Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Light From Darkness
Nine Times the Catholic Church Was in Turmoil-and Came Out Stronger Than Before
by Steve Weidenkopf
Catholic Answers Press
This turned out to be a very consoling read, a much needed tonic in dealing with the various crises afflicting the Catholic Church right now. It would be easy to blame one particular person for the current crisis, Pope Francis, perhaps. But history tells us that things are far more complex and typically crises occur as a result of a host of events coming together. Time and time again, the experts thought that the Catholic Church had come to an end. But, following the crisis, the Church came out stronger. Think of the number of canonised saints soon after the Protestant revolt and how the state of the Church improved as a result.
But we need to be honest: something is very rotten in the Catholic Church at present. They say a fish rots from the head down. As I write this review I see a photo of two people very happy in each other's company. One is Mr Biden, the pro-abortion president of the United States. The other is the Successor of St Peter. That picture sums up our current crisis. I hear of people leaving the Church as a result of plans by Rome to effectively abolish the Traditional Latin Mass. I understand, but I firmly believe they are wrong. With prayer and sacrifice, as Our Lady has asked us on so many occasions, the Church will come out stronger.
The author examines various events in the past that led to crises, including clerical corruption, the Albigensian heresy, the Great Western Schism and Modernism. He notes that while Pope St Pius X effectively dealt with the Modernist crisis at the start of the twentieth century, there was a Modernist resurgence later in the same century. The author believes that the Second Vatican Council tried to deal with this by calling us to return to the Gospel and live authentic Catholic lives. As the author also notes, only time will tell if this has been fruitful. It is fair to say, as Cardinal Ratzinger noted, that the period after the Council has been one of turmoil and confusion in the Church.
Perhaps the most important chapter is the one on responding to a crisis. How did people respond to the crisis brought about by a corrupt Renaissance Papacy? Savonarola responded by confronting Pope Alexander VI, the Borgia pope. He surely had every reason to do so. Unfortunately, he also came to believe that he alone possessed all the answers. He ended by trying to create his own church. It could be argued that we are now worse off. Alexander VI was a man of the world, more interested in his mistress than trying to change Catholic doctrine.
As compared to Savonarola, we have Saint Catherine of Siena, another Dominican. And what a great saint! She too had to deal with a papacy that was corrupt and full of political intrigue. She also confronted the pope. But she did so out of love. She exhorted the faithful to pray for the clergy, especially the pope. She had absolutely no interest in political power or prestige. To be short, she was a saint. And we need many Catherines in order to come out of our current crisis and in order for the Church to flourish.
In summary, a perfect book to read at this moment in time. It is up to us to stay and pray and act. But always from within the Church, because there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.