The Current Crisis in the Context of Church History

By Prof. Roberto de Mattei

Rome Life Forum– 6th May 2016

In the Gospel, Jesus uses many metaphors to indicate the Church He founded. One of the most fitting is the image of the boat threatened by a tempest (Matt. 8, 23-27; Mark, 4, 35-41; Luke 8, 22-25). This image has often been used by the Fathers of the Church and the Saints when depicting the Church as a barque at sea, shaken and tossed by the waves and, which lives, we could say, amid tempests, without ever being submerged by the waves.

Well-known in the Gospel, is the scene of the tempest on Lake Tiberias, calmed by Our Lord: “Tunc surgens imperavit ventis et mari” (Matt. 8, 26). When the Papacy was in Avignon, Giotto depicted the scene of Peter’s tempest-tossed boat in a famous mosaic originally found in the gable of Old St. Peter’s Basilica and which is now in the atrium of the new Basilica.

During Lent of 1380, Saint Catherine of Siena made a vow to go to St. Peter’s every morning to pray in front of this image. One day, the 29th of January 1380, around the time of vespers, while Catherine was absorbed in prayer, Jesus, came out of the mosaic and placed the ‘Navicella’ of the Church on her shoulders. The Saint, overwhelmed by so much weight, fell unconscious to the ground. This was the last visit made to St. Peter’s by Catherine, who had always exhorted the Pope to guide the ‘Navicella’ of the Church fearlessly.

Throughout two thousand years of history, the mystical Ship of the Church has always braved storms and tempests.

During the first three centuries, the Church was relentlessly persecuted by the Roman Empire. Over that period, between Saint Peter and Pope Melchiades, a contemporary of the Emperor Constantine, there were thirty-three Popes. All of them are saints and except for two who underwent exile, the other thirty all died martyrs.

In the year 313, Constantine the Great granted freedom to the Church and Christians, who, once out of the catacombs, began to lay the foundations of a new Christian society. But the Fourth century, the century of the Church’s triumph and freedom, was also the century of the terrible Arian crisis.

In the Fifth century, the Roman Empire collapsed and the Church, by Herself, had to face invasions, first by the barbarians and then by Islam, which from the VIIIth century, inundated Christian lands such as Africa and Asia Minor, which since then have never been restored to the true faith.

In the centuries from Constantine to Charlemagne there were sixty-two Popes. Among them were, Saint Leo the Great, who braved, alone, Attila, “the Scourge of God”, Saint Gregory the Great, who strenuously fought against the Lombards, Saint Martin I, sent into exile in chains to Chersoneus and Saint Gregory III who lived in continuous peril of death, under persecution by the Byzantine Emperors. Yet, along with these great defenders of the Church, we also find Popes like Liberius, Vigilius and Honorius who vacillated in the faith. Honorius, in particular, was condemned as a heretic by his successor, Saint Leo II.

Charlemagne restored the Christian Empire and founded the Christian civilization of the Middle Ages. Even so, this era of faith was not devoid of evils, such as simony, the moral laxity of the clergy and rebellions against the authority of Peter’s Chair by the Christian Emperors and Sovereigns. After Charlemagne’s death, between 882 and 1046, there were forty-five Popes and anti-popes, of which fifteen were deposed and fourteen imprisoned, exiled and murdered. The Medieval Popes experienced fights and persecutions, from St. Paschal I to Saint Leo IX until Saint Gregory VII the last Medieval Pope to be canonized and who died, persecuted, in exile.

The Middle-Ages reached their peak under the pontificate of Innocence III (The Third), but Saint Lutgardis had a vision wherein the Pope appeared to her completely covered in flames, telling her that he would have to stay in Purgatory until the Last Judgment, on account of three grave faults he had committed. Saint Robert Bellarmine comments: “If a Pope so worthy and esteemed by all suffers this fate, what will happen to the other ecclesiastics, religious or laity who stain themselves with infidelity?

