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What the Lord of the Rings Teaches about Today’s Crisis in the Church –By Joe Terlisner On OnePeterFive
“The other thread that winds its way through the entire story is a lesson of Providence, and this is the source of the hope that separates Sam from Frodo. Although there is not an explicit religious creed to be found in Middle Earth, at least not one that fits the modern pluralistic conception of religion, there is very much a certitude of a benevolent higher power that directs the course of even the smallest events, and in truth, Middle Earth’s religious landscape is much truer to Catholic thought than the postmodern since it is accepted as simply a reality of life.
God only knows how the crisis in the Church will be brought to an end and how Tradition will be once again recognized to be integral to Catholicism. Like Sam, we must always hope, knowing that the darkness must pass, and we must always recognize the temptation to compromise with evil as a lie that will only bring us harm, even though God will mysteriously permit such evil to bring about a greater good. He will provide, and the Church will emerge victorious. “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
Two Historical Novels by Benson, Two Classic Liturgical Commentaries, and a Great Vocations Pamphlet – On Rorate
Robert Hugh Benson: The King’s Achievement, set in the times of Henry VIII, St Thomas More, St John Fisher, and the dissolution of the English monasteries, and By What Authority?, set in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and St Edmund Campion. The words “suspenseful, poignant, lyrical, brutal, and triumphant” come to mind in describing this pair of novels, in which Benson vividly depicted a world vexed and torn by religious debates, intrigues, and violence.
October 26 – Their black magic could not withstand the sign of the cross – On Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites
Lucian and Marcian living in the darkness of idolatry applied themselves to the vain study of the black art; but were converted to the faith by finding their charms lose their power upon a Christian virgin, and the evil spirits defeated by the sign of the cross
The Memorare: Unlimited Contrition and Confidence – On Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites
The Memorare is perhaps the most hope-filled prayer in the Catholic Church, for the affirmation it makes is the most categorical possible: “Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection…was left unaided.”
If it was never known that anyone was left unaided, I, being someone, will not be left unaided in requesting Her help. Thus, I have not only the right but the obligation never to lose heart. As difficult as my plight may be, as much as I may be disgusted with and censure myself, if I ask Her to help me, She will help me. There may be a greater or lesser delay, but Her help will come.
What is the new phase ? = It’s clearly a pagan syncretsim movement – based on the templates and tenets of the Vatican II Framework
‘Pope Francis breaks Catholic traditions whenever he wants’: Vatican advisor and Papal spokesperson Fr. Rosica | News | LifeSite
Our Church has indeed entered a new phase,” writes Rosica. “With the advent of this first Jesuit pope, it is openly ruled by an individual rather than by the authority of Scripture alone or even its own dictates of tradition plus Scripture.”
The Great Theologian And Author Dietrich Von Hildebrand – On the hierarchy coming to power in the Church
“The enemies who were hidden in the Trojan Horse have stepped out of their encampment and the active work of destruction is in high gear… The purpose of this book is… to give a short, clear presentation of the principal errors which are being presented today as a breakthrough of the ‘modern’ man who has ‘come of age,’ whom one can supposedly no longer expect to believe the teaching of the Church in the form it has taken up to now…. Secondly, we shall especially try to unmask those hidden, subtle errors … under beautiful, apparently noble titles, and whose danger is often overlooked even by believing Catholics.”
Pagan Natural Uprightness and the Extravagance of Apostates – Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites
See embedded photo in the link
These are three ultra-modern churches, one Protestant, another Jewish, and the last, Catholic, on an American university campus. None of them bears any trace of their respective traditions or spirit. Placed thus side by side, they seem to be three equally legitimate species of one same genus, the religion genus. A like spirit gives them all a like physiognomy.
One has the impression that they have just one soul, that the force which fastens them to the ground is an immanent, sinister and cold mystery, giving them an aspect of three drops of the same liquid, three boxes filled with the same substance, three factories producing the same product.
It is, in our way of seeing, the very soul of contemporary neopaganism, the archetype of the worst of everything that ancient paganism had, corroding all the cultural manifestations in which it is nestled much more efficaciously than did ancient paganism and reducing everything to desolating uniformity
Our friends at the Society of SSPX Remind Us Why Saying The Pope Is No Longer The Pope (Or The Anti-Christ or whatever) Is Not Tenable And Why Even In The Current Crisis That Is Now Surpassing The Arian Crisis – Sedevaticantism is “never” the answer
The Angelus: The Papacy and Sedevacantism – Angelus Press
Excerpt: Catholic Identity Conference Report – On CFN
Fatima and the Post-Vatican II Church: Where Do We Go from Here?
