Alexander Hall reports so we don’t have to read:
Atlantic contributor Daniel Panneton declared that the Catholic rosary has become a “symbol” of religious radicalism.
The rosary is a string of beads or knots used by Catholics as they pray a sequence of prayers, but one writer warned they have taken on a far darker meaning in modern times. “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,” Panneton claimed in the Sunday piece titled, “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol.”
He added, “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.”
Panneton slammed an entire online ecosystem for disseminating imagery featuring Christian warriors both historical and modern, suggesting that “social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (‘God wills it’) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.”
He observed that rosary beads “provide an aide-mémoire for a sequence of devotional prayers, are a widely recognized symbol of Catholicism and a source of strength. And many take genuine sustenance from Catholic theology’s concept of the Church Militant and the tradition of regarding the rosary as a weapon against Satan.”
The Atlantic contributor gave a wide variety of examples of how the modern association between rosaries and fighting men has become marketable to a niche audience, noting that “radical-traditional Catholics sustain their own cottage industry of goods and services,” such as one store that “sells replicas of the rosaries issued to American soldiers during the First World War as ‘combat rosaries.'”
The Swiss Guard, who have been protecting the Vatican in their iconic 16th-century armor and uniforms for centuries, were also addressed, as Panneton recounted: “In 2016, the pontifical Swiss Guard accepted a donation of combat rosaries; during a ceremony at the Vatican, their commander described the gift as ‘the most powerful weapon that exists on the market.'”
He also called out a member of the clergy, stating that “Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix issued an apostolic exhortation calling for a renewal of traditional conceptions of Catholic masculinity titled ‘Into the Breach,’ which led the Knights of Columbus, an influential fraternal order, to produce a video series promoting Olmsted’s ideas.”
Warning that Catholics are a “growing contingent of Christian nationalism,” Panneton commented that “Catholic imagery now blends freely with staple alt-right memes that romanticize ancient Rome or idealize the traditional patriarchal family.” He also commented that as the divide between American Catholics and Protestants has waned, they have become “cemented in common causes such as hostility toward abortion-rights advocates.”
The most sarcastic comment:
Yes. The concern we face in this country is Catholics that attend church every week and have a rosary. It is not Antifa or other rioters from the left. It is not homelessness. It is not spiking crime rates. Everything bad in this country is caused by people practicing a religion that teaches forgiveness, not to judge, turn the other cheek, seek a higher purpose, etc.
Dan McLaughlin compares and contrasts:
It would be hard to find evidence more damning of the worldview of the editors of the Atlantic than the decision to run these two articles two days apart: Kaitlyn Tiffany on “The Right’s New Bogeyman: A mysterious pro-abortion-rights group is claiming credit for acts of vandalism around the country, and right-wing activists and politicians are eating it up” and Daniel Panneton on “How Extremist Gun Culture Co-Opted the Rosary: The AR-15 is a sacred object among Christian nationalists. Now ‘radical-traditional’ Catholics are bringing a sacrament of their own to the movement.” Read in combination, they perfectly encapsulate an asymmetrical threat assessment, in which “our” people are never really bad, but “their” people are to be viewed with constant suspicion. In this view, even actual terrorism by people on the cultural left is dangerous only because it helps conservatives politically, while even the slightest hint of association with the smallest number of extremist weirdos is enough to justify denouncing a core Catholic devotional prayer.
So, when Jane’s Revenge takes public credit for firebombing crisis-pregnancy centers, this is how Tiffany reacts, quoting a comparison to “moral panic” over Antifa during the 2020 riots that cost $2 billion in damages and killed two dozen people:
Right-wing media outlets have provided ample coverage of this new threat, and anti-abortion politicians have demanded government action to address it. But the group’s practical significance remains in question. Just how meaningful is Jane’s Revenge? . . . Whoever is behind Jane’s Revenge, the group has become a prominent bogeyman on social media. . . .
Pro-abortion-rights activists have engaged in vandalism in recent weeks, and the blog posts associated with Jane’s Revenge are actively encouraging the behavior. But that does not imply the existence of a complex, coordinated campaign of violence.
In addition to downplaying Jane’s Revenge and its campaign of terror, Tiffany fails to contextualize it by omitting the activities of “Ruth Sent Us,” the group that published the home addresses of Supreme Court justices to direct protesters to their homes, as well as the assassination attempt on Justice Brett Kavanaugh by a pro-abortion fanatic.
Contrast how Panneton frames the Rosary. First, the Atlantic‘s subtitle hilariously refers to it as a “sacrament,” an error that can only be explained by having had zero Catholics review the article before publication. Even an ex-Catholic who made it through the third grade would have caught that one. There are seven sacraments, and the Rosary — a sequence of prayers dating to the medieval Church — is not one of them:
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. Their social-media pages are saturated with images of rosaries draped over firearms, warriors in prayer, Deus Vult (“God wills it”) crusader memes, and exhortations for men to rise up and become Church Militants.
No examples are given of anything bad coming of any of this — and even Panneton has to concede that this is a far cry from the proper and traditional Catholic view of the Rosary. Of course, literally any idea or symbol can be put to a bad use by bad people — Satan himself, the Bible reminds us, can quote Scripture, too. Panneton warns darkly that “the pro-choice protests that followed the leaked early draft of the Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which overturned Roe v. Wade, led to a profusion of social-media posts on the far right fantasizing about killing activists,” yet somehow, he, too, fails to mention the actual violence emanating from the pro-Roe side — even Jane’s Revenge, just two days after the publication of Tiffany’s piece.
Somebody ought to tell Atlantic readers that firebombings and assassination attempts are worse than the Rosary. It does not seem that the editors of the magazine have the heart to be the ones to do it.
One wonders how the Atlantic writer would feel about an attempt to deprive the Atlantic of its First Amendment rights as the writer is trying to deprive Roman Catholics of their First Amendment rights.
One other thing: The sellers of the Rosaries that are mentioned report that their sales have ballooned since the Atlantic piece.