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Libs Tremble Before The Rosary

The Atlantic's hysterical piece demonizing Catholic prayer beads is a harbinger of persecution
Libs Tremble Before The Rosary

In both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, today -- August 15 -- is the feast of the transition of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, into eternal life. Catholics call it the Assumption, because they believe she was "assumed" (taken up) into heaven at the end of her earthly days without tasting death; Orthodox call it the Dormition (falling asleep), because we Orthodox believe that she died, like every other human being. (A brief discussion explaining the theological distinctions between the Assumption and the Dormition can be found here; it has to do with the different ways the Christian East and the Christian West think of original sin). Both traditions share the belief that God took up to heaven the body of Mary, which is why there is no tomb for her anywhere in the world.

Here is the standard Orthodox icon for the Dormition. It shows Jesus Christ at the deathbed of His mother, receiving her body into His arms. The fact that Jesus receives her body indicates that she did, in fact, experience death, like all humans; you wouldn't see anything like that in a Catholic depiction of Holy Mary's transition into eternity:

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My son Matt left at 4:30 this morning for the airport, to return to Louisiana for his final year of undergraduate study. I was so sleepy that I slept right through Orthodox liturgy for the feast, so instead I went to a nearby church right after noon to pray this akathist (like a cross between a hymn and a litany) to the Virgin on this, the great feast of her falling asleep. I had the place all to myself, except for the occasional visitor who would come in to say a prayer.

Before I went to the church to pray, I had been re-reading a wonderful Orthodox book about St. Paisios the Athonite and spiritual warfare, titled, The Gurus, the Young Man, and the Elder Paisios. In it, the author talks about how he would visit the great elder on Mount Athos (St. Paisios is to the Christian East what St. Pio ("Padre Pio") of Pietrelcina is to the Christian West), and the elder once gave him a prayer rope and taught him to say the Jesus Prayer on it. The elder compared those prayers to firing "bullets" at the demons. It reminded me of how, when I was a Catholic, I would pray the rosary in the same spirit. Though I pray the Jesus Prayer on the chotki, or prayer rope, now, I recognize that the Rosary is a very powerful way of praying. I have experienced this myself on a number of occasions.

So when I read this hysterical anti-Catholic screen against the rosary in The Atlantic, the journal of middlebrow-elite liberalism (yes, there is such a thing as middlebrow elite), my first thought was not outrage, but satisfaction: Good, the enemies of God know what they're dealing with. But my second thought is that this is a remarkable escalation in the culture of hatred against Christians and Christianity that the Left is generating and perfecting. It is impossible to imagine that a magazine of The Atlantic's stature would produce such a piece condemning a venerable prayer practice of any other religion. Here's how the magazine presents the piece on its website:

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But then they tweaked the headline after criticism:

I don't see a meaningful distinction, but I wanted to show that there was that change. I'd like to point out that The Atlantic's copy editors are so religiously ignorant that they refer to the rosary as a "sacrament." It's telling that you don't even have to have the most basic knowledge of Catholic theology to edit and approve a piece comparing the rosary to an AR-15.

The piece touches on how some fanatical right-wing Catholics have mixed rosary devotion with firearms culture, in a way that the author thinks crosses a line from metaphorical to literal. I wouldn't say he's entirely wrong there, but I would point out that the people who think this way are on the far fringes of Catholicism, and in no way represent the vast majority of Catholics who pray the rosary. But then, Daniel Panneton sees manifestations of the progressive's ideas of demonology every time he looks rightward. In this piece from May, Panneton, a self-described "public historian" (whatever that means), uncovered what he regards as the white-supremacist roots of Canada's pro-life movement. Ah ha! Scratch a Canadian Catholic who prays her rosary for the lives of the unborn, find a closet Klucker! So says Daniel Panneton, who also describes himself as a "hate researcher," and who back in February published a piece in the Globe & Mail accusing the protesting truckers of being in league with antisemites, Islamophobes, and, yep, white supremacists.

