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THE REFORMATION

 


 

by:

 

Dom Basilio Magno



The Reformation 

The Fruit of the Infidelity of the Church

 

 

I.  INTRODUCTION

 

            The reformation took place because of several factors which were fertile ground for it. Maybe if one or two factors were lacking, the Reformation would never have taken place. But, it seems everything was in place: Christendom was doomed to be divided:  one part Catholic, the other Protestant. 

 

 

            The same factors exist today.  And all the factors are also in place.  For all you know, a Reformation is taking place even without us knowing it. After all, when the Reformation took place in the 1500’s, how many among the common men were really conscious of it? 

 

 

            It is a pity that, in spite of voluminous information about that age, few among both the Catholics and the Protestants know what really happened.  In fact, even the Catholics and Protestants at that time were ignorant of what was happening. Because of this, some Catholics, like the powerful Cardinal Richelieu, were, in fact, protecting, defending and propagating Protestantism; and while most Protestants did not realize it, they were going far away from the teachings of Martin Luther. 

 

 

            History is meaningful only if we can learn from the mistakes of the past. If not, it is futile to think of the past: we might just as well think of the present and the future. And the history of the Reformation is a study on how Catholics committed blunders left and right unto the destruction of their souls and how the Protestants effectively deceived themselves into believing that they were reforming the Church when Martin Luther, himself, thought it was all a big mistake.  What happened was not a Reformation; it was the Destruction and Dismemberment of Catholic Europe. 

 

 

 

II.   THE SPIRITUAL ELEMENT

 

            The problem in analyzing the history of the Reformation is that it is surrounded by historical, political, social and financial factors . . . but, most of all, by a spiritual factor - which both Catholic and Protestant historians fail to consider. Without this spiritual factor, the events of that era are completely impossible to understand . . . thus making it easy for the devious to toss blame at whoever they want. 

 

 

            The dynamics of what happened during the Reformation is so simple, i.e., what happened from the ascetical point of view; the simplest of minds can easily understand the happenings and the simple-minded could have easily prevented it.  But, there were few simple-minded men at that time. All were complex-minded, just as we are today. There were too many things in their mind. If they merely thought of God’s will, everything could have been solved so easily. But, like us today, we never judge things from purely God’s point of view. We judge things from many considerations, most of which have nothing to do with God. 

 

 

            The first and main factor that prompted the Reformation is spiritual. As from the earliest time, but more so at the coming of Christ, the Evil One, who has always attacked Christ, again attacked Christ’s true religion. And his singular trademark, as we know from Scriptures, is HATRED . . . hatred of things Catholic. And every Protestant sect today, with rare exemption, nurses this hatred for things Catholic. Immediately obvious to us is their hatred of Catholic doctrine on the veneration of images and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They can hate their own images, but why do they have to hate our images? For some reason, they can hate their wives; but, I do not see why they have to hate other people’s wives, too. Their hatred is evidently fanatical. 

 

 

            The devil hates the Catholic Church: his life is vowed to attacking the Church . . . he is just waiting for willing instruments. And the Catholic Church, in the 1500’s, inadvertently provided the instrument . . . by her neglect. She neglected her primary role of instructing and leading her followers to sanctity, being immersed in the wealth, luxury and worldliness that had swarmed her. 

 

 

            Today, the Church, as a whole, in her human element, is also neglectful of her primary role, the sanctification of her members. The neglect is frightening. Of course, there is a sputtering of efforts here and there, as was at Luther’s time, by more competent saints. But as the sputtering here and there did not change the momentum towards Protestantism in that era, neither will it today. Great saints, like Cajetan and Ignatius of Loyola, could not stop the division of Europe . . . that is, half of Europe lost; neither can anyone, even a saint, stop the Protestantinization of the Catholic Church today. 

 

 

            The Church’s neglect of her primary purpose for existing - the sanctification of her followers, through a true and complete exposition of Christ’s commands - had left a Catholic Church filled with traditional practices whose meanings were lost. There was no rationale for Catholic belief, a rationale that St. Thomas of Aquinas exquisitely presented in his Summa. Because of the neglect of the men of the Church, Catholicism had become an irrational religion. 

 

 

            It was in this atmosphere of irrationality that such Catholic religious, like the Augustinian Martin Luther, was raised. The lack of knowledge of the reasons behind Catholic belief irretrievably made them decide to interpret Scriptures the best way they knew . . . according to the limitations of their human brains; “I will interpret Scriptures the way I understand it.” That’s a far cry from the Catholic attitude of: “I will interpret Scriptures the way God wants it interpreted.” The Reformation was born from this uninformed, unstudied interpretation of Scriptures by Catholic religious. And, I repeat, they were nurtured in the bosom of a neglectful mother. 

 

 

            Putting it simply, the Reformation was not an anti-doctrinal movement. They had nothing against any Catholic Doctrine . . . at least, at the beginning. How could they when they did not quite understand Catholic doctrine. It was more an objection against a mother who was not doing her job: in fact, a mother who was having a grand, worldly time and was making her children finance it. The beginnings of the Reformation was anti-clerical; it was a movement against the men of the Church - their abuses, their worldliness, their way of life, their sins, their repressive treatment. And frankly, at that era, there was everything to  complain about the men of the Church . . . one of which was the manner funds were being raised . . . at one instance, through the sales of indulgences where “cut-backs” was the rule of the game. 

 

 

            At this point, with the ever-present hatred of the devil, with willing instruments ready, with a neglectful mother asleep to the oncoming tragedy, the forces were in a position for the break-up of  Christendom, like the sea water in a salt bed that is already saturated with salt - just a mere additional handful will crystallize the whole pond. But the situation was still salvageable . . .in fact, very salvageable. 

 

 

            Henry VIII entered the picture. He, like Martin Luther, had no doctrinal quarrel with the Catholic Church. Up to the end of his life, he stuck to his well-learned Catholic Doctrine. The poor guy simply wanted to commit adultery, like most Catholic men; he had no intention of being either a heretic or schismatic, like most adulterous Catholics. But unlike most Catholics, forces outside him were gathering and were about to overwhelm him . . . and England. 

 

 

            In spite of all these gathering forces, the Reformation or, better still, the Destruction of Catholic Europe was far from happening. Martin Luther did not have a theology of religion to attract anyone. So far, the battle lines were drawn between mere personal annoyances. And Europe was too intelligent to sacrifice her Catholic religion for personal grievances . . . at least, for the moment. 

 

 

            Though I think the word “Reformation” is unsuitable to describe what happened, allow me to use it for the sake of historical continuity. Let me also use the word “Church”, i.e., with capital “C” to describe the Catholic Church and the word “church” to describe the men of the Church.  They are quite different and, during that era, even quite opposed to each other. 

 

 

 

III.   VISIBLE FACTORS

 

            It is sad to note that the irretrievable momentum of the Reformation towards the disunity of Christian Europe was borne of an old Catholic practice - the dissolution of benefices to support other church projects. This was the seed of a brewing storm. What was this? Well, when the church needed to build a large school, she would dissolve a few richly-endowed monasteries and divert their income towards the building of that school. Now, this practice is all right if you have saints running the Church. But the fifteenth century was stuffed with few saints. One does not have to think far to foresee the coming storm of abuses. 

