G. K. Chesterton said that the greatest heresy has always been Gnosticism, and that the Church’s battle has always been with Gnosticism in various forms. Gnosticism itself grew out of the Babylonian mystery cults, and the Gnostics would adapt their views to every culture and religion they encountered. There were Jewish Gnostics before Christianity even existed–the Kabbalists, and the Gnosticism latched on to Christianity very quickly–such that the New Testament is full of references to Gnosticism (though the term is not used directly in the New Testament).
The Gnostics believed in a dualistic world. They believed that Good and Evil were equal forces in the cosmos, that matter was evil and spirit was good, and the objective was to free one’s spirit from the chains of matter. They believed that most people were little more than animals and lived in ignorance, but a select few were capable of becoming enlightened and attaining the secret knowledge of the cosmos (Gnosis, from which “Gnosticism” comes). They believed that this secret knowledge included the ability to transcend matter in this lifetime and eachieve what we might today call magical powers. Gnostics read their beliefs into the Bible. “Christian” Gnostics argued that the God of the Old Testament, the creator of matter, was evil, and that actually Lucifer was the good God, and Jesus was the messenger of Lucifer. In another variant, they looked to the differences between the use of “Elohim” and “Yahweh” in the Old Testament and suggested this as evidence of two different Gods, one good and one evil.
Gnosticism has taken many forms throughout history. In the Middle Ages, workers of various kinds would join together into guilds, to divide up territories, share resources, share knowledge, etc. Somehow, in the 1600s or thereabouts, the builders’ guilds began expanding from merely sharing professional knowledge to actually aggrandizing their profession. They began celebrating the achievements of the ancient societies and seeking ways to recreate them. In the 1700s, in conjunction with the neo-Classical era in the arts, the Builders’ Guilds–the Masonic guilds–began celebrating the architectural achievements of Egypt, Greece and Rome and seeking to recreate them.
Somewhere along the line, they even began celebrating the Tower of Babel! If the pyramids were models to be admired, and the Bible condemns the Egyptians, then maybe there’s something wrong with the Bible. If the Tower of Babel was something to be admired, then maybe the God who condemned the Tower of Babel was actually bad!
So, somewhere along the line, the Masonic guilds began adopting the ancient Gnostic beliefs. They started to argue that the standard interpretations of the Bible were wrong, and that there was a actually a secret knowledge behind the Bible. The Egyptians had the authentic religion, of which Christianity was a counterfeit (after years of reading about them, I recently heard some of these views firsthand from a Mason).
Now, in 1700s Europe, it was becoming common to have people who were overtly atheists, or at least Deists (certainly, there had always been such people in practice, but it was now becoming acceptable to espouse such beliefs). There were various Protestant sects, as well as Catholics. So the Guilds, which used to be explicitly Catholic, began to embrace toleration of different religious beliefs.
OK, so all of this stuff kind of coalesced like most historical movements do, and there were several strains. No single movement developed, but a lot of similar movements developed that came to be known as Lodges or Masonic Lodges. Most of these movements had similar ideas. Some embraced Gnostic ideals. Some embraced a secular idea of people working together for the common good without reference to religion. All of them had a general view that the old modes of European society, particularly the Catholic Church, had to be thrown off. Even the term “Enlightenment” itself came out of these movements: they held that the era of Christendom had been the “Dark Ages,” and they were now seeking Enlightenment from reviving the ancient pagan cultures.
In the 1700s, Popes began writing encyclicals condemning the Lodges. There were several reasons they were condemned. First, the Lodges involved secret oaths, and Catholics who were members of Lodges were bound by oath not to confess sins they committed in conjunction with their Lodges. The Church was suspicious of how the Lodges wanted to keep the Church out of their business.
Secondly, the Lodges promoted civic charity that was not explicitly Christian, and the Popes said that Charity was only possible with a religious context. They argued that charity without Christ had no merit. Charity without Christ could only be done by coercion or by incentive of earthly reward.
Thirdly, the Lodges promoted cooperation between people of different faiths, or no faith at all. Tying in with point 2, the Popes condemned the Lodges for teaching that religious differences were irrelevant, all religions were equal, and religion was just a means to achieving civic virtue.
The Lodges gradually began to influence political movements, and they began to promote revolution against the old orders, both the monarchies and the Church.
In 1776, a group of Masons in America revolted against their king. Later, they would pass a Bill of Rights that enshrined in its first Amendment the notion, condemned by the Popes, that all religions were equal and government should be separate from religion.
