Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

1878 or 2011

By now I shouldn't be surprized at how the Holy Spirit works propheticly through the Popes when they exercise their Petrine Charism to teach us the unchanging truths of God. Or maybe it is just that they are the same problems that simply have new labels. But whatever the reason, it still amazes me when I read something written by a long dead Pope that sounds like it could have been written about the problems the Catholic Church is dealing with today.
In this case I am refering to 2 encyclicals written by Pope Leo XIII. While we rightly remember him for his deep devotion to Mary, his promotion of the Rosary & devotion to St. Joseph & especially Rerum Novarum , his groundbreaking encyclical on the relationship of capital & labor that is so often (like much of the Church's teachings) twisted to suit those with a liberal, socialist bent when it is in fact a defense of capital as well as labor.
But in this case it was what he had to say in the 2 encyclicals that he wrote at the start of his pontificate in 1878. I had watched a program on EWTN that mentioned Pope Leo's encyclical on socialism (Quod Apostolici Muneris ), so I decided to look it up. As I started reading it I came across a reference to his 1st encyclical (Inscrutabili Dei Consilio ) that this 1 had been written as a follow up. As I read them I began to think to myself that this sure sounds like many of the same problems the Church is dealing with today as well as describing the attacks the Catholic Church is undergoing today for standing up for the truth.
While I won't share the entire encyclicals here, I recommend you follow the links & read them in their entirety. Instead I will share a few sections from them to show you why I quickly came to the conclusion about what is said in them is very much needed to be heard today. The use of  "we" "us" & "our" may be a little disconcerting to some. Back then that was standard practice by secular rulers as well as the Pope. It has nothing to do with ego on Pope Leo's part.
In Inscrutabili Pope Leo starts out by explaining that he is sending it out so that those who read it can help him "to carry on the battle now being waged on behalf of the Church of God and the salvation of souls." Isn't that exactly what we are supposed to be doing today, praying for, supporting & working with Papa Benedetto to defend the Church & proclaim the good news of salvation found in Jesus?
Paragraph 2 & its footnote (emphasis mine): "For, from the very beginning of Our pontificate, the sad sight has presented itself to Us of the evils by which the human race is oppressed on every side: the widespread subversion of the primary truths on which, as on its foundations, human society is based; the obstinacy of mind that will not brook any authority however lawful; the endless sources of disagreement, whence arrive civil strife, and ruthless war and bloodshed; the contempt of law which molds characters and is the shield of righteousness; the insatiable craving for things perishable, with complete forgetfulness of things eternal, leading up to the desperate madness whereby so many wretched beings, in all directions, scruple not to lay violent hands upon themselves; the reckless mismanagement, waste, and misappropriation of the public funds; the shamelessness of those who, full of treachery, make semblance of being champions of country, of freedom, and every kind of right; in fine, the deadly kind of plague which infects in its inmost recesses, allowing it no respite and foreboding ever fresh disturbances and final disaster.(1)
1). This description of what is usually called a "corrupt government" or the government of a "corrupt party" is, in fact, the description of what necessarily happens to any government, or ruling party, when it rejects the moral rules taught by the Church. A religious error is the main root of all social and political evils."
From paragraph 3: "We are convinced, in this, that the holy and venerable authority of the Church, which in God's name rules mankind, upholding and defending all lawful authority, has been despised and set aside. The enemies of public order, being fully aware of this, have thought nothing better suited to destroy the foundations of society than to make an unflagging attack upon the Church of God, to bring her into discredit and odium by spreading infamous calumnies and accusing her of being opposed to genuine progress. They labor to weaken her influence and power by wounds daily inflicted, and to overthrow the authority of the Bishop of Rome, in whom the abiding and unchangeable principles of right and good find their earthly guardian and champion."
This next part of paragraph 3 could be a description of the rules promulgated by the Obama administration that are forcing Catholic institutions to have tehir insurance pay for birth control as well as state laws forcing Catholic organizations to offer adoption services to homosexual couples. "From these causes have originated laws that shake the structure of the Catholic Church, the enacting whereof we have to deplore in so many lands; hence, too, have floured forth contempt of episcopal authority; the obstacles thrown in the way of the discharge of ecclesiastical duties; the dissolution of religious bodies; and the confiscation of property that was once the support of the Church's ministers and of the poor. Thereby, public institutions, vowed to charity and benevolence, have been withdrawn from the wholesome control of the Church; thence, also, has arisen that unchecked freedom to teach and spread abroad all mischievous principles, while the Church's claim to train and educate youth is in every way outraged and baffled."
In paragraph 5 Pope Leo makes 1 of those especially prophetic statements. "(I)f any one of sound mind compare the age in which We live, so hostile to religion and to the Church of Christ, with those happy times when the Church was revered as a mother by the nations, beyond all question he will see that our epoch is rushing wildly along the straight road to destruction; while in those times which most abounded in excellent institutions, peaceful life, wealth, and prosperity the people showed themselves most obedient to the Church's rule and laws."
