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 Header-Does the assistance of the Holy Spirit always prevent crisis in the church

Due to a lack of proper understanding, many Catholics are confused and uncertain as to the unquestionable truth that the Holy Spirit assists the Church.  Afraid to run counter to this truth, they often attempt to deny the reality of facts or the obvious meaning of statements that apparently contradict this divine assistance.

 

Thus, Catholics are caught in a dead-end dilemma: deny the facts, or deny the assistance of the Holy Spirit to the Church.

This is a false dilemma, which springs from a simplistic conception of the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church. One confuses the Holy Spirit’s “assistance”–an effect of God’s special providence for His Church–with direct government, which replaces men, or eliminates their free will. [1]

However, that is not the way it works. Although Jesus Christ promised the help of the Comforter, He wanted men to govern the Church; men who, though entitled to special help from the Holy Spirit, are not impeccable or exempt from temptations of the devil, the world, and the flesh.

Thus, although the Paraclete assists members of the hierarchy with special graces, that assistance does not cancel their free will or the tendency to evil inherited from Original Sin.

On the other hand, one must keep in mind that this special action of Divine Providence favors good but also often allows evil to occur in the human element of the Church as a trial or as a punishment for our sins. [2]

Therefore, one cannot use the argument of the Holy Spirit’s assistance to the Church to justify deviation, recklessness or scandal, as if the Divine will actively favored evil and not merely allowed it.

 

God Allows Crises in the Church

Church CeilingObviously, God does not want clear or sufficiently documented facts to be misrepresented by historians in an attempt to “save” the holiness of the Church.

Such an attitude would run counter to the truth and therefore the holiness of the Church, and Pope Leo XIII (1878-1903) made use of the inspired words of the book of Job (13:7) to condemn such an attitude: “God has no need of our lies.”

The Pontiff emphasized, “To stress the Church’s divine origin, it is better for the Church historian not to seek to gloss over her trials which her children, and, at times, even her ministers have brought upon the Spouse of Christ through the centuries. Thus studied, the history of the Church constitutes a magnificent and conclusive demonstration of the truth and the divinity of Christianity.” [3]

When opening the Vatican Secret Archives to historians, the same Pope insisted: “Say nothing false, hold back nothing true.”[4]

No one with a sufficient knowledge of Church history can deny the crises through which She has passed and the weaknesses and scandalous attitudes of many popes.

Thus, in his Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, Pope Pius XII (1939-1958) explains that due to our inclination to evil, “at times there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature.” “That regrettable inclination to evil,” he says, is manifested “even at times in the most exalted members of His Mystical Body.” However, he adds that God allows this to happen “for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than that of the flock, and that the merit of their Christian faith may be increased.”[5]

This is the reason why Catholic historians such as Ludwig von Pastor, whose monumental History of the Popes was praised by Pope Leo XIII, did not hesitate to present excesses and scandals by popes in a clear and well-documented fashion.

 

Was it the Will of the Holy Spirit for Alexander VI to be Elected?

No one can assume, for example, that the Holy Spirit, Who assists at Conclaves, wanted or favored the selection of Rodrigo Cardinal de Borgia, known to have fathered four children by his concubine Vannoza dei Cattanei and others by different women. [6] Obviously, his election as Pope Alexander VI was simply permitted for the punishment of a mankind inebriated with the neo-paganism of the Renaissance.

Nor can one attribute to the Divine will the elevation to the papacy of Benedict IX (1032-1044), about whom historian Fr. Joseph Brusher S.J. comments: “A young man probably about twenty years old, [he] was a cleric. That was about his only qualification for the papacy. Unqualified by his youth, his upbringing, and his depravity, Benedict IX became one of the few truly disreputable popes.”[7] The Catholic Encyclopedia is more direct: “He was a disgrace to the Chair of Peter.”[8]

 

We Should Always Distinguish Between Divine Will and Divine Permission.

Once the distinction between the manifestation of God’s will and His mere permission is clear, it becomes obvious that the assistance of the Holy Spirit to the Church does not prevent infidelities and crises.

On the other hand, as we saw above in texts by Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII, far from countering the holiness of the Church, such infidelities and crises emphatically demonstrate how only an institution of Divine origin could last forever despite human weakness and the tendency to evil inherited with Original Sin.

