Christ’s words to Peter in the synoptic Gospels might help us better understand the spiritual milieu in which the occupant of the Chair of Peter lives and governs. Let’s examine a few passages of our Lord’s words in order to understand the spiritual war that Pope Francis faces as the successor of Peter.
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” (Luke 22:31-32)
Christ teaches us in the Gospel of Luke that Satan has personally requested to have Peter (Simon). He is on a particular mission to destroy the faith of Peter. Knowing that Peter has received the keys of the Kingdom as the chief leader of the Church, Satan strikes at the center to scatter the flock of Christ--he goes after the shepherd.
The Church understands that this passage is not only referring to the person Peter (Simon) but also to the successors of Peter. Christ is saying that this is how it will always be in the Church. Much like there will always be enmity between the Woman and the Serpent (Genesis 3:15), so too will Satan always seek to sift Peter. Until the end of the world Satan will plead to sift Peter in his successors. He is bent on destroying the faith of the occupant of the Chair of Peter.
Given the prophetic words of Christ, we are able to better understand why our present pope is surrounded by many prelates proposing heretical doctrines, conniving to implement their own agendas. Satan is doing whatever he can to destroy the faith of Peter by surrounding him with wicked men and much noise. He is attempting to sift Peter as wheat.
“Get thee behind me, Satan!” (Matthew 16:23)
So great is this intent to destroy the faith of Peter that Christ, right after handing the keys of the Kingdom to him, identifies Peter as Satan: “Get thee behind me, Satan!” To sit in the Chair of Peter comes with this terrible weight: Satan desires to make Peter his mouthpiece, even to identify himself as Peter. Where Peter is, there Satan desires to be--a demonic mockery of the early Church's dictum: "Where Peter is, there is the Church."
“And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)
With the certainty of supernatural Faith we know that Peter will not formally teach heretical doctrines because the Holy Spirit will preserve the Church in truth until the end of the world. But this same promise of our Lord to Peter entails that the gates of Hell will attempt to lay waste the Office of St. Peter. Christ’s promise of indefectibility and infallibility is inseparable from the onslaught of demonic forces against the Barque of Peter.
Certainly the "gates of Hell will not prevail,” but such an assertion by our Lord entails that Hell's mission is to strike at the Church's center, the papacy. Because the Catholic Church is the one Church of Jesus Christ we must expect her center to be the magnetic pole to which all the forces of Hell are attracted. In fact, Christ’s declaration to Peter reveals to all of Hell where the demonic forces should strike. Just as Satan immediately tempted Christ after his baptism, so too Satan and Hell are ready to pounce on the one who had just received the keys of the Kingdom.
The growth of heresy and corruption within the Church even among her hierarchy is not a new phenomenon. The Church has faced this from the beginning--the Arian bishops of the 4th century and the 10th century papacy come to mind. These are major wounds inflicted on the Body of Christ throughout world history. As the Body of Christ, the Church will bear the scourging and thorns that her Head bore in his physical body while He was on earth. Just as Christ was betrayed by one of his disciples, just as he was denounced by His friends, so too the Bride of Christ is betrayed by even her own priests. Throughout the centuries the Church suffers the heretical opinions of her representatives “making up what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ” (Colossians 1:24).
As members of the Catholic Church, we must suffer the blows that she suffers, bearing the scandals of these prelates in our flesh offering it up for the occupant of the Chair of Peter, Pope Francis. He must face Satan himself in a way that you and I do not have to face him. Satan desires to sift him as wheat; he desires to make Peter his mouthpiece.
Our Lord knowing the intentions of Satan prayed for Peter lest he and his successors teach false doctrine. Our prayers must be added to our Lord’s lest Satan draw even closer to Peter in these confusing times causing scandal to the world. Satan himself is set on it. Catholics have an obligation to assist our earthly shepherd through prayers and mortification.