Hildegard’s Scivias (abbreviated form of the Latin for “Know the Ways of God”) is her record of a series of 26 visions that encompass the whole of salvation history. When she gets to the last days, specifically the time leading up to the Antichrist she makes an interesting comment on the nature of the passage of time during these days:
“All things that are on Earth hasten to their end, and the world droops toward its end” (Book III, Vision 11, chap. 1).
She is stating that one character of these times is that history will progress rapidly. She refers to the five beasts which symbolize the succession of individual historical periods leading up to the Antichrist, as “fleeting times”. She also compares them to the end of the day when the sun is setting, explaining that in her vision it is why the beasts face the west. She also likens them to end of the life of a person: Continue reading “St. Hildegard on Our ‘Fleeting Times’”→
“This agglomeration which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”
There was a time when St. Hildegard would have probably agreed with these paradoxical but generally true shortcomings of the Holy Roman Empire. As an adult Hildegard had come to know a succession of Emperors, since they were in reality no more than Kings of Germany and she was as famous a German as they were. She especially detested Emperor Frederick Barbarossa for his determination to usurp the authority of the pope in ecclesiastical appointments. Hildegard received a gracious letter from the Emperor, in which he referred to her as “holy lady”, and “beloved lady”, requesting her prayers as a means of obtaining grace. Not uncharacteristically, she responds by fearlessly assuming her role as a prophet, of the Old Testament type, delivering threats in the first-person voice of God (very unusual for a woman in medieval times):
“He who Is says: By My own power I do away with the obstinacy and rebellion of those who scorn me. Woe, O woe to the evil of those wicked ones who spurn me. Hear this O king, if you wish to live. Otherwise my sword will pierce you” (Baird, Joseph L. The Personal Correspondence of Hildegard of Bingen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Letter #44, p.78).
She follows up with another letter in which explicitly insults the King (a guy who could make her life very difficult):
“…[I]n a mystic vision I see you like a little boy or some madman living before Living Eyes. Yet you still have time for ruling over worldly matters. Beware, therefore, that the almighty King does not lay you low because of the blindness of your eyes, which fail to see correctly how to hold the rod of proper governance in your hand. See to it that you do not act in such a way that you lose the grace of God” (Letter #45, p.78).
In light of the upcoming final session of the Synod of the Family, with the “shadow synod” lurking in the background: closed-door meetings and behind-the-scenes strategy sessions to ensure success in their determination to overturn Church teaching on communion for the divorced and remarried. What came to my mind was a particular vision of St. Hildegard’s as recalled by Pope Benedict XVI, which in turn brought to mind a scene from Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
PAPAL ADDRESS TO THE ROMAN CURIA, 2010
The focal point of Benedict’s Christmas speech were the revelations of a new series of sex abuse accusations against priests which had surfaced throughout Europe during the year. Recall that 2010 was the “Year of the Priest”; Benedict laments the unexpected irony:
“…[W]hen in this year of all years and to a degree we could not have imagined, we came to know of abuse of minors committed by priests who twist the sacrament into its antithesis, and under the mantle of the sacred, profoundly wound human persons in their childhood, damaging them for a whole lifetime.”
An insightful review of the book was posted today on the popular Catholic blog Unam Sanctam Catholicam. Some highlights:
“The book is very cautious; when it makes connections and inferences, it does so in a very qualified manner, respecting the limits posed by the nature of eschatological speculation. That being said, the inferences it does make are very strong and convincing.”
“Any student of Catholic eschatology, especially that branch which studies the private revelations of the saints, will want to check out Mr. Turner’s book.”
You may click on the icon below to go to the book’s Amazon page:
GLOUCESTER: I hope they will not come upon us now. KING HENRY V: We are in God’s hand, brother, not in theirs. March to the bridge; it now draws toward night: Beyond the river we’ll encamp ourselves, And on to-morrow, bid them march away.
Henry V, William Shakespeare
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision on the Obergefell vs.Hodges, a major and well funded campaign began to encourage the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of the Catholic Church and other non-profit organizations that oppose homosexual marriage. This has caused alarm among Catholic groups like The Catholic League, whose director Bill Donohue warns:
“Anyone who thinks that radical activists will stop with gay marriage is ignorant: The big prize has always been to force the churches to fall in line. …Stealth politics is what the left is good at, and on this issue they will have their unelected surrogates at the IRS do their bidding.”
From a purely financial standpoint the answer to the question posed above is probably yes, it could be a calamity, particularly with regard to a levy on Church property. Yet knowing the true financial impact on the Church would require an in-depth analysis by a major accounting firm. The USCCB might be wise to commission such a study. A lot of dioceses in America are in bankruptcy and if the Church were to be taxed like a corporation she could do what most corporations do to reduce or eliminate their tax obligations. Perhaps it wouldn’t be as bad as one might think. And then there’s the question of whether parishioners would reduce their giving or stop tithing at all, since the tax-deductability of their contribution would be eliminated. Conducting a broad survey on that question might also be wise.
