The Sanctity of the Church by Romano Amerio

taken from Iota Unum, Chapter VI

#58. Sanctity of the Church. An Apologetical Principal.

That the Church is holy is a dogma of the Faith, included in the creed, but the theological definition of that holiness is a difficult business. We are not here concerned with canonized holiness, which has indeed varied in style with the centuries: the holiness of Emperor Henry II is markedly different to that of St. John Bosco, as is that of St. Joan of Arc from that of St. Therese of Lisieux. There is furthermore a gap between the heroic virtue of the canonized saint, and the holiness inherent in anybody who is merely in state of grace.

In the Summa Theologica, III,q.8,a.3 ad secundum, and in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, in the section on the creed, it is explained how the sins of the baptized do not prejudice the holiness of the Church, but this remains, nonetheless a complex notion which only a rigorous distinction can render clear. A definite distinction must be drawn between the natural element, and the supernatural element which produces the new creature, between the subjective and the objective element; between the historical element and the suprahistorical element which operates within it.

Firstly, the Church is holy because it is the body which has the God-Man as its head. In union with that head it becomes itself theandric (Relating to, or existing by, the union of divine and human operation in Christ): no profane body can be conceived as living in union with a holy head. Secondly, it is objectively holy because it possesses the Eucharist which is in its very essence the Sacred and the Sanctifier: all the Sacraments derive from the Eucharist. Thirdly, it is holy because it contains revealed truth in an indefectible and infallible way. The fundamental principle of Catholic apologetics must be located here: the Church cannot display, throughout its history, an uninterrupted sequence of activity in perfect conformity with the requirements of the Gospel, but it can point to an uninterrupted teaching of the truth: the holiness of the Church is to be located in the latter not the former.

It follows from this that those who belong to the Church will find themselves preaching a doctrine that is better than their own deeds. No man can preach himself, beset by weakness and failure; he can only re-preach the doctrine taught by the God-Man, or better, preach the person of the God-Man Himself. Thus, truth too is a constituent element in the holiness of the Church, and is forever attached to the Word and forever at odds with corruption, including one’s own.

The holiness of the Church is revealed in what could be called a subjective way in the holiness of its members, that is, in all those that live in grace as vital members of the mystical body. It appears in an obvious and outstanding way in its canonised members, whom grace and their own activity have pushed onwards to the highest levels of virtue. This holiness did not fail, be it noted once again, even in the periods of the greatest corruption of society and among the clergy; an age when the papacy was depraved by pagan influences saw the flourishing of Catherine of Bologna (+1464), Bernadino of Feltre (+1494), Catherine dei Fieschi (+1503), Francis of Paola (+1507), Jeanne de Valois (+1503) as well as many reformers such as Girolamo Savonarola (+1498).

Considerations and facts of this sort, however, do not clear the field of all objections. Paul VI conceded to the Church’s critics the fact that “the history of the Church has many long pages that are not all edifying” but he did not distinguish clearly enough between the objective holiness of the Church and the subjective holiness of its members. In another address, he put it in these terms: “The Church ought to be holy and good, it ought to be as Christ intended and designed it to be and we sometimes see that it is not worthy of the title.”

It would seem that the Pope is turning an objective note of the Church into a subjective one. It is indeed true that Christians ought to be holy, and they are inasmuch as they live in a state of grace, but the Church is holy. It is not Christians that make the Church holy, but the Church that makes them holy. It is also true that the biblical affirmation of the irreproachable holiness of the Church non habentem maculam aut rugam (Having neither spot nor wrinkle: Ephesians 5:27) is applicable to the Church in time only in an initial and partial way, despite the fact that it is indeed holy. All the Fathers take that flawlessness as connected with the final eschatological purification rather than with the Church’s pilgrim state in time.

A traditional chronology of events preceding the Second Coming

The following is taken from the book, Trial, Tribulation and Triumph, by Desmond A. Birch, and draws only on Scripture, the saints and the early Church Fathers for its conclusions. In other words, the author doesn’t rely on any contemporary ‘private revelations’ in his book.

Many of you would have come across – or have been sent links by avid grandmothers with lots of time and little discernment – alternate timelines from modern day ‘prophets.’ (This might sound a bit harsh, but really, ladies! You are the matriarchs of your families and need to set a better example. You can’t believe everything you find on the ‘net, you know!) As far as these hypothetical timelines coincide with traditional ones, they can be cautiously accepted. But if they don’t line up with traditional concepts, then they should be rejected.

Note than when the book was written in 1996, the ‘Minor Chastisement’ was seen by the author as a conditional event of the future. Now, 26 years later, there is little doubt that we are on the threshold of that chastisement, and there is practically no doubt that it can be avoided.

A Hypothetical Chronological Table of events prophesied to preceed the Parousia

…they come from various sources. Some are official teachings of the Church, things which one must absolutely believe as a Catholic. Others are those which are part of the traditional teaching of the Church – but which are not absolutely binding in Faith. Next come those which comprise the majority opinion of the Fathers, Doctors and theologians of the Church, but about which there are some Fathers who disagree. Finally there are items which come strictly from private Catholic prophecy from Church-approved sources.

  1. Those which are binding in Faith as presented in bold, italicized print.
  2. Those which are part of the traditional teachings of the Church – but which are not absolutely binding in faith are presented in bold print.
  3. Those about which there is a heavy preponderance of teaching among the Fathers and Doctors are presented in simple italicized print.
  4. Those which present private prophecy from Church-approved sources are presented in plain type.

