The Bloodless Martyrdom of Traditionalist Roman Catholics
The Bloodless Martyrdom of Traditionalist Roman Catholics:
Glories and Joyous Prospects for the 21st Century
By Joseph Andrew Settanni
“The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.” – Tertullian
“… I die the king’s good servant and God’s first.” – St. Thomas More
In this horrendously decadent and Godless modern age (or is it postmodern, by now), boldly speaking of glories and use of the word “joyous” regarding martyrdom seem to be totally incongruous, except for Moslems these days, it would so appear. This should not be.
The more one certainly has a good and thorough knowledge of Christian history, furthermore, the more that one can agree fully that this should not at all be the true case. Of course, let it then be here made perfectly clear, no one is to ever masochistically volunteer for martyrdom as if it were a set mandated duty, a categorical imperative, to get killed at any cost of time, effort, or energy. That’s insanity, not proper (religious) martyrdom for the Lord Jesus Christ. But, there are different kinds of sacrificing.
Those, meaning the tiny minority, the Remnant, who are still loyal and dedicated to the traditional Latin Mass are basically experiencing a bloodless martyrdom; this is whereby the main Church hierarchy and their majority supporters do disdain, hate, despise, ghettoize, marginalize, and simply hold in contempt any who will not conform to the dictates of the pernicious Second Vatican Council and, moreover, its so necessarily evil aftermath. Marginalization, isolation and relegation, is, of course, a still real form of persecution, as there is, thus, a quite typical human tendency to persecute minorities.
But, nonetheless, the stalwart traditionalists, those who have avoided complacency, ought to rejoice at this offered opportunity to experience a form of martyrdom, for all those who really love this world will not love them. Equally, the rise of Islam in the world, as always, means the coming of death, though, of course, not just for Christians. And so, martyrdoms must as well come.
Reviewing the Field of Moral Combat qua Martyrdom
Prior to the great legalization of the once hatred religion, the Roman Catholic Faith, under the Western Roman Emperor Constantine I in 313 AD, with Eastern Roman Emperor Licinius, both ratifying the Edict of Milan, the former normal expectation of most Christians, of Catholics, was the known reality that holy, fervent martyrdom was, generally speaking, fairly likely and even coming, perhaps, at the most inopportune times at that.
All the early Popes of the Church, the first thirty-three of them in fact, for instance, were martyred; it was then reasonably accepted, therefore, as being a just normal part of living and acting as the Holy Father, the Supreme Pontiff, the Bishop of Rome, among many other titles. All Christians, moreover, were to hold themselves as being, in effect, potential human fodder for the ever sportive Romans who thought nothing of cruelty and its extremely harsh infliction unto death.
Off and on, over the first few centuries, the Romans thoroughly enjoyed butchering, flaying, massacring, scourging, torturing, brutalizing, and burning Christians or, on the other hand, seeing them so viciously torn into shreds by wild beasts and, hopefully from their persecutors’ point of view, then eaten as well; Christians were not to be complacent; it is no true exaggeration to say that these descendants of the Latin Tribes had definitely thought it was simply a great fun thing to do at the public arenas; this was then for so usefully providing such quite bloodthirsty and very exciting entertainment, for the cheering, lustful, jaded populous.
This literal “blood sport” was celebrated from the reign of Emperor Claudius (41–54) quite lightly to very heavily under Nero (54–68) who executed Sts. Peter and Paul, to Domitian (81–96), Trajan (98–117), the “enlightened” persecutor Marcus Aurelius (161–180) who thought he ought to kill them all for their own good, etc. to, eventually, Emperor Diocletian (284–305) who genuinely had tried as hard as he could to vigorously exterminate them all but was, alas for him, fundamentally unsuccessful, as were, of course, all of his pagan and, so often, quite dedicated predecessors. But, from their official and pagan point of view, it was a “valiant” and noble effort, nonetheless, for they, too, were not complacent.
Yes, there were certain eras, in that ancient world, during which one could, legitimately, certainly, and naturally equate “Christian” with the logically corresponding synonym “martyr.” It just sort of “came with the job” so to speak. Of course, Christians are still dying by the tens of thousands now, with more martyrdoms in the 20th and 21st centuries than all the past eras combined, meaning basically by the sheer weight of the numbers dying, as to larger populations available to butcher.
This is now, therefore, a truly great age of Christian martyrdom, especially in the Middle East, China, and Africa, besides many other places. The study of martyrology is, therefore, not just a premodern or antiquarian issue.
Moslems today are, in effect, calling Christians back to their true roots as it were, in a strangely nostalgic manner, to bring back, in the minds of the followers of the so-called Prophet Muhammad, the “good old days.” The evil and demented followers of that truly devilish book, known as the Koran, are so many, in effect, “traditionalists” who nostalgically want to painfully remind Christians about what they really are all about, witnesses to Jesus Christ even, if needed, unto death.
