If I had been very publicly and explicitly accused of pertinaciously adhering to seven heresies by a large group of fellow Catholics, including clergy and academics, then I should be keen to explain either that the propositions in question were not heretical or else that I did not hold them.  I should imagine that this would be the reaction of anyone who possessed the Catholic faith.

This is rather obvious.  It is disappointing, then, to see that the mainstream Catholic media have been unwilling to comment on the fact that Pope Francis, more than 8 months after the Open Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church, has refused either to disavow the heresies there ascribed to him, or to explain why they are not heretical, even though he has shown that he is quite aware of the letter in question.  His response, rather has been to say this:

Q. On being a heretic, how do you take that?

A. With a sense of humour, my daughter.

Q. You don’t give it much weight…

A. No, no. Besides I pray for them because they are wrong and, poor people, some of them are manipulated. And who are those who signed? No, really, a sense of humour and I would say tenderness, paternal tenderness. That is, it doesn’t hurt me at all. Hypocrisy and lies hurt me, these, yes, they hurt me. But a mistake like that, where there are even people who have filled their heads with – no, please, you have to take care of them too (from an interview with Valentina Alazraki).

Not exactly a ringing profession of faith.

It is disappointing, as I say, that media such as EWTN, the Catholic Herald or the National Catholic Register, are refusing to pursue this question.  Is this not the kind of thing that Catholic reporters should be doing?

St Irenaeus seems quite confident that the antichrist will appear after six thousand years of human history.  He doesn’t explicitly say that he has received this from apostolic tradition, true.  But nor does he say that it is a conjecture of his own.  Given that his whole purpose in the Adversus Haereses is to pass on what he has received, against the false teachings of the gnostics, it seems very likely, at least, that he has received this from some of the disciples of the apostle St John. “In as many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded” (Adv. haer. V.28).  The number of the beast he takes not only to be the numerical value of a man’s name or title, but also to allude to apostasy (indicated by the 600 years of Noah’s age when the flood occurred), and persecution (indicated by the statue of Nebuchadnezzar, which was 60 cubits high and 6 broad).

The six hundred years of Noah, in whose time the deluge occurred because of the apostasy, and the number of the cubits of the image for which these just men were sent into the fiery furnace, do indicate the number of the name of that man in whom is concentrated the whole apostasy of six thousand years, and unrighteousness, and wickedness, and false prophecy, and deception (Adv. haer. V.29).

According to Cornelius a Lapide, most meticulous of exegetes, Adam was created in 3950 BC. Adding six thousand years to that we come to AD 2050.  If we were to guess that the lawless one will be about thirty years old when he makes his appearance, that would mean that he is due to be born about now.

In a chilling twist on the apparently obvious interpretation of the parable of the Unjust Judge, St Irenaeus says that this judge who fears neither God nor man is the antichrist, and that the widow woman who cries to him day and night for vindication against her enemy is not the Church, but unbelieving Jewry.  Seeking some Messiah who would not be Jesus of Nazareth, she has been calling upon the antichrist in ignorance for near two thousand years.  It may be that her long wait will soon be over.

Boniface VIII defined that “outside of [the church] there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins”. Could it be that, after the schism, its monastic adherents being deprived of habitual grace, they developed a pseudo-nepsis as a technique rather than a spiritual exercise which opens the soul not to the passive purgation of the senses but to the influence of separated substances opposed to God? This idea seems to be anticipated by Maritain in The Degrees of Knowledge:

What metaphysician, not to speak of the ancient Brahmins, has felt more keenly than Plotinus this burning desire for the supreme unity? But the ecstasy of Plotinus is not this supreme act, rather is it the vanishing point of metaphysics, and metaphysics alone does not suffice to procure it. The good fortune which Plotinus knew four times during the six years that Porphyry lived with him suggests a brief contact with an intellectual light in its nature of greater force, the spasm of a human mind in contact with a pure spirit. If we believe Porphyry when he says that his master was born the thirteenth year of the reign of Severus, that he heard Ammonius at Alexandria, that he came to Rome when he was forty, that he died in the Campagna, and when he describes to us his state of health and way of life, his kindness to the orphans committed to his care, his way of teaching, of composing, of pronouncing Greek, his handwriting, etc., why do we not believe him when he says that the philosopher was inspired by a daemon who lived with him, and which showed itself, in a sensible form, at his death? ‘At that moment a serpent passed under the bed in which he was lying and glided into a hole in the wall; and Plotinus gave up his soul in death.’ What would be astonishing would be if the metaphysical eras, there where Christ does not dwell, did not call forth some form of collusion with superhuman intellectual natures, rectores hujus mundi.

