This address was given by Fr Linus Clovis, spiritual director to Family Life International, on 18 May 2017 at the fourth annual Rome Life Forum, which is organised by Voice of the Family.
Pope St John Paul II’s first words, on appearing on the loggia of St Peter’s Basilica, on 16th October, 1978, the day of his election, were “Be not afraid”. Now, thirty-nine years later, in light of the events that have overtaken contemporary Catholicism, his first words seem to be, not only prophetic but more, a clarion call in preparation for battle (1).
Whenever the pendulum of human and salvation history swings through a period of encroaching darkness and turmoil, God often inspires prophets to speak so that some light may be cast to dispel the darkness and, that the turmoil may be assuaged with hope. These prophets appealed for more trust in God’s active and caring concern for His people (2). Thus, for example, with entreaties to have faith in God’s loving providence, Isaiah (3) begged King Ahaz to ask God for a sign before he acted and, Jeremiah (4) warned that God would save Jerusalem from total destruction only if the city surrenders to the Babylonians. The Church herself, has not been deprived of the blessings of the prophetic grace as is amply demonstrated by God raising up saints such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Francis of Assisi, Catherine of Siena, Margaret Mary Alacoque and, in more recent times, by sending His Blessed Mother to Lourdes, La Salette and Fatima.
A century ago, God sent the Queen of Prophets to the Cova da Iria in Fatima, Portugal with a double pronged message for our contemporary world. First, She warned that the world was already facing a peril far more destructive than that which faced Jerusalem and, secondly, She presented a heavenly solution, wiser and more prudent than that offered to Ahaz who had refused to ask God for a sign either as “deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (5). The Virgin, however, from maternal solicitude, established the gravity and veracity of Her twin message with a vision and a sign. On 13th July, 1917 ‘deep as Sheol’ was illustrated by a disturbing vision of hell. Four months later, on 13th October, ‘high as heaven’ was confirmed with a sign, the awe-inspiring miracle of the “dance of the sun” which was witnessed by more than seventy thousand people.
On October 13, 1884, exactly 33 years before Our Lady’s appearance at Fatima, Pope Leo XIII, had an extraordinary spiritual experience. He overheard a conversation between God and Satan in which Satan challenged God, boasting that, given greater power over priests (6), he could destroy the Church within 100 years. God granted him that time to test the Church – ultimately for His own honour and glory (7) and also, to confirm that His Church was indeed built on rock and able to sustain the attacks of hell (8) with as much fortitude as the Patriarch Job. In preparation for this trial, Pope Leo immediately composed the Leonine prayers, with a particular invocation of St Michael, for the defence and protection of the clergy and he ordered their recital after every Mass.
Aware of how desperate modern times would be, with the battle being fought at fever pitch, the Virgin proposed a strategy which, if adopted would secure the salvation of a great number of souls. The strategy required that, in order to “appease God, who was already so deeply offended”, three major conditions should be satisfied, namely, a reform of morals with full adherence to natural and divine laws, the Five First Saturdays devotion and the Consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Then to further emphasise how perilous the approaching times would be, the Virgin, with motherly concern, warned of the consequences of ignoring Her message: wars, Russia spreading her errors, the persecution of the Church and of the Holy Father. She, nonetheless, concluded Her message with a vestige of hope: “in the end my Immaculate Heart will triumph and a period of peace will be given to the world.”
On 13th August, 1917, the children were kidnapped and, through no fault of theirs, were unable to keep their tryst with the Lady. Appearing to them six days later, the Lady asked them to return to the Cova da Iria on 13th September, confirming that She would work the promised miracle, although it would not be “as great”. This incident highlights the importance of observing all Heaven’s instructions exactly (9) since partial compliance diminishes the proffered blessings. In 1929, Our Lady specifically promised a period of world peace if the Pope, in union with the bishops of the world, would consecrate Russia to Her Immaculate Heart. This specific consecration has not yet been done and, I believe, that, this has contributed to the present crisis. While blessings may follow partial compliance to Heaven’s requests, these, no doubt, are bestowed as encouragement to proceed to full compliance. Thus, both Spain and Portugal were spared the Second World War, after their bishops consecrated those countries to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Similarly, the Second World War was shortened, after Pope Pius XII, even without the bishops’ participation, consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart and, Communism collapsed soon after Pope John Paul II, with the bishops’ participation but with no explicit mention of Russia, consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart.
