Rorate Caeli

Thoughts on wheat and tares


"Pure Rome", "Immaculate Rome" -- this Rome, in fact, has never existed in the History of the Church, at least not in such form as imagined by many today, for the Bishop of Rome and his Curia are men, men touched by Original Sin and who have many personal defects. If Rome has fallen to heresy, then the promise of the Lord to the first Bishop of Rome, that "upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it", has failed -- and one can take from there the full consequences of a God whose most solemn promises do not turn out to be true.

If, however, Rome's infallibility is preserved, but its human circumstances are filled with difficulties and bad fruits, one sees nothing less than the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Lord. The Gospel for last Sunday, the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, offers important lessons regarding the difficulties of the Church Militant:

At that time Jesus spoke this parable to the multitudes: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversowed cockle among the wheat, and went his way. And when the blade was sprung up and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle. And the servants of the goodman of the house coming, said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then hath it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? and he said: No, lest perhaps, gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn. (St. Matthew, xiii, 24-30)

Has the situation in Rome ever been better? Certainly. You will not read here any praises of the inexistent good fruits of the Council. However, even in the most unfavorable times, it would not be apt to confuse the severe human problems of the Church with a Rome which "must return to Tradition"; one does not return except to that which one has completely left... "The danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church": this is what Pope Saint Pius X said -- not today, but one hundred years ago. Does this seem to describe the "Pure Rome" of "ancient" lore?

If one should wait for the Apostolic See to "return", unanimously and with no human problems whatsoever, to a mythical view of "Tradition", one would forget the lesson of last Sunday's Gospel: the enemy sows cockle (or tares, as it has entered English literature through the "Authorized Version") throughout the field, even in the highest and most august settings. It is extremely difficult for the Apostolic See, at times, to "eliminate all bad principles" without the risk of eliminating good souls.
If at times there appears in the Church something that indicates the weakness of our human nature, it should not be attributed to her juridical constitution, but rather to that regrettable inclination to evil found in each individual, which its Divine Founder permits even at times in the most exalted members of His Mystical Body, for the purpose of testing the virtue of the Shepherds no less than of the flocks, and that all may increase the merit of their Christian faith. For, as We said above, Christ did not wish to exclude sinners from His Church; hence if some of her members are suffering from spiritual maladies, that is no reason why we should lessen our love for the Church, but rather a reason why we should increase our devotion to her members. (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 66)

Canon Léon Cristiani (famous for Evidence of Satan in the Modern World, for his Brief History of Heresies, and for several hagiographies) offers simple yet powerful reflections on last Sunday's Gospel in one of his most popular books:
"The Kingdom of God in the world will never be perfect, and that should not surprise us. God allows it. The separation of the elements shall be done at the end of the harvest... God does not wish to transform the earth in a kingdom in which his will governs unopposed. The earth is a place of struggle, a field of experimentation and combat, but not of permanent victory. The presence of the evil ones is useful for the development of the just. ... Goodness shall not be defeated on earth; in eternity, it will triumph forever." (in Jésus-Christ: Fils de Dieu, Sauveur. v. 1, 1934)
No serious Catholic may deny the enormous crisis faced by the Church today -- but no serious Catholic may reject the good efforts, even the most timid, of the wheat of a deeply hurt Rome filled with tares. [Reposted.]
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24 comments:

K Gurries said...

"However, even in the most unfavorable times, it would not be apt to confuse the severe human problems of the Church with a Rome which "must return to Tradition"
=============================

Thank You! A simple truth that we ought not to forget in confusing times. The Roman See can't DEFECT from Faith and morals -- nor lose her Tradition and become the See of some mythical NEWCHURCH, etc.

New Templar said...

Indeed Mr. Gurries. Eternal Rome as Archbishop Lefebvre referred to it.

Anonymous said...

Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos:

10. To use the words of the fathers of Trent, it is certain that the Church "was instructed by Jesus Christ and His Apostles and that all truth was daily taught it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit." Therefore, it is obviously absurd and injurious to propose a certain "restoration and regeneration" for her as though necessary for her safety and growth, as if she could be considered subject to defect or obscuration or other misfortune.

Dan Hunter said...

The Church exists visibly in the hear and now with Pope Benedict XVI as Her visible head on earth.

Gideon Ertner said...

What I don't get about the Society's position - especially Mgr. Williamson's seemingly extreme interpretation - is that if there is such a thing as an 'Eternal Rome', then that appellation must pertain to the Church of Rome at all times, including the present one. Hence any attempt to create an opposition between a 'Present Rome' as different from an 'Eternal Rome' is an absurdity. If there were such a difference, obviously the 'eternal' predicate would lose its meaning completely.

