Last Tuesday, Archbishop Hart sent a letter to Melbourne parishes, warning against the Maria Divine Mercy messages I’ve previously blogged about.
The action elicited a surprisingly global response online. I think this is the first time Archbishop Hart has made headlines at Spirit Daily. The response in other quarters has been less edifying, and I won’t reproduce or link to them here.
The incident has revealed to me just how quickly and deeply the MDM messages have penetrated. I’ve exchanged e-mails and messages with many devotees — good, faithful Catholics with active prayer lives — who are honestly mystified that their family and friends are dubious of the messages, and object to bishops’ expressing their opinion on the matter.
I’ve heard it again and again. “The Archbishop has no right to condemn these messages.” “If the Archbishop must speak, he should state his opinion only, not impose his will.” “The Archbishop of Melbourne is outranked by Jesus, so we must ignore him.”
I’m mystified myself. These aren’t like other apocalyptic revelations. They explicitly reject the reigning pontiff. In this, they are categorically different to Garabandal, Međugorje and other disputed apparitions. There’s not a bishop in the world who wouldn’t instinctively object to them, and it’s easy to see why Archbishop Hart acted as he has.
Even if these messages are true, and Francis really is an anti-pope who has usurped Benedict, it’s unconscionable that Our Lord would want us to disobey and malign bishops when they are exercising their legitimate authority. That’s not how the Catholic Church works. It’s not how our Lord works!
There are many reasons for losing faith in the Church. The apostasy of recent decades. The evil inflicted on children. The consequent cover-up. The hypocrisy of church leaders.
But loss of faith in the Church is a temptation we must resist. To lose faith in the Church, I think, is to lose faith in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the Church’s “guarantor.”
It simply isn’t coherent for a Catholic to confess faith in Jesus while abandoning faith in the Church. When a person does this, they cease to be Catholic and instead become Protestant — not in the historical sense of the word, but in its literal sense.
As always, GKC says it better than I can:
I don’t ask MDM devotees to reject her messages. I ask them to discern prudently, mindful of the Church’s teaching authority. Authority invested by Christ, and manifested by the Holy Spirit. That means obeying legitimate episcopal authority — a leap of faith in the Holy Spirit — even while believing that MDM’s messages are authentic.
Incidentally, St John of the Cross, one of the Church’s greatest mystics, relates this counter-intuitive advice to anyone who discerns that visions are impacting their prayer life — for better or worse:
It is always well, then, that the soul should reject [visions], and close its eyes to them, whencesoever they come. For, unless it does so, it will prepare the way for those things that come from the devil, and will give him such influence that, not only will his visions come in place of God’s, but his visions will begin to increase, and those of God to cease, in such manner that the devil will have all the power and God will have none.
So it has happened to many incautious and ignorant souls, who rely on these things to such an extent that many of them have found it hard to return to God in purity of faith; and many have been unable to return, so securely has the devil rooted himself in them; for which reason it is well to resist and reject them all.
For, by the rejection of evil visions, the errors of the devil are avoided, and by the rejection of good visions no hindrance is offered to faith and the spirit harvests the fruit of them.
It is clear, then, that these sensual apprehensions and visions cannot be a means to union, since they bear no proportion to God; and this was one of the reasons why Christ desired that the Magdalene and Saint Thomas should not touch Him. And so the devil rejoices greatly when a soul desires to receive revelations, and when he sees it inclined to them, for he has then a great occasion and opportunity to insinuate errors and, in so far as he is able, to derogate from faith; for, as I have said, he renders the soul that desires them very gross, and at times even leads it into many temptations and unseemly ways.