Don’t Worry the Public Square Will Find Us

There has been much handwringing among conservative Christians since the 80s about not having a voice in the public square.  If Cardinal Francis George of Chicago is right, we need not worry about being absent from the public square for long.  It will eventually find us.

He said in a 2010 speech to priests, “’I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.’” According to Wikipedia the quote was originally published without the second sentence ( That’s how I first heard it from the back of the new book The Global War against Christianity.

I wonder does Pope Francis, Time’s Man of the Year, think the same way?  He doesn’t seem to be on his way to martyrdom in the public square but stardom there.  In a 1996 interview “Vatican expert” Malachi Martin said some things that now seem eerily if not disturbingly prescient.

– “There is an unspoken alliance today between powers inside the Vatican and leaders of major international humanist organizations who would change the Roman Catholic Church from a sacred institution to one whose primary function is to act as a stabilizing force in the world.  They see the church as the only global structure able to do this.  The one obstacle is John Paul II. He is seen as a defender of medieval traditions.”

– “Academia, foundations, nongovernmental organizations, even some governmental agencies. They have vast resources devoted to population control, education and economic and social stabilization.  If they can get the Roman Catholic Church to side with them in the social and cultural field in a world that is dysfunctional, they’ll have another element of stability.”

– “It’s not a conspiracy, but it’s deliberate.  Conciliarists [“those who want to liberalize church doctrine on everything from divorce and contraception to abortion and homosexuality”] and non-church globalists think the same way. Neither likes the pope’s [John Paul II] policies.  They are preparing for the selection of the next pope” (“Plotting world order in Rome”, U.S. News and World Report, June 10, 1996).

Prepare they did and with the minor hiccup of Pope Benedict they got the one they wanted. One who won’t die in the public square but star there.

And what of us confessional Lutherans?  Is my generation to die in our beds, the generation below me to die in their beds, and my grandkid’s generation to die in the public square? Or could the whole timetable be moved up a generation?  It’s the WW II generation that gets the beds, mine that gets the prisons, and yours that get the gallows?

I don’t know that, but I do know this.  There is no way you can miss, be mistaken of, or ignore what the public square wants to hear and doesn’t want to hear.  And there is no missing, mistaking, or ignoring what it means to “preach the Word in season and out of season.”  We need not worry about being left out of the public square. The public square and the public preaching of the Word are on a collision course.  Those preaching social justice, civil religion, and civic righteousness are not on a collision course but a parallel one. They think they are rebuilding society, but they are really building the gallows for those preaching what the public square doesn’t want to hear.


About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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