Church of Silence
most spiritual leaders and moral teachers, Jesus of Nazareth offered
no formula for worldly happiness and social order. Just the opposite:
he told his disciples to take up their crosses (an image he used
well before the Crucifixion) and to expect suffering. He warned
them that the world would hate them as it hated Him: it was their
destiny as Christians.
the conversion of the Roman world under the Emperor Constantine,
a Christian civilization arose and the age of martyrdom seemed to
be over. Most Western Christians still think of that period as a
thing of the past, a venerable but remote phase of their history.
the most intense persecution of Christianity occurred not in the
Roman Empire, but in the twentieth century, especially in the Communist
world. A large part of this story, hidden and ignored, is told in
a new book by Robert Royal, The
Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century (Crossroad Publishing).
is hard to tabulate or even estimate the number of Catholics and
other Christians murdered by modern tyrannies. The figure certainly
runs into the tens of millions, though it isnít always easy to distinguish
between those killed specifically for their religion and those killed
for other reasons, ethnic and social. But contrary to recent slanders,
the Nazis as well as the Communists regarded the Catholic Church
as their mortal enemy.
World War II, Communismís triumph in Catholic Central Europe the
bitter fruit of the Anglo-American alliance with the Soviet Union brought
ferocious assaults on Catholics. Yet, as Royal observes, surprisingly
few renounced their faith even in the face of torture and death.
measure of these Catholicsí courage is suggested by part of one
Jesuitís summary of the tortures they suffered in Albanian prison
of them were beaten on their bare feet with wooden clubs; the fleshy
part of the legs and buttocks were cut open, rock salt inserted
beneath the skin, and then sewn up again; their feet, placed in
boiling water until the flesh fell off, were then rubbed with salt;
their Achillesí tendons were pierced with hot wires. Some were hung
by their arms for three days without food; put in ice and icy water
until nearly frozen; had electrical wires placed in their ears,
nose, mouth, genitals, and anus; burning pine needles placed under
fingernails; forced to eat a kilo of salt and having water withheld
for 24 hours; boiled eggs put in their armpits; teeth pulled without
anaesthetic; tied behind vans and dragged; left in solitary confinement
without food or water until almost dead; forced to drink their own
urine and eat their own excrement; put in pits of excrement up to
their necks; put on a bed of nails and covered with heavy material;
put in nail-studded cages which were then rotated rapidly...."
Royal, a Dante scholar, remarks: "The sorrowful litany shows
an inventiveness in torture surpassing the punishments that Dante,
one of the great human imaginations of all time, displayed in writing
No less horrible than the sheer conception of these torments is
the fact that men were found who could be paid to inflict them without
the martyrs not only died willingly, but often died forgiving and
blessing their killers, in the very spirit of Christ. Royal recounts
similar stories amazing, sickening, inspiring from Russia, Ukraine,
Mexico, Spain, Germany, Poland, Lithuania, Romania, Latin America,
China, Korea, Vietnam, Africa, and elsewhere. Christís warnings
are still being borne out.
hasnít all this been told before? Itís not surprising that the liberal
Western media should ignore it; what is very surprising is that
American Catholics have ignored the plight of their brethren. But
prosperous American Catholics are a self-absorbed lot, too obsessed
with contraception and women priests to spare much thought for those
who are far worse off.
the brave Romanian Bishop Iuliu Hirtea put it before his death in
the 1970s: "It is not we who keep silence here. It is not we
who are the Church of Silence, but the members of the Church in
the free world who are the real Church of Silence, for they do not
speak on our behalf."
© 2000 by the Griffin Internet Syndicate. All rights reserved.