Saturday, March 9, 2013

Condemning The Next Pope Before He Is Elected

I was talking to a good friend today who is a very devout Catholic.  We got on the subject of the papal conclave. He said to me, "I hope this next pope is not the anti-pope." That kind of made my head snap back. Where in the world did that come from? Why would such an idea even enter into any Catholic's mind? He said to me that there are prophecies predicting the anti-pope. I said to him, "You know the danger with a statement like that is that if the next pope does anything that you don't agree with, you could start accusing him of being an anti-pope." His response was that not everything a pope does is infallible. I asked my friend to give me an example, and he brought up Pope Paul VI and the "mistakes" he made with the liturgy.

Both my friend and I agree that we are not happy with the creation of the New Mass in 1969. We both love the Traditional Latin Mass, the Mass of the Ages going back 1500 years that produced probably millions of saints over the centuries. However, my unhappiness with the New Mass is purely personal. I do not share my friend's view that the New Mass was an "error" of Pope Paul VI. Like most Traditionalists, my friend blames Pope Paul VI, the one who gave us the Novus Ordo, or the Ordinary Form of the Mass as it is now called, for being one of the major contributors to the spiritual crisis in the Church. And like all good Traditionalists, my friend said the real problem goes back to Vatican II, which he has basically condemned as the root of all evils in the Church. Anyone who reads my blog knows that even though I call myself a Traditionalist, I have no problem with Vatican II. Many claim that because Vatican II was a pastoral council as opposed to a doctrinal counsel, we don't have to accept it. The Vatican II documents were signed by the Pope in his capacity as Vicar of Christ, therefore making them part of the Magesterium. We must accept this just as we do all official teachings of the Church.

Yet, my friend is certainly right that there is a major crisis in the church that has been ongoing for 40 years. But what really was the catalyst for this crisis? Was it Pope Paul VI and his introduction of the New Mass, with its roots in Vatican II? Does this mean that a pope - the Vicar of Christ, the divinely appointed Head of Christ's Mystical Body on earth - can be wrong and that not only can we, but we actually should question his decisions?

I did a lengthy post on Vatican II entitled, "Vatican II: Blessing Or Curse?" I don't want to rehash this subject, so if you're interested, you can read it here. In this post I lay out the thesis that the root of the spiritual problems we see in the church today, and actually all throughout the world, can be traced back not to Vatican II but to Humanae Vitae.  I quoted from Dr. Ralph McInerny's book on this subject, "What Went Wrong With Vatican II?" in which he explains very clearly and logically that Vatican II is not to blame  for the spiritual crisis we are experiencing, but that the cause of the crisis is the rejection by so many in the Church, including clergy, of Pope Paul VI's encyclical condemning the use of artificial birth control. Interestingly, the conversation I had with my friend today was in front of an abortion clinic where we were praying. As I said to him, we would not even have been standing there if so many in the church had not rejected Humanae Vitae.

Everyone looks at Vatican II as the beginning of the current spiritual crisis we see in the church, but they all seem to forget about the real spiritual crisis of the 20th Century, and that is the rejection of Humanae Vitae in 1968.  Historians all agree that 1968 was a watershed year in the history of the world.  That is when everything began to change.

Here is a sample screenshot of the results of searching for "1968 Watershed Year".  As you can see, there were 219,000 results:

From one website entitled
1968 was a watershed year, the year when the 60s optimism with its utopian hippie dreams and hopes of social change for the better future started to turn sour. Nothing that came after that would ever be the same as what had come before. It was a year of deep tragedy, pain and anger, but also a year of remarkable social upheaval.
Historians naturally would never consider the acceptance or rejection of a Papal Encyclical as a momentous event in the history of man.  But outside of the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ, nothing has ever had a more profound impact on the direction of the entire world than the rejection of Humanae Vitae.  It is the cause of almost all the turmoil and evil we see happening around us.  The rejection of this most important encyclical has resulted in the deaths of untold hundreds of millions of unborn babies around the world (35,000 per day in China alone), the acceptance of homosexuality, the meteoric rise in sexually transmitted disease, the AIDS crisis, the rise in cancer among women directly caused by birth control and abortion, the overall general destruction of the family which is the foundation and building block of all societies, and even the sexual abuse crisis in the Church and around the world, to name just a few of the horrific consequences.

When so many in the Church rejected Humanae Vitae, they did not reject Pope Paul VI. The rejected the Lord and Master of the Universe. They rejected their Creator.  They told Him they can make their own decisions, and they don't need Him interfering in their lives. As I have mentioned in previous posts, this has resulted in our Lord allowing us to wander in the spiritual wilderness, just as He allowed ancient Israel to wander in the desert wilderness when they rejected Him at Mt. Sinai and turned to other gods. Our Lord promised He would never leave the Church, and that is true to this day and will be true to the end of time. But the rejection of Humanae Vitae was, in reality, a rejection of Jesus Christ. That is the moment when a great number literally turned their backs and walked away from God and the guidance and protection of the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual chaos and confusion that we see in the church today is not the result of "papal error". It is the result of God's people turning away from Him. It started in 1968, a year that secular historians note as an unprecedented year of upheaval and change. It is now 45 years later and the world is on the verge of complete moral collapse, just as Venerable Pope Paul VI predicted.

