Sister Lucia dos Santos, who passed away in 2005, together with St. Jacinta and St. Francisco Marto, received the grace of seeing Our Lady in Fatima in 1917. She said that the ultimate battlefield between the forces of good and evil would be the family.
Viewing the history of man from the onset of the modern era, it can be said that this clash has become ever more apparent with each successive revolutionary upheaval, thus undermining more and more our Christian civilization.
The Reformation: Stripping Marriage of its Sanctity
The Christian civilization, which had grown as a “by-product” of the Church’s evangelizing mission, inherited what was left of the ancient (Greco-Roman) civilization which, recognizing natural law, saw the family as a natural environment for human growth and thus extended legal protection to it (see Roman Law). But in addition to this the Church sanctified the family as well. Crucial in this respect, of course, is the teaching of the Savior, who raised marriage to the rank of a sacrament and made spouses equal in spiritual rights. It has to be noted that he had done so in spite of the fact that among his closest disciples – as the Gospel relates – the words stressing the indissolubility of matrimonial bonds drew protests, with his disciples doubting if it was possible to meet such a high moral standard. It can be said that such voices have not died over the centuries of Church history and can still be heard with varying echoes of strength.
In the modern era, the first powerful blow to the concept of the Christian family being founded on sacramental marriage was delivered by the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century. Crucial in this respect, Martin Luther’s denial of the sacramental nature to marriage was embodied in his bold assertion that: “nothing that concerns matrimonial matters belongs to the Gospel.” From this assertion, Luther deduced a series of successive consequences, such as permission to divorce. By absolutely denying any need to ask for dispensations from the pope (in those days only the pope could grant a dispensation allowing a marriage to be nullified), he gladly appropriated this right to himself, ignoring, on many occasions, the teachings of the Gospel that quotes the words of Christ about the indissolubility of marriage. Instead, he referred only to examples from the Old Testament (involving patriarchs and the kings of ancient Israel) to justify his personal permissions for divorces. Not only to divorces, actually, as we know of cases (e.g. that of Phillip and Hessian Landgrave) when Martin Luther approved bigamy.
The process of England’s severing ties with the universal Church began when king Henry VIII, being unable to control his rather base urges, resolved to “legalize” his adulterous relationship with Anne Boleyn
Another consequence of this stance, taken by the founder of the Reformation, entailed the complete secularization of marriage in the countries where Protestantism had taken over. The reason was Martin Luther’s opinion that the only authority empowered to settle matrimonial disputes (including marriage annulment) was that of the state: in other words church (episcopal) tribunals were no longer allowed to do so. When in 1520, Luther cast into fire the Code of Canon Law, he burned the Church law setting procedures in these matters. The Protestant triad: “only grace”, “only Scripture” and “only faith”, should be enlarged to include one more slogan – “only the State.”