A rhetorical militancy has long been a component of Catholic rhetoric, but in different contexts the martial allusions surrounding the concept of the “Ecclesia Milatans” have had different consequences and meanings. The 19th-century Polish Church was hardly militant in the colloquial sense, and as the battles fought at the time were usually against generic sources of temptation rather than specific earthly foes. But with the rise of Catholic social activism and with the gradual rapprochement between the Church and the nationalist right, metaphors drawn from more earthly forms of warfare proliferated, even in sermons and devotional publications. The Second Vatican Council tried to pull Catholics away from this vocabulary, preferring to talk about the People of God rather than the Ecclesia Militans, but in Poland the old rhetoric persisted. At times the battles were discussed with aggressive rhetoric about seizing the initiative and vanquishing the opponents of God; at other times Catholic authors preferred defensive images of encirclement or siege. Either way, the Polish Church was at war.
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