The hedonistic, secularistic, materialistic society and culture of the contemporary Western world is, of course, simply entirely appalled by the painful and suffering-filled notion of martyrdom. They supinely dream of a world, a true utopia, where everyone just calmly exists as merely secularized, affable, happy atheists having nothing much to really have worth dying for or, moreover, actually believing in either. There are entire “world views” in conflict within the anthropocentric universe or, rather, multiverses as with allegedly multiple kinds, types, or varieties of (supposed) genders.
The thought of dying, if needed, for God or, as they would put it “a god,” is laughable, sick nonsense fit only for Bible belching fools, or other such funny fanatics, not having brains to think with or senses to experience a pleasant, humanistic, hedonistic life with on earth. Not much thought given to sin, except, perhaps, “social sins” and no thought at all pertaining to the damnation of one’s soul for any mortal sins.
With their carefully contrived situation ethics and value-neutral attitudes that do reek of hypocrisy, they face a world made amenable, in their warped minds, to a moral and ethical subjectivity called, of course, existentialist, value-preference objectivity.
Material reality, empirical sensuality, is the only reality worth living for on this planet; everything else is held to be illusory, meaningless, or false. The holy, glorious, and joyous idea of living and dying for the Creator-God or, more specifically, the living Messiah of Salvation is just repugnant nonsense not worth ever considering seriously. People are logically and rationally, as with rationalism in thinking, expected to be only pragmatic, positivist, and empirically-based persons existing for the realistic and materialistic world on this planet. Nothing else exists. Supernatural order, for them, is a joke.
The so rather harsh fact that this both ethically and morally shallow attitude, denying all of proper metaphysical order, must eventually lead toward blatant nihilism is, moreover, thought to be just inconsequential, to be a basically negligible matter. The empirical fact of the birth dearth of Western society and culture, being an obvious form of quite manifest nihilism leading to a slow-motion form of civilizational suicide, gets always ignored conveniently. This is since, once again, nothing else exists, which necessarily holds in contempt the religious need for ever seeking the greater glory of God.
Equally, the noticeable and logical growth of suicide itself, coming from the transcendent alienation that nihilism always axiomatically brings, is pushed, as if by demonic magic, out of sight, out of mind. At all costs, the grand liberal myth of rational men pursuing rational goals must be affirmed unequivocally and without any really serious question for the presumed magic to better take its wanted “salvific” affect over contemporary human lives. Nominalism, and its so often attendant immanentism, reigns supreme here, as ought to be properly understood, especially, e. g., whenever euthanasia gets praised.
This nonsense, to say the least, was not the reality confronted by the early Christians. Martyrdom, for many, was preferred to apostasy, though not all had to ability to sacrifice their lives, if needed by the demands of various and sundry adverse circumstance or occasions. The basic bottom line was the willingness, if compelled or caught, to give a then final witness to Christ the Lord by submitting to torture, suffering, and, yes, eventual death; this was as a direct consequence of being a Catholic, a Christian witness to the Lord God Almighty, versus this mere material world and its many delights.
Spirituality and the great things of the spirit were to be supremely regarded as being of much greater import and significance, if and when put to the test, than just living out a full life here on earth. The fate of being a martyr, though not to be embraced masochistically, was thought to be joyous and glorious, not unthinkable or avoidable at all costs whenever, wherever needed or required for physical safety and precious life. The Faith was thought to be always much more precious than any mere terrene life.
All, yes, all is to be made a sacrifice for Jesus Christ who is the ultimate reality for all who do, in truth, call themselves Christians; contrary to secularism and all its deranged evil values, the physical world and all of its possessions and luxuries are to be held as just nothing, when spiritually compared to the ever requisite honoring of the metaphysical order itself. The Moslems, however, are mere representations of what needs to be seen as being in existence upon the field of moral combat; Satan and his minions are eagerly present for fighting against God, besides the flesh and the world as to regular temptations.
Such metaphysical fighting is actually occurring (above and in this fallen world) while physical conflict rages, of course; yet, heavily secularized modern men, minds filled with nominalism, see not the ever broader entirety of reality, just their too often myopic view of it, for the god of materialism or that of hedonism pragmatically demands obedience.
What all of the above discussion ought to reveal clearly is that as Christians get comfortable with this world, they get secularized more and more and think that peaceful lives lived in comfort and security ought to be theirs by right, by being Christians. This was not, obviously, the original and martyr-filled reality of a much suffering and decidedly most painful Christianity, of Roman Catholicism in particular. So, perhaps, the Muslims have been sent as a new “Scourge of God” to rudely test those who seek to call themselves, as fallen creatures, the followers of the Christ.
