THERE is a matter which I believe is unsettling many souls. I pray, with Christ’s help, that you will find not only peace, but a renewed confidence through this meditation.
There is talk, not only in evangelical circles, but also among some Catholics that there may appear a “black pope”—a pontiff who co-operates with a diabolical new world religion thereby leading millions astray. (Some, in fact, believe we’ve had false popes in place since Vatican II.)
Perhaps this perception is based in part upon the alleged message given in 1846 to Melanie Calvat in La Salette, France. Part of it read:
Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.
There are words spoken to Simon Peter that have not been uttered to any other human being on earth:
I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt 16:18-19)
Examine these words carefully. Jesus gave Simon the name “Peter” which means “rock.” In His teaching, Jesus said,
Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. (Matt 7:24-25)
Who could be wiser than Christ? Has He built His house—His Church—upon sand or upon rock? If you say “sand”, then you have made Christ a liar. If you say rock, then you must also say “Peter,” for that is who the rock is.
I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. —St. Jerome, A.D. 396 , Letters 15:2
The New Testament is the fulfillment of the Old. Jesus gave his authority—the keys of the kingdom—to Peter, just as King David gave his authority, his key, to the high steward of his royal court, Eliakim:1
I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; when he opens, no one shall shut, when he shuts, no one shall open. (Is 22:22)
Just as Jesus is the everlasting fulfillment of David’s kingdom, so too, Peter takes the role of Eliakim as the overseer of the “royal court.” For the Apostles have been appointed judges by the Lord:
Amen, I say to you, that you who have followed me, in the new age when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. (Matt 19:28)
Add to this authority the immutable promise Jesus made to the Apostles:
When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth. (John 16:13)
Here is the point: the gates of hell will not prevail over the truth which has been safeguarded through the Apostle’s Christ-given authority. But what about Peter personally? Can the gates of hell prevail over him?
Jesus said to Peter:
I have prayed that your own faith may not fail; and once you have turned back, you must strengthen your brothers. (Luke 22:32)
This is a powerful statement. For it says at once that Peter will not be immune to sin, and yet the Lord has prayed that his faith may not fail. In this way, he may “strengthen your brothers.” Later, Jesus asks Peter alone to “feed my sheep.”
The Church has had some very sinful popes in the past. Yet, not one of them in the past two millenia has ever definitively taught a dogma contrary to the doctrine of the Faith handed down from the Apostles throughout the centuries. This in itself is a miracle and a testament to the truth in Christ’s words. That does not mean, however, that they have not made mistakes. Peter himself was chastised by Paul for not being “in line with the truth of the gospel”2 by acting hypocritically toward the Gentiles. Other popes have abused political or Church power in the mishandling of indulgences, temporal power, matters of science, the Crusades, etc. But here we are not speaking of a break in the deposit of faith, but errors in personal or internal judgment regarding Church discipline or temporal matters. I recall reading shortly after John Paul II’s death how he had regretted not being more firm with dissidents. Pope Benedict XVI’s pontificate has also suffered blows because of several public relations miscues not entirely his fault, if at all.
The popes, simply put, are not personally infallible. The Pontiff is only human and needs the Savior like everyone else. He may cower. He may even fall into personal sin, and in his weakness shy away from his great responsibilities, remain silent when he should speak, or neglect certain crises while focusing too much on others. But on matters of faith and morals, he is guided by the Holy Spirit whenever he definitively pronounces dogma. No pope has failed in this matter, despite himself, because that’s where he is guided by the charism of infallibility. Jesus was infallible in His teaching, which we call “divine Revelation,” and imparts this infallibility to the Apostles.
Whoever listens to you listens to me. (Luke 10:16)
Without this charism, how could the faith possibly be imparted accurately to future generations through the hands of weak men?
This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2035
And of course, these saving truths are passed on through the Apostle’s successors in communion with the Pope.3
“In order that the full and living Gospel might always be preserved in the Church, the apostles left bishops as their successors. They gave them their own position of teaching authority.” Indeed, “the apostolic preaching, which is expressed in a special way in the inspired books, was to be preserved in a continuous line of succession until the end of time.” —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 77 (italics mine)
To the “end of time.” That extends into and beyond the reign of Antichrist. This is the teaching of our Catholic faith. And we need to be assured of this, because when Antichrist comes, the teachings of Jesus preserved in His Church will be that solid rock that will safeguard us in the Storm of heresy and deception. That is to say that, along with Mary, the Church is the ark in this present and coming Storm (see The Great Ark):
[The Church] is that ark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood. —Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 845
It is the Holy Father who, guided by Jesus who appointed him, pilots this Ark…
So the idea of a “black pope”—at least one legitimately elected—is a dangerous notion that could undermine believer’s trust in the chief shepherd appointed by Christ, particularly in these dark times where false prophets are increasing exponentially. It has no biblical foundation and contradicts Church Tradition.
But what is possible?
Once again, the La Salette seer said:
Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.
