|Saint Paul the Apostle|
Father George Rutler’s essay in crisismagazine.com (July 13), entitled. “Post-Comfortable Christianity.” Father Rutler is the well-known pastor of the Church of Our Savior in New York City. He is a man of many, many talents, a witty and insightful lecturer, often on EWTN. With his Scot origin, he has been known to appear in the kilt version of the Roman Collar at the Highland Games. Rutler is a convert Episcopal priest who speaks the King’s English, speaks it well and clearly. The title, “Post-Comfortable Christianity,” Rutler explains, is not used in place of “Post-Christian,” since “nothing can come after Christ,” a profound theological observation in itself. We have lived as Catholics in relative peace in recent times. We think we belong and are accepted by this culture. Indeed, we have sometimes bought an easy version of our faith that requires little sacrifice and no Cross. We have not had to worry, or so we thought, about ourselves being discriminated against or persecuted. Such despicable activities were, we thought, against the law. They were events that happened “elsewhere.” We never thought that our law could itself be “against the law.” The Third Millennium began with fireworks and Ferris wheels, Rutler commented, but is now “entering a sinister stage.” We have not anticipated that so many Catholics, often public leaders, when it came to a choice between God and Caesar, would opt for Caesar in his worst form.
Rutler introduces his comments by recalling Father Bernard Bassett, S. J., on his death-bed. He told Rutler that, if he (Bassett) had to do life over, all he would do is read St. Paul. Rutler quips that for most of us “God gave us the Apostle of the Gentiles in order to have second readings at Sunday Mass, usually unrelated to the first reading and the Gospel.”
But here Rutler is initially concerned with Paul’s encounters with Roman procurators, who were often enough decent men, stronger, it always seemed to me, than Pilate, one of their predecessors. Paul dealt with Antonius Felix, Procius Festus, and Junius Gallio; he handled those men shrewdly. They often protected him. How often in Christian literature, however, are we warned about what to say before “judges and governors?” Paul himself, when necessary, had no hesitation to appeal for protection to Caesar, to the Roman law, as was his by right of birth. But Nero, Decius, Marcus Aurelius, and Diocletian represented the same law that did not always protect Christians
However, today, Rutler remarks, “the Christian veneer of American culture has cracked and underneath is the inverse of the blithe Christianity that took shape in the various enthusiasms of the nineteenth century and ended when voters were under the impression that they finally had a Catholic president.” “Blithe Christianity” is an amusing term.
Yet, it is this “inverse” and “sinister” turn that Rutler is concerned to describe. Rutler applauds the effort of our bishops to deal with religious liberty, which is “now facing unprecedented assault.” How few citizens, however, recognize this assault for what it is! Rutler suggests that the November election “will either give Christians one last chance to rally, or it will be the last free election in our nation.” These are stark words—“the last free election in our nation.” We do not want to face this real possibility.