Be Not Afraid, Liz Lemon Swindle
…has it not been thus throughout the history of the Church that the Pope,
the successor of Peter, has been at once
Petra and Skandalon—
both the rock of God and a stumbling block?
—POPE BENEDICT XIV, from Das neue Volk Gottes, p. 80ff
IN Last Call: Prophets Arise!, I said that the role of all of us at this hour is simply to speak the truth in love, in season or out, without attachment to the results. That is a call to boldness, a new boldness…
Something has changed. We have turned a corner. It is so subtle and yet so real. There is a new momentum in the powers of darkness, a new boldness and aggression. And yet, quietly, in the hearts of His children, God is also doing something new. We need to listen very carefully now to that gentle voice of His. He is preparing us for a new season, or perhaps better stated, preparing us for the hurricane winds of this Storm that are beginning to howl. He is calling you, right now, out of the world, out of Babylon. It’s going to collapse. He doesn’t want you in it. He wants you as part of his Army. He wants you, above all, to be saved because many souls are being lost as we speak. Many souls, including those in the pews of our Church, are being deceived. Do not take your salvation for granted. These are glorious times, but they are also the most dangerous times..
THE TIMES ARE HERE
I have been trying to prepare readers for over a decade now for the Storm we are now passing through. In 2007 in Sorrow of Sorrows, I wrote then, under the pontificate of Benedict XVI:
The Lord has been giving me interior glimpses of the confusion and bitter division which will ensue. I can only say that it will be a time of great sorrows. —Sorrow of Sorrows
Six years later, I published a strong warning that rang in my heart for several weeks immediately after Benedict XVI resigned six years ago to this day:
You are now entering into dangerous and confusing times. —cf. The Storm of Confusion
What are these “great sorrows” if not the present “confusion and bitter division” we are experiencing under the current pontificate? It would be hard to believe that Our Lady of Akita was referring to another time other than the present:
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. —October 13th, 1973
A “diabolical disorientation” would come, said Sr. Lucia of Fatima. It’s here, in spades. But Our Lady also said that these trials would serve a purpose:
In order to free men from bondage to these heresies, those whom the merciful love of my Most Holy Son has designated to effect the restoration will need great strength of will, constancy, valor and confidence in God. To test this faith and confidence of the just, there will be occasions when all will seem to be lost and paralyzed. This, then, will be the happy beginning of the complete restoration. —Our Lady of Good Success to Venerable Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, on the Feast of the Purification, 1634; cf. catholictradition. org
“That’s fine,” I hear some of you saying. “The problem is that you are contributing to the confusion by defending Pope Francis.” Let me be as direct as I can be, then.
A MATTER OF JUSTICE
I received a few letters last week that were similar in nature to this particular one:
I have been following your writings for several years now and always found them compelling, in the best sense of that word, meaning they always drew me into a deeper meditation of Christ and His Church… However, I have become somewhat uncomfortable when reading your latest posts concerning the state of the Church today, particularly as it involves the hierarchy, and most especially Pope Francis… My discomfort lies with your defense of the Pope to the point that you give the impression that he is not to be held fully accountable for certain actions he has taken. Just one example would be the appointing of clerics with questionable pasts to positions of importance within the Curia… It seems to me that in your effort to head off schism within the Church, a noble goal, you have begun to justify certain realities that need to be squarely addressed.
It is not a question of being ‘pro-’ Pope Francis or ‘contra-’ Pope Francis. It is a question of defending the Catholic faith, and that means defending the Office of Peter to which the Pope has succeeded. —Cardinal Raymond Burke, The Catholic World Report, January 22, 2018
It has been, and continues to be a matter of justice for me. Because ultimately, my defence has more to do with Christ’s Petrine promises than with Peter himself. Either Jesus is building His
Church or not—despite whomever the “rock” is. Some say they believe that… but speak and act in a contrary manner that is also harmful to the Church.
One is not required to defend everything the Pope has said for the reason that some of his statements or actions are political, that is, not matters pertaining to faith and morals, and are not ex cathedra (ie. infallible). And thus, he can be wrong.
