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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 April 19, 2021

He asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise....

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April 19

 

A dying man asked a dying man for eternal life. 
A man without possessions asked a poor man for a Kingdom. 
A thief at the door of death asked to die like a thief and steal Paradise. 
 
One would have thought a saint would have been the first soul 
purchased over the counter of Calvary by the red coins of Redemption. 
 

But in the Divine plan it was a thief 
who was the escort of the King of kings 
into Paradise.

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

 
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Saint of the day

SAINT OF THE DAY

St. Alphege of Canterbury

Alphege hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing...

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St. Alphege of Canterbury

As a youth, Alphege became a monk in the monastery of Deerhurst in Gloucestershire, England, afterwards an anchorite and later an abbot in a monastery in Bath. At thirty, at the insistence of St. Dunstan and to his great consternation, he was elected Bishop of Winchester. As bishop, he maintained the same austerity of life as when a monk. During his episcopate he was so generous toward the poor that there were no beggars left in the diocese of Winchester.

Alphege served twenty-two years as bishop of this see and was then translated to the see of Canterbury at the death of Archbishop Aelfric.

During this period, England suffered from the ravages of the Danes who joined forces with the rebel Earl Edric, marched on Kent and laid siege to Canterbury. When the city was betrayed, there was a terrible massacre, men and women, old and young, dying by the sword.

The Archbishop hastened to the defense of his people, and pressing through the crowd begged the Danes to cease the carnage. He was immediately seized, roughly handled, and imprisoned.

A mysterious and deadly plague broke out among the Danes, and, despite the fact that the holy prelate had healed many of their own with his prayers and by giving them blessed bread, the Danes demanded an exorbitant ransom for his release. As the Archbishop protested that the country was too poor to pay such a price, he was brutally assassinated.

St. Alphege was the first Archbishop of Canterbury to die a violent death. In 1023, the martyr's body was translated with great ceremony to Canterbury accompanied by the Danish King Canute. Although he did not die directly in defense of the Faith, St. Alphege is considered a martyr of justice.

Weekly Story

WEEKLY STORY

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a...

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The Robber Who Stole Heaven

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. His occupation being what it was, he would only increase his property by decreasing that of his victims.

One day, he was admonished by a local religious to change his course of life and thereby insure his eternal salvation. The only answer the robber gave was that for him there was no remedy.

"Do not say so," said the religious, "do what I tell you. Fast on each Saturday in honor of the Virgin Mary, and on that day of the week do no harm to anyone. She will obtain for you the grace of not dying in God’s displeasure.”

The robber thought to himself, “This is a small price to pay to insure my salvation; I will do as this holy man has prescribed.” He then obediently followed the religious’ advice, and made a vow to continue to do so. That he might not break it, from that time on he traveled unarmed on Saturdays.

Many years later, our robber was apprehended on a given Saturday by the officers of justice, and that he might not break his oath, he allowed himself to be taken without resistance. The judge, seeing that he was now a gray-haired old man, wished to pardon him.

Then the truly miraculous occurred. Rather than jump for joy thanking the judge for his leniency, the old robber, said that he wished to die in punishment of his sins. He then made a public confession of all the sins of his life in that same judgment hall, weeping so bitterly that all present wept with him.

He was beheaded, a death reserved for the nobility, rather than hanged. Then his body was buried with little ceremony, in a grave dug nearby.
Very soon afterwards, the mother of God came down from Heaven with four holy virgins by her side. They took the robber’s dead body from that place, wrapped it in a rich cloth embroidered with gold, and bore it themselves to the gate of the city.

There the Blessed Virgin said to the guards: "Tell the bishop from me, to give an honorable burial, in such a church to this dead person, for he was my faithful servant." And thus it was done.

All the people in the village thronged to the spot where they found the corpse with the rich pall, and the bier on which it was placed. And from that moment on, says Caesarius of Heisterbach, all persons in that region began to fast on Saturdays in honor of she who was so kind to even a notorious robber.

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

In the mountainous region of Trent in Germany, there lived a notorious robber who made his living by bringing misfortune on others. 

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