© Copyright 2014, T. Stanfill Benns (All emphasis within quotes is the author’s unless indicated otherwise.)
Many self-styled sedevacantists, who believe today that we have no pope in Rome, have failed to carry their reasoning through to the end and conclude that those in Rome now posing as popes must indeed be the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel and our Lord in Matt. 24:15. That such a conclusion is necessary in order for all Catholic dogma to be held whole and entire should be obvious, for we know that without a true pope the juridical Church cannot exist, (see /free-content/reference-links/7-recent-articles/binding-power-of-papacy-voids-traditionalist-acts/ ) and the Church must exist until the consummation.
The only break in this link allowed is the reign of Antichrist, which cannot be gainsaid by the Church’s teaching on infallibility and indefectibility; for all Church teaching must flow as one continuous and unchangeable body of truth, beginning with Christ and ending with the last true pope. Henry Cardinal Manning and several others set this fulfillment of prophecy outside the promises made to the Church concerning her indefectibility, with her existence on earth to be resumed after Antichrist’s reign accompanied by a glorious revival of faith, in order that the Church may continue victorious and uninterrupted in Her mission until the very end, as Christ promised.
Most Traditionalists seem unaware of Manning’s teachings or those of other theologians and are quite happy to hold that Antichrist’s reign is yet in the remote future. But this is not what the Catholic Church they falsely profess to embrace teaches. It is true that we must avoid any appearance whatsoever of holding that a true pope, legitimately elected and free of heresy prior to his election, could ever, as such a pope, BECOME a heretic, hence an antichrist, for this is the very truth the Vatican Council set out to define. No true pope can ever err in defining dogma in his official capacity, be this in his ordinary or extraordinary magisterium, but he certainly could do so if he was not pope at all, having committed heresy pre-election unbeknownst to his electors and the faithful. This is clearly spelled out in Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, for those who care to read it carefully, with the eyes of faith. (Please see the articles posted on Cum ex… on the Free Content section of this website under 4. Heresy — H, I and J. After reading these articles come back to what is presented below, which then will make far more sense.)
It must be kept in mind that Pope Paul IV was not a popular pope, having convened the Inquisition. Following his death he was hung in effigy in Rome and the very thing he warned against very nearly happened after all, as the articles mentioned above will explain. It has been entirely forgotten, if it was ever realized at all, that when Paul IV penned his bull, the Protestant Reformation was at its height and the claims that the pope was Antichrist were very much in vogue. If those going to such great lengths to demonize the bull would appreciate that fact, and properly relate it to what this pope says in its context, there would be no doubt in the minds of anyone that a true pope could never utter heresy.
The entire bull is prefaced with the reasons for its issuance, and that preface speaks directly to the Protestant heretics, “…those who, in Our time more consciously and balefully than usual, driven by malice and trusting in their own wisdom, rebel against the rule of right Faith and strive to rend the Lord’s seamless robe by corrupting the sense of the Holy Scriptures with cunning inventions. We must not allow those to continue as teachers of error who disdain to be taught.” That is the whole purpose of his bull then; to refute the idea that a true pope could ever become an antichrist and utter heresy as the Protestants claim, and also to prevent a certain cardinal Paul IV considered to be a heretic from being invalidly elected following his death.
In issuing his bull, Paul IV was drawing on the teaching of St. Bernard and others, also the Council of Florence — a tradition pre-existing in the Church — which considered all antipopes the equivalent of Antichrist. He simply defined this teaching in the face of the Protestant heresies in order to refute their errors. He defended the Catholic Tradition of St. Bernard and the others, which the Protestants were then using against the Church, as what is presented below proves. But in so doing, he does not seem to have set a time limit as to how long such an heretical usurper could reign, allowing those who recognize his heresy to depart “at any time.” We now begin a lengthy quote, taken from the Catholic Encyclopedia under the topic of Antichrist, to which we will add additional comments, in hopes of clarifying this time constraint.
“C. In the Pauline Epistles
“St. John supposes that his readers already know the doctrine concerning the coming of Antichrist; many commentators believe that it had become known in the Church through the writings of St. Paul. St. John urged against the heretics of his time that those who denied the mystery of the Incarnation were faint images of the future great Antichrist. The latter is described more fully in II Thessalonians 2:3, sqq., 7-10. In the Church of Thessalonica disturbances had occurred on account of the belief that the second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent. This impression was owing partly to a misunderstanding of I Thessalonians 4:15, sqq., partly to the machinations of deceivers. It was with a view of remedying these disorders that St. Paul wrote his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, inserting especially 2:3-10.
“The Pauline doctrine is this: ‘the day of the Lord’ will be preceded by ‘a revolt,’ and the revelation of the ‘man of sin.’ The latter will sit in the temple of God, showing himself as if he were God; he will work signs and lying wonders by the power of Satan; he will seduce those who received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved; but the Lord Jesus shall kill him with the spirit of His mouth, and destroy him with the brightness of His coming. As to the time, ‘the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.’
“Briefly, the ‘day of the Lord’ will be preceded by the “man of sin” known in the Johannine Epistles as Antichrist; the “man of sin” is preceded by ‘a revolt,’ or a great apostasy; this apostasy is the outcome of the “mystery of iniquity” which already ‘worketh,’ and which, according to St. John, shows itself here and there by faint types of Antichrist. The Apostle gives three stages in the evolution of evil: the leaven of iniquity, the great apostasy, and the man of sin. But he adds a clause calculated to determine the time of the main event more accurately; he describes something first as a thing (to datechon) [the papacy], then as a person (ho katechon), [the pope himself], preventing the occurrence of the main event: “Only he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way.” We can here only enumerate the principal opinions as to the meaning of this clause without discussing their value:
“(He who witholdeth): “The impediment is the Roman Empire; the main event impeded is the ‘man of sin’ (most Latin Fathers and later interpreters). The Apostle uttered a prophecy received through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. (Catholic interpreters have generally adhered to this opinion.”)
