Why Europe Will Return to the Christian Faith

“Because we have the truth”

Otto von Habsburg
Otto von Habsburg

This was the reply of the late Otto von Habsburg (1912-2011) when asked the question of why he was so convinced Europe would once again return to Christianity. The inquiry was in the context of Europe’s continuing secularization on the one hand, and non-Christian immigration on the other.

The interviewer, an instructor at Thomas More College, was surprised by the would-be Emperor of Austria’s confidence:

“The manner of his response made a deep impression on me. It was sovereign and serene, and filled with a glowing, inspiring hope—a hope anchored in an unwavering faith in Christ and His Church.”

Otto enthusiastically supported the EU as a Member of Parliament and of the concept of a politically unified Europe. But his understanding of the force underlying that unity was a spiritual one. According to the professor, “He knew that the future of European and western civilization lay in its Christian past and identity.” I wish I knew in what manner the Emperor (he still was to many Austrians) thought that this would come to pass.

I came across a similar vision by Fr. Jay Scott Newman. In a 2014 lecture he recently re-posted on his blog, he suggested that the intensifying secularization of the West is actually bringing it closer to its re-evangelization. The conservative priest actually embraces the imposition of laws that are inconsistent with Catholic teaching:

“I welcome the arrival of same sex marriage in the United States as a harbinger of the time when the boundaries between the Church and the world can be clarified, especially for us, by the disappearance of the last vestiges of cultural Christianity. …Let pagans once again be pagans so that Christians can once again be Christians proclaiming Jesus Christ in a world where he is no longer or not yet known and loved.”

(I’m not exactly sure what he means by “cultural Christianity”, but I suppose it’s what we have). Fr. Newman thinks the Church will eventually be whittled down to a smaller, but more spirit-led, body of faithful Christians that will offer the morally-bankrupt secular world an appealing alternative. While there is undoubtedly a threat to the Church from the growing number of legal decisions that are contrary to natural law; people are being fired, fined, or put out of business for being true to their faith, but he never mentions the logical next step, which was obvious by 2014—persecution. It had been on the increase for years.

Using St. Hildegard’s eschatology as a guide, what soon will change the direction and spiritual character of the Church is physical persecution. When the price to pay for attending mass with your family is a barrage of rocks with police refusing to intervene, many will abandon the Church. It will go from rocks to Molotov cocktails, then to suicide belts. Radical progressives will look on with schadenfreude as authorities are either incapable or unwilling to stop the oppressors.

She refers to what will happen to Christians in the coming era as a punishment of the Church for her sins (Scivias, Book III, Vision 11, Chapter 13). She does not state how long the persecution will last but declares that when it comes to an end and the Church will be “perfected in fortitude.” persecution6I suspect that it will be similar to the fate of Christian communities during the “Arab Spring”. As civil order crumbled, jihadists took advantage to try to eradicate the defenseless Christians.

Civil society will soon break down. Fr. Newman is referring to the present era, which Hildegard describes as a time when the leaders conspire to enact laws that “infringe the divine law”. But there is a new era on the horizon that will be marked by a disregard for laws, unrelenting social unrest, and even civil war; but this too, will end.

Perhaps this is when the surviving Hapsburgs will see what Crown Prince Otto foresaw, a revival of Latin Christendom in a spiritually unified Europe.


Fr. Gabriele Amorth and the Consecration of Russia

russian-church1In 1984, the consecration of the whole world by Pope St. John Paul II was followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of communism in Russia. The world breathed a sigh of relief and the peace that Mary promised seemed to have materialized. Sr. Lucia, one of the three seers of Fatima, unequivocally recognized the validity of the consecration.

Then why was the famous exorcist so certain that it had not been accomplished and would eventually be redone?

He recalls attending the event:

“The Consecration has not yet been made. I was there on March 25 in St. Peter’s Square, I was in the front row, practically within touching distance of the Holy Father. John Paul II wanted to consecrate Russia, but his entourage did not, fearing that the Orthodox would be antagonized, and they almost almost thwarted him. Therefore, when His Holiness consecrated the world on his knees, he added a sentence not included in the distributed version that instead said to consecrate ‘…especially those nations of which you yourself have asked for their consecration’. So, indirectly, this included Russia. However, a specific consecration has not yet been made. You can always do it. Indeed, it will certainly be done.” [LINK]

For him, it was simply not performed in the manner in which it had been requested, a specific consecration of the nation in union with all the bishops in the world.

