The Catechism of the Catholic Church (675) states that the Church will pass through an “ultimate trial” in the End Times, just prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ:
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.
“Perhaps we have arrived at the End Times”
In a recent interview with the Catholic Herald published last November 30, 2017, Cardinal Raymund Burke, former prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, said that the “confusion, division and error” within the Catholic Church coming from “shepherds” even at the highest levels indicate that “perhaps we have arrived at the End Times”. He said:
In the present moment there is confusion and error about the most fundamental teachings of the Church, for example with regard to marriage and the family. For instance, the idea that people who are living in an irregular union could receive the sacraments is a violation of the truth with regard both to the indissolubility of marriage and to the sanctity of the Eucharist. There is a feeling that in today’s world that is based on secularism with a completely anthropocentric approach, by which we think we can create our own meaning of life and meaning of the family and so on, the Church itself seems to be confused. In that sense one may have the feeling that the Church gives the appearance of being unwilling to obey the mandates of Our Lord. Then perhaps we have arrived at the End Times.
Cardinal Burke is not the only prelate who has been publicly warning that we may be living in the End Times, and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ is near. Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Fr. Linus Clovis, and many other prelates have echoed the sentiment of Cardinal Burke.
Is there a “Catholic God”?
It cannot be denied that the Church is currently in the midst of an unprecedented crisis, with bishops publicly contradicting fellow bishops in fundamental matters of faith and morals. This crisis in the Church unfortunately finds as its principal source our Pope himself. Many controversial and confusing statements made by the Pope remain unanswered. For example, in an interview with the atheist editor of La Republicca Eugenio Scalfari, the Pope said: “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator.”
The statement seems to suggest that Jesus is just a “teacher” and “pastor”, seemingly not on equal divine rank with God the Father. The statement likewise suggests all religions have the same interpretation of God’s nature, which is clearly not the case. Islam, for example, does not recognize the Holy Trinity, and does not recognize Jesus as God. There is a Catholic understanding of God, a Trinitarian understanding of God.
In another controversial interview with Scalfari, the Pope suggested that there is no single vision of good and evil (this point of view is “moral relativism”, a heresy condemned by many popes and the Catechism of the Catholic Church). Scalfari asked the Pope: “Your Holiness, is there only one vision of the Good? And who determines what it is?” The pope answered: “Each one of us has his own vision of the Good and also of Evil. We have to urge it [the vision] to move towards what one perceives as the Good…I repeat it. Everyone has his own idea of Good and Evil and he has to choose to follow the Good and to fight Evil as he understands it. This would be enough to improve the world.”
Scalfari: Pope Francis has “Abolished” Heaven, Hell and Purgatory
In yet another more recent controversial interview published in La Republicca, Eugenio Scalfari claims that Pope Francis has “abolished” heaven, hell and purgatory. Scalfari said:
Pope Francis…has abolished the places where, after death, souls must go: Hell, Purgatory, Paradise…Pope Francis, I repeat, has abolished the places of eternal dwelling in the afterlife of souls. The thesis held by him is that the souls dominated by evil and not repentant cease to exist while those who are redeemed from evil will be assumed into beatitude, contemplating God.
The controversial quotes attributed to the pope by Scalfari remain publicly uncorrected to this day. The Pope’s insistence in continuing to seek out Scalfari for candid interviews and on-the-record discussions should put to rest any claim that the Pope has been misrepresented.
Controversial Papal Appointees
Pope Francis has likewise appointed numerous radically-liberal prelates to positions of prominence in the Church hierarchy. He appointed the controversial Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia as head of the Pontifical Academy for Life. Archbishop Paglia is a known supporter of homosexual unions – in fact, he commissioned an erotic mural in his cathedral church in 2007 which featured homosexuals in sexually-compromising positions. The mural included Archbishop Paglia himself.
Pope Francis also re-appointed Albrecht von Boeslager, the former Grand Chancellor of the Order of Malta who authorized the distribution of condoms. Von Boeslager was previously fired by Matthew Testing, the head of the Order, for distributing condoms. The Pope subsequently intervened, re-instating Von Boeslager, and asking for the resignation of Festing instead.
The Pope has also “resurrected” the career of Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium, a well-known advocate of same sex marriage, homosexual unions, contraceptives, and even abortion (he is known to have petitioned the King of Belgium to legalise abortion). The Cardinal was given the honour of reciting the prayer for the Pope during the papal inauguration; he was also appointed as a special adviser during the two Synods on the Family.
Does Amoris Laetitia Allow Communion for Divorced and Remarried Catholics?
The Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has given rise to conflicting interpretations made by bishops on its most controversial aspect – whether divorced or remarried Catholics can receive communion.