In the Fourteenth century, at the transfer of the Papacy to Avignon for seventy years, there followed a crisis just as terrible as the Arian one: the Great Schism of the West, which saw Christendom divided between two, and then three Popes, with the problem of canonical legitimacy not being resolved until 1417.

There followed an age of seeming tranquility, the period of humanism, which in reality was preparation for a new catastrophe: the Protestant Reformation of the Sixteenth century. Once more, the Church reacted vigorously but in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, the first heresy that chose not to be separated from the Church, crept into Her heart, and stayed there, in the inside: Jansenism.

The French Revolution and Napoleon tried to destroy the Papacy, but were unable to. Two Popes, Pius VI and Pius VII were exiled from Rome and imprisoned. In 1799 when Pius VI died in Valence, the city council communicated the news of his death in writing to the Directory, stating, that the last Pope in history had been buried.

From Boniface VIII, the last Medieval Pope, to Pius XII, the last of the pre-conciliar era, there were 68 Popes, of which only two have been canonized by the Church to date: Saint Pius V and Saint Pius IX; two beatified: Innocence XI and Pius IX. All found themselves in the middle of furious tempests. Saint Pius V fought against Protestantism and animated the Holy League against Islam, obtaining victory at Lepanto; Blessed Innocence XI fought Gallicanism and was the artificer behind the liberation of Vienna from the Turks in 1683. The great Pius IX courageously resisted the Italian Revolution, which in 1870, wrenched the Holy City from him. Saint Pius X fought a new heresy – modernism – the synthesis of all heresies – which deeply infiltrated the Church between the Nineteenth and the Twentieth century.

Vatican II, opened by John XXIII and concluded by Paul VI, proposed the inauguration of a new era of peace and progress for the Church, but the Post-Council turned out to be one of the most dramatic periods in the life of the Church. Benedict XVI, using a metaphor by Saint Basil[1]., likened the Post-Council to a naval battle, at night, in a tempest at sea. This is the age in which we are living.

The lightening that struck St. Peter’s on February 11 th 2013, the day Benedict XVI announced his abdication, is like the symbol of this tempest which now seems to have engulfed the Barque of Peter and is engulfing the life of every son and daughter in the Church.

The history of tempests in the Church is the history of the persecutions She has suffered, but it’s also the history of schisms and heresies, which, from their inception have undermined Her internal unity. The internal attacks have always been more dangerous and graver than the external attacks. The gravest of these attacks, the two most terrible tempests, were the Arian heresy of the Fourth century and the Great Schism of the West in the Fourteenth century.

In the first case, the Catholic populace didn’t know where the true faith was as the bishops were divided, among Arians, semi-Arians, anti-Arians plus the Popes didn’t express themselves clearly. It was then that St. Jerome coined the expression according to which: “the whole world woke and groaned in astonishment to find itself Arian” [2].

In the second case, the Catholic populace didn’t know who the true Pope was, as cardinals, bishops, theologians, sovereigns and even saints, followed different Popes. Nobody denied the Pontifical Primacy and so it was not about heresy, but everyone followed two or even three Popes and thus found themselves in that situation of ecclesial division which theology defines as schism.

Modernism was a potentially greater crisis than the previous two, but it didn’t explode in all its virulence for the reason that it had been partially crushed by Saint Pius X. It disappeared for some decades, but re-emerged with force during the Second Vatican Council. This Council, the last one in the Church that took place between 1962 and 1965, chose to be a pastoral Council, but because of the ambiguous and equivocal nature of its texts, brought about catastrophic pastoral results.

The current crisis comes directly from the Second Vatican Council and has its origin in the primacy of praxis over dogma affirmed by the Second Vatican Council.

John XXIII in his opening speech at the Council, on October 11 th 1962 presented the pastoral nature of Vatican II, distinguishing between “the deposit, or the truths of the faith” and “the way they are set forth, with their meaning preserved intact […].”