Popes have made and make mistakes and this is no surprise. Infallibility is reserved ex cathedra[“from the seat” of Peter, that is, proclamations of dogma based on Sacred Tradition]. No popes in the history of the Church have ever made ex cathedra errors. —Rev. Joseph Iannuzzi, Theologian, in a personal letter
Popes can create not only confusion, but scandal. In other words, only Jesus walks on water. Even popes falter when they take their eyes off of Him.
JUDGE WORDS, NOT MOTIVES
And yet, one must never judge the motives of another’s heart, even if their actions appear incongruent to their words. Pope Francis has said several things that have left me scratching my head, reaching for the original text and context, consulting with theologians and professors, reading different viewpoints, and doing whatever I can to understand what Francis is trying to say—before I write you. That is, I am giving him the “benefit of the doubt” because I always hope that people do the same for me. This is, after all, what the Catechism teaches us to do:
To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way: Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2478 (St. Ignatius of Loyola,Spiritual Exercises, 22.)
I assume that Pope Francis has had the best of intentions on matters of China, Islam, Communion for the divorced and remarried, climate change, his appointments of questionable men, and other contentious issues. It does not mean that I understand or even agree with his decisions. In fact, I find several of them troubling. Catholics in the underground Church in China feel betrayed; Islam remains intrinsically hostile to “unbelievers” in some of its teachings and Sharia law; Communion cannot be received by anyone who is knowingly in a state of mortal sin; climate change science is undermined by statistical fraud and ideologically driven politicians pushing Communism; and yes, clerical appointments to the Curia of men who are manifestly heretical, pro-homosexual or with sketchy pasts, is mystifying to many. Since the installation of Francis to the Chair of Peter in March of 2013, the winds of confusion have gone from a stiff breeze to a strong gale.
One commentator puts it quite wryly:
Benedict XVI intimidated the media because his words were like brilliant crystal. His successor’s words, no different in essence from Benedict’s, are like a fog. The more comments he produces spontaneously, the more he risks making his faithful disciples seem like the men with shovels who follow the elephants at the circus.
THE PAIL IS FULL
I confess, my pail has begun to overflow. For some actions at the Vatican are hard to defend, or at least, they cannot adequately be explained by the known facts. Such as the wording in a document that Pope Francis recently signed with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar. It states:
The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings… This [Declaration] is what we hope and seek to achieve with the aim of finding a universal peace that all can enjoy in this life. —Document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”. —Abu Dhabi, February 4th, 2019;vatican.va
One could perhaps speak of God’s “permissive will” in this context… but on its face, the statement is blasphemous. It implies that God is actively willing a multiplicity of contradictory ideologies and opposing “truths” in “His wisdom.” But God’s wisdom and power is the Cross, said St. Paul. There is only one religion that saves and one Gospel that achieves that:
Through it you are also being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I handed on to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins… (Sunday’s Second Reading)
Here is the express will of God in Christ’s own words:
I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. (John 10:16)
That is, one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic Church. “I must lead” them, Jesus says, meaning that “you must evangelize them” so they can follow. If there is to be universal peace it won’t be the result of political platitudes or “human eloquence, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its meaning,”  but repentance through the preaching of the Word of God. As Jesus said to St. Faustina:
…the efforts of Satan and of evil men are shattered and come to naught. In spite of Satan’s anger, the Divine Mercy will triumph over the whole world and will be worshiped by all souls… Mankind will not have peace until it turns with trust to My mercy. —Divine Mercy in My Soul, Diary, n.1789, 300
There is no fault in encouraging and fostering love and peace between peoples, especially when Christianity is being razed to the ground in the Middle East (by Islamic persecutors, no less). “Blessed are the peacemakers.” However, interreligous dialogue must always be a preparation for the Gospel. But does this document suggest to Muslims, Protestants, Jews and the rest of the world a kind of religious indifferentism? That Christianity is just one of many paths to paradise? Jesus and Scripture are clear:
I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me… (John 14:6)
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved… (Acts 4:12)
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)
One professor of philosophy said to me recently: “Pope Francis seems to lack a certain ‘holy fear’ of scandal.” The signing of this document has scandalized many, and not just Catholics. Yes, Jesus also created scandal—but it was always in the promotion of truth.