Just two weeks after returning home from the Angelus Press Conference in Kansas City, I made my way to Weirton, West Virginia, a city of around 20,000 people located in the northern tip of the state, for what proved to be another exceptional “rendezvous with serious Catholics,” as the Catholic Identity Conference (Oct. 27-29, 2017) was so appropriately advertised. The Remnant editor Michael Matt, who helps organize the conference each year and serves as emcee throughout the weekend, graciously invited me to attend and represent Catholic Family News in place of our dearly departed friend, John Vennari (requiescat in pace), to whom Michael paid heartfelt tribute during the conference (many thanks, as well, to Eric Frankovitch, Director of the Catholic Identity Project, for his annual organizing efforts and hospitality).
This annual rendezvous of serious Catholics in a “Holiday Inn catacomb,” as Michael jokingly characterized it, is unique among Traditionalist conferences in that it seeks to gather in one venue as many representatives as possible of the “loose federation of warring tribes” (as John Vennari used to say) which constitutes the worldwide Traditional Catholic movement. This year’s conference certainly accomplished that goal, hosting under one roof an impressive assembly: two bishops, one Roman and one Eastern rite; priests from the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX), Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP), and Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICRSS), as well as diocesan clergy and several religious sisters; and, of course, a large crowd of lay faithful, including a significant number of young people.
No Rose-Colored Glasses
Hosting such a broad spectrum of speakers and attendees is indeed a bold initiative, one that some mistakenly interpret as “Trad Ecumenism.” Michael Matt, however, clearly articulated that such is not the case during his welcoming address on Friday evening. He strongly emphasized that:
“this Catholic Identity Conference is not about some phony ecumenical effort among Traditionalists, where, at the end of the weekend, we’re all going to have a big group hug and say, ‘Oh, you know, nothing matters. The most important thing is unity,’ and we can just go on from there. That’s not what this is about. That’s not what the Catholic Identity Conference is. Our beloved Church, in her human element, is suffering through the worst crisis in history and, tonight, we are going to begin a three-day process to discuss how we are going to survive this crisis. … The organizers of this conference are aware of the strategic differences that have come between us – all of us – and various groups of priests, in particular, over the past 25 years…and those differences are not insignificant. We are not up here pretending that we can sweep them all under the rug in one fell swoop. But we all face this dilemma, this dilemma of what to do when rightful ecclesial authority becomes disoriented, as ours most certainly has.”
Such was the true nature and intent of the conference, as evidenced by the content of the excellent talks, some of which we shall now survey.
On the Unchanging Truth of the Catholic Faith
Mr. Matt’s welcoming address also served as an introduction for His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, O.R.C., auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, who presented the first lecture of the weekend. Bishop Schneider, a humble but firm critic of Amoris Laetitia known for his defense of the four Cardinals’ famous dubia, addressed the conference – “this clandestine Church,” he said with endearment – on what he described as “the crisis of the Faith in the world today.” His talk, entitled “On the Unchanging Truth of the Catholic Faith,” began by focusing on how the current crisis is fundamentally different than previous doctrinal crises in the sense that past errors typically opposed a single truth of the Faith. Arianism, for example, specifically denied the divinity of Christ. In our times, however, there is a universal attack on revealed truth, in general, and even on reason itself.
The remedy for this crisis, he explained, is to remain firmly rooted in the perennial Magisterium of the Church, particularly as enunciated during the roughly 100 years prior to the Second Vatican Council. He went on to quote at length from three magisterial documents of that time period: (1) Vatican I’s Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius (On the Catholic Faith, 1870), (2) Pope St. Pius X’s inaugural encyclical E Supremi (On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, 1903), and (3) Pope Pius XII’s inaugural encyclical Summi Pontificatus (On the Unity of Human Society, 1939).
Vatican I’s Dei Filius, of course, contains this crucial passage:
“Therefore, let there be growth and abundant progress in understanding, knowledge, and wisdom, in each and all, in individuals and in the whole Church, at all times and in the progress of ages, but only within the proper limits, in the same dogma, the same sense and the same judgment [eodem sensu eademque sententia].”
In other words, truth is immutable; our understanding of it can and should grow, but this growth never involves an “evolution” or “mutation” of dogma into something contrary to that which the Church has already defined. Bishop Schneider emphasized this point by quoting Dei Filius (his rendering):
“For the doctrine of the Faith which God has revealed is put forward, not as some philosophical discovery capable of being perfected by human intelligence, but as a divine deposit committed to the spouse of Christ to be faithfully protected and infallibly promulgated. Hence, that meaning of the sacred dogmas is ever to be maintained which has once been declared by Holy Mother Church, and there must never be any abandonment of this sense under the pretext of a more profound understanding.”
