By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
– Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1
Is there a part of you that aches when you feel a storm coming? An old injury, a creaking joint, maybe your sinuses? For me, it was always my left arm. Could be a bright, sunny, cloudless day, but if it started throbbing in just that certain way, I knew: before too long, the dark clouds would be rolling in.
I don’t know if it’s possible for our souls to feel something similar, but I’ve talked to a number of people who have serious spiritual aches.
There’s just this feeling that something bad is coming. Nobody can put their finger on it. It could be spiritual, or temporal, or possibly even both. All I can say is that it’s as if we’re watching the world stage, and the house lights have gone down, and we can just barely make out that the scenery is being rearranged by people dressed all in black. We can’t see them with any clarity. There’s just the sense of deliberate and hasty movement, as pieces are being put into place for a big scene.
I’ve never been given to apocalyptic fantasies, but it’s hard not to wonder if when the curtain comes up, we will be witnessing the beginning of the final act.
In this essay, I hope to try to stitch together some of the disparate factors I see coalescing, and others I merely suspect. I have no special gift for divining the course of the future; I receive no private revelations. But I have a sense that something is very much not right in the world, and I am trying to address that for myself. I have chosen to also share my attempt to make these connections with you.
I apologize in advance for the length, but I didn’t see any way to break this up and keep all of the moving pieces in context.
So get comfortable. Maybe grab a stiff drink. If you’re feeling like it, it might be a good time for some music to set the mood.
Inauspicious Portents: Fears, Dreams, and Apparitions
The feeling I mentioned has been building for a while, but it’s grown stronger in the past year.
A friend of mine who has always been blessed (if you can call it that) with a strong, almost tangible, spiritual awareness called me some time last fall. He was driving back from an evening appointment, and it was dark out. He told me, “I don’t know what’s going on, but something is up. They’re very…active tonight. I just want to get home.” (Whenever he says “they” in that way, I know what he means. It’s always a reference to demonic activity, something with which he was very familiar before his conversion.)
I’ve been having more conversations with people lately who are having terrifying dreams. Not typical nightmares. Dreams of soldiers, attacks, persecution of the faithful, ominous warnings about evil. I had one just the other night. I woke up, heart pounding, and I had to pray for the better part of an hour before I could calm down enough to get back to sleep. One woman I know has been having them every night, for weeks on end. She is not easily intimidated, but she confessed to me that she is terrified for her children. “They’re so vivid.” She says. “They feel so real.” Of course, it’s dangerous to read too much into dreams, but we know that they can sometimes serve a spiritual purpose. In other instances, they can be a subconscious manifestation of what our minds are picking up on in our waking hours.
The world is obviously in turmoil. Among the many geopolitical and economic dangers we face, the situation with Russia right now is particularly foreboding. I have never taken a side on the question of the Blessed Mother’s urgent request for the consecration of Russia, but it grows more apparent by the day that the fruits of that consecration are not in evidence. In the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima on July 13, 1917, Mary warned of what might come:
Then Our Lady opened Her hands, as during the previous apparitions, and the light that was God streamed forth. In this light they were given, on this occasion, a vision of Hell so horrible and gruesome that the children shrieked aloud with fear. After showing them Hell Our Lady said to the children: “You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them, God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart. If what I say to you is done, many souls will be saved and there will be peace. The war is going to end; if people do not cease offending God, a worse one will beak out during the pontificate of Pius XI. When you see a night illumined by an unknown light, know that this is the great sign given you by God that He is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. “To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart, and the Communion of Reparation on the First Saturdays. If My requests are heeded, Russia will be converted, and there will be peace; if not, she will spread her errors throughout the world, causing wars and persecutions of the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, various nations will be annihilated. In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, and she will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.
Can anyone seriously suggest that Russia converted? That there has been peace? That the errors of Marxism have not been spreading?
And of course Our Lady has appeared in various ways to various people to warn us of things to come. Apparitions approved by the Church filled with grave prophecy of future terrors — not just in the world, but within the Church:
As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by My Son. Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and priests.
The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, bishops against bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their confreres…churches and altars sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.
“The demon will be especially implacable against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will be no longer pardon for them.
Our Lady of Akita, October 13, 1973
How can anyone read these words and not see a reflection of our current Church? Fatima and Akita are more recent apparitions, but warnings about our present age are hardly new. In the 16th century, Our Lady of Good Success described our times with frightening accuracy:
“The sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with the Church, will be thoroughly attacked and profaned. Masonry, then reigning, will implement iniquitous laws aimed at extinguishing this sacrament. They will make it easy for all to live in sin, thus multiplying the birth of illegitimate children without the Church’s blessing….
“Secular education will contribute to a scarcity of priestly and religious vocations.”
“The holy sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed, oppressed, and despised, for in this both the Church and God Himself are oppressed and reviled, since He is represented by His priests.
“The devil will work to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every way, working with baneful cunning to destroy the spirit of their vocation and corrupting many. Those who will thus scandalize the Christian flock will bring upon all priests the hatred of bad Christians and the enemies of the One, Holy, Roman Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This apparent triumph of Satan will cause enormous suffering to the good pastors of the Church…and to the Supreme Pastor and Vicar of Christ on earth who, a prisoner in the Vatican, will shed secret and bitter tears in the presence of God Our Lord, asking for light, sanctity, and perfection for all the clergy of the world, to whom he is King and Father.”
“Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.”
Notice that again and again, the warnings intermingle the threats existent in the world with those which will attempt to destroy the faith from within. Our Lady leaves little doubt that there will be a conspiracy within the Church that will allow heterodoxy the upper hand, at least for a time.
Though the veracity of the text has been (inconclusively) disputed, in the 1879 message of Our Lady of LaSalette the future is put in absolutely succinct and candid terms:
“Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”
Impossible? Doesn’t either proposition in this statement work against the indefectibility of the Church? I don’t think so on either count.
