THE FALL OF THE ROMAN CHURCH?
The state of the Catholic Church at present is quite appalling, and the guardians of the Church, namely the bishops and the cardinals, are reduced to silence. Is it a case of cowardice? Some will be cowards, others will be career clerics, many will be confused, and a large minority will be downright evil. There is a final category of those bishops and cardinals who know the truth, but fear, that if they speak out they will harm the Church and engender a possible schism. This final category of good men wrestling with themselves over what is best for the Church are in grave danger of compromising the Truth. Christ is the Truth and he cannot lie. Statement after statement emanating from the Vatican either denies some Church treating or camouflages the truth; a good case is Amoris Laetitia. Some of Amoris Laetitia is very good, but the notorious footnote destroys the good in the document, much as a superb wine will kill the drinker if poison is added to it. How have we reached this terrible situation?
In the first place by the bishops thinking that the governments of the world in general are reasonable and only too happy to allow the Church to carry on her mission in the World. (I exclude the notable exceptions such as Russia and Hungary, to some extent Poland, and now Brazil, where Christian ethics are still promoted). We see this graphically in the case of the Scottish bishops who apparently fought hard to prevent the pro LGBT curriculum being implemented in the Catholic schools, and then gave in and “welcomed” the new curriculum! That they were able to win some points in this, but lose others, is no help when the battle is lost. My fear is that when one fights a purely defensive war one is not likely to win. The legendary battle of Marathon in 490 BC where Athens defeated the great Persian army shows the truth of Napoleon’s remark, that in war the spiritual is three times greater than the physical. In his wonderful book “Persian Fire” Tom Holland conveys the dread and the courage of the Athenians on the eve of the great battle.
“Here was the moment that Miltiades had been waiting for. Clearly, if his spies’ intelligence was accurate, the Persian task force had been split, with the holding force advancing to distract the Athenians’ attention while far to the rear the cavalry was being clandestinely embarked. A council of war was hurriedly convened. Militiades implored his fellow generals to vote for immediate battle. Never, he urged, would there be a better chance of victory: the invader’s army was divided and all but a skeleton force of its cavalry had gone. Four of Miltiades’ nine fellow generals agreed; five, appalled at the prospect of attacking the Persians on open ground, without archers, without cavalry, and still overwhelmingly outnumbered, did not. The casting vote lay with the war archon, Callimachus, who had consistently shown that he felt it no shame to bow to the superior expertise of Athens’ most famous Mede-fighter. He did so again now, and sided with Miltiades. The order was given. Battle would be joined at dawn.
Throughout the Athenian camp men were woken with the news that within the hour they would be advancing against the enemy who had never been beaten by a hoplite in open combat, ‘and whose very name, when spoken, was sufficient to send a shiver down the spine of any Greek’, Yet, if by summoning every last reserve of physical and moral strength, and by screwing their courage to a truly excruciating pitch, there was a chance of averting their obliteration, and that of their families and their city, then the Athenian hoplites had to brace themselves now to seize it. Slaves, charged with the care of their precious armour, duly brought out the burnished panoplies. The naked Athenians were transformed into fearsome automata of bronze. Then, sheaved within their breastplates and greaves, their shields and their spears in their hands, their helmets propped back upon their heads, the hoplites took their places in the battle line, standing alongside their fellows from their demes, their thirds, their tribes. …….With the first rays of sun touching the grey Euboean hills in the distance, sacrifices were offered to the gods; the omens proving favourable, the generals then took up their positions directly in the foremost line…….Miltiades himself, allotted overall command for the day, stood where all could hear him, and at length raised his arm, pointed to the Persians and yelled out: ‘At them!’” (Tom Holland; Persian Fire, ABACUS, 2013; pp.192-193)
As they say “The rest is history” and while I would not advocate that bishops take up arms as many of the medieval bishops did, it would indeed be wonderful if they had the magnificent courage of these great Athenian heroes, which was to be repeated by their fellow Greeks and rivals, the Spartans, at Thermopylae. However the bishops, could be rather more pro-active, to use that modern phrase, and take the battle onto the streets. The bishops should be taking to the streets of cities and towns witnessing and preaching against the whole LGBT agenda. They should be using the media to get the message of Christian morality across. They must encourage the faithful to do penance and fast for the conversion of the permissive Western World. There should be Forty Hours devotion up and down the different countries of the West. There should be Rosary crusades everywhere, and our bishops, like the German bishops under the tyranny of Bismark’s Kulturkampf in the 19th century, should be happy to go to prison for years in defence of the Faith.
