I overheard an interesting discussion on EWTN’s Women of Grace this morning. It was a description of the 5 stages of persecution. What was most interesting is that this was not a “theory” but rather an analysis of how persecution of any group or religion began in the past–and how it relates to what is happening in our own country today.
The first stage is “Stigmatization.” In this stage, the target group is labelled with less than complimentary descriptions. Read almost any left-leaning newspaper or watch almost any cable news channel and you’ll find the Catholic Church being labelled as “homophobic,” “mysogynistic,” “patriarchal,” etc. Once the labels are repeated so often that they are accepted as true, it is very easy to proceed to the next stage: marginalization.
Marginalization: the target group or religion is then, in effect, marginalized–or effectively eliminated from public debate because the labelling has effectively taken away the credibility of their point of view or–in the case of the Catholic Church–the tenets of their Faith. It’s not that they do not have a voice. It’s rather that their voice is summarily dismissed as being invalid, out-of-touch, old-fashioned, prejudiced, etc. They can still argue their point. But their arguments are not given a forum due to the bias stigmatization has levied against them. Interestingly, those who buy into the stigmatization and marginalization phases of persecution almost never investigate what the target group or religion has to say about issues but rather accepts wholesale how the media portrays the group. For example, how many of those who view the Catholic Church as mysogyinistic have ever read its encyclicals on women–Mulieris Dignitatem or Familliaris Consortio. Or how many who oppose its views on birth control, abortion, or euthanasia have ever read Evangelium Vitae, Casti Connubii, Humanae Vitae, or Gaudiem et Spes? Very few, I suspect.
The third stage is villification. This stage is particularly malicious in that it assigns evil motives to the target group–whence the now common accusations that the Church “hates women,” is “against science,” or wishes to “deprive people of their right to healthcare.” This goes well beyond stigmatization or marginalization in that it attempts to elicit hatred and contempt for the target group. For anyone who has been paying attention, it’s not hard to see that we are already well into this stage.
The final stage before outright persecution is Criminalization. In this stage, laws are enacted that effectively penalize the group or religion for practicing their Faith or exercising their rights. Have we entered this stage yet? I believe we have. Look at the evidence.
The Catholic Church teaches that artificial birth control, sterilization, and abortion are intrinsically evil. Does the Church have a right to adhere to its teachings? Absolutely! It is a religion that has been around for almost 2,000 years and has not changed its teachings on these issues in all that time. It has endured persecutions by many oppressive governments during those many centuries and has outlasted all of them–without caving to demands that it considered immoral or sinful. Anyone who does not accept its teachings does not have to join the Church. They are free to disagree. But they should not demand that the Church change or violates its own teachings.
Which brings us to the present. The HHS Mandate of the Affordable Care Act has in its regulations that the Catholic Church must purchase insurance that directly funds the very practices it considers immoral: contraception, sterilization, and abortifaceint drugs. If it refuses to do so, the law allows the government to fine the Church with such exhorbitant fines that it must either cave in–which it will not do–or watch its many schools, hospitals, and social services be fined out of existence. This outrageous infringement on the Catholic Church’s First Ammendment rights criminalizes it for practicing its religion and refusing to actively participate in activities it considers immoral. We have entered the Criminalization phase. And if this is allowed to happen to the Catholic Church, other churches and organizations are at risk. The wall has been breached. The Bill of Rights has been attacked directly. From here on out, anything goes.
Yes. Even persecution.