(LifeSiteNews) — Some of us may know people from communist countries, warning that America is becoming communist itself. And yet, we may think to ourselves that America is not at all like China, or even wonder what communism even is.
Joining me today on this episode of The John-Henry Westen Show is Kristen Van Uden, author of a book set for release in November called When the Sickle Swings: Stories of Catholics Who Survived Communist Oppression. We discuss how communism attacks the Catholic Church and what Catholics should do in the face of communist regimes.
Van Uden tells me that she’s had an “obsession” with communism her whole life, and that she started writing the book while majoring in history and Russian studies in college. She took an interest in the stories of Catholics who survived communism, stories that to her seem “quite neglected.”
Defining communism, she says that it is a “political and economic system that really is a full ideology.” According to her, the ideology of communism takes on the character of a religion – one completely antithetical to the Catholic worldview by rejecting the existence of God and promising a utopia on earth, inverting Catholic cosmology on its head.
Van Uden maintains that the implementation of communism in the West is “going to be hard to resist” because the approach our leaders have taken is “much softer and more vague” since “we’ve caught on,” and says that communism in the U.S. government goes back to President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration.
Describing communism’s usual attacks against the Catholic Church, she says that it attempts to shut down public worship, round up clergy and religious, seize Church property, spread propaganda, and infiltrate the Church. While we have yet to see the seizure of Church property, she points to the COVID lockdowns as a potential example of the first, and the attempt to cancel Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, as a potential example of the second.
Citing the work of Father Vincent Miceli, she also explains that because man has a natural religious instinct, atheism is really a form of idolatry. Applying Fr. Miceli’s point to communism, Van Uden tells me that communism has taken the place of a religion and that communist regimes tend to replace crucifixes with pictures of dictators, uses “ritualized experiences,” imposes a new calendar, and produces its own style of literature, all as part of the regime’s propaganda.
She also explains that there is a fine line between religious persecution of the Catholic Church and political persecution, since the Church is often seen as a “wrecker,” or as “counter-revolutionary,” especially because of the sovereignty of the Vatican City State. Both are political charges, though both are leveled against those acting out of religious conviction.
She describes the persecution as either actual martyrdom or through “small ways,” such as forbidding people from going to church, or making it harder to get an education or job. “When this sickle is swung, this is actually the means of our salvation, because we know we have to carry a cross,” Van Uden observes. “Many people that I interviewed… sometimes even became grateful for these trials because their faith was purified and is much more intense.”
She cites the advice she received from interviewees she spoke with for her book on what to do in the face of communist persecution of the Church.
“The main takeaway that I took from all of this advice was that your first priority is to save your own soul and to save the souls of those around you, to preach the faith as much as possible, because we can often get caught up… in fighting this political battle and defeating communism as a whole,” she tells me. “If you loose your soul in the process, then all of that was for naught.”
Later in the interview, we discuss the role of communism in the Church today and the problem of infiltration.
According to Van Uden, the issue varies. While in Czechoslovakia, there was an underground Church distinct from a state-run national Church, whose clergy were known to turn in penitents to the state. Whereas in Latin America, with the rise of liberation theology, it was more difficult to discern the difference between a national and faithful Church.
While the laity, Van Uden contends, “have a lot more pressure” to discern the true from the false, she is sure that God, if asked, will grant us the grace to follow Him. “If you pray for discernment, and the Holy Spirit will guide you, this is something that we can… distinguish between,” she explains. “Of course, with the proper respect for authority, that always must be there, [but] we do have that built in aboriginal law, as… John Henry Newman said.”
It is also available in audio format on platforms such as Spotify, Soundcloud, and Acast. We are awaiting approval for iTunes and Google Play as well. To subscribe to the audio version on various channels, visit the Acast webpage here.
We’ve created a special email list for the show so that we can notify you every week when we post a new episode. Please sign up now by clicking here. You can also subscribe to the YouTube channel, and you’ll be notified by YouTube when there is new content.
You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].