The Antichrist and the Loss of Catholic Faith
The reason I think that the preceding line is quite possible indeed is that scripture also tells us of certain specifics regarding the coming of the Antichrist:
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our assembling to meet him, we beg you, brethren, not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word, or by letter purporting to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you this? And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, and the Lord Jesus will slay him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by his appearing and his coming. The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
– 2 Thessalonians 2:2-12, RSV (Emphasis mine)
In the highlighted passage above, we see certain assertions that are critical for us to understand:
- Christ will not come again until “rebellion” comes (in some versions, this is translated as “apostasy”).
- Christ will not come again until the Antichrist comes.
- The Antichrist will take his seat in the temple of God, claiming this very title of “god” for his own.
Whether or not the 1879 vision of Our Lady of LaSalette is real, or a product of the visionary’s imagination (she was said to have been reading some pretty apocalyptic stuff after the original and fully approved visions) is something we may never know. But scripture is telling us that the statement, “Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of the Antichrist” has some real merit. In fact, this seems to be exactly what is being predicted in 2 Thessalonians.
Time Out. This is Getting Morbid. Why Write About This?
Apostasy. Antichrist. A liar, a divine impostor reigning from the “temple of God”, which we can only take to mean the Church that Christ established: the Catholic Church. Why am I waxing apocalyptic?
Well, I didn’t mean to wind up here. This is something that has been itching at the back of my mind for some time, and I wanted to try to understand it. As I sat down to start writing, I found these themes coming to the surface, and I felt compelled to explore them. It was as if I was seeing pieces to a jigsaw puzzle spread out over a large table. I wasn’t sure what the picture was supposed to look like, but as more pieces made their entrance, I was getting a better sense of the picture.
I’m not writing this today because I have some reason to believe that the Antichrist is among us (although it wouldn’t surprise me at this point). In fact, it’s not because I believe he’ll be here next week, next month, or next year. It’s because I believe, as a matter of faith, that he will come, and when he does come, the only way he will be able to deceive those who call themselves Catholics will be because they no longer know what it is that a Catholic is supposed to believe.
And one of the big picture elements coming into focus is exactly that: Catholics, by and large, don’t know what the Church teaches anymore. They would have no way of resisting an imposter who chooses to reign from the Temple of God if they were unable to identify his false doctrines. We are coming closer and closer to that level of desolation in the faith.
And I don’t think that’s an accident.
“Holy Mother Church has the Power to Overcome any Enemy. But they have Her Drugged and Tied Up in the Back Room.”
- Father Joseph (Name Changed), Diocesan Priest; February 17, 2014 (Personal conversation)
There was a time, not long ago, when Catholicism was synonymous with clear, unequivocal teaching. Like her or hate her, people knew where the Church stood on every important issue. The Baltimore Catechism, the precepts of the Church, Denzinger’s Sources of Catholic Dogma, the Code of Canon Law, the various papal teachings that upheld truth and condemned error in no uncertain terms…people who had never darkened the doorstep of a Catholic Church were not ignorant of her most basic teachings. Catholic schoolchildren, on the other hand, could recite many of these core beliefs from memory.
Over the course of the 20th century, however, that began to change. Particularly in the latter part. It would appear that the forces of hell made a play for the Catholic faith unlike any attempt before.
There is a popular story that at the end of the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII had an apparition at Mass whereupon God allowed Satan a hundred years to do his worst to the Church, which terrified the holy father and in turn resulted in his composition of the Prayer to St. Michael. In 1886, he made this invocation a part of the Leonine prayers said at the conclusion of every low Mass. Pope Leo also composed prayers of exorcism that could be said by clergy or by the faithful, so concerned was he about the intrusion of the demonic into the life of the faith.
In his 1907 encyclical against modernism (the “synthesis of all heresies”), Pascendi Dominici Gregis, Pope St. Pius X warned of another evil he saw arising — an attack on truth from within the Church herself:
“That We should act without delay in this matter is made imperative especially by the fact that the partisans of error are to be sought not only among the Church’s open enemies; but, what is to be most dreaded and deplored, in her very bosom, and are the more mischievous the less they keep in the open. We allude, Venerable Brethren, to many who belong to the Catholic laity, and, what is much more sad, to the ranks of the priesthood itself, who, animated by a false zeal for the Church, lacking the solid safeguards of philosophy and theology, nay more, thoroughly imbued with the poisonous doctrines taught by the enemies of the Church, and lost to all sense of modesty, put themselves forward as reformers of the Church; and, forming more boldly into line of attack, assail all that is most sacred in the work of Christ, not sparing even the Person of the Divine Redeemer, whom, with sacrilegious audacity, they degrade to the condition of a simple and ordinary man.[…] [A]s We have said, they put into operation their designs for her undoing, not from without but from within. Hence, the danger is present almost in the very veins and heart of the Church, whose injury is the more certain from the very fact that their knowledge of her is more intimate. Moreover, they lay the ax not to the branches and shoots, but to the very root, that is, to the faith and its deepest fibers. And once having struck at this root of immortality, they proceed to diffuse poison through the whole tree, so that there is no part of Catholic truth which they leave untouched, none that they do not strive to corrupt. Further, none is more skillful, none more astute than they, in the employment of a thousand noxious devices; for they play the double part of rationalist and Catholic, and this so craftily that they easily lead the unwary into error; and as audacity is their chief characteristic, there is no conclusion of any kind from which they shrink or which they do not thrust forward with pertinacity and assurance. To this must be added the fact, which indeed is well calculated to deceive souls, that they lead a life of the greatest activity, of assiduous and ardent application to every branch of learning, and that they possess, as a rule, a reputation for irreproachable morality. Finally, there is the fact which is all but fatal to the hope of cure that their very doctrines have given such a bent to their minds, that they disdain all authority and brook no restraint; and relying upon a false conscience, they attempt to ascribe to a love of truth that which is in reality the result of pride and obstinacy. (emphasis mine)
Nor was Pope St. Pius the only one to warn about what was on the horizon. The encyclicals Mortalium Animos and Mediator Dei, by popes Pius XI and XII, respectively, proscribed certain nascent developments in the Church (these regarding liturgy and ecumenical prayer) that were contrary to authentic Catholicism. Nonetheless, many of these things would come to pass, almost as if to specifically adopt what had earlier been forbidden, and then were treated as perfectly orthodox manifestations of Catholicism in the wake of the Second Vatican Council.