The false notion of truth “evolving” into something different is the essence of Modernism, the “synthesis of all heresies,” which itself evolved from the errors of naturalism and rationalism condemned by Vatican I. Pope St. Pius X spent a majority of his pontificate battling the Modernist heresy, which by his time had seeped into the clerical ranks. The underlying cause of Modernism is a rejection of the supremacy of God and His revealed truth. As St. Pius X declared and Bishop Schneider quoted:
“Such, in truth, is the audacity and the wrath employed everywhere in persecuting religion, in combating the dogmas of the faith, in brazen effort to uproot and destroy all relations between man and God!”
Pius XII, in turn, addressed many of the same themes in Summi Pontificatus, as cited by Bishop Schneider:
“The present age, Venerable Brethren, by adding new errors to the doctrinal aberrations of the past, has pushed these to extremes which lead inevitably to a drift towards chaos. Before all else, it is certain that the radical and ultimate cause of the evils which We deplore in modern society is the denial and rejection of a universal norm of morality as well for individual and social life as for international relations; We mean the disregard, so common nowadays, and the forgetfulness of the natural law itself, which has its foundation in God, Almighty Creator and Father of all, supreme and absolute Lawgiver, all-wise and just Judge of human actions.”
Several times, His Excellency emphasized how timely the magisterial statements he quoted truly are for the present day, as are “some striking affirmations” of Archbishop Fulton Sheen “which confirm perfectly the prophetic voice of the supreme Magisterium.” He was referring to a radio sermon delivered in 1947 by then- Monsignor Sheen entitled “Signs of Our Times.” In that sermon, the future archbishop spoke in detail about the devil, the anti-Christ, and the counter-Church which the devil will establish as “a mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the Mystical Body of Christ.” Interestingly, it was during this portion of his lecture that Bishop Schneider referred to Amoris Laetitia, a “wrong interpretation” of which he said “leads to this consequence, ultimately, to say good is evil and evil is good.”
Bishop Schneider concluded his talk by exhorting all present, in the words of St. Pius X (whom he said deserves to be called “the Great”), to remain always vigilant against the wiles of the devil and to speak out against his false prophets “who call evil good and good evil.”
100 Years Since Fatima; 50 Years of The Remnant
In addition to uniting the “warring tribes” of Traditionalists, the Catholic Identity Conference also seeks to foster, as its name implies, a strong Catholic identity. For younger attendees, in particular, this requires a review of our roots, as it is written: “Remember the days of old, think upon every generation: ask thy father, and he will declare to thee: thy elders and they will tell thee” (Deut. 32:7). This was the theme of Michael Matt’s talk, “100 Years Since Fatima; 50 Years of The Remnant,” during which he recounted for us the history of the Traditionalist movement and his family’s involvement therein.
He began by describing some of the fathers of the Traditionalist movement, men like Michael Davies, Hamish Fraser, William Marra, Walter Matt, and Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. “These men,” he stressed, “were not about liturgical preferences. They were not about fighting for the Mass they like. It was about so much more than that.” For these brave men, it was all about holding fast to Tradition, not to their personal opinions. As Michael summed up, “They were in it to win it, and they were in it for the right reasons.”
After detailing a bit about the rift in the Matt family caused by Vatican II – specifically, between his father, Walter Matt, and uncle, Alphonse Matt (Walter’s brother) – Michael mentioned Dietrich von Hildebrand, a staunch opponent of the New Mass and other post-conciliar novelties. He quoted Dr. von Hildebrand’s position as expressed in a 1970 letter to Alphonse Matt, then-editor of The Wanderer:
“You assume that the new ordo missae and especially the rubrics constitute for me merely a personally painful change by replacing something very beautiful and perfect with something less beautiful and less perfect. But unfortunately, it is my conviction that the new ordo missae is the greatest pastoral mistake and that its consequences for the Church may be disastrous.
I agree, however, completely with you that it is a grave problem, whether one should criticize it publicly or only intra muros [“within the walls”]. Concerning this problem every one must follow his conscience. But I frankly cannot understand that you do not only abstain from a public criticism of the new ordo missae but make the ‘Wanderer’ an instrument for propagating and praising the new ordo.”
Thus wrote the man whom Pius XII called “the 20th century doctor of the Church,” much to the chagrin of certain “conservative” (Vatican II-friendly) Catholics.
