Young Catholic Activists Show the Oldies How It’s Done


November 7, 2019

The Catholic cybersphere has recently exploded, first with a video showing Pachamama statues being dumped into the Tiber, and then the video’s sequel, in which 26-year-old Alexander Tschugguel explained that he threw the statues in the river because he felt their presence in a Catholic church violated the First Commandment. It turns out Alexander and I attend the same parish in Vienna. Despite his unpardonable sins of being much younger and far taller than I, he has always impressed me as a sane, measured individual. Thus it was that I posted his video on my Facebook page, and invited my friends thereon to comment. All but two of the primarily far-younger-than-and-personally-unknown-to-me crowd lauded Alexander’s action as heroic and the “obviously Catholic thing to do.” The two dissenters are both old friends and contemporaries of mine: the one denounced the exploit as theft, the other as wanton destruction of a cultural artifact. More of that presently.

As it happens, at my other home parish in Southern California, I know another young man like Alexander: David Daleiden. The 30-year-old David has also caused quite a stir with his very famous video revealing Planned Parenthood for the blood-money-hungry and racist organization that it is. This video, in turn, has led Margaret Sanger’s legacy to lose lots of money. David has been made to suffer for his work, but his ongoing legal battles have pointed out the level of collusion between certain members of the judiciary and Planned Parenthood. Regardless of how David’s legal battles turn out, the ugliness of the pro-abort regime has been made manifest for all who care to see. But for those of us of a certain age, including my two contemporaries mentioned above, it can be tempting to ignore such ugliness.

I was born the day John F. Kennedy was elected President of these United States. This does not simply mean that my 59th birthday is upon us; rather, that day was at once the apogee and nadir of a certain kind of Catholicism. It was a Catholicism that made a mostly unconscious compromise with the powers-that-be—or, rather, the powers-that-were—in the United States. In return for “a place at the table” in national life, with “one of our own” eventually making it into the White House, we would not only sacrifice our blood and treasure for our new land—as was due and proper—we would not make waves. That is to say, we would not critique the country’s social and political institutions from a Catholic viewpoint, and above all, we would not seriously attempt to evangelize her in any organized manner. We got what we wanted, but we lost what we had. Since the day of my birth, Catholic America has imploded.

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Fortunately, we Americans were not the only Catholics ready to compromise with the World (the Flesh and the Devil having to wait their turns). At the time of my birth, the Catholics of Europe were like a punch-drunk fighter: still standing, but reeling under the successive blows of the Revolutions, two World Wars, and the rise of communism. European Catholics were tired, and to some degree had—in the form of “Christian Democracy”—already compromised with their non- and anti-Catholic allies in the battles against the Great Dictators (although, to be fair, what would eventuate from that compromise was the last thing Christian Democrat founders such as Schuman, Adenauer, and De Gasperi would have wanted). The European establishment’s capitulation to the Generation of ’68 sealed that compromise and ultimately made it seem very like the one compromise, ultimately very like the one we already had in the United States. Catholics might demonstrate and complain against the way in which Society was going, but their Church hierarchy would not condone (let alone lead) those efforts, and above all, such efforts would never be effective in halting the rot.

Of course, without wanting to debate Vatican II in any detail, we must admit that before the Council—and as late as the Pontificate of St. John XXIII—the Church had claimed the right to the nations. Afterward, churchmen prided themselves on disclaiming any special rights for Catholicism, on just wishing to help out all men of goodwill in building a more just society. In laymen’s terms, we Catholics would just be along for the ride—and so we have been, while our political and cultural masters made their (and so our) covenant with death, their (and so our) acceptance of the Flesh and the Devil.

Now, I do not want to downgrade or lessen what concrete good people from Operation Rescue to C-FAM have done in various places. Many lonely heroes and heroines have fought the Great Compromises since they were made. But most of us have offered limited support for their efforts—a sort of strange kabuki that has salved our consciences. All the while millions of infants have been murdered, countless elderly and infirm shoved onto the night train to the big adios days, weeks, or months before their time, and the marriage-bed profaned in ever stranger ways. But most of us, clergy and laity alike, have enjoyed the easy life that these compromises have brought us, clergy and laity alike.

Now come these kids to upset the apple cart and disturb our long slow slide into senescence. Neither David nor Alexander consulted me about their actions beforehand, but as I told the latter yesterday, had he done so, I do not know what I would have advised him. To be prudent, I suppose—yet the older we get, the harder it becomes to discern prudence (without which there is no virtue) from cowardice or sloth. I did not influence the lads, but they have done what they have done from principles we all claim to hold. May their generation put mine to shame.

Photo credit: YouTube/Michael Del Bufalo


  • Charles Coulombe

    Charles A. Coulombe is a contributing editor at Crisis and the magazine’s European correspondent. He previously served as a columnist for the Catholic Herald of London and a film critic for the National Catholic Register. A celebrated historian, his books include Puritan’s Empire and Star-Spangled Crown. He resides in Vienna, Austria and Los Angeles, California.

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