“In the 1930s we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.” The idea was for these men to be ordained and progress to positions of influence and authority as Monsignors and Bishops. A dozen years before Vatican II she stated that: “Right now they are in the highest places in the Church” - where they were working to bring about change in order to weaken the Church’s effectiveness against Communism. She also said that these changes would be so drastic that “you will not recognise the Catholic Church.”
Mrs Dodd, who converted to the Faith at the end of her life, was personally acquainted with this diabolic project since, as a Communist agent, part of her brief was to encourage young radicals (not always card-carrying Communists) to enter Catholic seminaries. She alone had encouraged nearly 1,000 such youngsters to infiltrate the seminaries and religious orders! One monk who attended a Bella Dodd lecture in the early 1950s recalled:
“I listened to that woman for four hours and she had my hair standing on end. Everything she said has been fulfilled to the letter. You would think she was the world’s greatest prophet, but she was no prophet. She was merely exposing the step-by-step battle plan of Communist subversion of the Catholic Church. She explained that of all the world’s religions, the Catholic Church was the only one feared by the Communists, for it was its only effective opponent. The whole idea was to destroy, not the institution of the Church, but rather the Faith of the people, and even use the institution of the Church, if possible, to destroy the Faith through the promotion of a pseudo-religion: something that resembled Catholicism but was not the real thing. Once the Faith was destroyed, she explained that there would be a guilt complex introduced into the Church…. to label the ‘Church of the past’ as being oppressive, authoritarian, full of prejudices, arrogant in claiming to be the sole possessor of truth, and responsible for the divisions of religious bodies throughout the centuries. This would be necessary in order to shame Church leaders into an ‘openness to the world,’ and to a more flexible attitude toward all religions and philosophies. The Communists would then exploit this openness in order to undermine the Church.”
This conspiracy has been confirmed time and again by Soviet defectors. Ex-KGB officer Anatoliy Golitsyn, who defected in 1961 and in 1984 forecast with 94% accuracy all the astonishing developments in the Communist Bloc since that time, confirmed several years ago that this “penetration of the Catholic and other churches” is part of the Party’s “general line [i.e. unchanged policy] in the struggle against religion.”
Similar infiltrations were suspected by the Freemasons, which our lady specifically warned about. (Archbishop Annibale Bugnini, who was the principal author of the preparatory schema of the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy at Vatican II, Sacrosanctum Concilium, as well as its interpreter as composer of the Novus Ordo Missae, was suspected of being a possible Freemason, and ended his tenure in virtual exile as nuncio to Tehran.)
We can see by these premonitions and attempts to pull down Catholicism from within that serious problems in the Church had already asserted themselves before Vatican II. But it was through the council that they came to a head. Catechesis was faltering. Theological and liturgical revolution was fomenting. The same zeitgeist that was bringing us growing moral relativism, the sexual revolution and the hippie drug culture that went with it was the one that blew in when Pope John XXIII decided it was time to “open the windows of the Church and let in some fresh air.” The Church decided to have a dialogue with the world at the precise moment when the world had decided it had nothing worth saying.
There are histories of the council that could give much greater detail on the agendas that were made manifest there than I have space or time for here. (I recommend Michael Davies’ Liturgical Timebombs in Vatican II; I hear that Fr. Fritz Wiltgen’s The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber is even better, though I haven’t read it yet.) It is certainly true that many of the council fathers came to Rome in 1963 with the intention of substantially transforming the Catholic faith. It is manifestly true that they got their way.
The 1969 promulgation of the Novus Ordo Missae was the crowning accomplishment of the progressive council fathers, and a masterwork of modernist genius. On an objective theological level, there was no compelling argument against its validity, though questions of liceity when it came to simply making up a new liturgy out of whole cloth and supplanting one in existence for over a thousand years were certainly on the table. The subsequent suppression of the vetus ordo was illegal, but it happened nonetheless (a fact that wouldn’t be remedied until Pope Benedict XVI’s motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, in 2007) and a wholesale change in ecclesiology and the anthropology of worship drastically altered the relationship of not only Catholics, but non-Catholics, with the teachings and understanding of the True Faith. The liturgical destruction that was wrought following the council would need volumes (and many have been filled on the topic) to fully explain. For many years, good and faithful priests and theologians have tried to make sense of the liturgical revolt that suddenly and unceremoniously deconstructed the Church’s ancient liturgy and replaced it with something inferior and, in fact, “a fabrication, a banal on-the-spot product”, as Cardinal Ratzinger once referred to it. Even pioneers in the “reform of the reform” movement have recently reached the conclusion that the liturgical shipwreck is unsalvageable; one went so far as to say that in the development between the two liturgies there “are significant ruptures in content and form that cannot be remedied” through even the most substantive alterations.
The abuses that have followed in the wake of the Novus Ordo — some of which, like altar girls and communion in the hand (which I will speak more of later) — have Vatican approval, and these continue to erode at priestly vocations and belief in the Real Presence.
Echoing the vision of Leo XIII, Pope Paul VI stated, somewhat mysteriously, in his homily of June 29, 1972, “From some fissure the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” It is hard not to wonder at reasoning behind the decision made 8 years earlier in 1964, in which the Sacred Congregation of Rites promulgated the instruction Inter Oecumenici, which suppressed the Leonine prayers after Mass — including the prayer to St. Michael and the prayer for the “Liberty and exultation” of the Church. On this matter, the instruction simply says: “[T]he Leonine Prayers are suppressed.” (This applied to the 1962 Missal, since the Novus Ordo had not yet been slapped together.)