Turning his attention to some practical takeaways from the history he shared, Michael emphasized the importance of families being animated by a spirit of crusade. In other words, it is not enough for parents to simply take their children to the traditional Latin Mass on Sundays and allow the world to influence them the rest of the week. No, we must constantly fight to protect our kids from the world’s contagion on all fronts and make our homes domestic churches in which Christ the King lives and reigns. This is the only way our children will keep the Faith.
In closing, Michael made an impassioned appeal for all Traditionalists to defend the true Mass while also reaching out with humility and charity to Tradition-minded Novus Ordo Catholics, especially priests. If they are open to Tradition and heading in our direction, we should be welcoming them, not condemning them. I sincerely hope this appeal was taken to heart and will be put into practice.
Fatima and the Theological Virtue of Hope
As 2017 is the centenary of Our Lady’s Fatima apparitions, it was most appropriate for the conference theme to include Fatima and feature talks specific to it. One such lecture, entitled “Fatima and the Theological Virtue of Hope,” was delivered by Canon Aaron B. Huberfeld, ICRSS. He chose to center his remarks around the “first secret” of Fatima, that is, the vision of hell (July 13, 1917) – not a topic we tend to associate with hope for obvious reasons, but the connection became clearer as Canon Huberfeld spoke.
He explained at length:
“Hope, for us Catholics and in our spiritual lives, is to be sharply distinguished from the virtue of faith. We inherit our proper understanding of these virtues, above all, from the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, who had as his point of departure the study of the soul, as presented to him by the philosopher, Aristotle. And so, we recall that the virtue of faith is to be found, not in the will, but in the intellect. As Bishop Schneider reminded us last night, faith is the assent of the intellect. It is the submission of the intellect to truth revealed by God on the basis of the authority of the One Who is revealing. … Hope, being seated in the will, is rather a virtue that makes us desire God as our highest good and to expect with firm confidence eternal bliss and the means of obtaining it because of God’s goodness and power.”
The true, Catholic understanding of faith and hope is fundamentally opposed to the errors of Protestantism, as Canon Huberfeld expounded:
“With the Protestant revolt, faith will become confused largely with hope because faith will become a purely fiduciary faith, that is, a faith that is a mere trust. It is a trusting that we have been saved…Protestantism, then, begins with this sort of blind confidence, whereas the Catholic understanding of conversion and faith begins actually the other way. The Catholic Faith begins, and Scripture invites us to begin, with fear, the fear of the Lord. That is ‘the beginning of wisdom’ [Ps. 110:10; Prov. 1:7, 9:10; Ecclus. 1:16].”
This initial fear, which is a servile fear of punishment (rooted in self-interest), is meant to mature as we grow in the spiritual life into a filial fear of offending God (rooted in charity). “And why I quoted for you these words of the ‘first secret’ of Fatima,” he explained, “the revelation of the torments of hell, to the children of Fatima – a great reminder for our time – is that our hope is based on this: Hope is – and especially for St. Thomas Aquinas – a mean; it is between the vices of presumption on the one hand and despair on the other.” In short, the virtue of hope, properly understood, is an important aid to keep us out of hell.
Canon Huberfeld spent the final portion of his talk discussing the vital importance of ongoing conversion in light of the three ages (or stages) of the spiritual life: purgative (elimination of mortal sin), illuminative (detachment from all deliberate sin and the things of this world), and unitive (habitual contemplation and great longing for Heaven).
In truth, Canon Huberfeld’s talk was like a course on Thomistic philosophy/theology and a spiritual retreat, somehow fit into one hour. Quite impressive and edifying!
The Vatican During Pope Francis’ Pontificate
Perhaps one of the most anticipated talks of the weekend (certainly in my opinion) was delivered on Sunday morning by British Catholic journalist Edward Pentin, a Vatican insider who is the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. Mr. Pentin travelled all the way from Rome, in fact, to give us a firsthand account of “The Vatican During Pope Francis’ Pontificate,”  a pontificate that has produced “a crisis, by any objective measure, despite the wider Church and the world thinking otherwise.”
Mr. Pentin emphasized that he wanted to give attendees:
“the fullest picture as possible of what’s happening. That means reporting on things that some might find not particularly edifying, but I really just want to expose what’s happening in the hope that it will encourage us to pray for the unity of the Church, especially during this anniversary year of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, because I do believe that only by exposing some of what people I often hear say is a diabolical presence in the Church or ‘naming the demons,’ as it were, can they be properly exorcised.”