In France, a bloody, violent revolution sprung up, inspired by the one in America. Churches would be destroyed. Priests and religious would be martyred. Relics and Sacramentals and works of great religious art would be burned. The Goddess Liberty would be held up as the new deity, in replacement of the Christian God. Catholic schools would be outlawed, and public funded schools that taught a secular education would be established.
In America, similarly public-funded schools would be established. While they would not be completely secular like the French schools, they would teach Protestantism, specifically. And while the Constitution guaranteed Freedom of Religion, the general presumption of the Founding Fathers was that that meant Protestantism. Jews and Catholics would be tolerated as long as they didn’t “rock the boat,” and Catholic Founder Charles Carroll, though himself not officially a member of the Masons, would espouse the very notion that the Popes were condemning. Carroll argued that religion, other than as a source of civic virtue, should be kept in the Church, and that Catholics could easily co-exist among Protestants in America if we kept our religion private. This would be echoed by John F. Kennedy nearly 200 years later, when he proclaimed on the campaign trail that he would not be beholden to the Pope. Then, in contemporary times, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton would state that America was a country of freedom of worship, not freedom of religion, and religion should be kept to the home and the church and not expressed in the public sphere.
In 1830, the Blessed Virgin would appear to a Vincentian nun, St. Catherine Laboure, at the Church of Our Lady of Victories, in Rue de Bac, Paris, France. These apparitions would be famous for giving the world the Medal of the Immaculate Conception, later known as the Miraculous Medal. However, it would be less known that Our Lady at those apparitions condemned the revolutions that had been going on since the American Revolution, saying that the errors of America would spread around the world and nearly destroy the Church, that the cry of revolution and democracy would spread immorality among the people.
In 1846, the Virgin would appear again in France, to two shepherd children in a village called La Salette. Now, there would be issues with the alleged visionaries’ testimonies changing over time. Also, even if an alleged apparition is given approval, the Church almost never approves of messages that claim to predict the future. The prophecies of Fatima are a rare, if not unique, exception. However, the alleged prophecies of La Salette are pretty interesting. They include:
1. That starting in the 1860s, the demons would be allowed a special century to wreak havoc and try to destroy the Church.
2. That *after* that century (hence, starting in the 1960s), the fruits of their century of work would be scene, and there would be great evil in the world.
3. That as part of this, Satan would inspire people to invent many new technologies. La Salette predicted the telephone, television, airplane and other technologies that would make people think they had now become gods.
4. That starting in the 1960s, people would come about who claimed to be “resurrected dead,” and they would have accounts of dying and experiencing the afterlife, but their accounts would contradict Church teaching. She said these people would, in fact, be dead bodies inhabited by demons: an eerie prediction of the New Age “Near Death Experience” phenomenon.
In the meantime, the Masonic Lodges would spin off various political “parties,” all touting variations of the same themes of forcing secular charity, abolishing the ties of Church and state, etc. Some of these groups would call themselves Republicans, some Democrats, some Socialists, some Communists, but they’d all teach basically the same things.
When Charles Darwin published his book _Origin of the Species_, it gave Freemason Karl Marx a scientific back-up to the theory of history he had already developed based upon the Hegelian dialectic.
In America, Freemason Joseph Smith would claim a new revelation and start a new religion called the Latter Day Saints, or Mormonism, which would derive many of its beliefs from ancient ideas condemned by Christianity as heresy, including Gnosticism and Arianism.
As the Popes continued to issue documents condemning Freemasonry, membership in Lodges, and the rising communist/socialist ideal, Pope Pius IX would issue, in 1864, the “Syllabus of Errors,” a list of errors he had already previously condemned, most revolving around the Masons and the Communists.
Pius IX’s successor, Leo XIII, who would personally interview one of the La Salette visionaries, made similar condemnations of “modernism,” another name for the general set of Masonic ideals.
In the 1890s, Pope Leo XIII would condemn a set of notions which he collectively called “Americanism.” Since “Americanism” was a collection of notions, and he addressed it in several documents (most notably 1895’s _Longinqua Oceani_ and 1899’s _Testem Benevolentiae_), there would be some confusion about what Leo XIII meant by “Americanism.” Some people argued that Leo was misinterpreting what American Catholics thought. Others argued that he was condemning the idea of European countries adopting American ideals. However, he was actually doing all of the above. The set of notions Leo considered “Americanism” included:
1. Pluralism and the concept of “Assimilation”
3. “Wall of Separation between Church and State.” Leo applauded the notion that people should have liberty to choose their own faith, but he condemned the notion that the state should be completely separate from the Church. He said that the Catholic Church should still receive preferential treatment from the State, and the State had to obey the Church’s teachings on matters of morality.