All of the previous twenty councils had been pastoral, as they had had a dogmatic and normative form alongside the pastoral dimension. At Vatican II, the pastoral was not only the natural explication of the dogmatic content of the Council in ways adapted to the times; on the contrary, the “pastoral” was elevated as an alternative principle to dogma. The outcome was a revolution in language and mentality and the transformation of the pastoral into a new doctrine.

Among the most faithful followers of the “spirit of the Council” is the German Cardinal, Walter Kasper. It was precisely to him that Pope Francis entrusted the introductory report on the pre-synod debate at the February 2014 Consistory. The basis of this report is the idea that it’s not the doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage that has to be changed, but the pastoral approach to the divorced and remarried. The same formula was used by Cardinal Kasper in commenting on Pope Francis’ Post-Synod Exhortation, Amoris Laetitia. Cardinal Kasper explained that “the Pope’s apostolic exhortation ‘doesn’t change anything of church doctrine or of canon law, but it changes everything’[3] ().

The compass of Pope Francis’ pontificate and the key to the reading of his latest Post-Synod, Apostolic Exhortation is on the principle of necessary change – not in doctrine – but in the very life of the Church. Yet, to sustain the irrelevance of doctrine, the Pope produced a 250page document, where he presents a theory on the primacy of the pastoral. On April 16th, during his return from Lesbos, the Pope suggested journalists read Cardinal Schönborn’s presentation of Amoris Laetitia, assigning to him the authentic interpretation of the Exhortation. At the press conference on April 8th, when he presented the document, Cardinal Schönborn defined the pontifical Exhortation, first of all, as “a linguistic event.”

This formula is not new: it has already been used by one of Pope Francis’ confreres, the Jesuit, John O’Malley from Georgetown University. In his history of Vatican II, O’ Malley defined the Second Vatican Council as a “linguistic event[4], a new way to express [things] and which, according to the Jesuit historian, “marked a definitive break with previous Councils[5] To say [it was] a linguistic event, O’Malley explains, doesn’t mean to minimize the revolutionary magnitude of Vatican II, since language has a teaching in itself. The leaders of the Council “[…]understood very well that Vatican II, having proclaimed itself a pastoral council, [that]it was precisely for this it was also a teaching Council (…). The discursive style of the Council was the means, but the means communicated the message” [6]

The choice of a language “style” to communicate with the contemporary world, reveals a way of being and thinking, and in this sense it has to be admitted that the literary genre and the pastoral style of Vatican II, not only express the organic unity of the event, but are the implicit vehicle of a coherent doctrine. “The style – O’Malley recalls – is the ultimate expression of the meaning, it is the meaning only- not ornamental – but it is also the hermeneutic instrument par excellence[7] .

This Revolution in language doesn’t only consist in the change of meaning in words, but also in the omission of some terms and concepts. Many examples can be made: affirming that hell is empty is most certainly a reckless proposition, if not heretical. To omit, or limit at maximum, any reference to hell doesn’t formulate any erroneous proposition, but constitutes an omission that makes way for the even greater error of an empty hell: the idea that hell doesn’t exist, as nobody talks about it; and so that which is ignored, it is as if it didn’t exist.

Pope Francis has never denied the existence of hell, but in three years, he has mentioned it only a couple of times, in a very inappropriate manner, and, by stating in Amoris laetitia that “the way of the Church is not to condemn anyone forever ” (no. 296) he seems to be denying the eternal damnation of sinners. Doesn’t this ambiguity have the same practical value as a theoretical denial?

Nothing changes in doctrine but everything is changed in praxis. But if you don’t want to deny the principle of causality, upon which the entire edifice of Western knowledge is founded, it’s necessary to admit that every effect has a cause and that from every cause there are consequences. The relationship between cause and effect is the one between theory and action, between doctrine and practice. Among those who have understood this very well is the Dominican Bishop of Oran, Mgr Jean-Paul Vesco. In an interview to La Vie, he said that with Amoris Laetitiarien ne change de la doctrine de l’Église et pourtant tout change dans la rapport de l’Église au monde[8]. Today – emphasises the Bishop of Oran – no confessor will be able to refuse absolution to those who are convinced in conscience that the irregular situation they are in is the only one – or at least, the best one possible. The circumstances and the situation, according to the new morality, dissolve the concept of intrinsic evil and public and permanent sin.