Following his introductory remarks, Pentin went on to highlight some of the material found in his 2015 book The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? (available from Ignatius Press) in which he documents copious evidence of manipulation of the October 2014 Extraordinary Synod on the Family (which preceded the October 2015 Ordinary Synod on the Family) for the purpose of undermining orthodoxy.
He mentioned, in passing, the scandalous 2014 mid-term relatio (report) “which sought to make homosexual practice vaguely acceptable in the Church…the ignoring of Pope John Paul II and his magisterium, the side-lining of African Synod Fathers due to their conservative voice, the manipulation of various processes that gave prominence to various heterodox voices…the pressure exerted on the General Relator, Cardinal Péter Erdő, [and] the interception of the book Remaining in the Truth of Christ, which of course was about the Kasper proposal about admitting some remarried divorcees living in adultery to Holy Communion.” Regarding the latter, Pentin reminded us that Pope Francis personally intervened to keep the Kasper proposal alive, despite its failure to garner sufficient support from the Synod Fathers.
All of this background information served to illustrate the true origin of Amoris Laetitia, the 2016 post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation, which is at the root of the current crisis, as well as the “modus operandi” of Pope Francis and his collaborators.
He went on to state poignantly, in light of the evidence just discussed:
“If the document is all the work of the Holy Spirit, as its proponents often freely insist, and that you have to be converted to understand it, it’s quite legitimate to ask the question: Why the need for such manipulation, heavy-handedness, and underhanded methods? And I put this question to one of the most vigorous defenders of Amoris Laetitia and he really couldn’t answer it.”
No surprise there!
Regarding the current state of affairs in the Vatican, Pentin discussed two recent interviews given by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and Cardinal Walter Brandmüller, one of the two remaining dubia Cardinals. Both Cardinals Müller and Brandmüller testify to an unprecedented climate of fear – a “reign of terror,” according to some – suspected surveillance, and even espionage (the threat of being “informed on” or reported) if one is at all critical of Pope Francis or Amoris Laetitia. This is no doubt what prompted Bishop Schneider last December to compare the current climate in the Church with that of the former Soviet Union, in which he was born and raised.
While sincerely trying to give Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, Pentin was not afraid to report with respectful candor on the alarming state of the Church under Francis, whose pontificate exhibits a “total lack of substance,” according to certain Vatican officials, “some very high up.” In many ways, there is a profound disconnect between the Pope incessant message of “mercy” and his own merciless treatment of those who disagree with him (otherwise known as hypocrisy).
Pentin concluded his remarkable talk on a positive note, sharing with those present some encouraging words spoken to him by one of the Vatican officials he quoted earlier: “Apart from the battle, and because of it, one thing remains; that the most important thing to remember is to pray, perhaps offer sacrifices, knowing that God does not abandon His children or His Church.”
Conference CDs, On-Demand Videos Available
While I would love to present detailed summaries of each lecture, time and space constraints compel to conclude this report by exhorting readers to purchase audio recordings of the conference talks in order to more fully benefit from them. All the lectures were, in fact, recorded by Susan Vennari and are available from Oltyn Library Services. Access to on-demand videos is available for purchase at www.remnantnewspaper.com.
I look forward to attending next year’s Catholic Identity Conference! Until then, keep the Faith!
Although we are surrounded by the heresy of unproven theories of biological evolution the crisis in the Church is not restricted to biological evolution the philosophy of biological evolution is partnered with the modernists insistence on doctrinal and dogmatic evolution of Catholicism
We found this in the preparatory works of the Council , the Council documents themselves , and more over the works and of all their mentors de Chardin, Shillibecckx , Rahner, Leger, Kung, and so many others. Todays’ prelates are living out the heterodox and in many places heretical philosophies of their avant-garde predecessors, almost as an infallible mandated directive
The new Catholic religion and its high level propagators now consider as panned heresies the following , militant Catholic philosophy Aquinas philosophy Catholics – – the philosophy of equal partnership between Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture in divine revelation – the philosophy of the dire necessity of the restoration of traditional Catholicism , in liturgy , art & architecture, and education –.
