Church and state

Column: The power to divide comes not from without, but within

by Michael Schuttloffel

On a cold winter evening in 1838, a young, gangly state representative rose to address the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Ill.

Twenty-eight-year-old Abraham Lincoln boldly declared to those listening that all the world’s armies combined could not hope, even in a thousand years, to conquer America. Looking into his crystal ball, he foretold that if the country were to be imperiled, the danger would not come from beyond our shores: “If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide.”

Those prophetic words were chillingly fulfilled 23 years later when American fired upon American at Fort Sumter. National suicide was attempted and averted, but only at the cost of 600,000 battle dead. The four-year bloodletting we call the Civil War brought the country closer to the brink than a Hitler or bin Laden ever could.

Lincoln’s Lyceum Address warning could just as well have been spoken about the Catholic Church at a number of points in its history, including perhaps today. Christian persecution has taken many forms over the past 2,000 years — being fed to the lions, crucifixion, and beheading — but the crueler the torture inflicted upon believers, the stronger the church has emerged. The power to divide Christians, to obliterate Christian unity, and to demoralize the faithful has come, time and again, not from without but within.

Thus it should probably come as no surprise that Catholics now form the tip of the spear of what the late Pope John Paul II called the culture of death. The Roman Catholic Church constitutes the vanguard of the pro-life movement, yet the very policies against which it has arrayed all of its resources, spiritual and temporal, are in no small measure being designed and implemented by Catholics.

This is no accident.

Our new president may be many things, but a fool is not one of them. His vice president, Joe Biden, is Catholic. His top choice for secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Daschle, is Catholic. His second choice and current nominee, Kathleen Sebelius, is Catholic. All support legalized abortion, and the HHS secretary will have an important role in decisions over stem-cell research and conscience protection.

Next month, when President Obama addresses Notre Dame’s commencement, Catholics should:

A. Discern a pattern.

B. Ponder what exactly a person has to do to be disqualified from speaking at a Catholic institution, since voting against the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act is insufficient.

C. Take comfort in the fact that on Easter, Christians were reminded of how this all ends: We win; good prevails.

The answer? D. All of the above.

About the author

Michael Schuttloffel

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