“Let no one at that day say in his heart ‘unless God willed it, He would not have permitted’ No, The Apostle forewarns you, saying not that they may be excused, but condemned.’
(St. Cyr. Catech. XV 16, 1 7)
The interpretation of prophecies is always fraught with danger. While it is clear that Scripture contains prophecy, it is only in retrospect that one can clearly state that “God told you so.” Moreover, the Spirit of Evil has spread abroad the earth from time immemorial and has always delighted in both giving false interpretations to the Word of God, and to giving false statements and prophecies that purport to be that Word. Nevertheless, it seems important to consider this aspect of the problem if for no other reason than to destroy the contention of those who, in the face of all contrary evidence, persist in saying “it cannot be,’ or “it will not happen.’
St. Paul warns us in his second letter to Timothy that “The time will surely come when men will grow fired of sound doctrine,‘ and Christ Himself said “I know that, after my departure, ravening wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock speaking perverse things‘(Acts 20:19). Such prophecies have of course been fulfilled throughout the history of Christianity, but we have some further guidelines. We know that at some time in history an “Antichrist’ will arise and reign supreme. Indeed his reign will only be finished by the Second coming of Christ in glory. But we are told more. St Paul warns us in his letter to the Thessalonians “Let not man deceive you by any means, for that day shall not come, except there came a failing away first‘ (Thes: 2. 3-10). Thus as Cardinal Newman points out in his “The Patristical Idea of Antichrist,’ prior to Christ’s second coming there will be a reign of Antichrist, and prior to Antichrist, there will be a “failing away,’ or to use Newman’s words, “a certain frightful apostasy.’
There are other indications of the events that will precede the second coming. Thus Christ warns Matthew (Chapter 24) that there will be “false Christs,’ and “false prophets,’ “… showing signs and wonders,’ “iniquity abounding,’ and “love waxing cold.’ He adds further “when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors… When ye shall see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place … then let them that be in Judea flee into the mountains.’
We have two other “facts” (the author of this accepts what is Revealed as a “fact”), to be taken in consideration. One is that as St. John the Apostle said some 2,000 years ago, “the spirit of Antichrist (whereof you have heard that it should come), and even now already is it in the world” (2:18); and St. Paul’s statement “now ye know what withholdeth, that he (Antichrist) might be revealed in his time … He that now withholdeth will withhold, until he be taken out of the way‘ (2 Thess. 2:6).
Let us sum up these “facts” in the words of Cardinal Newman: “the coming of Christ will be immediately, preceded by a very awful and unpararelled out-break of evil, called by St. Paul an Apostasy, a falling away, in the midst of which a certain terrible Man of Sin and child of perdition, the special singular enemy of Christ, or Antichrist, will appear; that this will be when revolutions prevail, and the present framework of society breaks to pieces; and that at present the spirit which he will embody and represent is kept under “the powers that be,’ but that on their dissolution, he will rise his own evil way, under his own rule, to the exclusion of the Church’
One of the particular signs of this time will be the “abomination of desolation‘ which we are warned of in both the Gospel of Matthew and Mark. This phrase occurs in several places in the Old Testament which “prefigures’ the New Covenant. Thus in Daniel 9:27 it states “The Victim and the Sacrifice shall fail: and there shall be in the Temple the abomination of desolation,’ and in Daniel 11:31, “and they shall defile the sanctuary of strength and shall take away the continual sacrifice, and they shall place there the abomination unto desolation.’. Now what else can “the continuous sacrifice’ be than the Mass? And are we not warned that it is the Mass that will at some time in history be attacked? Listen to Malachi 1:7, “You offered polluted bread upon My Altars, and do you say: wherein have we polluted Thee?’ Does not Jeremias speak in God’s’ Name when he says “My Tabernacle is laid waste, all My cords are broken: My children are gone out from Me, and they are not… Because the pastors have done foolishly, and have not sought the Lord: therefore have they not understood, and all their flock is scattered” (10:20-21). Indeed, history repeats itself, for we have the words of Ezechiel who says “Her, priests have despised my law, and have defiled my sanctuaries: they have put no difference between holy and profane” (22:26).
In Maccabees we have the story of Antiochus, the savage persecutor of the Jews, who is often taken as a type of Antichrist. Let us consider a few passages from this text that might well apply. “In those days went there out of Israel wicked men, who persuaded many, saying, let us go and make a covenant with the heathen that are round about us: for since we departed from them, we have had much sorrow. Then certain of the people were so forward herein, that they went to the King, who gave them license to do after the ordinances of the heathen … and (they) made themselves uncircumcised, and forsook the holy covenant and joined themselves to the heathen, and were sold to do mischief…’
And after these events, Antiochus returning from Egypt, attacked Israel. “And he (Antiochus) entered proudly into the sanctuary, and took away the golden altar, and the candlestick of light and all the vessels thereof, and the- table of the shew-bread, and the pouring vessels, and the the crowns. Still later, when he had returned to his own country, “King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom, that all should be one people, and every one should leave his laws: so all the heathen agreed according to the commandment of the king. Yea, many also of the Israelites consented to his religion, and sacrificed unto idols and profaned the sabbath…’ Eventually, the continual sacrifice having been abandoned, he set up “the Abomination of Desolation upon the altar, and built idol altars throughout the cities of Juda on every side … and when they have rent in pieces the books of the law which they found, they burnt with fire. ” Even then there were those who refused to comply. “Many in Israel were fully resolved and confirmed in themselves not to eat any unclean thing, wherefore they chose rather to die…’ Let us again turn to the comments of Cardinal Newman which while made almost a century ago, still are pertinent today.
