Yesterday, several people sent me this article by Thomas McDonald, which makes it sound as though if you’re listening to guys like me and my apocalyptic musings, you’re somewhere between a crazy person in the making and a pitiable apostate. I had some back and forth with the author on Twitter, and it got contentious, but in the end I tried to salvage the debate. I knew that there would be people who would disagree with and even malign me, and I said in advance that I don’t doubt the sincerity of their faith even if I think they’re reaching the wrong conclusions. There is no surprise here.
What is surprising is this.
Posted in the comments today or yesterday, this article is strikingly similar in its analysis and conclusions to what I wrote in “Something Wicked.” Certain specific insights — like the relationship between Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s prophecied concession that “could not be granted” with the possible move to admit the divorced and remarried to communion — are things I haven’t seen elsewhere.
Then I looked at the date, and it was written a solid two weeks before I wrote mine. But today is the first time I’ve seen it.
The author, Dr. Kelly Bowring, has seemingly solid credentials. Certainly stronger bona fides than my own:
Dr. Kelly Bowring, a theologian, author and popular speaker, received his pontifical doctorate from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Rome), his licentiate from Dominican House and the John Paul II Institute (Washington DC), and his masters from Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio), and has the Church’s mandatum to teach theology.
Dr. Bowring has been Dean of the Graduate School of Theology & Program of Catholic Studies (GST) at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Dean of Spiritual Mission and a professor of sacred theology at Southern Catholic College and an institute director and theologian at St. Mary’s College of Ave Maria University.
He has been featured as a Who’s Who among America’s teachers. He has traveled widely to international Catholic and Marian libraries and shrines and has spent years researching solid sources to utilize in his presentations, writings and books.
Known for his dynamic yet understandable teaching style, his books are sure to please any reading audience. Dr. Bowring and his wife, Diana, have eight children.
Dr. Bowring cites certain sources that are questionable, including Maria Divine Mercy (which he attempts to assess for veracity here) and reaches some bold hypotheticals. In fact, despite his obvious caution, he takes my concerns about Pope Francis further than I have felt comfortable doing:
As a Catholic theologian, I say this with great trepidation, and I ask the reader to hear me out before drawing your own conclusion. It is apparent to faithful Catholics today, and more and more so as the past year progressed, that some of Pope Francis’ actions and teachings have raised legitimate and serious concerns. This article asks you to look at the disconcerting actions and statements of Pope Francis and the “Francis effect” in the light of the potentially related prophecies about him. Of course, time will make things clearer as to his plans and agenda, as he moves beyond his now famous rhetoric toward implementation. So for now, I withhold any conclusions, instead giving Pope Francis the benefit of the doubt, always remaining obedient to the Church as a faithful Catholic theologian. But, alert and investigative I shall remain, and I think that if he is a valid Pope, and the prophecies are wrong and his disturbing rhetoric is just for effect, he will be glad for my vigilance on behalf of the Church.
Nevertheless, it is incumbent upon me to present to you the reader some of the reasons that have led me to this current supposition. First, I will present the credible heavenly prophecies about the False Prophet, then what to expect from the False Prophet according to the prophecies, and finally how Catholics should respond to the possibility and growing concern that Pope Francis might be the False Prophet.
He gives extensive citations from private revelation and prophecy. He applies these to some of the disturbing things we’re seeing happening in the Church today, and it’s impossible not to see that they could fit. It’s a very compelling read. He also gives the reason why we should be talking about these things, which some people (like McDonald, cited above) can’t seem to understand:
Catholics believe that by the will and teaching of Christ, the Magisterium of the Church is protected with the charism of infallibility such that by the power of Holy Spirit the Pope cannot ever err in his official teaching on matters of faith and morals. The true Church will never err in faith and morals. As Catholics, we know this is true. So let no one tamper or interfere with the Word of God.
On the other hand, if a Pope personally embraces a heresy (false doctrine or immorality), even in secret, then he is de facto no longer Pope. So then, if a Pope teaches a false doctrine (or changes doctrine), then this is the sure “sign” he is not a valid Pope, as I have addressed in another article. In such a case, his teachings should not be obeyed and he should not be followed. Faithful Catholics must be attuned to this possibility, especially given the heavenly prophecies related to this and given the serious concerns Pope Francis continues to raise, as well as the path he seems to be leaning toward. But, due to our required obedience to the Magisterium, we cannot decide exclusively for ourselves whether he is in heresy and thus invalid. We must wait until the Church’s otherwise highest authority (like Pope Emeritus Benedict) declares it so and presents the clearest evidence.
Remain alert and investigative. Don’t bury your head in the sand and hope it will all blow over. Given both the prophecies and the Pope’s track record of troubling statements, it is permitted and even proper given these circumstances to be evaluative and even somewhat critical of Pope Francis’ actions and teachings. As Catholics, it is permitted to consider the possibility that he may be the False Prophet, while not yet concluding it. Thus, at this point, it is not helpful to excessively praise everything he says and does, mistakenly thinking that this will make you a better or more faithful Catholic in the process. Instead, we should look at what he is saying and doing with a critical eye of reason, as the times call for it, while keeping our faith intact. Indeed, this situation that is brewing may scandalize us. But, let us recall St. Thomas Aquinas who quotes Gregory saying: “If people are scandalized at the truth, it is better to allow the birth of scandal, than to abandon the truth.” Remember, suspicion does not mean a conclusion of guilt, only the possibility of guilt, and thus the need for an investigation. And, as far as what we should do, just share these prophecies and papal concerns – “The truth is like a lion. You don’t have to defend it. Just let it loose. It will defend itself,” says St. Augustine. So be watchmen of the Church’s morals and doctrine and ambassadors of these heavenly prophecies. For a time still, even if things get worse, do not be surprised if even good Bishops and theologians are confused and misdirected in their leanings and enthusiasms. Soon enough, if things are as prophesy indicates, they will become clearer to them and to large numbers of the faithful. Be patient and persevering.
There’s much more. I recommend reading the whole thing.
So. What to make of all this? Well, I pass this along solely for your consideration, but it strikes me that multiple people may be reaching the same, unlikely conclusions for a reason. I don’t know this for a fact, but it is possible that there are certain…promptings at work.
And it really is time for us to be critical thinkers. We should apply a healthy skepticism to everything under the guise of religious truth right now, whether it’s coming from the Vatican or from prophecy and private revelation. We know what the Church teaches, so if we stay close to the source, we shouldn’t come unmoored. Any theory (and of course, I apply that to my own) should be taken as just that. At the same time, I think it’s important to know that when there is an absence of definitive facts, we should also listen to our instincts. They’ve been given to us for a reason. We should be praying daily to God for guidance and discernment in all things. We should be spiritually preparing ourselves for battle.
All of that being said, one thing I agree with McDonald about is this:
Those who have faith don’t fear the future. We already know the end: we win.
It’s true. But the parts between now and then get pretty dicey. Souls will be led astray, and ultimately lost. Whether the final battle is next week or next century, it’s not going to be a picnic. My faith could be a lot stronger, and so could my sacramental life.
To be perfectly honest, I’d really rather not face the Eschaton right now, or I’m in big trouble. How about you?
UPDATE 4/10/14: I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t believe the messages of Maria Divine Mercy (MDM) are genuine. You can read more about that here.
Steve Skojec is a storyteller, writer, blogger, photographer, designer, and sci-fi fan. He is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. He lives in Arizona with his wife Jamie and six of their seven children.