This progress of this “the brotherhood of mankind” and the truth present in all religions To use the masonic syncretism terms used in the Vatican II documents and philosophy we recognize , the relativizing of Catholic dogma and doctrine, the propagation of Divine Mercy with its false evangelical Lutheran understanding of sin in the economy of salvation and the overthrow of primary roll of the Sacraments in God’s grace , the intercession of the Communion of Saints and the overthrow of the roll of indulgences and the obviating of it and the veneration of relics in the economy processes of this new Catholic religion. Also including are support to the overthrow of Catholic only skilled workers trade guilds, Catholic social teaching on property and the building up of generational traditional Catholic families as corporations within the traditional Church, ecumenism with Communism and sometimes economic and political support for socialism and for the various aspects of the culture of death
Why lies beneath all this – philosophy and evolution – Let’s start again at the beginning , were our ancestors possibly monkeys and gorillas What does the preconciliar infallible Catholic Catechisms have to say about all this ? Were there previously infallible , doctrinal and dogmatic pronouncements from “Roman Catholic” teaching in its 2000+ year salvation history or did Catholic philosophy and theology begin at Vatican II or did it begin on the eve of Vatican II in the dusk of the Pope Pius XII pontificate
Popes for Evolution – I – From Pius XII to Paul VI by Dr. Remi Amelunxen
The evolution of the Catholic Church into oblivion By Rev. Thomas R. Collins
And so we relax Church discipline. We allow corn beef and cabbage dinners when St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in Lent, we transfer to Sunday the celebrations of Ascension and of Corpus Christi, and we carefully avoid telling parishioners that the Third Commandment does not say, “Keep holy the Lord’s Day, if you feel like it.”
“Thus it is that we need to remember that words do matter. They establish the basic premises for human communication. If words are desecrated, human relationships become desecrated. As long as Christians uncritically capitulate to the secular agenda of establishing desecrating words such as expediency and evolution as the linchpins of human development, the secularists, silently snickering with condescending cynicism, will gladly acclaim our sychophancy as enlightenment.”
The preferred disciple of Benedict XVI, Cardinal Christoph von Schönborn,
Archbishop of Vienna, called a press conference on January 16, 2012, to
announce that the Catholic Church is on the brink of a radical internal
F. Douglas Kneibert, a retired newspaper editor and a convert from Protestantism, is a former vice chairman of the board of directors of the Vitae Foundation, which uses mass media to promote a culture of life.
In 1563 the Council of Trent concluded its monumental work of reforming the Church, further defining Catholic doctrine, and confronting the Protestant Reformation just as a series of religious wars were erupting that would inflame Europe for more than eighty years. It was in this context that the Council introduced a new term, ecclesia militans, the “Church militant,” which it defined as follows: “The Church militant is the society of all the faithful still dwelling on earth. It is called militant because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.” (The other constituent parts of the one Church are the “Church triumphant” in Heaven and the “Church suffering” in Purgatory.)
The war that Trent identified is unending, having always been part of the human experience. But the manner in which our enemies manifest themselves changes with the times. Satan tailors his temptations to suit the spirit of the age, as does the world. Even the enticements of the flesh can assail us in different ways in different periods. Moreover, the world, the flesh, and the devil don’t always present themselves to us as separate, sharply defined entities, but can be intertwined in often complex ways. In identifying our enemies, the Council’s use of the word implacable commands our attention. Implacable enemies are those “not capable of being appeased.”
What Is Meant by “the World”?
Was Trent saying that the physical world is the enemy of the Church? By no means. The Greek word kosmos, translated as “world” in sacred Scripture, is used differently in various contexts. It can refer to the physical world, or universe, that was spoken into being by God, who pronounced His creation “very good.” But kosmos, as used by the sacred writers, can also refer to the “world system” that is hostile to God’s Kingdom. Ours is a fallen world, the result of original sin that disrupted the harmony between God and man. The devil, who engineered the Fall, is the “ruler of this world,” according to Jesus (Jn. 14:30). St. John even says that “the whole world is in the power of the evil one” (1 Jn. 5:19). In what sense is that true?
Here we are grappling with the mystery of evil, and there are no ready answers. We know that a good God is sovereign over all His creation, yet He permits the devil certain leeway (see, for example, the Book of Job). The Church teaches that sin is the seedbed of evil; according to St. Thomas Aquinas, God permits evil “in order to draw forth some greater good.”
The New Testament has much to say about the world’s allurements and its way of thinking and acting — and none of it is good. Never once are we urged to follow its lead down the broad, neon-lit thoroughfares that beckon us in all directions. Something akin to a spiritual balancing act is required to discern how we can enjoy the world without being molded by it.
What Is Meant by “Church militant”?
One way of arriving at an understanding of the Church militant is to consider what it is not. It’s not cultural Catholicism, which is simply handed down from generation to generation, usually with steadily diminishing fervor. It’s not cafeteria Catholicism, by which one fashions a religion to suit oneself. It’s not lukewarm Christmas/Easter Catholicism, and it certainly is not liberal Catholicism, which often takes its cues from the world’s agenda instead of the Church.
