An Enemy Hath Done This
A Commentary on St. Matthew 13:24-30 & 37-43
by the Abbot of Syon
It is now some forty years since the close of that subverted parliament known as Vatican Two. Let us suppose there were a Catholic man who had been for all those years in some remote and inaccessible place, cut off there from all contact with his fellows, who now suddenly reappears in his native heath, and from there surveys the Church he had known and loved.
Would not such a man recall the Saviour’s Parable of the Wheat and the Weed and cry out in a voice of anguish, “Lord, didst Thou not sow good wheat in Thy field? How then does it come to have noxious weed in it? Hath not an enemy done this?”
For behold the field!
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, the priesthood preached but One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, there is now doctrinal anarchy. There is a priesthood so far fallen from grace that many of its most prominent members have, with entire impunity, denied one or other of the defined dogmas of the Faith, have, indeed, preached a religion utterly opposed to that from which the Apostle tells us we must not depart be the departure enjoined even by an angel. A priesthood so far fallen from grace that a majority of its members who have not explicitly espoused heresy have extended craven toleration to those of its members who have. Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This.
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, the Mass was everwhere offered, everywhere the same, there is now liturgical anarchy. Our Catholic man some forty years away would be told that at first there were but small changes in the text and ceremonial of the Mass. But then, these changes accepted by a somnolent clergy and people, the outright profanations began, profanations which appalled even the heathen. In sanctuaries stripped of Christian ornament, priests ludicrously arrayed cavorted, uttering adolescent banalities, and intoning mindless ditties. And finally, worst of all, there was introduced a new thing so fundamentally different from what for twenty centuries Catholics have known as the Mass that no honest person, however ignorant, could possibly mistake the one for the other. This new service, in whose design several Protestant clergymen had had a hand, but which was principally the work of a prelate whose membership in a secret society, at last revealed, compelled his dismissal from the Vatican, was, in the words of Cardinals Bacci and Ottaviani, protesting it, “a striking departure from the Catholic theology of the Holy Mass.” Alas, there were but few who cared, even when in the new service the very words of Our Saviour Himself were blasphemously falsified, and soon the true and ancient Mass was offered by but a few faithful priests in lonely places apart. Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This.
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, no Catholic doubted that the seven Sacraments were being validly administered, so meticulous and universal was the adhesion of the priesthood to the Church’s laws in these matters, many doubt now. How could they not when, for example, the Modernists have torn from the rite of Ordination of Priests every word specifying the Catholic doctrine of the sacrificial priesthood? The Sacrament of Penance has fallen into such disuse as to appear to have been abolished. The Sacrament of Matrimony is made a mockery of by pretended annulments, divorces really, which are frivolously handed out by dioceses everywhere. Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This.
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, Catholics everywhere regarded the rulers of the Church, their fathers in God, with reverence, now they are as likely to think of them as opportunist politicians. Is it so surprising? There have been too many revelations of treason in high place, too many bishops seen to keep silence in the face of enormities crying to Heaven for vengeance, too many prelates promoting heresy, and winking at sacrilege. It is palpably once more as it was during the Arian triumph of the Fourth Century. Then, Cardinal Newman says, eight out of ten of the world’s bishops were apostates. He is too charitable. Saint Gregory Nazianzen, who lived at that time, insisted that “excepting a very few, the bishops all yielded, only differing from each other in this, that some succumbed earlier and others later. Some were the champions and some the leaders of the impiety; others were overcome by fear, or by flattery, or by ignorance.” Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This.
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, Catholics were united and resolute in their opposition to the lunacies of Socialism, and the savageries of its offspring Communism, and indeed to every movement that tended to make straight the way for that tyranny the great Belloc called the Servile State, now it is manifest that the enemy is within the gates of the Church, and powerful there. No more does the Church seem the one fortress against whose impregnable walls the despotisms will beat themselves out. Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This.
Where some forty years ago, throughout the whole world, novitiates and seminaries were crowded with recruits, they now stand empty and abandoned. Thousands upon thousands of priests and nuns have repudiated their vows; most of the Orders are dying on the vine; there are few desirous of the priesthood, and these generally the least suitable. And where some forty years ago, throughout the world, the churches were so crowded that new ones had continually to be built, they are now half empty, and grow less frequented by the week. Surely, An Enemy Hath Done This!
* * *
The Church subverted! But it was ever thus, to one degree or other. It was at the very beginning of the Church that the Devil came and over-sowed his weed among the wheat of Christ. “From the first,” says Saint John Chrysostom, in his commentary on this parable, “many among the bishops, not being vigilant, received into the Church men who were evil and unworthy, and secretly heretics, and gave them authority and opportunity.”
Our Lord tells us in His parable that the Devil “went off” after he had over-sowed his weed. For, says Saint John Chrysostom, “the Devil has no further need to labour after he has planted his men in the Church.”
