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July 18, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Emeritus Benedict’s remarks presented at Cardinal Joachim Meisner’s funeral last week continue to reverberate around the world as their broader meaning slowly sinks in.

The warning

The Church is on the verge of capsizing.

Benedict spoke of Cardinal Meisner’s passing, saying he was moved at the dubia cardinal's ability to “live out of a deep conviction that the Lord does not abandon His Church, even when the boat has taken on so much water as to be on the verge of capsizing.”

Benedict’s powerful statement has sent a shiver down the spine of many, painting a vivid picture of the current precarious reality of the universal — Catholic — Church.  

That picture, while very troubling, is also perhaps a masterwork of writing, speaking volumes while economizing on words. On one level, he was simply memorializing his friend.   

But at the same time, Benedict delivered an important message to the world.

The plea

The Pope Emeritus prefaced his warning, saying, “The Church stands in particularly pressing need of convincing shepherds who can resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age and who live and think the faith with determination.”

More than just a warning about pending shipwreck, Benedict’s funeral message is an impassioned plea to all his brother bishops throughout the world to measure up to the task to which they have been called; to courageously resist relativism, i.e., “the dictatorship of the spirit of the age.”  

The unanswered dubia allows relativism to take hold, metastasize

Amoris Laetitia has thrown wide open the door to relativism in the church, where more than one theologian has asked, “If the papal teaching is clear, how can it mean one thing in Poland and another in Germany? If the final answer to that vexed question is No in Philadelphia and Portland, how can it be Yes in Chicago and San Diego? If some bishops are interpreting the papal document incorrectly, why have they not been corrected?”

A clear and present danger: confusion

This is not a theoretical danger to be played out in the halls of academia. It is a very clear and present war being waged here and now in our own backyards as relativism takes root and metastasizes in the Catholic Church in America.  

Pro-gay Bishop Patrick McGrath recently issued a terse letter to the priests and other religious of his diocese, asserting his own interpretation of the Church’s magisterial teaching because orthodoxy is “confusing.”   

McGrath was responding to Illinois Bishop Thomas Paprocki who, following Catholic teaching, said those in same-sex “marriages” shouldn’t present themselves to or be admitted to Holy Communion, nor should they receive a Catholic funeral if they died without showing signs of repentance.

McGrath’s averred, “Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing.” He continued, “I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian burial to anyone who requests them in good faith,” he added.

McGrath went on to justify admitting “anyone” to Holy Communion by quoting Pope Francis.

If prelates are confused, unable to steer the church through troubled waters, forgetting where she came from, what she stands for and where she’s going, how can she avoid the shipwreck Benedict warns against?

Orthodox, magisterial teaching is most certainly not confusing, but confused bishops who reject known truth most certainly are confusing.

Other recent problematic bishop appointments to whom Benedict’s words apply:

  • Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, appointed by Pope Francis to helm both the Pontifical Academy for Life and the Pontifical Pope John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family, has invited at least one pro-abortion ‘ethicist’ to serve, ironically, in the Academy for Life. He also once commissioned a homosexual artist to paint a homoerotic mural in his former cathedral church. The mural includes an image of the archbishop himself clasped to a semi-naked man.

  • Cardinal Kevin Farrell, recently appointed by Pope Francis to head the Vatican office on laity, family, and life issues, called on his city's priests to embrace “LGBT families.”

  • Francis-appointed Cardinal Joseph Tobin personally welcomed active homosexuals to the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark as part of a so-called “LGBT Pilgrimage” in May.

  • The Diocese of San Diego, under Bishop Robert McElroy, recently announced that Fr. John Dolan, a priest with an LGBT-positive record, had been appointed by the Vatican to be an auxiliary bishop. Fr. Dolan had previously gone on record suggesting there is no problem with homosexual “marriage” within the Catholic Church.

Untruths and half truths, i.e., lies, confusion and sin are being allowed to easily infiltrate and take up residence in the Church.

Benedict’s words reverberate

Benedict’s voice is familiar, recognizable in the voices of other stalwart protectors of the faith:

Cardinal Sarah

Cardinal Robert Sarah, prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, issued a strong rebuke to his fellow clerics last month in his foreward to a new book, calling attention to the fact that the Church teaches “ … things in the Catechism about homosexuality that some members of the clergy choose not to quote, including the clear warning: ‘under no circumstances can [homosexual acts] be approved’ (CCC 2357). The respect and sensitivity to which the Catechism rightly calls us does not give us permission to deprive men and women who experience SSA (same-sex attraction) of the fullness of the Gospel. To omit the ‘hard sayings’ of Christ and his Church is not charity.”

Archbishop Chaput: silent apostasy of priests

Likewise, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput has urged his fellow bishops to embrace Catholic identity in the face of “secular meltdown.”

“During his years as bishop of Rome, Benedict XVI had the talent of being very frank about naming sin and calling people back to fidelity,” said Chaput. “He spoke several times about the ‘silent apostasy’ of so many Catholic lay people today and even many priests.”

“Apostasy is an interesting word. It comes from the Greek verb apostanai — which means to revolt or desert; literally ‘to stand away from.’ For Benedict, laypeople and priests don’t need to publicly renounce their baptism to be apostates. They simply need to be silent when their Catholic faith demands that they speak out; to be cowards when Jesus asks them to have courage; to ‘stand away’ from the truth when they need to work for it and fight for it.”

Yet this “silent apostasy,” this relativism, is exactly what Pope Benedict is addressing when he calls upon his brother bishops to “resist the dictatorship of the spirit of the age” and to “live and think the faith with determination.”

Cardinal Caffarra: Confusion is most tangible among bishops

Regarding the creeping relativism in the Church, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, another of the dubia signers, said it would be equivalent to a “suicidal act” and “cutting the ground from under his feet” if the pope were to teach that conscience is the ultimate guide in moral matters, trumping even Catholic teaching as well as Divine Revelation.

He noted how the confusion is most tangible among bishops. Some, following traditional Catholic teaching, have interpreted Amoris Laetitia as precluding adulterers from receiving Communion. Others such as San Diego Bishop Robert McElroy and the bishops of Malta have done the opposite.

“These are most serious questions for the life of the Church and for the eternal salvation of the faithful. Never forget, this is the supreme law of the Church: the eternal salvation of the faithful, not other concerns. Jesus founded His Church so that the faithful would have eternal life and have it in abundance,” he said.

Cardinal Burke: ‘Everything is not fine'

In a recent interview with The Remnant, Cardinal Burke stressed that not raising concerns about Amoris Laetitia would lead Catholics to believe that everything is OK in the Church when it certainly is not.  

“If we were to remain silent, it would most definitely give the idea to the faithful that everything is fine. But everything is not fine.”

And this is precisely why Pope Benedict took the opportunity to issue thinly-veiled warning and plea.

One commentator has referred to Benedict’s memorial message concerning the death of Cardinal Meisner as “a cleverly delivered critique of Captain Bergoglio.” He went on to say that Benedict’s words are an “indictment of Dictator Bergoglio.”

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Doug Mainwaring is a journalist for LifeSiteNews, an author, and a marriage, family and children's rights activist.  He has testified before the United States Congress and state legislative bodies, originated and co-authored amicus briefs for the United States Supreme Court, and has been a guest on numerous TV and radio programs.  Doug and his family live in the Washington, DC suburbs.