Christ founded his Church and Christ will maintain his Church

Father John A. Kiley

A recent decree from the Vatican announced that henceforth private Masses would not be permitted at the numerous side altars in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The edict was immediately protested, generating complaints from cardinals, clergy and pilgrims who found such Masses memorable events. Vatican offices also lately instructed that authentic marriage could only occur between one man and one woman entering into a permanent and fruitful commitment. Same-sex unions do not qualify as valid marriages. Just previous to this instruction, Pope Francis himself had appointed an openly gay man to the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.
In one of Pope Francis’ most discussed instructions, “Amoris Laetitia,” some discerned a suggestion that couples married outside the Church might turn to their confessors for guidance on the possible reception of Holy Communion. In paragraph 302, the instruction reads, “Therefore, while upholding a general rule, it is necessary to recognize that responsibility with respect to certain actions or decisions is not the same in all cases.” Such sympathetic words were all some commentators needed to envision the civilly married returning to the sacraments. Prominent cardinals however took great exception to the document’s controversial notes. Much of their doubts remain unanswered.
Still, while some of the Pontiff’s pronouncements have been broadly generous, this same Holy Father has remained vocally and canonically adamant that only men are called to the Catholic priesthood, much to the chagrin of liberal Catholics.
These assorted incidents are cited as examples of the confusion, justified or otherwise, that seems lately to emanate from the Holy See and even from the Holy Father. Within recent memory, statements and activities from Rome are remembered as rigidly in accord with tradition. However, previous popes have spoken bravely on many issues. Pius XI roundly condemned Nazism in a letter read from European pulpits in the late 1930s. Pope Pius XII radically altered the liturgical celebrations of Holy Week which now, 60 years later, some traditionalists regret. Pope John XXIII radiated some mixed signals, being accused by William Buckley of Socialism in “Mater et Magistra,” but on the other hand insisting that Latin return to all Catholic classrooms in “Veterum Sapientia.” Paul VI courageously affirmed the decrees of the Second Vatican Council which again greatly altered the liturgy as well as rightly acknowledging the role of the laity in the Church, courageously maintaining God’s fidelity to his Jewish people, and broadening the extent of Ecumenism.
Mixed signals are not limited to the papacy. Assorted Catholic bishops are often at odds these days on issues like the reception of the sacraments by politicians who favor abortion here in the US or the role of local synods in the Church currently under review by German bishops.
Some discussions by our honored pontiffs and the esteemed episcopacy, to say nothing of talk among the Catholic clergy and the laity, might occasionally give some believers pause. Yet, the enduring framework of the Church – laity, deacons, priests, bishops, pope – is beyond question. The basic structure of the Church – clergy and laity – is of Divine origin. After the defection of Judas from the apostolic band, the remaining 11 disciples felt compelled to complete this sad vacancy by electing Matthias as Judas’ replacement. The formation of the Church, even in its infant stages, was firmly believed to be a structure informed by God himself. The Acts of Apostles records the compulsion the first Christians felt to maintain and complete the work begun by Christ Himself. “Then they prayed, ‘You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.’ Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles.”
The organization of the Catholic religion has survived Roman martyrdom, barbarian onslaughts, royal opposition, Avignon exile, Renaissance excesses, Reformation repudiation, Napoleonic kidnapping, Italian unification, Nazi persecution and Soviet Communism. The Church will endure modern secularism, internal dissent, and the contemporary media as well. Christ founded his Church and Christ will maintain his Church.


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