To the first fervour of the Pentecost converts there soon succeeded a less holy spirit. Saint Peter warned them, those first Catholics, that soon they would be afflicted by “false teachers who will introduce pernicious heresies among you.” And “many,” he went on, “will adopt these shameful doctrines and bring the Way of Truth into disrepute.” For such men, the first Pope declared, it were better “never to have found their way to justification than to have found it and then turned their backs on that holy law” (2 Peter 2:1, 2, 21).
Saint Paul spoke as plainly to the priests of Ephesus. “I well know,” he said to them, “that when I am gone ravening wolves will come among you, and will not spare the flock. There will be men among your own number who will come forward to speak perverse things and draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29, 30).
For, as the same Apostle warned the Corinthians, “Satan can pass for an angel of light, and his servants for servants of holiness” (2 Corinthians 11:14). The Evil One had already had a considerable success among the Galatians - the “senseless Galatians” as Saint Paul calls them. Stop your ears against heretics, he bade them: “If anyone preaches to you what is contrary to the tradition you have received, let him be anathema!” (Galatians 1:9).
Saint Jude in the sixties of the first Christian century was already lamenting that “certain godless men” had “secretly worked their way in among” the faithful, and were preaching a perverted doctrine to them (Jude 4).
And Saint John the Evangelist at the end of the first century and the beginning of the second is pre-occupied with the threat of heresy; again and again in the three Epistles he wrote at that time he raises the cry against “the false prophets,” as he names them; they are so many “Anti-christs,” he says. These heretics arose in the bosom of the infant Church: “they came of our company,” he says, “but they never truly belonged to our company. If they had belonged to it, they would have persevered at our side” (1 John 2:19).
But has the number and achievement of these false friends ever been greater than in the last two centuries?
* * *
It is ridiculous to see conspiracies everywhere, but it is as ridiculous to see them nowhere. The great Popes of modern times have seen them where they were, and identified them.
Thus Pope Gregory XVI in 1846 published the documents of the Alta Vendita, as it was called, the directorate of an Italian intrigue against the Church. The principal of these documents elaborated a program designed to, as its authors put it, “give us a Pope according to our wants.” This end would be achieved, they said, by infiltrating the younger clergy: “In a few years the young clergy will themselves govern and administer the Church, and presently it will be they who will choose the Pope.” The technique, said the Alta Vendita, was to “let the clergy march under our flag in the belief they are marching under Peter’s.”
Gregory’s immediate successor, the ninth Pius, in his turn identified and anathematized other and similar intrigues against the Church, and his successor, the great Leo XIII, discovered a cabal within the Vatican itself working “with abominable impiety,” he said, “to strike the shepherd that the sheep might be scattered. Then came Sarto, the Saint, who as Pius Xth cried out in 1910 against “the secret organization,” as he called it, that was “working to destroy the Church from within. Their assault is the more sure for they know well where to strike her.”
It is, after all, only those who are the intimate companions of Our Lord who can betray Him, they who like Judas have walked familiarly with Him, and know well His ways.
By 1950, when Pope Pius XII published his encyclical letter Humani Generis, in which he condemned the same errors Saint Pius X had condemned forty years before in the encyclical Pascendi, the Modernists had firmly entrenched themselves in the Vatican; they were now, said the 12th Pius, “spreading their errors both openly and secretly.”
But now less and less secretly, and more and more openly. Very soon they would be able to do such things in the Church, as would require even the most naive among us to recognize that An Enemy Hath Done This.
* * *
They who rule the Church are charged by her Founder with the sacred duty of driving heretics from it. “Put away the evil one from among you,” says the Apostle (1 Corinthians 5:13).
But what of the case where Authority does not put the evil one away, or where Authority is actually usurped by the evil one? Well, if its rulers will not reform the Church, God will. As for us, let us find comfort in Saint Augustine’s words, “What we cannot correct ourselves, let us endure with patience, until He corrects it.”
The weed is to grow up with the wheat. The Kingdom of Satan is to some degree allowed to intermingle with the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and even at some times to seem to utterly dominate it. But at last comes the harvest time!
Saint Augustine, applying this parable, thus addresses those whom Satan has planted in the Lord’s field: “You who are weed! You who torment the Church with your wickedness of life! Repent! And you may yet become good wheat.”
Then he addresses those who are loyal to Our Lord: “You who are wheat! You weep, few amid the many! But winter will pass, and summer will come, and lo! it will be harvest time.”
The great fact of history, the sovereign reality, is the Resurrection of Our Divine Lord. Let Him be betrayed and scourged and crowned with thorns, let Him be nailed to His Cross, and three hours later taken down dead, let His Body be shut up in a tomb, and the tomb be sealed and guarded, and that, it will be thought by his enemies, is the end of that. But on the third day He will rise again.
And so with His Church. Again and again it has seemed dying or dead, done in by the persecutor without, or the traitor within. A hundred times in history the epitaph has been composed, and the interment planned out. And yet, time after time, there are new third days, and Christ in His Church rises yet again.
Third Revised Edition, 2006. First published 1990.