I couldn't possibly do justice to this book in a blog post, so I will briefly (!) summarize the four lectures and then, in a follow-up post, I will try to apply Cd. Manning's method and insights to the present crisis of the Holy See (!).
But first, a few words about the author.
Henry Edward Cardinal Manning (1808-1892), was the second Archbishop of Westminster. A former Oxford Don, he was ordained as an anglican minister and, later, elevated to archdeacon. He was briefly married. [A delightful detail related with Cd. Manning's marriage: "When Manning died, for decades a celibate Roman Catholic cleric and widower, a locket containing his wife's picture was found on a chain around his neck".]
|Cd. Manning (not a selfie). In the 1800's protestants had to become Catholics before being elevated to the Cardinalate.|
His study of Patristics and the history of the Church shaked his faith in anglicanism, but the beginning of the end was the Gorham Judgment of 1850. In the Gorham Judgement the Privy Council forced the institution of a clergyman who held the heretical calvinist view that the sacrament of Baptism as no objective regenerative effect.
When his efforts to fight the intrusion of the secular power in the doctrinal sphere failed to garner significant support, Manning could no longer believe that "the Church of England was a part of the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church of the Creed, and as such was guided and quickened by the presence of the Holy Spirit... to guard and cherish the revealed doctrines committed... to her care.". The logical conclusion was that "far from being a divinely... created institution, that church was merely a man-made creation of the English Parliament.".
Manning converted to Catholicism in 1851.
|The next Supreme Governor of the Church of England and the current Prefect of the Congregation of anglican bad faith. Nowadays, prospective converts to catholicism have to choose between these two and the dynamic duo of Pope Francis and Cd. Kasper...|
He was one of the council fathers at Vatican I where he labored in the committee "De Fide" which dealt with Papal Infallibility. On his return to England, he was forced to publicly defend the Council and the Papal prerogative.
|Pope Pius IX at Vatican Council I in a humble, simple, low-emissions, environmentally-friendly vehicle. Surprisingly, this synod was not a cause of scandal for the faithful.||.|
He participated in the Conclave that elected Leo XIII, whose encyclical Rerum Novarum is said to have been influenced by Manning.
|Argentinian edition of Rerum Novarum. A rigid, legalistic, fundamentalist encyclical which aimed to "refute false teaching" (n.º2).|
In The Present Crisis of the Holy See Tested by Prophecy Cd. Manning "examine[s] the present relation of the Church to the civil powers of the world by the light of a prophecy recorded by St Paul and [draws] out certain principles of a practical kind for the direction of those who believe that the Divine will is also present in the events now taking place before our eyes" (pp. 1-2).
This is quite refreshing.
Instead of reading the Signs of Times as an invitation for the Church to "come to terms with progress, liberalism and modern civilization", the good Cardinal reads the said signs through the lenses of revelation trying to discern Divine Providence, the heralds of the Second Coming and the call to repent and believe in the Gospel in the apparent chaos of reality.
The book reads as a long exegesis of 2 Thess 2:
"3 Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 Who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God... 7 For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, 9 Whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, 10 And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: 11 That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity... 14 Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle..."
This exegesis is based "either in the Fathers of the Church or in such theologians as the Church has recognised" (p. 3).
|Do not judge the book by its cover. In hilo tempore cardinal's books remained within the confines of Holy Scripture and Tradition.|
The book is organized according with four of the prophecies:
"We have here a prophecy of four great facts first of a revolt which shall precede the second coming of our Lord secondly of the manifestation of one who is called the wicked one thirdly of a hindrance which restrains his manifestation and lastly of the period of power and persecution of which he will be the author" (p. 3)
Cd. Manning's purpose is to defend the Pope, but he ended up writing a very good and readable primer on the antichrist.
Interestingly, Manning dedicates the book to Cd. Newman, with whom Manning had not a few disagreements, but who nevertheless merited the following compliment: "Newman, to you I owe a debt of gratitude for intellectual help and light greater than to any one man of our time" (p. vi).
Lecture I: "the revolt which shall precede the second coming"
Lecture I deals with the revolt which shall precede the second coming. In the original Greek the revolt is called an apostasy and in the Vulgate a departure.
