Crisis in Family and Church Put Under Spotlight

Rome conference examines attacks on the family and the faith as the Church marks the 100th anniversary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider addresses the Rome Life Forum, May 19, 2017.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider addresses the Rome Life Forum, May 19, 2017. (photo: Edward Pentin photo)

The crisis of secularization assaulting both the family and the Church was given a thorough analysis at a meeting of Church and pro-life leaders in Rome last month.

Under the theme “The family under attack: protecting parents as primary educators,” the Rome Life Forum, which took place at the Hotel Columbus May 18-19, heard from a variety of speakers including the former founding president of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and the Family, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, the patron of the Knights of Malta, Cardinal Raymond Burke, and the Church historian Roberto de Mattei.

Over 100 life and family leaders from over 20 nations took part in the meeting to discuss the current crisis and the hope for renewal in Our Lady of Fatima.

Here below are summaries of most of the speeches in chronological order. Links to their full texts can be found on the Voice of the Family website here.


A History of Revolutions and Their Consequences for the Family

— Roberto de Mattei, president of the Lepanto Foundation.

The Church historian placed into historical context the current crisis in the family and in the Church, explaining how the process of the dissolution of the family had its “decisive moment” in the Protestant Revolution initiated by Martin Luther. The “pan-sexualist utopia” it fostered moved from religion to politics in the French Revolution, while the Russian Revolution brought the French one “to completion.” De Mattei noted how a few weeks after the Bolsheviks rose to power, divorce was introduced, abortion legalized in 1920, prostitution and homosexuality de-criminalized in 1922. A further collapse in sexual ethics took place in the subsequent decades, leading to the Sexual Revolution of 1968 — the “most devastating” of all the preceding revolutions because it “assaulted the family and transformed the everyday life of society.” De Mattei argued that the Church was the one force that could have stopped the process of moral dissolution but the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s was effectively hijacked, so that instead of confirming with clarity the purpose of marriage and the duty of the family and condemning errors in morals, the Church became only interested in dialogue with the contemporary world and subscribed to a concept of man as a “transforming reality.” Amoris Laetitia, he argued, has its roots in the Council, the Church’s own revolution, and now what is at stake is not only the family but the “absolute and immutable moral law” — something the Four ‘Dubia’ Cardinals have recognized. By contrast, he said Tradition is a “vital principle” while the revolutionary process can only be oriented towards “self-destruction.” The message of Fatima, De Mattei said, is one set against the prevailing Gnosticism and egalitarian ideology, and sums up “all our principles” to oppose “all the errors of our time.”


From Divorce to Transhumanism

— Father Francesco Giordano, Rome office director, Human Life International

Father Giordano noted that “rights talk” today often refers to individual rights because this is a concept that has seeped into our mentality since the Enlightenment, but asked: what about family rights? He looked at how the Magisterium of the Church since the papacy of Benedict XIV in the 1740s has defended the marriage sacrament so as to defend the family and fundamentally man. He then considered the so-called “gender issue” from a metaphysical perspective, seeing how it is only one part of a long chain of events from contraception, abortion, and divorce which have threatened the family and man himself. Finally, he examined the anthropological changes in man that result from these changes in his social relationships, and how they are being confronted by a transhumanist mentality that is a sign of man’s demise. The only response to all of these threats, he said, is found in strong traditional family units.


The Proper Role of Parents in the Formation of Their Children

— Duke Paul Von Oldenburg, director of the Brussels Bureau of Federation Pro Europa Christiana.

Von Oldenburg, a married father of five, laid out the foundations of the current crisis affecting the family, and reminded those present it is “our strict moral duty” to protect innocent human life and the family in order to preserve what remains of Christian Civilization. He stressed the importance of innocence, what it properly means, and how vital it is in combating evil. He explained why parents must be a representation of God to their children and fulfil their primary role as their educators. Having explained the true roles of a mother and father, he spoke of how astonished he was by the model of parenthood promoted in Amoris Laetitia. The document, he argued, undermines the proper role of parents in forming their children, mainly by its omissions (one example being no mention of contraception despite its “devastating consequences”). But he also took the document to task for stating marriage as firstly an “intimate partnership of life and love” and placing the begetting of offspring as a “secondary end” — and therefore opening the door to further questioning of Humanae Vitae. He further criticized Amoris Laetitia for its “egalitarianism,” rejecting any form of submission of a woman to her husband, thereby challenging the hierarchical structure of the family, firmly established by God. In turn, he said, this undermines parental authority. Von Oldenburg concluded by encouraging all to oppose the “deleterious teachings” of Amoris Laetitia and remain instead staunchly faithful to the traditional, unchangeable teachings of the Church. Remaining in the Truth of Christ, he said, is the first important step in the battle to restore Innocence. Parents, he said in closing, “have a primordial role, as custodians before God of the Innocence of our children. A crusade we all have to wage and must win for the greater glory of God.”


