On Sunday, September 18, the Jefferson City News-Tribune carried a full-page advertisement paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a coalition of 37,000 non-religious Americans who seem to revel in the deterioration of this nation’s moral collapse. It is a poke in the eye to Catholics, with a headline that mocks the ubiquitous “I am Catholic and I vote” bumper stickers. Featuring Jodette C. Lenser, a retired academic advisor from the University of Missouri, the ad provokes from the outset.
“I’m a retired academic adviser, wife, grandmother, volunteer activist . . . and an Atheist,” reads her opening statement. She’s been tricked into thinking religion should be banned from our government, our public schools, and even our personal lives, when God’s laws as handed down through His Son through the Catholic Church are essential for an ordered, civilized society. In short, she’d prefer all of us to become “nones”—people with no religious affiliation—just like her, placing our full faith in trust in “reason, science and America’s secular Constitution.” We’re already witnessing how that plays out, and it cannot end well.
Further investigation revealed the ad to be part of a nationwide campaign. Here in Jefferson City, we are reported to also be getting an FFRF billboard ad on Highway 50, near the intersection of Highway 54. Check out the FFRF website; they are on the prowl, seeking the ruin of souls like Ms. Lenser’s and countless others.
On Sunday evening, I emailed the vicar general for the Diocese of Jefferson City, calling for Bishop McKnight to publicly condemn this madness. Two days later, I received a message not from the bishop, but from the General Counsel of His Excellency’s public policy agency, Jamie Morris. “This group is, quite frankly, looking to solicit donations,” said he. “A statement from Bishop McKnight, through the Missouri Catholic Conference, would only serve to give this group the attention/controversy it wants and could potentially amplify its message.” He closed by recommending that I “pray for these individuals” and “not give this group the attention it seeks.”
Here is my response:
Dear Mr. Morris,
Thank you for your email. I’m able to agree with you on one point only: We should pray for the enemies of the Church. I do. Every day.
If you believe the goal of the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) full-page ad and billboard is merely to solicit donations, and that we are somehow better off ignoring this group, you are sadly mistaken and have grossly underestimated the grave threat they pose. Take a look around you, Mr. Morris. The moral depravity destroying our country comes after decades of virtually zero public resistance by US bishops to our very public enemies.
The FFRF is a nationwide coalition funding campaigns here, in St. Louis, and in capital cities throughout the country. They are attempting to refute and undermine Christianity, which was, not so very long ago, America’s moral compass. Check out this “Bible Quiz” on the FFRF website, which uses lies disguised as “facts” to disprove Christian beliefs. Most Catholics are woefully uncatechized, willfully disengaged, and therefore easily swayed by such propaganda. To the FFRF, they are low hanging fruit.
Indeed, the FFRF is preying on the same “nones” that have spurred American bishops to invest $28 million into a 3-year National Eucharistic Revival. As reported in the October issue of Meménto from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the growing loss of believers is the USCCB’s raison d’être for said revival. In addition to the plummeting percentage of Catholics who believe Christ is physically present in the Eucharist, “The past decade has also seen the rise of the ‘nones’ among the millennial generation,” state the bishops, “with more than 40 percent now self-identifying as ‘unaffiliated’ with any religion. Many young Catholics find the faith to be irrelevant to the meaning of their lives and challenges.” The FFRF awaits them with open arms.
Quite frankly, I see no reason for our bishop or any bishop to respond to this situation through a public policy agency. As the shepherd of his flock, Bishop McKnight is solely responsible for bringing the light of Christ to every man, woman and child in this diocese, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof. In the words of St. Paul to Timothy, the first bishop of Ephesus:
“Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables. But be thou vigilant, labour in all things, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill thy ministry. Be sober.” [2 Timothy 4, 2-5]
Further, according to The Bishop: Servant of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the Hope of the World, no. 103, emphasis mine:
“The task of preaching and safeguarding the deposit of faith implies the duty to defend the Word of God from everything which might compromise its purity and integrity, while acknowledging the just freedom to further investigate the faith. Indeed, through apostolic succession, the Bishop has received, according to the Father’s will, the sure charism of the truth which must be transmitted.”
If nothing else, Bishop McKnight might spend a few bucks on newspaper and billboard advertising that (1) inspires “nones” to seek Truth through the Real Presence of Our Lord in the Most Holy Eucharist, and (2) funnels traffic—sorely needed I’m willing to bet—to the $28 million National Eucharistic Revival website.
As an aside, Bishop McKnight and his fellow Missouri bishops have so far ignored an equally urgent need to condemn the views of Missouri Catholic Democrat candidate for U.S. Senate, Trudy Busch Valentine. Mrs. Valentine is a lost sheep, aggressively calling for “rights” to abortion and the entire alphabet soup of perverted sexual behavior while crediting her strong Catholic formation for the egregious, anti-Catholic policies she supports. Meanwhile, most of our sitting Republican State Senators, some of whom are Catholic, voted with the party of death during the 2022 legislative session to allow transgender athletes in higher ed women’s sports; for public funding of Marxist Critical Race Theory at public universities; and to allow males in female sports.
Therefore, Mr. Morris, I beg you to defer this FFRF matter back to Bishop McKnight and all of the Missouri bishops for their immediate action and, instead, focus your energies entirely on holding politicians’ feet to the fire.
As for me, I am doing everything I can to bring all of the above to the attention of Missouri Catholics.
Pro Deo et Patria,
Ms. Lenser, if you end up reading this, I invite you to attend a Traditional Latin Mass, where you will find yourself in the undeniable presence of Jesus Christ Our Lord and Savior. He waits for you with infinite love and mercy.
Please share this post and write letters of your own to our Missouri bishops. (Addresses here.)