The Church Militant


 My children, we are here to conquer or die. In death or in victory, you will win immortality.

Don Juan of Austria to his sailors and troops prior to the battle of Lepanto



One of the more distressing aspects of contemporary Catholicism is the transformation from the Church Militant to the Church Mushy.  Catholicism did not survive for twenty tumultuous centuries by being a religion for lukewarm cowards.  Father Z explains what the Church Militant is for the benefit of poorly educated, in the Faith, Catholics who probably comprise a majority of the members of the Church these days:


I post this because our dear Michael Sean Winters had a little nutty about my use of this term over at the Fishwrap (aka National Schismatic Reporter).

All of you Catholics who are reading this, even if you mostly identify with the dissenters at the Fishwrap, are members of the Church Militant, the Ecclesia Militans.

“Militant” is a scary word for libs (keep that paper bag handy) because it looks like the English word “military” (which must be a bad thing to belong to).

Militant comes from Latin milito, “to be a soldier, to perform military service”.  Note, “service”.

As a Catholic who is militans, “militant”, that means that we dedicate ourselves with obedience and zeal to the role we are given in life through our calling and through our talents and good inclinations, our vocations in life.  It means that we are also prepared to fight the enemy wherever and whenever threats to the salvation of our own souls and our neighbor’s souls present themselves.  It means working together as units and not as individuals merely.   It means good conditioning and through drills in knowing well our Catholic Faith and practicing virtues and discipline in the use of the Sacraments.  It means submission to the Church’s teaching authority and her duly ordaining pastors.  It means fidelity, loyalty and even a willingness to die.

I now urge the Fishwrap types to have at hand a paper bag they can breathe into.

The Church Militant is made up of the living, we who are still on pilgrimage through this vale of tears, as the Salve Regina describes our earthly life.  The whole Church can be described as having three main kinds of membership, namely, those who are still alive here on Earth, those who are in an earthly sense dead but who live in Heaven (the Church Triumphant) and those who have died but who are, during their time of purification in Purgatory, awaiting their entrance into Heaven (the Church Suffering or Penitent).  These three are united, in one Holy Church, in a common “communion of saints”, even though we of the Church Militant often aren’t very saintly.

Church Militant is a common and traditional way to describe the living members of the Church.  For example, find it used as a hinge pin in the Catholic Encyclopedia.  Even though the Catechism of the Catholic Church 954 doesn’t explicitly use the terms Militant, Suffering and Triumphant, the concepts are clearly there when it describes the membership of the Church:

The three states of the Church. “When the Lord comes in glory, and all his angels with him, death will be no more and all things will be subject to him. But at the present time some of his disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God himself triune and one, exactly as he is”‘

That paragraph in the CCC quotes Lumen gentium 49; Mt 25:31 (which describes the separation of the blessed from the damned); 1 Cor 15:26-27 (which describes the ultimate triumph of God at the end of things); and the Council of Florence (1439) in DS 1305.  I will add that LG 43, on religious institutes, uses the phrase “militia Christi” to describe the support given by religious families to Church.

The old Catechism of St. Pius X uses the tripartite division, describing the Church Militant as the Church to which we actually belong.  Of course, you have to know that “actually” means “now”, and not loose English “really”.

In the Baltimore Catechism, in its explanation of the articles of the Creed, we find a great description

“The communion of saints:”

There are three parts in the Church. We have, first, the Church Militant, i.e., the fighting Church, made up of all the faithful upon earth, who are still fighting for their salvation. [The catholic Left, the Fishwrap types, are going to hate that description because of the implication that not everyone is saved (except for those meanies who don’t want to redistribute wealth or approve of sex with just about any carbon-based life form] The Holy Scripture tells us our life upon earth is a warfare. [Get that bag if you need it!  Then check 1 Tim 6:12: “Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.”  Then check 2 Cor 10: 3-5: “For though we live in the world we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”  Yes.  We have enemies.] We have three enemies to fight. First, the devil, who by every means wishes to keep us out of Heaven-the place he once enjoyed himself The devil knows well the happiness of Heaven, and does not wish us to have what he cannot have himself; just as you sometimes see persons who, through their own fault, have lost their situation trying to keep others out of it. [The devil has earthly agents, even within the Church.  Think of, for example, the horrid example of priests who harm children and also writers in the catholic media who consistently deceive souls and undermine the faith and good discipline of the Church by promoting dissent.]

