Not persecution... yet

Fr Z comments on the "unhinged hate speech" found in an article on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation website. A tale of two battles is filled with the now customary collection of splenetic and spurious allegations against the Holy Father. However, Bob Ellis goes further than most.

He thinks that the Catholic Church should be outlawed, that the Pope is a "criminal mastermind", that the same tactics as have been applied in Afghanistan should be applied to the Catholic Church, and that we should "bomb the Vatican, and (going well beyond any current rules of engagement in Afghanistan) riddle the Pope with bullets as he staggers out of the flames."

I agree with those commentators who say "Hold on!" when there is talk of persecution. Having nasty articles written in the papers in not pleasant but it is not quite the same as having your limbs torn apart on the rack, being roasted on a gridiron, being eaten by lions, hanged drawn and quartered etc.

What is becoming clearer though, and quite plainly in this article, is that the media's feeding frenzy is encouraging those who would actively seek to reinstate the persecution of Catholics. Historically, persecution has always been preceded by a campaign to vilify the Church in the eyes of the public. When the assaults, torture and executions have happened, most ordinary people have been happy enough because they are convinced that the Catholics have brought bad luck by refusing to worship the Roman gods, have caused the Tiber to overflow, have been eating babies, have endangered the state, or have obstructed the advance of the master race.

In more recent persecutions, there have usually been some genuine nefarious deeds to appeal to, and these have often involved renegade priests who act as icons for the hysteria of persecution. Such was the case in France, Mexico, Spain, and Nazi Germany. In England, the authorities (and subsequent historians sympathetic to the myth generated by it) were desperate to implicate priests in the Gunpowder Plot. In any case, the fanaticism remained rooted enough in the collective memory to allow the madman Titus Oates to bring about a wave of executions later in the century.

It is an indication of the level of anti-Catholic hatred brewing up that a major media company should see fit to publish an article so transparently filled with hate as that of Bob Ellis.

And, by the way, riddling an unarmed and wounded civilian with bullets would be a war crime, I think.

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