Rehearsal photos for British play, I, Joan, which has received a barrage of criticism for its reimagining of France’s patron saint as non-binary. Photo by Helen Murray

‘Awokening’ to age-old anti-Catholicism

  • September 8, 2022

Anti-religious violence doesn’t come out of the blue. Before it explodes, the seeds of mistrust are planted and well-tended.

Hitler didn’t invent anti-Semitism. It had been seething in Germany for decades. The Muslim Turk massacre of the Christian Armenians in 1915 began with anti-Christian propaganda. The Hutu establishment in Rwanda used anti-Tutsi rhetoric that eventually resulted in a horrific slaughter.

All it takes is the silence of otherwise good people for extreme hate to fester.

It initially starts with subtle forms of bigotry that many see as nothing more than good fun or satire. The only ones offended are those with no sense of humour. Those who protest are considered cranks. I proudly wear the label of crank.

Two things came to my attention this summer. Both could be written off as inane. I believe it would wrong to do so.

One is a play called “I, Joan” about St. Joan of Arc. It was to open in August at the Globe Theatre in London, England. The other in an article in The Atlantic Monthly about the Rosary.

First to St. Joan. Not only was she one of the greatest holy people of our faith, but she was also a giant in European history. You don’t have to be Catholic to be in awe of what this young girl did and the price she paid for refusing to bend to corrupt authority.

“In His strength I will dare, and dare, and dare, until I die,” she is supposed to have said before her burning at the stake.

In the new play, Joan is to be portrayed as a “non-binary queer” who opts for the they/them pronoun.

“It envisages a revolution brought about by young and poor people after Joan questions ‘the gender binary,’ unleashing power and a belief which ‘spreads like fire,’ wrote the Catholic Herald.

“It has been written by Charlie Josephine, a non-binary person

who promises a ‘big sweaty, queer, revolution, rebellion, festival of like joy’ and it comes amid a broader global drive to promote LGBTQ themes in the performing arts.”

For the woke, everything that hints of tradition, goodness and bravery is ripe for derision. Even pronouns must be challenged as if they are some devious enemies of freedom.

Next up, the Rosary. In The Atlantic Monthly, Toronto-based writer Daniel Panneton reveals the Rosary as the weapon of choice for “extremists.”

“Just as the AR-15 rifle has become a sacred object for Christian nationalists in general, the rosary has acquired a militaristic meaning for radical-traditional (or rad trad) Catholics. On this extremist fringe, rosary beads have been woven into a conspiratorial politics and absolutist gun culture.

“These armed radical traditionalists have taken up a spiritual notion that the rosary can be a weapon in the fight against evil and turned it into something dangerously literal.”

Greg Gutfeld, a Fox TV host, got off the best line: “That must explain why there’s been all this drive-by praying.”

Bishop Robert Barron of Minnesota called the article “colossally stupid.” Bishop Barron also noted such stories are part of the age-old American tradition of anti-Catholicism. Some call anti-Catholicism the last acceptable prejudice, and nothing could be closer to the truth.

What makes this article even more bizarre is that the Atlantic is very good magazine. It’s also disappointing that the editors didn’t notice Panneton gave not one solid example to support his thesis…except a link to a Arizona’s bishop call to Catholic men to battle evil.  (

Read what the bishop said for yourself. It’s not about picking up weapons but fighting a spiritual battle to defend the faith. Like the term “spiritual warfare” it’s a call to stand up for what the Church teaches…not to lock and load. I said so in a letter to Panneton and to the Atlantic but have not yet heard back.

“The fact that some use the rosary for political gain – though I’ve never come across this myself –  is regrettable,” I wrote. “But those folks are a small minority. The Rosary is a prayer. It recalls the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We do it to remind ourselves who Jesus was. And to me he was a man who loved the poor, wanted all people to be saved, and was in most ways gentle as a lamb.”

I don’t imagine if Jesus were alive today he’d sport an assault rifle. That’s just a wild guess.

(Lewis is a regular contributor to The Catholic Register.)

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.