I can think of four reasons in support of the late exorcist’s stance:

  1. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a foregone conclusion by 1984. It was why the Reagan administration was so assertive with the Kremlin. the inefficiencies of the ideology and the diverting of resources to the military doomed the economy. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a connection can’t be made; the timing of the consecration seems perfect. It’s tempting to agree with Pat Archibold at the NCRegister who thinks that since the consecration was only partially done, the promise was only partially fulfilled.
  2. The consecration of the world had already been tried; Pope Pius XII consecrated the whole world to the immaculate heart of Mary in 1942 and it was inconsequential for Russia.
  3. The meaning of the promise that “Russia will be converted” would have to mean a religious conversion. The context of the apparition in Fatima is a decidedly religious one, and the use of the word in that context could only mean a religious conversion; even the Russian Orthodox Church saw it that way and were offended at the notion. If Mary had intended to mean that Russia would only abandon communism, she would have employed different language. (Some point out, however, that Russians gained religious freedom after the dissolution of the USSR).
  4. The nature of the rite of consecration is generally not directed toward a collective body. The Catholic Encyclopedia (1908) discusses the rite consistently in terms of a singularity:

“Consecration, in general, is an act by which a thing is separated from a common and profane to a sacred use, or by which a person or thing is dedicated to the service and worship of God by prayers, rites, and ceremonies.”

ordination-of-priests2It describes the consecration of an alter, church, bishop, priest, chalice, etc., but not a group of people or generality like the world. Consider the consecration of priests; while the rite is celebrated collectively, the consecration is only effected through a laying of hands on the individual. That cannot be accomplished collectively. One could counter, however, that while nations stand as singular entities, they are also collective bodies in terms of their population. In any case, God wants Russia to be consecrated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, thereby converting the country for a sacred purpose.

Along with many on his side of the emotional issue, all Fr. Amorth wanted was for the consecration to be accomplished in the form in which it was requested. This may reflect the tenuous relationship between the modern Church and private revelation. Including Pope Francis’ consecration of the world in 2013, I believe there have been eight consecrations of Russia; amazingly, none were performed as had been desired. My latest book, Liberating Marriage in an Age of Heresy: St. Hildegard of Bingen and Reform in the 12th Century, demonstrates what can happen when Church authorities embrace private revelation as they did St. Hildegard’s prophetic gift. This century-long episode of Russia’s consecration may be an example of what happens when it doesn’t.


Click to purchase

From the back cover:

“Held hostage by feudal customs and threatened by the Cathar heresy, the institution of marriage at the outset of the twelfth-century in Latin Christendom was in urgent need of reform. Liberating Christian Marriage in an Age of Heresy reveals for the first time the role Hildegard played in the Church’s efforts to establish its jurisdiction over the institution and restore marriage to its Christian ideal. With little consensus on matters such as indissolubility and divorce, marital consent, contraception, clerical marriage, etc., the battle for marriage would not be easily won. Called out of her cloistered life and invested by the Church with the authority of an Old Testament prophet, abbess Hildegard, guided by mystical visions, reinforces the efforts of St. Bernard of Clairvaux and the reforming popes to restore marriage to the institution God originally intended it to be.”

As I studied Hildegard’s vision of the creation and fall of man (Scivias, Book 1, Vision 2) I was surprised by the fact that she interpreted the story of Adam and Eve almost entirely in terms of sex and marriage. Scholars have suggested that this was the result of her concern about the growing heresy known as Catharism. Cathars did not believe that marriage was a valid institution and forbade procreation. Hildegard was using her vision to uphold the Church’s teaching on marriage and family. She begins with a brief description of the vision itself which is followed by 33 short chapters explaining the meaning of the symbolism with some additional commentary.

Her instruction often comes in the first person voice of God using very blunt language. Here, assuming God’s voice, she bitterly condemns the Cathars and their depraved practices:

“They are wicked murderers, killing those who join them in simplicity before they can turn back from their error; and they are wicked fornicators upon themselves, destroying their semen in an act of murder and offering it to the Devil. …By devilish illusion, they pretend to have sanctity. …By his arts he shows them things he pretends are good and holy, and thus deludes them. …And after you pour out your lust in the poisonous seed of fornication, you pretend to pray and falsely assume an air of sanctity” (Bk 2, Vis. 7, Chap. 22).

Notice that here Hildegard refers to their practice of contraception as an “act of murder”. Her instruction is unequivocally orthodox and covers all aspects of marriage: divorce and indissolubility, consent, consanguinity (incest), etc. There was clearly enough material for a short study of her teaching on marriage presented in the historical context in which her first major work, Scivias (an abbreviation of Scito vias Domini, “Know the Ways of God”) appeared.

My book clearly demonstrates that the hand of God was with the Gregorian reformers in the 12th century, particularly with respect to the institution of Christian marriage. Abbess Hildegard was called out of her cloistered life at nearly fifty years old to assist that movement in a prophetic role. This was officially acknowledged by multiple popes who not only recognized the inspired nature of Scivias, but authorized her to conduct preaching tours on the Church’s behalf. The instruction of this new Doctor of the Universal Church on sex and marriage is now on record, a time when, for the Roman Catholic Church, the subjects have taken center stage.


