I expect that Benedict XVI reigned as Pope for a great deal longer than his official tenure from 2005 - 2013 would suggest. Back in the day when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was seen as really very important indeed (has anybody heard anything from Archbishop Ladaria recently or has he gone on an extended holiday?) the then Cardinal Ratzinger was Pope John Paul II's right-hand man and right-hand men are significant. As John Paul II's illness deepened in the 1990s and his ability to govern effectively became limited, I expect that the competences Joseph Ratzinger took on became more papal. Perhaps his experiences under John Paul II even gave the then Cardinal Ratzinger his novel and hugely problematic idea of a bifurcated papacy with an active and contemplative ministry.
It would seem very much that the removal of the one man has revealed what we can see is a kind of 'mystery' that leaves many Catholics bewildered and shaken in their faith. Around them, both Benedict and John Paul II had a few, but perhaps not many, senior members of the Church as bulwarks of support. Both were strong in their Catholic faith and in their Catholic identity. But in hindsight - such a wonderful but often bitter tasting thing - the presence of even a few pillars of Catholic orthodoxy gathered close to the Chair of Peter turned out to be entirely dependent on the faith of the person in the Chair.
The election of Pope Francis represents the definitive crossing of the rubricon for the Catholic Church. Perhaps it is temporary, perhaps it is not, but both Amoris Laetitia and Magnum Principium are documents that suggest we have reached a moment of full disclosure, a moment in the Church's history when the Church's slide into irrelevance, of being subsumed into the decaying culture of the once Catholic West is virtually guaranteed. There is no trumpet to announce the surrender of the Catholic Church from false apostles to announce the Church's surrender to the evil forces at work in the world. There will probably be no announcement to this effect. All we will receive as Catholics is mini-announcements. Praise for an abortionist here. A bishop reinventing the Mass there. The invitation of Planned Parenthood to the Vatican here. Such are, I am sure many readers will agree, the announcements of a counter-Church established within the bosom of the bride of Christ.
The true Catholic Church, however, the one faithful to her Lord, to use the words of the Second Vatican Council's own phrase, would now seem to 'subsist' within the walls of a fabricated Catholic Church, fashioned by human hands, constructed by enemies of Christ, because the takeover of the "official" Catholic Church is by now all but complete. This is the Church which, of course, our Lord has promised, cannot be destroyed and against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail.
Everybody who believes in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church once proclaimed without any sense of embarrasment by Popes and which finds its expression in the Catechism of the Church was sitting very comfortably knowing that the Vicar of Christ was a strength and bulwark against the demon and nobody thought for a moment that what was taking place in their Diocese and their local parishes could ever happen to Rome. Why were we so naive? Did we consider that Christ's promises meant what we had thought they mean or did we not read Christ's promises in a sensible way? For 2,000 years no Pope - no, not even an "Antipope" - has tried to separate the moral teaching of the Church from her pastoral practise. No "Antipope" in history has ever actively sought the dilution of Christian doctrine on morality.
|Antipope Benedict XIII|
Yes, the reality check is here and it is most painful and salutary. We might ask the question: Of what use to the Church is a doctrinally sound and exemplary man of virtue in the Chair of Peter if anything between 50 - 90% of bishops and clergy do not believe him and are, in fact, implacably opposed to the Catholic truth. Of what use is this exemplary and holy Pope in the outcome that in your local parish, your priest tells you that the Mission of the Church consists of caring for our neighbour but that Baptism itself is not in any way necessary for Salvation. Of what use is this Pope if your bishop, for example, writes pastoral letters with words to the effect that Confession is an unnecessary, repetitive or even burdenesome duty on a soul. How heartening is it really to know that the 'man at the top' is doctrinally sound if on the ground, where real life is lived, bishops and clergy give the impression that they simply don't believe in God or the Real Presence or devotion to the Mother of God and are fundamentally liberal in outlook? Was it really that consoling to know that at least the Pope was Catholic? Really? Even when nearly nobody in the Church but you listened to a single word he had to say?
Yes, Benedict XVI's abdication of the Chair of Peter was indeed the great reveal. It has revealed something of a mystery of iniquity working behind the scenes, it has revealed in all its gory reality, the pack of wolves who surrounded him and who were waiting for him to fall. However, it has revealed much more than that, that the apostasy we now see occuring within the Universal Church was already in operation in your town, in your city, in your home, in your Church. Already the Church faithful to her Lord was there, already the Church unfaithful to Christ, an adulterous Church was there and had been for years, even decades.
Ultimately, Benedict XVI's abdication reveals something about Benedict XVI, something about his trust in Christ, something about the 'new' Pope, something about the papacy itself, but more importantly, it reveals what was already in plain sight, but which so many of us overlooked, that faithlessness, heresy and godlessness had become so among clergy and bishops that it was foolhardy of us to look at the Pope and at WYD gatherings and say, 'Yes, I see the faith is strong!' No, the faith is not strong. Perhaps it is stronger in Poland.