The Sex-Education Agenda and the Catholic Church

— Matthew McCusker, deputy international director, Society for the Protection of Unborn Children

Noting that all governments and international organizations are aggressively promoting abortion and contraception, McCusker highlighted the fact that the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for universal access to “sexual and reproductive health” — the slogan used for abortion and contraception. In view of this, he warned that the SDGs are effectively calling on member states to secure universal access to abortion worldwide by 2030. Furthermore, the SDGs also call for “information and education” in this regard, and thus, he contended, promote damaging sex education programs worldwide. McCusker documented how the Catholic Education Service of the bishops’ conference of England and Wales has succumbed to this secular ideology surrounding sex education, even appointing as deputy director someone who had praised abortion providers and the UN Population Fund, and implemented a radical sex education similar to one the UK government withdrew as legislation in 2010. McCusker pinpointed a list of problems associated with the CES program and a recently leaked document of the bishops’ education service that states children must be taught to learn LGBT terminology.  He then turned to Amoris Laetitia and observed that despite many papal documents on sex education, he believes “clear adherence” to them is “tragically” not found in Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation. He also singled out for criticism a sex education program endorsed by the Pontifical Council for the Family last year. McCusker concluded by stressing a “clear convergence” between the radical sexual rights activists’ approach, and that adopted by Church institutions. As examples, he highlighted the SDGs (Church leaders have accepted them without reserve and the Pope has said he is “gratified” by them) and the Pontifical Academy of Science and Social Sciences recent hosting of leading population controllers at the Vatican. He concluded by urging prayer to Our Lady of Fatima: that she may crush the head of Satan and we may soon witness the complete Triumph of Her Immaculate Heart.


The Catholic Church and the Anti-Church Currently Co-Exist in the Same Sacramental, Liturgical and Juridical Space

— Father Linus Clovis, spiritual director, Family Life International.

Father Clovis recalled Pope St. John Paul II’s words, delivered two years before his election: “We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel,” adding how we must be prepared to “undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future.” Today, having wilfully neglected Our Lady’s warnings at Fatima, Father Clovis observed a “growing sense” that something is wrong, and something has to give. He spoke of how the Petrine authority has “whittled away” and how the sensus catholicus is troubled. But he called on those present not to be paralyzed by fear and instead to “cleave the deepening darkness with the light of truth.” Turning to John Paul II’s “Church and the Anti-Church”, he argued that the crisis within the contemporary Church has been brought to “fever pitch, if not breaking point” by the “rejection of Our Lord’s yes/no paradigm and the undermining of established doctrinal positions by protean pastoral practices.” Consequently, Father Clovis said it is “self-evident” that the Catholic Church and the anti-Church “currently co-exist in the same sacramental, liturgical and juridical space.” The latter within the Church have collaborated with secular powers to “browbeat the Church into submission,” intimidating “bishops, clergy, and most of the Catholic press into silence.” If they stand up, they are labelled as “little monsters, throwing stones at poor sinners,” and they see themselves as less deserving of a papal embrace than population control and abortion advocates. But Father Clovis added that Pope Francis has proved a “great and true blessing,” throwing into the open a hidden conflict raging in the Church for over 100 years. Amoris Laetitia, he said, is a catalyst, and unless doubts about it are resolved, a separation is to be expected. To reduce the likelihood of that happening, he continued, the reality must be faced squarely, the problem must be acknowledged and identified. The Church’s teachings must be defended, and loss of livelihoods is of “little import as long as we can remain faithful to Christ’s Church.” As with other speakers, Father Clovis urged the audience not to be afraid, for in the end the Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph. “We will fight, not hesitantly but, with courage,” Father Clovis said in closing, “not in secret but, in public; not behind closed doors but, in the open. Audemus fidem nostram defendere! Non timemus!”