All these pale imitations of the true faith are grossly inadequate for confronting the challenges that face the Catholic Church. What defines the Church militant is a strong, robust, unapologetic faith, anchored in a personal acquaintance with Jesus, submitted to the Pope and the Magisterium, and lived out in a life of prayer, regular reception of the sacraments, and service.
The Ongoing Struggle
That Christians confront hostile social forces should come as no surprise, for the Catholic Church has struggled against various enemies throughout her existence. These enemies can be either spiritual or material, but are often both at the same time. The forces against which the Church militant battles should never be underestimated, but we should resist the tendency to see the conflict exclusively in spiritual terms. Ecclesia militans also carries a military connotation. The brave soldiers who defended Europe — and the Church — against those who would subjugate them were part of the Church militant every bit as much as those back home who offered up prayers.
Likewise, we should not view the conflict in exclusively material terms. Yes, the various Islamic attacks on Europe through the centuries were turned back by force of arms, but the spiritual battles — in which the faith that molded the continent was at stake — were every bit as intense. Pope St. Pius V recognized this, giving thanks for the intercessions of our Blessed Mother, under her new title of Our Lady of Victory, for the Catholic League’s decisive defeat of a much larger Muslim fleet at Lepanto in 1571.
These types of struggles show no sign of abating. In our time, approximately a hundred thousand Christians are killed every year because of their faith, according to a recent Vatican report. Their slaughter by Muslims in the Middle East and Africa has become so routine that it hardly merits mention in the news media — or by our State Department.
A Depleted Force
Four centuries after Trent, the Second Vatican Council convened in Rome with the intent, in Pope St. John XXIII’s words, to “throw open the windows of the Church” to the world. A faction of Catholics was quick to pounce, hailing this as an explicit repudiation of Trent’s ecclesia militans, and the expression virtually disappeared from official Church documents (including the Catechism of the Catholic Church). To this day, the differing ways of perceiving the world system — inspired either by Trent or the much ballyhooed “spirit” of Vatican II — remain the primary dividing line that separates liberal from conservative Catholics.
The Zeitgeist has been warmly embraced by a shocking number of Catholics, a high percentage of whom favor same-sex marriage, physician-assisted suicide, embryonic stem-cell research, and, yes, even abortion. At a time when the Church militant needs every able-bodied Catholic it can muster, an AWOL rate averaging between forty and fifty percent is disheartening. It’s a good thing God doesn’t play the numbers game. He progressively winnowed Gideon’s army down to no more than a company, yet it was victorious over the mighty Midianites.
Threats to the Home Front
“The world” attacks the Church in myriad ways. The growing assault on religious liberty in the U.S. and other countries heads the list of current threats. We are accustomed to seeing such things in countries ruled by despots and intolerant established religions, but not in democratic America, where freedom of religion is protected by the U.S. Constitution. Throughout our history we have assumed, and rightly so, that our government would protect this freedom. That assumption is now questionable. Nor should we put too much reliance on the rule of law. The Constitution is a marvelous document, but in any given case it means no more than what federal judges and Supreme Court justices say it does — and they are political appointees.
There is a growing sense that we have turned a corner in America, that the country we have known and loved is being cut loose from its moral anchors. In the space of only a generation or less, many social mores that we took for granted as part of the public moral code have been so undermined that reinstituting them may be impossible. To cite only one example, same-sex marriage is becoming accepted by states at an accelerating rate, effectively rewriting the rules God set down for the most fundamental institution of society.
The various threats to religious freedom in this country have come mainly from the Obama administration, not only with the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate but in other areas as well. For example, in 2012, when the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission presumed to tell a Lutheran church in Michigan who could be considered a “minister,” the commission earned a unanimous rebuke from the U.S. Supreme Court.
In the area of homosexual “rights,” certain states have followed the federal lead, primarily through laws that force people of faith to choose to abide by their moral judgments or risk their livelihoods. In some states, public education has been so corrupted by these trends that Christians are forced to look elsewhere to educate their children. California is well advanced in indoctrinating schoolchildren on the “normalcy” of homosexuality, and other states are poised to follow suit.
Expect to see more of this as Christians are increasingly facing “keep out” signs posted in the public square. Laws against so-called hate speech, which is largely defined as anything that casts the homosexual lifestyle in a bad light, may be the next arrow in the gay lobby’s quiver. Their ultimate goal is a society cleansed of all moral censure of homosexual acts. At some point — and it may not be far off — the Catholic Church could well find herself standing alone in that respect.
