Stand your ground…
HAVE we entered into those times of lawlessness that will culminate in the “lawless one,” as St. Paul described in 2 Thessalonians 2? Some Church Fathers saw the Antichrist appearing before the “era of peace” while others toward the end of the world. If one follows St. John’s vision in Revelation, the answer seems to be that they are both right. See The Last Two Eclipses It is an important question, because our Lord himself commanded us to “watch and pray.” Even Pope St. Pius X raised the possibility that, given the spread of what he called “a terrible and deep-rooted malady” that is dragging society to destruction, that is, “apostasy”…
…there may be already in the world the “Son of Perdition” of whom the Apostle speaks. —POPE ST. PIUS X, E Supremi, Encyclical On the Restoration of All Things in Christ, n. 3, 5; October 4th, 1903
He is not alone. Many of the popes of the past century indicated in clear language their belief that we seem to have entered into the “end times” (see Why Aren’t the Pope’s Shouting?). One indicator, warned Christ, would be the rise of many “false prophets.” As St. Paul writes:
God is sending them a deceiving power so that they may believe the lie, that all who have not believed the truth but have approved wrongdoing may be condemned. (2 Thess 2:11-12)
Where, however, will these false prophets come from? St. Paul writes:
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. (Acts 20:29)
They will come, most devastatingly, from within the Church itself. Was Jesus not betrayed by one of His Twelve, denied by Peter, and handed over by the Sanhedrin to the Romans? Why did Pope Emeritus Benedict VXI, in his first pontifical homily, conclude saying, “Pray for me that I may not flee for fear of the wolves?” cf. PInaugural Homily, April 24, 2005, St. Peter’s Square Indeed, on his trip to Fatima, he said in a candid interview:
We may see that attacks against the Pope and the Church do not only come from outside; rather, the sufferings of the Church come from inside the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This was always common knowledge, but today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, interview on flight to Lisbon, Portugal; LifeSiteNews, May 12th, 2010
Both Benedict and Pope Francis have decried the presence of “careerism” in the Church—men and women who have used collar and rank to advance their own opinions and position rather than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is akin to abandoning the flock to the wolves of moral relativism, secularism, and the new atheism.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep… So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. (John 10:12-14; Ezek 34:5)
THE GREAT ANTIDOTE
After his discourse on the coming apostasy, St. Paul gives the Great Antidote to the deceptions of the lawless one, the Antichrist. It is the antidote to the vast confusion in our times:
Therefore, brothers, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours. (2 Thess 2:13-15)
The antidote is to hold fast to the oral and written traditions passed on through Paul and the other Apostles. Where do we find these traditions? Some Christians say the bible. But when Paul wrote those words, there was no bible. In fact, there still wasn’t until some 350 years later when the bishops of the Church met in the councils of Hippo and Carthage at the end of the fourth century to decide upon the canon of Scripture. At that time, the early Church had amassed several letters, epistles, and gospels. But which ones were authentic? How could they determine what were the inspired “oral” and “written” traditions? The answer is the Apostles, not the bible, were the guardians and source of the authentic tradition that was passed on to them from Christ.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you… As the Father has sent me, so I send you… and I confer a kingdom on you… (Matt 28:19-20; Jn 20:21; Lk 22:29)
But wait a minute. By the fourth century, all the Apostles were dead. So did the teachings of the Apostles and the kingdom die out with their passing? No, for we see in Acts Chapter I that the very first act of the budding early Church was to fill the apostolic office left vacant by Judas, the betrayer.
‘May another take his office.’ (Acts 1:20)
The Twelve, then, continued to ordain others to carry on their commission, appointing presbyters in each church cf. Act 14:23 and town. cf. Tit 1:5 St. Paul warned Timothy, a young bishop, to not lay hands too readily on anyone though, cf. 1 Tim 4:14 and…
…what you heard from me through many witnesses entrust to faithful people who will have the ability to teach others as well. (2 Tim 2:2)
This is all to say that Christ did not leave a hodgepodge of words that everyone could simply take and run with. Rather, He was careful to establish order, authority, and hierarchy so that not only his teachings, but the Sacraments could be safely taught and administered through Apostolic Succession. But knowing that they were mere men, He gave them this promise:
I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth… I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. (John 16:12-13; Matt 16:18)
That is why St. Paul wrote that the Church, not the bible, is the “pillar and foundation of truth.” cf. 1 Tim 3:15 Indeed, the bible came from the Church, not the other way around. The apostolic tradition was the benchmark and criterion to determine what writings belonged to the Faith and what didn’t, thus forming the canon of Scripture that we have today. Says Church Father, Origen (185-232 A.D.):
The teaching of the Church has indeed been handed down through an order of succession from the Apostles, and remains in the Churches even to the present time. That alone is to be believed as the truth which is in no way at variance with the ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition. —Fundamental Doctrines 1, Pref. 2
Thus, it is “the Church which exercises the divinely conferred commission and ministry of watching over and interpreting the Word of God.” cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 119
But I would not believe in the Gospel, had not the authority of the Catholic Church already moved me. —St. Augustine, CCC, n. 119
That does not mean that today’s bishops or the Pope can reinterpret the bible. Rather, they proclaim what has already been transmitted through the constant teachings of Sacred Tradition.