The social and political uncertainties of the post World War I years provided the conditions for the twin spectres of Nazism and Communism to grow until 25-26 January, 1938, that fateful “night of the unknown light”. This “unknown light” signified the imminent outbreak of a worse war which, Our Lady of Fatima predicted, in July 1917, would occur during the pontificate of Pius XI. This Second World War ended in 1945 with the defeat of Nazism but peace was not assured as the now hungry spectre of Communism, having swallowed half of Europe, ominously and threateningly, loured and looked to further territorial expansion.
The election of a cardinal from Communist Poland at the second Conclave of 1978 was sufficiently a threat to the status quo that an attempt to eliminate him was made on 13th May, 1981. Two years, prior to his election as Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, the archbishop of Cracow, delivered a prophetic message in Philadelphia on the occasion of the bicentennial anniversary of American Independence.
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.
We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it. . . .How many times has the renewal of the Church been brought about in blood! It will not be different this time.
Today, forty years later, this speech has such an ominous ring to it that, in the current global climate, it is difficult not to recall Our Lord’s own words: People will faint from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon the world, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (10) At present we are experiencing recurring afflictions and uncertainties causing fear which can be attributed to the wilful neglect of the Virgin’s warning.
There is a growing sense, even among the least sophisticated, the spiritually indifferent and the historically naive, that something is wrong, that something has to give or, as W. B. Yates expressed with poetic elegance:
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. (11)
Certainly, in regard to the Church, it seems that the centre can no longer hold. The Petrine authority has stealthily been whittled away that it seems to no longer possess the supremacy of judicial power but rather only that of primus inter pares. One need only recall Paul VI’s prohibition against Communion in the hand and the outright disobedience, if not defiance, of several hierarchies that forced his capitulation or, the uproar and denunciation that followed his issuance of Humanae Vitae. Equally the declaration (12) of John Paul II against female altar servers was soon undeclared by a new and authentic interpretation of Canon 230§2 in the Code of Canon Law. Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, like a lame duck, fared no better.
Perhaps even more serious is the feeling that “things ecclesiastic and catholic” are falling apart and a pastoral anarchy has been loosed upon the Church. The current media spin presents the Petrine office as little more than the opinion, even the most insouciant, of the incumbent. Yet, even in the midst of this imbroglio, there seems to be a hidden exercise of power at work that can reform the marriage annulment process without the customary consultation of the appropriate Roman dicasteries; issue a broad and scathing rebuke of the Roman Curia in a Christmas address; purge a dicastery’s membership, which effectively vitiate the influence of its Prefect who had stood firmly against innovations injurious both to the teachings on marriage and to the tenets of the liturgy; cripple the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate; and shut down the Melbourne campus of the John Paul II Institute. One can hardly be blamed for judging like Isaac, mutatis mutandis that “Although the voice is Jacob’s, the hands are Esau’s” (13).
With such teachings and with unespied power behind it (14), it is no surprise that the “best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity”. Indeed, the sensus catholicus is troubled and voices that should be raised in its defence are muted, while the spirit of the age is not short of tongues that proclaim from the housetops (15) what could well be the anti-Gospel of which, four decades ago, Cardinal Wojtyla had spoken. It becomes even more dire as the Cardinal went on to warn that we should be “prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ”.
Cardinal Wojtyla’s anxiety gives us additional grounds to take the message of Fatima seriously. In August 1931, Our Lord Himself appeared to Sister Lucia and, referring to His command for the collegial consecration of Russia, commanded her to “Make it known to My ministers that given they follow the example of the King of France in delaying the execution of My request, they will follow him into misfortune.” (16) This warning, together with the Cardinal’s declaration that this trial cannot be averted, is perhaps, what has so many fearful. Like every passion, fear, in order to be morally good, must be regulated by reason.