What exactly does this mean? Because of the utmost gravity of this prophecy we must take care not to jump to wild conclusions. With prophetic messages, there is always needed a prudent dimension of interpretation. Does “Rome will lose the faith” mean that the Catholic Church will lose the faith? Jesus tells us that this will not happen, that the gates of hell will not prevail against her. Could it mean, rather, that in times to come the city of Rome will have become so absolutely pagan in belief and practice that it becomes the seat of Antichrist? Again, very possible, particularly if the Holy Father is forced to flee the Vatican. Another interpretation suggests that internal apostasy among clerics and laity could so weaken the exercise of the Petrine charism such that even many Catholics will become vulnerable to the deceiving power of the Antichrist. In fact, shortly before His election to the chair of Peter, Pope Benedict seemed to describe the modern Church in such a state. He depicted it as…
…a boat about to sink, a boat taking in water on every side. —Cardinal Ratzinger, March 24, 2005, Good Friday meditation on the Third Fall of Christ
But this vulnerable and weakened state does not mean that the Holy Father will lose the Catholic faith and begin to promulgate another.
Where Peter is, there the Church is. —Ambrose of Milan, A.D. 389
In another private revelation, the dream of St. John Bosco,4 he also saw Rome under attack, including what appeared to be the assassination of the Pope. However, it is the Holy Father who navigates the Church in stormy waters through the two pillars of the Eucharist and Mary until the enemies of Christ are defeated. That is, the Pope is a faithful shepherd into the “era of peace.”5
Even if a pope were imprisoned, silenced, forced to flee, or replaced by an invalidly elected anti-pope or any number of other possible scenarios, the true vicar of the Church would still remain as Christ said: Peter is rock.
What we need to keep in mind at all times (but especially in our times) is the danger of propaganda that puts false words in the Holy Father’s mouth. There is also the real danger that there are powerful clergy in Rome working against the Holy Father and the Church. It is widely believed that Free Masonry has in fact infiltrated the Catholic Church having already caused immense damage.
I see more martyrs, not now but in the future. I saw the secret sect (Masonry) relentlessly undermining the great Church. Near them I saw a horrible beast coming up from the sea. All over the world, good and devout people, especially the clergy, were harassed, oppressed, and put into prison. I had the feeling they would become martyrs one day. When the Church had been for the most part destroyed by the secret sect, and when only the sanctuary and altar were still standing, I saw the wreckers enter the Church with the Beast. —Blessed Anna-Katharina Emmerich, May 13th, 1820; excerpted from Hope of the Wicked by Ted Flynn. p.156
We may see that attacks against the Pope and the Church do not only come from outside; rather, the sufferings of the Church come from inside the Church, from the sin that exists in the Church. This was always common knowledge, but today we see it in truly terrifying form: the greatest persecution of the Church does not come from external enemies, but is born of sin within the Church.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, interview on flight to Lisbon, Portugal; LifeSiteNews, May 12th, 2010
The powers and principalities that serve the devil would very much like mankind to think that an anti-pope is the true Pope and that an anti-pope’s error-filled teachings are the true Catholic teachings. Moreover, the enemy would very much like for people to no longer hear, read, and follow the voice of Peter because of doubt, fear, or skepticism. This is why again and again, brothers and sisters, I repeat that you must be filling your lamp6 with the oil of faith and wisdom, the light of Christ, so that you will find your way in the coming darkness which is descending upon many like a “thief in the night”.7 We fill our lamps through prayer, fasting, reading God’s Word, uprooting sin from our lives, frequent Confession, receiving the Holy Eucharist, and through love of neighbour:
God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. (1 John 4:16)
St. Paul warns that there will be a great rebellion or apostasy before the appearance of…
…the man of lawlessness… the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. (2 Thess 2:3-4)
Blessed Anne Catherine seemed to have a vision of such a time:
I saw enlightened Protestants, plans formed for the blending of religious creeds, the suppression of papal authority… I saw no Pope, but a bishop prostrate before the High Altar. In this vision I saw the church bombarded by other vessels… It was threatened on all sides… They built a large, extravagant church which was to embrace all creeds with equal rights… but in place of an altar were only abomination and desolation. Such was the new church to be… —Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich (1774-1824 A.D.), The Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich, April 12th, 1820
The possibility of there being an apostasy of many clergy in Rome, of the Holy Father being driven from the Vatican, and of an antichrist figure assuming his place and banishing the “perpetual sacrifice” of the Mass8 are all within the realm of Scripture. But the Holy Father will remain a “rock” in terms of his service to that immutable truth that “sets us free.” It is Christ’s word. Trust the Pope’s teaching, not for who he is, but for Who appointed him: Jesus, who gave him His own authority to bind and loose, to judge and forgive, to feed and strengthen, and guide into truth His little flock.
Jesus, who called him “Peter, the rock.”
It is He who founded His Church and built it on rock, on the faith of the Apostle Peter. In the words of St. Augustine, “It is Jesus Christ our Lord who himself builds His temple. Many indeed labour to build, yet unless the Lord intervenes to build, in vain do the builders labour.” —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Vespers Homily, September 12th, 2008, Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Paris, France
Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. —POPE BENEDICT XVI, Inaugural Homily, April 24, 2005, St. Peter’s Square