In his Atlantic piece, Panneton writes:

Catholics are taught to love and forgive their enemies, that to do otherwise is a sin. But the extremist understanding of spiritual warfare overrides that command. To do battle with Satan—whose influence in the world is, according to Catholic demonology, real and menacing—is to deploy violence for deliverance and redemption. The “battle beads” culture of spiritual warfare permits radical-traditional Catholics literally to demonize their political opponents and regard the use of armed force against them as sanctified. The sacramental rosary isn’t just a spiritual weapon but one that comes with physical ammunition.

Message to Atlantic-reading liberals and progressives: if you see a Catholic on the street praying a rosary, know that they are probably stockpiling guns back home, and that they will probably shoot you -- and gays, transgenders, Muslims, Jews, dwarves, two-spirits, vegans, foot fetishists, and anyone who qualifies as the Sacred Other in the left's pantheon.

OK, I'm exaggerating, but not by much. The uncomprehending hostility that North American elites, especially media elites, have for Christianity allows them to publish such a farrago of bigotry and foolishness, and think they are virtuous. Consider that in the Muslim world, beards are an outward sign of inward piety; the Muslim adviser at Penn told The New York Times in 2011 that generally speaking, the more conservative you are as a Muslim, the more likely you are to have a beard. This piece led a writer at the Middle East Forum, a site critical of Islam, to pen a piece explaining to people that "the Muslim beard bodes trouble."

I wonder what The Atlantic would say if a writer approached its editors and proposed writing a piece about how big beards on Muslim men are a tip-off that they might have terrorism in mind? Actually I don't wonder that at all. We know exactly what The Atlantic would say -- and they would be right to do so! Now, a longer, more thoughtful piece discussing how things like beards and prayer beads, which have long been a central part of religious traditions, have been weaponized in political or cultural struggle, would be understandable. That's not at all what the Panneton piece is. It's pure ignorant fear-mongering from a professional leftist who sees menace everywhere to his right. What he is doing, whether he realizes it or not, is catechizing people into knowing whom to hate, and to know that by seeing a sacred symbol of Catholics as possibly an indicator of violent terrorist potential. The innuendo is extreme: Panneton cites a Catholic retailer's selling of a replica of the World War I "Combat Rosary" the US Government issued to Catholic doughboys as a sinister sign.

The one to worry about is not Daniel Panneton. There will always be ideologues selling anti-Christian, anti-Catholic polemics. The one to be concerned about is The Atlantic magazine, which by publishing such a sloppy and hysterical propaganda piece, is preparing the ground for persecution. They may not know what they're doing, but the rest of us have no excuse not to.

In any case, if you are Catholic, you should take this as an inadvertent sign of respect. The enemy knows what's what. Do you? They're scared of the rosary. So pray it -- not to own the libs (though that might be a fun side effect), but to strengthen the forces of Good in the spiritual battle raging all around us.

UPDATE: A Catholic friend who is a catechist writes:

Rod, I’m just seeing your blog and began reading it.  I noticed a mistake on Catholic teaching at the beginning, so I temporarily stopped reading it to inform you of official Catholic magisterial teaching on whether Catholics are to believe that Mary died.
The Catholic teaching is silent on whether or not she actually died, but many, if not most, Catholic theologians believe she did actually die.  The Catechism states, in pertinent part, the following in # 966: “…when the course of her earthly life was finished, was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory…”.  You’ll note how this official teaching dodges the issue of if she died.
I’ve copied for you a post by Jimmy Akin about the Assumption on today’s site for the National Catholic Register to confirm this.  Thanks for reporting on this story!

4) Does the dogma require us to believe that Mary died?

It is the common teaching that Mary did die. In his work, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Ludwig Ott lists this teaching as sententia communior (Latin, “the more common opinion”).