The pope isn’t an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the ministry of the pope is the guarantor of the obedience toward Christ and his word. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily of May 8, 2005; San Diego Union-Tribune
The Great Antidote, then, is to remain obedient to Christ and His Word by standing on this foundation, this “rock”, which is the office and authority of “Peter” who holds the keys of the kingdom, and the successors of the Apostles in communion with him, “the visible source and foundation of unity.” cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 882, 886
…let us note that the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, was preached by the Apostles, and was preserved by the Fathers. On this was the Church founded; and if anyone departs from this, he neither is nor any longer ought to be called a Christian…. —St. Athanasius, 360 A.D., Four Letters to Serapion of Thmius 1, 28
In an apparition that bears ecclesiastical approval, “Despite claims that Cardinal Ratzinger gave definitive approval to Akita in 1988, no ecclesiastical decree appears to exist, as certainly would in such a case. However, some individuals, such as former Ambassador of the Phillipines to the Holy See, Mr. Howard Dee, have stated that they were given private assurances by Cardinal Ratzinger of the authenticity of Akita. In any case, in keeping with the current norms, given the absence of a repudiation of Bp. Ito’s decision by his successors, or by higher authority, the events of Akita continue to have ecclesiastical approval.” —cf. ewtn.com the Blessed Mother appeared to Sr. Agnes Sasagawa of Akita, Japan from June 12, 1973 to October 13th, 1973. In her final message, Our Lady warned:
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. —October 13th, 1973, ewtn.com
While we know that there has been dissent and apostasy in the Church, most especially the past five decades, as many clerics and theologians alike saw Vatican II as “open season” on apostolic tradition, something new and disturbing is beginning.
While the Holy Father has asked the Church to re-examine our pastoral approach in many areas, others are taking this further—much further. We have cardinals and bishops openly pushing for a “radical re-examination of human sexuality.” Bishop Terence Drainey of Middleborough, LifeSiteNews, March 18th, 2014 But here we have to ask what that means? On contraception, Humanae Vitae set forth authoritatively the inadmissibility of contraception; on homosexual acts, and therefore gay “marriage,” tradition has been equally clear:
…tradition has always declared that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered.” They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.—Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2357
On cohabitation, that is, premarital sex, the Church’s constant teaching is unequivocal. On Communion to remarried divorcees, which would compromise the immutable teaching on marriage, both Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Müller as prefects of the CDF Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have said it is not possible. This Italian cardinal agrees:
Do not touch the marriage of Christ. It cannot be judged case by case; you do not bless a divorce and hypocrisy is not ‘merciful’… —Cardinal Carlo Caffara, LifeSiteNews.com, March 17th, 2014
You might recall that in preparation for the Vatican’s Synod on marriage and family life last October, a worldwide questionnaire was released to dioceses to gather feedback from the flock. It is no surprise that the majority of Catholics, according to survey results, do not agree or follow the Church’s moral teachings on sexuality. Bishop Robert Flynch of St. Petersburg, Fla. writes:
On the matter of artificial contraception, the responses might be characterized by saying, ‘That train left the station long ago.’ Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium [the sense of the faithful] suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject. —National Catholic Reporter, Feb 24th, 2014
But in truth, the sensus fidelium of the lay means little if it is not guided by the Magisterium. “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, n. 92
The Church… intends to continue to raise her voice in defense of mankind, even when policies of States and the majority of public opinion moves in the opposite direction. Truth, indeed, draws strength from itself and not from the amount of consent it arouses. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vatican, March 20, 2006
That is, not even the Pope has the power to change what is contained in apostolic tradition. And yet a high ranking Italian archbishop indicated on Italian State television that ‘that the time has come for the Church to become more open to homosexuality and same-sex civil unions.’