The Danger of Religious Pluralism

four-religionsDistinct from syncretism, which reflects the blending of elements of unrelated faiths, pluralism affirms that different religions offer alternate paths to the same god, or to salvation. I once heard a priest use the analogy of a group of siblings, representing different religions, arguing with each other over who father loves most. Dad, representing God, then walks in on the quarreling kids and assures them that he loves them all equally.

It’s one thing for members of different religions to engage in dialogue as a means of promoting peace, but quite another to disregard their disparate and competing claims to the truth and declare them equally valid. It’s intellectual anarchy, like insisting that 2+2=5. The danger is that it crosses a line after which one’s own religion is unavoidably diminished in value. Continue reading “The Danger of Religious Pluralism”

St. Teresa of Calcutta and the Priest of Kali

The Kalighat Home for the Dying

A middle-aged priest from Calcutta was celebrating mass at my church several years ago. His homily centered on a short story about Mother Teresa with whom he seemed to be close. I remember the homily because it deeply moved me.

Calcutta is named after the important Hindu goddess Kali and means “the city of Kali”. She is worshipped as the “Mother of the Universe”. The priest recounted that when Mother Teresa began her service to the poor she and her few sisters had very little money or resources. Every day they would go to a nearby temple of Kali and serve the sick and dying on its doorsteps; it was where they congregated. The head priest of the temple resented the Christian nuns and stirred up the anger of the locals to the point that they would throw rocks. But the numbers of the sick kept growing so the Kali priest complained to authorities. Teresa, however, was able to convince them to give her the old abandoned temple that was on the same grounds; they knew that her work was badly needed by the people of Calcutta. She called it the Kalighat Home For the Dying. Continue reading “St. Teresa of Calcutta and the Priest of Kali”

Killing Sodom and Gomorrah

Sodom was saved?

In a speech presented at the World Youth Day in Poland, Bishop Nunzio Galantino, General-Secretary to the Italian Bishop’s Conference, recounted the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in a way that irritated Father Z. The bishop had concluded the story at the end of Genesis 18, the dialogue with Abraham,  saying, “…The city [Sodom] is saved because some righteous ones are there, even though a few of them.” I would have guessed that the bishop may have accidently misstated himself, but he repeats again in the next line “the city was saved”. Genesis 19, which concludes the story with the destruction of Sodom, was omitted.

This should not come as a complete surprise. It was and is still commonly taught in the universities that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was a legend, along with the Tower of Babble, creation story, Noah’s Ark, etc. Since elements of many of these stories can be found in the mythological literature of other Ancient Near Eastern religions, it was assumed by many Biblical scholars that by the time they were written down, the Hebrews had simply adapted these fables to their unique monotheistic conception of God. Particularly for older theologians, like Bp. Galantino, interpreting these Biblical accounts literally would be naïve, thus leaving them open to creative interpretations or to be disregarded as anachronistic and irrelevant to today’s world.

Ebla Library

With respect to Sodom, however, proof of its existence appeared in the 1980s. An archaeological site in present day Syria had uncovered a Middle Bronze Age city-state named Ebla. In it they found a library containing tablets that included geographical guides, and a list of cities that included Sodom.

In fact, archaeologists might have actually found Sodom in the Southern Jordan Valley, a Middle Bronze Age site known as Tall El-Hammam. One of the archaeologists working on the project, Steven Collins, concluded it was Sodom based on information from the book of Genesis:

“Theorizing, on the basis of the Sodom texts, that Sodom was the largest of the Kikkar [the Jordan ‘Disk’, or ‘well-watered plain’ in the Biblical text] cities east of the Jordan, I concluded that if one wanted to find Sodom, then one should look for the largest city on the eastern Kikkar that existed during the Middle Bronze Age, the time of Abraham and Lot. When we explored the area, the choice of Tall el-Hammam as the site of Sodom was virtually a no-brainer since it was at least five to ten times larger than all the other Bronze Age sites in the entire region, even beyond the Kikkar of the Jordan.”

He sees evidence of a sudden abandonment of the city and no subsequent re-population of the area for 700 years. He notes also that the site,

“…included a large monumental complex in the lower city/tall, remains of a mudbrick palatial structure in the upper city/tall (called the ‘red palace’ because of the color of the mudbricks due to a fiery conflagration).”