And what of the chief bishop of the Catholic Church, namely the Pope. Well he should be ready to defend the Faith and its doctrines with every fibre of his being; that he is unable to do so may be to do with what the Papacy has become.
Sadly we have reached a too exalted view of the Papacy, and oddly and tragically this was brought about by that very lovable and holy Pope, Blessed Pius IX. In the wake of the declaration of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility by Pius IX in 1870 there was the most hyperbolic and utterly irresponsible utterances by various ‘experts’ and clerics with regard to Papal Infallibility. Some of these statements were heretical. In his more than laudable intention to protect The Church, Pius was unfortunately paving the way for the situation that we find ourselves into today. The liberal bishops are lauding Pope Francis to the skies in much the same way that the Ultramontanist bishops did to Pius IX after the declaration of Papal Infallibility; there is, however, one difference, the Ultramontanist bishops were orthodox, and the liberal bishops are heretical. The situation though is far more complicated and grave than this simple observation would have us believe.
What is at the root of the present chaos in the Church is the understanding of the Papacy. In J.N.D. Kelly’s excellent Oxford Dictionary of Popes we read the following quotes.
On St Peter we read: In the late 2nd or early 3rd cent. “ The tradition identified Peter as the first bishop of Rome. This was a natural development once the monarchical episcopate, i.e. government of the local church by a single bishop as distinct from a group of presbyter-bishops, finally emerged in the mid-2nd century. The early tradition, however, which placed Peter and Paul in a class apart as the pioneers who together established the Roman church and its ministry, was never lost sight of.”
On St. Clement( c. 91-c.101 ) we see more on the monarchical episcopate: “While Clement’s postion as a leading presbyter and spokesman of the Christian community at Rome is assured, his letter suggests that the monarchical episcopate had not emerged there, and it is therefore impossible to form any precise conception of his constitutional role. He enjoyed, however, such prestige in the early church that he was credited with the authorship of numerous spurious writings…..”
Of his successor St. Evaristus (c.100- c. 109) the following is stated regarding the monarchical episcopate: “while there is no reason to doubt that he held a leading position in the Roman church, nothing is in fact reliably known about him, and in view of the late development of the monarchical episcopate at Rome his role as a church leader there can only be surmised.”
On Alexander I (c.109-c.116) J.N.D. Kelly has the following to say: “Virtually nothing is reliably known about him except that he held a leading position in the Roman church, and in view of the late emergence of the *monarchical episcopate at Rome his constitutional position as leader of the community remains obscure.”
Moving on to Popes Telesphorus (c.125 – c.136) and Hyginus (c.138 – c. 142) we find much the same comments from J.N.D. Kelly on the non-emergence of the monarchical episcopate, but with Pius I that all changes. We read the following; “The later 2nd century. Muratorian Canon, the oldest extant canon of NT writings and itself of Roman origin, states that he was the brother of Hermas, a former slave, author of the widely popular visionary summons to repentance known as The Shepherd. This latter work contains hints of disputes about rank among church leaders which suggest that the monarchical episcopate was now a reality in Rome.”
Now this is all very interesting; however a word of caution. J.N.D. Kelly is not a Catholic, but an Anglican Church historian, whose book on the early councils of the Church is a classic text book on the subject. However he is too good an historian to brush aside. It must also be added that there is almost a note of hostility in his entry on St. John Paul II.