In Thomistic thought (17), a passion is that motion or modification that the recipient undergoes when acted on by some agent. In human nature, a passion is that motion which arises from the senses and can even affect the body when one imagines or thinks of good or evil. One such passion is fear which springs from the perceived threat of some present or future evil and whose power resides in the belief that one lacks the ability to overcome the evil. In simple terms, fear is an unsettling of soul – a mental disturbance that regards a present or future evil as irresistible and actually able to conquer good. It can be contrasted with hope, whose object is a future good, difficult but possible to attain.
St. Thomas enumerates the various manifestations of fear as: laziness, shamefacedness, shame, amazement, stupor and anxiety. The cause of fear may be intrinsic or extrinsic. The first three are intrinsic since they come from one’s personal actions and may be defined as follows. Laziness is that response which shrinks from work for fear of effort. This is characterised by the third servant in the parable (18) of the talents who, having hidden his talent, offered the excuse he was afraid. He was punished for being “wicked and lazy”. Shamefacedness, a kind of embarrassment, is that fear that deters one from committing a disgraceful act. The parable (19) of the steward who was afraid to beg illustrates that fear. Adam hid from God because of shame for having disobeyed. Amazement, stupor and anxiety are extrinsic since they have their origin in external factors far greater than one can overcome. Amazement is the fear that is felt when the threat is so great that one is unable to gauge its magnitude, whilst at the threat of an unprecedented evil one feels stupor even to the point of being cataleptic. Lastly, anxiety is the kind of fear produced by an unforeseen occurrence resulting from an unexpected event. Examples of these would be the resurrection of Our Lord from the dead, which was a source of amazement (20) to the disciples, stupor (21) to the guards at the tomb who were like dead men and, anxiety to those who were responsible (22) for the crucifixion of the Lord.
Amazement and stupor paralyse the understanding just as laziness is the paralysis brought about by fear of exertion. This implies that amazement and stupor shrink from the difficulty of grappling with a great and unwonted occurrence just as laziness shrinks from undertaking physical toil. There is a subtle difference between stupor and amazement in that the one amazed shrinks from forming a judgment on what, at present, amazes him but, he would be willing to do so later. Stupor, however, places one in a seemingly permanent coma. Amazement, therefore, may be the beginning of philosophical research to which stupor is a hindrance since, the one overcome by stupor fears both to judge at present and to inquire into the future.
For our purpose, two different kinds of fear need to be considered. First, fear may be grave if it influences a steadfast person but slight if it affects only a person of weak will. In order for fear to be grave,
- It must be grave in itself and not merely in the estimation of the person fearing
- It must be based on a reasonable foundation
- The threat must be possible of execution
- The execution of the threat must be inevitable
Grave fear diminishes will power but does not necessarily remove it totally. This is exemplified by those of the disciples who, after their panic when Jesus was arrested, followed Him at a distance (23). Slight fear is not considered as even diminishing will power.
Second, reverential fear is that disposition one has towards one’s parents or towards those in positions of authority and it springs primarily from one’s reluctance to offend them. If such fear is used as a compelling force, then its justness or otherwise comes from the validity for which it was exercised.
It is important to recall that fear did not exist in human nature at the time of creation but rather, is one of the consequences of the sin of our first parents. In the state of original innocence, Adam lived with beasts without any fear and his relationship with God was also void of fear. Once he sinned, however, he became exceedingly afraid and hid himself among the trees. When God called him, he responded: “I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself”(24).
This fear arose not only from dread of punishment but also from shame for having disobeyed God. Human fear increased and became terror when Cain had to face the consequences of his act of fratricide: “My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me this day away from the ground; and from thy face I shall be hidden; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will slay me” (25). From the moment Cain laid violent hands on his brother, fear morphed itself into a hierarchy: dismay, fright, cowardice, dread, terror. Additionally, fear, arising from many sources and manifesting itself in multitudinous ways, has enthroned itself in the human psyche and, even more grievous, the devil uses it as a weapon to enslave and oppress us (26).