"Now a revolt implies a seditious separation from some authority and a consequent opposition to it.The authority then from which the revolt is to take place is that of the kingdom of God or in other words the one and universal Church founded by our Divine Lord and spread by His Apostles throughout the world" (p. 4).
The inspired writers expressly describe the notes of this revolt:
- The rejection of the office and presence of the Holy Ghost. St. Jude says: "These are they who separate themselves, sensual men [i.e. animal or merely rational and natural men] having not the spirit". This necessarily involves the heretical principle of human opinion as opposed to Divine faith, of the private spirit as opposed to the infallible voice of the Holy Spirit speaking through the Church of God;
- The denial of the Incarnation (p. 5)
On the other hand, both St. Paul and St. Peter speak of this antichristian revolt as having already began in their own day (p. 6).
And in fact, since Jesus founded the Church,"every successive heresy has generated schism and every schism has generated heresy and all alike substitute human opinion for Divine faith and all alike work out by a sure process a denial of the Incarnation of the Eternal Son. All the heresies from the beginning are no more than the continuous development and expansion of the mystery of iniquity which was already at work" (p. 7).
The history of heresy also teaches that heresy:
- organizes and perpetuates itself at least "until it resolves itself into some more subtle and aggressive form" (p. 8). It matures and grows in power with the passing of time and becomes increasingly dangerous to the Church;
- develops and worships the principle of nationality (p. 10), attaching itself to the "pride of government";
- promotes the deification of humanity (p. 11).
Lecture II: "the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition"
"In all the prophecies of Revelation there is not one among them which relates to the coming of Christ more explicit and express than those which relate to the coming of Antichrist".
This is how Sacred Scripture describes the antichrist:
- He is described with the attributes of a person... (p. 22) with many forerunners, as also Christ Himself had;
- The antichrist will be of the Jewish race (p. 24);
- "He will not be simply the antagonist but the substitute or supplanter of the true Messias, a temporal deliverer the restorer of their temporal power or in other words a political and military prince";
- "The prophecies assign to the person of Antichrist a more preternatural character. He is described as a worker of false miracles His coming is said to be according to the working of Satan in all power and signs and lying wonders and in all seduction of iniquity..." (p. 29);
- The antichrist will be "worshiped so that he sitteth in the temple of God showing himself as if he were God".
|Antichrist and theological adviser (STL, STD, D.D., Phd., University of Tubigen). Notice that they share an arm, but the antichrist kept all the hair and, wisely, dispensed with the horns. He is so humble that he doesn't even wears shoes !|
Now, given the skeptical and materialistic character of our age, it seems difficult that the last two prophecies - antichrist as a worker of false miracles and as substitute god - will ever be fulfilled.
But the Fathers of the Church themselves state that in the end of the world paganism shall be restored (p. 31), and that when the intellectual become pantheists the simple will become polytheists (p. 32).
This is the plausible scenario that Cd. Manning presents to resolve this apparent difficulty (p. 33):
For Cd. Manning it is not "difficult to understand how those who have lost the true and divine idea of the Messiah" will be "dazzled by the greatness of political and military successes" and "pay to the person of Antichrist the honor which Christians pay to the true Messiah" (p. 29).
...but Yoko Ono bossed me around ...
Lecture III: The spirit of the antichrist is lawless, disorder, revolution
Lecture III starts by considering what is the character of this wicked one or antichrist:
- He will be the "the lawless [or licentious] one the, one who is without law, who is not subject to the law of God or of man whose only law is his own will to whom the license of his own will is the sole and only rule which he knows or obeys" (p. 37);
- He will "introduce disorder, sedition, tumult and revolution both in the temporal and spiritual order of the world ..." (p. 37).
Lecture III (continued): "the hindrance which retards his manifestation"
The main topic of Lecture III is the hindrance which retards the manifestation of the antichrist. The Apostle says: "The mystery of iniquity doth already work only that he who now holdeth, hold until the time that he be taken out of the way" (p. 35).
In the original St. Paul uses two expressions.He speaks of the hindrance as of a thing and as of a person.
As stated above, the antichrist introduces disorder, sedition and revolution and so "that which shall hinder his development and shall be his direct antagonist after his manifestation must necessarily be the principle of order, the law of submission, the authority of truth and of right" (p. 37).