The ‘Brake’ has Failed: Humanae Vitae and a Half Century of Dissent
If Paul VI unleashed a great deal of turmoil in the Church by capitulating to the liturgical revolutionaries, he made a tremendous stand — perhaps the one example in his papacy of real courage — with the promulgation of Humanae Vitae. When John XXIII called the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control, I don’t know if anyone expected a particular outcome. I think many people’s expectations, regardless what side of the issue they were on, were very much not met. In a grumbling 2011 essay in the National Catholic Reporter, Gerald Slevin describes the controversy within the commission and the unexpected move by Pope Paul to oppose them:
The commission, called by Pope John XXIII in 1963 and later working on the aegis of Paul VI, eventually ended its tenure with a report asking that the church’s ban on all forms of artificial birth control be lifted.
Immediately, a second report, objecting to the commission’s final report, was called for by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, then head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith and a powerful church conservative at the time. [Steve’s note – Ottaviani also intervened two years later in an attempt to stop the promulgation of the Novus Ordo. Sadly, in that instance, he failed.]
The commission’s final report was leaked to and published in the National Catholic Reporter and appeared in other publications in 1967. A year later, after widespread expectations Paul VI would take the commission’s report to heart, he issued the encyclical Humanae Vitae, affirming the church’s official ban on all forms of artificial contraception.
That last part is important: “leaked to and published”. Though Humanae Vitae served as a bulwark against the crushing tide of sexual licentiousness to follow, the poison of the misinformation let loose in the world during the intervening time between the commission’s report and the encyclical’s publication would create a chronic infection in the life of the faith. The dissent of the majority of the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control was widely publicized, creating anticipation that the Church was about to change course and allow Catholics to practice artificial contraception. When Humanae Vitae arrived, it met strong opposition from Catholics — priests, bishops, and laity alike — who had already made up their mind that artificial contraception was just fine.
With the watered-down (and at times outright sacrilegious) liturgical experience, the softening of both Church discipline and teaching that came after the council, the “dialogue as ecumenism” approach to non-Catholics (as opposed to evangelization in pursuit of conversion), a number of syncretistic actions during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, and the absolute lack of discipline for wayward bishops, the faith was already taking heavy damage. But the division over the Church’s sexual teachings that had gained a beachhead in 1967 was where the the wounds that would diminish the Church’s strength really started to fester.
In 2003, 35 years after Humanae Vitae, Kenneth C. Jones published a book entitled: Index of Leading Catholic Indicators: The Church Since Vatican II. In an article for Latin Mass Magazine, the author summarized his many disturbing findings. Among these, the numbers on sacramental life are telling:
In 1965 there were 1.3 million infant baptisms, in 2002 there were 1 million. (In 1965 there were 287 infant baptisms for every 10,000 Catholics, in 2002 there were 154 — a decline of 46 percent.) In 1965 there were 126,000 adult baptisms in 2002 there were 80,000. In 1965 there were 352,000 Catholic marriages, in 2002 there were 256,000. In 1968 there were 338 annulments, in 2002 there were 50,000.
Mass attendance: A 1958 Gallup poll reported that 74 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1958. A 1994 University of Notre Dame study found that the attendance rate was 26.6 percent. A more recent study by Fordham University professor James Lothian concluded that 65 percent of Catholics went to Sunday Mass in 1965, while the rate dropped to 25 percent in 2000.
The decline in Mass attendance highlights another significant fact — fewer and fewer people who call themselves Catholic actually follow Church rules or accept Church doctrine. For example, a 1999 poll by the National Catholic Reporter shows that 77 percent believe a person can be a good Catholic without going to Mass every Sunday, 65 percent believe good Catholics can divorce and remarry, and 53 percent believe Catholics can have abortions and remain in good standing. Only 10 percent of lay religion teachers accept Church teaching on artificial birth control, according to a 2000 University of Notre Dame poll. And a New York Times poll revealed that 70 percent of Catholics age 18-44 believe the Eucharist is merely a “symbolic reminder” of Jesus.
Over a decade later, the early results are back from the Vatican questionnaire in preparation for the Synod on Marriage and Family this coming October. And they show continued erosion of core beliefs.
In an unusually blunt report to the Vatican, Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., said that even most regular churchgoing Catholics in his diocese find the church’s teaching on artificial contraception no longer relevant.
“On the matter of artificial contraception, the responses might be characterized by saying, ‘That train left the station long ago,’ ” he wrote in a Feb. 7 blog about his report. “Catholics have made up their minds and the sensus fidelium [the sense of the faithful] suggests the rejection of church teaching on this subject.”
[T]he German dioceses reported that “‘pre-marital unions’ are not only a relevant pastoral reality, but one which is almost universal,” since between 90 percent and 100 percent of couples who seek a Catholic wedding are already living together, despite church teaching that sex outside of marriage is sinful.
“Many, in fact, consider it irresponsible to marry without living together beforehand,” the report said.
“Many … expressed particular difficulties with the teachings on extra-marital sex and cohabitation by unmarried couples, divorce and remarriage, family planning, assisted human reproduction, homosexuality. The church’s teaching in these sensitive areas is often not experienced as realistic, compassionate, or life-enhancing.”
“Belgian Catholics expect the Church to welcome everyone, regardless of differences or mistakes made. This especially true when it comes to gay people and remarried divorcees,” SIR says.
“Belgian Catholics, inspired by Francis, are calling for a mother Church that embraces all: hence the need to grow in the faith and form lively communities,” SIR highlights. The questionnaires also placed an emphasis on the essential role women can play in Church life: “It is they who pass on the faith to children and guide them,” Belgian Catholics point out.[…]
According to Luxembourg’s Catholics, the Church does not offer a suitable solution to problematic family situations. “The doctrine on marriage, responsible fatherhood and the family is rejected in non-ecclesial circles (sometimes even in ecclesial ones),” because the Church is seen as a stranger and as not competent in these areas. In their answers Luxembourg’s Catholics refer to “the suffering caused by the exclusion from the sacraments, particularly in terms of reconciliation.” The rule the Church has regarding access to the sacraments appears inadequate. They urge the Church “to put the pastoral mission of mercy into practice and create environments where it can be introduced and experienced.” But Luxembourg didn’t express any precise position or offer any concrete indications as to the issue of gay couples. There was simply an appeal to the Church to “accept reality as it is and not try to change it with moral models” and to be welcoming and merciful.
