The article below is an extract from the address of Alphonse Salmeron, one of the first Jesuits, and a prominent theologian at the Council of Trent (1545-1563). Speaking to the Fathers of the Council on the Feast of the Apostle John, during the Council, he delivered a powerful address which if not in every detail relevant to the present Crisis of Faith in the Church, remains timely and provocative in reminding readers that a Crisis of Faith in the Church is always a Crisis of Bishops.
The following extract is taken from Mansi, Trent, vol. 33, pp. 1117, et seq., and appeared in a 1973 issue of the Indian periodical "The Laity" (which was discontinued after the deaths of its two Editors in the 1990's : two remarkable lay apostles Dr. Daisy Kulanday and her husband Victor J.F. Kulanday (Swami Kulandaiswami). In the pages of "The Laity" they fought vigorously questionable tendencies of "Inculturation" in their country leading to Hinduization of the Church's Liturgy and practices. Dr. Daisy Kulanday was also a member of the Commission called by Pope Paul VI to examine the question of the birth control pill and was among the minority members of the Commission firmly opposed to any change in Catholic teaching. A few stylistic changes were made in the text.
— James Likoudis
— TO SHEPHERDS UNDER SIEGE —
By Alphonse Salmeron
...So much then for the following of Christ in the likeness of John the Apostle. But dear God, how heart-breaking a misery it is when the Shepherds of the Flock go over to Satan, Prince of darkness as their master, or while not going so far as to betray their Lord by apostasy, follow like Peter, from a great way behind!
What do I mean, Fathers of the Council, by a metaphor like this, by "a great way behind, like Peter"? I mean, for instance, the man who is more afraid of his prince than of the King who has power to exile him into an everlasting condemnation. I mean, for instance, when a bishop does not bother with the routine work of his diocese and its affairs, but prefers to play the senile old fool in the halls of the mighty and the sophisticated. I meant the sort of pastor who sees the wolf coming and prudently makes himself scarce. I mean the kind of bishop who will play the coward and fall silent, rather than boldly interpose himself as a tower of strength, when the shock of sudden assault falls upon the Israel of God. Men like these are drab souls who bury their talent in the ground. To pinpoint the likeness more pungently, they shrink at the shrill accusation of a serving girl, and do not want to acknowledge their Lord. Add a little more pressure, and with panic they will flatly deny Him.
The Church is our Mother. It has always been the duty of a good son to love his mother with steadfast care. The times call as never before for unflinching commitment from us all. When was our Mother the Church ever more overwhelmed with deadlier hatred, or hatred with more evil purpose? Her foes may have their party disagreements, but against her they have never been more united in one single purpose, nor been more numerous than they are today.
These sons of her love, what sort of love do many of them who call her "Mother" really offer? For one it is a cupboard love, casting an eye upon the hand-outs he may hope from Mother Church! What else can you call it, when men are avid for honors, prestige, and their personal career in the Church. Forget these playthings, for the Church has never encountered such times of all-consuming bitterness than just now. She has never found herself facing a rebellion of spirit more obstinate than this one, and more hardness of heart. They overturn the Divine Law with cold-set faces; all human rights are brushed aside to gain their ends, and any theological dabbler is competent enough to abrogate anything about which he does not personally sense the need.
CALL TO INTEGRITY
The See of Peter [say the enemies of the Church], well..., that of course, is simply Anti-Christ, no need to bother about that! The authority of the Councils of the past is waved away with an intolerant grimace. The teachings of the Church are just so much out-of-date rubbish, the droolings of ancient days. In the deeds and the language of these men there comes across the years that rebellious roar about which the psalmist remarks when he writes: "Let us break the bonds with which they have bound us, let us be free of the yoke" (Ps. 1). Was there ever a time when men committed more sacrilege against the love and care they owe their Mother in Christ? They slap her across the face with stinging words, and stab her with the stilettos of their satire. What they are plotting with deliberate and diabolical strategy is once and for all – her murder.
This howling lust for outrage and desecration has swept across the earth "from the land of the North wind from whence every evil is spread out over the earth" (Jerem. c.4, v.6). It has come like a forest fire driven on by a howling gale, and the flame has fanned out so far and wide that there is scarce a single nook or cranny in the Church of God left in peace, or left without damage. Even among those who still stand with the Catholic Faith, these divisive stresses have left their mark. There used to be a natural family love binding bishop and people. You won't find it there now. It is commonplace to talk of a bishop as somebody by nature a wolf, or a tyrant. He is a bold man who will dare mention his right to any obedience owed by children or subjects. At once, a howl of fury goes up. We priests have fallen so low that we are just cartoon fodder for laymen; we are a sick joke all the day long. I put it to you bluntly: our people are a listless, disheartened army. Not so long ago they would insist on raising really huge sums, but when falling really short, they did not hesitate to raise churches tall and noble, worthy monuments expressive of their joy in God. This sort of vision, this sheer zest in the Faith, has suddenly died on you, has it not? All this means that God's people are like an army in retreat, their morale gone.