“Is there no reason to fear that some such apostasy is gradually preparing, gathering, hastening on, in this very day… is there not an opinion avowed and growing that a nation has nothing to do with Religion: that it is merely a matter for each man’s own conscience?-which is all one with saying with saying that we may let the Truth fall from the earth without trying to continue it on and on after our time… Is there not a feverish and ever-busy endeavor to get rid of the necessity of Religion in public transactions?…. An attempt to educate without Religion? – that is by putting all forms of Religion together, which comes to the same thing; – an attempt to enforce temperance, and virtues which flow from it. by means of Societies which are built on mere principles of utility? An attempt to make experience, and not truth, the end and the rule of measures of State and the enactment of Law? An attempt to make numbers, and not the Truth, the ground of maintaining or not maintaining this or that creed. An attempt to deprive the Bible of its one meaning to the exclusion of all other, to make people think that it may have an attempt to supersede Religion altogether as far as it is external or objective, as far as it is displayed in ordinances, or can be expressed by written words. – to confine it to our inward feelings, and thus, considering how variable and evanescent our feelings are, an attempt in fact, to destroy Religion?‘
And are not many of these ideas rampant in the Church today? What else is the “encounter with Christ” but an attempt to confine religion to our inward feelings? And what of the many new interpretations placed on Scripture, or the open acceptance of the teachings of our “separate brethren”? But there are still other statements. from the Bible that are pertinent. Thus St. Paul tells us that Antichrist will “sit in the temple of God‘ While the early fathers interpreted this as…. the Synagogue, and some spiritual writers such as St. John of the Cross teach it refers to the individual soul, there is nothing to preclude the possibility that it can refer to some part (in place or time) of the Roman Church. Further, Daniel tells us “In his estate shall he (Antichrist) the god of forces, and a god whom his fathers know not shall he honor… ” (I 1:38). Now, as Cardinal Newman says, what is meant by the words translated “god of forces,’ and afterwards called “a strange God,’ is quite hidden from us, and probably will be so till the event; but anyhow some sort of false worship is certainly predicted as the mark of Antichrist. Newman further points out that the Antichrist will be against idol worship as we usually understand the term, but that the idolatry involved will be such as that entertained by the French Revolution – the idols of “LIBERTY, EQUALITY AND FRATERNITY.’ Perhaps the idol of “dynamic evolution’ or “progress’ will be chosen. After all, the Devil is above all a “seducer,’ and so Newman warns us: “Do you think he (Satan) is so unskillful in his craft as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in his warfare against the Truth? No, he offers you baits to trap you. He promises you civil liberty; he promises you equality, he promises you trade and wealth … he promises you reform…‘
And this enemy, as Newman says, “is characterized by some especial sin, open infidelity.’ A further characteristic of the spirit of Antichrist is that he both speaks and does not speak in the Name of Christ. Let me explain this paradox. Christ told us “I am come in My Father’s Name and ye received me not; if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.’ ( John 5:43). That is to say, they will teach their own doctrines, and not the doctrines of Christ, their personal opinions and not the truth of All Times. Yet, those who speak with this “alien spirit,’ “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof ” (2 Tim. 3:2-5), and “promising men liberty, while themselves the servants of corruption ” (2 Pet. 2:10-19), will nevertheless give forth that they are speaking in Christ’s Name: “Many will say to me in that day (of judgment): “who Lord, Lord, ‘have not we prophesied in thy name … and then will I profess unto them, I never knew vou: depart from me, you that work iniquity‘ (Mat 7:22-23). Yes, God will complain again, as he did in Jeremias (12:10-11) “My pastors have destroyed My Vineyard, they have trodden My portion underfoot.’ And why will all these things happen in such a way? Because, as St. Paul said after describing Antichrist “whose coming is with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish, because they received not the love of Truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they should believe a lie, that might be damned who believed not the Truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness‘ (2 Tim. 2).
And so we see that in these days, if our contention is right, that the “Continual Sacrifice’ is but rarely performed. And what is the “autodestruction of the Church’ but the “destruction of the Vineyard’? “O God, they have defiled Thy Holy Temple (Ps. 78: 1) with “dance liturgies’ and “picture-slide services.’ “Thy Holy Places are come into the hands of strangers’ (I Maccabees, 2: 8-12) in the manner of heretics and “separated brethren’ preaching from our pulpits. “Behold our Sanctuary and our Glory s laid waste’ (ibid), for the tabernacles have been removed from the altars.’ “And the sanctuaries shall be laid waste’ (Amos, 7:9) and “My people have forsaken Me’ (Jeremias 2:13) for the Churches are deserted.