The Church of Rome possesses the fullness of truth now, always, and until the end of time. No-one else does so, and no-one should for a second presume otherwise - not even the FSSPX, for all of their good qualities.

VirgoPotens said...

Thank you for a very important post. I always want to ask the extremist crowd: "At what exact point did the Church of Rome cease to be the Church of Rome? The moment Vatican II convened? The moment John XXIII was elected? The moment they tinkered with Holy Week?" Because the Church can't have been the "sorta-Church" at any point....she's either the Church, or she's not. And, some follow-up questions: "What would it take for you to admit that the visible Church is indeed the Catholic Church....a really righteous Pope who rescinds the Novus Ordo? What if he only goes back to the 1962 missal and you want pre-'55? What if he fires only 98% of the liberal bishops? How will you know he's not really a deceiver who's reforming things just enough to lure you back into (what you perceive to be) a false church?" One could go mad trying to make these distinctions.

K Gurries said...

Yes, I think the notion of "eternal Rome" (rightly understood) presupposes that the Roman See is never subject to lose her Faith, morals or Tradition. To suggest that these have been lost and need to be recovered or restored is to go down a very dangerous road.

Joe B said...

OK, they are "severe human problems of the church" (i.e., religious relativism) that just happen to be rampant within Rome as well as worldwide. Great. Thanks. Now what?

Do those "severe human problems" include the Novus Ordo, which was precisely Rome's abandonment of our traditions?

One can accept the eternal truths of the church and it's eternal life without having to abandon one's eyes.

Rome has to return to our traditions. They betrayed them with the Novus Ordo, among other things.

Andrew said...

Without falling off into Sedevacantist craziness, one must admit that Benedict XVI is the Pope, the Church in Rome is still the First See, etc. etc. Even if many prudential problems exist, still, the essence of what the Church teaches and has always taught is still officially taught by the present regime. It may not be taught as clearly as it once was, but the First See has not and will never fall into actual error in matters of faith and morals. To posit anything else is to just fall into the same errors as numerous schismatic have done in the past. Listen to a polemical E. Orthodox and he sounds like a RadTrad, of a different flavor but two peas in a pod.

Even liturgical matters like the NO and the LOTH are not "errors" properly so-called. Is the NO and LOTH the heir of made up liturgies like the Neo-Gallican books? Yes. Do they somehow put Rome in a position that She has "lost" the Faith? Of course not! Is it lamentable that "two" options are offered, one a complete innovation and the other a compromise? Of course. However, one cannot say that the Holy See promulgated the NO and LOTH with the same crazy intentions that some of the writers of said liturgies had. This is truly a divine test, one can stay firm and loyal or fall prey to their own pride and love of their own intellect and defect to some other "greener" pasture.

Anonymous said...

Well said Rorate! In the end, and more and more, this question will have to be addressed by FSSPX members. For it is likely that one day their leadership will have to make a decision, and it is likely that the current leadership will accept their responsibility to obey the Holy Father. But Bishop Williamson seems to be preaching already a seed of discord in the minds of some. Thank you for your post.

Mar said...

Gideon Ertner said: "The Church of Rome possesses the fullness of truth now, always, and until the end of time."

K Gurries said: "...the Roman See is never subject to lose her Faith, morals or Tradition."

First question, is the Church of Rome the same as the Roman See?
Second question, when the Pope lived in Avignon where exactly were the Church of Rome and/or the Roman See? In Rome?

Jordanes551 said...

First question, is the Church of Rome the same as the Roman See?

Yes. "See" (sede, seat, chair) refers to the episcopal office, to the divine authority of a church's bishop. It is a circumlocution for a church and the rights and prerogatives it has from Christ through His Apostles.

Second question, when the Pope lived in Avignon where exactly were the Church of Rome and/or the Roman See? In Rome?

Yes, in Rome. The occupant of the Roman See, however, did not reside within his diocese, contrary to God's will. The scandal and disorder of bishops living outside their dioceses was widespread at that period of history -- and when the Bishop of Rome was himself an absentee bishop, he was incapable of doing anything to rectify the very serious problem of absentee bishops.

wheat4paradise said...

Many thanks for this fine post.

Anonymous said...

Pope Benedict XVI is technically an absentee bishop - a vicar discharges his diocesan responsibilities on his behalf.

There's nothing wrong with that, now, or at any time, if circumstances demand it.

Brian said...

Rome's infallibility is preserved, but its human circumstances are filled with difficulties and bad fruits . . . However, even in the most unfavorable times, it would not be apt to confuse the severe human problems of the Church with a Rome which "must return to Tradition"; one does not return except to that which one has completely left...

And what if Rome’s teaching has become too one-sided, openly progressive, trusting of modernistic influences, permeable, ambiguous, and naively affirming such that it exhibits a dangerous overhaul of prior papal teachings?

