Our nation appears to be fragmenting into diverse groups, beyond just conservative and liberal, traditionalist and progressive, Republican and Democrat. Some of these groups such as the neo-Nazi, white-supremacists, antifa, socialists and anarchists, use intimidation and violence to spread their ideological message. The recent violence between these groups is reminiscent of the clashes between fascists and socialists, particularly in Germany, between the two world wars.
All these groups say they want to establish a peaceful, orderly society, where people can prosper. Yet, many of them use violence in an attempt to bring about a new social order, crushing those who oppose their party and its ideology, while destroying the freedom of all. This is particularly apparent when such groups oppose rallies for free speech. When the right of free speech is attacked, rather than the argument made by those who abuse this right, it can be assured that other rights will be attacked as well, particularly the right of religious freedom.
It is important to remember what took place in Nazi-Germany and the Communist Soviet Bloc. Under these regimes the government dictated all aspects of life. This is best seen in the former Soviet Bloc, where socialist-communism (founded on Marxism) did its best to destroy all institutions, including the church and the family. It is foolish to think that it is impossible for something similar, perhaps even worse, to take place here in this country.
What is the response to this crisis in our society?
Saint Pius X, dealing with similar social upheaval, reminded the world that “there is but one party of order capable of restoring peace in the midst of all this turmoil, and that is the party of God. It is this party, therefore, that we must advance, and to it attract as many as possible, if we are really urged by the love of peace” (E Supremi, 1903).
The party of God to which Saint Pius X refers is none other than the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, the Mystical Body of Christ. It is Christianity, particularly as professed by the Catholic Church, and not political parties or government action, that can bring about true peace. This is due to the grace of Christ making believers one body, a unity, where when one suffers or is honored, all suffer or share in the honor with him (cf. 1Cor 12:12-31).
In order that the previously mentioned peace be established it is important for all the baptized to live by the faith. When Christians truly live by the Holy Spirit they produce the fruits of the Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity (cf. Gal 5:22-23). It is these fruits, produced in the life of Christians, which attract others to Christ and his church. The fruits are sweet and appealing, like a Jersey peach, calling people to faith in Jesus Christ. It is just such fruits that our society needs more than ever.
Living by the Spirit leads one to keep the commandment of Christ to love one another. Jesus teaches us the greatest commandment: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Mt 22:37-39).
Another Pope, Pius XI, stressed that this teaching needed to be proclaimed often, for it is “a teaching fitted to moderate the feverish search for pleasure, and the uncontrolled greed for worldly goods, that debase so much of modern life, and spur on the different classes of society to fight one another like enemies, instead of helping one another like friends. In this clash of selfish interest, and unleashed hate, and dark plans of revenge, nothing could be better or more powerful to help, than loudly to proclaim the ‘new commandment’ of Christ. That commandment enjoins a love which extends to all, knows no barriers nor national boundaries, excludes no race, excepts not even its own enemies” (Ad Catholici Sacerdotii, 1935), that is, it demands love of one’s enemies.
When Catholics fail to live a life in the Spirit, fail to live by the supreme law of love, all of society suffers. Now is the time for action. Such action is to take place in our homes, places of work, the sports fields and in the streets. Such action calls for all Christians to rededicate themselves to Jesus Christ, so to be armed with the weapons of charity, kindness, patience and mildness. Only such weapons as these, as used by faithful Christians, can begin to establish the order that will lead to peace.
Father Jason Rocks is currently in Rome at the Pontifical North American College for Advanced Studies.