I put it to you frankly, then: What the Fathers of your Sees built up in sweat and tears, fasting and prayer, you are not going to save in these present grim times by your soft-living, spiritless leadership, and administrative negligence. I am sorry, Fathers of this Council, to have drawn for you the face of the Church in the sort of language I am using, and with all the reflections upon bishops which it must imply. I can only say that honest zeal and my spiritual duty force me to do it. And I will go further and say that unless you want to see it all over with the Church, you must take the poor Woman who gave you birth in Christ into your arms and see her as a very different sort of mother from the one some of you have made of her.
CALL TO RALLY THE CHURCH AND THE PEOPLE
Take her for life as John took Mary at the foot of the Cross, completely, in the loneliness of bitterness. He did not take her into his life as a sort of Mother-in-law, really an encumbrance, with her demands something of a nuisance to him. This is the mind of heretical and schismatical men for whom the Church is always in their way! They will work for the death of this Mother-in-law, so that by secret cabals they may remove her from the home of their heart. Nor did John regard her who is the type of our Mother the Church as a convenient char-woman useful about the house and forced to earn her keep from him. The sort of man I have in mind here is the bishop who rules with arid authority, crushing the heart by the sheer impersonality and bureaucracy of his Curia. Then again, the Church is your Mother in the home of your heart, not your dolly girl, but that is all you make her when you lust for riches and rents, honors and bowings, and lack all understanding of the mind and heart of a true Father for the flock committed to you. No! the Church is not just one more barrel into which thieving hands may be dipped, not just one more stage upon which men born to privilege and power may strut before their fellows. The sort of mother you were offered when made a bishop, is a Woman bereaved and broken at the foot of a Cross. Put strong and loyal arms about her, and be a John to her.
CALL TO 'BE OF GOOD HEART'
Now, as I would bring my thoughts to an end, my Fathers, I would have you lift up your hearts. See your example in that John the Evangelist who as a mighty Eagle sweeps and soars above your heads. He is encouraging you, as the eagle encourages its fledglings. Do not be afraid, spread your wings and be mighty as he is. That is the sort of man the Church of God is looking for now as a bishop. John went everywhere in the exact and personal likeness of his Master. He was in that house where the girl lay sick to death, and they laughed to scorn any thought of her recovery. So is the Church herself sick today. John walked also with Christ on the mountain of the Transfiguration, and went steadfastly with Him into the Garden where He sweat blood. John did not abandon Him even in the courtyard of the High Priest.
Live then in the personal vocation to which you have been called in Him, so that you are the wholesome sweetness of Christ in every place and the invigorating air of that more abundant life. Do not become the very stench of death to confirm the grip of that pestilential spirit. Are you not God's herald? Then toil across the rugged mountains, you who bring good news to Zion. If you really care, lift up a strong and loud and courageous voice. You see men parched with thirst; it is for you to impart the waters of wisdom. Are your favorite "wise men" beginning to slither in the marsh of human silliness? Warn them loud and clear! Do you have priests whose salt has been reduced to mush? It is for you to show them where to find the fullness of Christ's savour. For you are men posted upon battlements. Be leaders then and sentries who are true. Be alert for yourselves and for all the people of Christ. I have to tell you that you must give account to a Master of utterly inexorable integrity. He will brush aside all the whining excuses. He will require at the hands of useless shepherds the blood of lost lambs. Give yourselves to prayer, and Christ will add His own strength to your watchful courage, that by His power, not man's, you may prevail against the evils marshaled against you. The most majestic honor and boast of your Episcopal office is the long list of sufferings you have endured for the Church of God.
Christ crucified handed His mother to John, because John was His beloved disciple and most steadfast friend. That is how He hands the Church to you today. She is not handed to you less by Christ from the Cross because she is handed to you for your loving care by the Holy Spirit in this Synod. Your Mother in the Church, Mary, is collapsed and swooning in your arms because she has seen the bloody spectacle of a crucifixion of Christ [in His mystical body]. She has seen Him done to death again in his children and most dear ones. If you would bring life and color back to her features again, renew in the Church sincere doctrine and authentic teaching. You bishops of the Church alone can repair the crumbled fabric of her life, make straight the crooked path, and reshape what has been twisted awry by error. In a word, let this Mother of Sorrows, so long bereaved of the love and help which was due her from her sons, find in you pillars of strength in the likeness of Christ's beloved disciple. Too long has she waited. See that now at length you do not fail her! Well, I have said what I wanted to say! Finis