There are two things that we must note about the Papacy. The first thing is that it develops in stark contrast to the high priesthood of Aaron which is given by God to Moses. The second thing we must consider is that whether one agrees or not with Peter being the rock on which Christ built his Church, (which the Protestant churches would not agree with, and neither would the Orthodox Church for that matter), it does not necessarily follow that the Papacy is the rock on which Christ builds his Church.
We need a more profound understanding of the Papacy, and set aside those accretions that having nothing to do with the Papacy such as the Papal States and indeed the Vatican State. These are purely human, like the Papal Tiara. How did the early Christians see the Papacy? Would St. Peter recognize the Papacy if he suddenly turned up even at one of the modern underplayed contemporary Papal masses. He would certainly have been mystified by a Papal Mass of Pius XII.
A question that needs to be asked, and which the Church must address is this; how far is the development of the Papacy intertwined with the development of the Theology? Had the Papacy resisted the imposition of the “Filioque” on the Church by Charlemagne, then we might not have the many problems that we have today with the Orthodox World. Charlemagne, more than any of the Byzantine Emperors, controlled the Church in all her aspects very tightly. The Latin West that fought so hard against heresy in the first eight centuries of her existence then begins to falter. By the time we come to Duns Scotus and William of Ockham, theology is in a muddle, and the idea that somehow Thomism was the dominant theology in Catholicism until the Vatican II Church shows a poor knowledge of Church history. Though it is commendable that many young and truly ardent and exemplary Catholics think that our problems will be solved if only we all become Thomists and attend the Tridentine Mass, one fears that such a belief shows a certain naivete. Thomas will not save us now. We need another and better version of Augustine, Athanasius and the Cappadocians all rolled into one for that.
What does appear to be a problem is that the Church has been overtaken by Revolution, and Evolution. All the Popes down to Pius XII would look on in horror at the extraordinary statements that have issued from the Vatican since 1959, when St John XXIII called the Second Vatican Council. What would they have made of Nostra Aetate, and the idea that outside the Church there is salvation. It is one thing to say that other Christians could be saved, but that “the pluralism and diversity of religions (are) willed by God in his wisdom” as Pope Francis has recently declared, would be to them utter heresy. So who is right? Those who hold that the immemorial tradition of the Church both East and West (thankfully the Catholic Church does not consider the Orthodox heretics any longer, but the Russians certainly see us Catholics as heretics!) says there is no salvation outside the Church, or Vatican II, which says that the Church is the sacrament of salvation to the World?
Now the Bologna School sees Vatican II as a rupture with the Old Church, whereas Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI sees it as part of a continuum with the Tridentine Church, and referred to the whole process as a hermeneutic of continuity, which is not very helpful. I suspect that the Bologna School is right, and the attempt by traditional Catholics to be faithful to St. John Paul II and Benedict XVI is a somewhat forlorn task. Vatican II was a Pandora’s box for the traditional Catholic, but a wonderful new development for the progressive wing in the Church.
It is glaringly obvious that the idea of development espoused by modernist and radical rebuilders of the Church is not that understood by the Fathers or Newman; for them it is a Hydra. The liberal idea of development has everything to do with the ideology of Evolution which sees simple organisms evolving into more complicated organisms and so after millions of years of this mythical process we end up with Man. There is not a shred of scientific evidence for this and DNA totally debunks this very 19th century theory. It has as much scientific worth as ectoplasm in a seance. However as the Catholic Church has failed to denounce Evolution as scientifically worthless, and a heresy which contradicts Scripture, then the idea of a Church evolving will be with us until it is no longer a church at all.
