The following talk was given at the Voice of the Family conference “Handing on the deposit of the Faith – the mission of the Catholic family today”, held at Newman Hall, University Catholic Chaplaincy, Cardiff, 6-8 September 2019.
Carlo Cardinal Caffarra, the founding president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, in 2008, recounted that Sister Lucia, the Fatima visionary had written to him, saying: “Father, a time will come when the decisive battle between the kingdom of Christ and Satan will be over marriage and the family.”
The then Fr Caffarra had written to Sr Lucia in 1984 asking for prayers to overcome the difficulties he was experiencing in operating the pontifical institute established by Pope St John Paul II three years earlier. Sr Lucia’s ominous response, concerning the spiritual battle that would soon engulf the family, ended with a passage full of hope: “And those who will work for the good of the family will experience persecution and tribulation. But do not be afraid, because Our Lady has already crushed his head.”
The war began in Eden
Satan’s war against humanity began in the Garden of Eden. His opening salvo was the seductive mendacity with which he led our primordial parents into disregarding God’s prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “You will not die,” he said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:4-5). The man’s disobedience resulted in the loss of the grace of original holiness and, immediately, he and the woman experienced the first death, the death of the soul. Additionally, the control their soul’s spiritual faculties had exercised over their bodies was shattered, the harmonious union of man and woman became subject to tensions as lust and domination thenceforth marked their relationship, and their peaceful rapport with creation was ruptured as the visible creation became alien and hostile. The second death, the death of the body, would follow in due course. Thus, “through the devil’s envy death entered the world” (Wis. 2:24) and he, together with “the angels that did not keep their own position but left their proper dwelling” (Jude1:6), became bitter enemies of human fertility. Henceforth, these spirits would focus their energies on corrupting the divine gift of procreation by which the men and women, destined to supplant them on the thrones from which they had been ousted, would be begotten.
Consequently, Satan and his fallen angels have waged and continue to wage a bitter war in their perverse attempt to prevent the perpetuation of human flesh, that flesh of which the promised Redeemer (Gen. 3:15) Christ was born, that flesh which, like Him, His Mystical Body – the Catholic Church – possesses and, of which its members are nourished in the most holy Eucharist, that human flesh which one day, overcoming death, will resurrect glorious and immortal. In addition, the demons are hell-bent on preventing the completion of “the number of the elect” (Apoc. 6:11) so that not only would human beings not occupy the thrones they had once occupied but also postpone the hour when they, no longer having the power to harm men, will definitively be “thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone where … they will be tormented day and night forever and ever”. (Apoc. 20:11)
The nature of marriage
An integral part of the satanic strategy has been the provocation of numerous heresies over the centuries: Gnosticism, Manichaeism, the Albigenians, the Cathari, the Waldensians, Marxism, etc. – which, in their diverse variants, have committed and continuously commit outrages against the nature of marriage, ascribing the procreative use of sex to be evil. This is in stark contrast to the Catholic position which condemns only the misuse of sexuality, namely, the separation of its unitive and procreative aspects. (1 Cor. 6:9-10, Eph. 5:5)
The Gospels relate that Our Lord’s response to the Pharisees’ question about the lawfulness of divorce was a declaration of the Creator’s original ideal of marriage as monogamous and indissoluble: “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Mt. 19:4-6)
Since God Himself is the author of marriage, it is not and can never be a mere human institution despite the many variations found throughout the centuries in different cultures, in social structures and in spiritual attitudes. It is rather a divine institution that, far from being contingent on the subjective and inconsistent whims of men, does participate, in some measure, in the immutability of God Himself, with respect to its nature, its ends and its laws. Thus, inscribed into the very nature of man and woman and endowed with its own proper laws, marriage, ethnological variations notwithstanding, retains common and permanent characteristics so that the “well-being of the individual person and of both human and Christian society is closely bound up with the healthy state of conjugal and family life.” GS 47 §1
Genesis affirms that man and woman were created for one another: “It is not good that the man should be alone” and that the woman, “flesh of his flesh,” whom God had given to the man as a “helpmate” was his counterpart, his equal, his nearest in all things and more, she represents God from whom comes our help. (Gen. 2:18-23) Further, the Creator’s plan “from the beginning” was an unbreakable union of their two lives as implied by “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh”, which Christ Himself peremptorily reiterates “So they are no longer two, but one flesh”.
