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July 17, 2020 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Editor’s Note: Commenting on the current chaos in our land, Fr. George Rutler of the Church of St. Michael in New York City wrote in his parish bulletin:
“The supine ‘virtue signaling’ of failed leaders bending their knees to barbarians makes them poster children for what Lenin called his ‘useful idiots.’ Civilization stands on the precipice of what already seemed chaotic as William Butler Yeats perceived over one hundred years ago. ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity.’
“Demagogues who lack all conviction ignored one of the most important civil acts of recent times: our President’s ‘Executive Order on Advancing International Religious Freedom.’ On June 2, he dared to proclaim that ‘Religious freedom, America’s first freedom, is a moral and national security imperative.’ The First Amendment is not ‘nonessential’ because, among other instances, thousands of Christians have been slaughtered in Nigeria, in attacks ignored by Westerners who claim to be champions of black lives, and in China, churches are being destroyed by a government with which ecclesiastical bureaucrats have tried naively to cut deals.
“In the present cultural war, parishes are on the front line. We have our obligations to the needs of the larger church, but we exercise the ‘principle of subsidiarity’ by assuring our people that any donations specified for the support of our local church will be honored as such. After months of closure, our parish, perhaps like most, is in financial peril. But the greater peril is surrender to vandals who would smash the very fundaments of our civilization. If ‘the centre cannot hold,’ such is only the case with the material order. Christ is the true and unfailing nucleus of all life: ‘He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together’ (Col. 1:17).”

Q. What did St. John mean when he said that “the whole world is under the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19)? — G.J., New Jersey.
A. In his book An Exorcist Tells His Story, the late Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the former chief exorcist of Rome, said that the Gospels “clearly state that Christ defeated the reign of Satan with His Cross and established the reign of God,” although “Satan’s power…still exists and will continue to exist until our salvation will be completed” (p. 20).
In the plan of God, however, said Fr. Amorth, “we are made aware of the power of the devil. Jesus calls him the prince of this world. John affirms that the whole world is in the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19); by the world John means everything that is opposed to God. Satan was the brightest of the angels; he became the most evil of the devils and their chief. The demons remain bound to the same strict hierarchy that was given them when they were angels: principalities, thrones, dominions, and so on (Col. 1:16). However, while the angels, whose chief is Michael, are bound by a hierarchy of love, the demons live under a rule of slavery” (p. 21).

Q. As a devoted Catholic, I believe that God our eternal Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, encourages us to profess our faith to all who are willing to learn of the teachings of our Savior as recorded in Holy Scripture.
However, there are occasions when I am unable to adequately address a question or particular issue. In light of the current pandemic, which has and will continue to test the faith of Christians worldwide, what do I tell family, friends, or even strangers who believe that God has brought this curse or situation upon us? — M.O., Maryland.
A. Tell them that all pain, suffering, wars, and pandemics are the consequence of sin — original sin and the personal sins that we so cavalierly commit. Jesus died on the cross first of all to show His great love for us, even though we are sinners, and second to show the horror of sin. His horrific and brutal Passion and death ought to clarify for us that sin really is a big deal and that it can lead to personal and public punishment.
While God is a loving and merciful Father, He is also a just God whose mercy extends only so far. He will give us many, many opportunities to repent of our sins and turn back to Him, but if we repeatedly, and even maliciously, reject His loving overtures, He will allow some calamity — war, a natural disaster, a pandemic — to remind us that we have strayed far from His ways.
There are numerous examples in Scripture of God sending or permitting punishment of great and small sinners — the flood in the time of Noah, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues in the time of Moses (God gave them nine chances to repent before He struck down the oldest child in every Egyptian household), and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Babylonian captivity. Why should anyone think that the modern world should be spared in light of the current worship of the idols of money, power, and fame, scores of millions of abortions, wars of conquest, man’s unbelievable inhumanity to his fellowman, and the worldwide persecution of believers?
The punishments that the world experiences can stem either from God’s positive will or His permissive will. We don’t think it would be correct to call the current pandemic an example of God positively willing this disease, but He could certainly have permitted it to happen.
It may not be a divine chastisement, but rather, as William Kilpatrick said, “a divine reminder….The coronavirus can be seen as not simply an act of God, but as an act of God’s love. Faced with financial ruin, with the possibility of our death or the death of a loved one, we are forced to think about the meaning and purpose of our lives — forced to see beyond the carefully cultivated distractions that cause us to drift away from God and our own eternal happiness.”
Agreeing with Kilpatrick is Scripture scholar and Catholic apologist Scott Hahn, who when asked if the pandemic was a divine punishment, responded:
“Is God getting even with us? Is God getting back at us? No. God is trying to get us back to Himself. That’s the purpose of punishment. So is this a punishment? Well, yeah. And why? Because we have sinned. . . . So does God punish us? Yes, but it’s restorative. It’s redemption. It purifies us. . . . God’s mercy is when God gives us what we need. Whether it’s a virus, an epidemic, an earthquake or a volcano, or a cop pulling us over and giving us a DUI when we are finally forced to accept responsibility for all of our misused freedom. That is not wrath. That is mercy. That is love. And it usually comes wrapped in what feels like a punishment.”

Q. Did St. Clement of Rome, the fourth Pope, teach either sola scriptura or sola fide? — G.P., via e-mail.
A. No, Pope Clement did not teach either falsehood. Sola scriptura, or the Bible alone, and sola fide, or faith alone, were inventions of Martin Luther and his fellow Protestant revolutionaries in the sixteenth century. Pope St. Clement, reigning from AD 80-97, was exiled by the Roman Emperor Trajan to the mines of the Crimea. He so successfully evangelized the people in that region that 75 new churches were built. For these efforts, the fourth Pope was tied to an anchor and cast into the sea.
Known as the first Apostolic Father, St. Clement wrote a letter to the Corinthian Church around the year 80, admonishing them for revolting against the presbyters of this “well-established and ancient Church.” He said that “by your folly you heap blasphemies on the name of the Lord, and create a danger for yourselves….You, therefore, who laid the foundation of the rebellion, submit to the presbyters and be chastened to repentance, bending your knees in a spirit of humility.”
In one paragraph of the letter, Clement said that “we…are not justified by ourselves, neither by our wisdom or understanding or piety, nor by the works we have wrought in holiness of heart, but by the faith by which almighty God has justified all men from the beginning.”
To those who might think that the Holy Father was endorsing faith alone, consider the following words from Clement: “What, then, shall we do, brethren? Shall we cease from good works, and shall we put an end to love? May the Master forbid that such should ever happen among us; rather, let us be eager to perform every good work earnestly and willingly.”

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Catholic Replies

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