The Religious Information Service also highlights the difference in viewpoint between the German Church and its faithful on issues such as couples living together before marriage, birth control and contraception. The exclusion of remarried divorcees from the sacraments is seen as unjustified and cruel discrimination. German Catholics also ask for same-sex unions to be legally recognised and seen on equal terms as marriage “as a commandment of justice”.
The number one request Swiss faithful made was for remarried divorcees to be granted the right to receive communion. Although Swiss Catholics fully agree on the importance of sacramental marriage and the Christian education of children, they say it is “difficult to accept the Church’s doctrine on the family, marriage and homosexuality.” “An approximately 60% majority is in favour of the Church recognizing and blessing gay couples.” There is also “strongly disagreement over with the [Church’s] rejection of artificial contraception methods.”
Pope Francis recently said of Paul VI’s and Humanae Vitae:
“His genius proved prophetic: he had the courage to stand against the majority, to defend moral discipline, to exercise a ‘brake’ on the culture, to oppose [both] present and future neo-Malthusianism. The question is not that of changing doctrine, but to go into the depths, and ensuring that pastoral [efforts] take into account people’s situations, and that, which it is possible for people to do.”
The idea that Humanae Vitae slowed the cultural descent is, I think, appropriate. But it is now indisputable that this ‘brake’ has failed, and the world’s Catholics have careened at high speed off the cliff of mass apostasy. They no longer believe what the Church believes, or even that the Church has any right to believe it.
The pope says “the question is not that of changing doctrine,” which is the kind of thing one might say when one is readying to make the appearance of doing exactly that.
Anti-John the Baptist(s)? Making the Path Crooked
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.”
– Matthew 3:1-3, RSV
Up until this point, I have endeavored to validate my feeling of something ominous on the horizon by summarizing a brief history of the drastic, rapid progression of the Church down a path that has lead us to the present moment of crisis.
But I believe that things are about to get much worse.
I have already mentioned that over the past year the feeling that something is coming has grown stronger. I can’t say for certain that this feeling is tied to the present pontificate, but since Pope Francis first stepped out on the loggia I have been deeply unsettled.
While it is far from the only issue in play, the “change in tone” coming from Pope Francis is the lightning rod in this storm. Multiple camps of faithful Catholics, all interpreting the things he says in different, opposing ways.
Critics point out that some things — like stating, “Christ became sin for me! And my sins are there in his body, in his soul!” seem openly heretical. Similarly, when referencing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes, “This is the miracle: rather than a multiplication it is a sharing” — this is not an orthodox interpretation. On the latter interrpetation, Fr. Dwight Longnecker recently wrote (making no reference to the pope):
“This familiar story of the feeding of the five thousand is full of extra meaning, but first we need to ask whether it really happened. Those who doubt miracles like to give anodyne explanations like, ‘The real miracle was that everyone shared their lunch.’ What nonsense! If that is all it was why would Mark have bothered to record it?”
The statements about homosexual civil unions, the “who am I to judge” comments about homosexual Christians and/or priests (echoed endlessly by gay marriage advocates), the concern that Catholics are obsessed with sexual teachings that come across as little more than a “disjointed multitude of doctrines” (echoed by pro-abortion advocates), the endless string of papal insults of otherwise faithful Christians, the suggestion of Atheists getting to heaven through primacy of conscience and his own intention not to convert them (an interview the pope read and agreed with, despite the spin), the welcoming of known Marxist groups in the Vatican despite government protest…the list goes on and on. There always seems to be some fresh outrage that needs to be reinterpreted by someone telling everyone to “calm down” that everything is “completely orthodox” or maybe even that it’s all “lost in translation.”
It’s a mess. I have mentioned that in order for the Antichrist to one day find a seat in the “Temple of God,” there must be no substantive resistence to his false doctrines. If the confusion and misunderstanding of doctrine that plagues the majority of the world’s Catholics continues to deepen, this will make the process of transition that much easier. In a sense, this pope, and those in the Church who would further muddy the waters of established teaching, are acting as anti-John the Baptists. By creating confusion where there was clarity, they are not making the way straight for the Lord, but crooked. Which only helps His enemies.
The fighting that has set in among faithful, obedient Catholics is deeply troubling, and is evidence enough of the problem. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” The hallmark of the current pontificate is division — not between those on one end of the ideological spectrum or the other, but between the kind of folks who should be running in the same circles. Pro-life, pro-family, pro-Church teaching, rosary-praying, Catechism-reading, politically conservative Catholics. In the ever-shrinking group of the faithful who should be on the same team, fault lines are busting out all over.
Those who are deeply concerned about what the pope and his inner circle are saying put the blame on the shepherds of the Church who are saying these things for being irresponsible stewards of Catholic teaching (and at the very best, poor communicators). They are also wary of those Catholics who reflexively support the pope and his cohorts uncritically. They see their fellow Catholics as little more than papolaters; blind “ultramontanists” and defenders of the defenseless.
On the other side, the full-throated supporters of everything coming out of the Vatican (regardless of its incongruence with Church teaching) have taken to using scare quotes around the word “faithful” when referencing those who have become openly critical of the current pontificate or the direction in which the Church seems to be heading. They do mental gymnastics to show how all of the confusion is in the fault of the hearer. They build up false doctrines that forbid the faithful from criticizing error if it comes from the pope. They also treat non-Catholics with far greater charity than their own fellow Catholics who — even if they turn out to be wrong — are in good conscience questioning what they see as the dangerous situation in the Church. (I will most certainly be vilified for what I’ve written here today. As a general rule, I won’t stoop to their level and question the sincerity of their faith just because they disagree with me. If they didn’t care about the Church, they wouldn’t be confused and afraid. If they weren’t confused and afraid, they wouldn’t be angry.)
Whatever the cause, the fighting is real, and it is damaging the Church in ways that will have long repercussions. Catholic against Catholic, brother against brother. People who profess the same creed — and mean it — at total odds over the meaning of the events and statements that are unfolding almost every day.