Although it is the common understanding of that Mary did die, and although her death is referred to in some of the sources Pius XII cited in Munificentissimus Deus, he deliberately refrained from defining this as a truth of the faith.John Paul II noted:

On 1 November 1950, in defining the dogma of the Assumption, Pius XII avoided using the term "resurrection" and did not take a position on the question of the Blessed Virgin’s death as a truth of faith.

The Bull Munificentissimus Deus limits itself to affirming the elevation of Mary’s body to heavenly glory, declaring this truth a "divinely revealed dogma."

Thanks for the clarification!

UPDATE.2: Wow, they took down the bullet-hole-rosary graphic:

Comments

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Daniel Hochberg
Daniel Hochberg
I read the Atlantic article. Inherently it would not be a problem if the average non-Christian had a way to contextualize it and understand that the movement being referenced is a tiny fringe compared to the overwhelming body of "average" Catholics, or Christians for that matter. A statement from the author to that effect in the article would have been helpful.

Unfortunately, as Rod notes, the article will just feed into the general fear and suspicion of things religious (especially Christian) that we now see coming from the liberal element. Looking at my Quora newsfeed the other day I saw many people commenting that they have no doubt the Christian Right would literally become the Taliban if given the opportunity (no doubt there is a tiny minority that would be happy to step into those shoes, and another band of not-yet-radicalized Christians who would become joiners of such a movement if it gained any traction). These readers just don't have enough context to understand where the extremists fit in the greater scheme.

As a caution against conflating Kingdom advancement with the natural (and mostly mistaken from a Christian standpoint) urge to defeat one's enemies politically and possibly violently it is a pretty though-provoking read.

Couldn't help but notice the many other pieces at the Atlantic that appeared pretty interesting when I pulled up their site. Always liked the Atlantic.
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JON FRAZIER
JON FRAZIER
The original legend on which the Assumption/Dormition is based (from the 5th century I think) does state that Mary died, but that she did so willingly knowing that her time was up and she was called to the Lord. Supposedly Tolkien (a Catholic) based his tale of the Numenoreans, who, before their corruption by Sauron, would lie down and accept death when it was their time, on this legend. The notion that Mary did not in fact die appears to be a later innovation.

The Atlantic piece, which I saw yesterday, was eye-rollingly bad, mixing tales of crazy cultic Fundamentalists making idols of firearms with Catholics treasuring their rosaries. Someone actually got paid for that word salad?

And full disclosure: I own a rosary, given to me at my first communion in my Catholic childhood. No, I do not use it for prayer (there are criticisms of the rosary as a prayer means among strict Orthodox mystical practitioners), but I have kept it all these years for sentimental reasons. Maybe even I am a danger to the Republic?
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Giuseppe Scalas
Giuseppe Scalas
The people at the Atlantic are evil.
And I also begrudge them that I had to suppress a "Charlie Hebdo" feeling rising in my chest. It's mostly annoying.
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    JON FRAZIER
    JON FRAZIER
    Uh oh, sounds like you loaded up on broad tar brushes Giuseppe! The Atlantic occasionally publishes a piece redolent of a whole barnyard full of taurine byproduct, but calling everyone at the magazine evil is way over the top.
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      Michael Campbell
      Michael Campbell
      Yeah, the Atlantic has a pretty wide range of viewpoints as far as US media publications are concerned and some really pretty thoughtful takes from time to time. I discard some writers and sites almost out of hand, but that's not the case with them.
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Theresa E Carpinelli
Theresa E Carpinelli
“ A brief discussion explaining the theological distinctions between the Assumption and the Dormition can be found here; it has to do with the different ways the Christian East and the Christian West think of original sin”

I have yet to read an Orthodox explanation of what Catholics believe about original sin that doesn’t completely misrepresent the Catholic belief - and the article you linked to is no exception. Wouldn’t it be more fair to let a knowledgeable Catholic explain their Church’s teaching, rather than the usual Orthodox misrepresentation? (I’m not saying it’s deliberate, but it is, objectively, a misrepresentation). I’m glad that a Catholic catechist addressed the mistaken notion of what Catholics believe about Mary’s Assumption - the Catholic Church has never definitively defined whether she died or not. We are free to hold either belief, although I believe that most Catholics, including this one, believe she died.