Genesis also affirms that, after creating man, male and female, in his own image, God blessed them with fecundity, saying “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) so that a man and a woman united in marriage, together with their children, form a family, a divine institution, which, since it pre-existed any public authority, should be recognized by every public authority.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) defines marriage as “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptised persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.” (§1601)
According to the Catechism, since marriage is inscribed in human nature, both the married state and the entrance into it are essentially the same for all members of the human race. When, however, the baptised marry there is a substantial difference in that their marriage, signifying the union of Christ and the Church, produces supernatural effects, which are proper to the sacrament.
At the dawn of creation, God commanded all living things to be fruitful and to multiply. For man, however, He established the institution of marriage and with it, married love, which, by its very nature, is ordered to the procreation and education of offspring. While the offspring of animals require a relatively short period in order to develop and survive as independent individuals, the development of human offspring is remarkably slower and necessarily so, since the immaterial element in human nature requires human development to be both spiritual and material. The maturation of the potentialities that each human being possessed from conception is the essence of human development, which consists of the affective life, language, and moral conscience. The purpose of education, therefore, is to foster this development by drawing out and developing what is inside. Therefore, in saying that the primary purpose of marriage is the offspring (along with the good of the spouses), it should also be specified that both procreation and education of the offspring are included.
This truly human and spiritual aspect of the education of the child is made possible by the spiritual faculties that the child already has. However, the quality of this education greatly depends on the human and spiritual level of the child’s environment, which is essentially created by the parents. The fundamental element that makes this atmosphere conducive to the child’s education is the true love of the parents and the projection of that true love into the family environment. Not only is the truly human, faithful love of the parents necessary for their child’s genuine human development but it is also integral to the parents’ spiritual growth as the foundation of what is usually called the mutual help and the remedy of concupiscence. Harnessing the appeal of the body and of the instinct, of the power of feeling and of affectivity, of the aspiration of the spirit and of the will, authentic married love, with openness to fertility, aspires to a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive lifelong mutual self-giving. Therefore, fidelity to the unity and indissolubility of marriage is still needed after the children have grown up, or in the case of childless couples.
The Grand Assault
The satanic skirmishes of the post-Eden centuries burst into a full frontal attack on marriage with the sixteenth century Protestant Revolution, which began in 1517. This attack would be reinforced in the following centuries with the rationalist ideas of the Enlightenment, the secret machinations of Freemasonry and the practical implementation of Marxist theories.
The essence of the Protestant Revolution was expressed in terms such as “Sola Scriptura” and “Sola Fide”, which was basically the exaltation of the individual’s subjective faith over the authority of the Church. It was impossible that personal morals and public institutions would be left untouched by this concept. Within fifteen years of the outbreak of the Revolution, marriage, as an institution, was attacked by both Henry VIII who divorced his wife Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn and by Martin Luther who sanctioned the bigamous marriage of the Landgrave Philip of Hesse.
The fracture of Christendom by the Revolution resulted in conflicting views about marriage that slowly, during the Age of the Enlightenment, led to the gradual call for the desacralisation of marriage, even though the general attitude varied from indifference to ridicule. Voltaire’s position was that “God created sex. Priests created marriage.”
The appearance of Freemasonry prepared the way for a further attack on the institution of marriage. Freemasonry finds its point of origin in the establishment of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717 in the Goose and Gridiron pub near St Paul’s Cathedral. In the early days, its membership included many Catholics and, through the English Catholic and Jacobite diaspora, Freemasonry rapidly spread to continental Europe. However, between Clement XII in 1738 and the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917, a total of eight popes wrote explicit condemnations of Freemasonry and all imposed the strictest penalty for membership: automatic excommunication reserved to the Holy See.
Although the charge of political sedition would eventually appear at the front of the Church’s opposition to Masonic membership, it was not so initially. What Clement XII described in his original denunciation was not a revolutionary republican society but an organisation spreading and enforcing religious indifferentism, namely, the belief that all religions are of equal worth, and, that in Masonry, all members are united in service to a higher, unifying understanding of virtue. Catholics, as members, would, of necessity, be asked to put their membership of the lodge above their membership of the Church. This meant that the Church’s strict prohibition to Lodge membership was not made from political considerations but out of concern for the care of souls.
