IS IT DIVINE PROVIDENCE THAT HAS ALLOWED THE CHURCH TO HAVE TWO POPES THAT REPRESENT TWO WAYS OF BEING CATHOLIC, ORTHODOX AND HETERODOX?
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Bishop Athanasius Schneider told the story of Leo XIII’s lesser known exorcism prayer earlier this year in a talk on the importance of the Petrine office as the “cathedra of truth.” Speaking in Rome last April, he said:
Throughout the course of history Satan, the father of lies, continually attacks the Church, and especially the cathedra of truth, which is the Chair of Peter. Through the inscrutable permission of Divine Providence the attacks of Satan against the Roman cathedra have in rare cases had the effect of a temporary and limited eclipse of the Papal Magisterium, when some Roman Pontiffs have made ambiguous doctrinal statements, thereby causing a temporary situation of doctrinal confusion in the life of the Church.
One can see this possibility expressed in the following words taken from the Exorcism against Satan and the rebel angels, written by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. The original text says: “Behold, the ancient enemy and murderer strongly raises his head! Transformed into an angel of light, with the entire horde of wicked spirits he goes about everywhere and takes possession of the earth, so that therein he may blot out the Name of God and of His Christ and steal away, afflict and ruin into everlasting destruction the souls destined for a Crown of Eternal Glory. On men depraved in mind and corrupt in heart the wicked dragon pours out like a most foul river, the poison of his villainy, a spirit of lying, impiety and blasphemy; and the deadly breath of lust and of all iniquities and vices. Her most crafty enemies have engulfed the Church, the Spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, with sorrows, they have drenched her with wormwood; on all her desirable things they have laid their wicked hands. Where the See of the Blessed Peter and the Chair of Truth have been set up for the light of the gentiles, there they have placed the throne of the abomination of their wickedness, so that, the Pastor having been struck, they may also be able to scatter the flock.”
On the morning of October 13, 1884 — exactly thirty-three years before the final Marian apparition at Fatima and the extraordinary miracle of the sun — Pope Leo XIII, while he was assisting at Holy Mass in thanksgiving for the one he had just celebrated, had a vision that is now famous. Satan appeared before God asking him for permission to act undisturbed for a hundred years in order to destroy the Church, which permission was granted to him. The Pontiff then saw swarms of demons fall on the basilica of St. Peter, to invade the Petrine See. Immediately after the vision the Pope composed the prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel, which he ordered to be recited at the end of each low Mass, and the famous exorcism, from which the quotation just cited is taken. The dramatic phrase ‘on the See of most blessed Peter’ would later be removed by Pius XI in order to avoid scandal for the faith, but today at the very least it is prophetic.