A major part of Taylor Marshall’s argument in Infiltration rests upon highly dubious traditionalist interpretations of the ‘secrets’ associated with two famous Marian apparitions, thus providing another link between Infiltration and fringe Catholic conspiracy theory and apocalypticism. In this third part of my look at Infiltration (see parts one and two), I will compare Marshall’s interpretations of the secrets of Our Lady of La Salette and Our Lady of Fatima with interpretations that are more in accord with authentic sources.

My intention is to bring into focus two very different ways of understanding the failings and troubles of the Catholic Church. All of us should recognize that the Church Militant or Pilgrim Church on Earth, though it is ultimately indefectible, is certainly not immune to persecution, upheavals, corruption, and decadence. It has endured schism, tragedy, and failures in leadership. Some of its members have done terrible things. But Marshall’s vision, or at least the vision he has borrowed and repackaged, is not one of the suffering Church Militant: it is one of an infiltrated Church Apostate, in which a large segment of the Church, including even the pope, seeks to destroy the faith. The mode of analysis employed by those, like Marshall, who promote this vision always relies upon what Pope Francis has described, in a different context, as a “hermeneutic of conspiracy.”

(I should add here, in case anyone is wondering, that although I maintain a healthy skepticism toward private revelation, I do follow the Church in considering these two apparitions worthy of belief.)

The Secret of Our Lady of La Salette

There are two versions of the secret told to Mélanie Calvat by the Blessed Mother in 1846. The first, which I will refer to as the 1851 Vatican version, is the original, which was delivered to the Vatican in 1851 but lost until it was discovered in 1999. It describes an apocalyptic vision of the future in which the pope or popes will endure great suffering and even death (all quotations of these secrets are from the reprints in Marshall’s book):

The Pope will be persecuted on all sides: he will be shot at, he will be put to death, but nothing will be done to him. The Vicar of God will triumph again this time. The priests and nuns, and the true servants of my Son, will be persecuted, and many will die for the faith of Jesus Christ.

At some point after this period of persecution and disaster, and after a subsequent period of penance and peace, many in the Church will become corrupt and the Antichrist will appear:

Among the ministers of God and the Brides of Jesus Christ, there will be those who will indulge in disorder, and that is what will be terrible. Finally, hell will reign on the earth. It will be then that the Antichrist will be born of a nun: but woe to her! Many people will believe him, because he will say he came from heaven, woe to those who believe him! The time is not far; it will not happen twice 50 years.

Thus, the 1851 Vatican version, although it is difficult to interpret and doesn’t easily line up with world history from 1846 to 1946, essentially presents a vision of the Church Militant making its way through the great trials of salvation history. If we project this vision into the future, we can say that although there may one day be a “great apostasy,” there is no suggestion that it will penetrate into the core of the Church.

The second version of the secret is the 1879 version. It was published by Mélanie much later in her life. It also presents an apocalyptic vision, but it is much longer than the original secret and contains many changes and additions. Like the 1851 Vatican version, it describes the persecution of the pope, though it seems to suggest that the papacy may end at some point:

The Holy Father will suffer a great deal. I will be with him until the end and receive his sacrifice. The mischievous will attempt his life several times to do harm and shorten his days, but neither he nor his successor will see the triumph of the Church of God.

It also, significantly, adds a new twist to the vision of what will follow the appearance of the Antichrist:

It will be during this time that the Antichrist will be born of a Hebrew nun, a false virgin who will communicate with the old serpent, the master of impurity, his father will be B. At birth, he will spew out blasphemy; he will have teeth; in a word, he will be the devil incarnate. […] Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.

It is notable that the Antichrist is described as being born of “a Hebrew nun,” since this may be an anti-Semitic metaphor reflecting the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories of the time, but it is the last sentence in the quotation above that that has provided the real fuel for fringe Catholic movements. It seems to describe a great apostasy in the Church that will involve a replacement of the pope with the Antichrist: “Rome will lose the faith and become the seat of the Antichrist.”

Pedro Gabriel has written in Where Peter Is on how this sentence should be interpreted if one takes it to be genuine, but he is also rightly skeptical about its content. Indeed, there is no reason to take it seriously. Even at the time of its publication it was controversial. The Old Catholic Encyclopedia (1913) provides some context, suggesting that one should distinguish between the “two Mélanies”—the young Mélanie who received the secret and the much older Mélanie who self-published the 1879 version after falling under the influence of apocalypticism and conspiracy theory:

Mélanie’s [secret] was inserted in its entirety in brochure which she herself had printed in 1879 at Lecce, Italy, with the approval of the bishop of that town. A lively controversy followed as to whether the secret published in 1879 was identical with that communicated to Pius IX in 1851, or in its second form it was not merely a work of the imagination. The latter was the opinion of wise and prudent persons, who were persuaded that a distinction must be made between the two Mélanies, between the innocent and simple voyante of 1846 and the visionary of 1879, whose mind had been disturbed by reading apocalyptic books and the lives of illuminati.