 

 

            In an era where church practices bore within them the seeds of corruption, like lay investiture and commendam abbots, the abuse was almost certain. People of influence began dissolving rich ecclesiastical benefices for any reason . . . more often to increase their personal wealth. To enrich oneself by looting, church benefices became such an attractive temptation; though blasphemous, it became grand-scale. A new business class rose and established itself on a wealth confiscated from ecclesiastical benefices. It was the easiest way of raising capital to start a business. Many lordly rich names in England today became rich this way. 

 

 

            Now watch this: if the Catholic Church, through the Pope, put her foot down, she would have inevitably demanded the restoration of the confiscated wealth of the Church . . . which the nouveau riche were unwilling to do, because by then, they were enjoying their newly-found wealth and attendant power.  These thieves had to find a valid reason to keep their wealth. And what better reason than to break up with Rome? And so it happened. Every break with Rome, henceforward, would be motivated by a group of wealthy businessmen enriched by looting the Church. The permanent momentum of the Reformation towards dividing Catholic Europe into Catholic and Protestant was motivated by LOVE OF MONEY . . . or, shall we say, financial consideration. The Reformation was a financial move; not a religious objection. Having found a reason to continue looting the Church, the nouveau riche protected Martin Luther from ecclesiastical authorities and censures.  Martin Luther became the excuse that would allow them to continue the looting of the Church. 

 

 

            The new businessmen, however, had a problem. Martin Luther had no doctrine rationalizing their keeping of stolen Church properties. In truth, Martin Luther’s doctrines were too tame to be heretical. 

 

 

            The tail of the devil, to borrow St. Augustine’s words, describing the devil when he takes up sheep’s clothing, (since the sheep has a short tail, the wolf’s tail will always show) began to appear with the entrance of Zwingli, who introduced some anti-Catholic teachings. But his teachings, though he encouraged the confiscation of Church’s properties, did not give the thieves a philosophy to legalize their robbery. 

 

 

            So, the new rich businessmen’s problem was still there . . . a continuing union with Rome would demand restoration of the Church’s wealth . . . and virtual poverty for them. They must remain separated from Rome to remain rich.   What was before a mere religious complaint was now a financial issue. The question was no longer how to save one’s soul: it was how to keep the stolen wealth. Martin Luther must, by all means, be prevented from returning to the Catholic Church. But the businessmen had one problem: Martin Luther’s theology was still too Catholic and a return to the Church was still a great possibility, while Zwingli’s heresy did not justify their keeping their stolen church property either. 

 

 

            At this point, though the situation was still salvageable, with love of money, the root of all evil, entering the picture, saving the Catholic tradition in Europe was beginning to become more difficult. 

 

 

            Then a genius, reflecting the pure intelligence of the prince of darkness appeared . . . John Calvin. He would create an entirely new “religion” that had nothing to do with Martin Luther but would satisfy every whim of the new businessmen. It was a religion patterned for businessmen who had enriched themselves on stolen church property. Since the Reformation had been taken over by the businessmen with business motives, it would adopt this avaricious characteristic and, henceforward, every Protestant sect would contain this Calvinistic element. It would be the force that would be the common trademark of Protestantism. And this would seal permanently the division of Christendom into the Catholic and Protestant sects. 

 

 

            Calvin’s basic doctrine that would tickle the looters of the church is that man has a duty to grow rich. Suddenly, every business practice that was done by Catholics clandestinely because it was considered evil, was now allowed, encouraged, and even considered as the most appropriate thing to do. Calvin’s proposition was a financial proposition that tolerated every unethical business practice. Then he added a sprinkling of religiosity in his doctrine by stating that this fact of growing rich is a sign of predestination to heaven. It was a doctrine every corrupt soul would embrace unquestioningly. It was like having your cake and eating it, too; sort of, having the world and heaven, too. Who could refuse that? With this teaching, good works or almsgiving, the singular mark of the Catholic Church, was thrown out. Of course, if you give alms generously, you will never get rich. The practice of poverty, so essential to religious life, was repudiated. 

 

 

            Calvin refined his doctrine further by removing rationality, i.e., the right to think and reason out. He had to. For if one reasons too much, Calvin’s errors would be obvious. Calvin did this by introducing subjectivism; what one feels is the norm for what is true and right. Who can make a mistake with that? He had to raise the authority of the subjective mind to counter the more reasonable authority of tradition or an outside source, like the Pope and the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Without tradition, the Protestant sect could not become the Church that Christ established, whose description is found in Tradition. And it could not have the official interpretation of Scriptures, which is also found in Tradition. 

 

 

            Then he introduced usury, charging of interest on an unproductive loan.  Usury, once frowned upon by Christendom, though practised in secret, is now legitimate business practice. With these, Calvinistic Europe became an economic giant; and through banking and trading would spur what we call today, Industrial Capitalism. Sadly, Catholic nations would gradually adopt these un-Christian business practices for their own economic progress. And so what the Protestant Reformation could not do to the Catholic Church in the 16th century, it finally succeeded in the guise of Industrial Capitalism. Every Catholic, today, in observance of Calvinistic doctrine, is trying to be rich. The only vestige of Catholicism left in them is the little almsgiving they give out of the abundance of their excesses. 

 

 

 

IV.   SOME EFFECTS OF THE REFORMATION

 

            Most of the improvements in the life of Europe did not come from Calvinism; they came from the Renaissance. The Reformation did not even come from the Renaissance. What came from the Reformation, due to its subjectivism, is the division of Europe along nationalistic or ethnic lines and class struggle which from that time until now is the cause of all Europe’s woes. 

 

 

            While Catholicism united the entire of Europe, Protestantism fragmented Europe into a hundred factions. And while united Christendom united all trades into guilds, Protestantism lined one trade in competition with the same trade in fragmented Europe. The good of all, paramount among the guilds, was laid aside; only the good of the individual was paramount in Protestant Europe. 

 

 

            In the intellectual sphere, Protestant thinking made itself depend on the most unreliable of authorities, one’s personal feeling or the authority of mere print, like the printed Bible. This doctrine is egotistical but effectively removed the authority of the Pope. This subjectivism made personal experience or emotion the source of authority; and its consequence was spiritual anarchy, wherewith one Catholic doctrine after another was abandoned and substituted with personal opinions of individual preachers. A doctrine that advances the supremacy of the authority of the personal and individual experience is the necessary seed for disaster. This factionalism caused by Protestantism is what imperils the world today. 

 

 

            Sad to say, Catholics, even Cardinals and Bishops, contributed to the dissolution of Europe and the advancement and victory of Protestantism . . .It is said that Cardinal Richelieu aided the Protestants of Germany to defeat the German Catholics by sending Gustavus Adolphus because he feared that a strong Catholic Germany was a threat to Catholic France.  With Cardinals like this, you don’t need Protestants. It is also said that the Catholics of the Netherlands aided the Protestants there against Catholic Spain because they feared the Spanish Catholic soldiers who were looting the Netherlands. So I do not tire in saying that the Catholics contributed much to the success of the Reformation. 