If priests cease mentioning public sin and encourage adulterers and cohabitators to integrate into the Christian community, without excluding their access to the Sacraments, [then] along with pastoral praxis, also doctrine is necessarily changed. The rule of the Church was “the divorced, remarried civilly, who live together, cannot receive the Eucharist.” Amoris laetitia in contrast, establishes:“the divorced and remarried, in some cases, can receive Holy Communion.

The change is not only de facto, it is in principle. One single exception is sufficient in practice to change the principle. How can it be denied that this Revolution in praxis is not also a Revolution in doctrine? But even if nothing is changed in doctrine, we know what will change in practice: the number of sacrilegious Communions will increase; the number of invalid confessions will increase; the number of grave sins committed against the Sixth and the Ninth commandments will increase; the number of souls that will go to hell will increase; and all this will happen not against, but due to Amoris laetitia.

At Fatima, Our Lady showed the three little shepherds the terrifying vision of hell where the souls of poor sinners go, and to Jacinta it was revealed that the sin which leads most souls to hell is the one against purity. Who could have imagined that to the already great number of impure sins there would be added the diffusion of “common-law marriage” often ratified civilly? And who would have thought that this condition would be backed by a pontifical exhortation? Yet this is what has happened. One cannot pretend not to see it…

The Church has a practical mission: the salvation of souls. How are souls saved? By persuading them to live in conformity with the law of the Gospel.

Also the Demon has a practical objective: the loss of souls. How are souls lost? By persuading them to live in deformity to the law of the Gospel.

After the Resurrection, when Jesus appeared to His disciples on the mounts of Galilee He gave them the mission of baptizing in the name of the Most Holy Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and to teach and observe His law, without infringing any precept: “docentes eos, servare omnia” (Mt. 18, 19-20). “He that believeth and is baptized – shall be saved – He adds – but he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark, 16,16).

The task of Priests is to teach and observe the law, not to cease applying it, not to find exceptions that infringe it. He who believes, but contradicts in works the faith in which he believes, will be condemned, like those, according to Saint Paul, who “profess that they know God; but in their works they deny Him; being abominable and incredulous, and to every good work reprobate” (Ad Titum, I, 16).

To express a negative judgment on the Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitia, it is not necessary to have studied theology, the sensus fidei which results from Baptism and Confirmation is quite sufficient. The sensus fidei brings us, through supernatural instinct, to refuse this document, leaving the task of applying adequate theological notes to the theologians.

Between heresy and orthodoxy there are many possible gradations. Heresy is the open, formal, persistent opposition to a truth of faith. However, there are doctrinal propositions, while not being explicitly heretical, are censored by the Church with theological qualifications proportionate to their gravity and contrast with Catholic doctrine[9]. Opposition to the truth in fact, presents different grades, depending on whether it’s direct or indirect, immediate or remote, open or hidden, and so on. The “theological censures” convey the negative judgment of the Church on an expression, an opinion or an entire theological doctrine. They regard the doctrinal content: heretical propositions, near to heresy, savoring of heresy, erroneous in the faith, temerarious; they regard the form, for which the propositions are judged equivocal, ambiguous, captious, suspect, bad-sounding etc. ; they regard the effects they can produce for the particular circumstances of time and place. In such a case, the propositions are censured as perverse, corrupt, scandalous, dangerous, seductive to the simples. In all these cases, Catholic truth lacks doctrinal integrity or it’s expressed in a deficient and improper manner.