Our Marching Orders
The term “Church militant” may sound a little too warlike for modern tastes, which probably helps account for its demise. But it needs to be dusted off and put back to use. In that regard, it found a powerful ally in Pope Benedict XVI. Conceding that the expression “is a bit out of fashion,” our Emeritus Pope told a group of cardinals in May 2012 that “evil wants to rule the world” and that “it’s necessary to enter the struggle against evil,” warning that evil sometimes poses “as a force for good while destroying the moral foundations of society.”
Just a few months earlier, the Holy Father had given a group of American bishops their marching orders: “It is imperative that the entire Catholic community in the United States come to realize the grave threats to the Church’s public moral witness presented by a radical secularism which finds increasing expression in the political and cultural spheres. The seriousness of these threats needs to be clearly appreciated at every level of ecclesial life.”
Our Emeritus Pope perceived the nature of the various enemies confronting the Catholic Church, both current ones and those that are emerging. Realizing Benedict’s fervent hope that the Church, from top to bottom, would wake up to the threats she faces will require a sense of urgency that, for the most part, we have yet to see. Whether Pope Francis shares his predecessor’s concerns in this area is unclear at this point, but one thing is certain: Without strong leadership, little will happen.
Nevertheless, it is the responsibility of all Catholics, not just our spiritual leaders, to take part in this battle. And the conflict is steadily intensifying, as the post-Christian trajectory of American culture becomes more evident by the day. But even that expression falls short of the mark, as the post-Christian society appears to be morphing into something much worse: an anti-Christian society. Believers in many parts of the world have long lived in such an environment. Now, it would appear, it’s our turn.
Weapons of Spiritual Warfare
The first battle the Church militant must fight is against ourselves, for unless the appetites of the flesh are subdued, we will be unprepared for further combat, as the saints attest. It’s a lifelong struggle, which is what Trent meant by “eternal war.”
The spiritual gifts we receive at confirmation have a special relevance for the Church militant, enabling us to go out into the world and be the Church. The Catechism states that confirmation “gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action” (no. 1301). Among the sacrament’s gifts, the cardinal virtue of fortitude, or courage, is especially needed by the Church militant. Lukewarm Catholics in particular need to follow the advice that St. Paul gave Timothy to “stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).
Moreover, we would do well to reacquaint ourselves with St. Michael the Archangel. In 1994 Pope St. John Paul II reminded the faithful of the prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII (which was a part of every Mass until it was swept away after Vatican II) that calls on Michael to “defend us in battle” and “be our protection against the malice and snares of the devil.” John Paul asked us “not to forget it and to recite it, to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”
Identifying the Battle Lines
The challenges faced by the Church militant today encompass two broad categories: strengthening the Church and confronting her enemies. Strategies for strengthening the Church include:
— encouraging vocations, for without faithful priests, there is no Church;
–supporting sound Catholic education — at all levels — for we cannot defend what we do not know. A well-catechized laity is a must, for the battle is largely theirs;
— promoting the “new evangelization,” for there is no substitute for personal conversion if one is to live out one’s faith;
— rescuing the faithful Catholic news media, most of which are endangered today — especially the print media — as the battle for the Catholic mind is ongoing.
Strategies for confronting the Church’s enemies include:
— fighting abortion, the greatest moral evil of our times;
— defending the family against those who are seeking to redefine it;
— monitoring the popular culture and speaking out when the Church is attacked;
— voting for sound candidates for public office;
— supporting those organizations that are confronting anti-Catholic forces on a daily basis.
Obviously, most of what is required will take money, so being generous with God is absolutely essential. Keep in mind that we are merely stewards of His gifts, and will be called upon to give an account of our stewardship. It goes without saying that all we do should be soaked in prayer — the greatest weapon the Church militant possesses.
Militant Catholics who are on the front lines should not lose heart. We also possess two secret weapons of which the world knows nothing. The first is truth. God is Truth, and those who serve Him serve the truth. Error will never have the final word. Most important of all, we have Jesus’ guarantee that our old enemy, the devil, will not prevail against Christ’s one Church. Without that assurance, it would be tempting to abandon the fight. With it, the Church militant is equipped to struggle on, with a sure confidence in final victory.
“The militant character of the Christian life is forgotten, but not for this do the enemies of man sleep. They are fiercer than ever. Against man, who is unarmed and unprepared for battle, their task has become easier than ever.”— Fr. Livio Fanzaga, The Deceiver: Our Daily Struggle with Satan
June 1 – Kidnapped for Christ – Nobility and Analogous Traditional Elites