On Enemies of the Church

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In my previous post, I took stock of the possibility that President Obama is an enemy of the Church. Supposing that he is, what would this mean for us as Catholics? For one, it would obviously exclude voting for him or otherwise supporting his campaign for re-election: the exhortation that “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink” (Proverbs 25:21) does not extend to lending our enemies aide in the act of actually persecuting, harming, oppressing, or otherwise attacking us.

Actually, we have a pretty clear set of principles for what to do about our enemies—whether they are elected officials or something a bit more local. Our own society has raised tolerance to the level of a civic virtue, telling us constantly that we must tolerate the people we disagree with, that we must tolerate them and their ideas and their lifestyles. But, as the venerable Fulton Sheen noted in Old Errors and New labels,

“Tolerance is an attitude of reasoned patience towards evil, and a forbearance that restrains us from showing anger or inflicting punishment. But what is more important than the definition is the field of its application. The Important point here is this: Tolerance applies only to person, but never to truth. Intolerance applies only to truth, but never to persons. Tolerance applies to the erring, intolerance to the error.”

We can tolerate President Obama as a person, but not his enmity, his hostility towards us. We have a duty—moral as well as civic—to resist those policies of his administration which will erode our freedom of religion and chip away at our rights of conscience. If, moreover, these policies are to be the centerpieces of his administration, then we have a duty, not so much as Catholics but as citizens, to work to remove him from office at the ballot box.

But tolerance alone is not enough for us as Catholics. We are called to take things a step further, not merely to tolerate our enemies but to love them.

“You have heard it said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes the sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

We do not merely tolerate our enemies: we must love them and pray for them, even as we hate their sins and persecutions. Moreover, we find that we should do good to those who hate us (Luke 6:27), which is clarified to mean that we should engage in the various corporal and spiritual works of mercy on their behalf (e.g. rebuking sinners, instructing the ignorant, praying for them and for their conversions, but also taking care of their material needs when they are finally cast down).

It may not be the seven princes of hell, but hey, it was good enough for Dante. Image source.

Here, then, we encounter one of the paradoxes of the Faith. The Church may have many enemies—those who persecute her or work to undermine her, those who would subvert her authority in public and in private—she herself is the enemy of very few. President Obama may be an enemy of the Church; there have certainly been others before him, from the Mohammedans to Marx to Nietzsche, from the Tudors to Bismarck to the caliphs to Juarez and Calles, from Hitler to the heresiarchs to Dawkins and his ilk, and from Turks and Saracens to vikings to the Roman emperors of the first few centuries AD.

All of these men persecuted the Church or worked to undermine and destroy her, many by force and often with direct intent to do so. Yet none [1] of them can lay claim to being the true enemy of the Church, that is, the true enemy of the Church, the only one who can make the claim that the Church really is his enemy. That enemy is Lucifer, Satan (literally, “the enemy”), the devil; I suppose that we must also count his minions, the devils and demons, the legions of fallen powers and principalities. These are ultimately our true enemies, and we are ultimately theirs. Prayer can only be against them, for their defeat and for God’s protection of us against their devices. They alone can we hate and curse. And since it is ultimately suffering to willingly serve them, we may pity their instruments on earth and pray for their release and conversion.

“For our struggle is not with flesh and blood,” we are warned by St Paul, “but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens” (Ephesians 6:12). Saint Augustine, for his part, tells us that many people who will become holy are now hidden among the ungodly (there are many unexpected converts), and that there are many false Christians within the Church (think “devoutcafeteria Catholics or “Church hating Catholics,” though even these may change their hearts and minds). In The City of God, Saint Augustine tells us that the Church

“must bear in mind that among these very enemies are hidden her future citizens; and when confronted with them she must not think it a fruitless task to bear with their hostility until she finds them confessing the faith. In the same way, while the City of God is on pilgrimage in this world, she has in her midst some who are united with her in participation of the sacraments, but who will not join with her in the eternal destiny of the saints. Some of these are hidden; some are well-known, for they do not hesitate to murmur against God, whose sacramental sign they bear, even in the company of his acknowledged enemies. At one time they join the enemies in filling the theatres, at another they join with us in filling the churches.

But, such as they are, we have less right to despair of the reformation of some of them, when some predestined friends, as yet unknown even to themselves, are concealed among our most open enemies. In truth, these two cities are interwoven and intermixed in this era, and await separation at the last judgment” (City of God Book I Chapter 35).