In one of his reflections on April 16th 2016, Father Jean-Michel Gleize, refers to 2                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 number 299 of Amoris laetitia, according to which; “the baptized who are divorced and civilly remarried need to be more fully integrated into Christian communities in the variety of ways possible, while avoiding any occasion of scandal’” (§ 299) and comments: “In the variety of ways possible:” why not, then, in admitting them to Eucharistic Communion? If it is no longer possible to say that the divorced and remarried are living in a state of mortal sin (301), why should the fact of giving them Communion be an occasion for scandal? And at that point, why refuse them Holy Communion? The Exhortation Amoris Laetitia is clearly moving in this direction. In so doing, it represents an occasion of spiritual ruin for the entire Church; or in other words, what theologians call a “scandal” in the full sense of the term. And this scandal is the consequence of a practical relativization of the truth of the Catholic Faith concerning the necessity and indissolubility of the sacramental union of marriage.”[10]

Amoris laetitia is a scandalous document, with catastrophic effects for souls.

We do not lack respect for the Pope and even less so do we place the Papal Primacy in doubt. We need to be deeply grateful to Blessed Pius the Ninth for having defined at the First Vatican Council, two dogmas which allow us to face clearly the present crisis: the dogma of the Roman Primacy and the dogma on papal infallibility.

The Pope’s Primacy of government, along with the infallibility of his Magisterium, constitute the foundation on which Jesus Christ instituted His Church and on which She will stand firm until the end of time. This Primacy was conferred to Peter, Prince of the Apostles, after the Resurrection (John, 21, 15-17) and was acknowledged by the primitive Church, not as a personal and transitory privilege, but as a permanent and essential element of the Church’s Divine Constitution.

There is no authority on earth higher than the Pope’s, for the reason that there is no higher office and no higher mission on earth. What mission? That of confirming the brethren in the faith, of opening heaven to souls, of pasturing the flock of lambs and sheep that belong to Christ, the one, supreme, Good Shepherd: in short – the governing of the Church.

The Pope is the one who rules the Church. This mission comes to him from the fact that he is the successor of St. Peter to whom Jesus entrusted the mission as visible Head of the Church. A mission that transcends his person since it would be continued by his successors.

The Pope is not the successor of Christ, he is the successor of Peter and not in an immediate way, but through the apostolic succession, which, in the space of twenty centuries, ties him to Peter, Prince of the Apostles and the first Vicar of Christ.

The Vicar of Christ is the Bishop of Rome because Rome is not a city or diocese like any other: it has a universal vocation. Peter’s successors are Bishops of Rome, since, by God’s disposition, Saint Peter came to Rome and by dying in this spot, he opened, for the bishops of Rome, the legitimate and uninterrupted succession of his universal primacy.

All bishops have the fullness of Holy Orders and the Pope, under this aspect is not superior to other bishops, he is the same as them. However, only the Pope has the supreme power of jurisdiction which confers on him full and unlimited power over all the other bishops.

The First Vatican Council established as a dogma of faith, the Pope’s full, unlimited, and universal Primacy over all the bishops of the world. The primacy of jurisdiction is the Pope’s ruling authority and includes the Pope’s teaching authority. In 1870, the First Vatican Council, after the dogma of the Roman Primacy, promulgated the dogma on the infallibility of the Pope’s Magisterium, under given conditions. Infallibility is that supernatural prerogative for which the Pope and the Church cannot err in professing and defining revealed doctrine – through special Divine assistance – attributed to the Holy Spirit. And the Pope, who is not infallible in governing the Church, can be infallible in his pontifical teachings.

The Pope is not always infallible. He must want to be, and if he wants to be, he must respect determinate rules. The conditions for infallibility were clarified by the constitution, Pastor aeternus: the Pope must speak as a public person, ex cathedra, with the intention of defining a truth of faith or morals and of enforcing it as mandatory for all the faithful to believe.

