Since one of my readers asked me to share more about Fr. Fanzaga's book, I thought I would share the following:
Betrayal of Believers and Growth of Apostasy
Father Fanzaga posed the question "How can it come about that Christianity, which once formed entire civilizations, will be reduced to a 'little flock'?
According to Monsignor Benson's (inadvertently referred to as "Father Benson" in my first post) gives us food for thought:
"The reduction of the Church to a 'little flock' comes about through the betrayal of Christians who, having absorbed Christianity, become tired of the faith and behave as the Galatians of whom Paul says: 'Are you people of Galatia mad? Has someone put a spell on you in spite of the plain explanations yo have had of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ?..." [Gal. 3:1-5]From a conversation in Benson's novel, the following question is posed:
"Was the fall of the Church a consequence of having lost faith or was it its cause?The response in that conversation:
the fall of the Church was brought about by loss of faith. The faithful rejected the faith. They fell because of internal collapse. The religious deception is well advanced.When I read this part again, it was obvious that is what Fr. John Corapi was trying to emphasize on his recent appearances on EWTN. He was addressing the wake-up call Catholics recently had in Connecticut as well as the other evils that we are faced with now on an almost daily basis. He pointed out that only 20% of "Catholics" go to Church regularly. He was sure that if all those Catholics were firm Catholics (I'm paraphrasing) we could stand up to these evils.
Father also firmly stated that we need to wake up and not be complacent. Father said the days of it being enough to go to Sunday Mass are not enough. We need to be watchful and be ready and also as importantly, not to be fearful.
There are two important themes in the Benson novel:
1. The Church cannot be broken by external persecution. Father Fanzaga quotes Tertullian's believe that external persecution strengthens the Church. The blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.
2. The Church falls because of internal betrayal and infidelity.
The infidelity referred to due is "our desire to diminish God and replace Him with ourselves and our desire for this world".
According to Benson's novel, one of the movements which prepared for the arrival of the Antichrist was that of "Free Ecclesiastics":
"Then there was a strange little movement among the Free Churchmen even earlier: when ministers who did no more than follow the tide--who were sensitive to draughts, so to speak--broke off from their old positions. It is customary to read in the history of the times how they were hailed as independent thinks...Fr. Fanzaga praises the foresight that Benson had in 1907 when he wrote the novel. It was then that he envisioned the erosion of the Holy Bible's authority as a Sacred Book. This would in turn change Christianity to a religion that denied the divinity of Christ. There would be "a desire for emancipation on the part of a clergy which no longer perceives its supernatural state, loses its identity, abandons celibacy and which becomes absorbed by the world."
Father Fanzaga here reminds us that in the 1970's the Church who had 400,000 priests, lost 80,000 of them.
Here is a little more on that new religion...new Christianity:
Benson did not perceive that atheism would cause the crisis of faith but instead the rise of a new religion which deifies man. This new religion would have its ministers, own rites, own ceremonies, etc.
..."Churches and abbeys will be transformed into temples of the new religion of humanitarianism and the Mass will be displaced by the celebration of the new rites. The statue of Christ will disappear and in its place the statue of 'man' will be raised up in the form of 'Apollo,' symbol of corporeal beauty and virility. The statues of 'maternity' and 'fertility' will replace those of Our Lady. Former priests will defect to the new religion...While churches in which Christ is still adored and Our Lady honored will be empty, those of the new religion will be filled to capacity....Who is the Antichrist?
Man will go to Church to worship himself...The crisis of faith is the crisis of the supernatural. Man no longer believes in something beyond his own reason...
The 'new age' phenomenon corresponds exactly to the growth of the new humanitarian religion which denies a transcendent God and exalts man and his resources into an absolute...
I would like to add a little more to Fr. Fanzaga's interpretation of Benson's Antichrist is as follows:
The person of the Antichrist is manifest at the center of the great schism of man from God. He is at the heart of man's self-deification. He is the one whome Paul calls 'the man of iniquity.' He is the supreme manifestation of humanitarian religion. It is impossible to separate the Antichrist from the specific context of apostasty, loss of faith and rebellion against God.