We cannot therefore treat as true enemies even those who are openly enemies of the Church, for even among them are to be found future friends. Our only true enemy is the devil, and we fight him best through prayer, fasting, penance, the sacraments, and joyful obedience to the Church; and above all by placing our whole trust in God. In short, we fight a spiritual battle which we can win only by becoming faithful, hopeful, and loving men: that is, by becoming saints. In the words of Saint Paul:

“Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good…Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality, bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them…Do not repay anyone evil for evil..Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good” (Romans 12:9, 11-14, 17, 21).

President Obama may be an enemy of the Church—but the Church is not and can not be the enemy of President Obama. We may not be able to vote for him in good faith or with clear consciences: but we can and even must still pray for him. There are no wasted prayers, even if the only effect is to prepare us for another four years under his rule (or worse). In the end, we can but pray and persevere; these tasks are difficult enough, but the rest are for God.



[1] Unless we want to count such things as Nietzsche’s claim to being anti-Christ.

Nicene Guy

Nicene Guy

JC is a cradle Catholic, and somewhat of a traditionalist conservative. He earned his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Texas at Austin in the summer of 2014. He is currently a tenure-track assistant professor of physics at a university in the deep south. He is a lay member of the Order of Preachers. JC has been happily married since June of 2010. He and his lovely wife have had two children born into their family, one daughter and one son; they hope to have a few more. He has at times questioned – and more often still been questioned about – his Faith, but he has never wandered far from the Church, nor from our Lord. “To whom else would I go?”

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26 thoughts on “On Enemies of the Church”

  1. Pingback: Barack Obama: Enemy of the Church? : IgnitumToday

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    Yes, that is good advice. I did not write this pair of posts to tell Catholics to vote Republican. Rather, the first post was warn them against voting for Democrats, and really only to warn against voting for or otherwise supporting President Obama. This post is more about noting that while we must judge actions (such as policies enacted), we should not judge souls. We cannot work for Barack Obama’s re-election, but we must work (especially, pray) for his conversion and hope for his salvation.

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      While we cannot judge souls, given that Obama is a baptized Christian and Romney is not, there is more reason to hope for conversion from Obama than from Romney. I refer you to the teaching that all Christian baptism is valid. Mormon baptism is not valid. Also the effects of baptism on the soul. In that specific respect, we can “judge” the soul. It’s very limited, but it’s information that is available to us to help in our decision.

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        And? So? But? Therefore? A single data point–the assumption of a valid baptism for Obama and an invalid one for Romney–tells us nothing about the state of either man’s soul. Hoping and praying for conversions isn’t exactly triage. A single data point is rarely useful in making any kind of prediction. A consistent pattern of behavior (as outlined in the previous post) more often is. I do not judge the motives behind the policies which President Obama has enacted against the Church. I do judge that those policies are themselves evil. And I note that they are still evil even if Mr Romeny actually decides to continue them.

        “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God” (CCC 1861).

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    To focus on Obama as the “enemy” is to lose sight of the bigger threat – the Democrat Party itself. Look at what Catholics become in the Democrat Party – Ted Kennedy, Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi. Look at what the Democrat Party stands for – abortion on demand, taxpayer paid abortions, embryonic experimentation, euthanasia (coming in Obamacare, he said so beforehand)- all pro-death policies for our country. Then there is their support for same-sex marriage, something that the world has never permitted in any society until this generation. Look at the Ten Commandments. 20% of the Ten Commandments address man’s nature as created and planned by God; Thou shall not commit adultery (6th Commandment); Thou shall not covet they neighbor’s wife (9th Commandment). Both involve a man and a woman in the state of marriage. So the Democrat Party is the party of death (52,000,000 and counting) and the party to destroy the foundation of societies – the family. And the party of covetousness, in violation of the 10Th Commandment, Thou shall not covet they neighbor’s goods. If that is not bad enough, they talk a game that deceives Catholics, that they care about the poor and the “little people.” Where is the “fruit” that their caring has produced? The welfare programs do not help people get out of poverty, they induce them to go into poverty. Obama is making his own laws in this concern by gutting the successful welfare reform law passed by both parties and signed into law by Clinton in 1995 which helped get 50% of people off welfare, finding jobs, and giving them more self-respect in the process. Obama, on his own, has just removed the requirement in that law that made it so successful which was for recipients to have to be looking for work, or taking courses to enable them to get a job.