If these conditions are not met it doesn’t mean the Pope is wrong. On the contrary, we must have in principle, a prejudice in his favour. However, when the Pope is not infallible, he can commit errors in his governing and teaching. The so-called extraordinary Magisterium, ex cathedra by the Pope, is always infallible. An example is represented by the two dogmas of The Immaculate Conception and The Assumption. But, also the Pope’s ordinary Magisterium can be infallible, when it reiterates a truth in faith or morals which has for centuries been taught by the Church.

This is the case of the encyclical Humane Vitae, which is not infallible per se, itself, as it is not an ex cathedra act by the Supreme Pontiff, but it is infallible on the point it reiterates the millenarian condemnation by the Church on artificial contraception. If a Church teaching is universal, not so much in space, as much as in the length of time – when it is confirmed by Tradition – it means that it has been assisted by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit assists the cardinals when in conclave they are electing a Pope, and then, once elected the Pope, the Holy Spirit assists him in the exercise of his government and Magisterium. Yet, as history teaches, despite this assistance, unworthy Popes can be elected, who, in their private lives may have sinned, even gravely, just as Popes who have erred in their government and even in their Magisterium may be elected; but this mustn’t scandalize us. Even if Providence allows a bad Pope to be elected, this happens for higher and mysterious purposes, which will only be clarified at the end of time. The Holy Spirit knows how to draw good out of evil.

Salvation, which theologians call justification, is born of the mysterious encounter between the will of man and Divine grace. Those who think that in the life of a man, the action of the Holy Spirit is sufficient for him to be saved, with no collaboration of his own will, assume a Lutheran or Calvinist position.

Those who sustain that the Pope cannot be wrong because he is infallibly assisted by the Holy Spirit, repeat the error on grace of the Calvinists.

Papolatry is a sin because it transforms Peter into Christ. By attributing to the Pope the perfection and infallibility of every act and word, means to deify him and the divination of the Pope has nothing whatever to do with the veneration we owe to his person. The devotion to the Pope, like devotion to Our Lady, is a pillar of Catholic spirituality. However, spirituality must have a theological foundation and, even before that, a rational one. In order to venerate the Pope, we must know who he is and who he isn’t.

The Pope is not, like Jesus Christ, a Man-God. In him there is no divinity that absorbs his humanity. He doesn’t have two natures, one human and one Divine, in one Person. The Pope has only one nature and one person, a human one: he has the stain of original sin and at the time of his election is not confirmed in grace. He can sin and he can be wrong, like all men, but his sins and errors are graver than those of all other men, not only for the greater consequences they have, but because every act of his that doesn’t correspond to Divine grace is so much greater, inasmuch as the assistance he receives from the Holy Spirit is greater.

Yet, besides the Roman Primacy and infallibility, there is a third truth of faith which can be considered dogma, even if the Church has never proclaimed it with an extraordinary decree: the dogma of the indefectibility of the Church. [This] indefectibility is affirmed by Jesus Christ Himself when He says: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt. 16, 18).

What does indefectibility mean? It doesn’t mean that the Church cannot make mistakes. It means, as theologians explain, that the Church will arrive at the end of the world identical to Herself, with no change in the essence that Jesus Christ Himself gave to Her.

Indefectibility is the supernatural property of the Church, which means not only She will not disappear, but She won’t change, She will remain exactly as Jesus Christ instituted Her until the end of the world. The Church will always remain with Her characteristics, Her constitution, Her teaching – identical to Herself: one in faith, monarchic and hierarchic in form, visibly organized, perpetually enduring, identical for all men and all times, with no conversion or re-conversion being possible. The decree Lamentabilis by Saint Pius X condemned proposition 53 by the modernists, according to which: “ The organic constitution of the Church is not immutable: but Christian society, no less than human society, should be subject to continuous evolution”.

The Church is indefectible and yet, in Her human part, may commit some errors and these errors, these sufferings, can be caused by Her children and even by Her ministers.

