Authority of the Church through the ages
Before Christ died, He established His Church to continue His mission to teach the truth, to govern and to sanctify. He gave His ministers the same divine authority to teach the same truth. People believed the ministers of the early Church, not only because of the intrinsic beauty of the truth, but because their natural authority was respected too: sometimes because they received special graces to preach eloquently, to preach in different languages or to perform miracles, sometimes too, because of the example of their lives, and alas, all too frequently because of the example of their deaths. Throughout the so-called Dark Ages and Middle Ages, the flame of truth was preserved and then burst forth from the monasteries and convents to enlighten all society. Christ's ministers were believed because they were the most mortified and most learned of men.
The beauty of their lives, their art, their architecture and their liturgy gave them a natural authority which helped their listeners believe the truth that had been handed down to them. Following the disaster of the Reformation which was brought about bya misuse of the natural fruits of the Middle Ages - wealth and discovery - the faithful ministers of Christ continued to teach the Christ's truth even unto the ends of the earth. Their listeners believed them because of their missionary zeal. And then, in the midst of the secular revolutions of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, the ministers of Christ laboured to plant the seeds of Christ's truth anew. Their resilience in persecution, despoliation and exile, and their labours to establish schools, seminaries, convents, monasteries and works of charity - building up the Church afresh - gave then a human authority to add to the divine authority received through the Church. When they lectured in their classrooms, preached from their pulpits and were read in their printed books, they were thus believed.
Loss of authority
Then came the revolution within the Church. It started in the 19th century in the aftermath of the French Revolution of 1789 and, despite the heroic efforts of the popes – especially Pope St. Pius X – the revolution grew in strength among Christ's own ministers. They had been given divine authority to preach the truth, but their ears were itching with a new doctrine. The men of the world, by their scientific progress and the worldly power of their ungodly economic system, made themselves into gods of the material order. They promised an earthly utopia without the One, True God. In this utopia, there was to be no more restrictive Revelation, no more servitude to an absolute truth, no more limitation by the order of nature. They had fallen for the same temptation as our first parents in the Garden of Eden. The revolution within the Church came to fruition at the Second Vatican Council. The truth of Revelation was cleverly obscured in the texts of the Council documents by deliberate ambiguity in order to give room for a new and erroneous interpretation of the religion of God as a religion of man.
Adherence to the errors - never explicitly formulated - was forced upon the faithful by a misuse of the Church’s power to govern (through bishops’ conferences, canon law, synods etc.) and the poison of the errors was forcibly administered by an abuse of its mission to sanctify (through a new, deficient liturgy). Many of Christ’s ministers tasted of the forbidden fruit and found themselves bereft of all authority when they preached: they had no divine authority with them because they no longer preached the truth of Christ; they have no human authority because they no longer lived in imitation of Christ. No longer was there resilience in the face of persecution, despoliation and exile, for they embraced the sinful world out of a misguided notion of mercy. No longer was there a missionary zeal for souls, for to proselytise was now considered a sin. No longer was there any beauty in their asceticism, art, architecture or liturgy, for they had stripped the altars of the temple within and without. No longer were there miracles, for no grace is given to preach a new doctrine. No longer were there martyrs, for their respect of modern men in their modern vices was more precious to them than their respect for truth.
Now, more than ever, we find ourselves witnessing a desperate attack upon both the divine positive law (those revealed laws concerning religion) and upon the natural law (those laws written into human nature) by those ordained to defend it. The encyclical Amoris Laetitia is the latest example. It is an assault upon the sanctity of the Blessed Sacrament, the necessity of the sacrament of penance and the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage and the family. Adultery and homosexual relationships are no longer condemned as intrinsically evil, sanctifying grace is regarded as insufficient for keeping God’s laws and the state of habitual grace is considered as being possible for those living in deliberate mortal sin.
In its ultimate conclusions, the offending passages of the encyclical constitute a denial of all moral law.
Elsewhere, divorce by “annulment” is a practical reality, the celibacy of the priesthood is being put under pressure; a thinly veiled plan to introduce a female deaconate is being executed as a step towards an attempt at a female priesthood; the intrinsic evil of contraception is being challenged and the front against abortion and euthanasia is being weakened by papal appointments and endorsements of worldly institutions – the UN in particular. But while the revolt of the modern churchmen seems at its most intense in our present time, the betrayal of the citadel really happened fifty years ago at the Council. The sad events we witness today are but the inevitable consequences of the effective denial of the distinction between the natural and supernatural order that happened at the Council. Man put himself on the same level as God and began to worship himself rather than God. Why do we need an imposing absolute truth if we can decide for ourselves what is true? Why do we need laws when we have our own consciences? Why do we need the Catholic Church to be savedwhen our relationship to God is personal? Such are the questions asked by the unfaithful ministers of Christ.
The enemies of the Church cheer, but the faithful hold them in admiration no longer. When the world embraced the early Church in the fourth century, souls rushed from the world into the Church, but when the Church embraced the world at the Second Vatican Council, souls fled from the Church into the world. Christ is being obscured by his own ministers.
To whom shall we go? To whom shall we turn in this time of apostasy?
As St. Louis Marie de Montfort reminds us, when Mary became the Mother of the Head of the Mystical Body of Christ she became mother of its members, too. She is the supernatural mother of souls. Just as everyone has a father and mother in their natural life, so too in the supernatural life. She conceived Christ, she continues to conceive souls of the elect. As Christ is obscured by his sacred ministers, it is natural then, that we turn to our Mother Mary who can never be hidden from a faithful soul.
At the wedding feast of Cana, Mary was there to help the bride and groom. After the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, the apostles and disciples gathered around Mary in the upper room. In times of persecution and desolation, when the visible church was persecuted, Mary has always been the pillar to which devoted souls attach themselves.
In these dark latter days, when the Church is persecuted by its own ministers, Mary has appeared to us at Lourdes, La Salette and Fatima to teach us to take refuge in her Immaculate Heart. The traditional liturgy of Advent is full of the perfections of Mary and her role in the work of redemption. It is arguably the most beautiful time of the liturgical year. In the liturgy of this time – in the Masses and the Divine Office - you will find her there as a pillar, a harbour, a resting place and a source of hope. Let us go to her, and then we will learn of her Son.
In Jesu et Maria,
Rev. Fr. Robert Brucciani