Intolerance of the Catholic faith: The last acceptable prejudice in US

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Last week Pope Francis announced a consistory and the elevation of seventeen men to the College of Cardinals. Among them was one non-bishop, a parish priest from Albania named Father Albert Simonis. When the Holy Father heard Father Simonis’s story during his 2014 Pastoral Visit to Albania, he was moved to tears. In naming him a Cardinal of the Catholic Church, the Pope suggested he was “a priest who rendered a clear Christian testimony.”

During his long, brutal reign of Albania, the Communist Dictator Enver Hoxha sought to eliminate all religion through persecution and by enacting laws forbidding the free practice of any religion. It was amidst this totalitarian persecution that in 1956, Ernest Simoni was ordained a priest. After only a few years of priestly ministry it was on Christmas Eve in 1963 that Father Simoni was arrested while celebrating Mass. Placed in solitary confinement the priest was beaten and tortured as he was ordered to renounce Christ and his Catholic Faith.

Father Simonis steadfastly refused. For this refusal, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. His sentence would be commuted to hard labor. This holy priest spent the next twenty-eight years working as a slave laborer in mines and sewage canals. In 2014 when Pope Francis heard his story directly from Father Simonis, the Pontiff was moved to tears. Last week Pope Francis was moved to elevate this humble, holy priest to become a Prince of the Church.

It is rather ironic that as the Church recognizes the courage and faith of Father Ernest Simonis for his unwavering and steadfast witness to the Catholic Faith, the Clinton Campaign under the direction of John Podesta is exposed for using similar totalitarian tactics to undercut the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. (WSJ, Anti-Catholics for Clinton, 10-13-16)

We’ve now learned that Podesta and his allies in the Clinton Campaign created sham organizations disguised as Catholic groups to defy the teaching authority of Catholic Bishops. Their shameful and ignorant anti-Catholic attitude while discussing their sinister plot was also exposed. Their intolerance for the Catholic Church was financed by Anti-Catholic billionaires like George Soros and others. It smacks of the tactics of Enver Hoxha and other totalitarian regimes.

When public officials and political organizations such as the Clinton Campaign create phony political groups to attack the teachings of any faith community it must be justly condemned by all right minded people. The free exercise of religion is a constitutional hallmark of our nation’s foundation.

However, the silence of the media, the Clinton Campaign, civil libertarians and other faith communities in the face of such intolerant bigotry and shameful tactics is not unexpected by Catholics. Intolerance of the Catholic faith is the last acceptable prejudice in our country and quickly becoming a hallmark of “enlightened” elites in our society.

Thankfully faithful Catholics are not easily fooled nor their faith undermined by insidious political groups. They understand that what dictators and despots like Enver Hoxha couldn’t do to priests like Father Albert Simonis the likes of John Podesta and George Soros can never accomplish, namely the renouncing of the truth of our Catholic Faith. No, we stand with the soon to be Cardinal in rendering “a clear Christian testimony.”

The Very Reverend Bernard A. Healey is director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference.

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