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Here’s Why Progressives Hate the Rosary

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In a new bout of anti-Catholic hatred, The Atlantic published a very murky piece trying to mix the prayer of the Holy Rosary with an alleged rise of far-right Catholicism in America, especially one obsessed with gun culture.

The article was originally called “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” but after criticism, it was changed to “How Gun Culture Co-Opted the Rosary.” After this did not stop the outcry, the title picture was changed from a Rosary made of bullet holes to a regular Rosary, and the name was finally changed to “How Extremist Gun Culture Is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary.”

After this, the editors seemed to have surrendered.

What does the article say?

The article claims that “Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or “rad trad”) Catholics.” It adds, “These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.”

The author admits that the logic behind understanding the Rosary as a spiritual weapon is not new by saying that “for millions of believers, the beads, which provide an aide-mémoire for a sequence of devotional prayers, are a widely recognized symbol of Catholicism and a source of strength. And many take genuine sustenance from Catholic theology’s concept of the Church Militant and the tradition of regarding the rosary as a weapon against Satan,” and also quotes Pope Francis endorsing the use of the rosary as a weapon in spiritual combat.

However, it then claims that ‘radical traditionalist Catholics’ that reject the Second Vatican Council —a small subset of Catholics that don’t even reach 1% of the total Catholic population, probably even if we only count practicing Catholics— are turning the Rosary into a genuine weapon, or at least framing it as such.

“Militia culture, a fetishism of Western civilization, and masculinist anxieties have become mainstays of the far right in the U.S.—and rad-trad Catholics have now taken up residence in this company,” it says.

Then, it claims that militaristic metaphors are to blame for the radicalization of such Catholics, “Rosaries are common among the merchandise on offer—some made of cartridge casings, and complete with gun-metal-finish crucifixes. One Catholic online store, which describes itself as “dedicated to offering battle-ready products and manuals to ‘stand firm against the tactics of the devil’” (a New Testament reference), sells replicas of the rosaries issued to American soldiers during the First World War as “combat rosaries.”

“In 2016, the pontifical Swiss Guard accepted a donation of combat rosaries; during a ceremony at the Vatican, their commander described the gift as “the most powerful weapon that exists on the market,” it adds.

However, even as the author accepts that ‘radical traditionalists’ are a fringe movement within Catholicism, it tries to conflate them with the broader opinion of Catholics in America.

“This conflation of the masculine and the military is rooted in wider anxieties about Catholic manhood—the idea that it is in crisis has some currency among senior Church figures and lay organizations. In 2015, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix issued an apostolic exhortation calling for a renewal of traditional conceptions of Catholic masculinity titled “Into the Breach,” which led the Knights of Columbus, an influential fraternal order, to produce a video series promoting Olmsted’s ideas,” it says.

And, of course, it unexpectedly tries to link traditional Catholicism with Christian nationalism because they are both against liberalism and secularism.

Lastly, it finishes by saying that the militaristic rhetoric behind the rosary is why traditional Catholics allegedly dehumanize their political opponents,  “the ‘battle beads’ culture of spiritual warfare permits radical-traditional Catholics literally to demonize their political opponents and regard the use of armed force against them as sanctified. The sacramental rosary isn’t just a spiritual weapon but one that comes with physical ammunition.”

What is the Rosary?

Before giving my opinion on the article, let’s briefly explain what is the Rosary for those of you who are not Catholics or whose knowledge of the Rosary does not go beyond knowing your abuelita used to pray it every day.

The term ‘Rosary’ means both a prayer and an object. As an object, it is a cord with 55 beads in sets of 10+1 that helps Catholics pray the Holy Rosary, which is believed to have been created by Saint Domingo de Guzmán in the 12th Century, and since then has spread as probably the most common Catholic devotional in history.

Pretty much every saint and Pope since the Rosary has become popular has recommended its prayer and many of them in very war-like terms. Let’s name a few examples:

– “The Rosary is the ‘weapon’ for these times.” -Saint Padre Pio

– “Give me an army saying the Rosary, and I will conquer the world.” – Blessed Pope Pius IX

– “For those who use their intelligence and their study as a weapon, the Rosary is most effective. Because that apparently monotonous way of beseeching Our Lady as children do their Mother, can destroy every seed of vainglory and pride.” – St. Josemaria Escriva

– “The rosary is the book of the blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the ages, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the rosary is beyond description.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

So, the idea that the rosary is a weapon is not new and hardly invented by today’s traditional Catholics. The idea that spiritual life is a sort of warfare is embedded in the very nature of Catholicism. “Militia est vita hominis super terram” (Man’s life on earth is a warfare), says the Book of Job. The spiritual life is a war against ourselves to rid ourselves of everything that impedes our relationship with God. When we do not fight this spiritual warfare, we tend to allow the things of the world to become our masters. Thus, in this warfare, we learn to use the things of the world as means to our ultimate goal: to know, serve, love, and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

In the Rosary, we Catholics contemplate the life of our Lord through His mother’s eyes by reciting the Lord’s Prayer and ten Hail Marys in five different sets of what we call “mysteries,” which are scenes of Our Lord’s life.

This explanation might bore some.

But it is because, to the eyes of the world, the Rosary is essentially dull and uninteresting. Thus, it seems very strange that a progressive publication would write a slander piece against one of the most loved piety practices among Catholics.

Only that it makes perfect sense.

Practicing Catholics in America are more conservative than the regular American, and traditionalist Catholics, are even more conservative.

They are also politically active and motivated in opposing abortion and LGBT extremism and allow parents to control the education of their children, etc.

So, this attack seems to have a double goal: 1) To slander and demonize traditional Catholics by equating the whole group to a small subset of weird kids that spend too much time online, which is easily proven false by just going to a traditional Catholic parish any given Sunday, and 2) to equate some “radical” opinions of some traditional Catholics with the mainstream views of practicing Catholics in America and thus demonize the whole of the Church in the U.S., primarily for its pro-life, pro-family advocacy.

Of course, the Holy Rosary represents everything progressives hate about Catholicism: it is apparently dull and inoffensive, but deep inside, they recognize it is a spiritual force that makes the pillars of their feeble ideology crumble.

Edgar is political scientist and philosopher. He defends the Catholic intellectual tradition. Edgar writes about religion, ideology, culture, US politics, abortion, and the Supreme Court. Twitter: @edgarjbb_ // Edgar es politólogo y filósofo. Defiende la tradición intelectual católica. Edgar escribe sobre religión, ideología, cultura, política doméstica, aborto y la Corte Suprema. Twitter: @edgarjbb_

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