Being a Catholic, centuries ago, did not supposedly equate with merely being a passive spectator sport; it was, as has been noted historically, a true blood sport, as the 21st century can still bear witness, of course. Realistically speaking, Christian people are returning to a state of normalcy with the rise of discrimination and bigotry, persecution and death. Having the first thirty-three Popes all get martyred, basically in succession, ought to have given a manifest indication of how Christianity and martyrdom are rather intimately linked, not strangers.
A then normal characteristic of being a good, practicing Catholic means that there must be a genuine willingness to suffer for Catholicism, not just to live for it, though St. Gregory of Nazianzus cautioned that none ought to deliberately seek to sacrifice their lives.
Christian people, sinners all, in the West had, therefore, become much too complacent with their lot in life in becoming, thus, much too comfortable with this fallen world, especially by the 20th century. The rapid growth of anti-Christian attitudes in the modern world, including the rise of it growing in America into the 21st century, is meant by God to alert those who would see that they, more or less, are being called to martyrdom; this is, at least, to varying degrees and under different circumstances for, at the least, avoiding the sin of apostasy.
Let the voices of past Church history speak the truth that should be heard by loyal Catholics everywhere. Moreover, the Sacrament of Confirmation, as ought to be known, makes Catholics officially soldiers of Christ as part of the Church Militant. It used to be and, increasingly today is, the case that those who overtly and seriously take up the Cross of Christ are hated, not loved certainly. Stat crux dum volvitur orbis. And, much more than that, the Devil really knows his own because one easily sees how Islam is increasingly praised by the popular forces and leaders of this world who, in turn, do hate Christianity.
As sagacious G. K. Chesterton would have surely ironically noted, whenever Christianity is unpopular or despised, it may then be said to be wondrously blessed. Thus, let the blessings be now below recounted historically, for contemporary audiences, in sure light of the Catholic Church’s divinely instituted sanctitas.
St. Ignatius of Antioch, in his Letter to the Romans, in the 2nd century AD, knew of the many bloody and real torments and yet still longed for martyrdom, “so long as I get Jesus Christ.” In that same century, St. Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho, remarked about the Roman persecutors that, “… we resist you and prefer to endure death, confident that God will give us all the blessings which He promised us through Christ.” These justly venerated saints knew the truth that those who righteously died for Jesus ever gloriously and truly represented the reality of semen est sanguis Christianorum.
The hallowed blood of these virtuous heroes for Christ was among the honorable boasts of the Church. These days there is no such real passionate consciousness among typical Catholics; there has been, unfortunately, a great diminishment of their once typical honoring and remembrance thereof. In the early Church, as Fr. John Laux’s Church History critically points out, they were then very highly thought of, esteemed, honored, and certainly celebrated figures of cherished memory.
He explicitly mentions the natalitium, their second baptism (for Christian believers), and the joyously noted memoriae (blessed memorializing) of the martyrs. One was, thus, to feel sanctified by even being able to touch their relics, not just to speak of them in warm and sincere admiration, for having died at the hands of sinful men.
These justly honored, heroic souls saw far beyond the mere temporal order, the mere façade of this world, and toward the ever highest primacy of, in fact, the everlastingly important metaphysical order; martyrdom possessed many declared glories and a truly distinct greatness, as it ought also to be rightly understood today. This has always been, of course, a sure part of the martyrology of many, many saints.
As was well written in the Didascalia Apostolorum of the 3rd century AD, “For let him that is condemned for the name of the Lord God be esteemed by you as a holy martyr, an angel of God …” St Cyprian, in his Letters, noted that, “The Lord has willed that we should even rejoice over persecutions because, when persecutions occur, then the faith is crowned, God’s soldiers are put to the test and heaven is opened to martyrs.” Blessed be natalitium and memoriae! How was it or is it to be otherwise, when seeking the greater glory of God?
Normality, on earth, consisted of the possibility for martyrdoms for the, thus, appropriate lives of true Christians, when and where it be needful. There may have so been, as a certain kind of holy throwback to being closer to Apostolic times, a much greater sense of knowingly participating in the quite enormous privilege of martyrdom; this is meaning, of course, as to the sacramentalized fullness of a more intensely experienced Christian life.
After all, the man praised by Jesus as the greatest Prophet, St. John the Baptist, was himself martyred. After the Crucifixion, furthermore, the Sign of the Cross became the very symbol of what following the life of Christ was to be about, for all those who were and are to hold fast to the righteous Faith and its severe teachings, unto to death by holy martyrdom or otherwise; the appropriate conclusion to come to ought, therefore, to be rather obvious. Perhaps, statistics might help to easily illustrate the point.
Ludwig Hertling, in his Die Zahl de Märtyrer bis 313, published in 1944, had estimated 100,000 Christians killed between 30 AD and 313 AD. Still, the many skeptics, atheists, humanists, positivists, and secularists, however, say this is a very greatly exaggerated number. Some of them insist that only about 1,000 people ever died directly because of their Christianity. As to such necrometrics, what ought yet to be most plausible as to a figure of overall death covering, as known, some centuries of time?