4. Minimizing Catholic doctrine, disparaging of religious life, and downplaying of spiritual direction. He condemned, back then, what we today call “Cafeteria Catholicism.”
5. Spreading of American ideals in Europe.
While Leo condemned some of these tendencies in American Catholicism, he also praised certain aspects of American achievement and praised what the Church was accomplishing at that point in America.
Leo would also have his own vision of a “wager” between God and the Devil, that the Devil asked for 100 years of free reign to try and destroy the Church. Leo wrote the prayer to St. Michael and ordered that it be said at all Masses.
Also in the 1890s, the Holy Office (formerly Inquisition; now Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith) would arrest a priest for membership in the Masons. That priest would claim that there were already numerous Masons infiltrating the Church hierarchy, and that eventually the Masons would arrange for there to be another Council, after which the Church would be unrecognizable.
In 1929, at its Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Church would become the first Christian church to endorse contraception by married couples (noting that, contrary to popular misconception today, the first condoms were invented in 3000 BC, and ancient cultures used various forms of contraceptive devices, herbs, etc., that were collectively known as “witchcraft”).
In 1943, Anglican apologist C. S. Lewis would deliver a series of lectures collectively called _The Abolition of Man_, where he would talk about certain trends in culture and education that he found troubling, concluding with the notion that a vast movement was at work to undermine the traditional notion of the human person. He noted that birth control was at the heart of this movement and would totally undermine the notion of what it meant to be a human being. While he noted that, at the time, the Communists and Nazis seemed most intent to “abolish man,” as he put it, Lewis observed that the greatest threat would lie in the democratic Western nations.
Before his death in the late 1950s, Pope Pius XII would be known to mutter that the Vatican “stank of sulfur” and that he felt the presence of demons in the Vatican.
His successor, John XXIII, would call for a Council to finish the work begun at Vatican I from 1869-1870. He acknowledged that the Church, which had evolved organically for much of its history, had become kind of stagnant in battering the hatches against assaults from the Protestants, Masons and Communists in the recent centuries.
John XXIII called for a Council that would be unique in that its primary purpose would be pastoral, not doctrinal. It would mainly look at how to best address the issues of the modern world.
Once the Council began, however, many of the bishops began steering it in directions the Pope did not intend. Reportedly, on his death bed in 1963, John XXIII cried out, “Stop the Council!”
At some point during the Council itself, when language about birth control was being formulated that suggested governments had the right to practice population control, Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect of the Holy Office, protested that the language contradicted church teaching. Ottaviani would later issue a scathing condemnation of some of the Council’s apparent teachings known as his “Intervention.”
Meanwhile, Catholic philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, whom Pius XII had already labelled a “twentieth century doctor of the Church,” who had been an outspoken critic of the radical Right during World War II, became an outspoken critic of Vatican II (interestingly, a young Fr. Josef Ratzinger would become acquainted with von Hildebrand, who attended Ratzinger’s parish when visiting Germany). In 1973, the Vatican newspaper _L’Osservatore Romano_ would praise von Hildebrand’s _Trojan Horse in the City of God_ as the definitive interpretation of Vatican II and required reading for anyone concerned with the state of the Church. In _Satan at Work_, von Hildebrand would document evidence that the Communist Party USA and the KGB had sent communist agents to infiltrate Catholic seminaries throughout the US and Europe, and now as much as 10% of Catholic priests were Communists, with a greater number being Communist sympathizers.
During its last two years, Vatican II would be very much a battle between Pope Paul VI and the bishops. A vocal contingent of bishops would demand more sweeping “reforms” than what the Pope would allow, and the Pope would call for more orthodox language in some cases that the bishops refused to implement (for example, Paul VI wanted to declare Mary “Mother of The Church,” but the influential bishops at the Council wanted to de-emphasize Our Lady to appease the Protestants, so Paul went around their back and used the title in one of his personal documents).
Even before the Council, new forms of Church architecture would be implemented that were based upon modernist architectural ideals. While the Council called for certain liturgical reforms, immediately after the Council, radical liturgical innovations were implemented before the Church would even issue a new Missal. Everything from the adoption of folk and rock music to removal of altar rails and the creation of freestanding altars to communion on the hand and even the use of grape juice and cookies began to be implemented around the world. Many of these “reforms” were implemented without any explicit documentation from the Vatican, and then grandfathered in when the new Missal would be issued.