“It may not be out of place to draw the reader’s attention to two dissertations by the late Cardinal Newman on the subject of Antichrist. The one is entitled ‘The Patristic Idea of Antichrist’; it considers successively his time, religion, city, and persecution. It formed the eighty-third number of the ‘Tracts for the Times.’ The other dissertation bears the title ‘The Protestant Idea of Antichrist.’
“In order to understand the significance of the Cardinal’s essays on the question of the Antichrist, it must be kept in mind that a variety of opinions sprang up in course of time concerning the nature of this opponent of Christianity.
“• Koppe, Nitzsch, Storr, and Pelt contended that the Antichrist is an evil principle, not embodied either in a person or a polity; this opinion is in opposition to both St. Paul and St. John. Both Apostles describe the adversary as being distinctly concrete in form.
“• A second view admits that the Antichrist is a person, but it maintains that he is a person of the past; Nero, Diocletian, Julian, Caligula, Titus, Simon Magus, Simon the son of Giora, the High Priest Ananias, Vitellius, the Jews, the Pharisees, and the Jewish zealots have been variously identified with the Antichrist. But there is little traditional authority for this opinion; besides, it does not appear to satisfy fully the prophetic predictions, and, in the case of some of its adherents, it is based on the supposition that the inspired writers could not transcend the limits of their experiences.
“• A third opinion admitted that the Antichrist must indeed appear in a concrete form, but it identified this concrete form with the system of the Papacy…
“• After this general survey of the Protestant views concerning the Antichrist, we shall be able to appreciate some of Cardinal Newman’s critical remarks on the question. If any part of the Church be proved to be antichristian, all of the Church is so, the Protestant branch inclusive.
“• The Papal-Antichrist theory was gradually developed by three historical bodies: the Albigenses, the Waldenses, and the Fraticelli, between the eleventh and the sixteenth centuries: are these the expositors from whom the Church of Christ is to receive the true interpretation of the prophecies?
“• The defenders of the Papal-Antichrist theory have made several signal blunders in their arguments; they cite St. Bernard as identifying the Beast of the Apocalypse with the Pope, though St. Bernard speaks in the passage of the Antipope; they appeal to the Abbot Joachim as believing that Antichrist will be elevated to the Apostolic See, while the Abbot really believes that Antichrist will overthrow the Pope and usurp his See; finally, they appeal to Pope Gregory the Great as asserting that whoever claims to be Universal Bishop is Antichrist, whereas the great Doctor really speaks of the Forerunner of Antichrist who was, in the language of his day, nothing but a token of an impending great evil.”
“• Protestants were driven to the Papal-Antichrist theory by the necessity of opposing a popular answer to the popular and cogent arguments advanced by the Church of Rome for her Divine authority.
“• Warburton, Newton, and Hurd, the advocates of the Papal-Antichrist theory, cannot be matched against the saints of the Church of Rome.
“• If the Pope be Antichrist, those who receive and follow him cannot be men like St. Charles Borromeo, or Fénelon, or St. Bernard, or St. Francis de Sales.
“• If the Church must suffer like Christ, and if Christ was called Beelzebub, the true Church must expect a similar reproach; thus, the Papal-Antichrist theory becomes an argument in favor of the Roman Church.
“• The gibe, ‘If the Pope is not Antichrist, he has bad luck to be so like him”, is really another argument in favour of the claims of the Pope; since Antichrist simulates Christ, and the Pope is an image of Christ, Antichrist must have some similarity to the Pope, if the latter be the true Vicar of Christ,” (end of long Catholic Encyclopedia quote).
Comment: As demonstrated on this site, Giovanni Baptiste Montini, Paul 6, most likely was Antichrist and Angelo Roncalli, John 23, who almost immediately after his election created Montini cardinal, then ruled as pope with his “guidance” and assistance, acted as False Prophet. It was Montini who, especially during his U.N. speeches in the 1960s, styled himself as God by embracing secular humanism, the belief man himself can become God. That this is a definite mark of the Antichrist was prophesied by the Church Father, St. Irenaeus:
“And not only by the particulars already mentioned, but also by means of the events which shall occur in the time of Antichrist is it shown that he, being an apostate and a robber, is anxious to be adored as God; and that, although a mere slave, he wishes himself to be proclaimed as a king. For he (Antichrist) being endued with all the power of the devil, shall come, not as a righteous king, nor as a legitimate king, [i.e., one] in subjection to God, but an impious, unjust, and lawless one; as an apostate, iniquitous and murderous; as a robber, concentrating in himself [all] satanic apostasy, and setting aside idols to persuade [men] that he himself is God, raising up himself as the only idol, having in himself the multifarious errors of the other idols (Adversus Haereses, Book V, Chapter 5, Verses 1).
