“Because we have the truth”
This was the reply of the late Otto von Habsburg (1912-2011) when asked the question of why he was so convinced Europe would once again return to Christianity. The inquiry was in the context of Europe’s continuing secularization on the one hand, and non-Christian immigration on the other.
The interviewer, an instructor at Thomas More College, was surprised by the would-be Emperor of Austria’s confidence:
“The manner of his response made a deep impression on me. It was sovereign and serene, and filled with a glowing, inspiring hope—a hope anchored in an unwavering faith in Christ and His Church.”
Otto enthusiastically supported the EU as a Member of Parliament and of the concept of a politically unified Europe. But his understanding of the force underlying that unity was a spiritual one. According to the professor, “He knew that the future of European and western civilization lay in its Christian past and identity.” I wish I knew in what manner the Emperor (he still was to many Austrians) thought that this would come to pass.
I came across a similar vision by Fr. Jay Scott Newman. In a 2014 lecture he recently re-posted on his blog, he suggested that the intensifying secularization of the West is actually bringing it closer to its re-evangelization. The conservative priest actually embraces the imposition of laws that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching:
“I welcome the arrival of same sex marriage in the United States as a harbinger of the time when the boundaries between the Church and the world can be clarified, especially for us, by the disappearance of the last vestiges of cultural Christianity. …Let pagans once again be pagans so that Christians can once again be Christians proclaiming Jesus Christ in a world where he is no longer or not yet known and loved.”
(I’m not exactly sure what he means by “cultural Christianity”, but I suppose it’s what we have). Fr. Newman thinks the Church will eventually be whittled down to a smaller, but more spirit-led, body of faithful Christians that will offer the morally-bankrupt secular world an appealing alternative. While there is undoubtedly a threat to the Church from the growing number of legal decisions that are contrary to natural law; people are being fired, fined, or put out of business for being true to their faith, but he never mentions the logical next step, which was obvious by 2014—persecution. It had been on the increase for years.
Using St. Hildegard’s eschatology as a guide, what soon will change the direction and spiritual character of the Church is physical persecution. When the price to pay for attending mass with your family is a barrage of rocks with police refusing to intervene, many will abandon the Church. It will go from rocks to Molotov cocktails, then to suicide belts. Radical progressives will look on with schadenfreude as authorities are either incapable or unwilling to stop the oppressors.
She refers to what will happen to Christians in the coming era as a punishment of the Church for her sins (Scivias, Book III, Vision 11, Chapter 13). She does not state how long the persecution will last but declares that when it comes to an end and the Church will be “perfected in fortitude.” I suspect that it will be similar to the fate of Christian communities during the “Arab Spring”. As civil order crumbled, jihadists took advantage to try to eradicate the defenseless Christians.
Civil society will soon break down. Fr. Newman is referring to the present era, which Hildegard describes as a time when the leaders conspire to enact laws that “infringe the divine law”. But there is a new era on the horizon that will be marked by a disregard for laws, unrelenting social unrest, and even civil war; but this too, will end.
Perhaps this is when the surviving Hapsburgs will see what Crown Prince Otto foresaw, a revival of Latin Christendom in a spiritually unified Europe.