I am convinced that it is time for Christians to open themselves to diversity… —Archbishop Benvenuto Castellani, RAI interview, March 13th, 2014, LifeSiteNews.com
We “cannot simply say that homosexuality is unnatural,” said Bishop Stephan Ackermanm of Trier, Germany recently, adding that it is not “tenable” to consider all kinds of pre-marital sex as seriously sinful:
We can not completely change the Catholic doctrine, but [we must] develop criteria by which we say: In this and this particular case it is conscionable. It’s not that there is only the ideal on the one hand and the condemnation on the other side. —LifeSiteNews.com, March 13th, 2014
Of course, this argument rings of the infamous “Winnipeg Statement” cf. O Canada… Where Are You? released by the Canadian bishops and adopted around the world that said, when it comes to using contraception:
…that course which seems right to him, does so in good conscience. —Canadian Bishops response to Humanae Vitae; Plenary Assembly held at St. Boniface, Winnipeg, Canada, Sept 27th, 1968
But that statement was misleading, and the fruits of it absolutely devastating in every aspect of the word. For Catholic teaching (and logic) is that we have the duty to follow an “informed” conscience.
In the formation of conscience, the Word of God is the light for our path, we must assimilate it in faith and prayer and put it into practice. We must also examine our conscience before the Lord’s Cross. We are assisted by the gifts of the Holy Spirit, aided by the witness or advice of others and guided by the authoritative teaching of the Church. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 1785
Yes, the Apostolic Tradition is the Great Antitode against a deceived conscience.
STAND YOUR GROUND
It seems to me that we have reached the point of saturation, when one more drop in the glass will cause it to overflow—and apostasy will come at us like a roaring river. By this I mean that the apostasy has become so ingrained, moral relativism so widely spread, compromise so readily accepted, that we are going to see an exponential increase in compromise of the moral and natural law as soul after soul is swept away in a tsunami of peer pressure, propaganda, and intimidation of so-called “tolerance” initiatives. cf. Persecution!… and the Moral Tsunami
This fight in which we find ourselves… [against] powers that destroy the world, are spoken of in chapter 12 of Revelation… It is said that the dragon directs a great stream of water against the fleeing woman, to sweep her away… I think that it is easy to interpret what the river stands for: it is these currents that dominate everyone, and want to eliminate the faith of the Church, which seems to have nowhere to stand before the power of these currents that impose themselves as the only way of thinking, the only way of life. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, first session of the special synod on the Middle East, October 10th, 2010
We must be prepared for this, because standing your ground is going to leave you behind in circles of co-workers, friends, family—and yes, even some clergy.
At that period when Antichrist shall be born, there will be many wars and right order shall be destroyed on earth. Heresy will be rampant and the heretics will preach their errors openly without restraint. Even among Christians doubt and skepticism will be entertained concerning the beliefs of Catholicism. —St. Hildegard, Details concering the Antichrist, According to Holy Scriptures, Tradition and Private Revelation, Prof. Franz Spirago
Stand your ground. “For the time will come,” said St. Paul, “when people will not tolerate sound doctrine but, following their own desires and insatiable curiosity, will accumulate teachers and will stop listening to the truth…” cf. 2 Tim 4:3-4 But what ground? The ground of the “rock” on which Christ is building His Church—the Great Antidote.
…the foundations of the earth are threatened, but they are threatened by our behavior. The outer foundations are shaken because the inner foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that leads to the right way of life. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, first session of the special synod on the Middle East, October 10th, 2010
…you are fellow citizens with the holy ones and members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone… the pillar and foundation of truth. (Eph 2:19-21; 1 Tim 3:15)
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|↑1||Some Church Fathers saw the Antichrist appearing before the “era of peace” while others toward the end of the world. If one follows St. John’s vision in Revelation, the answer seems to be that they are both right. See The Last Two Eclipses|
|↑2||cf. PInaugural Homily, April 24, 2005, St. Peter’s Square|
|↑3||cf. Act 14:23|
|↑4||cf. Tit 1:5|
|↑5||cf. 1 Tim 4:14|
|↑6||cf. 1 Tim 3:15|
|↑7||cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 119|
|↑8||cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 882, 886|
|↑9||“Despite claims that Cardinal Ratzinger gave definitive approval to Akita in 1988, no ecclesiastical decree appears to exist, as certainly would in such a case. However, some individuals, such as former Ambassador of the Phillipines to the Holy See, Mr. Howard Dee, have stated that they were given private assurances by Cardinal Ratzinger of the authenticity of Akita. In any case, in keeping with the current norms, given the absence of a repudiation of Bp. Ito’s decision by his successors, or by higher authority, the events of Akita continue to have ecclesiastical approval.” —cf. ewtn.com|
|↑10||Bishop Terence Drainey of Middleborough, LifeSiteNews, March 18th, 2014|
|↑11||Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith|
|↑12||“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, n. 92|
|↑13||cf. O Canada… Where Are You?|
|↑14||cf. Persecution!… and the Moral Tsunami|
|↑15||cf. 2 Tim 4:3-4|