Saturday, December 11, 2021

No Finer Time for Hope

Demolished bunker of Adlerhorst in Germany.
Demolished bunker of Adlerhorst in Germany.

Austin Ruse, president of the Center for Family and Human Rights and frequent writer of inflammatory truths, recently wrote a short but impassioned book called Under Siege: No Finer Time to Be a Faithful Catholic. The book is an expansion of a talk he has given for many years (linked below) about the terrible yet promising times in which we live. He dives more deeply into the moral disorders of our age than most would be comfortable with, to the extent that the reader is left vascillating between fear and anger. The fear is perhaps not so much for the adult reader himself but for his children and the monsters who see all children as prey.

The links between the degeneracy of the secular world and the moral turpitude within the Church's clergy are not lost on Ruse—although his focus is on worldly philosophies, and he has a massive blind spot when it comes to the responsibility John Paul II bore for the spread of clerical abuse. His survey of the moral landscape could go on much longer than it does, but he keeps it short lest it undermine his fundamental message of hope.

"There are halos," he writes repeatedly, as if making it a mantra, "hanging from the lowest branches of the trees." Ruse's litany of modern-day saints and martyrs is itself worth the price of admission, but also his deliberation on the opportunities for Catholics to engage with the Devil's army. Ruse himself works with the United Nations and has tangible victories against creeping secularism, but he has advice for those who live in real fear of losing their livelihoods or even their families. His three-tiered recommendation for how to engage ("Quiet and Privately," "Flying the Flag," and "Charging the Sniper's Nest") are intriguing and practical. "Heroes are those who confront evil and charge the sniper's nest. That is the situation we are in," he writes in the introduction.

Rod Dreher stands out as Mr. Ruse's main vector of divergence. Dreher evinces an attitude of apocalyptic retreat into bunkers that cannot actually hide any target from the military drones of the demonic elite. He sees the end of the world around every corner, and sees the duty of the Christian in such a scenario to run and huddle with the like-minded. For Ruse this is the coward's way out, and he believes that Dreher is a man broken by looking into the abyss one too many times without finding a way to fight back. Traditionalism-as-Nostalgia and unrealistic Monarchist movements are similar targets of Ruse's disdain within the Catholic sphere.

Hope is not just about the hope of one's eventual salvation. It is also the hope that our work here on earth will not all be in vain, the hope that we can effect real change or at least set the stage for our children to play their part, and the hope that even grave sinners can become fellow sons of God. When we lose hope, we lose our spirit and we have no courses of action left to us but retreat and despair.

There are different forms of retreat. Some stay faithful to the Church but retreat from the world, and not to do battle with the Devil in the desert. Too many are so broken by the evil they cannot deny within the Church that they retreat even from God. They feel like it is fruitless to point out the scandals and call for change, because the bishops and priests are habituated to ignoring every accusation that does not threaten a lawsuit. Apostasy is a very real problem for Catholics, and it doesn't only affect traditionalist commentators who suffered repeated trauma at the hands of "conservative" clerics. Average lay Catholics have their hearts turned from the faith of their fathers when false friends demand pity for perversion, when it becomes far easier to join the mob than to stand firm at the foot of the Cross.

Our enemies have us surrounded, Ruse says, and that is exactly where we want them.

What other religion could make such a claim? Blessed are we when we are persecuted for Christ's sake. God's strength is made manifest in weakness. Wisdom is the mother of fear, and of knowledge, and of holy hope.

We do not have the luxury of whining about our battle scars; let them simply be our glory in Heaven. There is no last homely house east of the sea in which we may make retreat and be rejuvenated in peace. The enemy is here, and the hill on which we decide to die may be already below our feet. Do not look to the cowards, to the quitters who abandon their fellow soldiers in time of need. (Faithless is he that says farewell when the road darkens. No man putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.) Leave them to the terrors of their own consciences. There is work to be done.

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