As time continues, the deeper the world continues to slide into three Ds (darkness, despair, and demonic possession). At the root of this descent into hopelessness and atheism is our loss of the sense of the sacred, but a very significant component of why we have lost that sense is because of a loss in the belief in the moral authority of the Catholic Church in the world.
The Catholic Church is not a universally agreed-upon moral authority today, and it has been that way for a long time. For decades, if not centuries, the Catholic Church has suffered for having more of a universal reputation for being evil and corrupt than she has enjoyed the reputation of being a moral authority. Her pitiful reputation says more about how the world perceives her than who she truly is, but it is a well-earned and valid perception. It is not by accident or false grievance that the world ignores her when she speaks. The world not turning to her for moral-centering truth or clarity is nothing less than a climatic tragedy of the fallen state, which has completely lost the sense of sacred. It is only a dark paradox that Christ Jesus gifted His One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church the fullness of the truth, but the world looks everywhere else but to her for truth.
We have states and countries, such as Ohio (USA) in 2023, San Marino in 2021, and Ireland in 2018, where citizens engaged in the democratic process to vote for the public legalization of child sacrifice. Only in a world that rejects God and flatly rejects the teachings of the Catholic Church on the sacredness and dignity of human life could something so evil and demonic as child sacrifice even be put to the people to vote on.
In Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Malta, Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Belgium, Portugal, and Luxembourg, legislation has been passed that allows individuals to change their biological gender to their emotional gender. Transgender ideology is the height of atheism because it denies the authorship of God of the body and spits His gift of the immortal embodied soul, trapping the soul into a body that leans into Satan’s breast.
The most pervasive form of darkness, despair, and demonic possession is the pornography industry. Pornography does nothing but enslave the mind and body into the habitual sins of lust, usury, and pride. Pornography addiction is the religious practice and liturgy of atheism because it demands the body and the mind to repetitively and actively return to rejecting the purpose for which God created the body (to glory Him) to glorify the denial of God. As harmful as pornography is to individuals, families, and children, out of the 195 countries in the world, only Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of Congo, and Djibouti in Africa; Belarus and Bulgaria in Europe; and Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, and Pakistan in Asia, have passed laws making pornography illegal and antithetical to the common good of cultural norms. In comparison to how the pornography industry stacks up, in retail, giants such as Walmart and Amazon have revenues of $611.29 billion and $513.98 billion, respectively. Conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway has a revenue of $302.09 billion. The porn industry is worth approximately $97 billion, with about 10% of that coming from the United States, but Egyptians spend the most time on pornography websites. 4% of the entire interest consists of pornography and much of it is free to access.
If only the global normalization of these industries of atheism were our only examples, we could critique how the Catholic Church has failed in its mission that Christ Jesus gave her to lead all souls to Him. Still, they are just the tip of the iceberg and symptoms of a rotten core. As symptoms, we must find that the world did not arrive at this current milieu of sin and rejection of the moral authority of the Catholic Church as a cultural good in a vacuum. Rather, we should consider several events over the centuries that made people laugh in unison at Catholic morality. Of those historical incidents that have contributed to her perceived ugliness, we must categorize them into two classes: (1) Internal Corruption or Fault; (2) Assault by the State
The Six Most Notable Examples of how an Assault by the State diminished the Catholic Church’s Moral Authority include those things some historical have labeled ‘schism’ (inasmuch as, by definition, it is impossible for something one (catholic) to also be in schism) include:
- The political and cultural differences that caused the so-called Great Schism of 1054 were later reinforced by a doctrinal glaze of the denial of Papal supremacy and the filioque.
- The Protestant Reformulation/Deformation of the 16th century, instigated by political/power disputes between Germany and Rome, used people like Martin Luther and others as a doctrinal glaze to create an opportunity for independence from the Catholic Church and her allies. This Assault by the State sparked a series of religious wars.
- The Protestant Reformulations/Deformation gave license to other state-funded and state-endorsed attacks on the Catholic Church, such as the so-called Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries when rationalism, empiricism, and humanism challenged the Catholic Church’s authority on truth and morality.
- The Separation of the Catholic Church as being the Moral Authority of State (i.e., Separation of Church and State), which Pope Leo XIII blamed on the efforts of Freemasonry, was the leading ideology behind the American Revolution, the French Revolutions (1789 -1799), the Revolutions of 1848 (a series of republican revolts against European monarchies, beginning in Sicily and spreading to France, Germany, Italy, and the Austrian Empire), and Germany and Prussia’s Kulturkampf (culture struggle) against the Catholic Church between 1772 – 1778).
- The normalization of cultural indifference to Christ and His Church brought by Protestantism and the Separation of moral authority between the Catholic Church and State gave birth to Communism in 1917 through the Bolshevik Revolutions and, thereby, became the first expression of dominant political atheism. Since then, everywhere Communism has spread, the Catholic Church has been severely persecuted, and Catholic priests have been slaughtered.