Our second enemy is the world. This does not mean the earth with all its beauty and riches, but the bad people in the world with their false doctrines; [See above.] some telling us there is no God, Heaven, or Hell, others that we should pay no attention to the teaching of the Church or the laws of God, and advising us by word and example to resist our lawful superiors in Church or State and give free indulgence to our sinful passions. [I have the impression that the catholic Left’s agenda is mainly focused on sex. When they perceive that something is a threat to their own desires, they attack it.  Of course they will attack any traditional expression of the Faith, because worship and doctrine are inextricably intertwined.]

The third enemy is our own flesh. [See above] By this we mean our concupiscence, that is, our passions, evil inclinations, and propensity to do wrong. When God first created man, the soul was always master over the body, and the body obedient to the soul. After Adam sinned, the body rebelled against the soul and tried to lead it into sin. The body is the part of our nature that makes us like the brute animals, while the soul makes us like to God and the angels.

When we sin, it is generally to satisfy the body craving for what it has not, or for that which is forbidden. Why did God leave this concupiscence in us? He left it, first, to keep us humble, by reminding us of our former sins, and, secondly, that we might overcome it and have a reward for the victory. [Yes, its a war and, as Christians, we are soldiers on the march.]

The Devil is not a myth, friends, and Hell is real.

Go here to read the brilliant rest.  Catholicism has ever been a fighting faith, against the World, the Flesh and the Devil.  Time for us to remember that and to earn the title Church Militant.

More to explorer


  1. A link for three reasons:
    One, it actually explains the term in a very short but fair manner;
    Two, it’s got an awesome picture to illistrate the notion that the “trope” is about;
    Three, I love the opening quote:
    The Church Militant takes this observation to the natural conclusion, a Catholic (or Catholic-like) superpower that is very heavily armed. This can be played in any number of ways- Light isn’t always good, and even when it is, Good is not always nice, and even when it is, Good isn’t soft.

  2. My son loves this song
    So no doubt Mr. Winters (is that him in the photo? He’s so purdy.) considers it a form of child abuse.

  3. By the way, thanks for the El Cid clip. That was a formative movie for me in many ways, from Dungeons and Dragons in Jr. High, to Medieval Studies grad work.
    Sadly, Latin broke me.

  4. Perhaps Don Juan inspired Wm Barrett Travis in his Letter From The Alamo, 1836: “I will never surrender or retreat. Victory or Death.” Hopefully, full of hope, for us of the Ecclesia Militans it will be both, victory and death. Don, thank you for all the research and for all your writing. Ernst, do like I did some few years ago-get a First Year Latin book and a beginner Latin grammar andstart over! Guy McClung, San Antonio

  5. hyperventilating. The Church Militant is accompanied by the Church Triumphant and the Church Suffering, the one Body of Jesus Christ. Since atheism has neutered our culture and has taken the mention of saints, heaven or hell, and God out of our vernacular ( I am surprised that Jesus Christ Who remains in our Church as the Real Presence, is not mentioned, because we need Jesus on the altar if only to remind us of our humanity) as in Sherlock Holmes (Saints preserve us!), Winters has already expired but does not know it.

  6. I don’t want to be the jerk here, and I’m sorry if that’s what I’m doing.

    Winters was wrong to react to the phrase “Church Militant” as an endorsement of the military. Father Z says so. It seems to me that it’s equally wrong to make that mistake from a pro-military standpoint as from an anti-military. The point that I think needs to be emphasized is that St. Joan of Arc and St. Therese of Lisieux were equally heroic members of the Church Militant.

    I love Lepanto. Love it. I love the defense of Vienna (twice) and the reconquest of Spain. I’m an Armenian, and I’m proud of our history.

    In 1936, Joseph Pieper wrote a short book about the virtue of fortitude. He lived in Germany at the time, and was writing in response to the Nazi propaganda that portrayed courage as aggressive. Pieper emphasized that fortitude can be active, as on the battlefield, or passive, as on the sick bed. (Fortunately for us, the publisher who received the manuscript ordered 6 more books, and 35 years later completed his final virtue book, on charity.)

    To me, the key quote from Father Z is this:

    The tripartite description of the Church doesn’t exclude other ways of describing our membership. We aren’t either/or in this. We can say that we are both the Church Militant and, say, the People of God, or even the Ecclesia Docens et Discens, the Teaching and the Learning Church, referring to the hierarchical teaching office and those who exercise it and those who are formed by the same. We can use all sorts of ways to describe the Church, and, when they are balanced with each other, we have a far richer view of who we are and what we are called to.