But even during the Church’s worst crises, thanks to the assistance of the Holy Spirit, She never failed to present the truth or to sanctify through the sacraments. This the Church has always done even though, at times, Catholics had to make a great effort to remain faithful, as for example, during the Arian crisis.

 

Trust in Mary Most Holy, Who Crushed All Heresies

Our Lady of Confidence - OvalThe present crisis ─ an extension of the one caused by the modernist heresy that Saint Pius X denounced ─ is now reaching such a climax that many feel discouraged.

At the highest levels of Church leadership, the possibility of giving Holy Communion to people objectively in the state of mortal sin is being discussed; and some even see, in homosexual relationships, “gifts” useful to Christianity.

A better understanding of the assistance of the Holy Spirit is required. This assistance is not only positive in the sense of boosting zeal for doctrine and the salvation of souls – which the Church always promotes in one way or another—but also in allowing evil to occur in order to test us, and to punish the sins of mankind.[9]

Just as the faithful, following the example of bishops like Saint Athanasius and Saint Hilary of Poitiers, resisted the tremendous crisis of Arianism, we too, certain of the help of Divine Providence, must resist “strong in faith” (1Peter 5:9).

More than ever, in this period of darkness and confusion, we must always resort to the intercession of Mary, who “alone has crushed all heresies.”[10]

 

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Written by Luiz Sergio Solimeo

Notes:
[1] Cf. E. Magenot, “Assistance du Saint-Esprit,” Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique (Letouzey et Ané, Paris, 1931), v. I, deuxième partie, cols. 2123-21-27. [back to text]

[2] Cf. R. Garrigou-Lagrange, “Providence, Théologie, L’Infalibilité,” Dictionnaire de Théologie Catholique, v. XIII, première partie, col. 1015.[back to text]
[3] Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Depuis Le Jour, On the Education of the Clergy, Sept. 8, 1899, nn. 25-26. Available at https://w2.vatican.va/content/leo-xiii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_l-xiii_enc_08091899_depuis-le-jour.html [back to text]
[4] Brief Saepe numero, Aug. 28, 1883. [back to text]
[5] Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, On the Mystical Body of Christ, June 29 1943, n. 66. Available at https://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi_en.html [back to text]
[6] Cf. Ludwig Pastor, The History of the Popes, (Herder, St. Louis, Mo., 1923) v. 5. pp. 363-364. [back to text]
[7] Popes Through the Ages, (D. Van Nostrand Co., Toronto-New York, 1959) p. 292. [back to text]
[8] H. Mann, sv. Pope Benedict IX, The Catholic Encyclopedia, (New York: Robert Appleton Co., 1907). Available at https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02429a.htm. [back to text]
[9] When one says that God permits evil, it must be clearly understood that this is never a positive permission, such as that of a father who allows his son to frequent a place of perdition. It is only a negative permission, that of not employing extraordinary means to prevent evil from occurring. [back to text]
[10] “Rejoice, O Virgin Mary, for alone thou hast put an end to all heresies” (Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary). [back to text]


 

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Quote of the day

DAILY QUOTE for May 18, 2021

Our Lord loves you and loves you tenderly; and if He does no...

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May 18

 

Our Lord loves you
and loves you tenderly; and
if He does not let you feel the sweetness of His love,
it is to make you more humble and abject in your own eyes.

St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina


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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Eric IX of Sweden

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St. Eric IX of Sweden

Eric the Holy or Erik the Saint was acknowledged king in most provinces of Sweden in 1150, and his family line subsisted for a hundred years. He did much to establish Christianity in Upper Sweden and built or completed at Old Uppsala the first large church to be erected in the country. It is said that all the ancient laws and constitutions of the kingdom were, by his orders, collected into one volume, which came to be known as King Eric’s Law or The Code of Uppland.

The king soon had to take up arms against the heathen Finns. He vanquished them in battle, and at his desire, St. Henry, Bishop of Uppsala, who had accompanied him on the expedition, remained in Finland to evangelize the people.

The king’s zeal for the Catholic Faith was far from pleasing to his nobles, and we are told that they entered into a conspiracy against him with Magnus, the son of the king of Denmark. King Eric was hearing Mass on the day after the feast of the Ascension when news was brought that a Danish army, swollen with Swedish rebels, was marching against him and was close at hand. With unwavering calm he answered, “Let us at least finish the sacrifice; the rest of the feast I shall keep elsewhere”. After Mass was over, he recommended his soul to God, and marched forth in advance of his guards. The conspirators rushed upon him, beat him down from his horse, and beheaded him. His death occurred on May 18 in 1161.

