Skip to comments.Irelandís Pro-Life Movement Can Find Hope in the Story of Roman Christians
Posted on 06/01/2018 9:55:58 AM PDT by SeekAndFind
Sometimes an ostensibly crushing defeat turns out to be the seed of a mighty regrowth. Vatican City In about a.d. 64, legend has it, Emperor Nero started a fire in Rome to raze the land and clear room for monuments in his honor. In the aftermath of the fire, which killed thousands of his own people, Nero blamed the early Christians, already a suspect and unpopular group.
During the subsequent persecution, historical accounts suggest, as many as 7,000 Christians died as martyrs in the Circus of Nero some covered in animal skins and thrown to wild dogs, others doused in fuel and set on fire to light the night for the emperors parties. Others died like their Christ, crucified.
One man in particular met this last fate, but with a twist: He refused to be crucified right side up, because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as his Savior. He was crucified upside down. That man was Peter, the first pope, the apostle to whom Jesus entrusted his Church.
For many Catholics, the story ends there. But for the early Christians, Peters martyrdom was just the beginning. In recent decades, it has become clear that Peter was most likely taken down from the cross by his flock in Rome and buried in a paupers grave on the side of a nearby hill. Early Christians continued to visit in secret and pray for his intercession while their faith remained illegal.
In the middle of the 20th century, a set of bones was discovered under St. Peters Basilica in Rome, and, according to the best archaeological evidence, it appears most likely that they belong to Peter. For these last 2,000 years, the center of the Catholic Church has been built on the remains of the man whom Catholics view as the rock and foundation of their faith.
As the global pro-life community reels from the loss in last weeks Irish referendum on the Eighth Amendment, which had protected unborn human life with a prohibition on abortion, the story of Peter and the early Roman Christians should infuse Irish Catholics and discouraged pro-lifers in the Western world with a great deal of hope.
These early Christian stories teach the pro-life movement that ostensibly crushing defeat could very well be the seed from which a movement derives its strength depending on how it handles that adversity. Because of the courage of early Christians, the brutal martyrdom of Peter furnished the entire history of Christian worship in the city of Rome, still the seat of Catholicism. The pagan historian Tertullian was speaking quite literally when he wrote that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church.
In the case of Ireland, the blood being shed isnt that of 21st-century pro-life people, but that of the unborn. And while Catholics wont be lit on fire in arenas for opposing abortion, the light of the early Christian martyrs can turn this defeat into an opportunity for the Irish Church to revive itself and renew its commitment to the dignity of innocent human life.
Sadly, this vote has made clear that the dire situation is compounded by many Irish peoples estrangement from their inherited Catholicism. According to exit polls, more than two-thirds of those who voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment identified as practicing Catholics. Though a further breakdown reveals that many of those who consider themselves practicing rarely attend church, a full 15 percent of those who voted for repeal reported attending church every week.
In another astonishing indication of how deep this problem goes, the Catholic bishops in Ireland played only a bit part during the ongoing debate, and some observers suggested that, if they had taken a bigger role, it might have been detrimental to the pro-life side.And although our own Nicholas Frankovich is probably correct that Pope Franciss silence on the referendum was in keeping with papal precedent, it seems strange that a pope so vocal about human-rights controversies and one who hasnt been shy about expressing the Churchs pro-life stance in the past wouldnt comment on this grave matter in a country as historically Catholic as Ireland.
The challenge to the Church, then, comes from both within and without. In response, pro-life people in Ireland should take courage from the lives of the saints, even as nominal Catholics can be reminded by the martyrs of Christianitys eternal value. During times of external persecution, normal Christians were forced to decide whether their faith was worth dying for nothing clarifies the mind quite like the point of a sword.
When they decided to die like Peter rather than apostatize, they fueled generations of faith.
Catholics who visit Rome understand their Church in a new way when they see the juxtaposition between the citys history of gruesome persecutions and centuries of Catholic architecture, art, and influence. Far from destroying the early Church, Peters martyrdom here on Vatican Hill established Rome as the Churchs earthly home, where it has amassed immense cultural capital over the ensuing centuries. That was possible precisely because Catholicism flourishes with uniquely powerful zeal under persecution.
For the Irish, the most obvious example of this took place during the fifth century, when Saint Patrick, a young Roman citizen, was captured by Irish pirates and enslaved for six years on the Emerald Isle. After he escaped and became a bishop, Patrick chose to return to Ireland, despite the threat of martyrdom, and converted thousands (according to most accounts) to Christianity from the local Celtic polytheism. Historians trace the long history of Irish Catholicism directly to his missionary work.
This reality should energize the pro-life movement, especially after the significant blow of the Irish referendum. The movement has faced days grimmer than the morning that dawned last Saturday in Ireland. And, in the case of the Church, the very grimmest days fueled its future victories.
> Sometimes an ostensibly crushing defeat turns out to be the seed of a mighty regrowth. <
And sometimes a crushing defeat marks the beginning of the end.
Western Europe today: mainly Christian
Western Europe 100 years from now: ?
Western Europe today is NOT mainly Christian....no longer is that true. The USA is beset with the same illness. However, if one looks carefully with spiritual eyes, one can see the seeds of new and renewed conversion beginning. There is a great battle being fought between the real believers and the anti-believers....between the Church and the anti-Church.
Europe will be dead within 50 years. Will the USA have to do something AGAIN? Having a Islamic Caliphate Axis across the ocean is a little disturbing. Will America have to actually fight other European countries?
Jesus used the name Gehenna as the name of Hell.
It is a real place, the desert plain where in ancient days, re-paganized Jews would murder and burn their unwanted children in human sacrifice to Moloch.
Jesus defined Hell as killing unwanted children.
We (USA) got there 45 years ago, in 1973. Ireland has just arrived.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.