In all the various papal condemnations of Freemasonry, what was always the first objection of the Church to the Lodge was the threat it posed to the faith of Catholics and to the freedom of the Church to act in society. Freemasonry was founded on a philosophy of secularism that not only vitiated the teachings of the Church but also undermined her authority on matters of faith and morals and so, in papal condemnations, was repeatedly described as a plot against the faith, both in individuals and in society. In the encyclical Humanum genus, Pope Leo XIII described the Masonic agenda as the exclusion of the Church from participation in public affairs and the gradual erosion of her rights as an institutional member of society. During his twenty-five year pontificate, Leo wrote eighty-eight encyclicals, four of which were condemnations of Freemasonry. In these, he outlined, in detail, the Masonic agenda, all of which was fully implemented within a centenary of his death.
Pope Leo XIII specifically referred to the Masonic aim of secularising the state and society. He referenced, in particular, the exclusion of religious education from state schools and the concept of “the State, which [Masonry believes] ought to be absolutely atheistic, having the inalienable right and duty to form the heart and the spirit of its citizens.” He also decried the Masonic desire to remove the Church from any control in or any influence over schools, hospitals, public charities, universities and any other body serving the public good. Also, specifically highlighted, was the Masonic push for the reimagining of marriage as a merely civil contract, for the promotion of divorce, and for support for the legalisation of abortion.
In 1903, Pope Leo was succeeded by Giuseppe Sarto as Pius X, who saw clearly the danger of Freemasonic ideas undermining the Church from within. He identified this internal attack as “modernism”, a movement that by proposing the “evolution of doctrine” was really the naturalism of Freemasonry with a Catholic veneer. Modernism is in many ways a Trojan horse in that by seeking to reinterpret biblical history, as well as Catholic philosophy, theology and liturgy, through the modern prism of rational science and post-Enlightenment philosophy, it actually dissolves Catholicism by subjecting it to a modern system that had perfunctorily rejected Christianity.
Pope Pius X referred to modernism as “the synthesis of all heresies” in that it denied the reality of the supernatural, called for the demythologisation of Sacred Scripture, espoused secularism and universal fraternity, promoted moral relativism and always with the view that in the application of doctrine the “pastoral” must always supersede the “true”. In the 1907 document Lamentabili sane, Pope Pius X condemned 65 modernist propositions and, one year later, issued the encyclical Pascendi, where he described modernism as an enemy striking at the root of the Faith and prescribed the anti-modernist oath for all Catholic bishops, priests and teachers.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the founders of Marxism, both recognised that the natural family, based on marriage between a man and a woman, is the basic cell of society whose existence was a guarantee of order, stability and morality in the society. They, therefore, argued that it was necessary to ideologically attack and subvert the family as an institution, since they deemed it a place of class antagonism characterising it as a system whereby women were exploited by men.
From this, Marxists saw marriage as originating in ancient exercises of force and as continuing to contribute to the exploitation of women. Engels argued that monogamous marriage issued from a “world-historical defeat of the female sex”. Exclusive monogamy, he claimed, “was not in any way the fruit of individual sex love, with which it had nothing whatever to do … [but was based on] economic conditions – on the victory of private property over primitive, natural communal property”. In his mind, monogamy allowed men to control women and reproduction, thereby facilitating the intergenerational transfer of private property by producing undisputed heirs. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx defined marriage as legalised prostitution and a form of female slavery and argued that abolishing the private family would liberate women from male ownership, ending their status “as mere instruments of production”. Various communist theorists, in seeking effective ways to destroy marriage and the family, called for the liquidation of religion, monogamy, and the ostensibly the male-dominated family and regarded courses on free love, sexual liberation, and Freud’s notion of “polymorphous perversity” as a revolutionary necessity. The Marxist linking of patriarchy and capitalism, and, in particular, its understanding of marriage as an ownership relation ideologically underpinning the capitalist order, has been especially influential in feminist thought, one of whose objectives is the elimination of the distinction between men and women. These pernicious ideas are all at work today in the cultural obsession with sex, the zeal for so-called sex re-assignment, and the insensate proliferation of pronominal “genders”.
