September 11 is a day when we remember the victims of terrorism, especially the 2,996 Americans who were killed by the unthinkable al-Qaeda attacks of 2001. But the “war on terror” abroad has only seen new faces of terrorism find footholds in our cities and neighborhoods, tearing Western civilization apart from within instead of without. If terrorism is defined as an act of intimidation for political or ideological ends, the reality of terrorism extends to cultural pressures and even attacks that don’t involve crashing planes into towers. And many American Catholics are too afraid to push back.
Are we a conquered, terrified people without the terrorism of al-Qaeda? Has the Land of the Free so despised by foreign terrorists become prisoner to the homegrown terrorism of insane ideologies?
As Catholics devoted to truth (hopefully unflinchingly), we are under near-constant coercive pressure to accept what is deeply false, threatened with social and professional excommunication at every turn in the name of ideology and politics. As the response to the terrorist attacks of 2001 was a swell of refusal to submit to fear, so should Catholic Americans today face the domestic terrorisms that besiege us with a resolve that won’t submit to fear—and resolve to fight back, even in ways or words that are not considered polite or proper. There is a time and a place for rough or astonishing response, when orthodoxy is best defended by unorthodox means. As Flannery O’Connor wrote:
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures.
September 11 is a day to remember how we as a nation once rose up in outrage against terrorism. And the time has come to rise up again—to reject and resist domestic terrorists with righteous impunity, as a wild Catholic warrior did on September 11 over seven hundred years ago.
In 1296, Scotland was an occupied country. The English king, Edward I, imprisoned King John Balliol, proclaiming himself king of Scotland. But the rebels William Wallace and Andrew Moray were making trouble for the English usurpers with guerilla campaigns against enemy strongholds and outposts. So, Edward sent Earl John de Warenne of Surrey and Hugh de Cressingham to quell the uprising.
As Warenne and Cressingham advanced into north Scotland, the Scottish nobles submitted in fear before the advancing English army, infuriating Wallace and Moray to no end. With the nobles capitulating, Warenne and Cressingham thought the rebellion would be a mop-up job. Meanwhile, Wallace moved his men north to join Moray, where they united their forces and waited for the English.
Arriving at Stirling Castle, Warenne learned that Wallace and Moray were not far, stationed just over an old narrow bridge across the Forth River, often called the gateway to Scotland. When the English surveyed them from the southern shore, they weren’t impressed. Wallace and Moray’s army, crouched at the base of a hill called Abbey Craig, seemed an unruly rabble that would easily be crushed by their heavy cavalry. As was customary, Warenne sent two Dominican friars bearing terms, and Wallace and Moray refused them. In so doing, they signaled that they were ready to fight according to the established conventions of warfare.
Anticipating a complete rout and eager to get the affair over with on that September 11, 1297, Warenne sent some of his troops away to save costs. To the 6,000 Scottish infantrymen with pikes and spears there were 9,000 English soldiers—2,000 heavy cavalry and 7,000 archers and men-at-arms. Hugh de Cressingham advanced with the cavalry over the bridge, which would only allow two horsemen abreast. When they gained the north shore of the Forth, the English began to form their ranks and prepare for a charge, expecting the Scots to allow them time to do so according to the normal rules of engagement.
But Wallace and Moray did not wait. They rushed the English cavalry in a roaring ambush before they were ready. Surprised, trapped, and disorganized, with no space to re-form their line, the English were driven back toward the rest of their slowly advancing army while horses and men plunged into the river. The victory was Scotland’s, and the English, who utterly lost the day, retreated. Cressingham himself fell and was flayed by the Scots. Wallace used his skin to make a baldric, which is a belt worn over the shoulder to carry a claymore. The Battle of Stirling Bridge was a thundering victory for the Scots and set a tone in the War for Independence for years to come.
It could be debated whether Wallace acted barbarically in this battle, breaking the laws of chivalry and fair fighting; or whether he did what was needed to secure a just end—whether he was, in fact, boldly and brilliantly valiant, playing to expectations and then exploiting them to his advantage. Though Wallace broke the rules of engagement and acted with scrappy pragmatism, he made a calculated, unconventional move geared toward victory over terrorists despite what anyone would think of him.
But his people thought highly of him. They were inspired by him. And that brings us to the Catholic conundrum of civil silence in the face of totally uncivilized evil. Some forms of barbarism are best met with another form of barbarism. Sometimes people have to step outside the established traces to do the right thing, to depart from what everyone expects and do something unexpected, to leave the ordinary behind to do something extraordinary. Catholics have to watch for those opportunities and seize them bravely—to do something great that no one saw coming and begin breaking free from the tyranny of cultural terrorism.
When we hear the Lord’s Name taken in vain, do we ever say in return, “Blessed be His Holy Name”? How many times do we bend the knee in silent submission under the godless, woke banners and progressive approvals in everyday life? What blind eyes are turned on psychosis-affirming slogans and advertisements? How often do we shy away from denouncing climate change as a hoax of market manipulation? Or pause before saying abortion is murder? Or cringe to call the war in Ukraine a civil war that America has largely fueled and has no business fomenting? How many times do we bend the knee in silent submission under the godless, woke banners and progressive approvals in everyday life? What blind eyes are turned on psychosis-affirming slogans and advertisements?Tweet This
Covid is making ominous headlines again, of course, with mask mandates and vaccination protocols popping up. Rest assured, there’ll be another pandemic cooked up just in time for the 2024 election. (Between the mail-in ballots and the open borders, we know what the results will be.) When the time comes, will you wear the mask?
Aggressive reaction is right and just. The al-Qaeda terrorists chose September 11 to commemorate the last day of the Muslim siege of Vienna in 1683, which was broken by the aggressive and heroic action of the Catholic king, Jan Sobieski, on September 12, and which saved the Christian West.
That aggressive Catholic attitude should give no philosophical or societal quarter in the attack against reality and religion, even if giving no quarter draws looks, insults, or shock. The concern shouldn’t be for what may be considered proper or politically correct. Despite the disturbance, Catholics should resist these terrorisms with a fervor that cares more for what is right than what is acceptable and keep the national spirit of 9-11 alive for the sake of the truth.
That is the attitude and the stance we all need to attempt and support in these days of seemingly unlimited perversion and propaganda. Catholics are called to take an immovable, indignant position against a destructive cultural terrorism and speak with force against the invasion of ideas and systems that are enemies to truth, goodness, and Western civilization. Woke ideology and the other terrorisms breaking down our sensitivities and defenses have set up a one-way street, attacking and not countenancing attack. So, leveling attack requires stepping outside of what has been deemed acceptable behavior. It is here we may discover a breed of barbarism that is civilized.
Actually, in this new age of barbarism, it is the civilized who will appear barbaric. Catholics can follow Sir William Wallace and strike out brazenly with apparent barbarism when mindless complacency is presumed and demanded (but skip the whole skinning thing). We are not called to be noble savages, but there is argument to be made about being savage nobles like William Wallace. It’s time for Catholics to assume the front lines on a new war on terror and to do so aggressively.
In 1305, William Wallace was arrested near Glasgow and taken to London, where he was condemned as a traitor to the crown even though, as he said, he had never sworn allegiance to Edward. William Wallace was hanged, castrated, eviscerated and his bowels burned before him, beheaded, and quartered—which may be, in some form or another, the fate of Catholic Americans who follow his example. Though William Wallace was a man who fought and died for love of country and freedom, he was also a champion of truth—the truth of man’s dignity, the truth of justice, and the truth of every man’s duty to defend his homeland—and every Catholic must be a similar champion.