Take Up the Sword

Read the history. You will see that in every age and in every place Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church has been attacked by two evils: corruption from within and persecution from without.

In the recent child abuse crisis both forces have gone on the attack at the same time. The corruption and wickedness of a very few priests, and the complacency, weakness, ignorance, incompetence and willful cover up by some of the hierarchy has caused serious damage to the Church and Christ’s message. There is nothing to be said on this count except that those in responsibility must continue to do everything possible to put our house in order.

But while the attack through corruption within has been real, so has the attack in the form of persecution from without. The enemies of the Church have used the child abuse crimes to attack the church viciously and often unreasonably. There have been good journalists who have reported fairly, recorded facts and given a true perspective, but there have been too many others who have slandered, lied and distorted the truth.

Much has been made of the fact that an exorcist in Rome has called the attacks ‘demonic’. I believe this is true, but he forgot to add that the attacks through corruption within the church are also demonic. Both forms of attack are inspired by the powers of evil in the world. Priests are tempted by lust, money, influence, power and prestige and they often take the bait. At the same time, many outside the church have minds and hearts darkened by sin and they hate the church and will do anything they can to attack her.

There is only one remedy to both forms of attack: Sanctity. Sanctity is strong and wise and courageous and good. Sanctity has clarity. Sanctity has charity. Men and women who have been transformed into the image of Christ have the power to cleanse the church or the corruption within and stand up to the persecution from without.

Pope Benedict has said that ‘Scripture can only be understood through the lives of the saints.’ It might also be said that ‘All things can only be understood through the lives of the saints.’ How does a saint respond to corruption within the church? He or she confronts it and stands up to it and whenever they have the power they root it out fearlessly. Read the lives of the saints and see how they defended the church from heretics and false shepherds and corrupt leaders. They were warriors. They cared nothing for their own reputation, but rooted out the rot like terriers going after rats. How could they do this? Only through their own sanctity. Those who are less than saints fear to do this because they are aware of their own failures and the are weighed down by their own hypocrisy and they are weakened by their lack of moral courage.

Likewise, regard the saints as they stood up to persecution from without. They cared nothing for their own lives. Without having a persecution complex or paranoia, they joyfully went about the Lord’s business, and if that meant losing all and imprisonment and loss of their reputation and martyrdom, well, that was part of the deal to start with. “You cannot be my disciples is you will not take up your cross and follow me.” “You cannot be half a saint!” cries St Therese, “You must be a whole saint or not saint at at all!” So the saints engage in the battle, when they must, with the persecution from without. They do so with a joyful courage, a clarity and focus that is amazing to witness.

The battle is not just for the clergy or the religious. It is a battle that each and every one of the baptized must be engaged in. If the recent crisis has done anything for the church it should be this: that all of the baptized see clearly the two forces that always attack the church; that all of the baptized realize that a battle is engaged–that corruption within and persecution without are the enemies, and that each of us should realize that it is ‘us and them’ and there is no middle ground.

Finally, the same two enemies that attack the church also attack each one of us. I am attacked by corruption from within. I am attacked by persecution from without. The battle is cosmic, but the battle is also waged in my own heart and life.

All that remains for me is to take up the sword, for my part in the battle is important, and my decisions and actions may make all the difference.

Source: Standing on My Head


10 Responses to Take Up the Sword

  1. Bill Wineke says:

    This guy is right. Though I would argue that, far from being demonic, outside voices that force the church to look within are part of God’s grace. I always feel the same way about the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Their attacks on religion are frequently juvenile, but they do keep us asking, “can there be any truth in that accusation?”


  2. mercyknight says:

    While I agree with your premise, I prefer intellectual dialogue over this ideological sabotage whose purpose is to confuse and weaken the masses in order to fulfill the real agenda of secularization. Actually, the devil is becoming more and more predictable in this current age of over-reach. He should be more careful … the people are seeing him for who he is.

    Finally … Really? … the likes of the NYT and Annie Gaylor as your theological guide and moral compass? Really?

  3. Catholic Modernist says:

    Martin Luther and others addressed the corruption of the Church and our faith which was prevalent at their time. This lead to a renewal of the Catholic Church without losing faith. These times can do the same for the Church if the episcopate does not make the same mistake as it did back then: blaming outside forces and accusing them of outward hostility and being guided by the devil. We should only rush to the defense if the foundations are attacked but listen to criticsm if justified.

  4. mercyknight says:

    Bottom Line: We need more courageous saints willing to give the faithful a clear teaching on the Gospels. The “pastorally sensitive”, “spirit of Vatican II”, “it’s a big tent” crowd has left us filled with corruption and confusion. It’s time to be clear, like any good parent is to the child they love.

  5. Catholic Modernist says:

    The us and them approach fostered first by Eusebius and Augustine, and more recently by Evangelical Catholics, is and can not be the answer to the current crisis in faith because it is part of the crisis itself. As Catholics we are part of this world, we are in the world and not outside of it. Thus we have to show mercy and compassion to the sinner or to those we perceive to be sinners. One of the most important changes Vatican II brought was opening Catholiscm to the modern world and this includes facing reality and try to influence society as best as we can – not erecting walls and blame others for our faults. Otherwise we are not better than the Scribes and Chief Priests as they are described in the Gospels (which might have been an inaccurate description to begin with).

  6. mercyknight says:

    I thnk “us and them” has been around for pretty much all of human history. Recall Christ’s words: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matt. 10:34-36)

    The sword he equips us with is, in the words of Scripture, “the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God” (Eph 6:17), “lively and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of the soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb 4:12). The word of God in fact leads to these divisions. It can lead, even within families, to those who embrace the faith being regarded as enemies by relatives who resist the word of truth. Yet, without being led by the sword of truth, we are left misled and confused and prone to every wind of false doctrine and temptation to sin. We are sheep without a shepherd.

  7. Catholic Modernist says:

    Matthew was written at a time when Judaism was divided and the boundaries between Judaism and Christianity were defined, the same is true for Paul’s letter. I agree that different opinions about matters of faith can lead to divisions within families but we are called embrace the sinner, to show mercy and compassion. A sword kills and indeed Jesus rebukes Peter for using the sword.
    To quote John: “What is the truth?”. Jesus does not answer, but leaves it to us to answer this question. This is what Christianity tries to do for 2000 years.

  8. mercyknight says:

    You are not quoting John, you are quoting Pontius Pilate. Pilate’s stark phrase is meant to send shivers up the spine of all hearers as a warning to the desperate end of those who become followers of the great dictator of relativism, the great confuser and lyer himself, the prince of this world: Satan.

  9. Catholic Modernist says:

    Therefore I am a heretic and excommunicated myself? It is recorded in Jn and aimed at those who follow Jesus, a quest which we are called to search for. The moral truth was always shaped by the culture as Goldhagen points rightly out.

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