- The normalization of cultural atheism could only lead to one place, which was neo-Satanism; that is, the worship of anti-life, which was birthed by the Sexual Revolution/Sexual Liberation ideology. The Sexual Liberal program was a social movement that challenged the Catholic moral teaching on the purpose of human sexuality from the 1940s to the 1970s and led to the widespread mainstream adoption and legalization of homosexualism, transsexualism, and pornography.
The Three Most Notable Examples of how the Catholic Church’s Moral Authority was Diminished by the Internal Corruption or Fault of its Members, Especially the Clerics, include:
- The Avignon Papacy of 1309-1377 was when the popes resided in France instead of Rome and were seen as puppets or mere courtiers of the French king. With the cultural perception that the true head of the Catholic Church was the French king, the moral authority of the Pope and the Bishops was dramatically diminished.
- The Second Vatican Council of 1962-1965 and the Ecclesiological Revolution reframed how the Catholic Church spoke of itself and engaged with the world. Even if we were to posit that the intentions to open the windows and create a liturgy that helped us to participate more deeply in the divine life, than the liturgy that had been with us through the normalization of chattel slavery, segregation, countless wars and world wars, genocide, and atomic bombs, we should admit that the fruit of the Second Vatican Council has only participated in fostering a world more inclined to evil, because it did not promote a spirit of martyrdom or courageously holding fast to the truth. And because the post-Second Vatican Council Church considers truth as a mere accessory to compliance with the world, the world does not see her as a reflection of Christ Jesus.
- Child Abuse and the Heresy of Homosexualism. A culture that does not prioritize the truth of Christ does not prioritize protecting children from harm. Instead, a culture that worships lies can only believe in protecting itself from the truth. The culture of lying and deception created the Sexual Abuse Scandal began in the mid-20th century and continues into our present moment. While the Sexual Abuse Scandal is typically defined as the widespread and systematic cover-up of child abuse by clergy and religious personnel was exposed and criticized by the media, the public, and the victims, it also includes the recruitment of homosexual men into the priesthood, the normalization of homosexualism and homosexual activity in Catholic seminaries, the global acceptance of the homosexual priests, and the protection and promotion of homosexual men by Pope Francis.
There is No End to the Rot
I do not think that the leaders of the Catholic Church can ever regain their moral authority because for about the last 1700 years, whenever they have been forced to choose between rendering to God what belongs to God or rendering unto Ceasar what belongs to Caesar, they have consistently chosen to render unto Caesar what belongs to God. Even in recent years, they have decided to close churches and deny us the sacraments rather than help heal us. We have a Vatican that takes two billion dollars a year from China and a Pope who meets with the CEO of Pfizer and then promotes a harmful vaccine that was produced with the help of aborted baby fetal cell lines. It has only been the rare exception of people like Saint Thomas Becket, where a Bishop does not choose Caesar over God. Popes and Bishops have too many masters to serve, and that is why their skulls line the floor of Hell.
In this light, it would not be unfair to argue that the Catholic Church began her descent into being morally compromised no sooner than when she sought friendship and protection from the Roman Empire. From thereon, whatever the state needed us to say or to believe, our leaders have been far too willing to approve, whether it was exceptions against the commandment to love our neighbor by granting exceptions for the conquistadors to enslave, granting exceptions to the commandment against murder to allow the state to kill heretics, or whether it was forcing us to take a harmful and unnecessary vaccine.
The Dawn of the Moral Decay
Yet, suppose we were to pinpoint an instance in history when an unforced error by bishops began to make us sick and begin the process of moral decay. In that case, we could point to many instances after the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople, but arguably, The Donation of Constantine would have to top our list.
The Donation of Constantine is one of history’s most famous and influential forgeries. The document claims to be a decree of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great, who ruled from 306 to 337 AD, giving vast territories and authority to Pope Sylvester I and his successors.
The date and authorship of The Donation of Constantine are unknown. Still, most scholars agree that it was written sometime between 750 and 800 AD, probably by a cleric of the Lateran Basilica in Rome. The primary purpose of the forgery was to bolster the Papal claims against the Lombards, who had invaded Italy and threatened Rome and its surrounding territories. The Popes appealed to the Frankish kings for help and presented them with The Donation of Constantine as proof of their legitimate rights over Italy. The Donation was also used to assert the Papal independence from the Byzantine Empire, which still claimed sovereignty over Rome and Italy, and to challenge the authority of the patriarch of Constantinople, who was regarded as the first among equals by the Eastern churches.
The Donation of Constantine had some success in achieving its goals: Pepin the Short, who became king of the Franks in 751 AD, accepted The Donation as authentic and granted the Pope a large land donation (the so-called Donation of Pepin) after he defeated the Lombards in 756 AD. Pepin’s son Charlemagne, crowned emperor by Pope Leo III in 800 AD, also recognized The Donation and confirmed his father’s grant. However, not all rulers were convinced by or compliant with The Donation: some Byzantine emperors challenged its validity and refused to cede their rights over Italy; some German emperors clashed with the Popes over their respective roles in appointing bishops and governing Italy; some French kings ignored or contested the Papal claims over their lands.