Your linked article admits that the Catholic Church leaves the question open, but argues it’s because the CC “tries not to even think of the ‘death of Mary’” - as though saying she died would put us in “conflict” with her Immaculate Conception. The IC is yet another dogma of the Catholic Church misunderstood by most Orthodox.

In a nutshell, the Catholic Church does NOT hold that God holds Adam’s children “guilty” of Adam’s person, actual sin - that would be unjust in the extreme, and God is not unjust. The Catholic Church teaches that Adam and Eve were created in a state we call “Original Justice” - IOW, they were gifted with supernatural graces that elevated their human nature to a higher “preternatural” state. Their desires were in perfect harmony with, and ordered by their right reason, so they didn’t suffer from disordered desires. And because their human nature was elevated, they very likely would not have died, or suffered from human diseases. When they sinned, they lost these gifts; they were “disgraced” - and so what we inherit is not some “guilt” for their personal sin, but rather, a purely natural state lacking in Divine Grace, suffering from concupiscence and natural disease and death. If we could graph the preternatural state of Adam and Eve’s creation on a bar graph, they were created at +1, fell to Zero after sinning, and that’s where we are conceived. At zero, NOT at -1 (that is, not “totally deprived”). It’s like a man who has inherited billions of dollars from his father, loses it all in a card game, so his children inherit his new state of poverty. Baptism restores that lost sanctifying grace to us (though not all the preternatural gifts Adam was given), which is why we must be Baptized.

Mary, the “New Eve”, was, like the old Eve was created, was conceived with the fullness of God’s grace. So was Christ, the “New Adam”, because He is God and is Grace Itself. God started with a whole “New Creation” - but unlike the old Adam and Eve, the New Adam and Eve didn’t sin. Mary didn’t HAVE to die, anymore than she (or Christ) had to perform acts of ritual purity, but they freely chose to. So if Mary died, it’s because she chose to, just as her Son chose to.

Original sin then is defined simply as the LACK OF Divine Grace. Mary was never lacking in Divine Grace - from the moment of her conception she was graced with the fullness of God’s grace - a free gift from God. We are conceived and born lacking Grace - but Baptism restores that, (a free gift) - though we still suffer from concupiscence and natural disease and death.

That’s why there’s no “conflict” between Catholic’s beliefs regarding original sin, the IC, and Mary’s “dormition.”
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    JON FRAZIER
    JON FRAZIER
    Bear in mind that Rod used to be Catholic (as did I) so mistaken or not he is not just parroting what the Orthodox say about Catholics.
    And this is very awkward: "Mary didn’t HAVE to die ... but they freely chose to." It makes it sound like suicide. Better to say "God called Mary to Heaven and she heard his call and accepted".
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      Giuseppe Scalas
      Giuseppe Scalas
      Quite interestingly, Tolkien addresses this element of Marian theology with the death of Aragorn.
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      Giuseppe Scalas
      Giuseppe Scalas
      Sorry Jon, didn't read your comment above and repeated your point.
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      Theresa E Carpinelli
      Theresa E Carpinelli
      “Better to say ‘God called Mary to Heaven and she heard his call and accepted’".

      How does saying this affirm the belief that Mary died first? It doesn’t. Catholics are free to believe that God “called Mary to Heaven” while she was still alive, she accepted, and was thus “assumed” - by God - body and soul into Heaven.

      I don’t agree that saying Mary didn’t HAVE to die, but freely chose to accept death before being assumed into Heaven “sounds like suicide,” if taken in context with my larger point, which was that both Mary and Christ, the “New Adam and Eve,” were conceived without original sin, (which is a purely natural state lacking the fullness of supernatural grace), and were thus able to transcend our purely natural state, (which is subject to disease and death). Neither Christ nor Mary were subject to death, He because He is the Incarnate God, Grace Itself (His Divine Nature Hypostatically United to His human nature), and she because by the merits of Her Son’s Passion and Death, was endowed with the fullness of Grace (which Catholics define as God’s own Divine Life in us).