At various times through the history of the Church, this hindrance as been identified as Roman Empire , "the grace of the Holy Ghost, or the Divine power" (p. 38), and the presence of the Apostles (p. 39). But almost two thousand years of history allows us to have a more integrated and full interpretation of this prophecy:
- "First, then, the power of the heathen empire of Rome was undoubtedly the great barrier against the outbreak of the spirit of lawless disorder";
- Secondly, "it was not the Roman Empire... alone, but the kingdom of God which descended upon the whole earth, and from the day of Pentecost spread throughout the circuit of the Roman Empire, with an authority higher than the authority of Rome" (p. 40). "By the side of the tribunals of iron force, were erected the tribunals of divine mercy" (p. 41);
- Thirdly, it was "Christendom and its head and therefore in the person of the Vicar of Jesus and in that twofold authority with which, by Divine Providence, he has been invested, we see the direct antagonist to the principle of disorder. The lawless one, who knows no law, human or divine, nor obeys any but his own will... has no antagonist on earth more direct than the Vicar of Jesus Christ, who bears at one and the same time the character of royalty and of
priesthood, and represents the two principles of order in the temporal and in the spiritual state..." (p. 45). ";
- Cd. Manning believed that in his time this society based in the Incarnation where the Laws of God were the first principles of legislation was no more: "We are departing from it throughout the whole of the civilised world In England ...". What then is it that holds in check the manifestation of this antichristian power and the person who shall wield it is the remnant of the Christian society which is still existing in the world.
I will devote a little more space to this departure from the Laws of God.
Lecture III (continued): "this hindrance or barrier is weakening every day"
As stated above, Cd. Manning sees the hindrance or barrier weakening every day, both in:
- the intellectual and public sphere where "Christian and Catholic civilisation is giving way before the natural material civilisation, which finds its supreme perfection in mere material prosperity; admitting within its sphere persons of every caste, or colour of belief, upon the principle that politics have nothing to do with the world to come, — that the government of nations is simply for their temporal well-being, for the protection of persons and of property, for the development of industry, and for the advancement of science; that is to say, for the cultivation of the natural order alone. This is the theory of civilisation which is becoming predominant every day";
- and also in the family where "Catholic piety also is be coming weaker and weaker, and to such an extent, that there are nations still called Catholic in which the proportion to the mass of those who frequent the Holy Sacraments is hardly calculable" (p. 50). He concludes “Because iniquity hath abounded, the charity of many shall grow cold.” (St. Matt. xxiv. 12).
He calls as his witnesses De Tocqueville and Donoso Cortez. Go and read all what the Spaniard has to say. I will leave here an apéritif:
"... At this day the world is on the eve of the last of its restorations—the restoration of socialist paganism. Again he writes: “European society is dying. The extremities are cold: the heart will be soon. And do you know why it is dying? It is dying because it has been poisoned; because God made it to be nourished with the substance of Catholic truth, and the empirical doctors have given it for food the substance of rationalism. It is dying because, like as man does not live by bread only, but by every word which comes out of the mouth of God, so societies do not perish by the sword only, but by every word which comes out of the mouth of their philosophers. It is dying because error is killing it, and because society is now founded upon errors. Know, then, that all you hold as incontrovertible is false. ... There is no salvation for society, because we will not make our sons to be Christians, and because we are not true Christians ourselves. There is no salvation for society, because the Catholic spirit, the only spirit of life, does not quicken the whole; it does not quicken education, government, institutions, laws, and morals...” (pp. 53-54).
Lecture III (continued): the hindrance will exist until it “ be taken out of the way”
Now what is the meaning of the words, until it “ be taken out of the way”? Who is to take it out of the way? If the barrier which has hindered the development of the principle of antichristian disorder has been the Divine power of Jesus Christ our Lord, incorporated in the Church and guided by his Vicar, then no hand is mighty enough, and no will is sovereign enough to take it out of the way, but "until the hour shall come when the Son of God shall permit, for a time, the powers of evil to prevail".
There is an analogy to this. Cd. Manning states the history of the Church, and the history of our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel:
"For three-and-thirty years the Son of God incarnate was in the world, and no man could lay hand upon Him... No man could break through ‘that circle of omnipotence until the hour came, when by His own will He opened the way for the powers of evil. For this reason He said in the garden, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.”