At the bottom of it all is a terrible rebellion. A rebellion that has seen sacrilegious celebrations of the Mass, and religious abandoning their vows, either by leaving religious life, or by having sexual relationships while remaining within religious life. It has seen most of the Catholic laity using contraception. It has seen the destruction of beautiful churches, and the insane smashing up of stone altars, beautiful statues and crucifixes. This rebellion has come up with feminist theologies, Marxist theology thinly disguised as Liberation theology, and goodness knows what else. God has been ‘observed’ and taken to pieces in an exceptionally boring way by that awful creature, the professional theologian, who with heretical Biblical scholars, should have their work taken to pieces and thrown on the rubbish pit of those who should be wiped out of the memory of the Church.
If we turn our eyes to the closing years of Pius XII’s pontificate, we see the Papacy which still had a grandeur and an other worldly quality, but what followed was tasteless, lacking all beauty for the most part. And both the clergy and people, together with the religious were submerged in a morass of ugly churches, pathetic sermons, a sort of pop music that would make most Pop and Rock musicians squirm, and a theology, not of Hope, but Presumption. Christ has been caricatured as a Buddy, a Revolutionary, a homosexual and many other things; but Christ the King, Christ the Judge has been far from the minds and hearts of most Catholics. I fear that the majority of the Catholic Church, about 85% are liberal, many unwittingly, and therefore many are in heresy. We have a world-wide Episcopate that hardly stands up publicly against the terrible sin of abortion, that covers up homosexual scandals with an amazing lack of concern for the sufferings of the victims, and hobnobs with politicians who want nothing better than the death of the Catholic Church. There appears to be an almost malicious disinterest from so many bishops as to what will happen to the Church, who is the Bride of Christ and should be treated as such, not some bureaucracy run by unthinking civil servants.
This utterly tragic situation has come about not through something dark and dreadful, like the Illuminati or Bohemian Grove, or even through a Masonic conspiracy, though they may well all have a part to play; No! It has come about through utter mediocrity, and a desire for comfort and pleasure. The lure of an easy life for the clergy and religious, and the possibility of contraceptive sex for the majority of Western Christians has provided them with a pleasantly dull Utopia. It has given them a world and a Church where there is no passion, no heroism, no asceticism, no imagination, but endless meetings and commissions, synods, and at grass roots level belligerent parish councils who are middle class, middle aged, modernist and mediocre.
From the dazzling world of the Tridentine Church, which was not without it’s faults (As always there was that hardness and there still is of the curial mentality that will not dialogue, and only wishes for complete submission, whereas what is needed is a passionate search for the Truth.) we come to something reminiscent of Stalin’s court as so vividly portrayed by Simon Sebag-Montifiore in His “Court of The Red Tsar”. Yes! the reign of Pius XII had something of the fin de siècle world of the last Tsar Nicholas II, who was, with his brilliant prime minister Stolypin, making Russia, not only work, but prosper mightily. On the eve of Vatican II things were not so different especially in England where the conversions were increasing year by year. What was true of the Catholic Church was true also of Czarist Russia; what was working and flourishing must be destroyed. And so it was, Russia enjoyed a Babylonian captivity to communism, which was of the most terrible kind. It was a searing Via Crucis. The Catholic Church has gone through something similar, a soul destroying self-hating sovietesque style of apologizing for everything that the Old Church did, and teaching the laity that most of the things done by the old Church was wrong, precisely because it was old, and old is bad. Like all revolutionary movements the Vatican II enthusiasts had to have a new Church Calendar just as the French and Russian revolutionaries had done, and all the time the lukewarm, many of the them orthodox, and the lukewarm clergy and religious, and the disinterested laity snoozed and they are still snoozing, but soon they will hear “Behold the Bridegroom cometh”. In a terror beyond terror mounting to a cold despair they will behold not Christ the Bridegroom, but Christ the avenging king.
Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And he who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed him on white horses. Now out of his mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He would strike the nations. And He himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on his robe and on His thigh a name written:
KING OF KINGS AND
LORD OF LORDS
Rev. 19: 11-16