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Pope Francis next to a statue of Martin Luther placed in the Vatican’s Paul VI Hall. October, 2016.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is the first excerpt from a talk by Fr. Linus Clovis at the Catholic Truth Scotland Conference in June 2016. Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here and Part 4 is here. To read his presentation in its entirety, click here.

October 31, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — By God’s grace I am a Catholic; by His mercy I shall die one. I know that whilst the first is a pure gift, the second depends on my free and willing cooperation with grace, on my keeping the Faith, passing on what I myself have been given, fighting the good fight with a clear conscience and persevering in the Faith to the end (2 Tim. 1:18; 2 Tim. 4:7, Acts 20:24). This, of course, also applies to all of us. 

In 2015, I spoke at the Rome Life Forum on the Francis Effect. The talk, much to my surprise, somehow or other, ended up on the internet where, the reactions generated were, for the most part, favourable; the source of a handful of disapproving comments I leave to your imagination. See 2015 talk below:

It was in the initial stage of euphoria that I first received and readily accepted the invitation to speak at this Catholic Truth Scotland Conference but, as the time drew closer, I began having second thoughts for, no authentic Catholic takes pleasure in deprecating any papal document, let along criticising a reigning Sovereign Pontiff.

However, we now live in desperate times, times of mass confusion where “the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled, so away with second thoughts and let us speak openly and plainly in defence of our holy Faith and for the glory of God and the salvation of souls.

The Church

From ancient times, the Church has been known as the Barque of Peter. For this reason, She has often been depicted as a ship sailing on the seas of history. Sometimes calm winds fill her sails and She skims over the waves with a lofty and serene grace.  At other times, however, the winds howl, the sea churns with frothy waves, lightning bolts crisscross the skies, thunder alarms the sailors, and the ship appears to be sinking. 

Since the Lord had to suffer many things before He entered into His glory (Mt. 16:21; Lk. 24:26) and St Paul could declare that it is necessary for us to pass “through many tribulations [before we] enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22), it should come as no surprise that the Church, who is not greater than her Master (John 15:20), is not exempted from sufferings, afflictions and tribulations.

The Church, throughout Her 2000 year history, has experienced tribulations both external and internal.  Not only has She been buffeted by outright State persecution but She has also been lacerated by the great Christological heresies, wounded by the Protestant revolution and, finally in our own time, ravaged by Modernism, the synthesis of all heresies. Modernism attempts to replace the absolute and unchanging truths with statements that would correspond more with the lived experience of individuals, especially the emotional and sentimental experiences.   

The Church as the Mystical Body of Christ

The Church has been defined as the Mystical Body of Christ: an image found in St Paul’s letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians and Colossians. This image succinctly expresses the union and the relationship that exists between each member of the Church with Christ and with each other. The mystics and the Church Herself have seen the parallel between Eve’s formation from Adam’s side whilst he was asleep (Gen. 2:21-23) and the Church being formed from the pierced side of Christ whilst He slept the sleep of death on the Cross (John 19:34). 

Like a living, physical body, the Mystical Body, in order to grow and develop, had to overcome diverse crises. The four greatest traumas experienced by the Mystical Body would be the 4th century Arian heresy, the 11th century Investiture controversy, the 16th century Protestant revolution and the current Modernist infiltration, each of which attacks the very nature of the Church.

Christ called Himself the vine and His members the branches (John 15:5-6). With this imagery, He would be the skeleton of the Mystical Body with its members being the various organs as St Paul asserts in the Letter to the Corinthians. Scripturally, bones are symbolic of imperishability since they remain even when, after death, the flesh has decayed.

With this analogy, Arius’ denial of Christ’s divinity is equivalent to an attack on the skeleton of the Mystical Body, which would then, at best, be reduced to just another manmade religion. Although the conflict was long and bitter and many bishops faltered by succumbing to Arianism, the truth of Christ’s divinity and, with it, the indefectibility of the Church was established by St Athanasius.

The eleventh century conflict between Church and State, that is, between the popes and the princes, is known as the Investiture controversy. Secular princes and, in particular, the emperor claimed the right to choose men for the episcopate and even for the papal office.

Using the analogy of the physical body, this can be described as an attack on the muscles of the Church, since She would be reduced to nothing other than a puppet of the State. However, God, working through the Cluny reformers, in due course, brought the great Hildebrand to the papal throne where, as Gregory VII, he fought strenuously and suffered greatly to re-establish the Church’s independence from the State.

The sixteenth century Protestant revolt, spearheaded by Martin Luther and John Calvin, sought not only to change the Church’s teaching on grace and sacraments but, also, to undermine Her divinely constituted teaching authority. Their attack on the sacraments, by which grace is conferred, was the equivalent of removing the vital internal organs of the Mystical Body, which would have effectively reduced the Church to one among many sects.

In our own time, the Church faces Her greatest challenge in Her confrontation with the goliath of Modernism. This, Pope St Pius X, in his 1907 encyclical Pascendi dominici gregis, identified and condemned as a “heresy embracing every heresy.”