Whilst human agencies were at work at the natural level, spiritual forces were actively operating supernaturally. Specifically, Pope Leo XIII reportedly had a vision where he saw, in ages to come, the seductive powers and ravings of devils against the Church in every land. But, in the moment of greatest distress, St Michael appeared and cast Satan and his cohorts back into the abyss of hell. It was in this context that he composed the Leonine prayers to be said after every Mass as well as a lengthy exorcism prayer to be used by bishops and priests throughout the world. Some thirty-three years later, the Blessed Virgin appeared to three children at Fatima, in Portugal, a Catholic country then labouring under an oppressive Masonic government. She not only warned the children of the dangers of sin but, also, of the menace posed to the world and to the Church by the errors of Russia. She then specifically asked for the consecration of Russia by the pope and the bishops in union with him and, to validate her requests, worked a stupendous public miracle known as the “dance of the sun”.
Even while the Holy Mother of God was instructing the children, Marxist forces were in the final stages for their 1917 October Revolution in Russia, which became the world’s first constitutionally socialist state. The full panoply of Marxism was unleashed with all its anti-God and anti-Christian venom and, over the next fifty years, half the world would fall under its influence. In 1960, not only was Russia not consecrated but the reigning pope, John XXIII, opening the Second Vatican Council in 1962, both denigrated those whom he called “the prophets of doom” and declared that the world was getting better, not worse. Within ten years, his successor Paul VI would lament that “through some crack, … the smoke of Satan has entered the Church of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, problems, unrest, dissatisfaction, confrontation”, as Catholic theologians, through dissimulation, began to push the limits of rationalism and naturalism.
Within another forty years, the world and the Church would have changed so completely as to be unrecognisable: the family, that fundamental cell of society and of the Church has, at least in the Western world, been destroyed. Throughout the West and once Christian lands, the Freemasonic and Marxist hopes have been realised beyond all expectation with divorce, civil marriage, free love, contraception, abortion, pornography, homosexual “marriage”, designer babies, transgenderism, euthanasia, et al being blissfully embraced by the generality of the population. The family is destroyed and, with the contemporary rejection of the natural order, Satan’s victory seems complete.
According to Cardinal Caffarra, there are two specific attacks on the family stemming from abortion and homosexuality. A major blow against the family was delivered when Catholics rejected Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae. In §17 of that encyclical, Paul VI, having foreseen, in terms both general and specific, the negative “consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control”, warned of the potentially deleterious effect to individuals and to society. Birth control, he specifically predicted, would lead to a general lowering of morality, to men losing respect for women, to government intervention in “the most personal and most private sector of conjugal intimacy” and to a denial that there are any “absolute limits to … a human being’s dominion over his or her body and its functions”. The rest is our story.
The effects of the second blow appear with the widening division among prelates on how to address the issue of divorced and civilly remarried couples receiving Holy Communion. This hearkens back to another approved apparition, that of Our Lady of Akita, Japan who in 1973 predicted,
“The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.”
This sorry state of things brings to fulfilment the dire 17th century prophecies made by Our Lady of Good Success in Quito, Ecuador:
“Thus I make it known to you that from the end of the 19th century and shortly after the middle of the 20th century… the passions will erupt and there will be a total corruption of morals… As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolises the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this Sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church… In this supreme moment of need for the Church, the one who should speak will fall silent.”
The publication of the papal exhortation, Amoris Laetitia opened the door to the closet that concealed the divisions that exist among Catholic prelates. In this regard, Cardinal Caffarra pointed out that the problem with Chapter 8 of Amoris Laetitia lies in the fact it is objectively unclear since it causes “conflicts of interpretations even among bishops”. He indicated the necessity of seeking continuity of the Magisterium of the past in order to receive clarity in the present since “In matters of Doctrine and Morals, the Magisterium cannot contradict itself”. Specifically, with regard to the question of the “remarried” divorcees and their access to Holy Communion, the Cardinal makes clear that this cannot be changed and that these couples are still not allowed to receive Holy Communion. Referring to the previous magisterial teaching of the Church, he asserted that “if the pope would have wanted to change that teaching – it is very clear – he would have the duty, indeed the grave duty, to say so, clearly and explicitly. One cannot change the age-old discipline of the Church with the help of a footnote, and in an uncertain tone.”
The Cardinal is supported in this position by the teaching of St Vincent of Lerins who, in defence of orthodoxy in the fifth century, stated that:
“True piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us.”
The Catholic Church has, until Pope Francis, been the world’s most consistent and brightest beacon of truth on Christian moral teachings. Many other Christians and even persons of non-Christian faiths have depended on the Catholic Church to promote and defend those Natural Law teachings, which are a necessary foundation for any civilized society. But now, with the Church itself rapidly sliding into self-destructive worldliness and away from its core mandate to preach the gospel in order to save souls, what is one to do? Where is one to go?
