As I continue to study the “beast” of Revelation 13, some fascinating things are emerging which I wish to pray and reflect on further before writing them. In the meantime, I am receiving letters of concern again about the growing division in the Church over Amoris Laetitia, the Pope’s recent Apostolic Exhortation. For the moment, I want to republish these important points, lest we forget…
SAINT John Paul II once wrote:
…the future of the world stands in peril unless wiser people are forthcoming. —Familiaris Consortio, n. 8
We need to pray for wisdom in these times, especially when the Church is under attack from all sides. In my lifetime, I have never seen such doubt, fears, and reservations from Catholics regarding the future of the Church, and in particular, the Holy Father. Not in little part due to some heretical private revelation, but also at times to some incomplete or abstruse statements from the Pope himself. As such, not a few persist in the belief that Pope Francis is going to “destroy” the Church—and the rhetoric against him is becoming increasingly acrimonious. And so once again, without turning a blind eye to the growing divisions in the Church, my top seven reasons why many of these fears are baseless…
I. Jesus is a “wise” builder
Jesus said that He did nothing on His own, but only what the Father taught Him. cf. John 8:28 In turn, He said to the Apostles:
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. (Matt 7:24)
The Father commanded Jesus to build a Church, and so, like a wise-builder, taking His own advice, He built it on “rock”.
And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. (Matt 16:18)
St. Jerome, the great bible translator from whom the modern bible today has been derived, said:
I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. —St. Jerome, A.D. 396 , Letters 15:2
So tell me then, is Jesus a wise builder or foolish one who builds on sand? That is, will the rock on which the Church has been built collapse into complete apostasy, or will it stand against any storm, despite the personal weaknesses and sinfulness of the man who holds Peter’s office? What does 2000 years of sometimes shaky history tell you?
In the words of a wise prophet I know: “My bottom line is: stay with the “Chair” and the “Keys”, regardless of the man who occupies them, be he a great saint or seriously flawed in his pastoral approach.”
Stay on the rock.
II. Infallibility must be infallible
How wise is Christ? Well, He knew that Peter was weak, despite his declaration of faith. So the building of the Church, then, ultimately depends not upon man but upon Christ. “I will build my Church,” Jesus said.
The fact that it is Peter who is called the “rock” is not due to any achievement on his part or to anything exceptional in his character; it is simply a nomen officii, a titled that designates, not a service rendered, but a ministry conferred, a divine election and commission to which no one is entitled solely by virtue of his own character —least of all Simon, who, if we are to judge by his natural character, was anything but a rock. —POPE BENEDICT XIV, from Das neue Volk Gottes, p. 80ff
But how could Jesus entrust fallible men with governing and safeguarding infallible truths that were to be passed on, not only hundreds, but thousands of years into the future? By imbuing the Church with the charism of infallibility.
The Catechism states:
The whole body of the faithful… cannot err in matters of belief. This characteristic is shown in the supernatural appreciation of faith (sensus fidei) on the part of the whole people, when, from the bishops to the last of the faithful, they manifest a universal consent in matters of faith and morals. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 92
But Pope Francis explains that this “sense” of the faithful ‘must not be confused with the sociological reality of majority opinion.’
It is a question of a kind of ‘spiritual instinct’, which permits us to ‘think with the Church’ and discern what is consistent with the apostolic faith and the spirit of the Gospel. —POPE FRANCIS, Address to members of the International Theological Commission, December 9th. 2013, Catholic Herald
Infallibility is the grace of the Holy Spirit watering the bud of divine revelation entrusted to the Apostles, called the “deposit of faith”, so that it faithfully grows and develops until the end of time as a single flowering of truth. This unity of truth is called Sacred Tradition comprising all that flowers from the bud (and that pertains to faith and morals), and which is also infallible.
This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. —CCC, n. 2035
The point is this: if at any time in the past 2000 years the grace of infallibility were to be obstructed by a rogue pope, then from that moment on the “saving truths” of our faith would risk being lost in the tides of subjectivity. Infallibility must be infallible. If the Pope, whom the Catechism teaches is the “perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity”, CCC, n. 882 were to change the truths of our Faith through official declarations from the chair of Peter (ex cathedra), then the entire edifice would collapse. Therefore, the Pope, who “enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office” CCC, n. 891 pertaining to matters of faith and morals, must remain as Christ said He was: a rock, or the Church can longer be infallible… and no one, from that moment on, can know with certainty the “saving truths of the faith.”
But how can the Pope, a mere human, remain faithful in this regard?
III. Jesus’ prayer is efficacious
No pope, no matter how personally corrupt, has been able to alter the infallible teachings of our Catholic Faith throughout two millennia. Because not only is Jesus a wise-builder, but He is our High Priest before the Father. And when He commissioned Peter to “feed my sheep,” He said:
I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)
Are Jesus’ prayers before the Father powerful? Does the Father answer Jesus’ prayers? Does Jesus pray in unity with the Father or against His will?
Peter and his successors are able to strengthen us, not necessarily because they have theological degrees, but because Jesus has prayed for them that their faith may not fail so they may “strengthen” their brothers.
IV. No biblical prophecy that “Peter” will turn against the Church
Despite the fact that St. Paul received a share in the “deposit of faith” by a direct revelation from Jesus, he submitted what he had received to Peter or “Cephas” (from the Aramaic, which means “rock”).
I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.