The Content and Purpose of The Donation of Constantine
The Donation of Constantine consists of two parts: the first part narrates Constantine’s conversion to Christianity after he was miraculously cured of leprosy by Pope Sylvester I, and the second part contains the actual Donation. According to the document, Constantine, out of gratitude and reverence for Sylvester and the apostles, Ss. Peter and Paul conferred upon him and his successors the following privileges:
- The primacy over all the churches in the world, including those of Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Jerusalem
- The right to wear a crown, a purple cloak, and other imperial insignia
- The administration of all the estates belonging to the churches in the Roman Empire
- The control of Rome and all the regions of Italy and the Western provinces
- The power to appoint kings and rulers in the West
The document also states that Constantine moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople (which he founded in 330 AD) to make way for Sylvester’s authority.
The Exposure and Critique of The Donation of Constantine
Some scholars and churchmen questioned the authenticity of The Donation of Constantine as early as the 11th century. Still, it was not until the 15th century that Lorenzo Valla (c. 1407-1457), an Italian humanist and priest, proved it to be a forgery. Valla wrote a treatise titled Discourse on the Forgery of the Alleged Donation of Constantine, in which he used philological, historical, and theological arguments to expose the flaws and inconsistencies of the document. Some of his main points were:
- The language and style of the document were not consistent with those of Constantine’s time but instead reflected later Latin usage.
- The document contained anachronisms and errors, such as referring to Constantinople before it was founded or mentioning events and institutions that did not exist in Constantine’s era.
- The document contradicted other reliable sources, such as the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea, who recorded Constantine’s life and conversion in detail.
- The document was incompatible with the teachings of the Church fathers, who affirmed that Christ alone was the head of the Catholic Church, and that the emperor had no authority over spiritual matters.
Valla also criticized The Donation of Constantine from a moral and political perspective, arguing that it was a source of corruption and tyranny for the church and the state. He denounced the Papacy for using a false document to justify its worldly ambitions and interference in secular affairs. He also condemned the kings and emperors who accepted The Donation as a pretext to oppress their subjects and to wage wars against other nations.
Valla’s treatise was not widely circulated or published during his lifetime. Still, it had a profound influence later on people like Martin Luther (1483-1546), the central protagonist of the Protestant Deformation/Reformulation/Anti-Religion. Luther read Valla’s Discourse in 1520 and was both shocked and more thoroughly convinced that the real battle in which he had already begun to take part centered upon the problem of the Papacy. He tells of his surprise and anguish at discovering the truth about the forged Donation to his friend Spalatin:
I have read The Donation of Constantine, which I had not seen before, and I am astonished at the impudence of Satan. O good God, what darkness and wickedness is in the head of your church! What could be more impudent than this lie? How can they be so bold as to defend it? And yet they do defend it, and will not retract it.Luther, Letter to Spalatin, 6 June 1520
Luther incorporated Valla’s arguments into his critique of the Papacy, which he developed in his three major treatises of 1520: To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation, On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. In these works, Luther attacked the Papal claims of supremacy, infallibility, and jurisdiction over all Christians. He rejected the notion that the Pope was the successor of Peter or the vicar of Christ, and he accused him of being the Antichrist foretold by the Apostle Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. Luther also denounced the Papal abuses and corruption, such as simony, nepotism, indulgences, and excommunications.
The Donation of Constantine: A False Catholic Legacy?
The Donation of Constantine is a remarkable example of how a forged document can impact history. It also shows how human ingenuity can be used for good and evil purposes. The Donation of Constantine was a clever fabrication that served a political agenda. In this way, it distorted the true nature and mission of the Catholic Church, making it as if the consumption of worldly prestige and land was its purpose. The Donation was a powerful weapon that supported the Papal claims for centuries but became a target for criticism and reform. It was a false Christian legacy that obscured the genuine legacy of Constantine, who was the first emperor to tolerate the Catholic Church legally and to promote its unity and expansion (Cf. The Edict of Milan).
The Donation of Constantine also raises important questions about truth and history. How can we discern between authentic and spurious sources? How can we evaluate conflicting interpretations and perspectives? How can we avoid being deceived or misled by false or biased information? How can we learn from our past mistakes and correct our present errors? These questions are still relevant today, especially in an age of information overload and misinformation.
The Donation of Constantine challenges us to be critical and careful readers of history and humble and honest seekers of truth. It reminds us that history is not only a collection of facts and dates but also a story of human actions and interactions, with their achievements and failures, virtues and vices, hopes and fears. It invites us to reflect on our historical role and responsibility to preserve and transmit a faithful Catholic legacy for future generations.