No. When Catholics organise a million man march on Vatican City to protest against the destruction of Christian faith and morals undertaken or the presence of Planned Parenthood at the Vatican, or 100 - 200 million people sign a petition rebuking seemingly heretical suppositions in a papal document, or when entire bishop's conferences stand up to reject both a rupturous interpretation of Amoris Laetitia or Magnum Principium, then yes, then, maybe then we can call the Catholic Church strong. When Catholics demand that their pastors give them the undiluted Catholic Faith, then we can say that the faith is strong.
Yes, the Great Reveal may have revealed the mystery of iniquity at work in the Bride of Christ - I see no reason to doubt this - and may even have revealed a subtle form of apostasy at the summit of the Church, but it also reveals something about you and something about me, something about your priest and something about your bishop. It reveals something about our character and our faith. Are we faithful to Jesus Christ or not? Will we fight for our faith or let wolves ravage it and rebel bishops rape the Church? There is not a single member of the Church Triumphant who is not on the side of those who fight for Jesus Christ. Christ is Victor. Our Lady's Immaculate Heart will triumph!
There may indeed be many clergy and many bishops who are afraid now to speak out in defence of the Lord and His Teachings or to rebuke the terrible things that come from Rome, but laity, clergy and bishops, Cardinals as well, must know this. If those who seek not the restoration of all things in Christ but instead the reconciliation of Church with the world on the world's terms are in any sense victorious for a time, though they can never be triumphant, it is because we, the Body of Christ, are letting this happen. No Pope has the authority to destroy the Church. Nobody may rape or molest the Bride of Christ! But they do not see any substantial opposition to their programme. A petition here, a letter there, a theologian here, they are all easily dismissed. What is not easily dismissed? An army. What is this army? The Church Militant. Who are its soldiers? Those of any rank confirmed to be soldiers of Christ.
Where are the soldiers of Christ?
In establishing the answer to this question, we will, I expect, be establishing at least a partial answer as to why the good Lord has permitted this crisis in the Church. Of what use would Pope Leo XIV be to the Church tomorrow if the Church refused to fight for Her right to be fed by a Successor of Peter worthy of the name? Of what use would Pope Leo XIV be to the Church tomorrow if 75% or more of bishops and clergy despised him and rejected him because he stood up for the truth of Jesus Christ and a similar percentage among clergy, bishops and laity had no faith in the Blessed Sacrament?
Honestly, I used to think the Catholic Faith was so very simple. 'The Pope's Catholic so all is right with the Church!' Everybody tolerated the heretical priest down the road. Everybody tolerated the heretical bishop in his diocese. Everybody tolerated the dissenting theologian who obviously had no faith, the Catholic author who propagated heresy and profitted from it. The Catholic university which was anything but. The Catholic school which gave its pupils sex tips. The Church of the future, if it has a future, will not be like this. The people of God will not stand for it.
I don't know what Pope Francis has to do to provoke the raising up of generals to form this army that will terrify those who seek the overthrow of the Catholic Church for an imitation of it devoid of Christian doctrine and morality. Apart from a diocese that has 'too many' vocations, there is only one think that is going to keep Pope Francis up at night. And that's this. An army of people young and old of every rank, from the great to the small shouting, 'We Want God'. Until the Catholic Church has this spirit, I now see, we have precisely the Pope we deserve.
If we will not fight for our glorious Catholic Faith, for the defence of the Church, we deserve Francis and, more, we deserve worse! If we Catholics desire that the Pope be Catholic and tolerate apostasy and faithlessness everywhere else, we are not worthy of Jesus Christ and we're certainly not worthy of Pope Leo XIV, and the Pope of the restoration of the Church will find few helpers and not many friends upon his accession to the Throne. Right now, the Church is indeed a field hospital. The only combatants laying down dead or wounded, however, are faithful Catholics. The heretics are doing just fine, nor do they see a substantial opposition. Unless that changes, a great and holy Pope makes no real difference to the Church in the future. We must pray for the resurrection of Christian Europe, a Europe that gave the Popes a Holy League, that was willing to shed its blood than permit alien religions take over Christendom, a Church of martyrs, a nation sealed for battle in Confirmation against the foes of Christ. We must pray that our clergy and bishops, the faithful among them will make a fortress of their Dioceses and parishes against the coming onslaught, and an onslaught it will be and that the Body of Christ convulses with righteous anger against a regime that seeks the destruction of Christian morals. It happened in Poland. It can happen in the Church.
St John Paul II, pray for us!
Poles! You're going the wrong way! Rome is that way!