“We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel versus the anti-Gospel.” (Saint Pope John Paul II)
In the last chapter of his book, The Great Heresies, the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, who died in 1953, discusses the nature of the final heresy to attack the Church which he calls “a wholesale assault on the fundamentals of the Faith – upon the very existence of the Faith.” The final heresy is therefore aimed at the complete destruction of the Catholic Church. And what is this final heresy, what is this manifestation of the Anti-Christ?, it is atheism. Belloc comments: “of such moment is the struggle immediately before the world.”
Belloc refers to atheism as the “Modern Attack” against the Church. He says the “modern attack is materialistic because in its philosophy it considers only material causes.” It is superstitious, as well, says Belloc, because it nourishes itself on “the silly vagaries of spiritualism…and other fantasies.” He mentions atheistic communism as one example of the “Modern Attack,” although perhaps a “passing one.”
Belloc maintains that this all-out attack against the Church is “now at our gates,” and he wrote The Great Heresies around 1938. He states that the “fruit” of the modern attack is to “undermine every form of restraint imposed by human experience acting through tradition,” but he maintains that there are other “evil effects” which may prove more permanent than the breakdown of sexual morality. He does say, however, that the “Modern Attack on the Faith will have in the moral field a thousand evil fruits….”
The “quarrel” we are in right now, says Belloc, “is between the Church and the anti-Church – the Church of God and the anti-God – the Church of Christ and the Anti-Christ.” Atheism thus represents the forces of the anti-God, and according to Belloc “the modern attack is far more advanced than is generally appreciated.” Even at the time he lived Belloc could say that “the mood of the faith has been largely ruined,” and that “we have already arrived at a strange pass” where the opponents of the Catholic Faith simply do not understand the Catholic Church. From this predicament, Belloc predicts that a new “paganism” will emerge that tends more towards cruelty than enlightenment.
Belloc predicts that “either we of the Faith shall become a small, persecuted, neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle cry, “Christus Imperat.”
Pray for the Church. Pray for the grace of perseverance.
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
References: The quote from Pope John Paul II was made when he was a Cardinal during a visit to the United States in 1976. Pope John Paul II spoke of “the confrontation between the culture of death and the culture of life” in his encyclical, The Gospel of Life.
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