This “lively controversy” should have come to an end in 1923, when the 1879 version of the secret was added to the Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of Forbidden Books). As far as I know, it was never removed. Nevertheless, a small number of Catholics continue to regard the statement as genuine and prophetic. Marshall himself mentions that the 1879 version was put on the Index, but he doesn’t see this as an obstacle to considering it genuine and sees both versions as “equally true.” Michael Cuneo, in one section of his book The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism (1997) (to be distinguished from Philip F. Lawler’s more recent book, also titled The Smoke of Satan) offers a study of one such group of Catholics. They are the Apostles of Infinite Love (widely regarded as a cult), located in St. Jovite Quebec and founded by Fr. Michel Collin (also known as ‘Pope’ Gregory XVII) and Gaston Tremblay (later known as Father John or ‘Pope’ Clement XV). Cuneo describes Father John’s 1975 encyclical, Peter Speaks to the World, in which this secret of Our Lady of La Salette plays a pivotal role:

Like Michel Collin before him, Father John explicitly links his papacy to the famous Marian apparition that allegedly took place at La Salette, France, in 1846. While speaking with the two shepherd children at La Salette, Father John says, the Virgin Mary warned that the day was coming when ‘Rome will lose the Faith and become the seat of Antichrist.’ And with the rise of theological liberalism and false ecumenism after the Second Vatican Council, according to Father John, this day has now arrived. The entire institutional church under Rome has fallen into apostasy, and a new church, headed by Gregory XVII, has been raised up to preserve authentic Catholicism. (125)

Does this sound familiar? We hear echoes of such ideas quite a lot these days. It is grossly irresponsible for Marshall to tap into and attempt to popularize this vision of the Church Apostate. The 1851 Vatican version of the secret, although we are not obliged to find it credible, presents no challenge to the faith. The 1879 Index version, however, contains a poisonous idea that has, historically, led people away from the Church, into isolation, paranoia, and schism.

Our Lady of Fatima

Marshall takes a similar approach to the secrets of Our Lady of Fatima. I won’t tell the story of the famous Fatima apparitions, since the history is readily available online and many readers will be familiar with it. Marshall’s focus is the Third Secret, which remained unpublished until the year 2000, and this is the secret that has been the focus of many radical traditionalists.

The authentic Third Secret of Fatima, released by the Vatican in 2000, reads in part as follows:

And we saw in an immense light that is God: “something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it” a Bishop dressed in White “we had the impression that it was the Holy Father.” Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.

When this secret was finally published, it disappointed those who had been led to expect that it would describe a future apostasy in the Church. That expectation had been fostered by speculations and rumours that were seized upon by some Catholics frustrated by the reforms of Vatican II. Fr. Nicholas Gruner was the primary proponent of the idea that the Third Secret, once revealed, would expose the apostasy of the post-conciliar Church. Through his Fatima Crusader magazine (started in 1978) and the Fatima Centre (fatima.org) he made the Third Secret and the request of the Blessed Mother for the consecration of Russia to her sacred heart (a request that Fr. Gruner claimed was never properly granted) the foundation of a deeply conspiratorial vision of world affairs. Many in the Fatima movement refused to accept that the Third Secret had really been published in its entirety and still believe that the “second part” of the Third Secret has yet to be revealed. Marshall is clearly in that camp. He rehashes all of the arguments used by Fr. Gruner and others, and comes to the blunt conclusion that “The full Third Secret describes the great apostasy in the Church” (15).

Once again, we are presented with two visions of suffering and disorder in the Church. The vision in the authentic Third Secret is one of the pope being terribly persecuted and ultimately killed. The vision of the entirely speculative “second part” of the Third Secret is one of the Church Apostate, which we are already familiar with from the secret of Our Lady of La Salette.

This idea of the Church Apostate has such a powerful appeal because, once accepted, it fills the world with meaning. One suddenly sees signs of infiltration everywhere. It is a “red pill” that removes the scales from one’s eyes. The rot extends all the way to the highest levels of spiritual authority, including even the pope himself, and there are only a select few—a “remnant”—standing in defense of the true, the good, and the beautiful. It is ironic that this vision of apostasy on a colossal scale is so often held by those outside, or on their way out of, the Church.

Works cited:

Cuneo, Michael W. The Smoke of Satan: Conservative and Traditionalist Dissent in Contemporary American Catholicism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Marshall, Taylor R. Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church From Within. Manchester, NH: Crisis Publications, 2019.