Knowing how much, from historical records that can be researched objectively, the Romans enjoyed war, brutality, cruelty, and violence, the figure of 100,000, over several centuries covering the entire Roman Empire, is seriously reasonable to a great degree. How really credible is the supposed figure of about or only 1,000 victims? Let there be figures given below suggesting the range and extent of the killing routinely done in the ancient world as to warfare, being an example of the quite literally bloody reality of those times.
When Julius Caesar, e. g., had been captured by the Parthians, he vowed that he would return to crucify them; he so did; it has been recorded, thus, that he crucified 5,000 of them. The Mithridatic Wars took between 160,000 (Appian stated) to 200,000 (Plutarch stated) Pontics killed in combat. The Second Punic War, in estimation, had cost the losing Carthaginians 270,000 dead.
Many other such statistics could be here cited as to various large magnitudes involved, even while freely allowing for, perhaps, some possibly or potentially inflated numbers. Military related death counts of that ancient time, involving armed enemy soldiers, offer substantial evidence of the plausibly vast scale of slaughter that could be and, in fact, was actually achieved.
The estimate of a mere 100,000 Christian deaths is, therefore, not at all an exaggerated number, given also substantial and substantive advancements in modern archeology yielding corrective information; most likely, it is, moreover, a severe underestimate of the truly great extent of the slaughtering done. A more reasonable guess could, logically, put it at somewhere in the general neighborhood of between, say, 500,000 to 1,000,000 people, that’s unarmed men, women and, of course, quite utterly defenseless children, not (fully) armed combatants certainly.
But, the horrid implications are rather yet extremely staggering to knowingly contemplate, if put into modern terms of reference as to a (“contemporary”) body count! But, the fair extrapolation, based upon figures for war deaths as to the analogous overall numbers that were killed, is fundamentally just, meaning as to how many Christians were probably, in fact, dispatched by the Romans, including many infants, of course.
On a yet much larger point of instruction, the sad reality in all of persecution is that it usually comes full circle; the Jews did it against the Christians, the Romans did it against the Christians; when the Christians finally got the upper hand, they were able to do it, at times, against the Jews and, later, also against those found to be Christian heretics; the control method of persecution, thus, “teaches” a truly horrible lesson of imitation, which is why, one suspects, St. Bernard had rightfully advocated only persuasion instead.
Persecutors create martyrs, even unto death; martyrs, in turn, add further power to those persecuted by glorifying martyrdom in the minds of those persecuted. If not for the love of Christ, then one ought to consider that for “politic” reasons, it is always evidently wrong to seek the ethical, moral, and spiritual empowerment of those to be persecuted; thus, the deaths of all those Christian martyrs were, indeed, the planting of many seeds of the Faith.
However, the burning at the stake of either Catholics or Protestants (or doing it to anybody else for oddly assumed “religious” reasons) was, thus, morally insane. It would reasonably seem, therefore, to be a blasphemy, by definition, done against the very Prince of Peace Himself.
Consequently, persecution had, moreover, greatly ended up creating the very fanaticism or spiritually fervid zeal, through such unintended irony, that the ancient Romans had, supposedly, sought to so utterly crush. The sad imperial edicts for killing Christians off had, then, functionally ended up, in effect, feeding rather too assiduously the very beast they had sought to eagerly, tenaciously, slay. It is superb irony for the ages.1
With the total ancient world population much smaller than today and, in addition, the empire’s total then being much smaller still, the ratio, if brought into modern times, would then be a total of about 100,000,000 Christian deaths. As is so usual, the very smug and delusional hordes of skeptics, atheists, humanists, positivists, and secularists are, obviously, liars who do deliberately lie to hide the truth; they are simply pure propagandists, for their highly despicable cause, not any honest fellows at a minimum.
One must fairly say, contrary to these vile critics who prefer to speak from a dedicated ignorance, one ought to give justified glory and honor to the righteous Christian martyrs who had affirmed Christ, at a truly great moral, social, and cultural cost, to a necessarily shocking and horrendous magnitude thereof.
It can be rightly remembered that the pre-Christian imperial world, governed by Rome, had no modern altruistic or humanitarian notions; they were not at all squeamish regarding the massive shredding of any unwanted Christian or, for that matter, other available blood. Emperor Marcus Aurelius, though he had considered himself to be a very fair-minded Stoic, yet, he too had been a very enthusiastic persecutor, in point of fact. He was not complacent.
Therefore, the quite appropriate necrometric extrapolation of Christian deaths, occurring over several centuries, as being at least 500,000 is not terribly excessive in any way whatsoever; and, furthermore, the upper limit figure rendered of about 1 million is not at all that inconceivable or unthinkable, when, of course, appropriately put into its own proper historical context, covering from the 1st to the early 4th century AD. Admittedly, only God knows the exact number, regardless of any reasonable calculations or speculations thereof.