 

 

            The ignorance, neglect, complacency and worldliness of the men of the Church were the breeding grounds for the Reformation.  But that era boasted of great saints.  Sts. Ignatius,  Francis Borgia,  Philip Neri,  Charles Borromeo, Teresa of  Avila,  John  of  the Cross, Thomas  More,  Jerome Emiliani,    Cajetan,  John of  God,  John  of  Avila,  Stanislaus  Kostka, Angela, John  Fisher,  Joseph  Calasanctius, Peter  of  Alcantara,  Peter Canisius, and Robert Bellarmine. 

 

 

            I am sure Luther, Zwingli and Calvin were no match against these saints. A third of these saints could have stopped the tide of the Reformation. Then why did it succeed? It was a punishment from God, a Divine Retribution towards a church that was not faithful to its Bridegroom. It was like Sodom and Gomorrha. There were righteous men, but not enough to withhold God’s retribution. While Europe was losing millions in Europe, the Catholic Church was winning millions to the Faith in Mexico through Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is the old story of God abandoning Israel, Europe, because of her infidelity, and going to the Gentiles, the New World. 

 

 

 

V.    HISTORICAL POSITIONING

 

            The Reformation coincided with the discovery of the Americas and of the Philippines where the Catholic faith would eventually prosper. Italy, Spain, France, Portugal, Hungary, Poland and part of Germany and half of Ireland would remain Catholic. The other half of Ireland and Germany, England, Scotland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Prussia would be dominantly Protestant. When I say, Protestant, I mean they were formerly Catholics who turned Protestant or they were young Catholics who never received Catholic instruction due to the prevailing controversies and wars and, therefore, easily converted to Protestantism. Strictly speaking, they were never Catholics in the first place. 

 

 

            In the next one hundred years, what was thoroughly Catholic Europe became secular in its political, economic and educational features. Whence before, the Spiritual authority was foremost as the unifying force of Europe, now it would be civil. And the civil cannot unite anybody: the unity of Europe would be shattered.  And Europe’s attempt to re-establish that unity today through the European Market is a practice in futility. 

 

 

            The Reformation reduced Europe into a group of nationalistic states with only their self-interest in mind and where religion was used to further national interest. 

 

 

            The Council of Trent would momentarily save the Catholic portion of Europe. But then this portion would slowly succumb to Deism and Rationalism. And the attraction of progressive capitalism in the Protestant countries, especially England, would drive the Catholic nations to adopt the Protestant economic outlook. 

 

 

            Rationalism from Catholic France was devastating. It portrayed the Catholic Church as an outmoded institution, a medieval component of superstition and ignorance. By the 18th century, Catholic France would further breed enlightened despotism . . . which was certainly despotic, but certainly not enlightened. 

 

 

            The Protestant and rationalist outlook gradually triggered the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolution in England, wherein Democracy became desirable. Democracy, hand in hand with liberalism, states that man is independent of all authority outside of himself. If one takes a little time out and dwells into this concept, the consequence is a political system in which the sovereign people is absolutely free, unrestrained by conscience, by Church or by God. Democracy is a system where the people can make decrees even contrary to God’s law: and, by Jove!, they can do it by a mere vote. This is the result of Calvin’s principle in attempting to free the conscience from God, Tradition, and the Pope. The cradle of democracy is such names as Locke, Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, Lessing and Kant. They held teachings contrary to the essence of Catholicism. 

 

 

            And a democratic practice we practise today, copied from the democracy Catholic France institutionalized, is this: if you wish to control the chamber or parliament or senate, kill your opponents. 

 

 

            Note the sequence of events: the duty to be rich by Calvin produced a new middle class. But since they ran out of Church property to loot, they looted the common man whose dignity was further degraded. The wealth of the nation, instead of being possessed by many, was possessed by a few and so the laboring class was further degraded into a horde. Child labor in England should be mentioned here. 

 

 

            Then, through education where the Calvinistic duty to be rich was taught, the workers’ children began to realize class-consciousness; they organized themselves and began to fight the rich that they, too, may be rich. Thus, the war between labor and capital is the consequence of Protestant thinking and democrary. This would destroy Europe and constantly threaten what remained of it. The division of Europe by the Reformation would be the cause of all subsequent wars. It would drive Europe into the unprecedented calamity of the Second World War. And the United Nations’ disregard for the rights of small nations would make the unity of the bigger European nations a joke. 

 

 

 

VI.   HOW A CATHOLIC NATION TURNED PROTESTANT

 

            The Reformation is the story of how Catholics turned Protestant. And this has always been the strategy of Protestants ever since . . . in that they find it easier to proselytize among Catholics, i.e., bad Catholics, rather than among pagans. This is easy in that most Catholics are Protestant at heart, anyway. 

 

 

            And Europe had the perfect atmosphere for such a moral heresy: merchants were emerging as a new class, the decline of Catholic schools, the spread of humanistic culture (wherewith man thought he could handle all his problems.) On the other hand, the church was not only inutile but even a burden: ecclesiastical maladministration, priestly misconduct, burdensome church taxes, yoked the ordinary layman. The Church was so rich she was a temptation for every avaricious heart. 

 

 

            The Reformation began on a good note . . . it was an attempt to return to the spirit of the traditional Church. How it became derailed into becoming an entirely new religion based on an individual’s interpretation of the Bible will be shown below. This rent Europe into two camps, Catholic and Protestant. And, mind you, Bishops and priests apostatized and led their faithful to apostasy. In England, when Parliament passed the Act of Supremacy making the King the head of the Church, Bishops, priests, monks and the laity lined up to take the oath repudiating Papal authority. After the Council of Trent, with God’s help, the Catholic Church maintained her Divine vitality, still embodying the spirit of the early martyrs and saints. 

 

 

            It was the intervention of a few avaricious lords and squires plus the unfortunate mixture of political forces which converted the mutterings of Martin Luther into a catastrophe that shattered the unity of Catholic Europe. If you look at the disunity among the parish priests in a diocese or even among religious in a house, you’ll know what I mean . . . it is so easy to shatter unity. 

 

 

            Henry VIII, bearer of the title, “defender of the Faith”, repudiated the Pope. After he executed Anne Boleyn on charges of infidelity, he was ready to return to the Church. He even enacted laws requiring all English subjects to profess certain Catholic doctrines denied by the Protestants. Henry espoused traditional Catholic doctrines which some modern Catholics today deny . . . like ecclesiastical celibacy, Transubstantiation, sufficiency of Communion under one species, validity of the vow of celibacy, the utility of private masses for the souls in purgatory and auricular private confession. 

 

 

            But the confiscation of monastic properties and revenues devoted to religion, charity and education proved so lucrative, he had to continue his schism. Within ten years, Henry VIII confiscated monastic property worth sixteen million pounds, most of which went to his friends, thus cementing their loyalty to him. 

 

 

            This was the shattering of the dream City of God. It was a rushing towards a purely civil control of material affairs where God would have no part. The Reformation was making this offer: to local rulers, the privilege of looting Church properties; to Bishops, priest, nuns, an excuse to repudiate their vows whose purpose they had forgotten, and, therefore, the privilege to marry. And for the common men, the abolition of Church taxes. Even today, any politician would win on that platform. 

