Dante’s Prophesy of the Fall of the Roman Catholic Church
When the Great Schism between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches took place in 1054, the Western church lost a great deal of what up until that point had been the universal Christian tradition. However—unlike most Orthodox Christians—I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church entered fully into apostasy until the Second Vatican Council and its aftermath, which began in 1963, since up to that time Catholicism was still producing saints. Though I have been a Muslim and a Sufi since 1988, I say this as an ex-Catholic, one who feels not so much that he has deserted the Church as that the Church has deserted him.
Whether or not one agrees with this assessment of the Western Church, the tendency of the Eastern Orthodox to dismiss Roman Catholicism as spiritually invalid since 1054 has worked to conceal from the Orthodox world the truly cosmic disaster represented by the Second Vatican Council, which catapulted the Catholic Church into the Great Apostasy predicted in 2Thessalonians 2:3-4 and destroyed whatever organic, spiritual cohesion might have been left to Western Europe after two world wars—a God-given unity that the European Union can in no way restore, even though the flag of that Union, consisting of twelve stars on a blue background, was taken from the image of the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” from Apocalypse 12:1. The virtual fall of the Roman Catholic Church is one of the prime factors behind the declining birth rate in Western Europe, one result of which has been that the de-culturated masses from several Muslim nations, under fire from a Western Neo-colonialism spearheaded by the United States and aided by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar and Israel, are being sucked into this demographic and spiritual vacuum, with disastrous results for both the native population and the immigrants themselves. And no-one has aided and applauded this disaster more enthusiastically than Jorge Bergoglio, otherwise known as Pope Francis.
Perhaps Christian charity requires that he extend a hand of help to people who are running for their lives; nonetheless one must ask whether admitting these hardly-assimilable immigrants into Western Europe, across national borders that are no longer secure, is not directly in line with the agenda of the European Union to weaken the national sovereignty of its member states.
Nothing is more likely to give support to the neo-Fascist and neo-Nazi extreme Right than such blatant disregard for the ethnic and cultural identity of the native Europeans, and a chaotic and ill-regulated European immigration policy also benefits ISIS and other terrorist groups, who can now present themselves as the defenders and potential leadership of the immigrants, despite the fact that the “Islamic State” is one of the factors that drove these unfortunate people from their homes in the first place.
This coming May 13 will be the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Theotokos to three children in the town of Fatima, Portugal. (It as if, as the Western Church allowed less and less spiritual room for her, she was forced to appear in “the highways and byways”.) The last of these three witnesses to pass away was Lucia, who died in 2005—although, as we shall see below, the true Lucia may at one point have been replaced by an impostor. In any case, the preparation for her canonization as St. Lucy is already under way in the West. Many believe that this will pave the way for the consecration of Russia by the Pope to the Sacred Heart of Mary that the Virgin called for at Fatima. Others say, however, that this consecration has already taken place, having been performed by one of the pre-Vatican II popes, possibly Pope Pius XII—and in any case, the return of Russia to the veneration and protection of the Theotokos has already been fulfilled, in entirely Orthodox terms, by the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of the Russian Orthodox Church from three quarters of a century of Communist persecution. Given the growing threat to Russia represented by the Western globalists, one cannot help but wonder whether this proposed “consecration”, if it actually takes place—a consecration which, from the standpoint of the Christian Tradition, would most likely be carried out by a false Pope leading an apostate Church—might not form part of the grand design of the globalist elites to “put Russia in its place”.
Two years ago my dear wife, Jennifer Doane Upton, published a book—which I was privileged to edit—entitled The Ordeal of Mercy: Dante’s Purgatorio in Light of the Spiritual Path [Angelico Press/Sophia Perennis, 2015]. In it she provides a canto-by-canto exegesis of Dante’s Purgatorio, not so much from the standpoint of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas as from that of the Traditionalist philosophers René Guénon and Frithjof Schuon, as well as St. Maximos the Confessor and St. John Climacus, whom she quotes extensively, as well as several other of the Greek Fathers. And even though the Eastern Orthodox do not accept the reality of Purgatory as a “place”, their doctrine of after-death purgation by means of temporary sojourns in Hell, coupled with the “pious opinions” regarding the Aerial Tollhouses, together constitute a doctrine that is in some ways analogous to the western conception. Beyond this, the Purgatorio of Dante Aligheri can legitimately be understood as a dramatization of the “unseen warfare”, the path of spiritual purgation in this earthly life. And one of the most interesting things to be found in the second third of Dante’s great poem La Divina Comedia is a clear prediction of the fall—except for a tiny remnant—of the Roman Catholic Church of the West. This prophesy appears most clearly in Canto XXXII of the Purgatorio. Ms. Upton’s exegesis of this canto, accompanied by my footnotes and editorial commentaries, appears below.
In her treatment of Canto XVI she has this to say about Dante’s hopes for a restoration of the true functions of spiritual authority and temporal power in the West:
Once there was a real Emperor and a real Pope in Christendom, but because there is no true Emperor now like Constantine or Charlemagne—a role later fulfilled by the Czar of “Holy Russia”, the Third Rome, the heir to Byzantium—a deep imbalance exists that forces the Pope to seek worldly power, and thus embrace corruption. To pray that God will send a true Christian Emperor to take care of the worldly dimension is to give the Pope a deeper spiritual role than he can exercise if he is forced to take the reins of secular power. Likewise if the outer, visible church is not protected and defended, then the inner Church, comprising the paths to the depths of the Christic revelation, is lost, partly because it must attempt to fulfill the role of the outer Church, which it has inherited by default, without the Divine permission to do so; this was precisely Dante’s objection to the papacy of Celestine V in the third canto of the Inferno.
Canto XXXII of the Purgatorio takes place in the Earthly Paradise at the summit of the Mountain of Purgatory, a subtle realm in some ways analogous to the Buddhist Shambhalla or the Russian Belovodia. There Dante encounters a symbolic procession composed of seven candlesticks, seven pennants, twenty-four elders, four beasts, a Chariot drawn by a Griffin, seven women (who are the Four Cardinal Virtues and the Three Theological Virtues), and seven more elders. The occupant of the Chariot is ultimately revealed as Beatrice, who, as Dante’s muse, is the third and final manifestation of what his initiatory order, the Fedeli d’Amore or Fede Santa (sometimes described as a Third of Lay order of the Knights Tempars) called Madonna Intelligenza or “Lady Intellect”, the two others being St. Lucy and the Theotokos herself. As the Cathedral of Chartres is the Hagia Sophia of the West, so Madonna Intelligenza is nothing less than a specifically Western rendition of Sophia or Holy Wisdom.