As the announcement of the book on priestly celibacy of Benedict XVI and Robert Cardinal Sarah was provoking worldwide controversy, Ignatius Press published the book with the following statement: “The Catholic Church faces a major crisis…turmoil in priestly ministry is at the heart of it.” When Pope Francis’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation was finally published, avoiding any mention of changing the Church’s discipline on celibacy, did the crisis in the Church described by Ignatius Press come to an end, or was the solution to that crisis merely delayed? Church historian Roberto de Mattei saw in the pope’s silence on the matter a certain victory against a modernist revolution within the Church, while José Antonio Ureta of the Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira Institute questioned whether the exhortation was one step backward and two steps forward – since the document still contained elements of liberation theology associated with the Synod itself.
It seems clear that the controversy and the crisis in the Church are not over, for the Amazon Synod, and before it the earlier Synod on the family, are merely single events in a broader series of developments marking the history of the Church in our time. Certain influential members of the hierarchy have associated this period of history with the prophecies concerning the last times. John-Henry Westen of LifeSiteNews recently summarized the statements regarding this matter made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Raymond Cardinal Burke, Walter Cardinal Brandmüller, Gerhard Cardinal Müller, Willem Jacobus Cardinal Eijk, and the late Carlo Cardinal Caffarra. From its entry into Catholic publishing in the late 1980s, Preserving Christian Publications has made books available that are related to this crisis, a crisis which John-Henry Westen has helped to define by citing the statements of these influential prelates.
Great as our filial duty of reverence is towards whatever he may say, great as our duty of obedience must be to the guidance of the Chief Shepherd, we do not hold that every word of his is infallible, or that he must always be right. Much less do we dream of teaching that he is infallible, or in any degree superior to other men, when he speaks on matters that are scientific, or historical, or political, or that he may not make mistakes of judgment in dealing with contemporary events, with men and things [pp.18-19].
Prior to the synod – by way of example – Walter Cardinal Brandmüller warned that political recommendations anticipated from the synod would necessarily call for legitimate opposition from government officials. When Pope Francis stated that the Amazonian region belonged to all of humanity, President Bolsonaro of Brazil understandably responded by stating that this is not true. It was Pope Alexander VI in 1493 who drew the famous Line of Demarcation, dividing the newly discovered territories belonging to Spain and Portugal, which was modified the next year by the Spanish-Portuguese Treaty of Tordesillas. In the nineteenth century, after South American nations became independent from Portugal and Spain, the Holy See gradually established diplomatic ties with these nations and recognized their existence as sovereign states (cf. Father William J. Coleman, M.M., The First Apostolic Delegation in Rio de Janeiro and Its Influence in Spanish America: A Study of Papal Policy, 1830-1840 [Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America, 1950]). For Pope Francis to overrule centuries of the application of Natural Law, the Law of Nations and International Law – in favor of United Nations interference with national sovereignty – will inevitably lead to resistance from the nations involved, and from Catholic laity, to whom the Church has always entrusted her mission in temporal society.
…the socialists are in practice what they refuse to acknowledge themselves to be in theory. Theoretically, they remain Frenchmen, Italians, and Germans; practically, they are citizens of the world, and, like the world, their country has no boundaries. In their fatuity, they ignore that, when all boundaries are removed, there is no longer a country; and where there is no country there are no men, except, indeed, they may happen to be socialists.
III. What Juan Donoso Cortés foresaw as emerging already in the nineteenth century, Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira saw coming to a climax in the twentieth century. In PLINIO CORRÊA DE OLIVEIRA: PROPHET OF THE REIGN OF MARY, Roberto de Mattei presents the thought and spirituality of this Brazilian Catholic leader, whose very life embodied modern papal teaching on the lay apostolate. Much of the debate within the Church regarding the Amazon Synod centered around the priesthood, but when the post-synodal exhortation was issued and the tradition of priestly celibacy remained unchanged, the political significance of the Synod’s environmental preoccupations continued in force. Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira had foreseen this debate within the Church regarding indigenous cultures more than four decades ago, justifying Roberto de Mattei’s argument that Dr. Corrêa de Oliveira had a grace to understand the social and political crisis of our time, and to lead an apostolate devoted to the triumph of the Immaculate Heart foretold by Our Lady of Fatima.
IV. While celibacy remains the common discipline for the priesthood within the Church, the Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament which the priesthood was instituted by Our Lord to safeguard and preserve, still remains subject to irreverence, due to the widespread abandonment of the Church’s traditional discipline for the proper distributing of Holy Communion and its worthy reception. HOLY COMMUNION: Communion in the Hand – Documents and History; Spiritual Communion and the State of Grace by the late Bishop Juan Rodolfo Laise, O.F.M.Cap., with a preface by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, addresses this question which is central to the spiritual lives of Catholics. Not only are Catholics obliged to receive Communion in a reverent manner, which the traditional practice of Communion on the tongue protects, but they also must be interiorly disposed, which means not only the state of grace but also the interior spiritual dispositions that centuries of Catholic practice and discipline clearly illustrate.
V. POPE LEO XIII AND THE PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL by Kevin J. Symonds, with a Preface by Bishop Athanasius Schneider, explains the present crisis in the Church in its historical and profoundly supernatural aspects. A vision of Pope Leo XIII foretold an assault of the devil against the Church, and ultimately against the Chair of Peter itself. Kevin Symonds documents what is known about this vision, and Pope Leo XIII’s response through his Exorcism and St. Michael Prayer, as well as that of subsequent Popes, and of Our Lady herself during her apparitions in Fatima.
VI. FATIMA AND THE THIRD SECRET. The Third Secret of Fatima, which the Vatican kept in its archives after 1960 until its publication in 2000, remained partly obscure even after its was revealed by the Holy See, due to widespread speculation that the published text might not be complete. But Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in his recently published book Christus Vincit, explains why it is unacceptable to assume that Cardinal Ratzinger, later Benedict XVI, was deceiving Catholics by hiding part of the Secret. Bishop Schneider’s explanation of the meaning of the published text of the Secret confirms central points presented by Preserving Christian Publications in this 62-page booklet, which also contains an interview with Brazilian Fatima scholar Antonio Borelli Machado, offering an explanation of why the Secret was not revealed in 1960, based on the testimony of Benedict XVI.