There is so much more I could point out from this encyclical alone. I can't share everything. But before I move on to the next encyclical I will share 2 more parts. I will start with the following where Pope Leo lays out the responsibility of the Bishops in teaching the truth. "In the next place, in order that the union of hearts between their chief Pastor and the whole Catholic flock may daily be strengthened, We here call upon you, venerable brothers, with particular earnestness, and strongly urge you to kindle, with priestly zeal and pastoral care, the fire of the love of religion among the faithful entrusted to you, that their attachment to this chair of truth and justice may become closer and firmer, that they may welcome all its teachings with thorough assent of mind and will, wholly rejecting such opinion, even when most widely received, as they know to be contrary to the Church's doctrine. . . . It is your duty, venerable brothers, sedulously to strive that the seed of heavenly doctrine be sown broadcast in the field of God, and that the teachings of the Catholic faith may be implanted early in the souls of the faithful, may strike deep root in them, and be kept free from the ruinous blight of error. The more the enemies of religion exert themselves to offer the uninformed, especially the young, such instruction as darkens the mind and corrupts morals, the more actively should we endeavor that not only a suitable and solid method of education may flourish but above all that this education be wholly in harmony with the Catholic faith in its literature and system of training, and chiefly in philosophy, upon which the direction of other sciences in great measure depends." (Par 13)
Then there is this from paragraph 14 that surely describes the attack these days on the family. "Now, the training of youth most conducive to the defense of true faith and religion and to the preservation of morality must find its beginning from an early stage within the circle of home life; and this family Christian training sadly undermined in these our times, cannot possibly be restored to its due dignity, save by those laws under which it was established in the Church by her Divine Founder Himself. Our Lord Jesus Christ, by raising to the dignity of a sacrament the contract of matrimony, in which He would have His own union with the Church typified, not only made the marriage tie more holy, but, in addition, provided efficacious sources of aid for parents and children alike, so that, by the discharge of their duties one to another, they might with greater ease attain to happiness both in time and in eternity. But when impious laws, setting at naught the sanctity of this great sacrament, put it on the same footing of mere civil contracts, the lamentable result followed, that, outraging the dignity of Christian matrimony, citizens made use of legalized concubinage in place of marriage; husband and wife neglected their bounden duty to each other; children refused obedience and reverence to their parents; the bonds of domestic love were loosened; and alas! the worst scandal and of all the most ruinous to public morality, very frequently an unholy passion opened the door to disastrous and fatal separations. These most unhappy and painful consequences, venerable brothers, cannot fail to arouse your zeal and move you constantly and earnestly to warn the faithful committed to your charge to listen with docility to your teaching regarding the holiness of Christian marriage, and to obey laws by which the Church controls the duties of married people and of their offspring."
Like I said, there is so much more I could share from Inscrutabili. But I need to move on to Quod Apostolici. He starts out by reminding everyone why he wrote the 1st encyclical. "At the very beginning of Our pontificate, as the nature of Our apostolic office demanded, we hastened to point out in an encyclical letter addressed to you, venerable brethren, the deadly plague that is creeping into the very fibres of human society and leading it on to the verge of destruction; at the same time We pointed out also the most effectual remedies by which society might be restored and might escape from the very serious dangers which threaten it."
 Then he goes on to explain why another one on this subjest is out so."But the evils which We then deplored have so rapidly increased that We are again compelled to address you,. . . . We speak of that sect of men who, under various and almost barbarous names, are called socialists, communists, or nihilists, and who, spread over all the world, and bound together by the closest ties in a wicked confederacy, no longer seek the shelter of secret meetings, but, openly and boldly marching forth in the light of day, strive to bring to a head what they have long been planning - the overthrow of all civil society whatsoever."
Pope Leo goes on to say "Surely these are they who, as the sacred Scriptures testify, "Defile the flesh, despise dominion and blaspheme majesty."(2) They leave nothing untouched or whole which by both human and divine laws has been wisely decreed for the health and beauty of life. They refuse obedience to the higher powers, to whom, according to the admonition of the Apostle, every soul ought to be subject, and who derive the right of governing from God; and they proclaim the absolute equality of all men in rights and duties. They debase the natural union of man and woman, which is held sacred even among barbarous peoples; and its bond, by which the family is chiefly held together, they weaken, or even deliver up to lust. Lured, in fine, by the greed of present goods, which is "the root of all evils, which some coveting have erred from the faith,"(3) they assail the right of property sanctioned by natural law; and by a scheme of horrible wickedness, while they seem desirous of caring for the needs and satisfying the desires of all men, they strive to seize and hold in common whatever has been acquired either by title of lawful inheritance, or by labor of brain and hands, or by thrift in one's mode of life." Sound familiar?????