The Christian Mystery of Martyrdom
As St. Augustine, in his magnificent The City of God, had knowingly remarked of the enormous influence of these many blessed holy martyrs, “… call God to aid, that by the renewal of their memory we may be incited to imitation of such crowns and palms of martyrdom.”
And, he knew that, “The martyrs were bound, imprisoned, scourged, racked, burnt, rent, butchered – and they multiplied.” Such courage was real and their deaths gave such ever vivid and empirical testimony to the everlasting truth of Jesus the Christ directly so seen in the venerated blood of the justly revered martyrs, the finest and purest soldiers of all of Christendom.
In the 6th century, in his Homilies on the Gospels, no less an authority within the Church than Pope St. Gregory the Great insightfully said, “The death of the martyrs blossoms in the faith of the living.” The reality of Christian martyrdom, in any day and age, testifies to the fact that those who profess to being true followers of the Lamb of God, the Messiah, must keep the potential act of dying for Christ as a true basic part of Christian, of Catholic, life. Denying this is a blasphemy, for they represent true beacons of light in an often dark world of sin and damnation.
God is no respecter of persons. All that people are and have belongs to the Lord. When required, there is the need to yield all for the sake of the Kingdom to come. Attachments, whether parents, children, or otherwise, to this fallen world by fallen human creatures are never to be absolute. After all, Heaven is the final goal toward which all souls ought to aspire for eternity, for, thus, the only other final inevitable destination is the Infernal Regions.
St. Isidore, in the 7th century, in his Etymologies covers the subject of martyrdom. Also, St. Bede the Venerable, in the following century, in his Hymnum Canentes Martyrum, there joyously speaks of:
The hymn for conquering martyrs raise:
The victor innocents we praise:
Whom in their woe earth cast away,
But heaven with joy received today.
Then, in and during the Middle Ages, Christians perished, by the many tens of thousands, at the vicious hands of the Moors, the Saracens, the Moslems now called Muslims. Few these days know that the Crusades were actually started to fight against the aggressions, the bellicosities, of the believers in Muhammadinism who had ruthlessly captured and authoritarianly ruled the Holy Land, what had been once called the Near East and, now, the Middle East.
In the much more modern era of the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, in his Present Position of Catholics in England, wrote: “This may not be the age of saints, but all times are the age of martyrs.” He had wisely added, in his interesting Discourses to Mixed Congregations, that, “No one is a martyr for a conclusion, no one is a martyr for an opinion; it is faith that makes martyrs.” Mere types of conclusions or, perhaps, just some or even many opinions are never worth dying for, as even a fool should know.
As was further noted, in his Historical Studies, “A martyrdom is a season of God’s especial power in the eye of faith, as great as if a miracle were visibly wrought.” All of this, surely, adds more spiritual force to the highly informative knowledge that the possible sacrifice of Catholic lives may become necessary for, thus, helping to fulfill the will of God, for His mercy is equal absolutely to His justice eternally.
He is, after all, the Most Holy Lord of all creation and all that there is owes itself to God; nothing exists independently; ontological reality is, therefore, purely contingent beingness, for nothing comes from nothing. Sacrificing one’s life for Christ, thence, affirms positively Christological ontology to the highest degree, which should not be doubted, since all human beings, being sinners, must all answer, finally, to the Creator after their deaths.
This is not to naïvely say that trembling and fear, trepidation and dread, will never occur as to paying the then ultimate price for sustaining Catholic belief; the hope, however, is that strong religious faith can still bring forth the requisite fortitude and courage truly needed, thus, to rightly accept and then endure the great pain, suffering, and, at the end, the finality for mere mortals of death for Christ.
Most will fail the great test, as is to be, thus, normally expected of the many mortal vicissitudes and dark uncertainties of human weakness and hesitation, frailty and reluctance. Some, however, will persevere toward proper spiritual victory, as Catholic martyrology so easily demonstrates appropriately.
As with the Latin Mass Community, martyrs do tend to be, of course, a persecuted minority, never a majority of people. Earthly life, seeming to have a rather concrete nature, tends to naturally appear more precious than eternal glory, which appears entirely abstract and just idealistic.
But, nevertheless, there may be horrendous times and circumstances coming that are not always of one’s own doing that may, so to speak, force the issue upon people to decisively choose; this is between this world and the life of the world to come, meaning when there is true faith in Christ. Giving up one’s mortal life may be, thus, required for properly gaining eternal salvation.
This may not be easy to do. The increasing number of fantastic allurements and charms, excitements and diversions, of the modern age do create a multiplicity of distractions that wrongly divert requisite attention away from the then final four utterly unavoidable realities: Death, Judgment, Heaven or Hell.
