Lessons from President Obama and a young fourth-century Roman girl.


Ironic that the second inaugural of President Barack Obama falls on the memorial of St. Agnes of Rome.

St. Agnes in Prison

Legend has it that when she was sent naked to the brothel, her hair miraculously grew long enough to cover her virginal body.

Agnes was 12 years old when she was chosen to wed Procop, the son of the powerful prefect Sempronius. She refused, having pledged her life and her virginity to Christ. The law as passed by the political authority allowed the prefect to have her put to death for being a Christian.

You see, living as a Christian was not allowed by Roman law. Rome at the time was in the throes of the Diocletian persecution. One could, of course, hold to Christian beliefs in one’s own head, but one’s public actions were subject to regulation by laws of the state, and the state outlawed Christianity.

The law also did not allow the execution of virgins so the prefect took the natural next step: he had Agnes dragged, naked, to a brothel to be ravaged against her will.

The legend has it that no man was able actually rape the young girl for whatever reason, miraculous or otherwise, and she was eventually dispatched by an executioner.

Agnes understood what marriage meant and refused to make a mockery of marriage.

Agnes understood the importance of her sexual purity and the dignity of the sexual act and would not make a mockery of her body or of the sexual act.

Agnes did not fear the power of the state, controlled at the time by men who would rather see her executed than allow her to live according to Christian principles. She allowed herself to be destroyed rather than submit to unjust and immoral laws.

Today during his inaugural address President Obama, already the most pro-abortion president we have ever know, already responsible for the greatest assault on religious freedom our country has seen in more the two centuries, well-nigh pledged action on same-sex “marriage”—a “right” he didn’t think was a right four years ago but now seems to hold to be as sacred as the ending of slavery.

Now, like gun control, what he may want to do and what he will actually be able to accomplish are very different things, given the makeup of Congress and laws presently on the books like the Defense of Marriage Act.

But he’ll try, through pressure and executive orders. It will start with nice-sounding calls for equality and respect and some focus group-tested phrase like “balanced approach” that sounds nice but really means, “do it my way or I’ll get testy.” He’ll give assurances that no one will be forced to violate their consciences, but we know he doesn’t give a fig about conscience protections if they think differently from his own.

There likely will not be much major action on the matter since marriage is generally regulated by the states, where executive orders don’t have much sway. That is until a same-sex couple demands that they be permitted to have their ceremony in name-your-significant-Catholic-church. St. Patrick’s in New York City? St. Louis? San Francisco? The Basilica in DC? At that point the argument would shift: if these public houses of worship accommodate anyone at all, like one-man-one-woman couples, they have to accommodate everyone. Then you get an equality argument akin to the segregation argument. They may be private entities, but they provide a service to the public, so discrimination is not allowed.

After all, as President Obama said today during his inaugural address, “Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.”

That is not just a policy position; that is a moral and theological position. At least, it is in Catholic parlance, and when Catholic parlance affects political activity Catholics must uphold the implications of Catholic teaching. For his part, when President Obama moves to act on his (new-found? Long-standing but previously masked?) belief that any and all “love” anyone commits to another, no matter how distorted or inchoate a sense of love it is, ought to be treated like every other version of love, he will be unable to broach any disagreement. A failure by anyone in society to respect anyone else’s professed love as the lovers demand to be respected must be treated as bigotry and therefore must be quashed in the name of our brave new inclusive, tolerant society.

This may be all well and good if we keep our “hateful” dissent on this new concept of “love” to ourselves, but if we have the temerity to write about it or, perish the thought, bar use of private facilities like churches or church halls over it, well, that opens us up to vitriolic comments and spurious charges of “hate speech,” and perhaps even legal action.

The Catholic Church is the chief obstacle standing between Obama and progressives like those who will blast me in the comments and their goal. They know that. We know that. It will undoubtedly be an eventful and contentious four more years.

But the witness of our saints like Agnes who stood and resisted the power of the state gives us hope. Perhaps not hope for a peaceful and simple political conclusion to the struggles ahead, but at least hope in remembering that God is sovereign, His will reigns supreme, this world with its pomp and puffed-up political power and prestige is fleeting.

I don’t expect the government under Barack Obama will actually move to shut down St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the next four years, but not for lack of desire. Chaining the door is not the only danger, however. Civil unrest, vandalism, egged on subtly by our Alinskyite, Community Organizer-in-Chief President, can make life very difficult.

“Agnes,” the lamb, and all who suffered persecution for their unwavering faith in He who is LORD, pray for us, that we may meet well those opposed to us, stand firm and with charity in our convictions, convert hearts to change minds, and bring about an ever greater measure justice in this world. Amen.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Tom Crowe is a cradle Catholic with a deep love for and commitment to Holy Mother the Church, colored by a rather interesting life-long relationship with her. Born during the great liturgical upheaval of the 1970s, Crowe was brought up in a parish that continued using the Missal of 1962—the Traditional Latin Mass—for which he developed a love. Crowe learned the faith as a child from the Baltimore Catechism, and didn’t stop learning and wrestling with the Church’s teachings at his Confirmation. Through reading and many conversations with friends and converts far smarter than he, Crowe came to know, accept, and love the Church and what she proposes far more intimately. For three years these conversation took place in seminary before Crowe, with the blessing of the formation team, determined that seminary was not right for him. In the wild and humorous ways of God, Crowe landed on his feet in Steubenville, Ohio, where he manages the online presence for Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he also trains altar servers and is the head master of ceremonies for the Mass in the Extraordinary Form on campus.

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