Image: Photograph of Mélanie Calvat, from Wikimedia commons

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D.W. Lafferty, PhD, is a Catholic husband, dad, and independent scholar from Ontario, Canada. He works in higher education and has published articles on the literature of Wyndham Lewis, the conspiracy theory of Douglas Reed, and the life and legacy of Engelbert Dollfuss. Online, he tweets as @rightscholar.

The Synthesis of All Catholic Conspiracy Theory (Part 3)

21 Responses

  1. Brian NJ says:

    Very reasonable article. At no point did you ask us to ascribe evil intent to The Pope, Cardinal Burke, Taylor Marshall….(insert name here). More of this please.

    “Twitter rhetoric” and left vs right “spin” in comment boxes is probably something that needs to be taken to the confessional.

    I would love to see a relaxed discussion, one on one, between Marshall and Lafferty. (can something like that ever happen now that both sides have tweeted themselves into conservative and liberal foxholes?).

    What has been your personal Catholic experience? How did you come to believe what you do? I bet you have more in common than you think. Wishful thinking……..

    • D.W. Lafferty says:

      Thank you. Regarding my story, I’m technically a revert although I felt more like a convert when I finally received the sacrament of confirmation more than a decade ago. I used to be much more on the “right,” with some sympathy for traditionalism, until things started getting weird under Pope Francis. As I did with Pope Benedict XVI, I sought to reevaluate my thinking in light of the direction the pope was going, but I became more and more disturbed at the level of “resistance” some were showing. I used to listen to Taylor Marshall’s podcast occasionally, and I liked his work, but I noticed a change in his thinking that erupted into all-out anti-Francis conspiracy theory around 2018. I’ve been focusing on Marshall lately because Infiltration really captures a mindset that is common now, and because he’s popular enough that his book has been influencing people in my Catholic circles. I’d be glad to dialogue with him, but he’ll have to unblock me (@rightscholar) on Twitter first!

      • Ann Malley says:

        An interesting and measured response to the eruption of mass confusion seemingly ushered in happily by Francis himself. I’m a revert, too, and was stricken to the core when it came to light what’s actually occurring within the Church. Our Lord Himself predicted that the Church would follow Him–that is the truth would be rejected and crucified by those entrusted with her authority.

        I pray you’ll be able to engage in the discussion of which you speak. But I sincerely hope that your desire to be a true son of the Church–in the aftermath of wandering–will not result in blinding yourself to some for of monatonism that is not Catholic.

        Read CCC 675 and ask yourself how that may come about. It is Catholic teaching. And something even reverts–for all that guilt that comes along with it–will have to accept.

      • George Palantine says:

        I find that Marshall blocks anyone who disagrees with him. He kind of leads a cult, and he cannot allow cult members to see through his flim flam, so he cannot allow people to point out his mistakes. Therefore all who disagree must be blocked.

        His series on the Third Secret was laughable in the extreme. Talk about conspiracy theories. His whole thing about there being a part 3A of the secret, and then he INFERS a part 3b that has never been released, is straight out of the conspiracy handbook for beginners. If you need something to exist, simply invent it!

        He sounds good at first, but the more you listen to him the stranger he becomes. Have you heard about his supposed vision? He says that a vision was given to him by God. The vision, oddly enough was of a beautiful naked lady, whose breasts were engorged with milk. God or angels or somebody tells him, “but the milk is pure!” meaning that the milk is the teaching of the church. When people start having visions, I smell a rat. Just google Taylor Marshall visions and you will probably find his video.

        Enough of these fake visionaries, these conspiracy kooks, etc.

  2. M. says:

    …”tweeted themselves into conservative and liberal foxholes.” LOL, so well said!

  3. Michael Eberl says:

    Have you researched the Marian apparitions at Akita? How about the prophecies of Blessed Ann Catherine Emmerich? Why does the revealed Third Secret not include “In Portugal the dogma of the Faith will always be preserved etc.”? Why was the Third Secret to be revealed in 1960, when it would make more sense? The woman clothed in the Sun is represented in Fatima, Guadalupe and The Book of Revelations. Coincidence only? We are living in those times I suspect.

    • Pedro Gabriel says:

      “Have you researched Akita?”

      We have


      • jong says:

        Your link article in Akita revelation wherein you somehow inclined to believe that Amoris Laetetia “as accepting compromise” taken from the wordings of Akita saying “the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demons will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord”.