Just as John the Baptist paved the way for the coming of our Lord, Roncalli paved the way for the coming of Antichrist. Rev. H. B. Kramer wrote: “This false prophet, possibly at the behest of Antichrist, usurps the papal supremacy…His assumed spiritual authority and supremacy over the Church would make him resemble the Bishop of Rome…He would be Pontifex Maximus, a title of pagan emperors, having spiritual and temporal authority. Assuming authority without having it makes him the False Prophet… Though he poses as a lamb, his doctrines betray him,” (The Book of Destiny, Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus. Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, Jan. 26, 1956.) It must be remembered that when the Roman emperors reigned under this title, Pontifex Maximus, they expected their subjects to revere them as gods. The Lateran treaty signed in the early part of the 20th Century created Vatican City as its own country or empire, making this a reality. This is the slain head returning to life; Rome returning to its pagan origins, as many biblical commentators have interpreted this verse.
Manning on “he who withholdeth”
Returning to the last part of the first paragraph of the Catholic Encyclopedia quote on Antichrist, we would like to explore the identification of “he who withholdeth.” Here is Henry Cardinal Manning’s evaluation of exactly who St. Paul meant by “he who withholdeth,” (from the work, Temporal Power of the Vicar of Christ):
• “St. Paul…uses two expressions, “which holdeth”…and “who holdeth.”
• “He speaks of it first as a thing, then as a person…that which hinders or he who hinders.”
• [Antichrist is] “the lawless one…not subject to the will of God or of man but whose only law is his own will…In …Daniel there is a prophecy almost identical in terms [where he foretells the rise] of a king “who shall do according to his own will.” This, he says, indicates St. Paul was literally paraphrasing Daniel. This also may hint at the fact that Antichrist would be invalidly elected outside the existing laws of the Church.
• “This…lawless person shall introduce disorder, sedition, tumult and revolution both in the temporal and spiritual order of the world.”
• “Tertullian [and Lactantius] believed it [this withholding power] was pagan Rome…which gave order and peace to the nations of the world…Theodoret… [believed] it is the grace of the Holy Ghost…Other writers say it was the Apostolic power or the presence of the Apostles…Now these three interpretations, all of them, are partially true…all are in perfect harmony one with another; and we shall find that, taken together, they present a full and adequate explanation.”
1. At the time the Fathers wrote, the power of ancient Rome WAS “the great barrier against the outbreak of the spirit of lawless disorder,” much as the U. S. is (or was) today.
2. St. Thomas Aquinas [and Scotus] say the Roman Empire “has not ceased…but is changed from the temporal into the spiritual.”
3. Eventually the two powers, temporal and spiritual, “were blended and fused together; they became one great authority, the emperor ruling from his throne within the sphere of his earthly jurisdiction and the Supreme Pontiff ruling likewise from a throne of higher sovereignty over the nations of the world…”
- This restraining power then, “is Christendom and its head; the Vicar of Jesus Christ.” In that twofold authority, temporal and spiritual, the Supreme Pontiff “is the direct antagonist to the principle of disorder.”
• Cardinal Manning then explains that there is an analogy to this in the Passion and Death of Our Lord. For no one could lay a hand on him until the appointed time, but then when that time came, no one could impede the will of God to forestall it. “It was the will of God; it was the concession of the Father that Pilate had power over His Incarnate Son… In like manner with His Church. Until the hour has come when the barrier, by the Divine will, be taken out of the way, no one has power to lay a hand upon it. The gates of hell may war against it…but no one has the power to move Him one step until the hour will come when the Son of God shall permit, for a time, the powers of evil to prevail. That he will permit it for a time stands in the book of prophecy.”
- “Then will come the persecution of three years and a half, short, but terrible, during which the Church of God shall return to its state of suffering, as in the beginning; and the imperishable Church of God, by its inextinguishable life derived from the pierced side of Jesus, which for 300 years lived on through blood, will live on still through the times of Antichrist.” The three and-a-half-year period envisioned by Manning could be a period of physical persecution following Rome’s destruction, something he also teaches is predicted in the Apocalypse. But it also could correspond to another period.
A smooth-tongued Antichrist
From the last few months which saw the end of the false Vatican II council until the announcement concerning the institution of the Novus Ordo Missae (NOM), exactly three and one half years elapsed; this was the height and the critical mass of Antichrist Paul 6’s neo-Modernist persecution. It was no less horrific for Catholics because it lacked in physical violence, since the mental suffering it inflicted more than made up for this. During that time, nearly all the spiritual destruction predicted of the Antichrist was accomplished. Following the end of the false council, changes in and related to the celebration of the liturgy continued to be written and approved. The number of masses were reduced, also the number of communions.
The definition of the Mystical Body was expanded to include officially those outside the Church. The rites of all the Sacraments were changed, reducing Baptism into incorporation with the “people of God” community and destroying the intent to create priests and bishops in the Sacrament of Orders. Abuses of every kind arose once the council ended and the NOM was introduced. And it exploded exponentially into the 1970s, with all sorts of bestial practices abounding, including the introduction of popular music, dancing girls, Coke and hot dog buns substituted for the communion wafer and wine, predator priests and bishops, even a “Phallic” mass held in Italy, witnessed by “Cardinal” Suenens. The faithful suffered mentally in ways that it is probably not possible to properly calculate, and that suffering continues today.
