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The Oklahoma City Civic Center:
A Model of What's Wrong with "Liberty"

by Christopher A. Ferrara
September 13, 2016

On September 21, 2014, the Oklahoma City Civic Center allowed a “Satanist” to stage a “Black Mass” on its premises, sparking nationwide protest and international press coverage.  The legendary pro-life activist Joan Bell was falsely arrested and wrongly convicted for kneeling and praying on the landing outside the Civic Center in order to witness against, and make reparation for, the sacrilege.  My organization, the American Catholic Lawyers Association, achieved a major appellate victory when Oklahoma’s highest criminal court threw out the convictions and found that the arrest was unlawful.

But the Civic Center and the City of Oklahoma are still at it.  Just last month, on August 15, the Civic Center hosted another event by the same group of “Satanists” during which they dared to desecrate a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary in order to mock the Feast of the Assumption.  The Fatima Center’s Rapid Response Team was there to protest this latest outrage and to defend the honor of the Mother of God.

The City’s memo justifying the event beforehand is a sad commentary on what the modern mentality views as “liberty.”  In answer to the public outcry over the Civic Center’s continuing availability for sacrilege and mockery of the most sacred beliefs of Catholics, the City declared:  “As a government-operated facility, we are bound by the laws of the United States, including the Constitution and the First Amendment, and the laws of our State. As such, we cannot deny rental to any person or group based upon the content of their message.

Really?  That’s odd.  Because Joan Bell was denied access to the public area on the Civic Center landing precisely on the basis of the content of her message.  She was falsely arrested because she had displayed her opposition to the “Black Mass,” while others on the same landing who supported the event or were perceived as neutral were left alone. It was only when Joan began praying the Rosary that the police descended upon her and arrested her on trumped-up charges.

So, “Satanists” were given the use of a public facility to engage in anti-Catholic mockery and sacrilege, while a faithful Catholic peacefully protesting this outrage was hauled off to jail like a common criminal. 

The Oklahoma City Civic Center is a classic example of the fulfillment of the social prophecy of Pope Leo XIII in Libertas, his landmark encyclical on human liberty:

If unbridled license of speech and of writing be granted to all, nothing will remain sacred and inviolate; even the highest and truest mandates of natures, justly held to be the common and noblest heritage of the human race, will not be spared. Thus, truth being gradually obscured by darkness, pernicious and manifold error, as too often happens, will easily prevail.

Indeed, this is now happening before our eyes:  Christians are persecuted for telling the truth about evil, while evildoers are given the unfettered right to freedom of speech.  Such is the terminal condition of a society that exalts “liberty” above truth, and the so-called “rights of man” above what Leo XIII elsewhere called “the rights of God.”  As Leo XIII declared in this regard:

The world has heard enough of the so-called “rights of man.” Let it hear something of the rights of God. That the time is suitable is proved by the very general revival of religious feeling already referred to, and especially that devotion towards Our Saviour of which there are so many indications, and which, please God, we shall hand on to the New Century as a pledge of happier times to come. But as this consummation cannot be hoped for except by the aid of divine grace, let us strive in prayer, with united heart and voice, to incline Almighty God unto mercy, that He would not suffer those to perish whom He had redeemed by His Blood.

But what do we do in the meantime?  Obviously, Catholics can only work within the existing framework and hope for a just outcome in given cases, such as the case of Joan Bell. Here too Leo XIII offers wise counsel, not condemning democracy as such but rather exhorting Catholics to “to make use of popular institutions, so far as can honestly be done, for the advancement of truth and righteousness; to strive that liberty of action shall not transgress the bounds marked out by nature and the law of God; to endeavour to bring back all civil society to the pattern and form of Christianity which We have described.” 

That ultimate outcome is precisely what Our Lady of Fatima means by the triumph of Her Immaculate Heart.