The Present Crisis of the Holy See by Cardinal Manning
     4. Now, if I am obliged to enter somewhat into the future, I shall confine myself to tracing out a very general outline. The direct tendency of all the events we see at this moment is clearly this, to overthrow Catholic worship throughout the world. Already we see that every Government in Europe is excluding religion from its public acts. The civil powers are desecrating themselves: government is without religion; and if government be without religion, education must be without religion. We see it already in Germany and in France. It has been again and again attempted in England. The result of this can be nothing but the re-establishment of mere natural society; that is to say, the governments and the powers of the world, which for a time were subdued by the Church of God to a belief in Christianity, to obedience to the laws of God, and to the unity of the Church, having revolted from it and desecrated themselves, have relapsed into their natural state.
     The Prophet Daniel, in the twelfth chapter, says that in the time of the end “many shall be chosen and made white, and shall be tried as fire; and the wicked shall deal wickedly, and none of the wicked shall understand, but the learned shall understand;” that is, many who have known the faith shall abandon it, by apostasy. “Some of the learned shall fall;”1 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, as in such a country as this, and in France, so subdues and frightens Catholics, that they dare not avow their principles, and, at last, dare not hold them. They become admirers and worshipers of the material prosperity of Protestant countries. They see the commerce, the manufactures, the agriculture, the capital, the practical science, the irresistible armies, and the fleets that cover the sea, and they come flocking to adore, and say, “Nothing is so great as this great country of Protestant England.” And so they give up their faith, and become materialists, seeking for the wealth and power of this world, dazzled and overpowered by the greatness of a country which has cast off its fidelity to the Church.
     5. Now the last result of all this will be a persecution, which I will not attempt to describe. It is enough to remind you of the words of our Divine Master: “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. Does this seem incredible? What, then, do we see at this moment? Look at the Catholic and Roman Church throughout the world. When was it ever more like its Divine Head in the hour when He was bound hand and foot by those who betrayed Him? Look at the Catholic Church, still independent, faithful to its Divine trust, and yet cast off by the nations of the world; at the Holy Father, the Vicar of our Divine Lord, at this moment mocked, scorned, despised, betrayed, abandoned, robbed of his own, and even those that would defend him murdered. When, I ask, was the Church of God ever in a weaker condition, in a feebler state in the eyes of men, and in this natural order, than it is now? And from whence, I ask, is deliverance to come? Is there on earth any power to intervene? Is there any king, prince, or potentate, that has the power to interpose either his will or his sword for the protection of the Church? Not one ; and it is foretold it should be so. Neither need we desire it, for the will of God seems to be otherwise. 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. We read in the Book Apocalypse,2 of the city of Rome, that she said in the pride of her heart, “I sit as a queen, and am no widow, and sorrow I shall not see. Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning, and famine, and she shall be burned with the fire, because God is strong who shall judge her.” 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. There was never destruction upon earth comparable to the overthrow of Rome in ancient days. St. Gregory the Great, writing of it, says, “Rome a little while ago was seen to be the mistress of the world; what she now is we behold. Crushed by manifold and boundless miseries, by the desolation of her inhabitants, the inroads of enemies, the frequency of destruction, we see fulfilled in her the words of the Prophet against the city of Samaria. . . .Where is the senate; where now is the people? The bones are decayed, and the flesh is consumed. All the pomp of worldly greatness in her is extinguished. Her whole structure is dissolved. And we, the few who remain, are day by day harassed by the sword and by innumerable tribulations. . . . Rome is empty and burning; . . . her people have failed, and even her walls are falling. ... Where now are they who once exulted in her glory? Where is their pomp ; where their pride; where their constant and immoderate rejoicing?"3 There never was a ruin like to the overthrow of the great City of the Seven Hills, when the words of the prophecy were fulfilled: “Babylon is fallen”—like “a great millstone cast into the sea."