Some think that the government’s removing of the Church’s tax-exempt status is very unlikely. Since the question of homosexual marriage is a religious matter for the Church, it would be seen as a violation of the First Amendment and be quickly overturned by the courts. (Although, in 1976 the IRS successfully took Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status away because it had a policy against interracial marriage). Others suggest that the political party in power at the time of such a decision would be too fearful of suffering a backlash at the ballot box and they would elect to back off. Continue reading “Would The Church Losing Its Tax-Exempt Status Be Such a Calamity?”→
St Hildegard’s vision of the last days is a description of five symbolic beasts that represent five unique historical periods that immediately precede the time of the Antichrist. The book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, argues that four of the five periods have already occurred in our recent history. If the book’s theories are convincing, then we can look for references to that same future period of time in the prophetic literature of the Bible and compare.
One such reference is the well-known apocalyptic passage in the Book of Revelation which includes a description of the infamous “Whore of Babylon”. Unfortunately, the book of Revelation is very difficult to interpret, and Revelation 17:1-14, which references the Whore of Babylon and the beast with seven heads, is especially difficult to understand. But it can be interpreted, and often is among Catholic theologians, as referencing the time leading up to the Antichrist. To do so requires the premise that the book of Revelation relates to the future and has specific information about the end times. Continue reading “The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard and Revelation 17: The Beast with Seven Heads”→
The term “social engineering” originated in the late 19th century and was used by early sociologists to define the attempt by governments to influence human attitudes toward certain ideas or behaviors. It is primarily associated with authoritarian governments like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and Chairman Mao’s China. Using manipulative laws, re-education, and propaganda, they sought to reshape their societies according to their repective ideologies. All governments, however, practice social engineering to some extent, with the intention of producing a desirable outcome that is in the best interest of the public. Regulation of industry and financial markets, laws, and tax incentives are a few examples. But social engineering, even in free societies can have a sinister side.
Pope St. John Paul II tried to warn the West about this in his 1993 encyclical Veritatis Splendor. Written just after the fall of the Soviet Union, something he had helped accomplish, he cautioned the West about the dangers of freedom in a society that was losing its moral foundations:
“Today, when many countries have seen the fall of ideologies which bound politics to a totalitarian conception of the world — Marxism being the foremost of these — there is no less grave a danger that the fundamental rights of the human person will be denied and that the religious yearnings which arise in the heart of every human being will be absorbed once again into politics. …Indeed, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism.”
It may not be correct to assert that social engineering itself is an evil; that would depend on whether the desired outcome is evil in nature. We get a clue about the intentions of today’s social reformers from a recent article in the New York Post. Citing Gallup Polls, the writer points out some of the dramatic changes that have affected American culture in the last decade or so. They reflect a complete shift in attitudes toward moral issues over very brief periods of time. Some examples:
In 2003 34% of people polled said they were in favor of legalizing marijuana; in 2013 it was over 50%. (Interestingly, only 7% said they used it).
In 2006, support for homosexual marriage stood at 39%, today it is 60%.
In 2001, only 40% of those surveyed considered homosexuality morally acceptable; today it is 63%.
In 2003 only 34% of people polled thought that having a child out of wedlock was morally acceptable. Today that number is 61%.
He compares the scale of these massive changes to the cultural revolutions of the 1960s and notes perceptively: “We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets.” He cannot explain how this came to be, but suspects it has to do with the degrading nature of pop culture. In my view, however, what is ultimately responsible for this is social engineering by government institutions: schools, legislatures, presidents, judges, as well as lobbyists and special-interest groups, and those that fund them. The journalist rightly poses a troubling question that should give Roman Catholics a cause for concern, “…what comes along with this mass departure of moral judgment from public life?”In his encyclical, St. John Paul II answers that question: “…if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power.” (note the word “easily”) Continue reading “Is Social Engineering the Salient Evil of Our Time?”→
Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami recently celebrated a Red Mass for members of the legal community. His homily touched on the legal troubles currently facing the Catholic Church:
“And so in our country as in other Western countries, we see a tendency to relegate religion to the private sphere. And, in these countries, we see the courts chipping away at the original understanding of religious freedom. In order to fit new political agendas, religious freedom is being reinterpreted narrowly to mean merely “freedom to worship” but excluding the freedom to serve and/or the freedom to witness. The Catholic Church in this country is currently battling in legislatures and in courts against this tendency. And it is not clear that we will prevail. Education, family law, healthcare are just some of the areas in which narrow readings of religious freedom are paving the way for antireligious policies.”
According to St. Hildegard’s vision of the fourth beast, the Black Pig, we will not prevail. This era, which began in 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union, is unusual in that it is focused squarely on society’s leaders rather than the people themselves. She explains that the blackness is caused by the pig rolling around in mud and excrement, reflecting the corrupt nature of this era’s leaders:
“…[T]his epoch will have leaders who blacken themselves in misery and wallow in the mud of impurity. They will infringe the divine law by fornication and other like evils and will plot to diverge from the holiness of God’s commands”[Scivias, Book III,Vision11]
The reason we will not prevail has to do with Hildegard’s explanation of the symbolism of the ropes, which signifies that the particular evil that characterizes each era will be present from its beginning to its end. Archbishop Wenski goes on to call what’s happening to the Church “soft despotism”:
“…[I]n this country and other liberal democracies, people of faith are being increasingly subject to a soft despotism in which ridicule, ostracism, and denial of employment opportunities of advancement are being used to marginalize us. We see this when butchers, and bakers and candlestick makers are being put into the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs. …Christian pastors are stalked and threatened for being “Christian” pastors, social scientists are expelled from universities for having turned up “politically incorrect” facts, charitable organizations and confessional schools are harassed if they take seriously their faith’s moral precepts and required their employees to support their missions.”