The relics of St. Eric IX of Sweden are preserved in the Cathedral of Uppsala, and the saintly king's effigy appears on the coat of arms of the city of Stockholm.

Pope St. John I

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Pope St. John I

St. John I was a native of Siena in Tuscany and was one of the seven deacons of Rome when he was elected to the papacy at the death of Pope Hormisdas in the year 523.

At the time, Theodoric the Great ruled over the Ostrogoths in Italy and Justin I was the Byzantine Emperor of Constantinople. King Theodoric supported the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ.

Justin I, the first Catholic on the throne of Constantinople in fifty years, published a severe edict against the Arians, requiring them to return to orthodox Catholics the churches they had taken from them. The said edict caused a commotion among eastern Arians, and spurred Theodoric to threaten war.

Ultimately, he opted for a diplomatic solution and named Pope John, much against his wishes, to head a delegation of five bishops and four senators to Justin.

Pope John, refused to comply with Theodoric’s wishes to influence Justin to reverse his policies. The only thing he did obtain from Justin was for him to mitigate his treatment of Arians, thus avoiding reprisals against Catholics in Italy.

After the delegation returned, Theodoric, disappointed with the result of the mission, and growing daily more suspicious at reports of the friendly relations between the Pope and Justin I, had the pontiff arrested at Ravenna.

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As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Cathe...

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The Rosary & True Beauty

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life.

Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty. So much so, that she was known to those in Rome where she made her home as “Catherine the Beautiful.” Sadly, Catherine’s beauty went only skin deep, and she led a very sinful life.

One afternoon, strolling the streets of Rome, Catherine heard the voice of St. Dominic. This was the early 13th century and it was not unusual to cross paths with this great man of God.

On this particular day, he was preaching on the devotion to the Mother of God and the importance of praying her most holy Rosary. Caught up in the moment, Catherine had her name inscribed in the book of the confraternity and began to recite the Rosary. Though praying the Rosary gave her a sense of calmness she had not known before, Catherine did not abandon her sinful ways.

One evening, a youth, apparently a nobleman, came to her house. Catherine invited the handsome young man to stay to dine with her. When they were at supper, she saw drops of blood falling from his hands while he was breaking a piece of bread. Moments later, she observed, much to her discomfort, that all the food he took was tinged with blood.

Gathering up some courage to appease her curiosity, she asked him what that blood meant. With a firm but gentle look in his eyes, the youth replied that a Christian should take no food that was not tinged with the blood of Jesus Christ and sweetly seasoned with the memory of His passion.

Amazed at this reply, Catherine asked him who he was. "Soon," he answered, "I will show you." The rest of their meal passed uneventfully, yet always the drops of red catching Catherine’s eye, causing her to wonder about this man she supped with.

After dinner, when they had withdrawn into another room, the appearance of the youth changed. To Catherine’s stunned gaze, he showed himself crowned with thorns, his flesh torn and bleeding.

With the same firm but gentle gaze he said to her: “Do you wish to know who I am? Do you not know me? I am your Redeemer. Catherine, when will you cease to offend me? See how much I have suffered for you. You have grieved me enough, change your life."

Catherine began to weep bitterly, and Jesus, encouraging her, said: "Now begin to love me as much as you have offended me; and know that you have received this grace from me, on account of the Rosary you have been accustomed to recite in honor of my mother." And then he disappeared.

Catherine went in the morning to make her confession to St. Dominic, whose preaching on the Rosary had brought so marvelous a grace into her life. Giving to the poor all she possessed, from that day forward Catherine led so holy and joyful a life that she attained to great perfection.

It could now be said of her among the inhabitants of Rome that Catherine was indeed beautiful, but her beauty was no longer skin deep; her loveliness radiated from the depths of her soul.

The Most Holy Virgin often appeared to her; and Jesus himself revealed to St. Dominic, that this penitent had become very dear to him.

From the Glories of Mary, by St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori.

As the century began anew, so did Catherine’s life. Catherine was a young woman possessing great beauty.

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