Fr. Alberto Barattero, IVE
A couple of months ago a person remarked, “Today Christ seems like a weak king.” “Why?” someone else asked. “Because he seems like a king that does not reign.” “Sorry, I do not understand you”, said the other man. “Christ” responded the person – “should be the King of the Universe, but, in fact, He does not reign since: a third of the world does not know Him; a third of the world knows Him but does not love Him (those who practice another religion other than Christianity, such as Muslims and Hindus, belong to this group); and the majority of those who confess Him in fact deny Him through their actions (bad Christians).”
Interesting reasoning, isn’t it? Are we right to be celebrating the Feast of Christ the King of the Universe? Must we confess that Christ is the King of the Universe? Yes, we must confess this, as Pope Leo XIII states: “His empire includes not only Catholic nations, not only baptized persons who, though of right
belonging to the Church, have been led astray by error, or have been cut off from her by schism, but also all those who are outside the Christian faith; so that truly the whole of mankind is subject to the power of Jesus Christ.”.
Can we demonstrate this? Yes, we can. But, of course, it is too much for one homily. So, due to the grave scandals that we are looking at nowadays inside the Church, I would like to show you that Christ is governing the Church even despite Her sinful members and just in case, bad members is not only talking about bad ministers but also any Christian who does not live according to his faith.
In order to do this, I would like to take a look at some history.
The Dark Age (Saeculum obscurum) is the name given to a period in the history of the Papacy during the 10th century. Those were terrible years for the Church. The majority of the Popes arrived at that position not because of their holiness of life nor because of their capacity for government. But rather, they arrived by means of force and arms; by means of lies, conspiracy, scheme, trickery, simony, money, gifts, and so on.
The majority of the Popes arrived at that position not because of their holiness of life nor because of their capacity for government.
For example, the election of Pope Boniface VI came about as a result of riots soon after the death of Pope Formosus. Prior to his election, he had twice incurred a sentence of deprivation of orders as a sub deacon and as a priest. He was Pope for only 15 days; the official story recounts that he died from gout, but the gossiping tongues say that he was murdered to make way for Stephen VI, another corrupt and plotting Pope, who also was killed.
These were not the only corrupt Popes during those days. We also have Pope John XII, who was elected Pope by trickery and conspiracy when he was only 16 years old. Mouret in his book “General History of the Church” wrote: he summarized in his person the three curses of which the Church everywhere was victim at that time: lay investiture, simony and incontinence. And, do you think that a Pope of 16 years old is too much? According to the history, Pope Benedict IX was elected Pope when he was 12 years old and he was Pope three times. He was accused of “many vile adulteries and murders.”
I think these are enough to show that the objection that Christ does not reign in the Church is consistent with this reality. I also think that it is enough to demonstrate that we are not living in the worst period of the Church.
However, these facts are far from showing that Christ does not reign in the Church and are rather a sign that Christ does reign in spite of His unworthy ministers. Due to a psychological law, which is something that we constantly experience in our own flesh, we men continually wish to justify our conduct.
Precisely one of the reasons why we are surrounded by so many false Christian Churches and so many sects and religions is that all heretics, apostates and idolaters have wanted to justify their position by proclaiming that their conduct was the true one (and often to show that the Church is the wrong one) and that is why in many cases they have wanted to begin their own religion: Luther, Voltaire, Henry VIII are a small sample of these.
How is it possible that the Church has lasted, having had Popes so scandalous and on the other hand so destitute of all human powers?
All those who wanted to change the way of the Church left the Church because they could not change the Church. Why? Simple; because the Church is directed by Christ the King, despite His bad ministers. It is said that when Napoleon threatened the Church with a schism that would destroy the Church if the Pope did not yield to his claims, the Secretary of State, Cardinal Gonzalvi replied with irony: “Your Majesty, when the ministers of the Lord, with their conduct, have not succeeded in ruining the Church, be sure that neither will Your Majesty be able to destroy it with the power of his influence.” Napoleon threatened the Church, but could not destroy the Church. He ended up dying in exile and consoled by the Church and the Church still continues on earth.
This was an argument that made a deep impression on Voltaire, in fact he asked: how is it possible that the Church has lasted, having had Popes so scandalous and on the other hand so destitute of all human powers? The only possible answer is because Christ is the One who truly reigns in His Church despite Her members.
The Church needs saints. If we want to help the Church, if we want Christ to reign in His Church, first of all and above all, we must allow him to reign over ourselves.
Even more, I would say that we are wrong when we become scandalized when members of the Church act as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. Why are we scandalized when members of the Church act as common people act? Can you think of a politician that governs without corruption? Can you find a holy politician nowadays? And yet, the Church has canonized three recent popes: St. John Paul II, Saint Paul VI and his predecessor St. John XXIII.
What should our reaction be? What does the Church need? Does the church need scandalized people? Does the Church need gossiping members? Absolutely not. The Church needs saints. If we want to help the Church, if we want Christ to reign in His Church, first of all and above all, we must allow Him to reign over ourselves. That is our mission. That is our own tiny contribution for Him to reign.