The condition in which marriage finds itself today in the West is simply tragic. Civil laws have changed the definition of marriage because they have eradicated the biological dimension of the human person. They have separated the biology of generation from the genealogy of the person in much the same way that the unity and procreativity of the marital embrace have been separated. Even more tragic is the condition in which the Church of Christ finds herself, a condition that is so aptly described by St John Eudes in the 17th century:
“The most evident mark of God’s anger and the most terrible castigation He can inflict upon the world are manifested when He permits His people to fall into the hands of clergy who are priests more in name than in deed, priests who practice the cruelty of ravening wolves rather than charity and affection of devoted shepherds … When God permits such things, it is a very positive proof that He is thoroughly angry with His people, and is visiting His most dreadful anger upon them. That is why He cries unceasingly to Christians, ‘Return O faithless children … and I will give you pastors according to My own heart who will feed you with knowledge and understanding’. (Jer. 3:14-15) Thus, irregularities in the lives of priests constitute a scourge upon the people in consequence of sin.”
To the Catholic faithful who are confused about the Doctrine of the Faith concerning marriage, Cardinal Caffarra offers simple advice:
“Read and meditate upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church §§1601-1666. And when you hear some talk about marriage – even if done by priests, bishops, cardinals – and you then verify that it is not in conformity with the Catechism, do not listen to them. They are the blind leading the blind.”
His advice to the faithful on how to preserve the Catholic Faith in its entirety and raise children to eternal life should perhaps be the thing we should value most:
“I will tell you very frankly that I do not see any other place outside the family where the faith which you have to believe and to live can be sufficiently transmitted. Moreover, in Europe during the collapse of the Roman Empire and during the later barbarian invasions, what the Benedictine monasteries then did can likewise be done now by the believing families, in today’s reign of a new spiritual-anthropological barbarism. And thank God that faithful families exist and still resist. Believing families are the true fortresses. And the future is in the hands of God.”
Believing families are indeed the true fortresses and, as such, need to be defended against the assaults of the devil. With encouragement from St Pius X’s observation that the chief strength of the wicked lies in the cowardice and weakness of good men, believing families should build up the virtue fortitude. The good need to realise that they 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.” (Eph. 6:12) As such, the weapons should be spiritual: truth, righteousness, faith, the word of God, prayer and supplication.
Therefore, the perennial teachings of the Church should be proclaimed and lived, the sacraments worthily received and the word of God believed. Prayer, especially the Rosary and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass are our most powerful weapons against the “wickedness and snares of the devil”. When Pope Leo saw Rome surrounded by demons he instituted more prayers to the Holy Mother of God and to St Michael. St John Bosco, the 19th century founder of the Salesians and a devotee of Our Lady, Help of Christians is well known for his prophetic dreams, his dream of the great ship, being perhaps the best known. The great ship, the Church, in a storm is under attack by other vessels. When all seemed lost, the Sovereign Pontiff anchored the ship to the twin columns rising from the sea. Symbolically, this is nothing other than devotion to the Holy Eucharist, the very flesh of Christ and devotion to the Holy Virgin from whose womb sprung the flesh of Christ and to whom the promise of crushing the head of the ancient serpent has been made. Anchored to these two devotions, believing families must supplement their life of prayer with the scapular and other sacramentals; with abstinence; and with prayer and fasting; with novenas and almsgiving, with vigils and with the devotion of the Nine First Fridays and of the Five First Saturdays with the intention of making reparation for sins against the Sacred Hearts.
In regard to the Church, the time in which we live is not greatly different from the time of the Arian crisis in the 4th century, when, in the words of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman,
“The body of bishops failed in their confession of the Faith. They spoke variously, one against the other; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly sixty years. There were untrustworthy Councils, unfaithful bishops; there was weakness, fear of consequences, misguidance, delusion, hallucination, endless, hopeless, extending into nearly every corner of the Catholic Church. The comparative few who remained faithful were discredited and driven into exile; the rest were either deceivers or deceived.”
Christ was with his Church then and he is with her now. Our times and the future are in the hands of God. At Fatima, the Lady of the Rosary said that she alone can help. May she not despise our prayers in our necessities but rather may she, the glorious and ever-blessed Virgin, make haste to deliver us from all dangers of body and of soul. Ave Maria!