Is the Sign of Jonah Hanging Over Today’s Church?

The Prophet Jonah Before the Walls of Nineveh, Rembrandt

In 2010, Msgr. Charles Pope penned an article entitled “What is the Sign of Jonah and Has it Come Upon Us“. He focused on the Lucan version of the story, exploring the history of Jonah’s encounter with the Ninevites to come up with a deeper meaning for the “sign”. This eventually leads him to wonder if there is a similar threat which is directed at Western society today and the Church in particular, offering his own words of warning. Much has changed since 2010 and in revisiting this article Monsignor’s words seem almost prophetic.

The passage from St. Luke:

“This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it, except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater than Jonah here” (Luke 11:29-32).

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Msgr. Pope’s Comment on Traditional Churches

Msgr. Charles Pope of the Diocese of Washington (DC) wrote a powerful article for the diocesan blog entitled, “‘Alas, Alas for the Great City!’ An Urgent Plea for Prayer at the New Year!”. He compares today’s America to ancient Babylon as referenced in Isaiah and the book of Revelation, recalling in detail the country’s decline since the 1960s and then assesses the present situation:

So here we are in 2015. And if we have any sense and any faith at all, we need to fall on our knees and pray for miraculous conversion. I love this country and Western culture. I do not think anything finer has ever graced this globe. But we have become collectively corrupted. Our freedom has become licentiousness; our sense of human dignity has been debased; our comforts have made us lazy and inimical to the Cross and to discipline.

America, he warns, may share the same fate as Babylon:

…And before you exultantly say, “Bring it on!” please consider how instantly different our lives would be. Are you really ready for a world with no electricity, no Internet, and no central government with a Bill of Rights? Are you ready to live without roads, running water, and trash collection? Repentance is a far better solution. So pray for a miracle!

Strong words for a diocesan blog. But something he wrote in response to a comment, however, struck me as utterly capricious. Somebody had put the blame for this situation on the Second Vatican Council, adding a quote by Archbishop Lefebvre. This was part of the Msgr’s response:

Frankly why aren’t traditional movements and attendance at TLMs growing? The number in DC haven’t grown in over a decade. And lets not forget that the number of Catholics worldwide is growing not shrinking. So, I think we have a cultural problem compounded by a weak-kneed church.

I think the Council and Liturgy are not the “supreme catastrophe” you described. And lets not forget it was the “brats” schooled in the old system and raised with the TLM who threw the revolution. So something bad was already going on.

Rather dismissive, perhaps he hasn’t seen this chart:


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