While our internecine squabbles continue, the world is largely under the impression that either the Church is changing what is unchangeable, or that it is simply more irrelevant than ever before. Many are taking a positive view of Catholicism insofar as they think it is becoming more like their vision for the world, but in reality, souls are not being won. Francis is not effecting conversions. The Body of Christ is rapidly becoming a house divided. We squabble over doctrine which should be clear but has instead become anything but. This looks a lot less like a “New Springtime” and a lot more like neverending winter.
Something Wicked This Way Comes
Over the six months since I wrote my first (and now infamous) post about Francis’s first moment on the loggia and my subsequent concerns, I have been scorned and ridiculed by some noteworthy Catholic figures. Fortunately, I have been validated by many more than have attacked me.
I have heard from people who work at Catholic institutions of all stripes: lay people, school teachers, writers, diocesan staff, diocesan priests, editors, and college faculty. The messages are typically variations on this theme: “Glad you’re saying what I can’t. Keep it up. People are worried. It’s too risky still for me to speak openly about this. Watching carefully all that is going on.”
In one particularly reassuring episode, I recently received a phone call from a professor of theology at a Catholic college of solid reputation. This individual confirmed me not only in the concerns I have expressed about this pontificate, but in the feelings of terror I experienced at the moment of his announcement. (I have now heard from far too many people who felt what I felt that day to allow myself to discount it as a mere feeling.) This professor assured me that there are others in the world of Catholic theological academia who are also deeply concerned, and many are at work to try to understand how to best counter the errors — whether real or perceived — that seem to be issuing forth from this papacy, and from the prelates whom Pope Francis has surrounded himself with.
The most problematic of these would seem on the surface to be Cardinal Maradiaga, and he is certainly not to be underestimated. But I believe he is a distraction. The real danger comes instead from Cardinal Walter Kasper.
Cardinal Kasper — hand-picked by Pope Francis as an advisor after the holy father called him “a superb theologian” known for “serene theology” — is known for anything but superb theology:
“[D]uring a five-day visit to the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Cardinal Kasper was interviewed by Denis O’Hayer of WABE 90.1 FM, the local PBS radio station.
O’Hayer: Again, as I recall, at the beginning [of the ecumenical movement], the idea was that the other denominations would accept or somehow come to realize that the Church was the One True Church — the Catholic Church was. Is that accurate? … First of all is that perception accurate, and secondly, is that still the premise for the Catholic Church’s approach to ecumenism?
Kasper: Well, we have given up this ecumenism of return.”
“They’ve attacked me as a heretic,” he said with a smile.
Asked why the ultra-traditionalists opposed ecumenical dialogue so strongly, he said: “Some people feel threatened in their Catholic identity when we speak with Protestants.
“We need to have a Catholic identity,” he said. “But we need an open and mature identity, not a closed one. That’s not a mature identity.”
But then, when it comes to internal Church dialogue:
“The main problem with them [the SSPX] is not the Mass in Latin,” he said, referring to the SSPX’s insistence on the pre-Council liturgy, “but the concept of tradition. Do we want a living tradition or a petrified one?”
“I’m for a dialogue, but on our conditions, not on the traditionalists’ conditions,”
And one of my old favorites:
“The only thing I wish to say is that the Document Dominus Iesus does not state that everybody needs to become a Catholic in order to be saved by God. On the contrary, it declares that God’s grace, which is the grace of Jesus Christ according to our faith, is available to all. Therefore, the Church believes that Judaism, i.e. the faithful response of the Jewish people to God’s irrevocable covenant, is salvific for them, because God is faithful to his promises.
This touches the problem of mission towards Jews, a painful question with regard to forced conversion in the past. Dominus Iesus, as other official documents, raised this question again saying that dialogue is a part of evangelisation. This stirred Jewish suspicion. But this is a language problem, since the term evangelisation, in official Church documents, cannot be understood in the same way it is commonly interpreted in everyday’s speech. In strict theological language, evangelisation is a very complex and overall term, and reality. It implies presence and witness, prayer and liturgy, proclamation and catechesis, dialogue and social work . . . which do not have the goal of increasing the number of Catholics. Thus evangelisation, if understood in its proper and theological meaning, does not imply any attempt of proselytism whatsoever. “
There’s that word again. Proselytism. Used interchangeably by Kasper with the concept of an evangelization that seeks converts, it is the same word that Pope Francis, the theological admirer of Kasper, described as “Solemn nonsense.”
Cardinal Kasper is a man who has a problem with the central truths of the Catholic faith and her most venerable traditions, but not the errors one finds outside of the Mystical Body of Christ. He disputes her claims of exclusivity, and the necessity of her sacraments for salvation.
More to the point: his current, ongoing push to find pastoral solutions to provide communion to the divorced and remarried is, I submit, not about marriage at all.
It is about the final destruction of the remaining belief in the Real Presence and the authority of the Magisterium. It is about treating all religions as equally and sufficiently efficacious for eternal salvation and denying the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.
This, at last, is the coup de grâce in the century-long onslaught against the Catholic faith that has been waged from within the Church. It is about modernism’s final, momentous triumph.
What the Pontifical Commission on Birth Control could not accomplish in 1967 appeared to be a great victory for the Church. But I have come to believe that Satan and his co-conspirators, so actively at work in the Church, accepted what seemed to be a crushing defeat at the time, knowing that the seeds for a much greater victory had been planted. Dissent blossomed in the Church, with no few bishops leading the charge. Contraception destroyed marriage. Worldwide, it has irrevocably separated the sexual act from procreation, and thus has ushered in the age of virtually ubiquitous extra-marital sex, abortion, pornography, and now same-sex marriage. As the institution of marriage has weakened, the frequency of divorce has increased exponentially. The apparent victory that was Humanae Vitae was not enforced from the pulpits. The faithful were not sufficiently catechized. And now the state of marriage — including Catholic marriage — is in such a bad way that it’s impossible to know how many marriages within the Church were ever valid in the first place. (Ask anyone going through required diocesan marriage prep how many of their classmates are already sleeping together. They’re not shy about it.)