In acknowledging the reality and indeed the power of fear, Christ distinguished between the two kinds of fear to which we are subjected. “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell, …. yes, I tell you, fear him!” (27). Although threats to our body may provoke many degrees of fear, these fears can all be vanquished by a holy and reverential fear: “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death” (28). Fear of God leads to awe and obedience to Him, that is, to keep His commandments, to love Him and to lead a life of repentance. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (29).
In Christ’s counsel that we should fear our Creator above all things is a simple reminder of the existence of a hierarchy of fears. In particular, since death, the greatest of the natural objects of fear, is inescapable, we should be even less afraid of losing all the things belonging to this world, that is, all material goods, all social and professional advantages, all titles and all dignities which, on our departure, must, in any case, be left behind. “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you; and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’” (30). Moreover, Our Lord merely confirmed what the heroes of the Maccabeus period had already believed, articulated and zealously practised. The great martyr Eleazar who was determined not to violate the ancestral laws by eating pig’s flesh, vociferously rejected, his friends’ ploy that he should only pretend to do so.
Such pretence is not worthy of our time of life,” he said, “lest many of the young should suppose that Elea′zar in his ninetieth year has gone over to an alien religion, and through my pretence, for the sake of living a brief moment longer, they should be led astray because of me, while I defile and disgrace my old age. For even if for the present I should avoid the punishment of men, yet whether I live or die I shall not escape the hands of the Almighty. Therefore, by manfully giving up my life now, I will show myself worthy of my old age and leave to the young a noble example of how to die a good death willingly and nobly for the revered and holy laws (31).
This narrative illustrates Eleazar’s two major fears. First, was his inability to escape the hand of God and the second, the fear of setting a bad example which could mislead the young. Interestingly, we are told that “Those who a little before had acted toward him with good will now changed to ill will, because the words he had uttered were in their opinion sheer madness” (32). This supposed madness of Eleazar was also shared by the mother of the seven sons who exhorted each and every one of them to hold faithfully to God’s laws and to accept a most cruel death rather than to abandon their “ancestral way of life,” (33) saying “Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in God’s mercy I may get you back again with your brothers” (34).
The zeal and clear-sightedness of the Maccabean martyrs should be a source of inspiration and encouragement for us, especially as we are currently confronted with resolute policies that threaten to undermine and to change our ancestral customs and traditional beliefs. We need to recall that, even when those advocating such change seem to have the support (35) of authority, we are not facing anything new as the Preacher (36) once declared “What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; and there is nothing new under the sun”.
As disciples of Christ, as believers and more, as leaders aware of our responsibilities before God, we need to become “full of passionate intensity” for our convictions and, to proclaim, even “from the housetops”, the unadulterated Gospel of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. It is time to cleave the deepening darkness with the light of truth.
The Church and anti-Church
Pope Paul VI (37) spoke of the “smoke of Satan” having entered the Church, and Sister Lucia, that the apostasy in the Church would begin at the top. For the past half-century, there has been a growing crisis in the Church, arising as much from a lack of clear and unambiguous teaching, as from the climate of dissent among priests, Religious and laity. Within the contemporary Church, the crisis has been brought to fever pitch, if not breaking point, by the rejection of Our Lord’s yes/no paradigm and the undermining of established doctrinal positions by protean pastoral practises. One recent example is Bishop Fernando Ocariz’s pixilated declaration in defence of Amoris Laetitia’s proposed Holy Communion for adulterers – quote – “a new pastoral impulse which requires concrete answers in continuity with the doctrine of the Magisterum” (39). The blood-dimmed tide is loosed as there emerges from the darkness and confusion a real and open conflict between those who remain faithful and loyal to Our Lord’s Gospel and the increasing numbers of the uncatechised, who, by adhering to the praxis of ‘political correctness’ formulated by LGBT ideologues, reject the Christian Gospel. The open and unilateral imposition of this politically correct ideology in many parishes and dioceses is validating an anti-Church that is in opposition to the Catholic Church, the true Church of Christ.
