June 12, 2016
by Fr. George W. Rutler
At a Vigil Service before the burial of a friend who was a Knight of Malta, a comfortable attorney who was a self-styled “progressivist” took umbrage at a phrase I had read from the daily prayer of that Order: “Be it mine to practice and defend the Catholic, the Apostolic, the Roman faith against the enemies of religion. . . .” He said that there are no enemies of religion anymore. When our Lord sent his disciples out, he told them what to expect and disabused them of such dangerous naïveté. They would be lambs among wolves, and not lambs among lambs.
In little more than a dozen years, the Christian population in Iraq has dropped from 2 million to 300,000. In Syria, where Christians once were ten percent of the population, there are fewer than a million now, and many of them are being kidnapped and held for ransom at $100,000 each. The misery of enslavement, destruction of churches, crucifixions and beheadings was brought into sharp focus last March when sixteen people were gunned down in a nursing home, including four Indian religious sisters of Blessed Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity who were caring for them. That may have been the efficient cause for the U.S. State Department declaring, after long tarrying, that all this is deliberate genocide.
In Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad wrote: “. . . no man ever understands quite his own artful dodges to escape from the grim shadow of self-knowledge.” Artful denial is a common disposition among those who do not want to compromise their ideology with reality, lest they be discomfited by confrontation with evil.
The Turkish government persists in denying the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians between 1915 and 1923. Japan still denies the massacre of hundreds of thousands of Chinese in 1937 during the Second Sino-Japanese War. Not until 1994 did Russia accept full responsibility for the slaughter of 21,857 Polish officers, clergy, and academics in the Katyn forest. At the time, President Roosevelt blamed that on the Nazis and exiled to American Samoa the Navy officer, George Earle, who produced the facts.
In that same year of 1943, Roosevelt received in the Oval Office the Catholic layman Jan Karski who had heroically microfilmed evidence of the German concentration camps, but the President wanted only to talk about farm horses. Even Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter later wrote: “I did not say that (Karski) was lying. I said that I could not believe him. There is a difference.” George Orwell called the obliteration of conscience in the face of malice “doublethink.” The psychological term is “dissociation.”
Our parish is blessed to have as its patron Saint Michael the Archangel, and his “defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil” is not the last resort but the first in the perpetual spiritual combat. That is why on Sundays we invoke him at the end of Mass.