I am confused by your unequivocal statement which appeared in the June issue of The Seraph ..Here, then, is what you wrote: "The Great Apostasy has taken place. We are in it! Now, the other things foretold by St. Paul that would follow before the end of time are falling into place."
What's "confusing" about that statement, you may well ask? With all due respect, I ask you to read the enclosed summary, which explains, both, why I am confused, and how I have attempted to resolve that confusion by my own inquiry.
A. The first part of your question deals with the unequivocal statement that the Great Apostasy is not something that is going to happen at some future date. This is the excuse of may neo-Protestants who style themselves as "Traditionalists" because they refuse to accept objective evidence of what is happening around them. They have to admit that there will be a great falling away from the true faith because they have either read it in some manual of basic doctrine, or they have heard it so many times that they have taken it for granted at face value. We at The Seraph do neither. We study the teachings and views of respectable theologians who will base their statements on Holy Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church.
We have received letters from numerous individuals claiming to be "prophets" of these latter days. Since there is a general malaise all over the world, it is easy to fall into a kind of "take-your-bucket-of-beans-and-head-for-the-hills" mentality. Then, too, there is the opposite reaction to the present situation which would hide from the facts and would prefer to `mentally' forward the present situation by saying that, "Yes, there will be a Great Apostasy, but not just now." Of course, it is not a mystery why these people would prefer to give the Great Apostasy a `rain check.' They do not wish to face the consequences. These people are not realistic. And, therefore, they do not base their lives on objective supernatural faith. Their faith is `a faith of convenience.' As one man once described them: They belong to the "Latin is Lovely Club". They have no concern for doctrine as such nor do they have any loyalty to any legitimate authority. In fact, they make themselves their own authority.
In the June article to which the writer refers, it is important to keep the `confusing' statement in its proper context. The statement that we are in the Great Apostasy was preceded by the statement: "Do not listen to the false teachers who would have people believe that the Great Apostasy is `down the road' yet." Precisely. All those are false teachers who have taken it upon themselves to investigate theological matters independently of what the Church has taught and continues to teach through Her appointed teaching authority. Now, that teaching authority resides in the bishops who are the shepherds of the flock. Please note well: no one is a legitimate and valid teacher with any right or license to teach others in any way in matters of Catholic doctrine who is not a valid and legitimate Bishop.
The only time that anyone becomes confused is when one's own views conflict with what the Church teaches.
Unfortunately, one need not be of bad will to fall into the trap of seeing oneself as the only reliable interpreter of Catholic doctrine and the Scriptures. For one thing, if we conclude that because of the deliberate demonic confusion caused among those who have been baptized in the Roman Catholic Church, that God has abandoned His flock and left us all to our own devices, such an idea is already heretical. Why? Because our Lord promised us that He would be with us until the end of time. What does this mean? No. It does not necessarily mean that He will be with us through a Pope. But, He will be with us through a successor of the Apostles. And this is what we have today. We have at least one faithful successor of the Apostles to whom the words apply: "He who hears you, hears me."
These words do not apply to any priest nor to any laymen, however brilliant he may fancy himself to be.
There are many papal decrees and admonitions against usurper bishops, against priests who will not obey their bishop, and against those of the laity who would usurp any one of the three priestly powers of the bishop.
It is not arrogance that urges a bishop to insist on the powers he has received from the Holy Ghost on the day of his consecration. It is his duty before God to do so. It is not the bishop who is arrogating to himself an authority which is not rightly his, but rather the priest or the laymen who is doing this. The entire history of the Catholic Church supports this truth.
It would be enough to meditate on the words of St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. circa 107): "Nobody is supposed to do anything which concerns the Church without the Bishop. Only that Eucharist is regarded as valid and legal that is consummated under the Bishop or by one authorized by him. Where the Bishop is, that is where the faithful must be; just as where Jesus Christ is, that is where the Catholic Church is.. It is not permitted to baptize without the Bishop, or to hold the agape. But whatever he finds good, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done is certain and lawful He that honors the Bishop is honored by God; he that does anything without consulting the Bishop, serves the devil." (Smyrn. 8, 1-2; 9,1).
But, in fact, what do we find? We find priests who claim absurd authority to function without the express authorization of a Bishop; we find priest and laymen publishing their twisted theologies, proudly ignoring the Laws of the Church; we find ignorant housewives trying to teach theology to the Bishop, instead of humbly and docilely learning from him as the divinely empowered teacher in the Church. We find everything but that which should exist in a genuine Catholic community. We find the enemies of Jesus Christ, both visible and invisible, rejoicing at their devilish success.