The anti-Gospel of the anti-Church is, in many cases, indistinguishable from secular ideology, which has overturned both the natural law and the Ten Commandments, the sources that, from time immemorial, have informed and protected man’s moral, spiritual and physical well-being. This anti-Gospel, which seeks to elevate the individual’s will to consume, to pleasure and to power over the will of God, was rejected by Christ when tempted in the wilderness (40). Disguised as “human rights”, it has reappeared, in all its luciferian hubris, to promulgate a narcissistic, hedonistic attitude that rejects any constraint except that imposed by man-made laws. Thus approaching its fulfilment is St. Pius X’s prophesy that “the great movement of apostasy being organized in every country for the establishment of a One-World Church which shall have neither dogmas, nor hierarchy, neither discipline for the mind, nor curb for the passions, and which, under the pretext of freedom and human dignity, would bring back to the world (if such a Church could overcome) the reign of legalized cunning and force, and the oppression of the weak, and of all those who toil and suffer.” (41)
Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the founding president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, wrote to Sister Lucia asking for prayers for this new undertaking. She declared in a signed response (42) to him that “the final battle between the Lord and the kingdom of Satan will be about marriage and the family. Do not be afraid, (she added), because anyone who works for the sanctity of marriage and the family will always be fought and opposed in every way, because this is the decisive issue.” And then she concluded: “however, Our Lady has already crushed his head.” The Cardinal noted that for John Paul II this was the crux, as it touches the very pillar of creation, the truth of the relationship between man and woman, and among generations. It is well known that any tampering with a keystone risks the collapse of the entire building. The keystone, the basic cell of society is marriage and family. With the tacit acceptance of contraception and divorce, the recent ‘merciful’ embracing of remarried civil divorcees and the benign nod to same-sex ‘marriage’, the keystone has been tampered with and the omega point has been reached. With this background, the question as to whether Amoris Laetitia should be treated as a gauntlet thrown down or a Trojan horse naturally raises its head.
For nearly three centuries, the popes have confronted the dark trinity of masonry, liberalism and modernism, which in our time, having transmuted into atheistic secularism, has a baneful grip on all the major institutions of global influence but particularly on education, communications, politics and the law. Atheistic secularism has been working for the demise of the family, its driving spirit being the LGBT ideology; its public face, “political correctness”; its Sunday dress, “inclusivity and non-judgmentalism”.
St. Pius X was the first to clearly identify Modernism, that subversive rebellion against fixed moral norms and religious belief, as the synthesis of all heresies and as the hidden enemy within the Church. Though he unmasked Modernism, with his Encyclical Pascendi, he failed to uproot it and, like the cockle (43) in the field, it continued growing and developing ideals, doctrines and goals that were quite alien, if not diametrically opposed to the Catholic Church. Thus, Modernism, remaining within the Catholic Church, has metastasised into the anti-Church.
It is self-evident that the Catholic Church and the anti-Church currently co-exist in the same sacramental, liturgical and juridical space. The latter, having grown stronger, is now attempting to pass itself off as the true Church, all the better to induct, or coerce, the faithful into becoming adherents, promoters and defenders of a secular ideology (44). Should the anti-Church succeed in commandeering all the space of the true Church, the rights of man will supplant the rights of God through the desecration of the sacraments, the sacrilege of the sanctuary, and the abuse of apostolic power. Thus, politicians who vote for abortion and same-sex “marriage” will be welcome at the Communion rails; husbands and wives who have abandoned their spouses and children and entered into adulterous relationships will be admitted to the sacraments; priests and theologians who publicly reject Catholic doctrines and morals will be at liberty to exercise ministry and to spread dissent, while faithful Catholics will be marginalised, maligned and discredited at every turn. Thus, the anti-Church would succeed in achieving its goal of dethroning God as Creator, Saviour and Sanctifier and replacing Him with man the self-creator, the self-saviour and the self-sanctifier.
