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March 19, 2012

The greatest threat to the Church is its own fears. We have nothing to fear from the powers of the world who, though they torture us, ban our worship and close our schools, can never harm the Church. The history of Christianity is replete with stories of persecution making the Church stronger.

This is not to suggest that the Church should cave in when governments want to restrict its rights. Those rights should be defended with the peaceful force of noble reason.

We need, however, to be careful what we do to ourselves when our rights and freedoms come under attack. In wartime, secular societies reduce the realm of free discussion and pull inside their tortoise shell in an all-out effort at self-protection. That's part of winning the war.

But Christianity is already victorious. Christ has won the final victory and all that is left is a mopping-up operation. We have no need to circle the wagons and reduce the realm of free discourse. To do so is existential suicide; it is a denial of who we are.

The Church is a great world-embracing institution. Its eyes are fixed on God above, but its doors and its windows are open to all that is good in the world. The Church is not a herd of muskox who, when threatened, withdraw into a stationary defensive circle.

The 20th century Catholic "apologist" G.K. Chesterton defended the Church by embracing the world. A convert, Chesterton came to the Church by discovering the truths about life and finally realized that the Catholic faith was the only thing large enough to accommodate those truths.

Chesterton's Catholicism was a rambling house with many rooms and not a few additions tacked on the sides and the rear. There was order, but there was also a certain chaos. For Chesterton, the secular world of work is run by know-it-all experts; the ordinary working stiff is the object of their plans and regulations. The working person comes into his or her full humanity by leaving work and coming home. Home is the realm of freedom and creativity.

The Church is, or ought to be, like home. It ought to be a place of high morality and true freedom. It tolerates, even embraces, Dad's bottle cap collection, Mom's smoking on the sly and the uncle who expounds bizarre conspiracy theories.

However, when the home is fearful of outsiders and intolerant of its own members, it becomes repressive. Its members will seek to escape its narrow confines.

The Church in Canada faces increasing criticism and even attack. Much of the criticism is justified. The attacks are the latest chapter in Satan's ongoing futile effort to kill the Church. The victory has been won, but the mopping-up operations will be delayed if we circle the wagons, withdraw into the muskox circle and tell that crazy uncle not to visit us again.

Letter to the Editor - 04/02/12