Battling Bishops and the Spiritus Mundi

Archbishop Carlo Vigano. Credit: Edward Pentin/National Catholic Register

As predicted in a number of prophecies – La Salette, Akita – there is conflict amongst the Cardinals and Bishops of Christ’s Holy Church. We may hope they are all striving in some way for the truth, a hard commodity to find these days. For us laymen, it seems simple acquiescence is not enough – not that it ever was. Obedience is oft a complex virtue, for authorities themselves conflict and contradict, and we must use, as Thomas More put it in his own fractious time, the ‘tangle of our wits’ to see our way through the morass.

Hence, behold the sight of Robert Cardinal Sarah, as prefect of the Congregation of Divine Worship, take issue with some of fellow bishops who have forbidden – at least for all practical purposes – Confession and Communion for the faithful, often along with Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage – all, in many places, verboten.

Although in one sense these sacraments are ‘gifts’, they are gifts given us by God, mediated by our bishops and priests, who, in theory at least, do have a duty to give them to us. So let us, please, to some extent do that duty, as Horatio Nelson said in a different context, and a different battle. His was for ships and conquering Napoleon’s navy; ours for the very souls of God’s people. He will hold his shepherds to strict account – as He will all of us.

The solution cannot be the German one – offering the Holy Eucharist is sterile, plastic bags for the faithful to take home and consume. As Cardinal Sarah says in no uncertain terms, such profanities have to stop – now.

Meanwhile, the secular world seems to doing its secular best to bring about, perhaps now in some dim, adumbratory way, what will one day be the reign of the Antichrist, which the Catechism calls a ‘secular messianism’, salvation in this life alone, to which all our efforts, they claim, should be directed. Hence, the name of the game is just stayin’ alive.

To govern in and for this world alone, in mimicry of God, one must have absolute control. Hence this bill going before the United States Congress should give us pause. Going by the not-so-benign acronym TRACE – testing, reaching and contacting everyone – the would-be law strives to do what its name implies: Trace the movements of the citizens everywhere, everytime, under the auspices of controlling the spread of Covid. The Panopticon of Jeremy Bentham, already largely upon us, may soon be inescapable. Well, almost, for God always finds a way for His faithful.

Archbishop Vigano has spearheaded a vigorous, even apocalyptic letter, ‘Appeal to the Church and to the World’, written in the thunderous tones of the early Church – as in, Saint Peter, pulling no punches. He more or less claims that we are headed towards the reign of that aforementioned Antichrist, the spiritus mundi warned of by Yeats at the dawn of the twentieth century. .

Cardinal Sarah, whose name originally appeared as a signatory, has now had his name removed, claiming he never ‘signed’ it in the first place, primarily for the reason of staying out of arguments of a political nature. His battle, in his terms, is a spiritual one. Yet Vigano, who claims the Cardinal did agree to sign the letter, claims that Sarah’s alleged retraction has caused him ‘great harm’.

Who’s to say? Even airing this out – with twitter feeds now being published – is itself a scandal, and my own advice to Archbishop Vigano is best leave well enough alone, and leave his conflicts with like-minded fellow bishops private – after all, Cardinal Sarah is not his enemy and is quite sympathetic, if not as forthright and combative.

After all, what the Archbishop says is right in its principles – the Church does transcend the State, and we are not bound to obey unjust, immoral or even ridiculous and overbearing laws, and all this may well be an adumbration of the spirit of Antichrist – that secular messianism which limits our horizons to this world alone, controlling all of our actions, even out thoughts, dividing families, enslaving and eventually crushing the human soul.

In our own battles against this spirit, interior and exterior, we can never full prescind from politics, which in its essence is the art of governing and living together as a society, which cannot be done without a true transcendent vision of the end and purpose of life – a topic on which the Church must speak and has spoken out often – but we must make a distinction between what is the respective roles and limits of authority of both the Church, the State, and to whom our allegiance ultimately lies.

As Saint Peter says, ‘we must obey God, rather than men‘. And Amen to that.

A final note: Ponder the reflections of Theodore Dalrymple on the police acting more and more like our militaristic overlords, rather than the public servants they are, whose task is to protect us from real crime and vice, at which they seem ever less adept. Instead, the focus on niggling laws smothers an already over-burdened citizenry, who pay their ever-ratcheting salaries, and cushy pensions. As Nero advised his fellow tyrants, pay your soldiers well, for their blind loyalty will serve you well.

But have no fear, for Christ has conquered, and laughs at the self-satisfied rulers and often priggish potentates of this world. To conclude for now with the words again of Thomas More: Although we may be the king’s good servant, we are always God’s first, and foremost.