To achieve its objectives, the anti-Church, in collaboration with the secular powers, uses the law and media to browbeat the true Church into submission. By adroit use of the media, the activists of the anti-Church have managed to intimidate bishops, clergy and most of the Catholic press into silence. Equally, the lay faithful are terrorised by fear of the hostility, ridicule and hate that would be visited upon them should they object to the imposition of LGBT ideology. For example, in 2015, the congregation of St Nicholas of Myra in the Archdiocese of Dublin gave a standing ovation to their parish priest when he declared from the pulpit that he was gay and urged them to support same-sex “marriage” in the Irish referendum. It is not difficult to imagine the kind of treatment that an objector would have received. Thus, the oppressive influence of the anti-Church is most clearly seen at work when a person is fearful to openly uphold God’s revelation about homosexuality, abortion or contraception in their parish community.
Indeed, faithful Catholics, both lay and clerical, are increasingly subjected to a legitimate fear that their livelihood and careers would be in jeopardy should they stand up against the anti-Church (45). Employers are particularly fearful when activists of secular groups level charges of ‘homophobia’ or ‘transphobia’ against their faithful Catholic employees. Dreading the potential loss of business, employers, in these situations, often feel constrained into silencing or even dismissing accused Catholics. Whilst bad publicity from the LGBT lobby can damage business, most employers have an even greater fear of the adverse legal judgments that conflicts with such groups can bring them. Even so, one should not ignore the reality that there are still other employers who would readily acquiesce to complaints against a faithful Catholic because consciously, or unconsciously, they are in sympathy with the anti-Church. As is well known from numerous test cases, when employers are faced with pressure from LGBT activists, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience of their employees are disregarded, if not suppressed. Most faithful Catholics, especially those working in the public sector, know this, feel intimidated and so keep quiet about their opposition to secular ideology.
Priests and bishops are the immediate and more natural leaders of the laity and they, above all, are caught in the broadening spectrum of fear generated by the Anti-Church. Additionally, because of the clerical vow of obedience and respect, their fear, being reverential, is greatly aggravated, especially when they find their ranks divided; their unity split; long-standing sacramental disciplines violated; canon law ignored; their evangelising spirit dismissed as proselytism and solemn nonsense. In regard to their persons, they are labelled as little monsters throwing stones at poor sinners, or who reduce the sacrament of reconciliation to a torture chamber or, hide behind the Church’s teachings, sitting on the chair of Moses and judging at times with superiority and superficiality. As clerical sons, they see themselves as less deserving of a papal embrace than Italy’s arch-abortionist Emma Bonino and even less worthy of rehabilitation than renowned false prophet and global population and abortion advocate, Paul Ehrlich. As priests, they are told they owe an apology to gays and that the “great majority” of Catholic marriages they would have blessed are invalid; in addition, they are called sayers of prayers and, for considering Mass attendance and frequent confession as important, are branded Pelagians. As Catholics, knowing that the Five First Saturdays were requested in reparation for blasphemy against our most Blessed Lady, they are personally affronted by the scurrilous musings (46) that, on Calvary, where She became the Mother (47) of all those redeemed by Christ, the Holy Virgin of Fatima perhaps, desired in Her heart to say to the Lord “Lies! Lies! I was deceived.” As “trees of the forest shake before the wind” (48), so clerical hearts quake with fear at the possibility that they could actually be more Catholic than the Pope (49)!
In the end …
The advent of Pope Francis has, in the divine order of things, proved a great and true blessing. A hidden conflict has been raging in the Church for over one hundred years: a conflict explicitly revealed to Pope Leo XIII, partially contained by St. Pius X, unleashed at Vatican II. Under Francis, the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas and the first pope whose priestly ordination was in the New Rite, it is now full blown, with the potential of rendering the Church smaller but more faithful. Consequently, there is a burgeoning fear among the more astute of the clergy who, because of their training, education and expertise in matters ecclesiastical, are generally able to see further and understand better than the average lay person the fallout from either an open conflict or the maintenance of the status quo. The apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia is the catalyst that has divided not only bishops and Episcopal Conferences from each other but, priests from their bishops and from each other, and the laity, anxious and confused. As a Trojan horse, Amoris Laetitia spells spiritual ruin for the entire Church, as a gauntlet thrown down it calls for courage in overcoming fear. In either case, it is now poised to separate the anti-Church of which St. John Paul II spoke from the Church that Christ founded. As the separation begins to take place, each one of us, like the angels, will have to decide for himself whether he would rather be wrong with Lucifer than right without him.