Consider the description of Antichrist offered by the bishop St. Hilary of Poitiers below as one not persecuting physically, but mentally:
“Nowadays, we have to do with a disguised persecutor, a smooth-tongued enemy, a Constantius who has put on Antichrist; who scourges us not with lashes, but caresses, who instead of robbing us, which would give us spiritual life, bribes us with riches, that he may lead us to eternal death; who thrusts us not into the liberty of a prison, but into the honors of his palace, that he might enslave us: who tears not our flesh but our hearts; who beheads not with the sword but kills the soul with his gold (and) covertly enkindles the fire of hell against us. He flatters us, so that he may lord it over our souls. He confesses Christ, the better to deny Him; he tries to procure a unity which shall destroy peace; he puts down some few heretics so that he may also crush Christians; he honors bishops so that they may cease to be bishops; he builds up Churches, that he may pull down the faith…Thou art a precursor of Antichrist and a doer of his mystery of iniquity; thou that art a rebel to the faith art making formulas of faith; thou art intruding thy own creatures into the sees of the bishops; thou art putting out the good and putting in the bad…By a strange ingenious plan, which no one had ever yet discovered, thou hast found a way to persecute without making Martyrs…,” (Dom Gueranger’s Liturgical Year.)
And John Cardinal Newman, in his “Discourse on Antichrist,” wrote: “Do you think [Satan] is so unskillful in his craft as to ask you openly and plainly to join him in the warfare against the truth? No! He offers bait to tempt you. He promises you civil liberty…trade and wealth…equality…remission of taxes reform… illumination. He scoffs at times gone by; he scoffs at every institution that reveres them. As a result of the powerful influence and persuasion of the prophet of Antichrist, universal confusions, divisions and schism will prevail. Some religions will change into heathenism, and the remnant, the faithful few who will retain their belief in the one true God, will suffer great violence…”
The time following Antichrist’s reign
What about those times following that three-and-a-half-year period which seems to constitute the height of Antichrist’s reign? While there is a definite distinction made between the reign of Antichrist proper and the system associated with him, there is no indication of when that system ceases operation. St. Thomas of Aquinas said in his supplement to the Summa, “Before those signs, [prior to the Judgment Day] begin to appear, the wicked will think themselves to be in peace and security after the death of Antichrist and before the coming of Christ, seeing that the world is not at once destroyed as they thought hitherto.”
Manning himself, agreeing with the common opinion of theologians, saints and holy people, says that there will be a glorious revival of the Church before the end proper, following Antichrist’s reign. This would follow the course of the Israelitic church, for after Antiochus, their Antichrist, reigned, a grand new Temple was rebuilt, finished 14-16 years before Christ’s birth. The Temple only stood for a period of 84-86 years, until its destruction in 70 A. D. following the death of Christ, so if the Church is restored, this does not mean that She will last indefinitely. She may last only long enough for God to demonstrate He has fulfilled His promises to Her, only to be swallowed up in the final consummation. St. Jerome in particular teaches that everything in the Old Testament foreshadows what appears in the New Testament.
Another important point concerning the three years and a half should also be addressed. Following the unanimous opinion of the Fathers of the Church, all but a few commentators insist on interpreting this time literally rather than allegorically as three and a half years proper. But one thing here is not noted; it was not until many centuries later that Pope Paul IV would define the abomination of desolation as a man pretending to be pope, but who actually was never legitimately elected and therefore reigned only as an antipope. Pope Pius XII, in his encyclical “Divini Afflante Spiritu,” (1943) teaches: “…In the immense matter contained in the Sacred Books — legislative, historical, sapiential and prophetical — there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous.” If there are so few Scripture texts thus defined by the popes, it seems necessary to pay careful attention to those texts so defined and to accept without question their definition. We know that the Church cannot teach two things at once and that the pope is superior even to the unanimous opinion of the Fathers. So how can this teaching be reconciled?
Now as we know, Pope Paul IV in his bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio defined this text of Scripture on the abomination; also St. Bernard of Clairvaux, who some style as the last Doctor of the Church, believed that such an antipope was the abomination of desolation, i.e., Antichrist, (see the Catholic Encyclopedia under Antichrist). St. Bernard, in a letter to Hildebert, archbishop of Tours, France, wrote: “They that are of God readily adhere to [Innocent II, the Christ], whilst opposed to him stand Antichrist and his followers…We have seen the ‘abomination of desolation (Matt. 24:15) standing in the holy place,’” (Life and Teaching of St. Bernard, Ailbe J. Luddy, O. Cist., 1927). And from the Council of Florence condemning the last antipope, Felix V, reigning before those of our own time we read: “Therefore… we exhort, beg and beseech the antichrist Amadeus and the aforesaid electors, or rather profaners…May he and all the aforesaid be cast out like an antichrist and an invader and a destroyer of the whole of Christianity.”
So clearly the Church, even before Pope Paul IV’s definition concerning the abomination, believed antipopes to be the image of Antichrist himself. In defining such an antipope as the abomination, Pope Paul IV even went so far as to state in paragraph six of his work that no matter how long such a man reigned undetected, he could not be made valid “by the passage of any time in said circumstances, [nor shall the election be held as quasi-legitimate.]” Again, in paragraph seven, this pope declares that those who followed such a man as pope could, without fear of penalty, “depart with impunity at any time from obedience and allegiance to said promoted and elevated persons and to shun them as sorcerers, heathens, publicans, and heresiarchs.”
So here we have provided an alternate explanation for the three-and-half-year period. This explanation does no violence whatsoever to the literal interpretation, but rather restricts it to a time period not necessarily violent, but one that is not followed by immediate relief from the persecution, either. Below we offer another interpretation which would allow the reader to abandon the literal interpretation altogether.