 

 

            What Martin Luther raised was most insignificant. His nailing of his thesis at the door at Wittenburg Castle was a very common practice for medieval debates. That does not have any dramatic significance as many want to give it. It was the aforementioned vested interests that made a mountain out of a molehill. While the lords needed Luther as a plausible excuse for seizing church property, Luther needed the lord’s patronage and protection and material support. It was a parasitic relationship; they used each other. 

 

 

            It is, indeed, a providential act that the Church lost its wealth; it ceased to be the object of avarice. And where would the avaricious look now for loot? They could either borrow from the banks, as Charles V did to frustrate Francis I's hopes for the throne, or they could tax the common man, aggravating his misery, as has always been in the history of man. 

 

 

            With avarice foremost in man’s heart, loyalties took bizarre turns. France would ally itself with the German Emperor, sometimes with the Pope, sometimes with the Protestant Princes, against German Catholics, sometimes with the Turks against a Christian army. The Protestants were always on the side of the Turks against the Catholics. 

 

 

 

VII.   PROBLEM IN ANALYZING

 

            Let me simplify the incidents that led to the Reformation, or, as I wish to describe it more appropriately, the Destruction of Europe, with the hope the reader can say, “I now see how things happened.” We shall attempt to give the spiritual and human motives that contributed to that act of rebellion against a revered and traditional heritage - Christendom. 

 

 

            In the 1500’s, Europe had been Catholic for 15 hundred years. The Reformation was an attack on that institution. To understand what happened, one must know all about this institution, otherwise, we shall never know whether the attack was valid or not. It is the man who knows the Catholic Church that is appalled at the great events that happened; he, alone, can understand what was destroyed by the Reformation. The Protestant historian does not know what was lost; he never had it.  

 

 

            And one who truly knows the Catholic Church will see that the men of the Church did not, except for a few, know the reasons behind Catholic beliefs. And so, gradually, with the onset of the Renaissance, Catholic doctrines like the infallibility of the Pope were turning into myths. Catholicism was eventually viewed like Freudian Psychology, good for its time but exposed as false. 

 

 

            An armchair historian will tend to easily explain the Reformation; and an easy explanation is always a wrong explanation. Because he will tend to see it as a necessary phase from a dark age to an enlightened age, from an age of fanaticism and superstition to an age of happiness. But the happiness is only in his head; not around or in him. Which makes his analysis all wrong. 

 

 

            Only the man who knows what Catholicism is will know what was abandoned; only he will know the void left by the Reformation. He alone will see the problem. How on earth can such a religion, the only true religion, be rejected by half of Europe for an aberration? Why is it that when the fever was gone, the Church’s health did not return? Why was such supreme good allowed to perish? I cannot understand. 

 

 

            I can easily understand the Protestants today: they don’t know any better. But the founders of the Reformation were Catholics. How could men, living in an age when European meant Catholic, when civilization and Occidental meant Catholic, could give up the essence of their culture and leave a void in its stead. Love of money is the only explanation: for money, anyone would sell his own mother. Money sealed the fate of Europe - half of it would choose to be Protestant. 

 

 

            Today, a Catholic may be displeased with a Papal pronouncement or dislike a priest or rebel against a rule; but seldom will he harbor hatred for the Catholic Religion. If one ever does hate Catholicism, he becomes a suspect neurotic or his behavior is described as pathological. And yet this is what happened to Europe during the Reformation. How is it that European Christendom lost its personality? 

 

 

 

VIII.   THE CHURCH IS UNDER CONSTANT ATTACK

 

            To picture the previous era of the Church as peaceful that is eventually disturbed by the Reformation is an illusion historians foster. The Catholic Church had never been peaceful; she had always been under siege, in perpetual conflict, in perpetual peril of extinction from within and without. The reason is simple . . . because she claims to be the only true religion and she is not of the world. 

 

 

            The way of life of the Church, by itself, even without external attackers, is a fierce conflict, a spiritual combat between the soul and the dark forces of evil out to thwart man’s bid for heaven. Though privileged by Constantine the Great to be the state religion and showered with wealth and gifts, the Church was nearly swarmed by the Arian perversion. Though we, students of theology, laugh at such controversies as ridiculous, hair-splitting distinctions, during that time, it was a most serious threat within the church affecting Bishops, priests and monks; it was a parasite that would constantly haunt the church . . . up to the days of the Reformation and even today. 

 

 

            The Arian heresy was more than what we are taught in theology; it was a rationalizing spirit, i.e., the inability to understand one half of the truth that is beyond reason and, as a result, reject that half. It is the same spirit that propelled the Reformation: “How can such things be?” And the Arians persecuted the Catholics as did the Reformers. And the Church had to contend with the Arians for 300 years. 

 

 

            Today, though few Bishops and priests proclaim the teachings of the Catholic Church, at least, the Pope does. Prelude to the Reformation, the Pope did not; he had become a political pawn. Add to this the scandal of Pope going against Pope or the existence of three Popes. The unifying force exerted by the Popes of the 1300’s over Europe was gone.  If the Popes remained spiritual in their role, it would have stayed; but because they became political, it was gone. And as the Reformation progressed, a spiritual Pope could have turned the tide. But a political Pope failed to play his part and paid a heavy price. 

 

 

 

IX.   FERTILE SOIL FOR A SPIRITUAL BREAKDOWN

 

            During these times, the Catholics were doing their traditional practices: but they did not know why. Of course, there were a few shining examples of holiness that explained and clarified Catholic doctrine; but the rest of Catholicism was fossilized, so to speak. Then came the Black Death that decimated even the few shining examples. 

 

 

            Lastly, a feeling of dissatisfaction of the populace at the powers exercised by the clergy, their financial power, the heavy and, oftentimes, unreasonable taxes, the Papal office, though filled with holy and learned men, was turning into an Italian Principate. Having neglected her teaching role, moral anarchy ruled the Church. A few saints raised their voices but the stage was set for the break-up of Europe. 

 

 

            Catholic Europe at the 1500’s was like a dike with high flood waters behind it; only a hole in the dike was needed. In the meantime, everybody felt secure behind the dike. No one believed the dike would give way. 

 

 

            The four elements for the disaster are in place: a.) a clergy ignorant of the way to salvation; b.) an equally spiritually-ignorant and morally-weak laity, especially among the rich; c.) indignation at the failure of the men of the Church to reform themselves; d.) and the devilish tail sticking out in all these events - hatred for anything Catholic. This last element is proof that all the first three are machinations of the evil one. The devil, himself, was attacking the Church. The Church would prevail but the casualties in lost souls would be high. 

 

 

            The corruption of the clergy was not universal but universally-tolerated. This state showed the Church was ill; but the danger was not in the illness but in its neglect. The worldliness of the clergy was most scandalous to the laity. The rich, today, are worse than the clergy at that time; but worldliness in any degree among the clergy and, more so, in the Papacy is unacceptable. 

 

 

            But those aberrations did not trigger a doctrinal disease in that they never regarded vice as virtue as we do today. The knowledge of right and wrong was sound, during that time; the practice, though, was deplorable. 

