So much talk amongst right wing Catholics of the erosion of religious liberty, the collapse of all things and the coming persecution. Talk of government detention centers and priests being shot like Bl. Miguel Pro.
I don’t think they get it. That’s not what it will be like.
America is different. We’re into image big time. We thought the Soviets were into brainwashing and propaganda. We put them in the shade. America is all about healthy, lusty, good looking guys and gals who are clean cut, successful and smiling. We’re into the good life. We’re into being good and looking good, and if not the former at least the latter. We’re into being the best, most successful and happy people in the world. Don’t you know that??
There will be no martial law or military in the streets. That would appear to be so un-American! The officers who enforce the mandate will be lawyers in suits bearing legal documents. The battles will be in the courtroom. The penalties will seem just to the majority of people because we are in a democracy and those who disobey the law need to be punished, for it is the law of the land, and after all, if they had not done anything wrong they would not need to worry about anything!
To disobey the Mandate will seem so obstinate and unreasonable, for the State will not seek to close down any churches. Instead it will support the churches. Clergy training will be paid by the state. The church buildings will be maintained by a church tax which will be called the “tithe”. Clergy will remain in their posts. Their dignity will be respected. All they will need to do is sign certain documents which ensure their safety and their freedom of worship in return for acknowledging the authority of the State (in civil matters only of course) These documents will be worded in such a way that a conscience clause will be admitted. The State will control the church “insofar as the law of God allows.”
The State will bring in a sensible recognition of the validity of orders between the Christian churches. For practical reasons the Episcopalian priest or the Lutheran minister will be able to exchange ministries with the Catholic priest just as the Episcopalians and Lutherans already do. It will be a practical matter. Nothing theological will be implied for the Ministers of State would never presume to infringe on the theological aspect of the church. That would be above their pay grade. The orders will be interchangeable because the two churches are already so similar, and furthermore, many Episcopal priests are former Catholics and so have valid orders. This will smooth over the inconsistencies.
Many Catholic priests, after all, agree with the Episcopal doctrines and are in favor of married priests, women’s ordination and homosexual marriage. Furthermore, the majority of the Catholics in the pews have no real problem with these things, and they see the sense of the government’s re-organization of the religious life of the country. They never did like the noisy ‘neo con’ Catholics with their constant harping on about abortion and being homophobic and obsessed with sex. The government’s solutions, it will be agreed, will bring peace to the whole situation. Common sense will prevail.
Oh there will be the complainers to be sure. They call them the ‘recusants’. Cranky old homophobic, misogynistic priests–probably most of them secret pedophiles. The ones who are left are living off the grid. Most of the others are locked away for their own safety in the clergy ‘retirement homes’ that the government took over.
There will be pockets of resistance: Families here and there who are home schooling types–their girls in long denim skirts and their boys with combed hair and white shirts and ties. These “fundamentalists” will be called recusants. Some of the recusant families refuse to pay the “tithe” to maintain the churches and they are being fined and punished for their stupidity. These recusants harbor the priests and hide them away and think they are being martyrs for some great cause. The recusants will find it strangely difficult to get or keep a job. They’ll end up impoverished and outside the mainstream.
In the meantime, most Americans will continue on happily. There have been no great revolutions. The economy did not collapse. There was no great world war. The Muslims did not attack America. Families still go to the Mall, eat out at their favorite restaurants, and enjoy all the great amusements and opportunities America has always had on offer.
They’re still neat and snug in the suburbs, and the Catholics? They will remember the first signs of a fuss–over the HHS Mandate of 2012–but it was soon shown that the vast majority of Americans–Catholics included–were in favor of artificial contraception–and didn’t really mind abortion that much. Furthermore, it was shown that a good number of Catholic schools and universities and places of employment had already–even before the mandate–been providing cover for contraception, sterilization and abortion. The Bishops were shown to be wrong. The battle had already been lost long ago when the vast majority of Catholics accepted artificial contraception.
In the end, there was not really much of a battle. When things began to reach a crisis point most Catholics quietly stepped back from the fray. The Catholic churches and schools that chose to be sensible and conform have been rewarded. They continue on much as they have done in the past. The Bishops may have removed the word “Catholic” from their name, but they still call themselves “St Patrick’s School” or “Sacred Heart Hospital.” They seem to operate the same as before. They have Catholic images on the walls and sisters in pantsuits still patrol the halls.
They fit in with the way of the world. Are some of the laws difficult for them? Perhaps in theory, but they obey. After all, it is the law of the land, and they will have seen how the few schools and colleges that stood up for the faith were crushed. So the Catholic Church will seem not to have been affected that much. The change will have been gradual and slow, and most Catholics will find that it is business as usual.
To be sure, there is a certain lack of edge–a certain softness, but they were like that before the changes happened. Dulled by a happy consumerism, and satiated with the American Dream, these Catholic schools and parishes and universities haven’t minded too much that the Pope has been quietly marginalized by the State. They were never too keen on him anyway, and now that things have settled down it’s all for the best.