The three and a half years is not a matter of faith
The answer lies in yet another papal document, Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Providentissimus Deus. In this work he writes: “…[The teaching of the] Holy Fathers is taken up by the Council of the Vatican, which, in renewing the decree of Trent declares its ‘mind’ to be this — that ‘in things of faith and morals, belonging to the building up of Christian doctrine, that is to be considered the true sense of Holy Scripture which has been held and is held by our Holy Mother the Church, whose place it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the Scriptures; and therefore that it is permitted to no one to interpret Holy Scripture against such sense or also against the unanimous agreement of the Fathers…
“Because the defense of Holy Scripture must be carried on vigorously, all the opinions which the individual Fathers or the recent interpreters have set forth in explaining it need not be maintained equally. For they, in interpreting passages where physical matters are concerned have made judgments according to the opinions of the age, and thus not always according to truth, so that they have made statements which today are not approved. Therefore, we must carefully discern what they hand down which really pertains to faith or is intimately connected with it, and what they hand down with unanimous consent; for ‘in those matters which are not under the obligation of faith, the saints were free to have different opinions, just as we are,’ [and thisaccording to the opinion of St. Thomas].
“…It seems to me to be safer that such opinions as the philosophers have expressed in common and are not repugnant to our faith should not be asserted as dogmas of the faith, even if they are introduced sometimes under the names of philosophers, nor should they thus be denied as contrary to faith, lest an opportunity be afforded to the philosophers of this world to belittle the teachings of the faith.” Pope Leo XIII continues, explaining that those commenting on Holy Scripture, when encountering what appears to be contradictions,“must not on that account consider that it is forbidden, when just cause exists, to push inquiry and exposition beyond what the Fathers have done; provided he carefully observes the rule so wisely laid down by St. Augustine — not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires; a rule to which it is the more necessary to adhere strictly in these times, when the thirst for novelty and unrestrained freedom of thought make the danger of error most real and proximate.”
In considering these papal teachings, it is important to remember that:
1) The definition of the true nature of the abomination of desolation by Pope Paul IV is itself a matter of faith and morals as well as a rare papal definition of the meaning of Holy Scripture. This supersedes even the unanimous opinion of the Fathers, since the Popes are superior to them as the Vatican Council (and Pope Leo XIII) teach.
2) Clearly Pope Leo XIII distinguishes between a merely unanimous opinion of the Fathers and a unanimous opinion of the Fathers on Faith and morals. It is difficult indeed to see how a unanimous opinion concerning the three and a half years, of itself, could be an opinion pertaining to faith and morals or something even intimately connected to it. Cardinal Newman says this is not the case.
3) The unanimous opinion of the Fathers concerning the three and a half years is the sort mentioned above by Pope Leo XIII as “physical matters,” and therefore is not a matter of faith or morals, but subject to opinion. As Rev. Hugh Pope points out in his “The Catholic Students ‘Aids’ to the Bible,” (Vol. V): “The interpretation of the Apocalypse must be governed by the rules which hold good in the interpretation of all prophecy. For the original hearers or pre-Christian readers of the prophecy of Isaias or Jeremias, only one thing was certain, namely that, being divinely inspired prophecies, the things foretold would infallibly come to pass. But the time, place, and manner of their fulfillment was hidden from them, save insofar as it was to be divined from hints given in the body of the prophecy itself…The ultimate goal of the Apocalypse is the last things; full light will not be thrown on this prophetical book till those last things have received their ultimate fulfillment.”
4) No one may interpret Holy Scripture against the sense in which Holy Mother the Church Herself has interpreted it. As Pope Leo wrote: “It seems to me to be safer that such opinions as the philosophers have expressed in common and are not repugnant to our faith should not be asserted as dogmas of the faith.” Those opining on how this three-and-a-half year period must be interpreted are philosophers who are quoting the Fathers’ unanimous opinion on this, but this opinion is NOT one pronounced on a matter of faith and morals.
5) “Just cause” exists to question the Fathers on this, since not to do so means we would be obligated to accept a false pope and his counterfeit church as true; we cannot deny reality in order to adhere to a mere opinion, even though unanimous. And we are not required to do so as long as it is not on a matter of faith or morals. Because Apocalypse is the one book that we are to interpret allegorically rather than literally, it has always seemed strange the commentators would insist on interpreting the time, times and half a time literally as an exception to this rule. Thus Rev. E. S. Berry explains in his work, The Apocalypse of St. John, (1921), commenting on Apoc. 1: 19-21:
“Christ Himself explains the meaning of the candlesticks and stars. He thus shows that the prophecies of the Apocalypse are to be understood in an allegorical sense unless the text clearly indicates a different interpretation…Any other interpretation is unwarranted except where the Apostle has evidently abandoned allegory for ordinary discourse… In some few passages the meaning is explained. In most cases the interpretation must be sought in the writings of the prophets who used like symbols to express similar truths.” But even if we were required to interpret it literally, “where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires,” Pope Leo XIII allows us to “depart from the literal and obvious sense.” Therefore we are perfectly justified in so departing, and no one can forbid us to have a contrary opinion on this topic when the Church Herself does not forbid it.
As John Henry Cardinal Newman explains in his The Times of Antichrist, the primitive Fathers offer only the consensus of the early Church when teaching doctrine, “But it is otherwise when they interpret prophecy. In this matter there seems to have been no catholic, no formal and distinct, or at least no authoritative traditions; so that when they interpret Scripture they are for the most part giving, and profess to be giving, either their own private opinions, or vague, floating, and merely general anticipations. This is what might have been expected; for it is not ordinarily the course of Divine Providence to interpret prophecy before the event. What the Apostles disclosed concerning the future, was for the most part disclosed by them in private, to individuals — not committed to writing, not intended for the edifying of the body of Christ, — and was soon lost.
