repeal, and (ii.) after this immediate threat has been defeated, having another go at those 98%? I don’t see the need to immediately tie the two together, as a massive Nineveh-like repentance and reception of HV is going to happen within 1 year. Why not take it one step at a time?

      • bpeters1

        Penultimate line should read: “…as if a massive Nineveh-like repentance…” And I don’t mean to deny that the issues are in fact tied together. I just don’t see a reason for staking strategic opposition to the mandate on that fact.

  • http://www.emilystimpson.com Emily Stimpson

    I think you’re putting in an “either/or” where there doesn’t need to be one, Thomas. I’m certainly not disagreeing with you about the need to fight,fight hard, and fight now. I’m pretty sure this can be a both/and kind of thing. No reason we can’t fight in sackcloth and ashes as far as I can tell. Didn’t Lawrence of Brindisi do that? ; )

  • KCHawk

    One minor difference of opinion. (Perhaps more semantic than a true difference).

    I think, in the morst important ense, we ehave already won. Christ has risen. The only thing left to determine is when the clock stops. The reason to keep fighting because we want to run up the score, (i.e. save some more souls).

    Dominus Vobiscum


  • Chris

    No doubt this must be fought on a number of very practical fronts, but nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. I would love to see an all out attack across the U.S. and the Western world to promote, proclaim, and explain our teachings about sexuality in a way that demanded to be heard. Many will still reject it, but at least the Church will be true to her mission. While we fight for religious liberty we need to make known-once again-why contraception in every form hurts individuals, compromises the Common Good, and endangers the eternal salvation of all who use it.

  • Name *Zoe

    Oh believe me, this mother of four is not going to give up without a “good” fight. Rally the troop and sign me up!!!

  • bpeters1

    I take it that Emily’s rejoinder might be, “But how can we rally Catholics for “battle” around a doctrine that they largely, at this point in time anyway, don’t believe?” And it would be a compelling point. At the same time, I agree with Thomas’s point about needing to take action against this HHS ruling now. For strategic reasons, I think it might be wise for Catholics to frame our objections around the fact that many of these drugs *are* (or at least are widely believed to be) abortifacient (thus remedying the ignorance, noted by Emily, on this front) and exposing the frightening precedent that this ruling sets (“If you give a mouse a cookie…” / your doctrinal principles may be next). Such a strategy could appeal to both non-HV-friendly Catholics as well as other Christians, religious, pro-life non-religious, etc.



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