 

 

            The indignation towards the men of the Church for not reforming themselves was so widespread but quiet; this was the energy behind the Reformation. The Church should never have waited that long. The Church knew the cure: like Nineveh, all should have repented. But she did not move. The waiting is what introduced the element of hatred which, in turn, became the leaven that corrupted the whole process. 

 

 

            Hatred towards the Church will always be there. Christ warned us of it. But the Church must see to it that there is no valid reason for it. Everywhere, the Church is an issue because it constantly restricts man in his worldliness, ambition, desire and pride. And that is annoying. And more hateful is the Church's claim to an absolute authority, like the infallibility of the Pope, and in her insistence that she is the only true religion. 

 

 

            But this time, there was reason for the hatred. The hatred started imperceptibly among very few; but the majority was becoming fertile ground for it. And a striking mark of the Reformation is the intense, sometimes insane, hatred against the Faith. With the hatred set free to express itself, they spat at everything Catholic; and, typical of the devil, it struck at the Mass, the priesthood, and the Pope. Hatred was the singular force that made any return to the True Faith impossible. 

 

 

            The high flood waters were exerting great pressure on the dike. The menace was great and no one saw it. The breach came from an insignificant town, from an unknown man who had no intention of starting a Reformation. Just like any hole in a dike . . . it started with a leak, then a stream, a torrent, then an unstoppable flood. 

 

 

 

X.   THE DESTRUCTION OF CATHOLIC EUROPE

 

            What Martin Luther let loose was not a theological debate; but a revolution with all its incumbent horrors, murder, looters, freebooters and brigands. It is no different from the Russian or French revolution or any revolution that seizes mankind every so often. Even Luther must have been surprised to see himself on top of the wave’s crest. 

 

 

            What happened in Europe is no different from what is happening today in the tribal wars in Africa . . . pure anarchy. It was not a conflict between faiths or philosophies; it is the mere unleashing of what is bestial in man. 

 

 

            The building up of the wave, I wish to summarize, is made up of eternal hatred for the Faith, avarice of the local princes, lords and squires, the loose living of the clergy, and the turning of religion into a mechanical practice. The Vatican heard the rumbling noise and misjudged it as mere bickering among Dominicans and Augustinians. The Church paid dearly for her bad analysis. 

 

 

            By 1519, Luther was still professing his Catholicism; but the undercurrent of avaricious lords who had stolen church properties swept him off his feet. The momentum gathered strength and a new element entered the picture . . . the loss of faith. 

 

 

            Zwingli hastened the momentum. He was a Catholic priest whose deviation from the Church was doctrinal. Luther had no doctrinal deviation at this point. Like Luther, however, Zwingli was just used. Leaning on his doctrine, the government of the Swiss Canton seized Church property and decreed that priests should marry . . . a most efficient weapon for the destruction of the Mass and the priesthood. And true enough, in a short while, the Mass was abolished and Zwingli declared that the Bible under private interpretation was the sole authority for doctrine. 

 

 

            This was followed by the typical Protestant Iconoclasm wherein hooligans went about destroying the precious artistic religious symbols of their ancestors in a barbaric manner. 

 

 

            The priesthood, and its symbol, the Papacy, had to be destroyed to allow them private interpretation since the Catholic Church allowed no private interpretation. And with the priesthood went confession, consecration, alms, good works, and prayers for the dead. 

 

                       

 

Unlike Arianism which was a doctrinal perversion from the start, Protestantism was an honest attempt at reform. It was only later that Luther incorporated errors. Zwingli and Calvin added to the doctrinal perversions. Calvin started an entirely new religion. From the beginning, the Reformation was not a definite heresy; for the first twenty years it had no form. It never meant to start something new: it was a mere complaint on how things were. 

 

 

            Zwingli’s doctrine did not attract the avaricious lords who looted Christ’s Bride. Calvin would correct that and justify the looting of Church property with his “duty to be rich,” in effect, saying, “be rich by keeping what you stole and steal more; if this makes you rich, it is a sign of predestination to heaven.” Sheer genius. 

 

 

            The Reformation is aptly described as a flood because it destroyed much but built nothing. The church could have rebuilt: but she did not. And God was not going to help. God sent the Mohammedans to threaten Europe. Christendom was doomed . . . to be half-Protestant, an entirely new religion to be influenced by Calvin. 

 

 

            Luther’s “Justification by Faith” was an after-thought meant to reject the priestly office. It did not motivate the movement: it was a hollow statement with no life in it. A doctrine like that cannot start anything nor gather any following. 

 

 

            Then Luther fell into that common temptation of many preachers: to tell the audience what they want to hear. So he began with the marriage of the clergy. Even today, that would be very popular. And he added that in some cases, divorce may be lawful; and that would certainly be popular. These were doctrines that did not invite men to high challenges: they merely whet man’s appetite. Of course, Luther received a roar of agreement. 

 

 

            The Reformation movement in England was neither national nor doctrinal. It was personal . . . adultery. Later on, it would be directed by a few men with vested interests acting, not out of a religious sense but, for money. These men would adopt Calvin’s teachings but repudiate Calvin.

 

            The incident with Henry VIII was a miscalculation on his part. He did not intend it to be so; it was an accident. There was nothing doctrinal: it could have been averted. It was purely political though wrought with incalculable risk. Henry VIII’s break with Rome was through the machination of Cromwell who didn’t care for anybody except to fill up his pocket. 

 

 

            Aspersions were hurled at Ann Boleyn unfairly. Henry VIII was a womanizer; he had an affair with the elder sister of Ann.  Now he wanted Ann. But Ann would not have anything to do with him . . . unless she was legally married to him. A strong and moral woman she was. And therein was the problem . . . she insisted in being wife and Queen, not a mistress. It was a self-controlled Ann against a flabby, weak Henry. And when Henry needed a theological opinion in favor of his annulment with Catherine, Cromwell bribed theologians to rule in his favor. 

 

 

            Frankly, Henry had a point since Catherine was previously married to Arthur, brother of Henry VIII, who had died early. But the case is not clear to me. So I would never suggest that Catherine should have given in. Anyway, the case was decided in England by Archbishop Cranmer, a friend of the Boleyn family whose mind was exclusively preoccupied with the advancement of his profession and nothing else. 

 

 

            This is sad because England had the least corruption among the men of the Church. Yet, in England, the looting of the Church was most thoroughly done and the stamping out of monasteries complete. All because of a permanent financial crisis in England where expenditures were always outrunning revenue. This financial crisis was, at first, being solved by forced loans, falsifying currency, and imposing heavier taxes. When it didn’t work, the looting of the moneyed church began in full. With the looting of the Church, England became suddenly possessed of a vast capital sum which should have sufficed for all its needs. But this is not how avarice works. With the looted wealth, England should have been the most powerful monarchy in Europe. But that is not how it turned out. 

 

 

            Thomas Cromwell pocketed much of it; this loot would make Oliver Cromwell influential later on. All the members of the Reformation Parliament shared the loot. It was this loot and their consequent influence that made Queen Elizabeth practically a slave to them. 

 

 

 

          CALVIN

           

            Calvin was every avaricious businessman’s heart’s desire. His genius consisted in writing down what evil was already being done and accepted by many but without good reason. He would give a sound reason for doing evil. His genius is that what was done but considered evil he transformed as something seemingly good and even a sign of predestination. And Calvinism is the core of Protestantism up to this day.

