Standing before Pilate, Jesus reveals: “My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” (Jn. 18:36) So we have the freedom, in this life, to enthrone the kings who will rule us. But what kind of monarch will we crown?
In the early 1980s, a Soviet defector earnestly warned an American audience of communist “agitprop” revolutionary techniques. Based on his experience in the KGB, Yuri Bezmenov described the Soviet conspiracy to undermine and conquer the United States and the world. There is no mistaking the diabolical parallels of the assault. Call it “the Communist-Diabolical Complex.”
Although it would be a mistake to attribute too much power to human agents of influence in the struggle between good and evil, the defector has provided a valuable service by unmasking the Devil’s battle plans, designed to discourage and undermine us. The Devil failed in his temptation of Jesus (cf. Mt. 4:9). So assailing members of the Mystical Body of Christ is his only bitter recourse.
Here is an updated version of the subversion process mastered by Soviet intelligence:
The process of demoralization occurs over many years. During this stage, the media and institutes of education manipulate and undermine the moral fiber and integrity of the country. Perception replaces facts. (“Perception is reality.”) Ridicule of “old ways” is a valuable weapon in the propaganda arsenal. As the younger generations embrace the illusory promises of secularism and Marxism—substitutes for God’s promises—the influence of the older generations slowly declines.
The new generations grab the levers of social and political power. Hence, widespread acceptance of an atheist ideology becomes ingrained in demographics and institutions. As parents and other lawful authorities lose their moral standing, the power of the centralized government replaces them. Government programs feed an insatiable appetite for entitlements that range from consumer goods and benefits to every form of sexual lifestyle and practice.
When demoralization is widely established, traditional morality no longer restrains unruly passions. Educational structures encourage and uphold the narcotic of the pleasure principle. The process of replacing individual liberty and responsibility with new arrangements of centralized power accelerates. Massive government programs and regulations now intrude in the lives of everyone, permeating society, including churches and synagogues.
The media and the universities, dependent upon big government, consider the addiction normal. They do not tolerate dissent. Those who protest the encroachments on individual liberty, responsibility, and traditional morality pay a heavy price. (Ask any young practicing Catholic in college!) They risk economic and social chastisement and expulsion from respectable circles.
In May 2020, Pope Emeritus Benedict said, “One hundred years ago, anyone would have thought it absurd to speak of homosexual matrimony. Today those who oppose it are socially excommunicated. The same holds true for abortion and the production of human beings in the laboratory. Modern society intends to formulate an anti-Christian creed: whoever contests it is punished with social excommunication.”
A demoralized and destabilized nation easily enters the volatile crisis stage. A crisis is short-lived and involves a revolutionary change of power. It can take various forms. But in every case, a catastrophic event overpowers and splits the country, alarming the citizens. Such was the pattern of the French, Russian, Chinese, and Cuban revolutions—with several other examples in the Middle East in recent years. For Americans, a crisis would require circumventing the Constitution by force—using violence as necessary—destroying the checks and balances of a constitutional republic.
The final stage comes when the populace—often as the result of exhaustion as much as tyranny—gives up and begins to assimilate the revolution. A combination of stifling bureaucracies and the threat of terror (economic or political) brings the population to its knees. The appearance of peace and security disguises the bitterness of tyranny.
It’s no coincidence that the Devil also uses these four stages—demoralization, destabilization, crisis, and normalization—to attack the Church and ruin souls.
During the process of demoralization, the moral fiber and integrity of traditional Church teaching come under assault. God’s revelation as known through the Church over the ages does not matter. What we perceive as good becomes our new reality according to the ancient temptation: “You will be like God, knowing [presuming to control] good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5)
Patterns of practical atheism and the pursuit of pleasure become ingrained in our expectations. Even churchgoers demand that the Church pander to our insatiable appetites. The liturgy becomes a playground of entertainment rather than worship. Preaching the Ten Commandments—too harsh for contemporary ears—gives way to the precepts of therapeutic pop psychology. Better to remain silent than to risk social excommunication by violating the anti-Christian secular creed.
The Devil’s purpose is to replace the sacramental life and parish life with new structures of centralized power, with Church teachings presented as mere policy statements, responsive to the winds of cultural change. Church apparatchiks—even at high levels of the hierarchy—will not tolerate dissent from their own radical departures from traditional teaching and will demand compliance, or at least silence.
A demoralized and destabilized Church may enter the volatile crisis stage. In this final drama, an exhausted populace acquiesces and begins to assimilate the revolution, at peace with heresy and apostasy. But there can be no real peace under the rule of tyranny and injustice.
As with KGB tradecraft, it’s a fair guess the Devil would prefer to disguise his evil sources and methods. Once they are exposed, he would have us believe that the process is inevitable. Satan takes derisive delight in our discouragement. But he is unable to account for (because he cannot understand) the sacramental graces Jesus grants us.
Whenever we renew our baptismal promises, we renounce Satan and all his works and empty promises. With every Mass, we worship Christ, the King, and his triumphant Cross. So with renewed vigor, we hold fast to the firm certainties of faith that guide our lives in Jesus because we have confidence in His promises: “In the world you have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)
We are baptized. We are confirmed. We are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. To borrow a Hollywood cliché: They have no idea who they’re dealing with.
Father Jerry J. Pokorsky is a priest of the Diocese of Arlington. He is pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Great Falls, Va.
Editor's Note: This piece originally appeared in Catholic Culture.