02-11-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Leonard F. Villa

A common tactic of Satan is to imitate or counterfeit the things of God in order to make himself appear to be like God. What is commonly referred to as the “unholy trinity,” is described vividly in Revelation 12 and 13. . The Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. Their counterfeits in the unholy trinity are Satan, the Antichrist, and the False Prophet. While the Holy Trinity is characterized by infinite truth, love, and goodness, the unholy trinity portrays the diametrically opposite traits of deception, hatred, and unadulterated evil. Satan is the anti-God, the Beast from the sea is the anti-Christ, and the beast from the earth or the False Prophet is the anti-Spirit. This unholy trinity will persecute believers and deceive many others, resulting in their eternal death. But God’s kingdom will prevail. Daniel 7:21–22 states, “I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom.”

Back in 1947 Bishop Fulton Sheen’s prophecies about the end time were strong and sobering. In his Communism and the Conscience of the West he discusses the Antichrist: The Antichrist will not be so called; otherwise he would have no followers. He will not wear red tights, nor vomit sulphur, nor carry a trident, nor wave an arrowed tail as Mephistopheles in Faust. This masquerade has helped the Devil convince men that he does not exist. When no man recognizes him, the more power he exercises. We must always remember that Satan comes as an angel of light. What he presents is always eminently reasonable. He offers the seemingly sensible way, the soft way, the way of compromise and ease. If he showed himself as the monster he is all would run howling in terror. Instead he offers a way out when we are in a jam, an alternative when the way of Christ seems difficult. Rather is he described as an angel fallen from heaven, as “the Prince of this world,” whose business it is to tell us that there is no other world. When watching for the anti Christ we should be careful not to become too obsessed with one particular historical or contemporary figure. To be sure, there will be an anti-Christ one day who seeks to take over the world and there will be his prophet who is a religious leader who seeks to deceive people with a fake system of spirituality.

Bishop Sheen saw the anti-Christ setting up a counterfeit church “which will be the ape of the Catholic Church because, he the devil, tries to mimic God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the anti-Christ that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ.” Because people, lonely and frustrated, desperately need God but refuse to adore him, they will hunger for a larger purpose in life and, ironically, accept a counterfeit-church. “The Church was critically spurned in the last few centuries because it claimed that it was Catholic and universal, uniting all men on the basis of one Lord, one faith and one Baptism,” the saintly bishop explained. “But in the new era, what the modern lost soul will take particularly about the counterfeit-church, is that it is international. It breaks down all national boundaries, laughs down patriotism, dispenses people from piety to country, makes people proud that they are not Americans, French, or British or whatever nationality. Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now many antichrists have appeared” (1 John 2:18), “and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist (1 John 4:3)

Sheen continued: “in the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality,” the antiChrist “will have one great secret which he will tell to no one; he will not believe in God. Because his religion will be brotherhood without the fatherhood of God…” Sheen explains what the religion of the anti Christ looks like: this is the temptation to have a new religion without a Cross, a liturgy without a world to come, a religion to destroy a religion, or a politics which is a religion–one that renders unto Caesar even the things that are God’s. In the midst of all his seeming love for humanity and his glib talk of freedom and equality, he will have one great secret which he will tell to no one: he will not believe in God.

The antichrist will not believe in God, but he will be religious. Watch the political leaders give lip service to Christianity and the Church. During the election the politician will pray to get into office. After the election the people pray to get him out of office. The antichrist follows the Lord of this World and you can tell because all he cares about is this world. Because his religion will be brotherhood of Man without the fatherhood of God, he will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counter church which will be the ape of the Church, because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will have all the notes and characteristics of the Church, but in reverse and emptied of its divine content. It will be a mystical body of the Antichrist that will in all externals resemble the mystical body of Christ. . . .Here are some of the false systems of thought prevalent in our culture today:

  • Materialism: there is no other world. This is it.
  • Scientism: only scientifically tested knowledge is valid.
  • Historicism: there is no over-arching plan or providence. History is random.
  • Evolutionism: the natural world develops at random. There is no divine plan.
  • Utilitarianism: what works is all that matters. Efficiency and economy are our gods.
  • Rationalism: there is no such thing as Revelation. Your reasoning power is your only access to truth.
  • Sentimentalism: your feelings are your only guide in religion because there is no objective religious truth
  • Moral Relativism: there is no right or wrong or order of goodness. Therefore you may do as you wish. In fact this is the motto of diabolism: “Do as you will.”

The Church has survived other great crises along the centuries and she will live to sing a funeral over the evils of the present day. The Church has her Good Fridays but these are only preludes to her Easter Sundays, for the Divine Promise shall never be made void: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matthew 28:20) The anti-Christ coming with his anti-Church will never win, although the Church will face hard times, and seem in eclipse as the Catechism teaches. So Sheen cautioned, “St. Peter told the Romans in the days of delirium: ‘Seeing then that all these things are to be dissolved, what manner of people ought you to be in holy conversation and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11) As we’ve seen, the good bishop advised keeping in the state of grace, and praying because the “most important problem in the world today is your soul, for that is what the struggle is about.” And beseeching St. Michael and Our Lady for help, because “the time is nearer than you think. (END) This essay is an edited-compilation of material appearing here:

Catechism of the Catholic Church: #675 Before Christ's second coming the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth. The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh. (NOTE: Pray for perseverance in the Catholic Faith every day!)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (sins against faith): #2089 Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him." [Code of Canon Law c.751]

The Church's moral theology has always distinguished between objective or material sin and formal sin. The person who holds something contrary to the Catholic faith is materially a heretic. They possess the matter of heresy, theological error. We use the term heretic only to describe those who willingly embrace what they know to be contrary to revealed truth. Such persons are formally (in their conscience before God) guilty of heresy. Thus, the person who is objectively in heresy is not formally guilty of heresy if 1) their ignorance of the truth is due to their upbringing in a particular religious tradition (to which they may even be scrupulously faithful), AND 2) they are not morally responsible for their ignorance of the truth. This is the principle of invincible ignorance, which Catholic theology has always recognized as excusing before God. The same is true of apostasy. The person who leaves not just the Catholic Church but who abandons Christ Himself is materially an apostate. The person is formally an apostate through willful, and therefore culpable, repudiation of the Christian faith. Finally, the person who refuses submission to the Roman Pontiff, whom Vatican I defined as having a universal primacy of authority over the whole Church, is at least a material schismatic.