        Amoris Laetetia is not accepting compromises but it is the very gospel of Christ, the duty of the Pastors is to save souls and it should not be seen as compromising previous doctrines. Pope Francis fully conformed St.JP2 teaching to the gospel of Mercy that no one is beyond redemption. The Pastors are commanded by Christ to be merciful like the Father. (Luke6:36)

        I think “accepting compromises” is much more related to Ecumenism, Inter-religious dialogue and the Mission of the Church to indigenous people like the upcoming Pan Amazon Synod.
        But prophecy and private revelation wordings sometimes are made to appear that the Church were the ones committing mistake so that Church purification must take place. Obedience can only be tested by “ambiguous wordings” if the wordings are crystal clear how can you test obedience? Ambiguity is indeed a weapon to test ones obedience, either we remain obedient to Church united to the Pope or we trust other Bishops & Cardinals interpretation who would satisfy our intellect but will lead us to disobedience and later on we will embrace the sin of pride because we think we are more Catholic than the Pope.

  4. Jason O says:

    Very well done. Marshall and ilk are leading good Catholics (including people that I love dearly) down the rabbit hole. Thank you for doing the good work that you are doing here.

  5. jong says:

    Dr.Marshall infiltration book is written to support how the Rad Trads had painted the papacy of Pope Francis, they need more people of influence in social media to destroy the character of Pope Francis and to echo all their works how they painted Pope Francis as a destroyer of faith & traditions.
    The LaSalette prophecy stating “even the elect will be deceive and Rome will lose the faith and will become the Seat of Antichrist”. The elect are bishops & cardinals but not the Pope as it will make Jesus a liar in Luke22:32, plus the Chair of Peter cannot be overtaken too because of Matthew16:18. The “Rome will lose the faith and will become the Seat of Antichrist” is more of a Wisdom of God in play for satan and his demons to follow God’s bidding in Church purification, remember this is connected to Pope Leo XIII vision in 1884 granting satan more power to destroy the Church. Satan meant it to destroy the Church but God meant it for Church purification for it’s glorious resurrection. CCC675.
    Re Fatima vision of a “Bishop Dressed in White”, the fatal error of Satan human cohorts is when they got desperate in 1981 as 1984 will be the 100th year already with reference to 1884 and still they have not elected a Pope within his human cohorts as revealed by Bella Dodd.
    St.JP2 is not the Bishop Dressed in White, because “Dressed in White” means “Robe of Light”. St.JP2 mission is to give us a weapon of Light, the Luminous Mystery and established Divine Mercy but the true Bishop Dressed in White is Pope Francis, that’s why he is called a Luminous Pope.
    Francis in Fatima: “I am the bishop dressed in white.”

  6. Dylan says:

    The prophesy of a great apostasy is biblical, consistent among the Fathers and mentioned in the CCC. Whether or not the present times are indeed THE apostasy is debatable, but surely we are instructed to expect an apostasy at some point in the life of the Church.
    It seems are witnessing AN apostasy not only from “ traditional” Catholic beliefs prior to Vatican II but even from the teachings of more recent Popes (Paul VI, JPII, and BVXI). Something serious is afoot and many Catholics trying to live the Faith recognize this, regardless of whether LaSalette or Fatima 3b are legit.
    As to conspiracy theories, as Catholics we know that there is a conspiracy in history – that of the Enemy who is continually working to undermine the Church. It’s not traditionalist to believe this and it requires no rabbit holes. There is a war in human history and like all wars confusing your enemy is a tactic that works well.
    May Our Lord grant us all the grace to see the truth and act on it.

    • jong says:

      CCC675 had three recipe in Thessalonian prophecy, that is schism, apostasy and revolt and then the “man of lawlessness or the son of perdition” will appear. (For me, the candidate is Ab.Vigano and he will appear in the “grand revolt” soon ,just waiting for the right timing.)
      1. Ab.Lefevbre started the Schism in 1970 and still continue up to this day but it already grown into many divisions. That’s why the 40 Days Prayer Crusade is calling all the Clan of Trads to unite together. According to their embraced confusions as Dr.Marshall conspiracy book painted the Church was already infiltrated and Pope Francis is the Antichrist that was prophesied. This is the perfect example of “diabolical disorientation”.
      Is the 40 Days Prayer Crusade a “revolt” in disguised of prayer crusades? The Rad Trads are calling themselves now as Crusaders.
      2. The Rad Trads with Cardinal Burke fronting as their main spokeperson in the Media but definitely not their leader, as I think Ab.Vigano looks more to be their candidate to appoint as their Pope in their own “mystical body”. Cardinal Burke et,al denies they are in schism but their words & actions tells otherwise. They are openly,repeatedly and continuously opposing Pope Francis approved Magisterial Teachings and criticizing every plan of Pope Francis like the Family Synod, Youth Synod and now the Pan Amazon Synod. Why are they keep on doing this schismatic acts?
      They are baiting Pope Francis to an impose an excommunication on them, so that they can justify their long time plan revolt to oust Pope Francis.
      An imposed excommunication is a good way to call for sympathy among the Clan of Trads. Sorry for them Pope Francis knew their evil plans.
      3. Regarding Apostasy it means willful defection or rejection of Divine Truth, are they willfully rejecting, contradicting and opposing a Divine Truth? Yes!, how?
      Pope Francis teachings and all Vatican II Teachings are centered on the Divine Mercy, the beating heart of the gospel. (Misericordiae Vultus paragraph#12)
      They are calling it “false mercy”, so they are preaching the “anti-gospel” as described b y St,JP2 in the coming Final Confrontation of the Two Church.
      Jesus is Divine Mercy made flesh, and when we deny the Mercy of God on LGBTQ, convicted criminals of heinuos crimes, and indeginous people on the Amazon we are denying the Will of the Father why He sent Jesus Christ, that is to save the world not to condemn it (John3:17). God saving plan includes Hindus, Buddhist, Muslim, etc much more the Jews who is our elder brother., but the Rad Trads are even openly contradicting Human Fraternity, Ecumenism and Inter-religious dialogue.
      They are contradicting the Will of the Father(1Timothy2:4) and denying the Mercy of God which is the heart of the Gospel.(Matthew9:13)
      So, they are already in schism, they are committing apostasy too, what is left in the Thessalonian prophecy? The only missing piece is “revolt” and they are doing it now by launching the 40 Days Prayer Crusade, this is a revolt rehearsal in disguised of prayer crusade.
      That’s why Pope Francis seeing their evil plot had to publicly said “I am not afraid of schism”.
      Thank you Pope Francis for leading the Church to victory. Exodus14:14 and John1:5

    • Lazarus says:

      You have to recall that Christ promised to be with the Church forever. He promised that he Church lead by Peter would never fail. You see that the Church of Rome will never defect from the faith because the bishop or Rome is there. He did not say He would abandon the Church at the time of the great apostasy.

      The rest of the world and Church can lose the faith, but not the one built on Peter. The only way this can be false is that Jesus is not God or Catholicism is a false religoon.

    • Christopher Lake says:


      Please correct me if I am misreading you here (and I am sincere in that request– I am not being snarky), but you seem to be implying some things in your comment that you are not openly, explicitly stating. There is no “apostasy,” in the Papacy of Francis, from the authoritative, Magisterial teachings of Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI.

      Catholic doctrine on marriage cannot change. Pope Francis has not changed that doctrine. Discipline, however, is not synonymous with doctrine. This is a crucial distinction. Disciplines can *legitimately change* within the Church. The various applications of Catholic discipline (which are not changes in Catholic doctrine) on marriage, regarding the Eucharist,in certain specific cases of individual couples, can legitimately differ, as priests meet privately with couples in the “internal forums” described in “Amoris Laetitia.”

      On the death penalty, both Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI had been vocally advocating for the complete abolition of the death for many years, long before Pope Francis. Prior to Francis’s recent revision to #2267 in the Catechism, there had been a *very tiny loophole* left open for the death penalty to still *possibly* be used in rare, if not non-existent, cases, but the very same Popes who left open that loophole were also issuing Church documents and giving speeches which pushed for the eventual abolition of the death penalty.

      Pope Francis simply closed that tiny loophole in the Catechism by saying, in effect, if we don’t *have* to use the death penalty anymore, as Christians, then why should we? He did not change Catholic doctrine on being pro-life. He *reaffirmed* that doctrine in a developed, deepened way– which, again, was simply following the direction in which the two previous Popes had already been moving. There is no “apostasy” with Pope Francis. He is teaching in the same vein as his predecessors.

      • Peter says:

        I remain unclear on the full explanation of the change to the Church’s position on the death penalty and I haven’t gotten a comprehensive answer from any side of the argument. Pope Francis has 265 predecessors who were all provided the same Deposit of Faith. That deposit of faith, scripture (examples Mat. 15:3-4, John 19:11, Acts 25:11 & Romans 13:1-4), and magisterial pronouncements (examples Pope Innocent 1, Epist. 6, C. 3. 8, ad Exsuperium, Episcopum Tolosanum (405); Pope Leo X, Exsurge Domine (1520); (Ps. 101:8); Roman Catechism of the Council of Trent, 1566, Part III, 5, n. 4; & Pope Pius XII, Address to the First International Congress of Histopathology of the Nervous System, 14 September 1952, XIV, 328) unequivocally affirms the state’s authority to protect the public and punish offenders with the death penalty. I could go on quoting the Church fathers and various doctors of the Church, but this post is getting long as it is.