Contemporary people, moreover, do usually spend more considerable time, effort, and energy upon many sports, entertainments, hobbies, community events, and other diverse matters than they normally do upon essential preparation of their souls, meaning for the facing of an inevitable eternity. A rather markedly disproportionate regard for celebrated secular, temporal, life and its endless myriad of allurements exists.
There is, as always, the world, the flesh, and the Devil that do provide alternative avenues of participation within the merely terrene order. There has been, therefore, the ever widespread, horrid proliferation of pornography, sodomy, and other such highly provocative vices that do supremely indicate, fiercely, the noted most extreme degradation and decline of society and culture; this is surely toward the lowest common denominators, minimally speaking, of such progressively deranged vileness and, of course, just utter nihilism.
But, even much more is yet intimately involved. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the reality of martyrdom is “the supreme witness given to the truth of the faith: it means bearing witness even unto death” (no. 2473). This is the fixed contrast with secularism.
Notably, most people do tend, on average, to basically live as if they never really expect to die. For the main populace at large, what might be called “investing” in the overt prospects of the afterlife to come seems rather set, distant, incoherent, and, generally speaking, vague or abstract, as an unknown kind of seemingly distant and questionable afterthought. Martyrdom, consequently, comes to mind, one here reasonably suspects, only if somehow or other encountered as a kind of subject, perhaps, in some old historical or hoary religious books.
There is, just quite predictably, no genuine propinquity, immediacy, for basic human life as to what may be the finally fatal result of openly affirming a religious belief that could, in fact, possibly get one killed.
However, the notably increasing persecution of Christians in the Western world itself and elsewhere is coming, more and more, to necessarily force the basic issue urgently into much contemporary consciousness, regardless of jaded lifestyles that do not seem to critically recognize what is going on in many nations. What may be appropriately suggested, nonetheless, as a possible valid Catholic antidote, as to what may be done in response?
Praying for the sanctification of one’s soul, by invoking the blood of the holy martyrs, is one means of getting the needed will and grace to resist the evil temptations of this world to simply yield, rather, than to fight for Jesus and His Kingdom. But, a Catholic martyr must be extremely more than just a person who willingly suffers death rather than renounce his religion.
Someone’s “religion” may be an ideology, after all, even dedicated Nazis, Fascists, or Communists can, thus, be equally willing to die for their hellish beliefs. The mere willingness to sacrifice one’s life does not make a true (Christian) martyr, only a crazed fanatic.
Rather, a truly Catholic martyr not only dies for Christ but, much more so, for the always unequivocal affirmation of ultimate Truth, not just for theological dogmas, sincere speculations, or religious feelings. The specific proper asseveration involved is to also fundamentally cover the Church that inspires the faith that sustains the need to yield up the body for the glorification of the Catholic soul of the believer.
Why is this being said here? Among other highly important reasons, unlike both of the false beliefs of Protestantism and Islam, faith is not divided against reason; both testify to the unity of the Truth that Jesus is the Christ, as confirmed necessarily by faith and reason in unison, which is no small matter as to the pursuing of a wanted holiness.
And, that is a very profound means toward both correct understanding and genuine comprehension. Furthermore, axiology, epistemology, and ontology are, as instances, three separate means of knowing but still fully unified as to knowledge, as is the Holy Trinity with its Thee Persons. Thus, so obviously contrary forever to the secular world, the death, e. g., of a Nazi anthropocentric fanatic ought never to be absurdly equated as being like a death of a Catholic martyr, as to the supposed neutral nature of (actual) martyrdom, as appropriately understood.
Unfortunately, these tremendously significant things do need to be explicitly said, in this rather degraded day and age of a triumphant nominalism with its equally dominant immanentism, because of the fundamental supremacy of pervasive and aggressive secularism. It is the quite logical fruit, moreover, of nominalism and its conceits.
Catholicism, in contrast, is the adamant defense of reality against the “tyranny” of Utopia, the proposed New Eden that can never, even in a million years, ever exist on earth. It must be intelligently, rationally, realized, therefore, that all Catholic martyrdoms do necessarily and axiomatically affirm all this, and still more as to a notably virtuous death, to the highest expression of an unconditional love for Christ.
But, martyrdom, as with much else of truly spiritual worth, has been discounted greatly by a successful modernity; this is well perceived with its extreme exaltation of strident individualism and subjectivism, the absconding of canon law at Western universities, the quite cold abstraction of the omnipresent State replacing the warmth of the organic, circumscribed commonwealth; there are modern demands for more collectivism of various kinds, the sterile compartmentalization of much tainted human life, horrendous world wars, vicious genocides, and even the flabbergasting, truly astounding, possibilities for nuclear warfare included.
Some things may be better illustrated by seeking to extrapolate about two examples of what may be called, perhaps, quintessential martyrs. St. Thomas Becket and St. Thomas More knew, step by step, that they would eventually be heading toward a finality of painful suffering by opposing the power of the English State, the monarchy, in particular, their respective kings, both named Henry.
