As recounted by Fr. Franz Schmidberger in 2005, Archbishop Lefebvre explained that the “great mystery” existed because Catholics thought that the ongoing “passion fo the Church” should have been impossible:
“We are certainly in front of a mystery. Nobody in the time of Pius XII would have believed that the Church one day would undergo such a passion, and even it would be absolutely impossible for her to go through such a passion. But we have to face the reality, and so we have to maintain the Divine Institution of Peter on the one side and on the other side we cannot deny that these reforms coming from Rome are destroying the Church.”
As discussed below, it seems likely that the crisis was actually foreseen by those who understood the warnings of Fatima; but Archbishop Lefebvre’s point was that the evident errors coming from Rome do not comport with our Catholic understanding of God’s protection of the Church. Many others saw the same thing and left the Church. However, Archbishop Lefebvre — who saw the problem more keenly than almost anyone else — could never leave the Church, and thus concluded that the passion of the Church was a great mystery that one must accept.
With Francis’s occupation of the papacy, faithful Catholics with the use of reason can no longer legitimately adhere to the latter position of denying reality. So one must face the reality that the man currently reputed to be pope by almost the entire world is actively and openly trying to destroy the Church.
Whereas Archbishop Lefebvre accepted the existence of a great mystery as it relates to the Church’s crisis, others have attempted to eliminate the mystery, typically in one of two ways described by Archbishop Lefebvre:
“There are people who are seeing the passion of the Church and the tragedy of papacy and so they conclude that such a degradation of papacy is not possible and so the pope can not be the pope. Others draw the contrary conclusion saying: Since the pope is pope, all the reforms coming from Rome must be good, it is only an appearance of bad and so they swallow the poison." (as recounted in Fr. Schmidberger’s 2005 talk, cited above)
With Francis’s occupation of the papacy, faithful Catholics with the use of reason can no longer legitimately adhere to the latter position of denying reality. So one must face the reality that the man currently reputed to be pope by almost the entire world is actively and openly trying to destroy the Church. This, of course, makes the sedevacantist position far more understandable. So much so that many faithful Catholics who do not profess “sedevacantism” nonetheless believe that Francis cannot truly be the “Vicar of Christ" other than in a technical sense fully understood only by God.
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But if one adopts a sedevacantist position, the Church’s passion and accompanying mystery do not relent. At best, one trades instruments of affliction: the sedevacantist is relieved of his need to believe that the Church is led by Francis, but burdened with other questions that should be painful for Catholics. Who was the last pope? Are there any real cardinals living today? What happened to the Church’s visibility? Are the laity really required to declare that we have no pope to remain Catholic? Does it really make sense that the “sedevacantist Church” has not had a pope since Pius XII but has been relatively free from persecution, while the “counterfeit Church” in Rome has been the target of perpetual attacks from Satan during that time?
So we are left with a mystery, but it is one that fits within the sprit of warnings that many faithful Catholics take seriously. For instance, Bishop Joseph Strickland recently highlighted the importance of the messages of Our Lady of Akita:
“It behooves all of us to become familiar with the message of Our Lady of Akita (Japan 1973). This message is approved by the Church and seems to speak directly of our times. As you read this message do not despair but instead resolve to grow more fervent in your faith in Jesus.”
Christopher Ferrara’s 2009 article in The Remnant detailed the Akita message, noting that Cardinal Ratzinger claimed that it was essentially the same as the Third Secret of Fatima:
“As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms that will remain for you will be the Rosary and Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the pope, the bishops, and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate Me will be scorned and opposed by their conferees . . . churches and altars sacked, the Church will be full of those who accept compromise and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord. The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of My sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.”
The latter portion of this prophecy appears to accurately describe the state of the Church’s passion today, which should inspire us to heed Bishop Strickland’s advice to grow more fervent in our faith in Jesus. And, as Our Lady of Akita said, we must recite the Rosary daily.
There is a strong correlation between rejecting the anti-Catholic errors that have proliferated since Vatican II and being persecuted by those who promote the work of the devil. Those who defend what the Church has always taught are being viciously attacked by the infiltrators who align themselves with the most prominent villains in the world.
The persecution of Bishop Strickland also highlights the truth of Archbishop Lefebvre’s assertion that Providence has permitted the crisis “in order to give more brightness to the pure gold of its doctrine and its means of redemption.” As Bishop Strickland appears to be experiencing, there is a strong correlation between rejecting the anti-Catholic errors that have proliferated since Vatican II and being persecuted by those who promote the work of the devil. Those who defend what the Church has always taught are being viciously attacked by the infiltrators who align themselves with the most prominent villains in the world. God’s truth thus becomes more evident as the Church’s passion grows more intense.
We also have greater reason to believe the Church’s immutable teaching because the errors opposed to that teaching have been exposed as lethal to the Faith. Before Vatican II, we could accept the teachings of Pius XII and his predecessors simply on papal authority — but today we also have the unmistakable confirmation of their veracity through the unprecedented destruction caused by ignoring those pre-Vatican II teachings. Now that we see the fruits of those promoting error, the fruits of those defending truth appear even more wholesome.
Although the mystery of the Church’s passion Providentially allows for our sanctification, it also leads to a situation in which faithful Catholics will disagree about the best way to balance the needs to adhere to immutable truth and remain united to Rome. The mystery does not absolve us of our duty to diligently discern God’s will, but it should prompt us to exercise some forbearance with those who reach a different balance. Thanks be to God, though, Bishop Strickland and others appear to be nearing that balance that Archbishop Lefebvre adopted almost fifty years ago, in his famous Declaration of 1974:
“No authority, not even the highest in the hierarchy, can force us to abandon or diminish our Catholic Faith, so clearly expressed and professed by the Church’s Magisterium for nineteen centuries. ‘But though we,’ says St. Paul, ‘or an angel from heaven preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema’ (Gal. 1:8).”
God will eventually resolve the great mystery — our task in the meantime is to cooperate with His grace as faithfully as possible, promoting the immutable Catholic Faith and trying to become saints. Ultimately, Archbishop Lefebvre’s closing words in his 1978 letter remain the best response to the great mystery of the Church’s passion:
“In this world, which ignores its Savior and Master Jesus Christ, it is more than ever necessary that generous souls make themselves His heralds through speech, example and practice. Each destroyed altar, each closing parish or chapel, means a victory for the devil and results in lost souls. Let your prayers and sacrifices intervene with Our Lord Jesus through the intercession of the Immaculate Virgin. Let them not cease but increase the preaching of Jesus Christ Crucified.”
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us!
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