Wednesday, as I attempted to link to several Vatican web pages in my “Contraception Inception Deception” blog post, I repeatedly received error messages that the site was unavailable. Little did I know that the Vatican was under attack. Cyber-attack, that is.
Catholic News Agency/EWTN reports that a loose-knit group of hackers known as “Anonymous” attacked and brought down the Vatican website on March 7.
According to an entry on the “Anonymous” Italy blog site, the attack was in response to the “doctrines, liturgies and the absurd and anachronistic precepts” that the Church spreads worldwide, citing the sexual abuse of children, and various historical and other alleged misdeeds. The hackers also objected to the Catholic stance against abortion and contraceptives.
It wasn’t their first attack.
In August 2011, Anonymous tried, unsuccessfully, to take down the World Youth Day website during the event. The hackers recruited others using YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. At the time, they similarly cited clergy sexual abuse and the practice of confession as their motives.
This February, the New York Times profiled the tactics of the hacktivist group known as “Anonymous,” and their attack on the Vatican.
According to that article, the group searched for vulnerabilities on a Vatican website and when that failed they enlisted amateur recruits to flood the site with traffic, hoping it would crash.
Imperva, a U.S.-based computer security firm, provided details of the 25-day attack in their report (which does not directly identify the Vatican as the target).
That attack, called “Operation Pharisee” was organized by hackers in South America and Mexico before spreading to other countries. It was timed to coincide with Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Madrid in August 2011 for World Youth Day. The hackers tried to take down the website created to handle registrations for the event.
Anonymous enlisted as many as a thousand people to download attack software, or directed them to custom-built Web sites that let them participate using their cellphones. Visiting a particular Web address caused the phones to instantly start flooding the target website with hundreds of data requests each second, with no special software required, the report says. The hactivists claimed that their efforts resulted in denial-of-service, slowed the web site’s performance, and made pages unavailable in several countries. Six of the hackers, including their ringleader, were indicted this Tuesday, the Times reported.
Read again the hackers’ motives for their attack: the “doctrines, liturgies, and… precepts” of the Church. The Church’s stance against abortion and contraceptives, and the practice of the Sacrament of Confession.
As I approach the 17th anniversary of my conversion to the Catholic Church, I am reminded of something I told my wife at the time. “If so many individuals, organizations and institutions are that opposed to the Church and her teachings, she must be right. She has existed and withstood them all for the past 2,000 years.”
It’s an idea which G.K. Chesterton illustrates in his book “The Thing.”
Chesterton says that “all roads lead to Rome.” Writes Chesterton, about his wrestling with the Church, “…the thing [thing meaning the Church] is pursued age after age by an unreasonable hatred that is perpetually changing its reason. …it led me at last to the only logical answer, which every fact of life now confirms; that the thing is hated, as nothing else is hated, simply because it is, in the exact sense of the popular phrase, like nothing on earth.”
Later, writes Chesteron, “A study of the true historical cases commonly shows us the spirit of the age going wrong, and the Catholics at least relatively going right. It is a mind surviving a hundred moods.”
“Anonymous” and its minions hate the Church. They think they know why, though most of the amateur hacktivists probably hate what they think the Church represents, rather than what it really represents – love, mercy, and forgiveness.
The forces of doom, of chaos, of destruction, and death are in full array against those of hope, of order, of creation, and life. The hacktivists, whether they recognize it or not, see that the Catholic Church is one of the few, and only, institutions left that opposes every perversion and soul-killing machination which the culture-at-large wants to shove down our throats.
“I set before you life and death blessings and curses,” Moses told the children of Israel. “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.”
Long has the Church stood against the purveyors of sin, chaos and death; long will she continue to stand. Just as Christ did before his accusers, the Church stands alone.