The man was walking in the desert, followed by his companion, when the Thing swooped down on him.

From afar it had appeared to him, quite small, gliding over the sand, no bigger than the palm of a child’s hand — as a pale, fleeting shadow like a wavering flight of quail over the blue sea before sunrise or a cloud of gnats dancing in the sun at evening or a whirlwind of dust at midday sweeping over the plain.

The Thing seemed to take no heed of the two travellers, and was roaming capriciously through the wilderness. Then, suddenly, it assumed a set course and with the speed of an arrow came straight at them.

And then the man perceived that the little pale cloud of vapour was but the centre of an infinitely greater reality moving towards them without restriction, formless, boundless. The Thing as it approached them spread outwards with prodigious rapidity as far as his eye could reach, filling the whole of space, while its feet brushed lightly over the thorny vegetation beside the torrent, its brow rose in the sky like a golden mist with the reddening sun behind it. And all about it the ether had become alive, vibrating palpably beneath the crude substance of rock and plants as in summer the landscape quivers behind the overheated soil in the foreground.

What was advancing towards them was the moving heart of an immeasurable pervasive subtlety.

The man fell prostrate to the ground; and hiding his face in his hands he waited.

A great silence fell around him.

Then, suddenly, a breath of scorching air passed across his forehead, broke through the barrier of his closed eyelids, and penetrated his soul. The man felt that he was ceasing to be merely himself; an irresistible rapture took possession of him as though all the sap of all living things, flowing at one and the same moment into the too narrow confines of his heart, was mightily refashioning the enfeebled fibres of his being. And at the same time the anguish of some superhuman peril oppressed him, a confused feeling that the force which had swept down upon him was equivocal, turbid, the combined essence of all evil and all goodness.

The hurricane was within himself.

And now, in the very depths of the being it had invaded, the tempest of life, infinitely gentle, infinitely brutal, was murmuring to the one secret point in the soul which it had not altogether demolished:

‘You called me: here I am. Driven by the Spirit far from humanity’s caravan routes, you dared to venture into the untouched wilderness; grown weary of abstractions, of attenuations, of the wordiness of social life, you wanted to pit yourself against Reality entire and untamed.

You had need of me in order to grow; and I was waiting for you in order to be made holy.

‘Always you have, without knowing it, desired me; and always I have been drawing you to me.

‘And now I am established on you for life, or for death. You can never go back, never return to commonplace gratifications or untroubled worship. He who has once seen me can never forget me: he must either damn himself with me or save me with himself.

Are you coming?

‘O you who are divine and mighty, what is your name? Speak.’

‘I am the fire that consumes and the water that overthrows; I am the love that initiates and the truth that passes away. All that compels acceptance and all that brings renewal; all that breaks apart and all that binds together; power, experiment, progress — matter: all this am I.

‘Because in my violence I sometimes slay my lovers; because he who touches me never knows what power he is unleashing, wise men fear me and curse me. They speak of me with scorn, calling me beggar-woman or witch or harlot; but their words are at variance with life, and the pharisees who condemn me, waste away in the outlook to which they confine themselves; they die of inanition and their disciples desert them because I am the essence of all that is tangible, and men cannot do without me.

‘You who have grasped that the world — the world beloved of God — has, even more than individuals, a soul to be redeemed, lay your whole being wide open to my inspiration, and receive the spirit of the earth which is to be saved.

‘The supreme key to the enigma, the dazzling utterance which is inscribed on my brow and which henceforth will burn into your eyes even though you close them, is this: Nothing is precious save what is yourself in others and others in yourself. In heaven, all things are but one. In heaven all is one.

(‘The Spiritual Power of Matter’ in ‘Hymn of the Universe’ by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ; our emphases)

If God made the earth before the sun, as Moses says, then it clearly doesn’t have to go round it.