 

            Calvin introduced the practice of people electing ministers; but after their election, ministers cease to be servants of the people and become arrogant superiors of the electors. Try asserting your right over a parking space when a senator wants your space; see how his bodyguards treat you . . . thanks to Calvin. 

 

 

            For Calvin, the printed word has more authority than the living tradition. The way one interprets Scriptures today is more reliable than the two thousand years of traditional practice of the Church. He made humility a vice and the love of money a virtue. He made the insatiable appetite an object of worship. His love of money went against every Catholic concept of good works and self-denial which entailed giving up of money. He encouraged his followers to enrich themselves; and they did so . . . by looting the Catholic Church. 

 

 

            Calvin inevitably had to attack the priesthood and showed his hatred for the Creed and the discipline of the Church. Then he put up his own religion. The devil had shown his true colors. 

 

 

            By now, the force that began as indignation against the corruption of the clergy, especially at their wealth, had turned into an intense, fierce and increasing hatred against the Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. It was exactly the same hatred that prompted the killing of innocents in the hope of killing Christ, the same hatred that crucified Christ on the cross.  But now, it had organization, a philosophy and staff . . . led by the genius of Calvin. The Catholics and the Protestants were now in line for a battle that would tear Europe asunder. 

 

 

            And the church, so to speak, did nothing to stop it. The Popes were paralyzed by continuous political wrangling between the Medici, Orsini, Colonna and Borgia; and also by the bitter political struggles of the leading European states. It was politics, politics and more politics, if they were not busy protecting the Papal real estates.  

 

 

            Let me describe a typical Pope at that time. There was Leo X. He was tonsured at age 7, became a Cardinal at 13, and a Pope at 38. He loved the arts and was fond of music, the theatre, hunting and elaborate banquets. Deeply interested in politics, he was unscrupulous as to the means he employed. Some Cardinals tried to assassinate him. He had the leader, Cardinal Petrucci, executed. He appointed Cardinals at a price. Della Mirandola sort of prophesied about Leo X, saying: if Leo continues this way, God will punish us. 

 

 

            Deaf to good advice, Leo X raised funds for the building of St. Peter’s by proclaiming new indulgences. He did not heed Alexander’s advice to act more wisely in handling Martin Luther. A vigorous reform in the men of the Church, even only in the Papacy, could have saved the day. But Pope Leo X was taken up with his arts, amusements, busy accumulating funds for his depleted treasury and more concerned about the political situation than the spiritual welfare of Christendom. 

 

 

            In Mainz and Magdeburg, the preaching of indulgences was given to Bishop Albert who paid 14,000 ducats (about $50,000) to be Bishop with money borrowed from the banking house of Fugger. To pay back his debt, he asked for half of the money collected from indulgences. Catholicism looked more like the stock market. 

 

 

            It is also said that King Francis I offered a million gold thalers for the election of a Pope to his liking. Cardinal Wolsey offered a hundred thousand ducats to be elected Pope. But this era of the Reformation, with due respect, did not produce bad or immoral Popes. Many of them were, in fact, good Popes. But none of their efforts could stop the on-coming storm. Added to the Pope’s headache were the schismatical councils held by Cardinals, like the assembly at Pisa which decreed the suspension of the Pope. 

 

 

            The Reformation wasn’t a reaction: It was more like the stench that came from a corrupt church. The Reformation was not the medicine; it was the pus.  

 

 

            By this time, also, most of the existing religious orders were so scandalously relaxed; they were in no position to resist the pressure of Protestantism. In fact, a large number of monks and nuns joined the apostasy. And so Trent busied itself more with the reformation of the old religious orders. 

 

 

 

XI.   CALVINISM AND DEMOCRACY

 

            Luther’s teachings emphasized obedience to the established government; this was attractive to heads of states who easily adopted Lutheranism to control the people.  Calvin, on the other hand, taught the supremacy of the enlightened conscience which sees the will of God; this was bestowed on a few . . . of course, the Calvinists. These few could, therefore, resist monarchs and heads of states . . . and were bestowed with the right to rule the sinful world. This was attractive to the business class who always wished to control the heads of states.  Calvinism carried the seeds of democracy. 

 

 

            Calvinism, in effect, is saying that ‘a group of people, if they believe they are more enlightened than the civil head and more righteous than the king, may dislodge that king and rule in their stead.’ And true enough, the kings of Europe were dislodged, one by one; the Czar of Russia was also dislodged this way and, eventually, even the King of Catholic France . . . all through the Calvinistic-inspired people’s power. 

 

 

            Shall I venture to repeat the fact that Democracy is a Protestant Calvinistic teaching that contributed to the eventual corruption of the Catholic Church? And the adaptation of the Church and religious orders to democratic practices has contributed to the scandalous relaxation of these orders today. St. Robert Bellarmine, a Jesuit, held this idea; though another Jesuit, Suarez, not a saint, had some democratic element in his teachings . . . that’s probably why he is not a saint. 

 

 

            Democracy is not a Calvinistic invention though. It existed long before Christianity. But it was recognized as un-Catholic. Today, it is accepted as the model for all in the Church. Pascal agrees democracy is useful and most effective in ruling beasts in men’s clothing; but it is not for the Church. 

 

 

 

            LUTHER  and ZWINGLI

 

            Luther and Zwingli were both Catholic priests. Basic to their teachings is justification by faith alone . . . which, if interpreted correctly, is Catholic. Their mistake consists in this: the knowledge on how to be justified by faith is not learned from the divinely-established Church and her Tradition, but on the private, individual interpretation of Scriptures. That should produce as many interpretations as there are people interpreting . . . and it did just that. But no matter how diverse were their interpretations, they were united in the repudiation of Papal authority . . . and, I would even say, hatred for the Catholic Church. 

 

 

            Lutheranism and Calvinism were the two predominant Protestant sects but they all overlapped. All of them lost their connection with the Episcopacy by their repudiation of it. The Anglicans lost theirs with Matthew Parker where a wrong formula for consecration was used. 

 

 

            Whenever Princes espoused Protestantism, their first move was the dissolution of the monasteries to acquire their assets and the abolition or changing of the ritual of the Mass. The first was meant to enrich themselves; the second to remove the obligation of returning their stolen wealth. 

 

 

            Zwingli did not even wait for Princes to seize Church properties. He started it himself (having gotten control of the state council of Zurich) and, as usual, prohibited the celebration of the Mass. But it was Calvin who systematized the heresy: he imposed obligatory church attendance and non-conformists were punished severely, even with death. 

 

 

            Zwingli lived in Switzerland when everyone was in a deplorable spiritual condition, including himself. His program consisted in abolition of the mass, the sacraments of penance and extreme unction, indulgences and pilgrimages, the destruction of relics, altars, pictures and sacred vessels. He denounced celibacy, encouraged monks and nuns to marry and encouraged the state to loot church properties. 