Here in the United States for the past several presidential elections we have been told that each one is "the most important election in our lifetime." The election of a pope is always a momentous event, but I think it is safe to say that the papal conclave set to start on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, is possibly the most important papal conclave in the 2000 year history of the Church, dwarfing the significance of any presidential election. His Holiness, Benedict XVI, said his decision to abdicate was not just a personal decision "to retire" but the result of a revelation from God. As he said in his last Angelus message on February 24:
I hear this Word of God addressed to me in a special way during this moment of my life. Thank you! The Lord is calling me to “scale the mountain,” to dedicate myself still more to prayer and to meditation. But this does not mean abandoning the Church – on the contrary, if God asks this of me, it is to serve the Church with the same dedication and the same love with which I have tried to do so hitherto, but in a way that is more adapted to my age and my strength.
The New York Post had an amusing headline that read "Pope Gives God Two Weeks Notice."  But as Pope Benedict XVI told us, it was Our Lord who made this decision.  Jesus could have easily made the decision to install a new pope by ending Pope Benedict XVI's life.  But creating exceptional circumstances completely focuses the world's attention on the election of a new pope.  It seems Jesus wanted this papal election done under extraordinary circumstances to draw attention to the fact that this is not an ordinary papal election.

The man who will be chosen to sit in the Chair of Peter will quite literally have the weight of the world upon his shoulders.  It is every Pope's role to walk the road of Calvary, but this time, I believe, the Church will be walking that road with him.  I think Our Lord wants us to know that the Chair of Peter is not being filled "in the ordinary course of business".  We live in extraordinary times of crushing evil, and it will take a man of extraordinary spiritual strength to lead the Church.  We will not know the full significance of all of this until we can look back on it.

One thing I think we can be sure of is that whoever is elected as our next Holy Father will be facing tremendous persecution and opposition.  He will be under immense pressure to "modernize" the Church and basically turn it into another protestant denomination, in effect destroying the Catholic Church.  We have a firm promise from Jesus Christ that He will never allow this to happen.  The Church has survived incredible odds over its 2000 year history and it will survive this.  But that doesn't mean we will do so without great suffering.

It will be more important than ever before that the Church be completely loyal and supportive of our next Holy Father, whoever he may be.  In his homily on Ash Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI made the following statement:
The readings that have been proclaimed provide us with ideas that, with the grace of God, we are called to make concrete attitudes and behaviors during this Lent. The Church proposes to us, first, the strong appeal that the prophet Joel addressed to the people of Israel, "Thus says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" (2:12). Please note the phrase "with all my heart," which means from the center of our thoughts and feelings, from the roots of our decisions, choices and actions, with a gesture of total and radical freedom. But is this return to God possible? Yes, because there is a force that does not reside in our hearts, but that emanates from the heart of God. It is the power of his mercy.
The prophet says, further: "Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, rich in faithful love, ready to repent of evil" (v. 13). The return to the Lord is possible as a 'grace', because it is the work of God and the fruit of that faith that we place in His mercy. But this return to God becomes a reality in our lives only when the grace of God penetrates to our inmost being and shakes it, giving us the power to "rend our hearts." The same prophet causes these words from God to resonate: "Rend your hearts and not your garments" (v. 13). In fact, even today, many are ready to "rend their garments" before scandals and injustices - of course, made by others - but few seem willing to act on their own "heart", on their own conscience and their own intentions, letting the Lord transform, renew and convert.
Finally, the prophet focuses on the prayers of the priests, who, with tears in their eyes, turn to God, saying: "Do not expose your heritage to the reproach and derision of the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, 'Where is their God?' "(v.17). This prayer makes us reflect on the importance of the testimony of faith and Christian life of each of us and our community to show the face of the Church and how that face is sometimes disfigured. I am thinking in particular about sins against the unity of the Church, the divisions in the ecclesial body. Living Lent in a more intense and evident ecclesial communion, overcoming individualism and rivalry, is a humble and precious sign for those who are far from the faith or indifferent.
We should not be talking about or even thinking about "anti Popes". Our Lord told us in Matthew 16:18 that the Church is built on the "Rock", on St. Peter and all his successors, and there is nothing that can destroy that. "And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." We either trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit or we don't. And if we refuse to put our trust there, then we have put ourselves outside of the Church and outside the safety and salvation found only in the Church.

When the next pope is elected, all of the Cardinals assembled will personally pledge their loyalty and obedience to him. His Holiness, Benedict XVI, has already done so. And we must follow their lead. The Church will survive, despite the tempestuous storms surrounding it. The question is, will we as individuals survive. The answer: only if we are under the authority of the Vicar of Christ.

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