    Finally, and I find this the most disturbing, Catholics are putting their own souls in jeopardy by joining the Democrat Party and voting for their candidates. First, it is Catholic teaching on the 5th Commandment that denying a person their human rights is a sin against justice and charity. It is “particularly a sin when one joins an organization that promotes the denial of human rights.” The Catholic Catechism for Adults give a couple examples, “…(such as the Nazi Party or the Ku Klux Klan) which promotes racial, ethnic or religious hatred” The Democrat Party is solely responsible for abortion-on-demand remaining the law of the land, denying the unborn their right to life, the first and most import human right of them all . They get the power to deny unborn human beings their right to life by the large numbers of people who join the Democrat Party and vote for their candidates. Catholics are the single, largest voting block for the pro-abortion Democrat Party. Catholics also are the only Christians who profess the Profession of Faith in which they say they believe God is the giver of life. They are the only ones who stand in the presence of Our Lord in the Holy Eucharist in Mass on Sundays and pray the only prayer he taught us so that we would know how to talk to God, in which we pray for God’s “will be done on earth,” and to “not be lead into temptation, but delivered from evil.” Is abortion evil? Is it his will to create life for it to be aborted.” Is God in contradiction with himself? Or are Catholics in contradiction with what they profess to believe and pray for? Do they allow the sin of pride to keep them from seeing they are the reason why 52,000,000 American babies have been murdered…the pride of feeling superior or better than those people in the other party, deceiving themselves believing Satan’s lie that those people only care about the rich?

    All that would be needed to bring an end to legal abortion would be for Catholics to remove their names from the Democrat Party and to not vote for Democrats until they reverse their position on Roe v Wade and legal abortion. Without Catholics, the Democrat Party would not be able to have the political power to keep abortion on demand the law of the land.

    Obama is only the current figurehead of the real force Satan is using to try and conquer God. And that force is not one person, that force is the Democrat Party, aided by the one, true Church, Catholic, laity and clergy, alike. That is how clever Satan is. Don’t let him keep winning. Get out of that party and save your own souls. You don’t have to join that “other” party; just get out of the one you’re in that is causing this culture of death and stop supporting it with your vote.

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      Both parties are anti-life. Look at the nominee of the wealthy, Mitt Romney, attacking with negative ads every social conservative who opposed him using Wall Street money. Look at his attack now, with the Republican party establishment, on pro-lifer Todd Akin. The Republican establishment and their nominee are all about wealth and attacking pro-lifers. There is no pro-life party. Both parties are corrupt and Catholics should oppose both of them.

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        “Both parties are anti-life.”

        Lisa, you are misguided or seriously biased. Every Supreme Court justice nominated and confirmed that was a vote in favor of reversing Roe v. Wade or any other pro-life legislation since 1973 were nominated by Republican Presidents and confirmed by Republican Senators with mostly Democrat Senators trying to “kill” the appointment. Every Democrat nominee to the Supreme Court has been pro-abortion.

        The Democrat Party supports Roe v Wade and abortion on demand, while they destroyed the pro-life Catholic Democrats. They would not even let a well liked Democrat governor from the state of PA speak at their presidential convention because he was pro-life. Democrats even support partial birth abortions. And your Democrat Presidential nominee supported withholding life support to babies who survived their abortion. And he said “It was above my pay grade to know when a baby should be given human rights.” That from a constitutional lawyer, and editor of the Harvard Law Revue.

        “Both parties are anti-life?” What a joke. If it didn’t involve the murder of 52,000,000 innocent human beings – it would be funny.

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    Lisa Graas, you said, “Roe was based on the Texas rape exception.”

    That is not correct. Roe challenged Texas law which allowed abortions only to save a woman’s life.

    The Republican Party supports the right to life for the unborn with no exceptions.

    The Democrat Party supports abortion on demand including partial birth abortion.

    To say that there is no prolife party is a lie at best, and at the worst -a covert operation to deceive people to not vote for the only party that is trying to save the life of every unborn child.

    The Catholic Church teaching is to save as many unborn as possible. If a law could be passed to save 98% of babies who would have been aborted, would you not want it because it doesn’t save 100%?