 

 

 

XII.   LOSING THE BATTLE

 

            Destroying the Church in England was easy. Anyone could have done it. It simply consisted in forbidding everything that would keep the Church alive. Let the old Catholics die out and keep the young ones ignorant. Prevent children from getting instruction in the Catholic Faith. Hunting out the priest and forbidding the mass and the sacraments would hasten the process. The persecution of the Catholic Church persisted long enough to form what was once England’s religion into a mere sentiment. From a sentiment, it became a mere memory; from a memory, it was easily forgotten. In 1688, Catholic life died out in England. Left behind was a population of millionaires enriched by looting the church headed by Cecil, the mastermind of the looting. The King’s in-laws, the Seymours, neglected their business and simply wallowed in their newly-found ecclesiastical wealth. 

 

 

            Later on, the millionaires would raise Elizabeth to the throne and have Mary Stuart executed. Elizabeth, who detested Protestant doctrines, had to concede to them to keep her throne. 

 

 

            In Scotland, the Church was immensely rich. And for the few nobles who were already benefiting by drawing from clerical revenues, Calvinism offered an easy reason for absorbing the whole. These nobles were very few; the trouble was that no Catholic put a stop to it. 

 

 

            In the Netherlands, the problem was not religious either: it was economics and politics. It was Catholic Spanish soldiers who looted the churches and monasteries. The rich Catholics had to unite with the Calvinists to protect themselves. After ousting the Spaniards, they saw the opportunity of getting richer. They, in turn, looted the Church. And in the tradition of Orange, they tortured the monks together with the destruction of every religious work of art. Today, Antwerp is still like that . . . bare. 

 

 

 

XIII.   THE CATHOLIC REACTION

 

            The defense of the Catholic Church is always taken up by God Himself. But, as usual, He chooses His human instrument . . . and only a few of them. God has installed a mechanism in the Church whereby it renews itself, if and when it is needed. The mechanism goes into effect, not one minute earlier, not one minute later. He has His reasons and we shall not ask, “Why not earlier.” To insinuate that things would have been different if a COUNCIL were held earlier, would put in doubt the wisdom of God. A council could not have done anything . . . though some Catholic Historians would want to believe otherwise. Arguments, discussions, wrangling, committee meetings, synods and conferences are not known to have renewed the Church. 

 

 

            The counter-Reformation hardly worked in saving Europe. Eventually, each Catholic nation would be lost; Catholic France would be lost during the French Revolution, others to communism. The rest would be lost to industrial capitalism or materialism. So what counter- Reformation are we talking about? 

 

 

            The Reformation was a punishment for an unfaithful church that had become like the unfaithful Jewish nation in the Old Testament. God was punishing Europe; and just like all His just punishments, it was not an iota less or an iota more. 

 

 

            And so, the Saints raised by God during this era were saints who never had any plans of a counter-Reformation or anything like that. Surprisingly, the instruments used by God were men and women who indirectly reformed the Church by simply being Holy. I repeat, they had no plans of reforming the Church . . . they only wanted to be holy. It is by being holy, by seeking God’s kingdom of holiness first that they reformed the church. 

 

 

            We have mentioned some of these saints: Ignatius of Loyola, Philip Neri, Charles Borromeo, Teresa of Avila, John of God, Stanislaus Kostka. 

 

 

            Hilaire Belloc, noted Catholic historian, knew how renewal is initiated. The formula is not new; it is as old as the Old Testament: REPENTANCE. “If the men at this time repented, the attack upon the Catholic Church would have had no success. If only the men of the Church denounced their own guilt and their worldly lives and the gross scandal of their impurity, their oppression of the poor, the exaggeration of mechanical aids to religion, the occasional use of fraud even in the election of Popes and appointment of Bishops and the chicanery in clerical courts.” Funny, but Hilaire says, if only “they repented and turned anchorite” . . . a very exact ascetical and theological solution. “And if the rich abandoned their wealth and gave them to the poor,” he continued. Doesn’t this sound like the Gospel? How come Hilaire, a layman, knew this: how come the ecclesiastical authorities did not know it? 

 

 

            Europe had sinned against her God; and the only solution was repentance. And note that the saints who led the counter-Reformation were simply repenting, not for the sins of the world, but for their own personal sins. And their lives showed nothing except proofs of their personal repentance. 

 

 

            St. Ignatius of Loyola, whom historians quote as having spearheaded the counter-Reformation, had that farthest from his mind. After an injury from a battle, he just wanted to lead a holy life and spend much of his time composing the spiritual exercises to aid others in being holy. If he wanted to convert anyone, it was the Saracens, not Europe. 

 

 

            St. Philip Neri simply wanted to work among the poor boys. John of God simply worked for the sick. Stanislaus Kostka, who died at the age of 18, is known simply for having defied his powerful family to follow Christ. THE WAY TO REFORM THE CHURCH IS TO SEEK PERSONAL HOLINESS: leave the reforming to God. Aloysius Gonzaga died before ordination, attending to plague-stricken people. 

 

 

            It is not accurate to say that the Jesuits led the counter-Reformation. It was more because the first Jesuits were personally holy. Francis Borgia and Francis Xavier were more concerned with foreign missions. And there was Peter Canisius and Robert Bellarmine. Even if the entire Jesuit order today were in Europe at that time, without holy people like their founders, they would not have even slowed down the spiritual dismemberment of Europe. Holy people - living saints - is the key to any renewal or counter- Reformation. And when people are not holy, they are usually stupid, corrupt and cowardly . . . and this is the description of Catholic Europe at that time. 

 

 

            Historians state that St. Philip Neri, also, spearheaded the counter-Reformation. If you read his life, there was nothing of that sort in his work. Even the role of the Jesuits in the Reformation was incidental in their history. St. Philip Neri is said to have reformed the clergy; he did not. He merely encouraged his priests and other priests who came in contact with him to be holy. All holy people do that.

 

            Repentance precedes chastisement: people repent to prevent chastisement, as the people of Nineveh did. But, often, repentance follows chastisement . . . or, more often, as what happened to the Israelites and to 16th century Europe and to us, today, chastisement comes (this saddens us) . . . but we never repent. What a waste! 

 

 

            The devil was so visible in the attacks on the Catholic Church that, really, nothing, absolutely nothing else, could have neutralized it but PERSONAL HOLINESS. I never heard of any other way of thwarting a devil’s attack. Note that the attacks were intense, fanatical and unscrupulous. Well, fanatics are always unscrupulous because they are sincere on a narrow issue. The hatreds are of a flaming sort . . . and very crude. 

 

 

            The Church could have easily reasoned out the rationality of Catholic beliefs and shut the mouth of the irrational attackers. But at that time, the church  lived complacently on the long-accepted and unchallenged traditional practices that she really had lost track of the reasons for Catholic beliefs. Religion had become routine and had gradually turned into instinctive practice; the Catholic Church had lost its habit and skill in analysis. So when the attack came, the Church groped for answers it never learned; it defended herself blindly. At the first attack, the enemy seemed to have the right arguments, simply because the Church was not ready with her arguments. The attackers were winning by default. 

 

 

            The above-enumerated saints argued most convincingly in favor of the Church. It was the humility in their way of life and presentation of arguments that made their arguments unassailable. The humility in one’s way of life and arguments is the greatest proof it is from God. How can you argue against that? And that slowed down the flood waters. But as the Saints dwindled after the next centuries, the rest of Europe succumbed to the de-Catholization of Europe. 