Lecture IV: Of how the hindrance will "be taken out of the way"
"... there are upon earth two great antagonists—on the one side, the spirit and the principle of evil; and on the other, the incarnate God manifested in His Church, but eminently in His Vicar, who is His representative, the depository of His prerogatives, and therefore His special personal witness, speaking and ruling in His name." (p 59).
"Now, it is against that person eminently and emphatically, as I said before, that the spirit of evil and of falsehood directs its assault; for if the head of the body be smitten, the body itself must die. “Smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered,” ... It is, nevertheless, against the Church of God, and above all against its Head, that all the spirits of evil in all ages, and, above all, in the present, direct the shafts of their enmity."
|Protect the head of the Vicar of the Head of the Body ....|
Lecture IV: the persecution of the Antichrist and the death and resurrection of the Church
Cd. Manning dedicates the bulk of Lecture IV to the coming persecution:
"When the hindrance is taken away, the man of sin will be revealed; then will come the persecution of three years and a half, short, but terrible, during which the Church of God will return into 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 three hundred years lived on through blood, will live on still through the fires of the times of Antichrist..." (p. 64)
Cd. Manning states the history of the Church, and the history of our Lord on earth, run as it were in parallel:
"We have already seen reason to believe that as our Divine Lord delivered Himself into the hands of sinners when His time was come, and no man could lay hand upon Him, until of His own free will He delivered Himself over to their power, so in like manner it shall be with that Church of which He said, “Upon this rock will I build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” As the wicked did not prevail against Him even when they bound Him with cords, dragged Him to the judgment, blindfolded His eyes, mocked Him as a false King, smote Him on the head as a false Prophet, led Him away, crucified Him, and in the mastery of their power seemed to have absolute dominion over Him, so that He lay ground down and almost annihilated under their feet; and as, at that very time when He was dead and buried out of their sight, He was conqueror over all, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven, and was crowned, glorified, and invested with His royalty, and reigns supreme, King of kings and Lord of lords,—even so shall it be with His Church : though for a time persecuted, and, to the eyes of man, overthrown and trampled on, dethroned, despoiled, mocked, and crushed, yet in that high time of triumph the gates of hell shall not prevail. There is in store for the Church of God a resurrection and an ascension, a royalty and a dominion, a recompense of glory for all it has endured. Like Jesus, it needs must suffer on the way to its crown; yet crowned it shall be with Him eternally" (p. 67).And a warning for the Catholics of all times but especially for us:
"We are fond of imagining triumphs and glories for the Church on earth,——that the Gospel is to be preached to all nations, and the world to be converted, and all enemies subdued, and I know not what,—until some ears are impatient of hearing that there is in store for the Church a time of terrible trial: and so we do as the Jews of old, who looked for a conqueror, a king, and for prosperity; and when their Messiah came in humility and in passion, they did not know Him. So, I am afraid, many among us intoxicate their minds with the visions of success and victory, and cannot endure the thought that there is a time of persecution yet to come for the Church of God" (p. 68).
Lecture IV (continued): the persecution of Antichrist - the prequel
In a very prescient section of Lecture IV Cd. Manning describes the events that will lead to the final persecution:
- A separation of States from the unity of the Church, loosing the guidance of the Divine teacher in the process.
- A scornful indifference to truth or falsehood under the form of a perfect toleration that recognises no distinctions of truth or falsehood between religions, despises all positive truth, and grows an intense hatred of what is called dogmatism (p. 71). The Roman Empire also welcomed within its borders all manner of religions, cults and superstitions as a mode of tranquillising, of governing, and of maintaining in subjection the people (p. 70).
- The persecution of the truth (p. 72). In the midst of this universal toleration, there is one exception: the Church of God. Why? Well, Cd. Manning's gives two reasons:
- "because the Church of God is inflexible in the mission committed to it. The Catholic Church will never compromise a doctrine; it will never allow two doctrines to be taught within its pale; it will never obey the civil governor pronouncing judgment in matters that are spiritual... is bound by the Divine law to suffer martyrdom rather than. compromise a doctrine, or obey the law of the civil governor which violates the conscience; and more than this, it is not only bound to offer a passive disobedience, which may be done in a corner, and therefore not detected, and because not detected not punished; but the Catholic Church cannot be silent; it cannot hold its peace ; it cannot cease to preach the doctrines of Revelation... therefore it stands alone in the world" (p. 74)
- A further reason: "the Son of God, when He came, established a kingdom upon earth, and therefore the Catholic Church governs with the authority of the universal Church of God. a government, a power, and a sovereignty and the governors and princes of this world are jealous of it for that very reason."