     The writers of the Church tell us that in the latter days the city of Rome will probably be come 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. For what is it that makes Rome sacred, but the presence of the Vicar of Jesus Christ? What has it that should be dear in the sight of God, save only the presence of the Vicar of His Son ? Let the Church of Christ depart from Rome, and Rome will be no more in the eyes of God than Jerusalem of old. Jerusalem, the Holy City, chosen by God, was cast down and consumed by fire, because it crucified the Lord of Glory; and the city of Rome, which has been the seat of the Vicar of Jesus Christ for eighteen hundred years, if it become apostate, like Jerusalem of old, will suffer a like condemnation. And, therefore, 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 be come 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 upon 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 in the greatest repute. First, Malvenda, who writes expressly on the subject, states as the opinion of Ribera, Gaspar Melus, Wiegas, Suarez, Bellarmine, and Bosius, that Rome shall apostatise from the faith, drive away the Vicar of Christ, and return to its ancient paganism.4 Malvenda's words are: “But Rome itself in the last times of the world will return to its ancient idolatry, power, and imperial greatness. It will cast out its Pontiff, altogether apostatise from the Christian faith, terribly persecute the Church, shed the blood of martyrs more cruelly than ever, and will recover its former state of abundant wealth, or even greater than it had under its first rulers.”
     Lessius5 says: “In the time of Antichrist, Rome shall be destroyed, as we see openly from the thirteenth chapter of the Apocalypse;” and again: “The woman whom thou sawest is the great city, which hath kingdom over the kings of the earth, in which is signified Rome in its impiety, such as it was in the time of St. John, and shall be again at the end of the world.” And Bellarmine:6 “In the time of Antichrist, Rome shall be desolated and burnt, as we learn from the sixteenth verse of the seventeenth chapter of the Apocalypse.” On which words the Jesuit Erbermann comments as follows: “We all confess with Bellarmine that the Roman people, a little before the end of the world, will return to Paganism, and drive out the Roman Pontiff.”
     Finally, Cornelius à Lapide sums up what may be said to be the common interpretation of theologians. Commenting on the same eighteenth chapter of the Apocalypse, he says: “These things are to be understood of the city of Rome, not that which is, nor that which was, but that which shall be at the end of the world. For then the city of Rome will return to its former glory, and likewise its idolatry and other sins, and shall be such as it was in the time of St. John, under Nero, Domitian, Decius, &c. For from Christian it shall again become heathen. It shall cast out the Christian Pontiff, and the faithful who adhere to him. It shall persecute and slay them. . . . . It shall rival the persecutions of the heathen emperors against the Christians. . . . . For so we see Jerusalem was first heathen under the Canaanites; secondly, faithful under the Jews; thirdly, Christian under the Apostles ; fourthly, heathen again under the Romans; fifthly, Saracen under the Turks.”
     Such they believe will be the history of Rome: pagan under the emperors, Christian under the Apostles, faithful under the Pontiffs, apostate under the Revolution, and pagan under Antichrist. Only Jerusalem could sin so formally and fall so low ; for only Jerusalem has been so chosen, illumined, and consecrated. And as no people were ever so intense in their persecutions of Jesus as the Jews, so I fear will none ever be more relentless against the faith than the Romans.
     Now I have not attempted to point out what shall be the future events except in outline, and I have never ventured to designate who shall be the person who shall accomplish them. Of this I know nothing; but I am enabled with the most perfect certainty, from the Word of God, and from the interpretations of the Church, to point out the great principles which are in conflict on either side. I began by showing you that the Antichrist, and the antichristian movement, has these marks: first, schism from the Church of God; secondly, denial of its Divine and infallible voice; and thirdly, denial of the Incarnation. It is, therefore, the direct and mortal enemy of the One Holy Catholic and Roman Church—the unity from which all schism is made ; the sole organ of the Divine voice of the Spirit of God; the shrine and sanctuary of the Incarnation and of the continual sacrifice.
     And now to make an end. Men have need to look to their principles. They have to make a choice between two things, between faith in a teacher speaking with an infallible voice, governing the unity which now, as in the beginning, knits together the nations of the world, or the spirit of fragmentary Christianity, which is the source of disorder, and ends in unbelief. Here is the simple choice to which we are all brought; and between them we must make up our minds.
     The events of every day are carrying men further and further in the career on which they have entered. Every day men are becoming more and more divided. 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 chaff with unquenchable fire.”[size=small]7 It is a time of trial, when “some of the learned shall fall,” and those only shall be saved who are steadfast to the end. The two great antagonists are gathering their forces for the last conflict;-it may not be in our day, it may not be in the time of those who come after us; but one thing is certain, that we are as much put on our trial now as they will be who live in the time when it shall come to pass. For as surely as the Son of God reigns on high, and will reign “ until He has put all His enemies under His feet,” so surely every one that lifts a heel or directs a weapon against His faith, His Church, or His Vicar upon earth, will share the judgment which is laid up for the Antichrist whom he serves.


1 Dan. xi. 35.
2 Apoc. xviii. 7, 8.
3 St. Greg. lib. ii. hom. vii. in Ezech.
4 Malvenda, de Antichristo, lib. iv. cap. 5.
5 Lessius, de Antichristo, demonst. xii.
6 Bellarm. de Summo Pontif lib. iv. cap. 4.

7 St. Matt. iii. 12.

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