Meanwhile, Paul VI would encourage use of the traditional liturgy by those who wanted to retain it. Paul VI would emphasize that Vatican II was purely pastoral, reformulating Catholic teaching without issuing any new dogmas, that anything that came out of Vatican II that was not previously defined was not dogmatically binding. He said that the purpose of the Council was to address Modernism in a new form, to directly appeal to people of all faiths with the beauty of the Catholic Church.
Since “the Pill” was originally invented by Catholics trying to find a way to help women regulate their cycles for effective use of the “Rhythm Method,” many priests told Catholics it was OK to use “the Pill.” As Vatican II was going on, rumors began to spread that the Pope would endorse contraception, and many theologians, priests and bishops staked their reputation on that promise to laity.
The Pope would convene a panel to discuss the issue of birth control pills, and whether they were an acceptable form of NFP or whether they operated the same way condoms did. While some members of the panel emphatically supported the Church’s traditional teachings, the majority would apparently decide not only that the Pill was OK, but recommend that the Pope permit all artificial contraception. Instead, Paul VI issued _Humanae Vitae_, a reaffirmation of the Church’s teachings, condemning barrier methods and pills, but giving a new level of approval to the Natural Family Planning methods the Church had been considering since the early 1800s.
The issuance of HV would see a rebellion among bishops, priests, theologians and laity against the Pope. Meanwhile, in the general world, the Pill would be seen as inspiring a “sexual revolution.” In 1968, the kinds of periodic youth rebellions that had become commonplace in France for nearly 200 years would be seen around the world.
The new popular culture of “sex, drugs and rock & roll” would promote rebellion and promote the notion that it was perfectly common and acceptable for “teenagers” to rebel against authority.
A “New Age” movement would once again repackage the old views of the Gnostics, promoting “enlightenment,” “spirituality” rather than “religion,” the “power of positive thing,” the ability to manipulate things with ones mind if one became “enlightened,” etc. Noting that an upcoming shift in a 2,000 year astrological cycle would mean that the earth was moving out of the “Age of Pisces” (the fish, the symbol of Christianity), to the “Age of Aquarius,” the “Age of Aquarius” would be promoted as the literal “New Age,” the post-Christian era.
In the 1970s, Paul VI would say that the “Smoke of Satan” had reached the highest levels of the Church. Future Pope Karol Wojtyla would say the Church was involved in the greatest fight in her history. In the late 1960s, Joseph Ratzinger would predict that the Church was facing an era of great persecution, that the Church was going to lose most of her property and status, and that in the 21st Century, the Church would be made up of small groups of devout believers living as a persecuted minority. He would repeat these predictions 30 years later as Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. Later, as Pope, he would state that the Church was facing the greatest battle in her history.
Vatican II would basically say the same things that all the “anti-Modernist” popes had said, though with a tone of positivity towards individual choice and as an appeal to the people to embrace the Church, rather than a top-down instruction to bishops to condemn erroneous notions. Yet many would see the Council as endorsing the very views those earlier popes condemned, practicing would Ratzinger would later call a “hermeneutic of discontinuity.”
Some who embraced such a hermeneutic would rebel against the Council, seeing the alleged 19th Century masonic priest’s prediction as being fulfilled, and seeing the Gates of Hell as having prevailed against the hierarchy in Rome. Others would, conversely, praise the Church’s alleged embrace of “progress.”
John Paul II and Benedict XVI would later echo their predecessors by condemning the relativism that had become dominant in society, insisting that states had to listen to the Church on matters of morality and justice, and demanding that Catholics in democratic societies use their political rights to vote in the Church’s teachings, particularly on issues like contraception and abortion.
As various forms of Masonic governments failed time and again in other countries, new persecution would develop in America. Fulfilling C. S. Lewis’s prediction, the embrace of sexual license caused by contraception would be used to undermine Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church. Starting with forcing adoption agencies to let homosexual couples adopt, moving on to a recognition of same sex “marriage” that was unprecedented in history (carrying with it the implication that such “marriage” must be accepted by churches and anyone engaged in the “marriage industry”) and culminating in a law forcing Catholic institutions to pay for abortion and contraception, a new persecution of Catholicism would begin in the “land of the free.”
Yet many Catholics in America would embrace the entire Masonic assault on the Church, even while claiming to be devout Catholics. Ignoring all the Papal condemnations of liberty that is license rather than the freedom to choose the goo, the Papal condemnations of socialism and secular “charity,” the papal condemnations of religious pluralism that denies the primacy of the Catholic Church, the papal condemnations of “Americanism,” the condemnations of modernism by various saints and Marian apparitions, and the obvious incompatibility of liberal values with all the teachings of the Church for 2,000 years, somehow people would still insist that they were fulfilling Catholic teaching by supporting the “progressive” movements in society.