Saying that "the Great Apostasy has already taken place" is the use of the historical past, as a narrative tense of past time. It is not meant as if something took place and ended there. For example, as if a condition ceased to continue just because the initial act is expressed in past time. When you turn off a light, you press the switch. That is a past action, but the light remains out. The apostasy began and continues. It received its highest point of influence with John XXIII from whence it continues to shed its evil down to the lowest. It is not something static; on the contrary it is a dynamic development that will terminate as each stage of its quality increases.
Much like the spiritual life which begins with the purgative way, progresses to the illuminative way, and then finally terminates in the unitive way, the Great Apostasy is still unraveling, so to speak .
As for the statement: "Now, the other things foretold by St. Paul that would follow before the end of time are falling into place." This is nothing more than the logical development of all the elements that have been validly stated concerning the end times.
They are certainly falling into place. Just because we may not be fully aware of this fact, does not negate their existence in whatever degree. That the Antichrist will make himself out as God and will sit on the throne of Peter may not have happened yet. Despite the fact that there are people who would consider John Paul II as the Antichrist. It is assumed that these people express such ideas prompted by a feeling of frustration more than calm reasoning.
Those who pre-occupy themselves with these obscure matters risk wasting their precious time in preparing for that day of days.
It if of little use to delve into these difficult matters while neglecting the most obvious and clear. What are these `obvious and most clear' matters that every Catholic should be primarily concerned? Easy enough to answer: Obey your Bishop and thus return to the wisdom that once regulated the Church. If the Bishop says that such or such an organization is not Catholic, then be certain that he says this with good and grave reason.
We must first learn to obey with supernatural obedience the living authority which God's divine providence has given us. It has been given us so that we may truly maintain the four marks of the true Church. Every genuine Catholic stays away from clergymen who pretend to give Sacraments that are nothing more than sacrileges. The genuine Catholic stays away from those laymen who pretend to teach and play upon rebellious hearts.
Nowhere has it ever been written or taught that our Lord gave His powers to anyone other than His chosen Apostles and their legitimate successors. No one can be a legitimate successor of the Apostles who has not first learned to obey his Bishop
Again, for the sake of preserving oneself from falling into error, it is important to keep in mind that we are not the private interpreters of Scripture. Before attempting to teach from the Scriptures, we must first begin by knowing how the Church understands them. Otherwise, we become nothing more than another Protestant sect.
To cite just a few examples: There are those who have it in their mind that Henoch and Elias will return in the flesh to preach. St. John speaks of the two witnesses that will come and preach. Does this mean, literally, that Henoch and Elias are going to come from heaven, assume bodily form and actually go out and preach? First of all, this is found in apocryphal writings. There is no biblical foundation for it other than that Jesus accommodated Himself to the beliefs of the people and explained to them that Elias' return was in the spirit with which John the Baptist preached. Near the end of time, the two witnesses in sackcloth will not be Henoch and Elias, but Religious preaching with the spirit and divine inspiration as did these two saints of the Old Testament. Anyone awaiting the physical return of Elias or Enoch will `miss the boat,' so to speak.
And what of the "conversion of the Jews"? That has certainly not occurred. But, will it occur as most people imagine it? First of all, it is essential to carefully read and understand the text from St. Paul whereon this idea is based. St. Paul never used the word `Jew' in that text.
Today, even the so-called "Jews" cannot agree among themselves what constitutes a "Jew." As a matter of fact, the majority of those whom we have been led to believe are "biblical `Jews' _ descendants from the tribe of Juda _ are actually cousins to the mongol Turks. They are not the descendants of Juda nor of Shem, but the descendants of Japheth . They are not, therefore, historical and ethnic Semites. So, finally, who is it that we expect to be converted before the end of time? Before you make a statement, make sure you know who you are speaking of. The true Israelites are those who have embraced the Catholic Faith. Who is an `Israelite'? The Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia states: ISRAELITE: This is an honorary title used for one of the race of Israel or a descendant of Jacob. It also implies a faithful worshipper of God and heir to the Messianic promises. The name applies to all the descendants of Jacob, and in a particular sense to the true and faithful worshippers of God, all true Christians.
These are just a couple of questions that need answering before we even begin applying Scripture to specific cases.
As for the other things that were mentioned in this gentleman's views, they all have merit, but one must not come to hasty conclusions. It is enough to recognize the Great Apostasy and prepare oneself spiritually. If we bear in mind the stark reality that there are basically three kinds of people who claim to be `Catholic': The apostate Church which holds all our buildings and teaching apparatus; the right-wing traditionalists who are heretics and schismatics in their own way, and then there are the few genuine Roman Catholics in the middle, pressured by both extremes. We prefer to hold to the middle.
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