The pastoral situation that the bishops are now facing as they consider the question of communion for the divorced and remarried is of their own making. And I submit for your consideration the idea that this happened not by accident, but by design. With marriage all but destroyed, finding a “pastoral” solution is necessary. It just so happens that this pastoral solution razes the infallible teaching of the Church on the Eucharist as it is implemented.
Fr. Brian Harrison writes:
The German bishops have devised a pastoral plan to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion, whether or not a Church tribunal has granted a decree of nullity of their first marriage. Cardinal-elect Müller, as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has not only published a strong article in L’Osservatore Romano reaffirming the perennial Catholic doctrine confirmed by John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio; he has also written officially to the German Bishops’ Conference telling them to rectify their heterodox pastoral plan. But the bishops, led by their conference president and by Cardinal Kasper, are openly defying the head of the CDF, and predicting that the existing doctrine and discipline will soon be changed!
Think of the appalling ramifications of this. If German Catholics don’t need decrees of nullity, neither will any Catholics anywhere. Won’t the world’s Catholic marriage tribunals then become basically irrelevant? (Will they eventually just close down?) And won’t this reversal of bimillennial Catholic doctrine mean that the Protestants and Orthodox, who have allowed divorce and remarriage for century after century, have been more docile to the Holy Spirit on this issue than the true Church of Christ? Indeed, how credible, now, will be her claim to be the true Church? On what other controverted issues, perhaps, has the Catholic Church been wrong, and the separated brethren right?
And what of Jesus’ teaching that those who remarry after divorce commit adultery? Admitting them to Communion without a commitment to continence will lead logically to one of three faith-breaking conclusions: (a) our Lord was mistaken in calling this relationship adulterous – in which case He can scarcely have been the Son of God; (b) adultery is not intrinsically and gravely sinful – in which case the Church’s universal and ordinary magisterium has always been wrong; or (c) Communion can be given to some who are living in objectively grave sin – in which case not only has the magisterium also erred monumentally by always teaching the opposite, but the way will also be opened to Communion for fornicators, practicing homosexuals, pederasts, and who knows who else? (And, please, spare us the sophistry that Jesus’ teaching was correct “in his own historical and cultural context”, but that since about Martin Luther’s time that has all changed.)
Let us make no mistake: Satan is right now shaking the Church to her very foundations over this divorce issue. If anything, the confusion is becoming even graver than that over contraception between 1965 and 1968, when Paul VI’s seeming vacillation allowed Catholics round the world to anticipate a reversal of perennial Church teaching. If the present Successor of Peter now keeps silent about divorce and remarriage, thereby tacitly telling the Church and the world that the teaching of Jesus Christ will be up for open debate at a forthcoming Synod of Bishops, one fears a terrible price will soon have to be paid.
The stakes of this issue cannot be overstated.
Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich, herself a German Catholic, envisioned something terrible befalling the Church:
“I saw also the relationship between two popes … I saw how baleful would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city of Rome. The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness…
“I had another vision of the great tribulation. It seems to me that a concession was demanded from the clergy which could not be granted. I saw many older priests, especially one, who wept bitterly. A few younger ones were also weeping. But others, and the lukewarm among them, readily did what was demanded. It was as if people were splitting into two camps.”
“I see the Holy Father in great anguish. He lives in a palace other than before and he admits only a limited number of friends near him. I fear that the Holy Father will suffer many more trials before he dies.
“I see that the false Church of darkness is making progress and I see the dreadful influence it has on the people. The Holy Father and the Church are verily in so great a distress that one must implore God night and day…”
He claimed that in the early Church, when someone entered a new relationship even though their spouse was still alive, “after a period of penance had available … a life raft through admission to Communion.”
Suggesting a “way of conversion” involving the sacrament of confession, he asked, “is it also the path that we could follow in the present question?”
When someone who is divorced and remarried “repents of his failure in the first marriage”; if he cannot return to the first marriage; if he “cannot abandon without further harm” the responsibilities of his second marriage; if “he is doing the best he can to live out the possibilities of the second marriage on the basis of the faith and to raise his children in the faith”; and if “he has a desire for the sacraments as a source of strength in his situation,” Cardinal Kasper said, then “should we or can we deny him, after a period of time of a new orientation (metanoia), the sacrament of penance, and then of Communion?”
“Life is not just black or white; there are, in fact, many nuances.”
Cardinal Kasper emphasized the need for “discretion, spiritual discernment, sagacity, and pastoral wisdom” in these cases. “This discretion is not an easy compromise between the extremes of rigorism and laxity, but, as is every virtue, a perfection between these extremes.” (emphasis mine)
The serpent is a creature who moves with careful tact. Eve was not coerced, she was…seduced. It was the slow, slippery insinuation of ideas that led her to The Fall. The devil is in the nuances:
Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked… (Genesis 3:1-7, RSV)
Although we know that Pope Francis found Kasper’s presentation “beautiful and profound”, we now hear the opposition. Cardinals and theologians are turning on Kasper. They oppose his solution.