At this point, if Amoris Laetitia is interpreted “in continuity with the doctrine of the Magisterum” the conflict will continue surreptitiously as anti-Church not only flourishes best in double speak, ambiguities and uncertainties but also fears the sensus catholicus. On the other hand, should it be interpreted as actually contrary to the perennial Magisterum, it is difficult to conceptualise how an open break can be avoided and even more difficult to predict the fall out. It falls to Pope Francis, whose charism is to confirm his brethren, to resolve the doubts rising in the wake of Amoris Laetitia and, until he does so, great fear is being generated by the uncertainties the separation will precipitate. If, however, it is remembered that one is called to be united first and foremost to Christ (50) and through Him to all those who belong to Him (51), then this fear will be greatly mitigated.
To further reduce our fear it is necessary that we face squarely the reality of our situation. That is, since ignorance is a cause of fear, we must both admit that there is a problem and identify the nature of the problem. Thank God, this work has already been done for us by St Pius X who unmasked Modernism, the enemy within; by St John Paul who alerted us to the anti-Church, the form of the enemy within; and by Pope Paul VI, who on the 60th anniversary of the Miracle of the sun, described the extent of the success of the enemy within “The tail of the devil is functioning in the disintegration of the Catholic world. The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of the faith, is spreading throughout the world and into the highest levels within the Church.” (52) Grappling with the thought that the evil of the great apostasy of which the Apostles spoke (53) could actually be imminent and hearing of its source, magnitude, extent, influence and power, we are naturally overwhelmed by fear.
To conquer our fear we must first identify and overcome its various manifestations. Given that we love the shepherds whom Christ has placed over us as the guardians of our souls (54), our fear is reverential. Our fear can also be considered grave since the thought that the true Church could disappear or, that the teaching of error could be attributed to her, would disturb even the most steadfast among us. We must, therefore, be zealous and ready to defend the Church first, by living its teachings uncompromisingly; second, by preaching its truths courageously from the housetops (55); and third, by being willing and ready, like the Maccabean martyrs, to die for it. Thus, fear’s first manifestation, laziness, is overcome.
A consideration of the fact that we brought nothing into this world and can take nothing out (56) should be sufficient for us to overcome shamefacedness, the second manifestation of fear. The loss of our jobs, positions, titles, family, friends, is of little import as long as we can remain faithful to Christ’s Church which is the light (57) He has placed on the lamp stand to give light to all in the house (58).
The Apostles’ joyful resilience after suffering dishonour for the sake of the Name (59), illustrates that shame, fear’s third manifestation, can be conquered when one realises there is absolutely nothing to fear in being ridiculed or, abused or, punished for doing what is right (60).
We are overwhelmed by a fear that is essentially extrinsic in as much as the unthinkable suddenly becomes possible. It is with amazement that we observe that the Church we love and know to be the barque of Peter, while under attack from all sides, “is drifting perilously like a ship without a rudder, and indeed, shows symptoms of incipient disintegration”. We gain encouragement from the Gospel story of the Apostles (61), who, while the Lord slept at the stern of the boat, were caught in a violent night storm on the Sea of Galilee and, though frightened, worked all the harder at baling the water. Far from being paralysed ourselves, we should, therefore, like them work even harder, all the time calling on the Lord, who sleeps in the barque of Peter: Lord, do you not care that we are going down? Thus, amazement and stupor, the fourth and fifth manifestation of fear are overcome.
The present situation in the Church and in the world is a consequence of our infidelities and sins as Our Lady had made abundantly clear one hundred years ago at Fatima. Our sins make us anxious, especially when we realise that we are once again responsible for crucifying Christ, albeit in His Mystical Body. Knowing, however, that God is always ready to forgive and to show mercy to a repentant sinner, let us beat our breasts, saying, “Lord be merciful to us sinners” and we would have overcome anxiety, fear’s sixth manifestation.