      Thus, saying Mary didn’t HAVE to die affirms our belief that she was conceived without original sin, (just as Adam and Eve were, before they sinned), and saying she freely chose to die no more “sounds like suicide” than saying that Christ freely choosing to die an ignominious death on the cross “sound like suicide.”
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        JON FRAZIER
        JON FRAZIER
        I should make it clear that I am following the legend, from late antiquity, on which the Orthodox base their teaching (I do not say "dogma" because this is not a official dogma of Orthodoxy). In this tale Mary, knowing it was time to depart from this world, returned to Jerusalem and sent word to the Apostles, all of whom except Thomas attended her at her passing, and afterwards she was entombed. When Thomas arrived a bit later the other Apostles took him to the tomb to pray, but they found it open and empty, like Christ's. The Mother of God then appeared to them declaring that she had known the resurrection of the body and had joined Christ in Heaven where she would pray unceasingly for the Church.
        I do not insist on the literal truth of this legend-- neither does the Orthodox Church-- but it does point to what was believed in a remote era of the Church.
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          Theresa E Carpinelli
          Theresa E Carpinelli
          I’m familiar with this [what I call] “small ‘t’ tradition” (as opposed the Sacred Apostolic Tradition) - and find it very beautiful. In fact, it’s my respect for such traditions that has influenced me in my choice to believe that Mary died before being assumed into Heaven.

          It’s my belief that the Catholic Church has never defined definitively whether Mary died or not precisely because their is no Sacred Apostolic Tradition that tells us she did or didn’t. This is in contrast to the claim in the article Rod linked to that says “In defining the doctrine of the Assumption, Pope Pius XII actually left open the question of whether Mary actually “died” or not. In a sense, he was constrained by the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception to do so.”

          There is no conflict between our dogma of the IC, and Mary’s dormition. I’ve tried to explain why that is, but if nothing else, at least [I hope] we’ve cleared up the notion that Catholics don’t believe Mary died. Many do, including myself.

          Thank you for your input, and for posting that beautiful “tradition” regarding Mary’s death and resurrection.
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    ROBERT GRANO
    ROBERT GRANO
    I do not think it's necessary to point out some conflict between the Catholic idea of original sin and the later Marian dogmas. It's enough to say that the East does not accept the Latin understanding of original sin, therefore to the Orthodox the later Marian dogmas are not so much wrong as they are unnecessary.

    The Catholic understanding of these things is rooted in the thought of Augustine. Therefore the best thing to do to get a handle on how these differences developed both East and West is to read the history of the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies, for that's where much of the foundation of these issues was hammered out.
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      Theresa E Carpinelli
      Theresa E Carpinelli
      “ It's enough to say that the East does not accept the Latin understanding of original sin,”

      It’s not enough. As I’ve already stated, everything I’ve ever read - from the Orthodox themselves - “explaining” the “Latin understanding of original sin” demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of such. So, no wonder they don’t accept it - I wouldn’t either because it’s flat out wrong.
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        ROBERT GRANO
        ROBERT GRANO
        So are you saying that there's no difference between E and W on original sin, or that if the East knew what the West *really* taught they'd accept it?
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          Theresa E Carpinelli
          Theresa E Carpinelli
          No, I would never presume to be able to articulate the East’s beliefs on OS, even though I’ve read numerous explanations by Orthodox theologians. My point is that whenever I read these explanations, which then attempt to compare and contrast their belief against the “Catholic” belief, they invariably get the Catholic belief wrong.

          So why not let the East speak for itself, and let the West speak for itself?
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Damon Gardenhire
Damon Gardenhire
I guess I'm a rosary extremist and didn't know it. I prayed the rosary this afternoon. Someone alert the Southern Poverty Law Center!
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