These last few days in Rome have been both difficult and edifying. As leaders come together for the Rome Life Forum and today’s March for Life, there is both a certain sense of urgency and a shared sense of faith and trust in Our Lord.
There is much to say here – far more than this space allows. So forgive me as I move much too quickly through a number of subjects whose unity I’d like to focus on today, even if we can’t get into the depth each deserves.
His Eminence Raymond Cardinal Burke made a stirring call yesterday for the consecration of the world, including Russia by name, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Mother of Our Lord. Faithful Catholics the world over recognize the formula as the one given by Our Lady of Fatima if the worst calamities were to be avoided. It was edifying to see the cardinal set aside the controversies over previous consecrations of the world, as these are a distraction and sometimes seem to have an ideological character. In truth, there is no controversy or ideological nature to doing the will of God, including the Holy Father’s renewing the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart, and naming Russia as specifically requested by Our Lady. Families renew their consecrations every year. These were never meant to be a “once and done” affair, but a complete turning of hearts and minds – a giving of hearts and minds – to God that marks a permanent shift in the orientation of our lives.
By giving hearts and minds to God in consecration, we are spiritually set aside for a special purpose—God’s special purpose in our lives. We set a course toward Him both personally and for whomever we are given in our spiritual care. Mothers and fathers do it for their children, bishops do it for their dioceses and all under their care, and the pope does it for the entire world. We’ll return to this in a moment, keeping in mind the nature of consecration as an intentional act that sets the consecrated one aside, that opens us to God’s will more completely.
Stay with me as I shift gears here for a bit, before bringing everything back together. Just before the March for Life we learned that the Trump Administration had re-enacted and expanded the Mexico City Policy. You’ll recall that this is the policy that was first created by President Reagan, and that has since been revoked by every democrat president immediately upon taking office and reinstated by every republican in the same manner. And let’s be clear about this—its re-instatement is an anti-abortion act, and its revocation is a pro-abortion act. Yes, pro-abortion. Not just pro-choice. What the executive order has done historically is to remove federal funding from groups who perform and promote abortion—the funding being from a certain set of funds administered by the State Department under USAID and similar international aid programs. But the Trump Administration has extended the order to preclude funding any abortion-promoting groups throughout all international spending – affecting a pool of money far beyond the originally limited funds handled by the State Department to all international funding, extending even into those funds spent by the Department of Defense. As we learned with an announcement from the Trump Administration this past week, the amount of funds now containing the abortion exclusion is now over eight billion.
This is an excellent development for the pro-life movement, for the country, and especially for those in poor nations who were under threat from this diabolical policy of the US. We are grateful to the Trump Administration for it, and it should be seen by all faithful Christians as a moment to go beyond the partisan battles to agree that such a policy is both just and long overdue.
How does this all tie together? Over the last couple of months I have traveled to former Communist nations who suffered under “the errors of Russia” more intensely than the rest of the world. With other leaders in these nations I’ve discussed the demonic virus of Communism that first took root politically in Vladimir Lenin’s Russia manifested as an attack on marriage and the family, on the Church, and on life itself. Lenin was the first dictator to legalize abortion and to declare war against the natural family, though he was not the first to oppress the Christian Church. The anti-gospel of political communism spread throughout much of Europe, into Asia and Latin America. It had several different forms that varied with the characteristics of the nations where it spread, but more or less kept its basic tenets of dictatorship, revolution, attacks on life, faith, and family.
In the United States the Communist infiltration of the government was attempted but was not successful—at least not as completely. In truth, the ideas ran into the American spirit of independence and a more stubborn if somewhat lessened Christian faith and took a softer form, while the cultural Marxist parts of the disease infected the wider culture. The government started growing and becoming more unaccountable to its people. Sexual radicals like Margaret Sanger started spreading the poison through their activism in universities and other institutions. Over time their attacks on life, faith and family (the Catholic Church always the primary enemy of “progress”) did in fact take root, leading to changes in law – most notably in the legalization of “no-fault” divorce, Griswold v. Connecticut, then Roe v. Wade, and have continued in Casey and most recently in the legal redefinition of marriage by Obergefell.
Brothers and sisters, the errors of Russia have indeed spread, though they often don’t look like they do in their original, sinister, Soviet form as instituted almost 100 years ago by Lenin and his fellow revolutionaries. Not long after Pope Saint John Paul II consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary and stood up to the Communists in his homeland of Poland, Soviet Communism fell. This had a domino effect with Soviet puppet regimes collapsing around the world, though this has also played out unevenly over time, with some socialist and communist regimes holding on, and “democratic socialism” having a longer life in many countries.
But for some time, the “Russian errors” of attacks on life, faith and family have infected and informed the domestic and foreign policy of the United States. See the priorities of the US State department that has been funding abortion committers and promoters around the world for decades, that has incentivized the Catholic Church and other Christians to set aside the Gospel in order to receive massive “aid and development” grants, and that more recently has put pressure on poor countries to join the attack on marriage and family if they want to keep receiving “aid” money.
The errors have not left the world, even if they took a different form and were spread not only by Russia, but by the United States and other wealthy nations. This is why the reinstatement and expansion of the Mexico City Policy is so welcome, and is in its own way a political stand against the errors of Russia. The essence the errors is still the same—an attack on life, Christian faith, and family. That this attack has been joined by too many within the Church is clearly true, though—and this is the point—these attacks do not define the Church. The Church has not changed her nature, her goal and mission of saving souls. Indeed, she cannot. You see faithful bishops and families standing strong, even being attacked or not supported as they stand. When we stand strong, it is only because we have knelt in worship and adoration of our Blessed Lord, and we must be grateful to our shepherds who guide us first in worship, then in teaching and action.
We can see in Eastern Europe where the errors lead, and we can see just by looking around us what it looks like as these errors are consumed like a sweet-tasting poison. But false liberation leads to slavery. Giving ourselves fully and voluntarily in consecration to Our Lord is what results in true liberation—both here, and more importantly, in eternity.
Let me conclude with a story we heard here from one of the faithful bishops who have set aside the honors of the world to be a voice of truth in a precarious time. Bishop Athanasius Schneider grew up in a part of Russia where the Catholic Church had no priests. His family could not attend Mass, could not receive the Most Blessed Sacrament, could not receive absolution sacramentally in Confession. Yet they kept the faith due to strong and faithful parents who were consecrated to Our Lord. Their hearts and minds were given to God through the Blessed Mother, and they instituted every practice they could in the home that would orient their children toward God, including acts of solidarity with our Eucharistic Lord every Sunday. If they could not receive Him sacramentally, their desire would be such that they could be united with Him in faith.
A great bishop came from this family.
Consecrate yourselves and your families to Christ through His Blessed Mother, and renew these consecrations. Pray that Pope Francis will consecrate the world to her Immaculate Heart again, using the relationship he has built with the Russian Church to unite the world in this prayer , and honoring Russia by naming her in the consecration. Pray for our Holy Father and for all bishops and priests, who are under such great attack at this time. And keep Hope—the Hope that the world cannot take away without your permission.