This can happen when the institution becomes confused with the men who represent it. The strength of the papacy doesn’t derive from Peter’s holiness, just as Peter’s defection doesn’t signify its weakness; since it was to the Pope’s public person, not his private person, that Jesus directed the words “ Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church”.

The Pope is not Jorge Bergoglio nor Joseph Ratzinger. He is, first of all, as the Catechism teaches us, the successor of Peter and the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth. This takes nothing away from the greatness and the indefectibility of Christ’s Mystical Body. Holiness is an ineradicable note of the Church, but it doesn’t mean Her Pastors, even supreme pastors are impeccable, with respect to their personal life, but even in the exercise of their mission.

When Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail, He didn’t promise there wouldn’t be any attacks on the part of hell. He, rather, allows us to catch a glimpse of the existence of a fierce battle. There will be no absence of fighting, but there won’t be defeat [either]. The Church will triumph.

The principal work of hell is heresy. Heresy won’t prevail over the faith of the Church.

The dogma of indefectibility refers us to two truths: the first is that the Church lives continuously amid conflicts and subject to attacks from Her enemies: the second is that the Church will defeat Her enemies and conquer history. Yet, without a struggle there is no victory and this is a truth that concerns us, as it touches our lives as sons and daughters of the Church, but even simply as men and women.

The sentence “the gates of hell will not prevail” is the same as “In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph” pronounced by Our Lady at Fatima. An event that celebrates its ninety-ninth anniversary this year.

On January 3rd 1944, Our Lady addressed prophetic words to Sister Lucy, in prayer before the Tabernacle.

Sister Lucy recounts: “I felt my spirit inundated by a mystery of light that is God and in Him I saw and heard the point of a lance like a flame that is detached touch the axis of the earth and it trembles: mountains, cities, towns and villages with their inhabitants are buried. The sea, the rivers and clouds exceed their boundaries, inundating and dragging with them in a vortex, houses and people in a number that cannot be counted; it is the purification of the world from the sin in which it is immersed. Hatred, ambition, provoke the destructive war. After I felt my heart racing and in my spirit a soft voice that said: ‘In time, one faith, one baptism, one Church, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic. In eternity, Heaven!’ This word ‘Heaven’ filled my heart with peace and happiness in such a way that, almost without being aware of it, I kept repeating to myself for a long time: Heaven, Heaven!!”[11]

“One faith, one baptism, one Church, Holy Catholic Apostolic” Our Lady’s words are the same as Pope Boniface VIII in his Bull, Unam Sanctam, in which, at the end of the Middle-Ages, he reiterated the Church’s uniqueness in the work of redemption: “The faith obliges us to admit and retain that there is only one Church, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic (…) outside of which we will not find salvation, nor remission of sins (…). In Her there is only one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism (Eph. 4,5)[12]

And the final exclamation:“Heaven! Heaven!” seems to refer to the dramatic choice between Heaven, the place where souls that are saved reach eternal happiness, and hell, the place where the damned undergo sufferings for all eternity.

The Church doesn’t open the gates of hell, but the gates of Heaven.

The Church includes not only the Pope and bishops, but all the faithful: priests, nuns, religious brothers, secular and lay. Divine assistance is granted to Her until the end of the world and this will prevent Her from being lost or weakened. This means that the Church, in history, can have moments of disorientation and defection, but envisaged as a whole, She will never lead the faithful to perdition.

Jesus, after His Resurrection, appears a second time at Lake Tiberias and says to His Apostles: “Ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummationem saeculi” (Matt. 28, 20). Behold, I am with you all days even to the end of time.

These words don’t only confirm that the Church is indefectible, given that She is divinely assisted, but they also remind us that God didn’t give us an impracticable law. Jesus is with us, every day, in all situations, in all circumstances. Practicing the law is not impossible, because everything is possible with the help of God’s grace. This is what we’d like the Pope to remind us of, confirming us in the faith.

