By: Michael Brown
By their Synod shall ye know them? Indeed: as the world roils, as there is Ebola, as there is Iraq, as there is Ukraine, as there are storms, as there is drought, as fires flare, and volcanoes spew, as icebergs melt, but snow in Australia, as typhoons roar, as the moon turns red: so too is there a roiling atmosphere in Rome. There is little use in downplaying that, just as there is equally little use overplaying it. A drama? In the age of multivariate media, it is certainly that. Both liberal and conservative prelates, speaking aloud, and with frequency, like politicians, grab attention. Is it “bishop versus bishops, cardinal versus cardinal”? Not yet. Nothing quite so apocalyptic. But as time moves forward there is a graduation in high-level Church disputes — no civil war, no schism, nothing all-out, but year by year a few more having at each other, with different styles, and bringing to mind a message from the Blessed Mother at the Church-approved site of Akita, Japan, where she reputedly foresaw (October 13, 1973) that, “The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord” — language strikingly similar to a notorious version of the “third secret” proclaimed in 1963 by a German publication which had Mary intoning that “Cardinals will be against cardinals, and bishops against bishops. Satan will put himself in their midst,” a message Fatima seer Lucia dos Santos said was bogus. (She announced a different one in 2000; the felling of a bishop in white; an image only.)
Yet, in the future, will there be a ring to those predictions?
Right now, the Vatican struggles to find the correct balance in the likewise roiling cultural upheavals of the world. Rome wants to be pastor of a flock that has been dispersed, a flock it wants to call together again on a hillside as Mary appeared at Fatima to shepherd children gathered on a hillside.
However, it must do this — reach out to the disenfranchised, to the divorced, to the remarried, to those cohabiting, to those contracepting, to those who are practicing homosexuals, or have committed abortion — without coming across to the world as if it is now accepting such behavior, which would be striking a compromise with darkness. Such would be disastrous, and after a jolting “mid-Synod” statement which seemed to do just that this week (10/13/14, ironically, a Fatima anniversary) — loosening its attitude toward sin — the Vatican is quickly clarifying that it has reached no juncture; in fact this Synod is really only preliminary to one next year, one that will rule more concretely (though the current meeting is plenty important).
There’s no question that the Church must extend itself to the world with love as commanded by Jesus but there is also no question that like Christ it must do so at times with firmness, a frame of steel, one that does not bend to the winds of modernism, nor one that is overly legalistic (which tends toward witchcraft, a notion we’ll explore soon). There are different styles. There are prelates who find devotion in flowing robes. There is the Pope, in simple white attire. Both have their merits. Both have their moments. Simplicity is sacred. So are devotions. Saint John Paul II (the “bishop dressed in white,” but also with the scarlet of martyrdom), struck a nearly perfect balance between the two.
The Church does well, reaching out to the world in the way it has; it has been a remarkable moment. It may never come again — a time when the Church has regained much of what was lost from an extreme in one direction, as long as it does not now lose an equal amount by an extreme in the opposite direction. When it comes to fornication or homosexuality, it is dangerous to pretend that such things are simply different types of lifestyle. They are not. It is a spiritual circumstance. Spirits are involved. And it does a fornicator or homosexual or adulterer no service to pretend otherwise. We are all afflicted from time to time. We all sin, in word or action or thought. We all have been born with baggage — with proclivities to certain sins. It is the test of life, as is the battle with spirits that are (as Pope Paul VI put it) “perverse and perverting.” If a person can be delivered from a dark spiritual circumstance, but is told not to worry about it, that it doesn’t matter, when it does (when it is the type of spirit Jesus would have commanded out), is this a true act of love?
Spirits move. Spirits attach. Thus, we don’t judge. We don’t know what people are born with; what haunts their lineage. Yes, we reach out to them with love. But neither do we pretend that what they have been deceived into doing (fornication, sodomy) is alright and normal and simply alternative.
Curious it is, that at no major site of approved apparition has the Blessed Mother mentioned homosexuality or abortion. Not at Fatima, not at Lourdes, or Kibeho, not at Medjugorje (not yet approved), not at Akita, not in San Nicolás, not at LaSalette, not at the Miraculous Medal (though these apparitions named many evils) were the sins of abortion and homosexuality ever cited. That’s curious, yet less than a year ago a seer from Medjugorje laid it out rather plainly when she said that “homosexual marriage is from Satan.”
Spirits move and the best love we can show is to lead those in our society — and ourselves, when we stray — onto the course of truth in Jesus, Who as much as He instructed us to partake of the Eucharist instructed us to deliver others and ourselves from what is unclean and what is untrue and what is demonic. It is an act of love. What spiritual warfare there currently is! And will be.
Reach out; but don’t sell out.
Nor: lash out.
Our prayer: that the cardinals and bishops in Rome strike the right tone as we faithful also remember, in all the hyped rancor (in all the radio-like barking), that Scripture says (1 Samuel 15:21-22), “To obey is better than sacrifice.” We accept that.
But let’s not even begin to pretend that a man marrying a man or a woman marrying a woman or everyone living with each other and doing what they want when they want is okay with God, when clearly it is not.
–Michael H. Brown
[resources: The Final Hour]
[Footnote: Years ago, I had an editor at a major publishing house in Manhattan (in fact a few doors down the street from St. Patrick’s Cathedral) who was a great guy, an excellent editor, and also an unabashed and unapologetic homosexual. He was the nicest editor I’d ever had, the most considerate and kind, very Godly in that way, but I’ll never forget one time going to see him about a book I was working on for him. As usual, I checked in with the receptionist and strode a short way down a hall until I got to his office, third down as I recall. The door as always was open and he expected me and had been alerted by the receptionist but as I entered I stopped in my tracks because instead of this editor, a young man in his late thirties, there was an old woman at his desk, her back to me, facing a window looking upon mid-town Manhattan. I stepped back, returned to the receptionist, and asked if I had the wrong office — if he had moved. The question surprised the receptionist, who replied that no, of course: he was still in the same office. And so I returned but there in broad daylight was the back of the head of a woman with curly gray-white hair, a tad disheveled, never turning around to acknowledge me. I made no sound, just studied the office, noting the furniture I was familiar with, the pictures, the bookshelf, the bestseller he was proud of (with Roseanne Barr), the posters. It was him but it wasn’t him. Once again I stepped out, looked down the hall, peered into some adjacent offices, but was sure I was in the right one and when I entered this last time the “woman” heard my shuffling, turned around, and suddenly was no longer there, and there is my editor, welcoming me. She had left. He returned. I felt I had lay witness to an elderly female spirit that had control of this fellow (unless I was simply hallucinating in a way that never happened before, nor since).]