Interestingly, Holy Scripture states that “Some of the learned shall fall" that is, they shall fall from their fidelity to God. And how shall this come to pass? Partly by fear, partly by deception, partly by cowardice; partly because they cannot stand for unpopular truth in the face of popular falsehood; partly because the overruling contemptuous public opinion so subdues and frightens Catholics, that they dare not avow their principles, and, at last, dare not hold them... (p. 84).
Does any of this sound familiar ?
Lecture IV (continued): the persecution of Antichrist - the marks which the prophet gives of the persecution of the last days
In the foresight of prophecy these three marks are given of the persecution of the last days:
- During the reign of Antichrist, the holy sacrifice of the altar will cease (p. 79);
"Then, the Church shall be scattered, driven into the wilderness, and shall be for a time, as it was in the beginning, invisible, hidden in catacombs, in dens, in mountains, in lurking-places ; for a time it shall be swept, as it were, from the face of the earth. Such is the universal testimony of the Fathers of the early centuries". Cd. Manning mentions two forerunners of the supression of the Sacrifice: the Mahometan superstition, "where soon it became dominant... suppressed the worship and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.... at this moment holds for its mosques a multitude of Christian churches, in which the continual sacrifice is already taken away, and the altar utterly destroyed". The second example is protestantism: "The suppression of the continual sacrifice is,'above all, the mark and characteristic of the Protestant Reformation" (p. 81).
- The Sanctuary shall be occupied by the abomination which maketh desolate.
What is the great flood of infidelity, revolution, and anarchy, which is now sapping the foundations of Christian society but the abomination which desolates the sanctuary, and takes away the continual sacrifice? " What can be more literally the abomination which makes desolate than the heresy which has removed the presence of the living God from the altar? If you would understand this prophecy of desolation, enter into a church which was once Catholic, where now is no sign of life; it stands empty, untenanted, without altar, without tabernacle, without the presence of Jesus" (p. 82).
- The casting down of “the Prince of Strength” that is, the Divine authority of the Church, and especially of him in whose person it is embodied, the Vicar of Jesus Christ.
Now the last result of all this will be a persecution: "Brother shall betray brother to death;” it shall be a persecution in which no man shall spare his neighbour: in which the powers of the world will wreak upon the Church of God such a revenge as the world before has never known. The Word of God tells us that towards the end of time the power of this world will become so irresistible and so triumphant that the Church of God will sink underneath its hand — that the Church of God will receive no more help from emperors, or kings, or princes, or legislatures, or nations, or peoples, to make resistance against the power and the might of its antagonist. It will be deprived of protection. It will be weakened, baffled, and prostrate, and will lie bleeding at the feet of the powers of this world. (p. 85).
Lecture IV (continued): the last overthrow of evil
"But there is One Power which will destroy all antagonists; there is One Person who will break down and smite small as the dust of the summer threshing-floor all the enemies of the Church, for it is He who will consume His enemies “ with the Spirit of His mouth,” and destroy them “ with the brightness of His coming.” It seems as if the Son of God were jealous lest any one should vindicate His authority. He has claimed the battle to Himself; He has taken up the gage which has been cast down against Him; and prophecy is plain and explicit that the last overthrow of evil will be His; that it will be wrought by no man, but by the Son of God ; that all the nations of the world may know that He, and He alone, is King, and that He, and He alone, is God."
Some of the greatest writers of the Church tell us that in all probability, in the last overthrow of the enemies of God, the city of Rome itself will be destroyed; it will be'a second time punished by Almighty God, as it was in the beginning (p. 86). The writers of the Church tell us that in the latter days the city of Rome will probably become apostate from the Church and Vicar of Jesus Christ; and that Rome will again be punished, for he will depart from it; and the judgment of God will fall on the place from ‘which he once reigned over the nations of the world (p. 87).
"These are times of sifting. Our Divine Lord is standing in the Church: “ His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly cleanse His floor. and He will gather the grain into His barn, and will burn up the chaft with unquenchable fire... those only shall be saved who are steadfast to the end."