The Catholic Family is the First Bulwark Against the Current Great Apostasy

— Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan

Bishop Schneider drew on previous papal teachings firstly to underline how the original and first duty of parents is to educate their children, above all, in the Catholic faith. Quoting Pope St. John Paul II, he stressed how the family is the domestic church, and how the future of humanity “passes by way of the family.” It is the place where the young can receive an “authentic catechesis” Bishop Schneider said, adding that one of the main causes of the current moral, spiritual and religious crisis is “religious ignorance.” He described the beauty of the Catholic family, how it can be the seedbed of vocations, the original place of the beauty of the Catholic Faith, and gave examples from the past, such as St. Therese of the Infant Jesus. Turning to today, he observed “a great apostasy” in the Church that ultimately renounces Christ to accept the spirit of the world, high-ranking prelates stubbornly affirming obvious doctrinal, moral and liturgical errors, condemned 100 times. And yet a “growing number of Church leaders and faithful shout ‘Everything is just fine, Milady!’.” As with another speaker, he warned of Pope St. Pius X’s prophecy of a “One-World Church” without dogmas or hierarchy. The Catholic family, however, represents the “first bulwark against the current great apostasy,” he said, and the two most effective weapons are purity and integrity of the faith and the purity of a chaste life. “What the current world and the Church mostly need,” he concluded, “are true Catholic families, the original places of the beauty of the Catholic Faith.”


“We Are No Longer Witnesses, But Deserters if we Do Not Speak Openly and Publicly”

— Cardinal Carlo Caffarra, archbishop emeritus of Bologna.

Satan is hurling “the ultimate and terrible challenge” at God, showing he is capable of constructing an “anti-creation” that mankind will be deceived into thinking is better than what God has created, Cardinal Carlo Caffarra warned in his talk. He said this confrontation is taking place now and is being fought primarily over marriage and the family — a prediction made by Sister Lucia, in a letter the Fatima visionary sent to him over 30 years ago. He began by explaining that human history has always been a tale of confrontation between two forces: “The force of attraction,” that is the wounded Heart of the Crucified Risen One, and the “power of Satan,” the father of lies, the “murderer from the beginning” who seeks to extinguish truth in the heart of man. This area of confrontation, the cardinal continued, is being fought in an interior and exterior dimension: within both the human heart and human culture. He warned how Satan seeks to kill truth in the heart of man by “inducing” him to unbelief, therefore always working against the Lord’s strong force of attraction to Himself, seeking to “neutralize” it. And this battle within the human heart becomes manifest in society and culture, leading to “the culture of the truth and the culture of the lie.” This confrontation, Cardinal Caffarra went on to explain, shows in the transformation of the crime of abortion into a legal and subjective right and the “ennoblement of homosexuality” through same-sex “marriage” — effectively denying entirely the truth of marriage. Both, he said, represent the destruction of “two pillars of creation,” the work of Satan who wants to build an actual anti-creation. “This,” he said, “is the ultimate and terrible challenge which Satan is hurling at God. ‘I am demonstrating to you that I am capable of constructing an alternative to your creation. And man will say: it is better in the alternative creation than in your creation.’” It is constructed around a profound contempt for man. But to combat it, Cardinal Caffarra stressed the importance of witness, not to remain silent, and to “hunt down the sin,” condemn it, and bring to light its insubstantiality. He also said Sister Lucia’s words to him — that the “decisive confrontation” between the Kingdom of God and Satan “will take place over marriage and the family” — is happening now.


The Secret of Fatima and a New Evangelization

Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke, patron of the Sovereign Order of Malta.

Reminding those present that the Virgin Mother of God never ceases to beat with love for us, Cardinal Burke said Our Lady showed herself “in a most wonderful way” to the shepherd children of Fatima. He went through the various apparitions one by one, including a terrifying vision of Hell. But while the first part of the Secret gives a severe admonition, it is also full of hope in God’s unfailing grace which brings about repentance of sins, the cardinal said. He then explained how, in the second part of the Secret, the Blessed Virgin tells of how the peace of God will come through the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart, and the practice of the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturday of the month, both of which, the cardinal said, have not taken place. Cardinal Burke went on to explain how the third part of the Secret is directed with “particular force” to the hierarchy and how their failure to teach the faith puts souls in great peril — something, he said, that has been witnessed in recent decades. He stressed how important it is to realize how much secularization has entered the Church, and how vital is the witness and personal holiness of the laity, a key concern of Pope St. John Paul II. This is especially true when it comes to the family and Christian education, he added. Cardinal Burke explained how today the Pope is a witness to the “almost apocalyptic menaces” looking over mankind, but urged the faithful not to be discouraged and instead heed the “maternal direction” of the Virgin of Fatima for a “new evangelization of the Church and, thus, of the world.” As well as carrying out what the Blessed Virgin asked of the faithful at Fatima, he also called on the faithful to “work for the consecration of Russia to the Immaculate Heart” — an unexpected and historic appeal. The Immaculate Heart of Mary will triumph over any darkness in our hearts, Cardinal Burke said in closing. Through her triumph, he added, she will be victorious over the “great darkness” of our time by leading souls to the truth and love of her Divine Son, and “continue to speak to our hearts, as she spoke to the hearts of the wine stewards at Cana: ‘Do whatever He tells you.’”