Never, as at this time, have we felt so much need of a foothold, a light that directs us, a rock that we can anchor ourselves to. And this Rock can only be Peter. Peter, not Simon. From Peter, we seek essence, meaning and the immutable. Men, all men, even the greatest, pass. Principles remain, and among them, there is one that sustains all the others: the Roman Primacy. We perfectly know that only a supreme and solemn voice can bring an end to the process of auto-demolition in act: the voice of the Roman Pontiff, the only one to be granted the possibility of defining the Word of Christ, making himself an infallible spokesman for the faith. We know [also] that a Pope can contribute to the auto-demolition of the Church, by falling even into heresy and in this case our conscience compels us to resist him.

Amoris laetitia attributes to conscience a fundamental and unique place in the evaluation of moral actions (§ 303). However, Amoris laetitia releases conscience from the objectivity of morality, whereas, it is on morality and faith and reason that we want to radicate our choices. The light of faith, like the light of reason, is not extrinsic to us; it illuminates the heart and conscience of every single baptized person, as conscience is nothing other than the voice of truth in our soul. For this reason the unlimited love we have for the Pope can never bring us to go against our conscience.

On the Day of Judgment we’ll be alone before God, with our conscience, without Popes, or bishops, without relatives and friends, nor any possibility of lying to ourselves and others, and God’s look will pierce and illuminate our conscience like a flash of lightening. Those who follow their conscience with purity of intention, having the objective data on faith and reason as their criterion of judgment, cannot err, given that God has already illuminated the way. He illuminates it with the gift of faith and the gift of reason, through which faith is sustained. We cannot do anything that goes against faith and reason; nothing that is in some way contradictory, ambiguous, equivocal, since God is not contradictory. He is luminous, simple, He is equal to Himself, in His unity and in His Trinity.

The Barque of the Church seems as if it’s being engulfed by waves, and the Lord seems to be asleep, [in a way] similar to that day of the tempest on Lake Tiberias. Let’s then turn to Him, saying, Exsurge, quare obdormis Domine? Exsurge (Ps. 42, 23). Arise, Lord. Why is it you appear to be like one asleep?

Perhaps this was the appeal Saint Catherine of Siena made to Him in front of Giotto’s mosaic, in that far-off January of 1380. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that this year, the traditional hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament for the participants in the March for Life, takes place in the Basilica of ‘Santa Maria sopra Minerva’, where, under the High altar, the body of Saint Catherine of Siena rests.

In this hour of Adoration let’s ask not only for help for the March for Life, but also for Holy Mother Church, with an intense appeal to the Lord: “Exsurge, quare obdormis Domine? Exsurge!

[1] San Basilio, De Spiritu Sancto, XXX, 77, in PG, XXXII, col. 213.

[2] S. Girolamo, Dialogus adversus Luciferianos, n. 19, in PL, 23, col. 171. “Ingemuit totus orbis, et Arianum se esse miratus est

[3] Vatican Insider, 14 April 2016

[4] John O’Malley, What happened at Vatican II. Life and Thoughts, Milan 2010, p. 313.

[5] Ivi, p. 47.

[6] Ivi, p. 314.

[7] Ivi, p. 51

[8] http://www.lavie.fr/religion/catholicisme/jean-paul-vesco-dans-amoris-laetitia-le-pape-appelle-a-une-revolution-du-regard-11-04-2016-72152_16.php

[9] Antonio. Piolanti, Pietro Parente, Dizionario di teologia dogmatica,, Studium, Rome 1943, pp. 45-46

[10] Father Jean-Michel Gleize FSPX, Amoris Laetitia, considerations on chapter 8, in http://sspx.org/en/amoris-laetitia-sspx-gleize

[11] Carmelo de Coimbra, Um Caminho sob o olhar de Maria, Ediçoes Carmelo, Coimbra 2012, p. 267

[12] Boniface VIII, Bull, Unam Sanctam , avril 18th 1302, in Denz-H, n.870.

Translated by Francesca Romana