“Thus, in a few verses after the passage I have quoted, St. Paul says, “Remember ye not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things?” and he writes by hints and allusions, not speaking out. And it shows how little care was taken to discriminate and authenticate his prophetical intimations, that the Thessalonians had adopted an opinion, that he had said — what in fact he had not said — that the Day of Christ was immediately at hand … Yet, though the Fathers do not convey to us the interpretation of prophecy with the same certainty as they convey doctrine, yet, in proportion to their agreement, their personal weight, and the prevalence, or again the authoritative character of the opinions they are stating, they are to be read with deference; for, to say the least, they are as likely to be right as commentators now; in some respects more so, because the interpretation of prophecy has become in these times a matter of controversy and party. And passion and prejudice have so interfered with soundness of judgment, that it is difficult to say who is to be trusted to interpret it, or whether a private Christian may not be as good an expositor as those by whom the office has been assumed.”
We, however, as witnesses, are closer to the event. So also those writing in the 20th century, such as Rev. E. S. Berry, Rev. H. B. Kramer, Rev. Le Frois, Rev. Allo, Rev. Heidt and others. Yet what Cardinal Newman says is in direct accord with what Pope Leo XIII taught; for good reasons we may depart from the deference owed to the primitive Fathers in matters not concerning faith and morals. We are not strictly bound to follow the Fathers, Pope Leo XIII teaches, whenever it is contrary to reason or necessity requires.
In this case, following the strict interpretation of the three and a half years would mean denying that the false Vatican 2 council and its antipopes did not precisely fit the parameters of all the prophecies concerning Antichrist and his system, as well as correspond with the time frame provided in numerous private prophecies. Since the only time the Church can appear to depart from Her earthly course minus Her Supreme Head and the hierarchy is during this time, then we would be forced to admit the gates of Hell have prevailed against Her, and this we cannot do.
The grades of certainty about the coming of Antichrist
Rev. Denis Fahey, an approved theologian, quotes Fr. A. Lemman’s L’ Antichrist in his work The Kingship of Christ and the Conversion of the Jewish Nation concerning what points on his coming are certain and what is not. The time period is relegated to a category describes as only probable.
Lemann lists the following.
“A. Things that are certain about Antichrist;
B. Things that are probable;
C. Things that are undecided;
D. Things that have not a solid foundation.
Things that are CERTAIN include:
– He will be a trial for the good
– He will be a human person
– He will not be Satan in human form but only a man
– He will have great powers of seduction
– His career beginnings will be lowly
– He will increase in power and make conquests
– His rule will be worldwide
– He will wage a terrible war against God and the Church
– He will claim to be God and will demand exclusive adoration
– He will seek to prove he is God by false miracles
– His reign will be only temporary
Things about Antichrist that are only probable:
– The Jews will acclaim him
– His reign will last 3 and 1/2 years (And this is listed as a probability, not a certainty, because as Rev. Pope said above, prophecy cannot be fully understood until the actual event.)
Things that are undecided:
– His name
– His nationality
– The seat of his empire (As predicted at La Salette, and strengthened by the testimony of the theologians as quoted by Cardinal Manning, we know today it is Rome.)
– The temple in which he will present himself (the Church of Jesus Christ; “the Holy Place/See itself, as Pope Leo XIII told us in his long St. Michael’s Prayer.)
Things that have not a solid foundation:
– The date for Antichrist’s coming (The Church forbids anyone to set a future date for his coming, but neither can anyone deny clear signs he has come.)
Commentators favoring an undetermined period
William G. Heidt. O. P. (The Book of the Apocalypse) and Bernard Le Frois, S. V. D., (The Woman Clothed with the Sun) are not in favor of a literal interpretation of the 42 months. Heidt states that the number 42 and the figures used by Daniel and in Apocalypse are merely the standard representation of a time of great misfortune, since this was the length of time that the Jewish Antichrist Antiochus persecuted the Jews in Macccabees. Heidt also references the three years mentioned in 3 Kings, 17: 1 and 18: 1. “Because of this proverbial usage the figures in question simply denote a period of distress, a period that may actually be quite short or one that could extend from Pentecost to the Parousia. The emphasis is on misfortune, suffering, persecution, not chronological duration.” Rev. Wilfrid Harrington, O.P. says in his Understanding the Apocalypse: “The duration of the ministry of the two witnesses (1,260 days = 42 lunar months) is the same as the duration of the time of the Gentiles (11:2), the whole time of the Church, (12: 6,14),” reiterating what his fellow Dominican, Heidt, has said.
And Le Frois explains: “Oddly enough, there is no mention of the time element of three and a half years in the book of Kings where the life of Elias is recounted…but only of ‘many days’ when there was no rain. Hence it seems that the phrase three and a half years is a technical symbol, which does not wish to express so much a period of time as a period of tribulation and woe, (emph. his). This of course does not exclude the idea that it is a period of time, but it clarifies the issue that three and a half years are not to be taken in a literal sense,” (and again, the majority of commentators on this book stress the fact that the Apocalypse is to be taken allegorically, not literally).