  7. . It seems to me that it’s equally wrong to make that mistake from a pro-military standpoint as from an anti-military.
    No, because there’s a massive difference in the assumptions involved; one is passive, and actually hostile to the idea of actively resisting wrongs. The other is, at worst, misunderstanding by over-limiting– being too literal, thinking resistance has to be visible. “Active support” of the Church can be as simple as, oh, praying and fasting– something that nobody even sees.
    Of course, mistaking “I can spot it” for “it’s important i– as I’m pretty sure Donald can vouch with evidence– a tactical mistake that folks make in real military situations as well. 😉

  8. “Winters was wrong to react to the phrase “Church Militant” as an endorsement of the military. Father Z says so. It seems to me that it’s equally wrong to make that mistake from a pro-military standpoint as from an anti-military.”

    Well, it is high time for someone in the Church hierarchy to be pro-military. To take the examples you list below, Pius V did not just ask Catholics to pray the Rosary and hope that the Turkish fleet would spontaneously sink. He formed a fleet that actually went in on a (gasp!) preemptive strike and sank them. The defenders of Vienna did not simply pray for the Turks to magically vanish. They manned the walls and threw themselves into the breaches while Christendom organized relief armies that drove the Turks from the city. The Reconquista was certainly bolstered by prayer, but was carried out on the points of sword and lance. The pacifism that has infected the Church over the past few decades (and of which abolition of the death penalty is a part) has left the Church a pathetic, toothless lion, where at a time when Christians are being murdered with impunity and religious freedom is under attack, our leader is diligently working on an encyclical on the pressing issue of climate change. God help us.

  9. Oh – for all to start each new day accompanied by the power of the heavenly sound of strength in the pipe organ and horses’ hooves!
    For this addition to ‘favorites’ category, thank you.
    After all, it’s the devil with lies and temptations that give reason for the Church termed as such.
    ‘When we sin, it is generally to satisfy the body craving for what it has not, or for that which is forbidden. Why did God leave this concupiscence in us? He left it, first, to keep us humble, by reminding us of our former sins, and, secondly, that we might overcome it and have a reward for the victory.’

  10. I’m sick and tired of the Church of “Nice”, because it isn’t nice, it’s pathetically pacifist.

    Charles Martel, El Cid, King Alfonso the Avenger, Don Juan of Austria, Queen Isabel the Catholic, the Marques of Cadiz, Hernan Cortez, John Sobieski and the Hussars weren’t wimps, crying for peace at all costs. Neither was Pius XII. It is a terrible thing that the Church has forgotten how to deal with Islam. You punch it in the mouth. You step on it. You kick dirt on it. You make damn sure Islam knows it has been beaten and send it back with its tail between its legs. THAT is how you deal with Islam because if you act differently Islam will do these things to YOU.

    Jesus Christ’s admonition to love your enemy and turn the other cheek can work fine when it’s a personal problem, and even so for missionaries (the present day United States had numerous such martyrs stretching from New York State, the Southeast and the Southwest) but nations must defend themselves from evil and fight for the freedom to worship Christ.

    Just out of dumb luck I found a streaming website, Dramafever, that is carrying the first two seasons of the Spanish-produced miniseries about Queen Isabel the Catholic. There is fiction in the series and more nudity than there needs to be (which is none) but it is fascinating and entertaining. There are English subtitles.

  11. It has occurred to me that since the Church Militant must do battle against the devil, the world and the flesh, any objection against the Church Militant would have to come from the devil, the world and the flesh.

  12. Ah, but one of the Devil’s favorite tricks is to say he’s doing his bad stuff in the name of something good, so– sorta like that scene in The Last Battle with the guy who’d done only good in the service of the devil-god– someone may even believe that they are whole-hearted, hardline opponents of the Church Militant, while they are actually good and loyal servants of her.

  13. In the life of young Maximilian Kolbe, while studying in Rome, he pondered the hatred that caused men to wave banners at St. Peters depicting Satan crushing the head of St. Michael the Archangel. These men were Freemasons.

    Kolbe envisioned an army defeating Satan….Militia Immaculata. On October 17th 1917 his approval was granted and the Knights of the Immaculata prepare for battle every day. Spiritual exercises will lead the soul to selfless heroic acts of charity. Dare do I say that members would lay their life down if needed to defend Holy Church and Holy priests. St. Maximilian Kolbe is our model.

  14. Foxfier: “…a tactical mistake that folks make in real military situations as well.”
    I really enjoy your clarity, Foxfier. Obliterating the Church Militant obliterates Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of laying down His Life and taking His Life up again and self-defense of all persons including oneself, the Armed Forces, the military as you have pointed out. Peace will not just happen, but must be caused by self-sacrifice, by the Church Militant.

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