Blessed John Paul 11 declared St. Maximilian Kolbe to be patron of the 20th century ("patron of this difficult century"). We need the prayers and examples of both these men NOW. There are real signs that we are heading for a more serious persecution of the Church - specifically the Roman Catholic Church - in certain areas. Of course, it will not just be Catholics but all orthodox Christians who - depending on the power of the state - will be at risk. The National Secular Society of Great Britain has tried to argue that it is not difficult for Christians to follow their faith today. Although it is true that certain cases of apparent abuse or "persecution" against Christians have been exaggerated (and this is not a good idea!), there is still plenty of evidence that the general trend of anti-Christian feeling is gathering strength. In Ireland the Bishop of Raphoe is being investigated by the Director of Public Prosecutions there after a secularist complained that a sermon preached at Knock incited hatred against secular humanists (see this). I was reminded of the comment of the American Cardinal Burke (here) about possible imprisonment of bishops and priests in the United States. The recent attempt by the Obama administration to rule out freedom of conscience for Catholic bishops and their co-workers suggests that we are indeed approaching those times.
This post on the Tunbridge Wells Ordinariate Blog also speaks of these things. As far as I am concerned, as a parish priest, I feel that I am fighting a battle against the continual encroachment of secularist moral values into the Catholic community. It seems that no matter what I say - or try to say - many people continue to assume that certain patterns of behaviour (e.g. living together before marriage) are perfectly acceptable and that the "Church" is wrong to speak against them. So many still hear a priest presenting the official teaching and then say, "that's what he thinks - that's just him" Relativism rules! In this case it is one priest against another - one bishop against another.
I recently discovered an American Catholic internet discussion group which is speaking out in defense of marriage and, in particular, in defense of the marriage bond against decisions made by diocesan marriage courts. Some of the stories related there are horrendous. Both the present Pope and his predecessor warned the American marriage courts against being too liberal - being too ready to hand out annulments based on a wide reading of such things as "immaturity" in relation to living the Sacrament of Marriage. I have started to read up on this, and I recently purchased the Pontifical Council's "Dignitas Connubi" and the book, "What God has Joined Together" by Robert Vasoli, which is about the "Annulment Crisis in American Catholicism". If we are going to defend marriage against the attempts of western governments to redefine it, we had better get our own house in order.
It is beginning to look as though a more virulent form of persecution will come. I once said to my parishioners - in relation to anti-Christian persecution in Pakistan - that we have not yet had to suffer physical persecution though we are undergoing a kind of persecution through the media. Many will see this post and think it is OTT, but the evidence is there to be seen now. The attempts by the last Labour Government to attack the freedom of conscience of Catholics - in spite of the presence of Tony Blair's cronies - was truly ominous, and there is a real danger that if Ed Milliband's leadership fails we will see a militant anti-Catholic take the reins in the next few years. He (or she) is in the wings.