While we may be tempted to see in this a sign of hope, it would not be the first time that the Church has followed this process to change a long-standing matter of essential discipline. The “pastoral” circumstance that led to the widespread practice of communion in the hand — an abuse — came about in much the same way:
The practice of receiving Holy Communion in the hand first began to spread in Catholic circles during the early 1960s, primarily in Holland. Shortly after Vatican II, due to the escalating abuses in certain non-English speaking countries (Holland, Belgium, France and Germany), Pope Paul VI took a survey of the world’s bishops to ascertain their opinions on the subject. On May 28, 1969 the Congregation for Divine Worship issued Memoriale Domini, which concluded: “From the responses received, it is thus clear that by far the greater number of bishops feel that the present discipline [i.e., Holy Communion on the tongue] should not be changed at all, indeed that if it were changed, this would be offensive to the sensibility and spiritual appreciation of these bishops and of most of the faithful.” After he had considered the observation and the counsel of the bishops, the Supreme Pontiff judged that the long-received manner of ministering Holy Communion to the faithful should not be changed. The Apostolic See then strongly urged bishops, priests and the laity to zealously observe this law out of concern for the common good of the Church.Despite the vote, in 1969 Pope Paul VI decided to strike a compromise with his disobedient bishops on the continent. Given “the gravity of the matter,” the pope would not authorize Communion in the hand. He was, however, open to bestowing an indult – an exception to the law – under certain conditions: first, an indult could not be given to a country in which Communion in the hand was not an already established practice; second, the bishops in countries where it was established must approve of the practice “by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority.” Beyond this, the Holy See set down seven regulations concerning communion in the hand; failure to maintain these regulations could result in the loss of the indult. The first three regulations concerned: 1) respecting the laity who continue the traditional practice (of receiving kneeling and on the tongue), 2) maintaining the laity’s proper respect of the Eucharist, and 3) strengthening the laity’s faith in the real presence. (emphasis mine)
Communion in the hand began as an abuse opposed by the world’s bishops and the pope himself. But insofar as it was rampant (in the Germanic countries, again, which seems to be a fountainhead of heterodoxy for the Church) it was allowed, by indult, in the hope of containment. Those who failed to honor the mentioned conditions were supposed to lose the indult. But they didn’t.
Communion in the hand is now the dominant practice of the entire Church. It has spread like wildfire.
Do we really doubt that if the German bishops forge ahead with their plan for communion for the divorced and remarried — even if, by some chance, Pope Francis does not find some way to acquiesce to it — that they will not be given a similar allowance?
Do we really believe that the abuse could be contained?
There are many troubling signs in the Church today. The damage stemming from the theological confusion and division which are hallmarks of this papacy is not to be underestimated. The recent attacks on the Traditional Latin Mass and those who are devoted to it seem like trial balloons for further suppression.
But it is the desire to allow communion for the divorced and remarried that will set the stage for what follows.
If the October synod allows this — and the pope affirms it, or the German bishops proceed regardless and are granted an indult — we are in grave danger. Fr. Brian Harrison is correct. It would call everything that Catholics believe about Christ, about the Eucharist, and about the Church’s infallible authority on faith and morals into question. The interconnectedness of all the essential truths of the Church comes tumbling down if the most central truth — the truth of the Eucharistic Christ — can be undermined.
An October synod with such an outcome would mean a November Schism. Could this be the “concession … which could not be granted”, that will nonetheless “readily” be acquiesced to by many of the clergy? Will the Church split “into two camps”? Is this what so many of us have been sensing amidst the turmoil?
Would this loss of belief in the Real Presence and magisterial authority thus pave the way for the reign of the Antichrist, if Rome indeed becomes the seat of apostasy?
Only God knows. But we must be alert.
At the time of the conclave that elected Francis, Robert Moynihan, founder and editor-in-chief of Inside the Vatican, ran into a cardinal he knew on the streets of Rome. Moynihan felt compelled to talk to him about what was happening:
“Your eminence,” I said.
In his eyes he was saying to me that he could not answer any questions.
But he was not excluding all conversation. And so I ventured…
“I only wanted to tell you one thing,” I said. “That I loved Pope Benedict.”
He stood still.
“I did too, and I do love him,” the cardinal said.
“And so I have been troubled and a bit off balance since February 11,” I said.
And then, as if filled with a sudden emotion, I saw the cardinal’s face grow dark and sad, and he said, forcefully: “I love him, but this should never have happened. He never should have left his office.”
I was silent.
“It is like a man and a woman, a husband and wife, a mother and father in relation to their children,” he said. “What do they say?” It seemed he was asking me the question.
I was silent.
“They say, ‘until death do us part!’ They stay together always.”
So I understood him to be saying that he felt a Successor of Peter should not step down from the throne, no matter how weary and tired, but continue until death.
I felt the words he was speaking were the words of an argument that may have been used even among the cardinals, but of course, that may not be the case.
But I felt that I was catching a glimpse of how at least one cardinal was thinking about the Pope’s renunciation.
“Your eminence,” I said, “I’ve forgotten. Are you already above age 80, or not?
“I am not yet 80,” he told me.
“So you will be voting tomorrow.”
He nodded, and a look passed over his eyes which seemed filled with shadows and concerns. I was surprised at his intensity. I was surprised by the whole conversation.
He squeezed my hand. “Is there anything else I can do?” I asked.
“Pray for us,” he said. “Pray for us.”
He turned as if he needed to go.
“I have to go.”
He took a step away from me, then turned again.
“It is a dangerous time. Pray for us.”
I think we should do as he asked.
Pray. Pray more than you’re used to. It’s hard. I’m bad at it. Ask God for wisdom, for discernment, for guidance. Ask Him to help you see the truth of what is going on, and what you must do. Try your hardest to stay in a state of grace. Live your vocation. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
This is my own advice for myself. I am not a prophet, but I am trying to read the signs. I hope that you also find my thoughts here worth your consideration.
In the comments, CJ says: “The broad patristic consensus on the Antichrist is that the “Temple” refers not to the church but to the synagogue.”
And indeed, as I’ve done some additional reading in Fr. Vincent Miceli’s book, The Antichrist, that does seem to be the favored interpretation. He cites Ireneaus, Cyril of Jerusalem, and others in support of this. As I said at the outset of this post, “I have no special gift for divining the course of the future; I receive no private revelations.” I should add that I’m no scripture scholar, either. I’m just a guy trying to piece this together. There does seem to be evidence that apostasy in Rome to some degree is certainly within the realm of possibility. I know that Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of a syncretistic Church that does great damage to the faith has Rome at the center. I’m sure there’s probably a great deal more out there. Researching this isn’t my full-time job, though, so I have to find what I can in the time I can scrape up.
If I didn’t make it clear enough before, I’ll say it with more force here: THIS IS ALL MY OWN INTERPRETATION AND THINKING AND NOTHING MORE. It could all very well be wrong. Take it with a big grain of salt. Do your own homework. I’m not an authority of any kind on the matters discussed herein.