Le Frois quotes a J. Bonsirven in support of this statement. He continues: “The peculiar detail of 1,260 days, which is intended to be the equivalent of 42 months as well as three and a half years, may refer simply to the Messianic era in its entirety, considered from various angles, (Rev. Allo).” So Rev. Allo also agrees with this interpretation of the 1,260 days or 42 months as an indefinite time period. One Father, St. Augustine, states that, “…The word day in Holy Scripture is to be understood in the sense of any length of time, (Malachias 3: 1,2),” The End of the Present World and Mysteries of the Future Life, Rev. Charles Marie Antoine Arminjon, 1881). If one could not question the other Fathers’ teachings on this topic, would they have the freedom to disagree?
Referring to the 1,260 days of Antichrist’s reign, Fr. Edward Putnam writes: “Days, in the prophetic writings, are sometime reckoned as years, but in this instance they must be taken literally in order to be consistent with Christian tradition, and the just proportion of events, [Apoc., Ch. 11…],” and yet Le Frois has just reminded us that this is not the way we should interpret the Apocalypse. But just because the days cannot be interpreted as years does not necessarily mean they are literal days, either; it could be something indeterminate that would correspond to the allegorical ordering of the book itself.
Obviously there was, as we have suggested above, a difference of opinion among theologians on whether the general rule for the interpretation of the Apocalypse, which is to first be taken in the allegorical sense, should also not apply to the time period. Putnam continues: “The time or times, or that fearful period which is the most abominable of all the times of time, is the one in which ‘the continual sacrifice shall be taken away and the abomination of desolation shall be set up.’” Here he makes no mention of how long that time will be, even though it is mentioned twice in the verses he is quoting. Abbe Constant Fouard, in his St. John and the Close of the Apostolic Age notes that: “These three years and a half, the half of seven, the number signifying perfection, denote an imperfect time which will not be completed.”
Theologians predict Rome will lose the faith
We read above, from the Catholic Encyclopedia: “The defenders of the Papal-Antichrist theory have made several signal blunders in their arguments; they cite St. Bernard as identifying the Beast of the Apocalypse with the Pope, though St. Bernard speaks in the passage of the Antipope; they appeal to the Abbot Joachim as believing that Antichrist will be elevated to the Apostolic See, while the Abbot really believes that Antichrist will overthrow the Pope and usurp his See; finally, they appeal to Pope Gregory the Great as asserting that whoever claims to be Universal Bishop is Antichrist, whereas the great Doctor really speaks of the Forerunner of Antichrist who was, in the language of his day, nothing but a token of an impending great evil.”
Here the writer distinguishes precisely what Pope Paul IV distinguished in Cum ex Apostolatus Officio. An antipope, a usurper only, could be Antichrist. He must be “a king who fills an interregnum,” (Ibid) or antibasileus, and these antipopes were such kings, for they reigned as kings of Vatican City, secular and spiritual rulers but never legitimately elected spiritual leaders. A usurper is one who has no legal right to the throne; he is not legitimately occupying it and hence is an antipope. As St. Gregory predicted, Roncalli and Montini were only “universal bishops,” never popes; Traditionalists also pose as universal bishops of a sort since they claim universal jurisdiction but are not even priests.
What is especially interesting is that Pope Gregory believed there would be a forerunner of Antichrist. Other prophecies speak of a “dress rehearsal” for the Second Coming. Still others distinguish between the “day of the Lord” — associated with divine punishment and the resurrection of the Church — and the Second Coming. St. Bernard referred to the antipope Anacletus as the abomination of desolation and antichrist; St. John warned there would be many antichrists, and indeed there have been many usurper popes.
It is possible that what we see is a preview of the very end, and that the actual three and a half years is reserved for Antichrist proper and possibly for Enoch and Elias shortly before the Second Coming. Perhaps after all the confusion is dispelled concerning the nature of the papacy and papal elections, Pope Paul IV’s definition of the abomination as a usurper pope, Pope Pius XII’s suspension of acts usurping papal jurisdiction during an interregnum, the identification of the withholding power and other uncertainties, there will still be a man who has the audacity to fly in the face of these definitions and usurp the See despite the Church’s warnings. We cannot know for certain, so nothing should be ruled out.
The destruction of Rome
In one of his other works, The Present Crisis of the Holy See Tested by Prophecy, Cardinal Manning makes it clear that Rome eventually will be destroyed once it has apostatized, and apostatize it has. “The city of Rome, which has been the seat of the Vicar of Christ for 1800 years, if it become apostate like Jerusalem of old, will suffer a like condemnation…The writers of the Church tell us that the City of Rome has no prerogative except only that the Vicar of Christ is there; and if it become unfaithful, the same judgments which fell on Jerusalem, hallowed though it was by the presence of the Son of God, of the Master, and not the disciple only, shall fall likewise on Rome. The apostasy of the city of Rome from the Vicar of Christ, and its destruction by Antichrist, may be thoughts so new to many Catholics that I think it well to recite the text of theologians of the greatest repute.” He then brings in as his witnesses the theologians Malvenda, Ribera, Melus, Viegas, Suarez, Bellarmine and Bosius, Lessius and Lapide. St. Bellarmine wrote:
“In the time of Antichrist, Rome shall be desolated and burnt, as we learn from the 16th verse of the 17th chapter of Apocalypse.’ The Jesuit Erbermann comments as follows: ‘We all agree with Bellarmine that the Roman people, a little before the end of the world, will return to paganism and drive out the Roman Pontiff.’…Lapide sums up what may be said to be the common interpretation of theologians. Commenting on the 18th chapter of the Apocalypse, he says: ‘These things are to be understood of the city of Rome…For from Christian it shall again become heathen. It shall cast out the Christian Pontiff, and the faithful who adhere to him.’”