While evidence of destruction by fire is common to Near East archaeological sites, bsodom3roken pottery shards have been found that were melted down by a heat level that would have to have been much higher than that of a normal fire, even a kiln.

lot's wife
Lot’s wife

Less likely the site of Sodom is an area on the west side of the Dead Sea traditionally called the Mountains of Sodom and the Cave of Sodom. It’s a desolate area primarily comprised of salt. How this area came to be identified with Sodom is not clear; there are no remains of a city in the area. However, since it is on the coast of the Dead Sea, there are many pillars of salt, many of which eerily take on a human-like form. One in particular is even commonly referred to as Lot’s wife.

Bishop Galantino naturally prefers to talk to the kids about God’s mercy (Genesis 18), but is it helpful to ignore His judgment (Genesis 19)? Doesn’t the former necessarily imply the latter? The sin of Sodom was that as a sovereign city-state it had legitimized sexual behaviors that were contrary to divine natural law. But isn’t that exactly what sovereign Western states are doing today by means of their courts and governmental authorities? At some point following this Year of Mercy could the West experience a Year of Judgment?


St. Hildegard’s Vision of the Moment of Consecration

eucharist1Listening to Hildegard explain aspects of the conversion of bread and wine to the real presence of Christ reveals the uniqueness of the visionary’s prophetic gift as well as how that gift was viewed by Church authorities in the twelfth-century.

While the doctrine of transubstantiation can be traced back to apostolic times, because of its mysterious nature theologians have had a difficult time explaining it. They employed philosophy and logic to draw their conclusions and thus had little success in making various aspects of the miraculous transmutation understandable. In his discourse on the subject, Hildegard’s contemporary, the early scholastic theologian Peter Lombard wrote, “If, however, it is asked of what sort this conversion is, whether formal, or substantial, or of another kind, I am not capable of defining it” (Book of Four Sentences, Book IV, Distinction 11). Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s Vision of the Moment of Consecration”

Cohabitation, Concubinage, and the Council of Trent

wench2Sociologically speaking, little comparison can be made between the form of concubinage that was popular in the Middle Ages and today’s marital alternative known as cohabitation. The medieval pastime endured for centuries and was deeply rooted in feudal society’s pagan history. It generally took the form of a nobleman, unmarried or married, keeping a woman of lower rank or from the peasantry in his home to provide sexual favors. Unsurprisingly, medieval concubines produced many illegitimate children, with many of the bastard daughters growing up to become concubines themselves.

The concern for maintaining a family’s social status meant that concubinage would rarely lead to marriage. In most cases of modern cohabitation, however, there is an intention on the part of the couple to eventually get married, giving the relationship some sense of permanence. Recent statistics demonstrate, however, that a majority of cohabitating couples eventually break up, including couples that eventually do get married. One well known fact about remarried people is that their second marriage is more likely to end in divorce, the third even more, etc. The same goes for cohabitating couples. Advocating cohabitation is giving dangerous and costly advice. Continue reading “Cohabitation, Concubinage, and the Council of Trent”

The Validity of a Marriage is Determined by Proper Consent

marriage2Marriage as we know it today originated in the twelfth-century. It was the result of the efforts of the Gregorian reform movement to wrestle full jurisdiction over marriage from the pagan-influenced customs of the feudal nobility. The latter treated marriage as means of forming strategic alliances with other families, or as a way of keeping wealth within an extended family. Arranged marriages precluded consent which often meant that it precluded love. They were often arranged before the child (usually the daughter) had even reached adolescence.

Church authorities used a variety of strategies to accomplish its goals, one of which was that fact that within Latin Christendom it was the Church that determined whether a particular marriage was valid or not. People wanted their marriage to be valid; it determined the legitimacy of their children and their ability to inherit. The Church knew this. But its problem was that it did not possess a uniform definition of what constituted a valid marriage. Continue reading “The Validity of a Marriage is Determined by Proper Consent”

St. Hildegard’s Vision of Today’s America

Eight centuries ago St. Hildegard experienced a prophetic vision of a period of time similar to our own. She called it the era of the Black Pig, the fourth of five symbolic animals representing successive historical periods of time that precede2pig the Antichrist. The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Visions of Modern Society lays out a compelling case that these eras have been unfolding in the recent history of Europe and North America. According to Hildegard, they are brief eras with distinct temporal rulers.

In comparing the eras to recent history, three particular years within the twentieth-century make dividing it into four separate historical periods an easy task. 1914, 1945, and 1991 are natural dividing lines marking major social and geopolitical changes in the Western world. There is a general consensus among historians regarding the momentousness of these years and how they serve to divide up the century. Hence, it can be divided into four eras which we choose to begin with the year of the loss of the Papal States in 1870: (1) 1870-1914, (2) 1914-1945, (3) 1945-1991, and (4) 1991-present. All are geopolitically distinct and brief. Continue reading “St. Hildegard’s Vision of Today’s America”