The Dioceses of Malta, Buenos Aires, and Germany have made pronouncements that allow communion for divorced and remarried Catholics. This position is supported by the Pope, as evidenced by his support of the guidelines of the Buenos Aires bishops through a letter in which he said that “there are no other interpretations” other than allowing for divorced and remarried to receive communion.
Vatican secretary of state Cardinal Pietro Parolin revealed on December 5, 2017 that the Pope has ordered the publication of the said letter to the Buenos Aires bishops on the Vatican website and in the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis,” the official record of Vatican documents and acts. This makes the letter to the Buenos Aires bishops an official papal act – it is abundantly clear, therefore, that Pope Francis is attempting to change Church teaching by allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to receive communion.
Many bishops from other countries, however, such as Poland, have issued guidelines that re-affirm the Church prohibition on communion for divorced and remarried.
Contrary to Church Teaching
The Pope’s position on divorced and remarried Catholics is contrary to Church Teaching, which is clear in not admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist. St. Pope John Paul II, in paragraph 84 of Familiaris Consortio, wrote: “The Church affirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried”, unless they are able to live in “complete continence”.
The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, then headed by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a letter sent to bishops on September 14, 1994, forcefully taught: “The Church affirms that a new union cannot be recognised as valid if the preceding marriage was valid. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Holy Communion as long as this situation persists.”
Faithful Bishops and Theologians Speak Out
Many bishops, priests and bishops’ conferences have spoken out on this issue, forcefully reminding the faithful that the Church’s traditional teaching on the Eucharist, Marriage, absolute moral truths, and repentance, still remain unchanged, despite Amoris Laetitia. The most prominent of these public statements is the Dubia published by four cardinals, which publicly asked the Pope to answer five “yes” or “no” questions on core issues of the faith that have been muddled by Amoris Laetitia. To date, the Pope has refused to answer the Dubia.
In an unprecedented act not seen since the Middle Ages, 79 Catholic clergy and lay scholars from more than 20 countries around the world have issued what they are calling a “Filial Correction” to Pope Francis for “propagating heresy.” The correction was delivered to the Pope at his Santa Marta residence on August 11, 2017. The Filial Correction, in the form of a 25-page letter, bears the signatures of seventy-nine Catholic clergy, academics, theologians, and scholars in various fields from twenty countries. They assert that Pope Francis has supported heretical positions about marriage, the moral life, and the Eucharist that are causing a host of “heresies and other errors” to spread throughout the Catholic Church.
More recently, the leading theologians of the United States and the U.K. have issued public rebukes of the Pope, asking him to clarify his teaching. Father. Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M., Cap., the former head of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Doctrine and a current member of the Vatican’s International Theological Commission, said that the pontiff is causing “chronic confusion” through vague teaching and by appointing bishops who “scandalize” the faithful. He says that Pope Francis’ pontificate “has given those who hold harmful theological and pastoral views the license and confidence to come into the light and expose their previously hidden darkness,” which, one day, will have to be corrected.
Fr. Aidan Nichols, widely recognized as Britain’s leading theologian, also said that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia had led to an “extremely grave” situation. Fr. Nichols proposed that, given the Pope’s statements on issues including marriage and the moral law, the Church may need “a procedure for calling to order a pope who teaches error”.
What About the Vow of Obedience?
Are priests and bishops obliged, because of their vow of obedience, to follow the Pope even if he teaches a manifest heresy? It is helpful to remember that the Church teaches that the Pope is infallible only in very limited, defined circumstances, particularly during ex-cathedra declarations. Bishop Athanasius Schneider has forcefully answered this concern in a recent interview.
“As Catholics,” he said we have “to be submitted, (canonically) to the Pope, to the Vicar of Christ to accept his authority, to have respect for him, to pray for him, and to have a supernatural love for him.” But, he added, “this does not mean blind obedience; of course not because we are not in a dictatorship.” Bishop Schneider reflected on the example of St. Catherine of Siena, who, he noted, the Church recognizes as a saint and Doctor of the Church. While she always kept “a very deep respect towards the Pope and a deep love for him,” he said, she nevertheless “wrote several letters to him with very harsh” criticisms and correctly admonished him which she did “out of love for him.”
“She wrote in a letter to the Pope, ‘Most Holy Father if you will not convert, please step down, renounce the papacy. I write these out of love for your person, for your eternal salvation, and for the Church.’” This letter and the attitude behind it, said Schneider, “is not schismatic, and in no way against the Pope.”
Remain in the Truth of Christ
Our prayer is that in these perilous times, amid the Church’s “ultimate trial” just prior to the Second Coming of Our Lord, our priests and bishops will remain always in the Truth of Christ.