At Baptism we became members of the Church Militant and, at Confirmation, soldiers of Christ; we, therefore, have been recruited and armed for deadly combat against the three implacable enemies of our souls: the world, the flesh and the devil. Recognising that “we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (62), we fight, like the Apostles, taking the martyrs for our models and Christ Jesus, Himself as our reward. Since Our Lord has told us explicitly that we should not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul, we can immediately dismiss those whose greatest injury to us is in the material order. Christ, however, does warn us about the soul killers, namely, the “many false prophets (who) will arise and lead many astray” (63), especially those prophets who “show signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect.” (64) Further, since the world will speak approvingly (65) of these false prophets, they will be readily believed by people who “will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths” (66). These then we should fear because they lead poor sinners to eternal damnation as much with a multiplicity of words and writings that dilute the rigor of the Gospel as with their deliberately ambiguous and confused affirmations (67).
Whilst it is true that we should be wary of those who, like Eleazar’s friends with their specious reasoning and counterfeit compassion, seem to have our best interests at heart, ultimately, however, it is the Creator of all, whose law is life (68), whom we should fear. God has told us to listen to His Son (69). The rigor of His Son’s Gospel, that is, those things that in the words of St Vincent of Lerins are believed “always, everywhere and by everybody”, is what will save souls (70). Any dilution of the rigor of Christ’s Gospel (71), whether in the name of modern scholarship or, in light of a new and more profound understanding or, out of mercy, not only reduces it to a human gospel (72) but also, by proposing only a pharisaic righteousness (73), does great spiritual injury to souls.
The salvation of souls is the supreme law (74). This was the reason that one hundred years ago our most Blessed Lady came to Fatima and convinced three young children to embrace an austere lifestyle and to practise rigorous penances that the souls of poor sinners may not fall into hell. Encouraged by St John Paul II’s first words and confident in Her promise that “in the end My Immaculate Heart will triumph”, let us not be afraid. Rather, let us “Be strong!” We will not give in where we must not give in. We will fight, not hesitantly but, with courage; not in secret but, in public; not behind closed doors but, in the open. Audemus fidem nostram defendere! Non timemus!
4 Jer. 38 – 40
6 Job 1:6-2:10
11 Yates, W. B., The Second Coming
12 John Paul II, Inaestimabile donum, no.18
17 Aquinas, Summa Theologica, I-IIae, qq.22-48
23 Mt.27:56; Lk.22:54
27 Mt.10:28; Lk.12:5
30 Lk.12:20, see also Lk.9:25
37 On June 29, 1972, Pope Paul VI remarked that the smoke of Satan was seeping into the Church through the cracks in the wall. On October 13, 1977, he said: “The darkness of Satan has entered and spread throughout the Catholic Church even to its summit. Apostasy, the loss of faith, is spreading throughout the world and in to the highest levels within the Church.”
41 St. Pius X, Notre Charge Apostolique, 15 August, 1910
44 Cardinal Dolan led the 2015 St Patricks Day Parade, which included a gay activist component but excluded a pro-life group. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cardinal-dolan-marches-with-homosexual-activists-at-nyc-st.-patricks-parade
45 Priest reprimanded for denying Holy Communion to lesbian. https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archdiocese-of-washington-reprimands-priest-for-denying-communion-to-a-lesb
46 Morning Meditation in Domus Sanctae Marthae, December 20, 2013
51 Rom.1:6; 7:4, 1Cor.1:10, 2Cor.18:8
52 Pope Paul VI’s October 13, 1977 address on the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Fatima Apparitions
57 Jn.1:9; 3:21; 8:12; 12:46
60 2Tim.2:9; Heb.11:36; 1Pet.2:20, 3:14-17, 4:12-19
66 2Tim.4:3-4, 1Tim.4:1, 2Pet.2:1
69 Mt.17:5; Mt.9:7; Lk.9:35
70 Catholic is defined as “quod semper, ubique et ab omnibus”. That is, catholicity implies antiquity, universality and consent.
71 Gal.1:6-9; Heb.13:9
74 Code of Canon Law, canon 1752