December 6, 2021 (Edward J. Barr) – Recently a friend and I attended a Medical Freedom conference in a nearby town. The event brought together medical professionals and others concerned about the censorship and suppression of individual liberties that prevent citizens from following their conscience and personal health realities in making medical decisions. It was held at an evangelical church and speakers included a few Protestant pastors who in addition to medical freedom had issues with the abortion tainted nature of all COVID injections.
The Pastor that hosted the conference spoke about the freedoms that formed the United States, faith over fear, and the unity we must have when our liberties are at risk. His Church had never closed during the entire COVID “pandemic.” He felt it was critical to keep the doors open to those who needed spiritual support in stressful times. Everything he said was completely orthodox from a Catholic perspective. It was the “sermon” I wish I had heard at least once in a Catholic Church.
After several doctors and other health practitioners spoke another Protestant pastor came to the podium. He was with a group called the “Black Robe Regiment.” The snapshot of the group claimed it hearkened back to the Revolutionary War when certain pastors shed their black robes after preaching and entered the breach to fight for freedom. I was intrigued.
The Pastor had the stereotypical deep voice and high hair. He gave a robust recap of the exploits of some of the Protestant Pastors that he and his group hoped to emulate. Then he stated there was one thing that the Evangelical community needed to do – forcefully confront the scourge of abortion. He was singing our tune. Then he stated something really shocking. The Pastor said that the evangelicals needed to follow the efforts of the Catholic Church. So far so good. Then it happened. He asked, “Imagine if we all prayed in front of abortion clinics, bringing the blood of Jesus to stop this tragedy. All the Catholics do is pray the rosary, and what good can that do?” Instantly, our hearts were saddened. We were hurt and upset. The last sanctioned prejudice in the US – anti-Catholicism – reared its ugly head.
My friend and I looked at each other and shook our heads. Whatever he said after that statement evaded us. We knew this was an evangelical event; my friend had heard about it from an evangelical friend, and we only found one other Catholic in the audience of 300 people. It was evident that the Pastor didn’t know any of “us” were in attendance. While the rest of the conference was informative, we made sure to leave the room whenever another Pastor took to the microphone. While I was debating what other steps to take, my friend told me, “I have to talk to him.” I sensed trouble. It doesn’t go well when one of Mary’s girls hears an attack against the rosary.
I watched the Pastor for the rest of the afternoon, wondering (hoping?) that he would leave the conference early. No such luck. By the end of the day almost half of the people had departed. The final session was praise and worship. The moment the last song ended my friend grabbed my arm and said, “let’s go”. We walked to the front of the auditorium. The Pastor was amid about four or five other Protestant ministers. We approached him and asked to speak with him. He agreed. My friend told him that he had hurt us deeply when he insulted the rosary, that it was praying with Mary to our Lord, and that no one loves Mary more than her son. He stood there in silence, hoping we would go away quietly after blowing off some steam. When he said the rosary wasn’t biblical, we offered to meet with him to explain what it is and why Catholics practice the devotion. Then he uttered the words that made his arrogance and hostility make sense. “I know, I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school.” No surprise there. I told him that he wasn’t properly catechized, as I wasn’t when I went to Catholic school as a child. More importantly, we informed him that our county has no abortion clinics precisely because of faithful Catholics praying the rosary. While I was responding with my head, my friend resumed her impassioned defense of Mary from the heart. She told him that his statement caused division in the Body of Christ, that humility was the way to holiness, and that if he ever said that statement in public, he would be thrusting a knife into Catholics’ hearts.” The pastor then stated, “I don’t even know why I said it.” My friend continued. “It is because you are used to dismissing Catholics.” She then affirmed to him that we need to be in the Pro-life fight together. Then she looked him in the eye and pointed at him. “Pastor,” she said. “I forgive you.” He bowed his head in the first sign of humility that he had displayed throughout the conversation. The other ministers watched in silence.
We were both full of joy both as we walked up the aisle to the exit. “How did you know what to say?” I asked my friend. She smiled. “I didn’t. I didn’t have any idea of what I would say to defend Mary and the rosary. I just asked the Holy Spirit to guide me.” In our times of rampant secularism, it is often easier to go along to get along. The Church in America has done so well in Americanizing itself that its members believe just like most any other religious group. We need to be American Catholics instead of Catholic Americans. Anti-Catholic prejudice happens everywhere. Some Catholics believe some of the anti-Church propaganda, or don’t know the faith, and don’t want to defend the Church. Others hope that by silent witness they will change minds and hearts. Yet most people believe silence is consent. Lies against the Church must be confronted. How and when to do it is a matter of prudential judgement. We must be discerning when deciding what action to take in the face of attacks against Christ, His Church, and His mother. The best advice is, let the Holy Spirit guide you.
Edward J Barr is a Catechist, an attorney, an intelligence officer, a Marine, and a university faculty member. He earned a Master of Theology degree from the Augustine Institute. Mr. Barr is a contributing writer for the Roma Locuta Est blog (www.RomaLocutaEst.com)