“I am convinced,” Lucia continued, “that the principal cause of evil in the world and the falling away of so many consecrated souls is the lack of union with God in prayer. The devil is very smart and watches for our weak points so he can attack us. If we are not careful and attentive in obtaining the strength from God we will fall, because our times are very bad and we are weak.”
Lack of prayer and compromises among priests and the religious led to a more general problem of relaxed standards in the Church! These were the manifestations of a deeper and more sinister force at work in the Church. But the Catholic practitioner, be it cleric, evangelist or teacher, has to mindful of both natural and supernatural causes if a remedy is to be applied for the problems that exist in and outside of the Church.
In 1944, Father Paul Furfey, former professor and head of the Department of Sociology at the Catholic University of America, published a book called, The Mystery of Iniquity. In it, he provides wonderful insights into the necessary task of dealing with the symptoms as they appear to the naked eye. But he doesn’t leave it there. He said that permanent cures for the pressing social problems of the day require us to look beyond secondary causes:
“(T)he mystery of iniquity is at work. Its activities do not usually appear on the surface of events; rather, it operates through secondary causes. Therefore, when one traces the causes of social problems, one finds that the immediate reasons for these problems are quite natural and understandable by human reason. It is only by following the chain of causation back far enough that one is led to suspect the workings of the Evil One.
The Catholic approach on social problems must take both natural and the supernatural factors into account. Catholics must be concerned with natural factors underlying the evils of society and to meet these they must use natural methods suggested by experience.
We Catholics have a precious possession in our doctrine of the mystery of iniquity. In it we have the key to the solution of many problems which torture our weary world. Realizing as we do that the mystery of iniquity is the basic cause of these problems, we can attack them at their source by the use of supernatural means. Herein lies the hope of victory.”
The hope of victory. Catholics have to be mindful of this hope. They have to live out this hope. But in order for this hope to translate into a real, solid victory, we have to know that evil is communicated through practical and even ordinary means. Through pastoral practices and habits of evangelization and teaching that are defective. Evil doesn’t just happen. And this is where Pope Benedict XV encyclical On Preaching the Word comes in. In his 1917 letter, he prophetically anticipated some of the things through which the Church would be tested…tested within her own institutions.
Next week: The Papal Letter of 1917