…as the Church’s one and only indivisible magisterium, the pope and the bishops in union with him, carry the gravest responsibility that no ambiguous sign or unclear teaching comes from them, confusing the faithful or lulling them into a false sense of security. —Gerhard Ludwig Cardinal Müller, former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; First Things, April 20th, 2018
The pope isn’t an absolute sovereign, whose thoughts and desires are law. On the contrary, the ministry of the pope is the guarantor of the obedience toward Christ and His word. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Homily of May 8, 2005; San Diego Union-Tribune
So, is there more to this than meets the eye? On his return flight home, the Pope admitted to feeling uneasy about the Declaration and one sentence in particular—assumedly this one. However, Francis says he ran the text through his papal theologian, Father Wojciech Giertych, O.P., who “approved it.” However, Fr. Wojciech claims he never saw it.  This raises another question: who exactly is advising the Pope, and how well?
Massimo Franco is one of the leading “Vaticanists” and a correspondent for the Italian daily Corriere dela Sera. He suggests that the Pope’s desire to move out of the papal apartments into community living at Santa Marta has done more harm than good.
I must say, the Santa Marta system hasn’t worked, because an informal court, de facto, has been created and the Pope is realizing more and more that the people who have his ear don’t give him accurate information and sometimes, even not true information.
Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former Guardian of the Faith, a German cardinal, fired some months ago by the Pope—some say in a very abrupt way—said in a recent interview that the Pope is surrounded by spies, who tend not to tell him the truth, but what the Pope wants to hear. —Inside the Vatican, March 2018, p. 15
As I was composing this article, Cardinal Müller released a “Manifesto of Faith” that succinctly reaffirms the reason d’être of the Catholic Church. It is the kind of clear teaching that not only dispels confusion, but is our duty.
THESE ARE NOT ORDINARY TIMES
I think it is obvious that these are not ordinary times. I believe they are, in fact, the signs of a coming and imminent judgment on mankind, beginning with the Church. “For it is time for the judgment to begin with the household of God,” wrote the first pope.  As sexual abuse, doctrinal confusion, sophistries and clerical silence become painfully obvious, it is no wonder why.
These things in truth are so sad that you might say that such events foreshadow and portend the “beginning of sorrows,” that is to say of those that shall be brought by the man of sin, “who is lifted up above all that is called God or is worshiped.” (2 Thes 2:4). —POPE PIUS X, Miserentissimus Redemptor, Encyclical Letter on Reparation to the Sacred Heart, May 8th, 1928; http://www.vatican.va
Given everything that has occurred in the last century, most notably the increase in Marian apparitions (“the Woman clothed in the sun”), we may very well be living those prophetic words in the Catechism:
Before Christ’s second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers.The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth willunveil the “mystery of iniquity” in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist… —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 675
It is our silence that creates The Great Vacuum, which the Antichrist will fill:
To keep silent about these and the other truths of the Faith and to teach people accordingly is the greatest deception against which the Catechism vigorously warns. It represents the last trial of the Church and leads man to a religious delusion, “the price of their apostasy” (CCC 675); it is the fraud of Antichrist. —Cardinal Gerhard Müller, Catholic News Agency, February 8th, 2019
STAY ON THE BARQUE, EYES FIXED ON JESUS
In a letter to me last week, stalwart preacher and author, Fr. John Hampsch, now in his early nineties, wrote:
God’s battered ship is wildly listing now, as it often has in past centuries, but Jesus promises it will always “stay afloat”—“to the end of the age”(Matt. 28:20). Please, for love of God, don’t jump ship! You’ll regret it—most “lifeboats” have no oars!
I sincerly believe that Pope Francis is motivated by a desire to love everyone who crosses his path. It must be our desire too. And the most loving thing we can do is lead others into the truth that will set them free, which is the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. If there ever was a time to pray and fast for the Pope and the strengthening and purification of the Church, it is now. Be generous. Pour out your heart before the Lord and offer Him your sacrifices. As Lent nears, may it truly be a time of grace for you, and through your generosity, for the Church and the world.
Hail Mary, poor and humble Woman, blessed by the Most High!
Virgin of hope, dawn of a new era, we join your song of praise
to celebrate the Lord’s mercy, to proclaim the coming of the kingdom
and the full liberation of humanity.
—POPE ST. JOHN PAUL II at Lourdes, 2004
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