Roberto de Mattei clears up the confusion many Catholics—including me—have concerning the papacy during this period.

An excerpt.

We find ourselves before one of the most critical moments that the Church has ever experienced in her history, but I am convinced that true devotion to the Chair of Saint Peter can offer us the weapons to come out of this crisis, victorious.

True devotion. Because there is false devotion to the Chair of Peter, just as – according to Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort – there is a true and false devotion to the Most Blessed Virgin Mary.

The promise of Our Lord to Simon Peter in the city of Caesarea Philippi is clear: Tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram aedificabo Ecclesiam meam, et portae inferi non praevalebunt adversus eam (Matt. 16: 15-19).

“Thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

The primacy of Peter constitutes the bedrock on which Jesus Christ instituted His Church, and on which She will remain solid until the end of time. The promise of the Church’s victory, however, is also the announcement of a war. A war, which, until the end of time, will be waged by hell against the Church. At the center of this fierce war is the Papacy. The enemies of the Church, throughout the course of history, have always sought to destroy the Primacy of Peter, because they have understood that it comprises the visible foundation of the Mystical Body. The visible foundation, because the Church has a primary and invisible foundation which is Jesus Christ, of Whom, Peter is the Vicar.

True devotion to the Chair of Peter is, under this aspect, devotion to the visibility of the Church, and constitutes, as Father Faber observers, an essential part of the Christian spiritual life. [1]

The Attacks against the Papacy in History

Febronius claimed that he did not wish to challenge the Pope but the centralism of the Roman Curia, which he wanted to counterpose, with national or provincial episcopal synods. Pius VI condemned his theses with the decree Super soliditate Petrae of November 28, 1786.

In Italy, analogous ideas were expressed by the Jansenist bishop of Pistoia, Scipione de’ Ricci. In 1786, Scipione de’ Ricci called a diocesan synod, with the intention of reforming the Church, reducing the Pope to being the ministerial head of the communities of the Pastors of Christ. Then the French Revolution broke out, and Pius VI, with the letter Quod Aliquantum of March 10, 1791 condemned the Civil Constitution of the Clergy, which affirmed that the bishops are independent of the Pope, that priests are superior to bishops, and that parish priests are elected by the simple faithful. With the bull Auctorem fidei of August 28, 1794 the ecclesiological errors of the Synod of Pistoia were also condemned.[2] Pius VI, however, was overwhelmed by the Revolution. In 1796 Bonaparte’s fleet invaded the peninsula, occupied Rome, and on February 15, 1798, proclaimed the Roman Republic. The Pope was arrested and brought to the city of Valence in France, where he died on August 29, 1799, worn out by his sufferings.

The Revolution seemed to have triumphed over the Church. The body of Pius VI was left unburied for several months, when it was brought to the local cemetery, in a trunk used as a casket for the poor, on which was written “Citizen Gianangelo Braschi – whose stage name was ‘Pope.’”The municipality of Valence notified the French Directory of the death of Pius VI, adding that the last Pope of history had been buried.

Ten years later, in 1809 the successor of Pius VI, Pius VII, old and infirm, was also arrested, and after two years of imprisonment in Savona, was taken to Fontainebleau, where he remained until the fall of Napoleon, forced to bow to his will. Never before had the Papacy appeared to the world to be so weak. But ten years later, in 1819, Napoleon was gone from the scene, and Pius VII had returned to the papal throne, recognized as supreme moral authority by the European sovereigns. In that year, 1819 the book On the Pope (Du Pape) was published in Lyon, the masterpiece of Count Joseph de Maistre, a work which had hundreds of reprints, and which anticipated the dogma of Papal Infallibility, later defined by the First Vatican Council.

The book On the Pope is considered as a manifesto of counter-revolutionary thought, which opposes itself to the Catholic liberalism of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries. Here today, I would like to be an echo of this school of Catholic thought[3].

When in 1869, the First Vatican Council opened, two parties clashed: on one hand, the ultramontane or counter-revolutionary Catholics, supported by Pius the IX, who fought for the approbation of the dogma of the Primacy of Peter and of Papal Infallibility. Among these were illustrious bishops, like Cardinal Henry Edward Manning, archbishop of Westminster, Louis Pie, bishop of Poitiers, Konrad Martin, bishop of Paderborn, joined by the best theologians of the time like Fathers Giovan Battista Franzelin, Joseph Kleutgen, and Henri Ramière. On the opposing side were the liberal Catholics headed by Monsignor Maret, dean of the theological faculty of Paris, and by Ignaz von Döllinger, rector of the University of Munich.

The liberals, echoing the conciliarist and Gallican theses, held that the authority of the Church did not reside in the Pontiff alone, but in the Pope united to the Bishops, and judged the dogma of Infallibility to be erroneous, or at least inopportune. Pius IX on December 8, 1870, with the constitution Pastor aeternus, defined the dogmas of the Primacy of Peter and of Papal Infallibility.[4] Today, these dogmas are for us a precious benchmark, on which to found true devotion to the Chair of Peter….

The Church is visible and will save herself with the Pope, and not without the Pope. We need to renew the bond of love and veneration which joins us to the Successor of Peter above all with prayer, so Jesus Christ will give him and all prelates the necessary strength not to betray the sacred deposit of the Faith, and, if this were to take place, to return to the guidance of the abandoned sheepfold.

And yet, if the Vicar of Christ would betray his mission, the Holy Ghost would never cease to assist, not even for a moment, His Church, in which, even in times of defection from the Faith, a remnant, even a small one, of Pastors and faithful will continue to always keep and pass on Tradition, trusting in the Divine Promise: “I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:20).

Pius XII in his encyclical Fulgens radiatur, of March 21, 1947, for the Fourteenth centenary of the death of Saint Benedict said that: “Whoever considers his (Saint Benedict’s) celebrated life and studies in the light of the truth of history, the gloomy and stormy times in which he lived, will without doubt realize the truth of the divine promise which Christ made to the Apostles and to the society He founded “I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world.” [Matthew 28:20]. At no time in history does this promise lose its force; it is verified in the course of all ages flowing, as they do, under the guidance of Divine Providence. But when enemies assail the Christian name more fiercely, when the fateful barque of Peter is tossed about more violently and when everything seems to be tottering with no hope of human support, it is then that Christ is present, Bondsman, Comforter, Source of supernatural power, and raises up fresh champions to protect Catholicism, to restore it to its former vigor, and give it even greater increase under the inspiration and help of heavenly grace.”

For those who remain faithful to Tradition in times of crisis, their Model is the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, Who alone kept the Faith on Holy Saturday, and Who, after the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, did not keep silent but sustained with all the firmness and clearness of Her words, the nascent Church. Her Heart was, and remains, the Treasure Chest of the Church.[22]

Those truly devoted to Mary, about whom Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort speaks, are also the true devotees of the Papacy, who in times of defection by the authorities, and the obscuring of the Faith, will not hesitate to brandish “the two-edged sword of the Word of God” (Hebrews 4:12), with which “they will pierce through and through, for life and for death, those against whom they are sent by Almighty God.”[23]

Their battle against the enemies of God will bring closer the triumph of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which will also be the triumph of the Papacy and of the restored Church.

Retrieved April 13, 2018 from