(by Roberto de Mattei) 11 February 2013 is a date which has entered into history. It was on that day that Benedict XVI communicated to an assembly of astonished cardinals his decision to renounce the pontificate. The announcement was received “like lightning in a serene sky,” according to the words addressed to the Pope by the cardinal deacon, Angelo Sodano, and indeed the picture of lightning which, that very day, struck the Basilica of St. Peter, spread around the world.
The abdication occurred on 28 February, but before this Benedict XVI announced that he wanted to remain in the Vatican as Pope emeritus, something that had never happened before and which was more surprising even than the renouncement of the pontificate itself. In the month which elapsed between the announcement of the abdication and the opening of the conclave on 12March, the election of the new Pontiff was prepared, even if it appeared to the world to be something unexpected. More surprising than the identity of the person elected, Jorge Mario Bergolio from Argentina, was the new name chosen by him, Francis, as if he wanted to represent a unique case, and what struck the people most of all was his first speech in which, after a colloquial “Good evening,” he introduced himself as “bishop of Rome,” a title which is due to the Pope but only after that of Vicar of Christ and successor of Peter, which constitute its presupposition.
The photographs of the two Popes who prayed together on 23 March at Castelgandolfo, offering the image of a new papal “diarchy,” increased the confusion of those days. But that was only the start. There was the interview on the return flight from Rio de Janeiro, 28 July 2013, with the words “Who am I to judge?” destined to be used to justify every transgression. There followed the interviews Pope Francis gave to the director of Civiltà Cattolica in September and then to the founder of the daily newspaper, La Repubblica, in October, which had a greater mass media impact than his first encyclical Lumen fidei. It is said that they were not magisterial acts, but all that has been happening in the Church since then derives above all from those interviews which were magisterial in character de facto if not in principle.
The encounter between Cardinal Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Faith, and the Cardinal Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, coordinator of the counsellors for the reforms of Pope Francis, has brought the confusion to its head. Traditional doctrine, according to Maradiaga, is not sufficient to offer “answers for the world of today.” Traditional doctrine would be maintained, he said, but there were also contemporary “pastoral challenges” which cannot be met “by authoritarianism and moralism” as this was not “the new evangelisation.”
The declarations of Cardinal Maradiaga were followed by the results of the survey on the pastoral challenges of the family, promoted by the Pope for the Synod of Bishops of 5 – 19th October. The SIR (Service of Religious Information) has released a summary of the first replies which have arrived from European countries. For the Belgian, Swiss, Luxembourg and German bishops, the Catholic faith is too rigid and does not correspond to the needs of the faithful. The Church should accept pre-marital cohabitation, recognise homosexual marriage, accept birth control and contraception, bless the second marriages of divorcees and permit them to receive the sacraments. If this is the road which is to be taken, then now is the time to say that it is a road which leads to schism and heresy because it implies the denial of divine and natural faith. In its commandments, this faith not only affirms the indissolubility of matrimony but also prohibits sexual acts outside of it, and even more so if they are against nature. The Church welcomes all those who repent of their sins and who intend to break with the moral disorder in which they find themselves, but she can in no way justify the status of the sinner. It would be useless to affirm that such a change would concern only the pastoral practice and not doctrine. If there is no coherence between doctrine and practice, then this implies that practice is turning itself into doctrine. This has unfortunately already been happening from the Second Vatican Council onwards.
Must the Church give answers which are new and “in step with the times”? The great reformers in the history of the Church, such as St. Peter Damian and St. Gregory the Great, behaved very differently. They would have had to legitimise the simony and Nicolaism of the 11th century in order not to render the Church alien to the reality of their time. Instead they denounced these wounds with words of fire, calling for the reform of customs and for the restoration of sound doctrine.
It is precisely the intransigent spirit of the saints, and their refusal to compromise, which is so dramatically absent today. We need an acies ordinata, an army ready for battle which, taking up the weapons of the Gospel, would bring a message of life to the dying modern world instead of embracing its cadaver. Between the Council of Trent and the French Revolution, the Jesuits represented this nucleus of combatants for the Church. Today all the religious orders are in state of decline, and if, amongst these, one appears rich in promise, it is inexplicably suppressed. The case of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, which exploded in July, has brought to light an obvious contradiction between the continuous call of Pope Francis for mercy, and the stick assigned to the commissioner, Fidenzio Volpi, to annihilate one of the few religious institutes still blossoming today.
The paradox does not end there. Never before as in the first year of the pontificate of Pope Francis has the Church so renounced one of its divine attributes, that of justice, to present itself to the world as being merciful and benedictory, but never before as in this year has the Church been the object of such violent attacks from the world towards which it extends its hand.
Homosexual marriage, which is supported by all the major international organisations and by almost all Western governments, contradicts head-on, not only the faith of the Church, but also the natural and divine law itself which is written into the hearts of all men. What else are the great mass mobilisations which occurred above all in France with the La Manif pour Tous, but the reaction of a people’s conscience against a law which is both unjust and against nature? But the immoralist lobbies are not satisfied with this. What matters to them is not so much the affirmation of presumed homosexual rights, but rather the negation of the rights of humans and of Christians. Christianos esse non licet: the blasphemous cry which was made by Nero and Voltaire, reverberates again around the world today, whilst Jorge Mario Bergoglio is chosen by the worldly magazines as man of the year.
Events succeed one another ever more quickly. The latin phrase, motus in fine velocior, is commonly used to show how time speeds up at the end of an historical period. The multiplication of events, in fact, shortens the course of time, which in itself does not exist outside of the things that flow. Time, says Aristotle, is the measure of movement (Fisica, IV, 219 b). More precisely, we define it as the duration of changeable things. God is eternal precisely because He is immutable: every moment has its cause in Him, but nothing in Him changes. The more one distances himself from God, the more chaos, produced by change, increases.
11 February 2013 marked the start of an acceleration of time, the consequence of a movement which is becoming vertiginous. We are living through an historical moment which is not necessarily the end of times but is certainly the twilight of a civilization and the end of an epoch in the life of the Church. If at the end of this epoch, the clergy and lay Catholics do not assume their responsibilities in full, there will inevitably be realised that fate which the visionary of Fatima saw unveiled before her own eyes:
And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.’ Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious were going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”
The dramatic vision of 13 May should be more than sufficient to encourage us to meditate, to pray and to act. The city is already in ruins and the enemy soldiers are at the gates. Let he who loves the Church defend Her, in order to hasten the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. (by Roberto de Mattei)