 

 

 

XIV.   CONCLUSION

 

            The Catholic Church in the 1500’s, as in every era, is likened to a wheat field. When the laborers were asleep, the enemy, the evil one, came and sowed tares in the field. And when the seeds grew, the laborers were surprised. “Didn’t we plant only wheat; from whence did the tares come from?” God, for the meantime, had allowed the good seed, which He planted, to exist side by side with the bad seed sown by the evil one in the Church. 

 

 

            And so, it was in the 1500’s; the Church was not attacked from without. The attack was from within; from within the Catholic Church, from the tares planted by the devil in the Catholic Church. It was the evil one attacking the wheat, the true children of the Church, by sowing tares within the institutional Church. It was a classical move the evil one had never even bothered to modify. He always does it that way because it always works; and so, it worked in Europe. 

 

 

            Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, the incompetent clergy, the avaricious businessmen, the ignorant laity . . . most of the actors in the drama of the Reformation were tares. And the Catholics that were lost and the rest that remained, but were eventually lost, were tares. They should have transformed themselves into wheat, as the Fathers believed it to be possible. But because they remained tares, they attacked the wheat as weeds would the good plants but did not overwhelm the wheat. The actors in the Reformation were not good men who were corrupted; they were tares who merely showed their true colors. 

 

 

            Exactly the same thing happened earlier in the Church. The Arian and Pelagian heresies came from within. And today, the most insidious heresy, modernism, has its origin from within. What happened during the Reformation is no different from what has been happening to the Church; it was not surprising, it was expected. Except that the men of the Church did not expect it. 

 

 

            When the laborers suggested to the husbandman to remove the tares, he said, no. Why does God allow wheat and tares to be together? For the meantime, he says . . . that each, by his own choice, may show the sincerity of his heart; and so that the unshaken faith of the true Bride may shine with redoubled luster, states St. Cyprian. At the end times, yes, the angels will separate the tares from the wheat and burn the tares. But in the meantime, God has allowed them to be side by side. There is no danger to the wheat; the tares are the only losers. 

 

 

            As long as the tares are with the wheat, the Reformation will continue even up to now because it is the work of the evil one going through his avowed work of trying to destroy the Church by working through the tares within the church.  And in this our day, since the evil one knows his time is short, he surely will sow more tares, more virulent than before, in one last but futile effort to destroy the good seeds. It is said that, at that time, the Catholics did evil, but they knew it was evil; today, when Catholics do evil, they think it is not evil . . . or worse, they think that it is good, just because everybody is doing it. Today, we must shout louder what Augustine said: “Good is good even if nobody is doing it; bad is bad, even if everybody is doing it.” 

 

 

            Only the tares will be lost. What is significant here is: just as in the 1500’s, the tares in the drama of the Reformation were Bishops, priests, monks, nuns and Catholic laymen. Who among us can say we are not the tares of the 20th century? Are we wheat? Do you know what it means to be wheat? And if you are tares, do you know how to be transformed into wheat? These thoughts are for us. 

 

 

            If the wheat are the saints and the Catholics lost to the Reformation are the tares, to what shall I compare the Reformation? The Church is like a man in the Old Testament allowed to have a true wife and a concubine. The true wife is the wheat and the concubine is the tares. The concubine becomes unfaithful; she not only flirts but has a live-in affair with another man, the world, whose prince is the evil one, God’s only rival for the affection of souls. The bastard child of that concubine is the Reformation. 

 

 

 

            CAUTIONS IN REFORMS

 

            As in former times, the Church will always have defects . . . because she will always have tares within her fold. And so, there will always be reasons to complain of her state. And the honest desire to cure her of her tares will always be in the best of us. But we must beware against unenlightened zeal. It was unenlightened zeal which turned the good intentions of Luther into a disaster. The same thing can happen to us. 

 

 

            “They are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge since they do not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.” This is Luther’s brief biography. He had a zeal for God but it was not based on the Tradition of the Church and the writings of her great saints. So, he established his own concept of righteousness . . . that leads to I-don’t-know-where. 

 

 

            Unenlightened zeal is usually motivated by pride; it is a belief that we, and we alone, can renew the Church. If we are enlightened, we shall see that that comes from the devil, the father of pride. And God and His Church will never and should never concede to a correction motivated by pride because that would be encouraging pride. If there is anything God hates, it is pride . . . shown by the way He punished the angels because of their pride.  . 

 

 

            The way to correct the illnesses of the church is through Humility; it is through humility that the wheat remain wheat, it is through humility that the tares are transformed into wheat. And humility is this: that we believe that there is nothing we can do to reform the church because we cannot even reform ourselves. Besides, we are nothing. And the beginnings of humility consists in that we correct our defects and not mind the defects of others. For the more we see the defects of others, the less we see our defects; while the more we concentrate on our defects, the less we shall see the defects of others. So, if we look too much at the defects of others, like the church, we probably have more serious defects which we are unconscious of. 

 

 

            And the first outward manifestation of humility, the proof that we are conscious and are working at our own defects, is obedience to Rome. Today, many are barking at the defects of the Church . . . but with pride. Their pride is a greater defect than the defect they are barking at. The Church, before listening to their complaints, must first ascertain the presence of humility; with humility, then the Church knows the correction is from God, for anything with pride comes from the devil. 

 

 

            To those with an unenlightened zeal, let me repeat, only God can reform the Church. Note how holy reformers are. They are always relaxed when reforming the Church. History also shows when God reforms His Church, it is because Bishops, priests and religious, whose job is to prevent the need for reformation, have failed in their job. So, God does not use them. God chooses the least likely candidates; usually the weak - the uninformed, the lay - but humble. God also does not use religious orders since the existing ones have also failed to stem the need for reformation. If God uses a particular order, He first sends a holy person to renew that order. So we go back to a humble, holy person as the only instrument of reform. 

 

 

            Sts. Benedict, Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Colet, Catherine of Sienna, were mere laymen. Being humble and holy, God used them to reform Popes, Bishops and priests and the whole Church. They were the wheat who were able to turn some tares into wheat. The true Church shines through the virtues of her saints, especially humility. But, of course, there remain many tares to reckon with. 

 

 

            Sadly, the ills that led to the Reformation are still with us, except that we don’t need a Luther as an excuse. We use socially-acceptable reasons to worship our lust. And so the ravaging of the Church continues because, unlike Nineveh where all, including babies and animals, performed acts of repentance, the Church, as a whole, has not repented. Yes, a handful are doing so, like in the 1500’s but, for God, this is not good enough: “ . . . if there were 20 . . . if there were 10 . . . but there was not 10.”

 

            But for us, let this be a thought: let us quietly work to learn how to be humble. For it is in being humble that we shall be certain that we belong to the true Catholic Church because we have the virtue of her founder, Jesus Christ, Who said: “I am meek and humble of heart.” Humility is also the only sure sign that we are from God; and the overwhelming sign that the Catholic Church is the true Church.   

 

 

 

 

(updated 01-04-02)

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The Winnowing Fan hopes ..." to do what little it could to solve the evils that beset the church."

                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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