        Further, just as the evolution of our penal system minimizes the need for broadly applied capital punishment, sociological evidence suggests prisoners sentenced to death have a higher confession rate for their crimes than those who receive life sentences. The certainty of their pending death is correlated to their confession. It seems the Catholic Church would view the removal of the mortal sin from the soul of the offender to be a more compassionate route than allowing them to slip away in old age to face an eternity of torment without the possibility of salvation.

        While I am very sympathetic to the Holy Father’s position on this matter, I am having an impossible time reconciling it against the totality of the doctrine and tradition of the Church – a Church that has existed for almost 2000 years longer than the immediate predecessors you listed. I understand John Paul II’s modification from 1992 in light of the evolution of the justice system as a whole and as a condemnation of oppressive regimes that use the death penalty to squash dissent rather than punish truly dangerous people. I understand the point made regarding not using the death penalty if we do not have to. I see it as less of a loop-hole and more of a retention of an essential truth acknowledged throughout all of history.

        The Holy Father’s change seems to go far beyond these bounds to an invalidation of an aspect of the Deposit of Faith. Is the Pope formally pronouncing that governments do not have the authority to execute those found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt as the term “inadmissible” implies? If he has declared St. Paul incorrect in this matter, what else did St. Paul get wrong and what other traditionally understood aspects of the Deposit of Faith are incorrect? What is the correct way to place the Holy Father’s changes in light of Jesus’ own acknowledgements to Pilate during his trial? Was Jesus incorrect or lying to Pilate when he said his power to determine his sentence was granted from above? Should I side with the Holy Father in the year 2018 or Jesus in the year 33 on this matter when his own life hung in the balance? When did the eternal Truth change? Benedict XVI affirmed that doctrine and tradition are the normative standards when faced with such dilemmas.

        I really am trying my best to place this within the entire scope of doctrine and tradition of the Church. I am open to any and all information you have that provides the correct perspective. I’m tired of getting the “He’s a heretic” from one side and “He’s the Pope” from the other. The Pope is the defender of the Deposit of Faith. The steward tasked with guarding it until Christ’s return. There must be a concrete thread of logic holding his pronouncements to the eternal objective Truth. I have a personal objection to the death penalty, but I am not inclined to contort the revealed doctrine of the Church to my personal thoughts on the subject. I really do want to see how the Holy Father’s pronouncement ties directly to the entire history of the Church, but it seems to take a leap beyond simple affirmation into contradiction. Please help me unambiguously bridge that gap while providing the limiting principle that restricts the apparent 180 degree doctrinal shift when evaluated against over 1900 years of Church teaching to respecting the dignity of guilty offenders’ earthly life in cases of government sentences involving the death penalty. Whether it’s the death penalty changes or the changes in Amoris Laetitia, the fact that so many “disciplinary” changes are happening so quickly wherein little or no citation is provided beyond the Holy Father’s own words and nothing is cited from pre-conciliar magisterial pronouncements makes it difficult to maintain a clear connection to the totality of history.

        God bless you. I am sincerely looking for direction on this matter. Please take my reply in the spirit in which it is intended.

      • jong says:

        The answer to your question is written clearly if you ponder and accept that the Holy Spirit inspired all the Vatican II Popes starting from St.John XXIII to use the “Mercy of God as medicine to heal all the lost & wounded souls”. The Vatican II New Mission in the New Evangelization in the Third Millenium is the Church must preach & witness that God is Loving & Merciful Father and must fulfill Jesus commands in Luke6:36. The Church must have a New Face, in reality the Church will become a New Church, it must revealed the Face of God, the Mercy of God to the fullness to all souls without exception. St.JP2 established the Devotion to the Divine Mercy and wrote the encyclical Dives in Misericordiae and Pope Benedict XVI continued what St.JP2 teaches that life must be protected from “the moment of conception up to man’s last breath”. St.JP2 and Pope Benedict XVI had been calling for the abolition of death penalty. Year 2015 Pope Francis declares the Year of Mercy and from this time, the “non-definitive teachings” like Death Penalty and Amoris Laetetia taken from Familiaris Consortio was inspired by the Holy Spirit to conform fully to the heart of the gospel. Look at the wordings of Death Penalty changes it stated “In light of the gospel…theses changes were made”. But what is the gospel of Christ really is, or what is the Truth written in the gospel?
        Read the Bull of Indiction written by Pope Francis “Misericordiae Vultus paragraph#12” and you will know that “The beating heart of the gospel is the Divine Mercy of God”.
        So, in the case of the convicted criminal who committed heinous crimes, The Church were inspired to tell that the dignity of that man is not lost, and the Loving & Merciful Father inspired the Church to defend the heart of the gospel, saying “no one is beyond redemption”. That man whom the State can exercise the just sentence of “death penalty”, Pope Francis was inspired to say that “God is the giver of life and no one can take away the life of any human being as his dignity the image of God is not lost”uphelding the Fifth Commandment “thous shall not kill”., The Merciful God not only can redeem him, but God desire all mankind to be save. (1Timothy2:4). Same with the couples in irregular union, Pope Francis was inspired to say although the Church teachings said no by the “sacramental discipline teachings” of his predecessors, the “Church cannot condemn forever”, the Church has an obligation to find a way to save the lost & wounded souls. How can the Church help those couples in irregular union which Pope Francis predecessors the 265 Popes you stated failed? Pope Francis reform the Church to become a “field hospital”.
        Pope Francis said by “Pastoral Accompaniment and Discernment”, the Priest can help but the Priest to become the True Pastor like Jesus Christ did, the Shepherd must smell like the sheep, meaning the Priest must wear the “cloak of compassion and mercy.”
        While most if not all Trads were proudly saying that “Latin is the language of the Church”, on the other hand Pope Francis said this profound & timely words “The Language of God is compassion”.
        For the Dubia Cardinals et,al, they are saying to the convicted criminals, in a way God cannot redeem you anymore let the State execute the death sentence and thats is the justice of God teach by the Church. Is the Dubia Cardinals following the command of Jesus in the gospel? And to the couples in irregular union the Dubia Cardinals said NO!, there’s no way the Church can help your situations, in a way they are closing the Door of Mercy permanently.Read Luke6:36 and Matthew9:13 and tell me if the Dubia Cardinals possessed the “spirit of Antichrist”, because to deny the Mercy of God is to deny that Jesus is the CHRIST. why? Jesus is Divine Mercy made flesh and if we deny the Divine Mercy of God to all the souls who most in need of God Mercy, we are embracing the spirit of Antichrist. Read 2John1:7 & 1John2:22
        Please take time to read the article below on Pope Francis interview to know what inspires him to declare the Year of Mercy seeing our times we are now living as the Time of Mercy.
        “The Divine Mercy is Infinite but the Time of Mercy is not”. (Pope Francis)
        This is the link article;
        “The name of God is Mercy”

  7. James Scott says:

    One minor correction as I am a Hebrewphile & amateur student of early Jewish Christianity.

    >It is notable that the Antichrist is described as being born of “a Hebrew nun,” since this may be an anti-Semitic metaphor reflecting the Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories of the time, but it is the last sentence in the quotation above that that has provided the real fuel for fringe Catholic movements.

    Actually there is an ancient Apostolic Tradition found in St Irenaeus & others that suggests the Anti-Christ would be a Hebrew Person born of the Tribe of Dan since in the listing of the twelve Tribes in the Book of Revelation Dan is omitted and replaced by Manasseh one of the two mini-Tribes that make up the Tribe of Joseph.

    In Ancient Israel Dan fell into idolatry and produced a false priesthood so it was speculated the anti-Christ being a sort of ape to the real Christ would be a Hebrew from a fallen tribe. It is not really anti-Semitic. Since the greatest guy ever and his mum are both Jews. 😉

    Thought historically speculation on the nationality ran from an Israelite from Dan to a Syrian, Greek or future Roman dictator. Even some Christian labelled Muhammed one.

    Of course anti-Semitic Radtrads need little excuse to hate on Jews.

  8. Christopher Lake says:


    I’m replying to your comment for me here, because there was no reply link immediately below it which I could click.

    Pope Francis has not said that the death penalty is intrinsically evil. If he had said that, it would mean that the DP is, and has always been, evil, in any and all times. He did not say that. He *has* said, partially for various reasons which exist today (at least some of which did not always exist),– reasons which have been laid out by both him and the CDF– that the death penalty is now inadmissible. At the very least, this means that Catholics should not be advocating for the death penalty. The looming shadow of the death penalty may lead some criminals to repentance and confession, but even so, the ends do not justify the means for Catholics. The Catechism strongly criticizes the anti-Christian thinking of consequentialism.

    Again, Popes John Paull II and Benedict XVI both *publicly called* for the abolition of the death penalty. They framed this subject in terms of the dignity of all human life, including the dignity of even the lives of people who have taken lives. Pope Francis has simply now made John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s call to abolish the death penalty an explicit, official part of the Catechism in the revised paragraph #2267.

    Here is the full, official CDF letter, which carefully explains the thinking behind the revision to the Catechism on the death penalty: https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2018/08/02/180802b.html

    • Peter says:

      Christopher Lake,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate your effort and willingness to discuss the topic. I have read the CDF letter and the citations provided in the footnotes. While it clearly states that this is a doctrinal development and provides documentation from recent years to support the claim, I am still having difficulty placing it in the entirety of Church history, doctrine, and tradition without seeing a clear contradiction.