They were not accidental or coincidental victims of persecution who just were, supposedly, victims of circumstance or, perhaps, simply unwitting victims of their situations; both were highly educated men, knowledgeable of the religion, politics, society, culture and much else of their times.
Neither was willing to finally yield, however, to the unreasonableness and raw impiety of having their loyalty to the Church, meaning their fidelity to God, be suppressed, even at the cost of yielding up their very lives.
What gets revealed in the lives of such saints is that, contrary to much Protestant propaganda, private conscience was not a (so-called) Reformation invention nor, for that matter, its then logical corollary of private judgment. Get real! Starting with the earliest Christians, the Romans were up against people who could not compromise their conscience, offend their soul, by either worshipping Cesare or denying Christ. A true martyr is not given to compromise.
In this context, as a quite necessarily private judgment, though not thought of as that in that era, these obvious dissenters were opposed, most certainly, to the majority, corporate nature-beliefs of the pagan community at large, not just to the imperial degrees mandating spiritual allegiance to the Emperor who claimed to be a god.
This needs to be properly kept in mind for better adding to the comprehension so required; having a private conscience, inseparable in the end from private judgment, as being absolutely inviolate, morally infrangible, is surely a fundamental Christian notion, not a supposed novel invention of Protestantism.
The right of private conscience and the right of private judgment were not, thus, some modern, abstract creations of the 16th, 17th, or 18th centuries; they have, indeed, quite ancient lineages and, furthermore, having a stated “conscientious objection” to war had, in fact, required the previous political, social, and cultural acceptance and fundamental acknowledgement of a private Christian conscience.
However, one is seriously obligated to try to have as scrupulous a conscience as that of a St. Thomas Aquinas, not just being a general harbinger of mere contrary opinions or some speculative claims of a, perhaps, very highly subjective or just purely idiosyncratic nature. Objectivity, in its best accurate sense, is properly established morally and conscientiously, justly and assiduously, when knowing to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and unto God that which is God’s. Q. E. D.
Both Henry II and Henry VIII, being the antagonists of Becket and More respectively, had then wrongly claimed what are metaphysical prerogatives only, in truth, due to the Lord God Almighty, not to the imperious head of any regime whatsoever. Being good Catholics, they righteously had opposed such asserted supremacy against the Church. That is why, as was so asserted previously, they were quintessential martyrs.
It was, in fact, but ancient Caesarism in a new disguise, and yet nothing really more than that in its fundamental essence. Private conscience and private judgment, therefore, were of the integral and inherent nature of basic Christianity in its very origins, not ever a newfangled “Reformation” idea as was and is too often still falsely claimed.
Modernity, in short, did not supposedly invent, discover, the human conscience, though it has been and is, obviously, effective at corrupting it so mightily, as seen in today’s rampant lusts for the necessarily demonic cause of transgenderism, besides a seemingly triumphant sodomy itself.
Perhaps, in contrast, willingly dying for Christ may not really be that bad of an option, when needed. The alternative is too often the embrace of the material realities of this world that does not matter whenever compared to final Christocentric salvation, which could include holy martyrdom, as to the desired end of all rational souls. Salvation, the final reward of Heaven, is the prize ever above price, which resides in the holy shadow of the Christian mystery of martyrdom, of supremely righteous virtue, made particularly real by the actual shedding of blood.
In a different way, the bloodless persecution of the Latin Mass Community, its nonviolent martyrdom, must be something, under the circumstances, that is just taken in stride as being of the nature of such contemptuous minor subjugation and tedious petty oppression. The prideful followers of a triumphalist Vatican II are not cognizant of the true cause of the “jesters” of traditionalism; as the more traditionalist oriented among the Franciscans still know, one must be a fool for God’s sake, as the humble only can get into Heaven.
For it is known that, conversely, there is more than enough room in Hell for the prideful who are too big, too full of themselves, to ever fit in where the saints and martyrs do then most easily congregate and joyously live forever. Even the very heinous, odious, and morally despicable squelching, e. g., of the Roman Catholic missionary spirit advocated by Pope Francis, the Holy Father himself, has not stopped the actual rate or number of martyrdoms in the contemporary world.
And so, the “amazing” prospects, for the secularist 21st century, allow both for the bloodless martyrdom of being a traditionalist Roman Catholic and, if called upon, the death-oriented choice of affirming Christ and His Church in the resistance to not only an aggressive and bloody Islam but rampant anti-Christian bigotry and hatred, in the Western world, coming from the ardent secularists and their so willing allies.
The Latin Mass supporters, being orthodox Roman Catholics, should, therefore, ironically rejoice in their observed marginalization qua martyrdom for the Lord God Almighty and His glory.
