WASHINGTON, D.C., Nov. 29, 2012 ( – An influential priest in the Archdiocese of Washington has warned that Christians are “pretty well set” for outright persecution in the wake of affronts to religious freedom like Obama’s HHS mandate and the forced closure of Catholic adoption agencies.

Msgr. Charles Pope, the pastor of Holy Comforter – St Cyprian Parish who runs a blog on the Archdiocese’s website, warned last month that Americans are much closer to persecution than many may realize.

“If current trends continue, Christians, especially religious leaders, may not be far from enduring heavy fines and jail,” he wrote.


Pope Benedict XVI’s nuncio to America had made similar warnings earlier in the month. In a Nov. 4th talk at the University of Notre Dame, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò said the persecution of Christians is a reality even in America, though it can present itself in forms that are not immediately obvious. The nuncio charged, in particular, that dissident Catholic professors and public officials represent a “grave” threat to religious liberty.

Msgr. Pope, in his blog post, offered an overview of the five stages of persecution recognized by social scientists. He says it is important for Christians to become familiar with them because “it would seem that things are going to get more difficult for the Church in the years ahead.”

The five stages, as he lists them, are: (1) Stereotyping the targeted group; (2) Vilifying the targeted group for alleged crimes or misconduct; (3) Marginalizing the targeted group’s role in society; (4) Criminalizing the targeted group or its works; (5) Persecuting the targeted group outright.

According to Msgr. Pope, the stereotyping stage began in the 1960s and 70s when Christians were “caricatured in the media as Bible thumpers, simpletons, as backwards, mentally simple, haters of science, hypocrites, self-righteous, old-fashioned and so forth.”

But, in his view, the culture has now reached stage 4 with the state beginning to “criminalize” Christian beliefs. “Stages one through four are pretty well in place. One may wish to whistle past the graveyard but it looks like we’re pretty well set for Stage V,” he writes.

The priest highlights President Obama’s HHS mandate, which forces employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, sterilizations, and contraception in their health insurance plans.

“But prior to this egregious attempt to violate our religious liberty there have been many other times we have had to go to court to fight for our rights to openly practice our faith,” he says. “Some jurisdictions have sought to compel Catholic hospitals and pro-life clinics to provide information or referrals for abortion, to provide ‘emergency contraception’.”

“Several branches of Catholic Charities have been de-certified from doing adoption work because they will not adopt children to gay couples,” he adds, among other examples. “Many of these attempts to criminalize the faith have been successfully rebuffed in the courts, but the frequency of lawsuits, and the time and cost involved with fighting them is a huge burden.”

“It is clear that attempts to criminalize Christian behavior is a growth sector in this culture and signals the beginnings and steady erosion of religious liberty,” he says.


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