At the end of the Third Punic War, Rome besieged Carthage, burned it over the course of 10-17 days, and reputedly sowed the surrounding areas with salt so that nothing would ever grow there again. Thus did Rome finally eliminate the threat to its civilization that was Carthage.
Writers such as C.S. Lewis and others point out some analogies between these cities and the struggle between the Church and her enemies. Although both cities were pre-Christian pagan in their belief systems, the Roman gods were those of hearth and home; Rome was the seat of law, of justice, of virtue and of the moral order. Carthage’s gods were of the bestial variety, of Moloch, who demanded the sacrifice of human babies. Left unchecked, Carthage was a threat to the West.
Rome did not engage in dialogue with Carthage. Rome destroyed Carthage.
But why the history lesson?
God in His providence chose Rome to be the seat of His Church. As He does in so many areas, God used the earthly to elevate it to the Heavenly. The Church retained what was good in the formerly pagan empire, jettisoned what was bad, and thus did grace build upon nature. Paganism was “baptized”.
Today in the secularized, anti-Christian world, many who were baptized are sliding back into paganism. Unlike their historical counterparts, they are not emerging from a more innocent paganism to know, and embrace, the truth. Instead, they are, deliberately or through culpable inattention, sliding into a paganism of error–not leading towards, but further away from the Truth that is a Man, Christ Jesus. These people embrace or excuse the “modern” yet ancient errors of child sacrifice, sexual lusts, offenses against the natural law, heterodoxy in the name of tolerance, and the defiance of law, justice and the moral order.
And in St. Louis, as in the Church universal, the struggle between these two belief systems continues. What is to be the response of the Church’s leaders and faithful? Capitulation to death by “dialogue”? Or will the Church vigorously protect the faithful who would be exposed to error and division?
It took more than one Roman general to persevere against Carthage.