      Does the change to the Catechism invalidate the explicit position of the Church that a diversity of opinions on capital punishment can be possessed by faithful Catholics? I’m referring to the 2004 memo from then-Cardinal Ratzinger that contrasts the Church’s position on abortion and euthanasia (intrinsic evils) against capital punishment (not intrinsically evil). Can a Catholic who supports the death penalty in accordance with the past 2018 years of Church teaching still present themselves to receive Communion in a state of grace of they deny the current catechism?

      You said that the pope did not make a doctrinal change by calling the death penalty intrinsically evil and to do so would certainly cause the serious problem you stated. Two instances come immediately to mind when Pope John Paul II commented on that type of issue in Donum Veritatis and Vatican I explicitly stated the Pope’s responsibilities towards the Deposit of Faith. If such an issue was to materialize, we would be facing a correction on the order of John XXII’s error regarding the postmortem state of the soul.

      With regards to consequentialism, I am not sure the term fits the situation but I am open to any guidance you can provide. It’s usage in this context appears to prefer a secular, rather than Catholic, understanding of justice, dignity, and hope for eternal life. It seems to prioritize the temporal nature of human existence over justice for the crime, peace among the innocent, and salvation for the soul of the offender. That is not to say that governments should indiscriminately execute their citizens for any reason any more than the Church should change its teaching on abortion, contraception, or euthanasia to reduce the carbon footprint of humanity.

      In March of 2015, Pope Francis’ letter to the President of the International Commission Against the Death Penalty quotes Dostoyevsky in saying that capital punishment applied against murderers is incomparably worse than the crime itself. Similar sentiments were echoed in his Angelus address of 2/16/16 and his 10/11/17 address. The 10/11/17 address flatly states that capital punishment is inadmissible as a violation of dignity without any appeal to the modern penal system’s ability to guarantee the public’s safety. Later in his address, he says that capital punishment is “per se contrary to the Gospel.” This means that by it’s nature (intrinsically), capital punishment is contrary to the Gospel yesterday, today, tomorrow, and always. The Holy Father has even added life sentences and even long prison sentences to the list of violations of human dignity. The abyss that stands between this position and the position of Pope John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae is considerable in that Pope John Paul II referred to the absolute value and inviolable right to life of the “innocent” human being.

      I sincerely continue to look for ways to reconcile these complicated issues in light of the entire history, doctrine, and tradition of the Church. I take no issue with past prudential judgments of the Church aimed ad minimizing the usage of capital punishment. To some extent, I think the Pope is the unfortunate recipient of criticism in the “cancel culture” age where any and all utterances are put under a microscope in ways none of his predecessors had to deal with (just wait until the current 24-year-old-future-pontiff’s Twitter feed is made public). However, I also see deviations from tradition extending beyond 1960s and 1970s that cause understandable reservations among those who do not share the Pope’s agenda for the Church. Marginalizing all dissenters will only promote their radicalization and it seems that much of their criticism could be answered by simply citing an occasional magisterial document that dates from before Vatican II to support modern developments to Church teaching. There should be plenty of them to choose from if the doctrines and traditions have not changed. The RadTrads wouldn’t know what to do with St. Pius X speaking in support of pronouncements from the Amazon Synod. I greatly appreciate your attention to my question and have added you to my daily rosary intentions.

      • Manuel Dauvin says:

        Wpi has provided rather complete answers concerning the change death penalty. Including in their responses the relation between the change and the past teaching. Avail yourself of these articles in the archive.

      • Christopher Lake says:


        Thank you for your reply, and thank you, very much, for adding me to your daily Rosary intentions. I am praying for you too, my brother in Christ.

        In Manuel’s reply to you, he mentioned the archive of articles here at WPI, and the fact that some of these articles speak in a more thorough way to your questions and concerns than I have been able to do thus far. Please be assured that I am more than happy to continue our discussion, but I see that you have many questions and concerns on this subject, and I sincerely want to help with them. However, it is quite physically challenging for me to write more than one or two lengthy comments here a day (due to time and due to my physical disability, Cerebral Palsy). I do want to help you with your questions though, and in that vein, I would encourage you (as Manuel just did) to spend some serious, dedicated time reading through the various WPI articles on the death penalty, and the revision to the Catechism, which various contributors here have helpfully written.
        This is one article (and there are more of this kind here at WPI) which, I hope and pray, will help in forthrightly addressing and answering your concerns: http://wherepeteris.com/death-penalty-continuity-or-hardness-of-heart/

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