Image: “The Dragon Transmitting Power” Master of Sarum, c. 1250.
Sometimes, it’s hard to find words. This is one such occasion.
What can be said to explain the Vatican’s decision to issue a stamp with a reverential image of one of the most notorious heretics in history, to “mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation”?
Note the piety. Note the “golden and timeless view.” This is a devotional work.
The Vatican goes on to insist in a Pontifical Council statement that “we are very thankful for the spiritual and theological gifts received through the Reformation.”
Really? Who is “we”?
Is “we” the Catholic martyrs of the Wars of Religion? Is “we” the Catholic faithful still pained by the rending of Christ’s Mystical Body yet continuing from Luther’s revolt? Is “we” the countless souls led into damnable errors on faith, grace, justification, and the Sacraments propagated by heresiarch Martin Luther, a man who called pope and bishops “a brothel-keeper and the devil’s daughter in hell,” penning such niceties as Against the Roman Papacy, An Institution of the Devil?
Is Holy Mother Church here made to give thanks for this matricide and “the gifts received through” his errors?
Yes, and not only must she be thankful; she is made, together with the Lutheran World Federation, to have “begged forgiveness for our failures and for the ways in which Christians have wounded the Body of the Lord and offended each other.” One could scarcely believe it, were it not for the prophetic words of Pope Pius XII in 1933:
I am concerned about the messages of the Virgin to the little Lucia of Fatima. This persistence of the Good Lady in face of the danger that threatens the Church is a divine warning against the suicide that the alteration of the Faith, in its liturgy, its theology, and its soul, would represent. I hear around me innovators who wish to dismantle the Sacred Chapel, destroy the universal flame of the Church, reject her ornaments, and make her remorseful for her historical past.
And find the Vatican speaking of Pope Francis standing with “Bishop Munib A. Younan” (except he’s not a bishop) and declaring “the commitment to continue the ecumenical journey together towards the unity that Christ prayed for” (except that unity abides in the Church alone). And perhaps most troubling:
Many members of our communities yearn to receive the Eucharist at one table, as the concrete expression of full unity. We experience the pain of those who share their whole lives, but cannot share God’s redeeming presence at the Eucharistic table. We acknowledge our joint pastoral responsibility to respond to the spiritual thirst and hunger of our people to be one in Christ. We long for this wound in the Body of Christ to be healed. This is the goal of our ecumenical endeavors, which we wish to advance, also by renewing our commitment to theological dialogue.”
Now, we know as a matter of faith that the only way for such a “concrete expression of full unity” to be realized is by the return of any separated member to Catholic faith and life. But with plans for an “Ecumenical Mass” apparently in the works, one is tempted to dread what further violence the future may hold.
And what of all the missed opportunities to evangelize? If anybody lives in a diocese where a bishop is taking the opportunity of this “500th anniversary” to do anything but the kind of things detailed above, I’d love to hear about it. It’s likely we can only imagine such a scenario these days.
But let’s do that for a moment.
Just imagine for a second what would happen if your bishop stood up at that ecumenical conference or dialogue session or joint prayer service or whatever, and rather than reflecting on what might have been or affirming all that unites us, he instead invited our erring brethren, in a charitable, heartfelt manner (you know, the kind of manner he might have if he truly loved them and was concerned for their salvation), to return to the one true Church established by Christ.
I mean, seriously, what would happen?
Given the above nonsense and other increasingly strange and even irrational goings-on amid the hierarchy of late, I wonder if a particular preternatural enemy may be afflicting the Church at present. I am reminded of something from the writings of the Church Fathers about the spirit of insanity.
This passage is from St. Hippolytus of Rome, preaching in the early 3rd century to invite non-Catholics of his day to abjure their errors and enter the Church:
[F]ly to the water, for this alone can extinguish the fire. He who will not come to the water still carries around with him the spirit of insanity for the sake of which he will not come to the living water for his own salvation. (Homilies 11:26)
Perhaps this is the name of a particularly nefarious agent currently at work, of a piece with that “smoke of Satan” Pope Paul VI lamented in 1972 as having penetrated the Church. It calls to mind a passage from C.S. Lewis’s Perelandra, when the protagonist faces the principal agent of Satan, and finds:
On the surface, great designs and an antagonism to Heaven which involved the fate of worlds: but deep within, when every veil had been pierced … nothing but a black puerility, an aimless empty spitefulness content to sate itself with the tiniest cruelties, as love does not disdain the smallest kindness[.]
Perhaps the inconceivably complex machinations of an angelic super-intelligence bent on the destruction of the Church finally reduce to a base, mindless gibbering.
Perhaps Christ the Logos, Divine Reason par excellence, is opposed by an Anti-Logos that must needs be Un-Reason itself.
Perhaps the Man of Sin is an idiot.
Originally published at Whispers of Restoration. Reprinted with permission.
Whispers of Restoration is an independent team of Catholic readers, writers, and designers contributing to the Catholic resource website WhispersofRestoration.com.