There are, thus, really but two ultimate ways of thinking. The lovers of this world do think that the perfection of life on earth or at least its enjoyment is the basic ultimate reality; the orthodox Catholic, the lover of Christ and His Kingdom, is supposed to know that the attempt to seek the perfection of his soul for its ultimate salvation is the only ultimate reality worth living or, in fact, dying for.
Secularization, in opposition, is just a (literal) dead end for both body and soul. This is surely why the consciousness of holy martyrdom, as a true means of salvation, needs to be righteously revived, within the contemporary Church, for the greater glory of God.
In any event, are Christians prepared to just meekly accept, perhaps, the future deaths of, say, about at least 100 million men, women, and children? Anyone who absurdly thinks this is simply an exaggeration has only a very limited knowledge of human history, of its many follies and horrors. As did many of the Crusaders who slew them, there is the admonition to love one’s enemies, but fighting in self-defense is still properly and appropriately recognized by both the Canon Law and, of course, by classical Natural Law.
The good reading of this article, however, suggests the actual truth that must be now realistically confronted and accepted as to the many perceived facts of human reality and, moreover, the fundamental teachings of the Faith. Our Lady Queen of Martyrs ora pro nobis!
Athanasius contra mundum!
1. Although the position argued here is of a prudential and not ever an abstract libertarian or so broadly altruistic nature, ancient and medieval thinkers did not contemplate a modern, democratic, pluralistic, multireligious polity where people could permanently have “divided” loyalties and still be thought of as good citizens nonetheless.
For most of history as to normality, there was taken to be no possible actual division between what was thought to be ultimate loyalties. Thus, e. g., Protestant England saw Catholicism as its inherent political enemy; as a so logical result, Catholics could be, and most often were, just axiomatically then termed traitors because of their religion being seen as opposing the obvious interests and prerogatives of the Reformationist realm of Albion, with its so-called Reformed faith. (Of course, the Puritans, called as such by their desire to allegedly better purify religious faith, did not think it was reformed enough.)
In old Europe, a man’s religion was supposed to be absolutely, or nearly so, fully consonant with his own politics and vice versa. This assumed attitude or, rather, supposition was not to be questioned. Granted that exceptions have always historically existed, however, the nearly predominant normative pattern was an assumed, premodern unicity of loyalty, not a heterogeneous composite of beliefs also assumed to be still indicative of political loyalty.
That extremely different past world, so to speak, is a basic defining characteristic of what makes the nature of modernity, as to a way of disparate thinking, fully allowing for an endlessly and widespread heterogeneity; it was not, therefore, fundamentally typical of the premodern world where once usual custom and tradition had, regularly, confirmed and reflected both such matters as a man’s religion and politics.
And yet, this arguing prudentially for a requisite lack of religious persecution ought not to be ignorantly confused or supinely confounded, however, with any tolerance for heresy, which ought to never exist. Persuasion, not persecution, is the better moral option to prefer within the context of Christian charity.
Of course, Western, prideful modernists do condemn what had been (falsely) called the European Wars of Religion. The great Edmund Burke, among others, saw through this cheap canard. They were not fought for the love of God, much less abstract religious or theological principles. They were fought for power or, more vulgarly but honestly put, for the money.
Martin Luther’s protests were, from beginning to end, really all about the money; today, the Catholic German bishops (once again, it’s the Germans!) are still actually arguing about the filthy lucre, while pretentiously expatiating that it is really a pious dispute over holiness and deeply sincere matters of important and responsible faith. No, be without any doubt in this matter, it’s the money.
Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More
Godfrey Anstruther, Saint John Southworth: Priest and Martyr
Donald Attwater, Martyrs
Frank Barlow, Thomas Becket
Dr. Malcolm Brennan, Martyrs of the English Reformation
Bede Camm, Courtier, Monk and Martyr
Catholic Church. Congregatio pro Causis Sanctorum, The Catholic Martyrs of England and Wales: A Chronological List of English and Welsh Martyrs who Gave Their Lives for Christ and His Church During the “Penal Times” (A.D. 1535-1680)
Michael Green, St. Thomas Becket
Miriam T. Griffin, Nero: The End of a Dynasty
Frank J. Korn, The Tiber Ran Red: The Age of the Roman Martyrs.
Vincent McNabb, St. John Fisher
Fr. A. J. O’Reilly, D.D., The Martyrs of the Coliseum
Robert Royal, The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century: A Comprehensive World History
Bernard Ruffin, The Days of the Martyrs: A History of the Persecution of Christians from Apostolic Times to the Time of Constantine.
Joyce E. Salisbury, Blood of Martyrs: Unintended Consequences of Ancient Violence.
Reinhard Selinger, The Mid-Third Century Persecutions of Decius and Valerian.
Richard Simpson, Edmund Campion, Revised, edited & enlarged by Fr. Peter Joseph, Foreword by George Cardinal Pell