One could of course “search the Scriptures’ for still more clues – but we shall rest with one, the Apocalyptic “mark of the beast.’ This is usually assumed to imply that man will worship some “animal’ such as the “golden calf.’ However, one possible understanding of the “beast’ is man himself, that is man qua man which is so strongly stressed in some of the documents of Vatican II This is man who is “the author of his own culture,’ man who “is striving to come to an authentic and full humanity.’ After all, the curse of the angel in 16:2 is “upon men who had the character of the beast.’ This is man who no longer prays and acknowledges God in other than in vague and sentimental terms that have no meaning in reality. This is man whose relationship with the supernatural is one of personal “feeling’ and “encountering’ rather than one of “knowing.’ and “accepting Revelation.’ This is man “through his dealings with others, through reciprocal duties, and through fraternal dialogue, develops all his gifts and is able to rise to his destiny” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church, Paragraph 25). This is man whose faith is a “simple sublimating aspiration’ rather than a “belief in the doctrines of the Catholic Church.'(Andrew Greeley). This is man who no longer needs God or His Church, and who, if he does not proclaim that “God is dead,’ at least relegates God to the “nursing home’ for the aged and infirm. This is modern man who has divorced himself from all Tradition and is convinced that he can “make it on his own.’ This is man who has reduced himself to the level of the “beast.’ This is man who needs no special “mark,’ but rather leaves his mark on all he touches.
And if this shocks one, let us consider the words of a celebrated anthropologist, Ashley Montagu: “I consider any so-called ‘savage’ far better human being, and an infinitely superior Christian to any so-called white man. I consider the modern European and his American counterpart a European and his American counterpart a creature fallen so low that it would not be possible to full any lower. I know of no so-called ‘primitive people’ of whom it could not be said that they were better human beings than the members of the so-called ‘advanced peoples’ ‘ (from a letter to Ananda Coomaraswamy)
Of course, no one can with certainly claim that the Scriptural predictions quoted above apply to the present situation within the Catholic Church. What however, is frightening, is that all that is going on is consistent with these predictions and prophecies. As St. Alphonse of Liguori says, “the Devil has always attempted, by means of heretics, to deprive the world of the Mass, making them precursors of the Antichrist, who, before anything else, will try to abolish and will certainly abolish the Holy Sacrament of the altar…”(The Mass).
For the individual Catholic however, such speculation is not important. On the Day of Judgment, he will not be held responsible for interpreting prophecy, but for his actions. In the face of a situation that “smells’ of all that we have been warned against, he must adhere with all his he must adhere with all his heart to heart to what is sure. In the face of what appears to be a constantly and ever-changing liturgical practice, he must adhere to that liturgy which is unchangeable – the Mass of All Times. In the face of doctrinal pronouncements that seem to follow the fashions of clothiers, he must adhere to the Doctrine of All Times. In the presence of a Faith that is described as “personal’, “encounterish’ and confined to one’s “inward feelings,’ he must to the Faith of All Times. Living in the when the Church’s structures seem as evanescent as the sands of time, he must adhere to the Church of All Times. Above all, he must adhere to that Name which existed in the Bosom of the Father before time even came to be, the Sacred Name of Jesus!
Finally – a word about that other prophecy of Scripture, that persecutions will be visited upon the faithful “remnant’ by the powers of Antichrist. I speak not of those persecutions that are now visited upon the priests that persist in saying the True Mass, but of those which will be visited upon the faithful, priest or lay, who refuse “to partake of unclean food.’ The modernist hierarchy has abdicated its right to speak the Truth in the modern world – after all, our separated brethren also speak the truth. In a previous day, if the Pope should speak out on an issue such as abortion, millions of the faithful would obey and even governments would fear to be toppled. Today, when the Pope speaks, even his closest Bishops hasten to contradict him. His followers decry his words before the heretics have even had a chance to read them.
If the Church can no longer be a force for truth and morality, then governments will become the means of legislating truth and morality. Once this happens, those who cannot accept the “new morality’ will become the “enemies of the people.’ If euthanasia is proclaimed a government policy- and it has been so declared before in Holland, a Christian country – and it will be again – then those who refuse to accept this “good,’ will have to be “re-educated.’ Our religious beliefs will be allowed only if we keep them “private’, and do not teach them to our children. When we feel called upon to speak against the prevailing tide – to witness to the truth – when we refuse to accept the “rulings’ of a numerical majority or reject the demands and directives of any power group that happens to control the government, then we will be “obstructing'” the “will of the people’ and will be declared “enemies of the State.’
On that day, there will no longer be a visible Church to speak for us and we will stand alone. There will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth,’ if not in our day, then in days of our children. It is they who will accuse us and ask, why did you not stand firm on principle, why did you allow yourselves to be blown hither adhere and fro like a “reed in the wind‘? Let us not become a generation that God loathes. Let Him not say to us, “Forty years I loathed that generation, and I said. They are a people of erring heart,and they know not my ways. Therefore I swore in my anger: They shall not enter into my rest.'(Psalm 44)