You can read more about what our mission and purpose, objectives, goals and beliefs in our website, but the ultimate mission is to form a community with common bonds to help us through the encroaching secularization around us and the impending upcoming restrictions on religious freedom that is coming to us disguised as Social Justice.
How should Catholics react to increasing restrictions on religious freedom? We can find inspiration by the way some unknown Catholics lived their faith under totalitarian regimes. I recently watched the movie A Hidden Life, a 2019 film by Terrence Malick, a great – though unnecessarily long – cinematic evocation of the inner drama of resisting totalitarianism as a clash of rival religions: Nazism and Catholicism.
The film is based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian Catholic farmer who refuses to serve in the Nazi army because he will not swear loyalty to Adolf Hitler. For him, doing so would be an act of idolatry. The Nazis sent Jägerstätter to prison and executed him in 1943 for his treason. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI beatified him as a martyr.
The film carries a lot of messages: about the inner struggles to follow one’s conviction, about the support of loved ones, and about the conformist reaction of fellow Catholics – even priests.
Jägerstätter suffers many indignities through his imprisonment but finds solace in the Gospels. His family, too, is ostracized in the little farming village where they live. Franz and his wife, Fani, are the only ones who both understand how evil Nazi totalitarianism is and are willing to suffer for bearing witness to their conviction.
His conscientious objection is not well received by the villagers, nearly all of whom – despite all also being Catholic – accept Nazism without protest. Some do so with enthusiasm. Others keep their private doubts to themselves for fear of reprisals. Even the parish priest tells Franz that it would be better for his wife and children if he just conformed.
Rod Dreher, in his latest book Live Not By Lies: A Manual For Christian DIssidents, relates many interviews with Catholics who lived under the Soviet regime, many of whom were sent to the gulags and suffered for their Catholicism.
These survivors share their experiences and express dismay at how passively Catholics in America are reacting to the soft totalitarianism rising here.
Dreher captures their advice as summarized by a priest as See, Judge, Act:
Father Tomislav Kolaković taught his disciples as the shadow of Soviet totalitarianism grew long over their land, seeing is only the first step. Think about what you see. Get together with others to talk about what you are all seeing. Analyze the facts and discern how your faith and your moral convictions should be applied concretely to the situation. Then act—while there is still time. As C. S. Lewis put it, the world is “enemy-occupied territory” for the Christian. “Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage.” The culture war is largely over—and we lost. The Grand March is, for the time being, a victory parade. But then, so were the May Day marches and pageants in all the cities and towns of the late Soviet Empire.
Through the stories shared by these Christians, we learn of how they did see, judge, and act. They counsel to form small communities who support each other in reading the gospel, praying, and continuing to live a Catholic life – live not by lies – but continue to live the truth.
The book gives many examples of Catholic resistance efforts that resonate with us:
Sir Roger Scruton, who helped Czech allies build the intellectual resistance, emphasizes the importance today of dissidents creating and committing to small groups—not just church communities, but clubs, singing groups, sports societies, and so forth. The point is to find something to draw you out of yourself, to discover your own worth in relation to others, and to learn how to accept the discipline that comes through accountability to others and a shared purpose. Indeed, Václav Benda, though a Christian, worked hard to bring his fellow Czechs of all creeds together for any purpose at all, if only to defy the fear and atomization that the totalitarian regime depended on to carry out its rule.
In our embryonic efforts, we seek to SEE by researching articles and organizations that promote or are against our Catholic beliefs; to JUDGE by analyzing the implications of new regulation and policies; and ACT by publishing rebuttals and critiques of these anti-Catholic articles, organizations, regulations, and policies.
Some of you may wonder why priests are not doing this instead. This question arose during Soviet rule as well. Many priests did rise, and many died. One of the lay leaders shares this advice:
Leaders of small groups must be willing and able to carry out catechetical, ministerial, and organizational roles normally performed by institutional church leaders who may be unable to do so under the law, or are too compromised in other ways to serve their proper function.
Here at CUP, we have taken the position to highlight those courageous priests, but also support those who are restricted, by being the voice in their parishes bringing the rebuttal to the secular alternative around us.
Will you join us?