A Beautiful Graveyard
The faith is experiencing a renaissance, with a growing number of vocations in the United States, and a flood of converts coming from Africa and parts of Asia.
But before we proclaim that the new springtime of the faith the Pope John Paul II expects has actually arrived, it should be pointed out that there is at least one place where the faith is in a stasis: Europe.
A summer Newsweek poll found that 39% of the French say they have no religion, and only 56% of the English believe in a personal God. In some countries, such as the Czech Republic, Sunday observance barely reaches 3%.
Now more than ever, Europe is the “beautiful graveyard” that Dostoevsky termed it. Europe's landscape is filled with magnificent churches, but the churches are mostly empty. And in Holland some of them have been sold and are being used as mosques. The new Synod of Europe's bishops has even called the situation there a kind of apostasy.
This should give Americans great pause, because the current state of Europe's faith is by no means unthinkable here. The causes for the decline are complicated and many. But at the root is the separation of faith and daily living that has afflicted Europe, first through iron-fisted ideologies like Nazism and Communism, then through a silent surrender to relativism, rationalism and materialism.
Americans, too, have driven faith out of the public square: It is illegal, for instance, for the Christians who died at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., to be remembered as Christians in the school's memorial. And Catholics are not guiltless. How many of us feel that it is somehow inappropriate for God to be mentioned at public schools, or at public meetings, or in our workplaces? If he were real, and important, how could he be “inappropriate”?
Pope John Paul II said that the Jubilee year 2000 will inaugurate a “new springtime of the faith” but only if we are “docile” to the Holy Spirit.
It is tempting to want to hold God at arm's length for the time being, hoping that some day soon he will be popular again, and less embarrassing to acknowledge.
If we simply wait for that day, it will never come. We have to pray for it, and prove our faith with action.
In our Oct. 10 issue, the Register reported on the frightening “therapeutic abortion” practice. In one Chicago area hospital, according to a nurse who still works there, the practice goes like this: labor is induced, a child is born, given minimal “comfort care” and then starved or suffocated. Abortion foes have argued for years that infanticide would surely follow abortion, and here — as in the partial-birth abortion procedure — it clearly has.
This scandal should send alarm bells to two groups: first, to the pro-life movement and, second, to Catholic hospitals
Our reporter tells us that the existence of the practice at more than one hospital has been common knowledge in pro-life circles since at least last May, when the nurse first came forward.
But the public at large doesn't know anything about it. Newspapers in Chicago did report the story in late September, but then quickly dropped it. When about 300 protesters gathered on Oct. 2 —in pouring rain and 40 degree temperatures —none of the major television networks deemed their denunciation of it newsworthy.
Certainly, this has more to do with those who work in the media than anyone else: Surveys report that news professionals are overwhelmingly pro-choice. They aren't terribly interested in broadcasting news that casts the abortion industry in a bad light. But this should cause pro-lifers to be more, not less, creative in finding ways to make sure the story gets out.
A second group should see a warning here as well: Catholic hospitals. The abortions took place in “Christ Hospital” which is at least nominally associated with two Christian denominations: the United Church of Christ and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. Both these denominations have taken an abortion-friendly stance on life issues recently. But they were not always that way.
Catholic hospitals must carefully avoid the slippery slope that leads from small infractions against teachings on life to horror's like Christ Hospital's. Once the principle of the inviolability of human life is ceded, the consequences of an anti-life ethic quickly follow.
Register correspondent Bob Horwath tells us that the most frightening banner at the protest he covered was not held by a pro-lifer, but an advertisement the hospital hung from its own wall. It announced to Oak Lawn residents that Christ Hospital is one of the top 100 hospitals in the country, and is “Right in your own backyard.”
He said it reminded him that children are being born only to be killed, in Christ Hospital, right in our own backyards.
- October 17-23, 1999