Does a Catholic, then, not have a duty to reject this one-sidedly progressive teaching and call, even, Rome back to the Tradition that she has taught for centuries?

Webmaster Gareth said...

I can only speak as I find.

I do not think many - if any Catholics - are so blind to think Rome has been faultless in her history.

After all, we all know that the Reformation was a terrible scourge, but Church scandals gave rise to it; so the sins of me really did bring about the calamity of that event, as much the sins of bad Catholics in Rome and elsewhere as the sins of the bad Catholics who became Protestants in their pride.

Speaking as a basic pew Catholic what breaks my heart is when I hear things said by the hierarchy which fly against Catholic teaching, when relativism and liberalism are put on a pedestal by Bishops, when all we want is a CATHOLIC Church!

Liberalism in Bishops is no new thing.

Think of Henry VIII's day. Only one chose martyrdom to set an example for us pew Catholics. Most just went with the flow, kept their incomes, and chose to abandon the Papacy for a an adulterer King.

Yet still where the Church remained Catholic, Catholicism maintained. Even the Missionary priests, from Douai and elsewhere who came here to bring the Sacraments to a people living under penal law, brought real Catholicism.

The worry for many Catholics today is we have relativism not only in society but at different levels of the Church.

Go from parish to parish and you never know what to expect at Mass.

Eucharistic Monsters? Communion in both kinds? Communion in the hand? Tabernacle hidden away? What language will the Mass be in? Will there by statues, pictures, windows and murals to raise our hearts and minds to heaven? Or a roller disco set up?

That much is new in Catholic history.

Hope Springs Eternal said...

We will always have persecution in this valley of tears.

Hail Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears. Turn then most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us, and after this, our exile, show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy womb Jesus.
O Clement, O Loving, O Sweet Virgin Mary. Pray for us O Holy Mother of God,that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.

wheat4paradise said...

Eucharistic Monsters? Communion in both kinds? Communion in the hand? Tabernacle hidden away? What language will the Mass be in? Will there by statues, pictures, windows and murals to raise our hearts and minds to heaven? Or a roller disco set up?

That much is new in Catholic history.


A tare is a tare is a tare.

I'm sure that this is not the first time in history that faithful Catholics have had cause to exclaim: "We've never seen this sort of thing before!"

"Pure Rome", "Immaculate Rome" -- this Rome, in fact, has never existed in the History of the Church ...

There are those who resist full communion with the here-and-now Church because they are waiting for something that has never existed and will never exist while heaven and earth remain. Let us hope that Bishop Fellay is not among that group.

Hope Springs Eternal said...

A good priest once told me that "you get what you pray for." In other words, am I truly praying for my bishop who may not be as strong as others?

Here is a website which promotes the Rosary and praying for our Bishops. You may already be doing this at home, but consider joining the prayer campaign. We cannot dispel the power of prayer!

http://rosaryforthebishop.org/

F.J. Sheed makes a profound statement when he describes our warfare. He writes, "It is that strangest of wars which is fought for the enemy, not against him. Even the term 'enemy' must not be allowed to mislead. Every unbeliever is, as every Catholic is, a being with an immortal spirit, made in the image of God, for whom Christ died. However violently hostile to the Church or to Christ he may be, our aim is to convert him, not simply to defeat him, still less to destroy him. We must never forget that the devil wants his soul in hell as he wants ours, and we must fight the devil for him. We may be forced to oppose a man to prevent his endangering souls; but always we want to win him, for his own soul's salvation."

'Theology for Beginners' by F.J. Sheed is excellent reading!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post, very thought-provoking. I will reflect much more on this...for sure.

I also just loved that essay on Bach - sublime Bach! Bellissimo!
(Peccato che non era Cattolico!Ma la sua musica,SI!)

Barbara

Cruise the Groove. said...

I mean "the Church exists in the here and now."

Anonymous said...

Bravo, NC

P. Carrion

jucundushomo said...

Thank you for such an edifying and articulate posting.

We must pray for the Church unceasingly, particularly for those who would do her harm from within.

Witness this heretical prayer, penned by a 17th century Anglican archbishop of Canterbury. Inexplicably, this appears on the back cover of a purportedly Catholic hymnal, "Breaking Break" by the Oregon Catholic Press. The fact that it appears immediately below the St Michael prayer seems almost diabolical to me.

http://img810.imageshack.us/i/img0225ps.jpg/

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there is no "eternal Rome" distinct from the actual Church of Rome. The Church is visible and always will be.

The idea that "the Church of the city of Rome can fall into error" was solemnly condemned as manifest heresy by Pope Sixtus IV (Dz 730).