The rosary depicted as an extremist symbol

A magazine article says the Catholic devotion ‘has acquired a militaristic meaning’ for ‘rad trads’

By Deacon Bob Hunt

I prayed my extremist symbol of Christian nationalism today. Have you?

In an article that Bishop Robert Barron called “colossally stupid,” published in the August edition of The Atlantic magazine, Daniel Panneton reports that 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.”

Golly, who knew? Mr. Panneton is apoplectic about what he claims is a growing Catholic presence in the Christian nationalist movement. The rosary, apparently, has been hijacked by these “rad trad” Catholics. In the original edition of The Atlantic, Mr. Panneton’s piece was titled “How the Rosary Became an Extremist Symbol,” accompanied by a picture of a rosary made of bullet holes. After public reaction, the title was changed to “How Extremist Gun Culture is Trying to Co-Opt the Rosary,” accompanied by a simple picture of a rosary. The second title better represents Mr. Panneton’s theory, but the whole thing just goes too far.

Mr. Panneton writes: “Catholics are taught to love and forgive their enemies, that to do otherwise is a sin. But the extremist understanding of spiritual warfare overrides that command. To do battle with Satan

. . . is to deploy violence for deliverance and redemption. The ‘battle beads’ culture of spiritual warfare permits radical-traditional Catholics literally to demonize their political opponents and regard the use of armed force against them as sanctified. The sacramental rosary isn’t just a spiritual weapon but one that comes with physical ammunition.”

Oh, my! One would expect to hear of regular attacks on institutions from Catholic Christian nationalists with their rosaries hanging from their gun belts. But do we? No.

This is a classic case of transference. The riots of 2020, where dozens of people were killed and billions of dollars’ worth of property destroyed, and now the attacks on Catholic churches and pregnancy centers, do indeed represent a willingness to resort to violence in the name of what some perceive to be their just cause. But these groups are secular, not Catholic or Protestant Christian.

How is it that Mr. Panneton can get himself so worked up over violence that is not happening, from non-existent Catholic rosary brigades, and have nothing to say about actual violence committed by secular political extremists?

This is absurd. Mr. Panneton ought to take his fear-mongering Catholic-baiting and try to sell it at the average Catholic parish around the country. He won’t get far before he is met by odd “what are you talking about?” looks or is quietly asked to leave.

Catholics take their symbols very seriously, and the rosary is a sacramental with deep, emotional attachments because it is a prayerful reflection on the life of our Lord, His sacrifice for us, and His victory over death, as well as a devotion to the Blessed Mother that is second to none. For Mr. Panneton to warn about Catholic Christian nationalists co-opting this beautiful devotion is to raise alarms about a problem that doesn’t exist.

Are we supposed to stop praying our rosaries to avoid being associated with some gun-toting kook who is praying his? Not a chance.

Our country right now is polarized like I’ve never seen it. We have genuine extremist groups committing political violence, crime rates spiking in virtually every major city, a war in Ukraine that many fear will expand to other countries, concerns about the economy, and fears that there will not be enough energy to keep us warm this winter. We don’t need worthless and counterproductive alarmists raising fears about threats that don’t exist. We need prayer and action.

October is the month of the rosary. What better way to address the real concerns we face than to dedicate our nation to the Blessed Mother, sending up our prayers for her protection, to spread her mantle over our land and keep us all safe under her motherly arms? The beautiful lady who could not say no to God will not say no to her children. She was the vessel through whom our Lord and Savior came to us. Surely, she will receive our prayers and bring them to Jesus, who can never resist the requests of so loving a mother.

UPDATE: Last February, I wrote a column on the efforts of the government to force Catholic hospitals to perform abortions, sterilizations, and sex re-assignment surgeries. Franciscan Alliance, a network of Catholic hospitals, sued the government. In August, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s ruling permanently enjoining the Department of Health and Human Services from requiring Franciscan Alliance to perform such procedures “in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs.” This is good news for all Catholic hospitals and Catholic health-care workers.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.


Deacon Bob Hunt is a husband, father, grandfather, and parishioner at All Saints Church in Knoxville.

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