The Rosary: Pray It in Public and Without Apology

COMMENTARY: Questions to consider in responding to The Atlantic magazine’s Rosary fiasco.

A pro-lifer prays the Rosary outside the Hope Clinic for Women abortion business in Granite City, Illinois, on June 25.
A pro-lifer prays the Rosary outside the Hope Clinic for Women abortion business in Granite City, Illinois, on June 25. (photo: ANGELA WEISS / AFP via Getty Images)

One of the most aggressive pro-abortion slogans is “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” People who talk like this believe they are building a good and decent society. No matter what they think, there is no doubt that the social-sexual regime they have in mind is very different from the society envisioned by longtime Catholic teaching on sexuality. These two worldviews cannot coexist. One will drive out the other.  

This all came to mind when I was reflecting on the ill-informed anti-Catholic article in The Atlantic. The title of this screed morphed from the original “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol” to the only-slightly-less inflammatory “How Extremist Gun Culture Is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary.” Now that the dust has settled on this polemic, I want to consider a couple of questions I have not seen addressed. Why are we Catholics seeing this type of blind hatred focused against us at this moment in history? And how should we, as faithful Catholics, respond?  

Why the attacks on a Catholic symbol? No doubt, the recent Dobbs decision, returning abortion regulation to the states, played an outsized role in triggering the hostility. Removing authority for abortion from constitutional federal regulation highlights the issues at stake. What kind of social-sexual system do we wish to live under? What are the rules that govern people’s decision-making about marriage, family and human sexuality?  

We are arguing about the rules of the game, so to speak. Rules affect everyone. The ancient teachings of the Catholic Church offer one set of rules. The sexual revolution offers another.  

The pro-abortion side is trying to create a social universe in which sex and babies are completely disconnected. Everyone, male and female alike, is entitled to have all the sex they want, without a live baby ever resulting. No one will have to give birth unless they want to. No one will have to commit to their sexual partner in raising a child unless they want to. This social scenario is wildly improbable. The widespread availability of contraception and abortion is the only situation under which this is even remotely plausible.  

A social-sexual regime committed to child-free, guilt-free, commitment-free sex creates many problems that cannot be alleviated by abortion or contraception. And so, we are required to believe many other half-truths. No one will ever get hurt feelings or feel empty or used. No one will ever have any physical complications from their sexual activity or their use of contraception or their abortions. No woman will ever become depressed after an abortion, and if she does, it’s her own fault. She must have been depressed in the first place.  

Contraception will never fail, and if it does, it is your fault because you didn’t use it correctly. If you decide to carry your child to term and raise the child alone, nothing bad will happen. You are strong and noble. Fathers are unnecessary. Kids are resilient.  

The contraceptive ideology is superficially appealing. But at bottom, it is a fantasy ideology. The world promised by the sexual revolution cannot be. The advocates of this fantasy have had enormous amounts of propaganda at their disposal. They’ve had the media, the universities and the professions working hand in glove to promote the ideology.  

Until the Dobbs decision, they had the complete backing of the legal structures of the United States government, the most powerful country in the world. And they still haven’t been able to deliver the promise and avert the problems.  

What is a sexual revolutionary to do? The dream fails to materialize. Problems crop up. People try to live the dream and get hurt in the process. The revolutionaries need someone to blame. They need a scapegoat.  

That, my brothers and sisters, would be us. If we crazy Catholics would just stop talking about abortion regret, no one would ever feel it. If we would just be more accepting of alternative lifestyles, no one would ever get broken hearts.  

If we would just be more accommodating of alternative family structures, the kids would be fine. The kids won’t miss their natural parents. They won’t mind if their mom brings home a string of new boyfriends. The kids won’t mind if their dad loses interest in them or never was interested in them in the first place. It’s all our fault, you see. We just need to stop talking about these things and get with the program and then everything would be fine.  

Please notice that we Catholics have been especially singled out for contempt and blame. I don’t see anyone vandalizing Protestant churches or trashing Orthodox religious objects, even though many members of those religious bodies share many of our pro-life views.  

No, we are the designated scapegoat in this critical historic moment. We would not have chosen this role, but we cannot honorably avoid it. We have an obligation to live up to it.  

There is no point in complaining about it. The most important point is to continue to witness to the truth. The truth is that the deliberate taking of an innocent human life is always wrong. The further truth is that Catholic sexual teaching is superior to the alternatives.  

The ancient teaching of our Church protects the legitimate interests of mothers and fathers having lifelong, stable relationships with each other and with their children. We must never miss an opportunity to state our position as often and as clearly as possible.  

And finally, we must not shrink from the Rosary. We must pray it in private and in public, in the streets and in our homes, in good times and in bad. The counterweight to “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” is “The Rosary, in Public and Without Apology.” The Mother of God will not let us down. If we are faithful to her and her Divine Son, they will bring good out of whatever mess we humans make.  

What we do in the post-Roe era matters. How we conduct ourselves will have consequences that will reverberate through generations. The future of our civilization depends on it. So does the eternal destiny of millions of immortal souls. Be not afraid! Say the Rosary, in public, without apology.