I discuss this present era at length in the book. Until it ends, however, what signifies the era, the actions of leaders who “…plot to diverge from the holiness of God’s commands,” will continue unabated. Catholics should be prepared for this to intensify.
I recently received an e-mail from someone who had just finished reading my book, The Five Beasts of St. Hildegard: Prophetic Symbols of Modern Society, stating that it “…sent chills down my spine”. The reason it can have that effect on readers is due to the compelling case the book presents which demonstrates that four of the five symbolic beasts, representing a succession of historical eras preceding the Antichrist, may have already occurred. If readers agree with the book’s assessment of recent history in light of St. Hildegard’s vision, then they will conclude that the events marking the fifth era are likely to be experienced by them, which also includes you and me, our children and grandchildren. An era, as described by Hildegard, that would indeed send chills down your spine.
Each of the five eras also reflect a particular social evil as symbolized by its respective beast. For example, the second era, the Yellow Lion, is an epoch engulfed in militarism and malice (1914-1945); the third, that of the Pale Horse, is identified with licentiousness and hedonism (1948-1991). The fourth is the current historical era that began after the collapse of the Soviet Empire. The fifth one, the era of the Grey Wolf, the only era left before the arrival of the Antichrist, is described as a time of extreme civil violence and economic disparity. Today, certain “signs of the times” suggest that this era may not be too far off. Hildegard portrays it as a period of class warfare and revolution (in another chapter she adds that it will include persecution of Christians):
“And the last is like a grey wolf; for those times will have people who plunder each other, robbing the powerful and the fortunate. …And they will divide and conquer the rulers of those realms” (Book 3, Vision 11, chapter 6) [Hildegard of Bingen: Scivias, translated by Columba Hart and Jane Bishop. The Abby of Regina Laudis: Benedictine Congregation Regina Laudis of the Strict Observance, Inc. Paulist Press, 1990.]
Today we often hear concerns about income inequality and a growing “wealth gap” in America. 20% of the total income earned in the U.S. goes to the top 1% of income earners, which is double what it was a few decades ago. The distribution of wealth, however, is 10 times more unequal, with the top .01% of the population (160,000 people) owning the same amount of wealth as the bottom 145,000,000. Historically, these are recurring economic realities and there are numerous studies that demonstrate what effects they can have on a nation. One is an increase in violent crime, particularly murder. We’ve seen this in a number of American cities today like Baltimore and St. Louis. British researcher Richard Wilkinson argued that it wasn’t a nation’s overall wealth or lack thereof that determined its level of social diseases like crime, violence, mental health etc., but its level of income disparity. If he’s correct, and should this inequality continue to worsen, so also will American society. This may explain why wealthy people in New York City are building safe rooms in their apartments and adding 1400 lb. doors.
A recent historical study concluded that income inequality can also lead to civil war, adding, however, that there are always other factors involved, like extreme distrust in government or a high unemployment rate. One doesn’t need to be an historian to recall some famous examples of this: the French Revolution, Russian Revolution, American Revolution, and more recently, the “Arab Spring”. Is America today headed toward a similar end? The answer is probably no, at least not for the moment. Those other factors that historically can lead to civil war, like high unemployment, extreme distrust of the government, repressive laws, etc., are not at a level that would suggest a potential revolt. The unemployment rate is currently 5.5% (though, unlike Europe, the U.S. conveniently refuses to count as unemployed those who have given up looking for work, in which case it would be about 11%).
On the other hand, looking at Europe, the unemployment rate in Spain is 23%, it’s over 12% in Italy and France, and 26% in Greece. Youth unemployment is a staggering 51% in Spain, 43% in Italy, and 24% in France. There is also a high level of distrust of the government in Spain, Portugal, and an alarming level of mistrust in Italy.
The upshot of all these studies is that parts of Europe and America may be ticking social time-bombs. In a previous post I discussed the consequences of rising interest rates in America. Countries that are deep in debt like the U.S., U.K., Italy, Spain etc. are only able to service their debt because of extraordinary interventions by central banks to force interest rates down to the lowest level they’ve been since usury laws were enforced in the Middle Ages. Should the banks lose control of rates and they start to rise, triggering a rise in inflation, many governments would quickly find themselves insolvent. In my view, this is mathematically unavoidable. In Tunisia, inflation and rising food prices were the straws that broke the camel’s back, setting in motion the events that led to the “Arab Spring”. The era of the Grey Wolf, particularly in Europe, strikes me as only a crisis away from its own “Spring”. Changes are coming.
Keep an eye on interest rates.
In her book, Scivias, St. Hildegard writes in far more detail about the world during the era of the Grey Wolf.