Then we have this from section 5 that could describe those cafeteria Catholics of today: "For, indeed, although the socialists, stealing the very Gospel itself with a view to deceive more easily the unwary, have been accustomed to distort it so as to suit their own purposes, nevertheless so great is the difference between their depraved teachings and the most pure doctrine of Christ that none greater could exist: 'for what participation bath justice with injustice or what fellowship bath light with darkness?'"
After reminding rulers (which includes legislators) that their power ultimately comes from God he says this in section 7:  "But that rulers may use the power conceded to them to save and not to destroy, the Church of Christ seasonably warns even princes that the sentence of the Supreme Judge overhangs them, and, adopting the words of divine wisdom, calls upon all in the name of God: "Give ear, you that rule the people, and that please yourselves in multitudes of nations; for power is given you by the Lord, and strength by the Most High, who will examine your works, and search out your thoughts. . . . For a most severe judgment shall be for them that bear rule. . . " But when "the power of the State is rashly and tyrannically wielded by princes" Pope Leo makes it clear what the Christian response is. "(I)f the will of legislators and princes shall have sanctioned or commanded anything repugnant to the divine or natural law, the dignity and duty of the Christian name, as well as the judgment of the Apostle, urge that 'God is to be obeyed rather than man.' "
Section 8 sure sounds like it could be talking about what is wrong with the current attempts to redefine marriage. "Even family life itself, which is the cornerstone of all society and government, necessarily feels and experiences the salutary power of the Church, which redounds to the right ordering and preservation of every State and kingdom. For you know, venerable brethren, that the foundation of this society rests first of all in the indissoluble union of man and wife according to the necessity of natural law, and is completed in the mutual rights and duties of parents and children, masters and servants. You know also that the doctrines of socialism strive almost completely to dissolve this union; since, that stability which is imparted to it by religious wedlock being lost, it follows that the power of the father over his own children, and the duties of the children toward their parents, must be greatly weakened."
Then section 9 sounds like Pope Leo is talking about "Operation Wall Street". "But Catholic wisdom, sustained by the precepts of natural and divine law, provides with especial care for public and private tranquility in its doctrines and teachings regarding the duty of government and the distribution of the goods which are necessary for life and use. For, while the socialists would destroy the "right" of property, alleging it to be a human invention altogether opposed to the inborn equality of man, and, claiming a community of goods, argue that poverty should not be peaceably endured, and that the property and privileges of the rich may be rightly invaded, the Church, with much greater wisdom and good sense, recognizes the inequality among men, who are born with different powers of body and mind, inequality in actual possession, also, and holds that the right of property and of ownership, which springs from nature itself, must not be touched and stands inviolate."
The Pope isn't blind to the abuses of the poor often done by the rich, but he also knows socialism doesn't have the answer, but the Catholic Church does. "She is constantly pressing on the rich that most grave precept to give what remains to the poor; and she holds over their heads the divine sentence that unless they succor the needy they will be repaid by eternal torments. In fine, she does all she can to relieve and comfort the poor, either by holding up to them the example of Christ, "who being rich became poor for our sake,(18) or by reminding them of his own words, wherein he pronounced the poor blessed and bade them hope for the reward of eternal bliss."
Pope Leo goes on to describe what the Catholic Church does to improve society, including hospitals, & what happens when society tries to undermine that work. Again, doesn't this sound like what is going on today??? "But who does not see that this is the best method of arranging the old struggle between the rich and poor? For, as the very evidence of facts and events shows, if this method is rejected or disregarded, one of two things must occur: either the greater portion of the human race will fall back into the vile condition of slavery which so long prevailed among the pagan nations, or human society must continue to be disturbed by constant eruptions, to be disgraced by rapine and strife, as we have had sad witness even in recent times."
I'll conclude with this from paragraph 10 that is just as apt today as it was 133 years ago: "We again lift up Our voice, and beseech them again and again for their own safety's sake as well as that of their people to welcome and give ear to the Church which has had such wonderful influence on the public prosperity of kingdoms, and to recognize that political and religious affairs are so closely united that what is taken from the spiritual weakens the loyalty of subjects and the majesty of the government. And since they know that the Church of Christ has such power to ward off the plague of socialism as cannot be found in human laws, in the mandates of magistrates, or in the force of armies, let them restore that Church to the condition and liberty in which she may exert her healing force for the benefit of all society."  I underlined the 1 line because it explains why the attacks on the Catholic Church are happenning, both then & now.
Jesus promised us that the Holy Spirit would guide the Catholic Church into all truth. Once again we see how well He has kept that promise. & we also see why it is important to know & follow the true teachings of the Magesterium. Fallen human nature, when left to itself, does welcome that "deadly plague" back again & again. It is only through the Catholic Church that God  exerts His "healing force for the benefit of all society." Because of this, the attacks from without & within will continue until Jesus' return at the end of time. But no matter how hard the enemies of God try, that voice of truth will never be silenced. The question is, will we, individually &/or communally, listen?

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