Then another fourteen years later, he met again with Cephas and other Apostles to be certain that what he was preaching was in accord with the “traditions” cf. 2 Thess 2:25 they had received so that he “might not be running, or have run, in vain.” cf. Gal 2:2
Now, part of the revelations Paul received pertained to the end times. And nearly everyone at that time expected the “last days” to unfold in their generation. Yet nowhere in Paul’s writings does he suggest that Peter, whom he calls a “pillar” in the Church, cf. Gal 2:9 is going to become a “false prophet” as one modern “private revelation” asserted not long ago. that of “Maria Divine Mercy”, whose messages have been condemned by her bishop And yet, Paul was given seemingly vivid revelations of the Antichrist and the deceptions that would come that God would permit to judge those who “have not believed the truth but approved wrongdoing”. 2 Thess 2:11-12 What Paul does say of the Antichrist is this:
…you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. (2 Thess 2:6-7)
I have already addressed the various interpretations of who or what this “restrainer” is. cf. Removing the Restrainer While some of the Church Fathers saw it as the Roman Empire, I am beginning to wonder more and more if it is not the Holy Father himself. Pope Benedict XVI offered this powerful insight along that line:
Abraham, the father of faith, is by his faith the rock that holds back chaos, the onrushing primordial flood of destruction, and thus sustains creation. Simon, the first to confess Jesus as the Christ… now becomes by virtue of his Abrahamic faith, which is renewed in Christ, the rock that stands against the impure tide of unbelief and its destruction of man. —POPE BENEDICT XVI (Cardinal Ratzinger), Called to Communion, Understanding the Church Today, Adrian Walker, Tr., p. 55-56
This might also explain why St. Paul was purposely veiled when he referred to the restrainer, refusing to name who it was. Perhaps it was to protect Peter from becoming a direct target by the Church’s enemies. Perhaps it has remained veiled throughout the centuries for the very same reasons, until now… If anything, the testimony of Paul suggests his faithfulness to and communion with Peter—not fear of him.
V. Fatima, and the martyr pope
Interestingly, Sr. Lucia, in her visions at Fatima, saw that the “Holy Father has much to suffer”:
…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. —The Message at Fatima, vatican.va
This is a prophecy that has been approved by Rome. Does this sound like a Pope who is betraying the Church, or laying down his life for it? It also sounds like a pontiff who is like a “restrainer” that, once “removed”, is followed by a tide of martyrs and lawlessness.
VI. Pope Francis is not an “anti-pope”
An anti-pope, by definition, is a pope who has taken the seat of Peter either by force or by an invalid election. It has been asserted again by recent “private revelation”, which has gained astonishing traction among some of the faithful, that Pope Francis is a false pope and the “false prophet” in the book of Revelation.
My beloved Pope Benedict XVI is the last true Pope on this earth… This Pope [Francis] may be elected by members within the Catholic Church but he will be the False Prophet. —from “Maria Divine Mercy”, April 12th, 2012, whose messages her bishop declared to have ‘no ecclesiastical approval’ and that ‘many of the texts are in contradiction with Catholic theology.’ He stated that ‘These messages should not be promoted or made use of within Catholic Church associations.’
Aside from the heresy of anti-papalism, the alleged prophecy is a theological impossibility. If he is a valid pope, he holds the “keys of the kingdom,” and Christ would not contradict himself. In a rather strong rebuke of those who are following this line of thought, Pope Benedict stated:
There is absolutely no doubt regarding the validity of my resignation from the Petrine ministry. The only condition for the validity of my resignation is the complete freedom of my decision. Speculations regarding its validity are simply absurd… [My] last and final job [is] to support [Pope Francis’] pontificate with prayer. —POPE EMERITUS BENEDICT XVI Vatican City, Feb. 26th, 2014; Zenit.org
If there was a man on earth who would know if Pope Francis is a valid pope or not, it would be Benedict who spent decades of his life fighting the apostasy that has besieged the Church.
VII. Jesus is the Admiral of His Ship
The Pope may be at the helm of the Barque of Peter, but Jesus is the admiral of this Ship.
…it is by the Lord and through the grace of the Lord that [Peter] is the rock on which the Church stands. —POPE BENEDICT XIV, from Das neue Volk Gottes, p. 80ff
Jesus is not a wise builder who simply walks away. He is still building, and will continue until the end of the world. Nor will Jesus let anyone destroy His Church—that’s His promise—even though it may be reduced in number and stature. Even should we face a “Peter and Paul moment” where a pope needs to be fraternally corrected as Paul once admonished Peter,cf. Gal 2:11-14 it is part of the infallible guidance of the Holy Spirit.
The Church is not done her journey. The end of the world is not nigh, but the end of an age. There is still the last phase, the great Triumph of Our Lady and the Church that is yet to come. And it is Jesus, with the Holy Spirit, who guides and leads and safeguards His Church. Because, after all, we are His Bride. What groom is not absolutely protective, doting, and totally in love with his Bride? And so He builds…
God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. —POPE FRANCIS, Installation Homily, March 19th, 2013
Christ is the center, not the Successor of Peter. Christ is the reference point at the heart of the Church, without Him, Peter and the Church would not exist. —POPE FRANCIS, March 16th, meeting with the press
Let us pray that the Holy Father will remain steadfast in the words he proclaimed at the end of the first Synod on the Family:
The Pope, in this context, is not the supreme lord but rather the supreme servant – the “servant of the servants of God”; the guarantor of the obedience and the conformity of the Church to the will of God, to the Gospel of Christ, and to the Tradition of the Church, putting aside every personal whim, despite being – by the will of Christ Himself – the “supreme Pastor and Teacher of all the faithful” and despite enjoying “supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary power in the Church”. —POPE FRANCIS, closing remarks on the Synod; Catholic News Agency, October 18th, 2014 (my emphasis)
First published October 9th, 2014.
Thanks for your prayers and support.
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