    You said their

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    The Roe case was based on the claim that “Roe” had been raped (allegedly). “Roe” is Norma McCorvey who has since converted to Catholicism. She tells us now that she was not actually raped. It was a lie told in order to push the case forward.

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    Lisa, since I am not convincing enough in our conversation, let me introduce you to what the USCCB says about your position, and if that isn’t convincing enough, the Pope.

    First, the Pope.

    ” Pope John Paul II, in his groundbreaking 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), stated that legislative compromise was morally acceptable in certain situations.

    “[W]hen it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but, rather, a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects” (73).

    “Doerflinger (chief lobbyist on life issues for the USCCB) echoed this point in his comments for the Register.

    “The Church opposes all direct abortion and federal funding for all such abortion. But without supporting the exceptions, the bishops’ conference has supported the restrictions placed on abortion funding by the Hyde Amendment and similar laws for the sake of the good they do and the many lives they save.”

    Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/abortion-in-cases-of-rape-todd-akins-slip-spotlights-catholic-teaching-

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    Lisa, furthermore, you started this conversation stating “Both parties are anti-life,” then you switched it to “Both candidates support intrinsic evil,” making the irrational association that they are both the same in each case. I think the words of Pope John Paul II above and the USCCB are proof they are not both the same whether you are talking about the parties or the candidates. There is a big difference between loosing 52,000,000 to 520,000 in a “contest” lasting 39 years. The Democrat Party has been winning all those years. My argument is they are winning because of Catholics who give their name identification and votes to an organization that is diabolically opposed to what those Catholics Profess to Believe in Mass on Sundays and Pray for, standing before Jesus in the Eucharist, praying the Lord’s Prayer. Catholics are the reason abortion on demand remains the law of the land. And your wanting people to not give support to the only opposition that has a chance of defeating the pro-abortion Democrat Party, is just suicide.

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    Catholic Grammie

    All well thought out responses. Lisa, would this be your “mindblindness” not allowing you to “hear” the logic that Stillbelieve is trying to address with you? You are “hung up” on Romney being Mormon and therefore not truly a Christian. Over the years, I’ve discovered that true conversion is easier for one who is atheist, agnostic, or a member of what you would call a “cult” religion than for one who already professes to believe (as in President Obama’s case). I don’t believe the blogger was trying to say that one party was better than another – but as Catholics – he is correct in stating that President Obama has enacted some very anti-Catholic policies that we cannot tolerate. As a ranking member of the Democratic party, you are correct in assuming that we should look at the Democratic party platform. If one individual, like Mitt Romney, doesn’t fit your definition of a Christian (although in his mind – he truly believes that he is – remember Quakers aren’t baptised either – they are dedicated – would you deny their faith?) – that doesn’t mean that he is incapable of good works for God and our country. I understand where you are coming from (Asperger’s and mindblindness and highly intelligent) – what would the Pope recommend? He has been quite clear lately about the dangers growing in America due to President Obama’s policies. Vote for our Church if you can’t do it as a vote for a “man”. thanks.

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        Catholic Grammie

        I wasn’t attacking you for your disabilities – I’m very sorry if you took it that way. I was merely pointing out that you seemed dismissive and not accepting of the logical argument put forth by the other person – so I wondered if that had anything to do with it. Really, when it comes to the vote this year, what is best for the church?

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    The nonsensical argument that Pres. Obama is an “enemy” to Catholics is follwed here by comments that are on (mostly) on the same level. They represent a nastiness posing as rational argument and help give the bad name to Catholicism that is becoming so widespread. Obama is far from perfect although many of his policies fit the Church’s call for “a preferential option for the poor.” If there is any enemy of the Church, surely a better place to start looking would be in the philosophy of Ayn Rand and the gullible disciples who profess religion but act in their policies as if they were what Jaques Maritain, the most renowned Catholic philospher of the twentieth Century, as “practical atheists.”

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      Did you mean to leave this comment here as opposed to on the article which actually shows that Obama could be an enemy of the Church? And did you mean to make an argument that Representative Ryan’s reading of Ayn Rand makes Obama not an enemy of the Church?

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    Just out of curiosity, Lisa, what candidate(s)/party do you support as being pro-life?
    I think many people here just see it as a “lesser of two evils” vote.

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