In his “The Local Church of Rome,” sometimes cited to refute what Manning says, Msgr. J. C. Fenton writes in the American Ecclesiastical Review: “Another highly important and sometimes overlooked prerogative of the local Roman Church is its infallibility. By reason of its peculiar place in the universal Church militant, this individual congregation has always been and will always be protected from corporate heresy by God’s providential power… Actually the infallibility of the Roman Church is much more than a mere theological opinion. The proposition that “the Church of the city of Rome can fall into error” is one of the theses of Peter de Osma, formally condemned by Pope Sixtus IV as erroneous and as containing manifest heresy.”
So how can we explain what we see and what Manning teaches, and still reconcile it with Msgr. Fenton’s statement? To begin with, Fenton is considering the heresy of the Church of Rome, pope and people, which the Vatican Council taught can never happen, so he is correct in what he says. What Bellarmine and the others above are discussing is the absence of or the driving out of the pope and the faithful of Rome as a result of the paganization of the Romans. Any argument trying to equate what Fenton says with what St. Bellarmine is saying to this effect is beside the point, so therefore is a false argument. The true Church never could and never did, as long as She lasted, lose the faith. And as Lapide says, the Church will “return to its former glory.”
Pope Paul IV issued his bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio only months before his death. It was soon forgotten and a great many, including the historian Philip Hughes, considered him a severe and overbearing figure whose death was not necessarily mourned by the majority. When Shulte and Hergenrother debated the infallibility of Cum ex… following the Vatican Council, Shulte, while calling the bull infallible, blatantly misinterpreted it as referring to a legitimately elected pope and Hergenrother wrote it off as a mere disciplinary law. Pope Pius IX had the last say, pointing out that disciplinary laws also are infallible, but neither of these theologians acknowledged his infallible pronouncement on this and therefore both did Cum ex… a definite disservice.
Because the entire thrust of the bull had been ignored; also because both men woefully misinterpreted it, it became a red herring and an embarrassment. It was relegated to the Vatican archives once again, not to return until the early 1900s. Why it was not used during the Vatican Council to prove that no pope could ever become a heretic (if in fact it was not consulted) is puzzling. But with so many Protestants roiling over the definition of infallibility, it is likely the Church did not want to further antagonize non-Catholics or even give them the slightest encouragement to think that a true pope, indeed, could become Antichrist. The invaluable doctrinal content of the bull would not be realized until it was enshrined in the 1917 Code as the parent law for practically every canon in the Code regarding heresy.
If we entertain the idea that the three and a half years is an interpretation of Scripture written in stone, then we cannot believe that the five men calling themselves popes for the last 56 years are antipopes, far less antichrists. There is no prophecy concerning the coming of Antichrist that was not fulfilled by Roncalli and Montin; not one. But then those who desperately wish to continue the Latin Mass/true clergy charade could never bring themselves to admit it and face reality. The Great Apostasy and the coming of Antichrist was the furthest thing from their minds.
Even conservative theologians such as Msgr. Fenton, while deploring Vatican 2, could scarcely comprehend what was really going on. It was almost as though Cum ex… had been preserved in the wings until needed, waiting for the precise opportunity to draw out its meaning and carefully distinguish between those who were heretics pre-election and therefore never became pope and those who were said to have become heretics as popes validly holding the office. The latter made the papacy appear again to be antichrist. The former upheld the teachings of the Vatican Council on infallibility. Cum ex…defined the abomination of desolation, described in the Catholic Encyclopedia article as one and the same as Antichrist, to be a king reigning during an interregnum, a usurper only appearing to possess the papal See.
The actual length of Antichrist’s reign is not a matter of faith and morals. Lemann says only that it is certain his reign will be “temporary,” and that could mean anything from a few months to many decades. If we follow the opinion of St. Jerome in evaluating the prophecies and believe the New Testament mirrors the Old, the Israelites endured captivity for 70 years. At that time they had no temple, nor did their priests or prophets offer the animal sacrifices or provide the ceremonies restricted to temple worship. They did, however, offer instruction and pray with the people. Matthew 24:22 teaches these unprecedented times will be shortened for the sake of the elect, lest no flesh be saved.
St. Thomas Aquinas admits the continuation of life as usual following Antichrist’s demise, to the consternation of those who expect the world to end with his death. Few indeed count Montini as Antichrist, or even think the antipopes are antichrists. After all, Traditionalists have the peace and security of their clergy and mass centers, and that is all they need. Forget the fact that as Pope Leo XIII teaches in Satis Cognitum, the only true indefectibility and guarantee from error granted the Church was to St. Peter, and those bishops truly loyal to him. This teaching is echoed in the works of Cardinal Manning, E. S. Berry and others.
Until the actual event, the significance of Cum ex…lay hidden, as if solely intended for our times. The bull even refused to place a time limit on the reign of the abomination as though anticipating an extended interregnum exactly as we have experienced it. While it will take a future canonically elected pope to officially determine if the five men following Pope Pius XII were Antichrist and his system or merely its prefigure, there is no doubt the Church considered all antipopes antichrists. For if the last five pretenders to the See were really popes, then, as Msgr. Fenton said so plaintively in his diaries concerning the errors of the neo-Modernists in his day:
“[According to these men] The martyrs may have died in vain and St. Athanasisus may have been mistaken.” But this cannot be. Whether antichrists in small “a “or capital A, they were still antipopes and as such will eventually be condemned by the Church and excluded from Her papal rolls.