I want to first thank the whole HLI family for your prayers! I arrived in Gdansk, Poland last night after departing Bucharest. Before I get to some thoughts from this mission, I wanted to discuss something that is in the news —something that our friends here who survived Communism recognize and find alarming coming from the supposed cradle of freedom, the United States.
Many of you have heard that David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt of the Center for Medical Progress were charged by the State of California this week with 15 felony counts. It has been almost two years since their exposition of Planned Parenthood’s trafficking in the body parts of babies made headlines, and similar bogus charges against the pair have already been dismissed elsewhere. They are charged with recording “private” conversations that happened in public places, though the real goal is to punish and intimidate anyone who creates problems for the abortion industry. In this case, the state Attorney General who brought the charges has himself received campaign donations from Planned Parenthood, yet feels no need to recuse himself from the case.
We expect that the charges ultimately will not stand, both because they are baseless and because the same journalistic technique has actually been held up in California courts as legitimate. Indeed, even in California, the surreptitious recording of conversations in public areas led to prosecutions against some for animal abuse. To the party that runs the State of California, apparently pigs are more important than preborn human beings. We pray, however, for the peace and protection of David and Sandra, and we pray that this tactical overreach of the demonic profiteers of abortion and their political allies will backfire by bringing the story back into the news.
The people I’ve met here in post-Communist nations know exactly what is happening in this case, because they’ve seen it many times. That such blatant abuse of the courts even makes it this far in the American legal system, however, is what is concerning to many here in Eastern Europe. Using contrived charges in courts to punish and intimidate enemies of the State and its minions is old news in this part of the world. Yet, as then, it is a sign of desperation, and an opportunity for courage for those accused and all who stand with them against the slaughter of innocents.
On mission here I have heard a great deal about the heroes who opposed Communism and the governments corrupted by it, including many who did so at great personal cost, even death. In Hungary, Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty remains a popular and a heroic figure—a symbol both of strong faith and of patriotic resistance to Communist oppression.
To people inside and outside Hungary he personified the opposition, and he was imprisoned unjustly for his courage. He was accused of 40 crimes and tortured into offering a confession in February 1949, during what we would later call a “show trial.” In order to avoid making a martyr and hero, his oppressors sentenced him to life in prison rather than the death penalty for his supposed crimes of treason. He was temporarily freed during the 1956 uprising and then later placed under an extended house arrest at the Hungarian US embassy, spending his later years speaking out about the injustices suffered by Hungarian Catholics. Only sixteen years after his death was he allowed to return home, when his remains were returned following the fall of Communism.
In 2014, Pope Francis beatified Bishop Anton Durcovici of the Diocese of Iasi, Romania. Like Cardinal Mindszenty, Blessed Anton is fondly and reverently remembered by his countrymen for his courage and faith. He, too, was unjustly charged with supposed crimes and imprisoned by the Communists in 1949, where was tortured and starved, dying of malnutrition in December 1951. Knowing his importance to the Romanian people, he was buried silently in an unmarked grave, and records of his imprisonment were destroyed. Bishop Durcovici, a man of great learning (he held two doctorates) and faith, is the fourth Romanian bishop of this era to be beatified. The Communists knew who their main enemy was—and is—the Catholic Church and her most faithful shepherds.
Now that I’ve arrived in Poland I’m sure we will have many opportunities to reflect on the life of a certain Polish bishop who also stood up to the Communists, though he lived to see the evil ideology fall. Indeed, no other person on the planet was more instrumental to the collapse of Communism in Europe, though he knew well that the sacrifice of his brother and sisters in the faith all contributed to the collapse.
I bring this all up here for a few reasons. First, so that we see that the unjust legal actions against pro-lifers have precedents in an ideology that launched legal abortion and the destruction of the family. Though Soviet Communism was defeated, the core ideology is not dead; it has taken a different form. I don’t want to exaggerate the difficulties of our current situation: it would not be fair to Mr. Daleiden and Ms. Merritt to compare them personally to the martyrs of Communism in the 20th century, though it is certain that these modern rebel journalists have indeed shown great courage in opposition to a great evil. They remain free and have options in a legal system that is faltering but not yet that of mid-20th century Communist Hungary or Romania. But we can’t stand silently by while they are targeted, as the great pro-life warrior Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League and others were before them.
Second, do not for one minute buy into the sentimental drift toward Socialism that we are seeing in America. The Church’s condemnation of Socialism and Communism is clear, and we are foolish if we abandon our freedoms for some romanticized view of these ideologies that, once tried by us, would finally be just and fruitful for all.
Finally, we cannot underestimate the value of the witness of courageous bishops. A faithful and courageous bishop does not seek martyrdom with reckless abandon, nor does he run from it when a strong defense of Christ and His flock is called for. He knows the difference between a goodwill dialogue with political powers and the accommodation that over time neutralizes the Church as the State grows more powerful. He will not be afraid to stand up for the truth in love, even before martyrdom is the price to be paid, when the only risk is the esteem of the sophisticated elite. He knows that in this world Christ did not come to unite the world in some fuzzy indifference; He came as Love with the whole Truth, and taught that division is inevitable given the reality of human fallenness. All are called to the whole Truth, to real Love, and many will reject Him. As we have seen, entire societies are built on this rejection, and we see where they end up.
We cannot be grateful enough for our faithful and courageous shepherds, especially in these times. We must pray for them earnestly in every prayer we offer.
Again, I am also grateful for your prayers. Know that you are in mine as well.