The Minor Chastisement

At some time in the future, the corrupt faithless age we live in now will come to an end either through repentance (immediately followed by an age of peace) – or there will be a chastisement.

  • …the Latin Church will be terribly afflicted by heresy and schism. This is prophesied to be primarily caused by a false intellectualism, which intellectualism presents itself in the form of ‘senseless questions and elaborate arguments’ attacking the traditional teachings of the Church.
  • The chastising elements will come in two forms (a) Man-made and (b) Heaven sent.
  • Civil wars break out in France and Italy at almost the same time.
  • This will spread to general wars, and famine and pestilence (the usual by-products of war)
  • Earthquakes, tidal waves, floods and all other sorts of ‘natural’ disasters will occur.
  • Somewhere in all of those, an army composed of Russian troops invades Western Europe just when everyone thinks this impossible.
  • England will suffer a terrible civil war which starts after the French and Italians have gone into theirs.
  • The Pope will flee Rome in the company of several other cardinals and go into hiding, be found, and cruelly murdered.
  • A man who will subsequently by known as a great saint will ultimately be elected pope near the end of the Chastisement. He will be heavily responsible for the French acceptance of a king to be their military and civil leader.
  • The Great King will lead his forces (against terrible odds) and finally defeat these Russian and Prussian forces.
  • Somewhere near the end of the Chastisement, God sends the Three Days Darkness.
  • the Three Days Darkness probably occur sometime after the final and total victory over the Russians and Moslems.

The Age of Peace

  • According to the prophecies, through a historically unique series of events there will be a complete restoration of Christian Culture in the West.
  • The Great King will be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the reigning Pope.
  • The Great King will establish peace and justice in divil matters on almost a worldwide basis. The former disciplines of the Church are fully restored and order is re-established.
  • The Pope calls an Ecumenical Council which will be viewed as the greatest in the history of the Church. the world is spiritually and materially prosperous as never before and many Jews, Mohammedans, heathens and heretics will enter the Church.
  • Extended prosperity causes people to begin to grow lax in the practice of their Faith.
  • Wars and bad economic times break out again after some period of time during which the faithful fall into laxity.
  • Ten kings divide up the boundaries of a Roman Empire which had been established.

The Major Chastisement – the Tribulation of Antichrist

  • The Gospel must be preached in the whole world (Matt. 24, 14; Mark 13, 10), even though many will not accept its message (Luke 18, 8)
  • Before Christ’s Second Coming there will be a great apostasy or religious defection (Matt 24, 10-12; Luke 18, 8; Thess 2, 3; 2 Tim 3, 1-9) and the Antichrist will appear (2 Thess 2, 3-12; 1 John 2, 18, 22; 2 John 7)
  • The last (Roman) Empire, which has been divided up into ten ‘kingdoms’ is dismantled by a great (and evil) military and political leader. Three of the ten kingdoms will not go along with this. they are crushed. See – Rev 13, Dan 7, 8. [See also St Jerome’s commentary on Book of Daniel that Antichrist will kill the three kings that ‘do not bow to him.’]
  • The ‘False Prophet’ arrives – the Precursor of the Antichrist. He will ‘ape’ the role that St John the Baptist played in preparing the people for the arrival of the Messiah.
  • All of this prepares the way for the coming of the Antichrist. He begins his rise to power at about the age of 30. After he seizes total power he begins his three and one half year bestial persecution of the Church.
  • During this time, the two witnesses (Enoch and Elias) who have never died but have been maintained in Paradise return to the presence of men to preach to the people against Antichrist. Elias preaches primarily to the Jews and Enoch primarily to the Gentiles. It is the arrival of these two witnesses which foreshadows the foretold conversion of the Jews to Christianity.
  • Antichrist finally kills them by his own hand in Jerusalem and their bodies lie in the street by his command for 3 1/2 days, at the end of which a voice from heaven is heard by everyone present which commands the two witnesses to arise, and to the surprise and stark terror of the onlookers, they do.
  • The Jews as a nation will convert after the full number of the Gentiles enter the Church (Rom 11)
  • Antichrist, stung again by this latest heavenly miracle, tries to restore his prestige with the Jews by simulating Christ’s ascension from Mt Olivet, and St Michael casts him down screaming to his death. (St Thomas Aquinas and other Doctors teach this.)

The Four Last Things

  • After the death of Antichrist, a short period of time of unknown duration is given to the remaining inhabitants of the earth to repent and accept Our Lord and the message of His Gospel.
  • There will be a physical transformation of the universe (Matt 24:29; Mark 13: 24; Luke 21:25) and the world will be purified by fire in the first general conflagration (1 Pet 3: 5-7; 1 Cor 3:13) Then only will the Son of Man appear in heaven (Matt 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 13:27)
  • Then comes the end of the world and the Four Last Things: Death, the Last Judgement, Heaven, Hell.

In brief:

  • MINOR CHASTISEMENT: natural disasters; Russia invades Western Europe; civil wars in Britain, Italy and France; a holy Pope; a Great Monarch; 3 Days Darkness.
  • ERA OF PEACE: a new Holy Roman Empire with Emperor; restoration of Christian culture (Social reign of Christ); an Ecumenical Council
  • MAJOR CHASTISEMENT: Gospel preached to the whole world; Great Apostasy; False Prophet; Antichrist; unprecedented persecution; Enoch and Elias; death of Antichrist
  • FINAL JUDGEMENT: Second Coming; transformation of the universe.