Monday 27 July 2020

"Countdown to the Kingdom" and Millenarian Heresy

St Robert Bellarime

I would like to notify readers about a new website that has been established by Canadian evangelist Mark Mallett and Daniel O'Connor, a New York Ph.D student who lays a claim to professorship, called "Countdown to the Kingdom".  This new website is being promoted by a hugely popular Catholic author, Catherine Watkins, whose book The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience, is currently one of the best-selling titles in the area of Mariology. Watkins has established her own publishing company, Queen of Peace Media, and has featured on Shalom World TV. Given this platform, Queen of Peace Media's YouTube channel has quickly developed a huge following, and Watkins' promotion of Mallett and O'Connor's new website has in turn garnered a substantial following for them.

Mallett closely follows the type of spiritual millenarianism promoted by Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi and the Divine Will Movement, which is essentially a "Catholic" version of the popular form of millennialism espoused by the Protestant dispensationalist movement in America. Various media outlets heavily promote the Rapture theology of dispensationalism, and as a direct result of this influence, a large number of Catholics in America have attempted to align this popular form of millennialism with certain prophetic elements found in Catholic eschatology - most notably the "period of peace" promised by Our Lady of Fatima. The result of this religious syncretism is the millenarian teachings of the Divine Will Movement, which has been given its most systematic treatment in the collective works of Fr. Joseph Iannuzzi, and widely promoted by his various followers, including the likes of Mark Mallett. It is no coincidence that this eschatological novelty first arose in North America from around the middle of the 20th century, just as the millennialism of the dispensationalist movement found increasing popularity in wider American culture, mostly due to the influence of preachers such as Hal Lindsey and Billy Graham.

The Divine Will Movement rejects the amillenialism of St Augustine in favour of a "spiritual" version of the Chiliasm held by some early Christians, and holds that the "period of peace" promised by Our Lady of Fatima is actually an "era" that is equated with the Millennium of Rev 20. During this future "era of peace", they hold that Satan will be fully chained and all evil on earth will cease to exist. This is because the freedom of choice necessitated by human free will is going to be removed, and every person on earth will live according to the "Divine Will", during the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, in fulfilment of the Lord's Prayer that "thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven". This notion is essentially the same as Quietism, which condemned as a heresy by Pope Innocent XI in 1687 in the papal bull Coelestis Pastor.

In his papal encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI categorically ruled out the idea that the "kingdom of the good" could be definitively established on earth because of the permanent reality of human free will and original sin:

Since man always remains free and since his freedom is always fragile, the kingdom of good will never be definitively established in this world. Anyone who promises the better world that is guaranteed to last for ever is making a false promise; he is overlooking human freedom. Freedom must constantly be won over for the cause of good. Free assent to the good never exists simply by itself. If there were structures which could irrevocably guarantee a determined—good—state of the world, man's freedom would be denied, and hence they would not be good structures at all. (para 24)

The Divine Will Movement teaches that the establishment of this terrestrial paradise will be inaugurated on earth during a "Middle Coming" of Christ to reign with the resurrected saints for the duration of the Millennium of Rev 20. They closely follow the dual-antichrist eschatology of Joachim de Fiore, and posit the arrival of two separate antichrist figures, one before and one after the Millennium.  The first antichrist figure will be slain by Christ during the event of the "Middle Coming" to establish the millennial reign on earth, and the final "tail/Gog" antichrist rises up to make one last assault against the Church at the end of the Millennium, when the forces of Satan once again surround the camp of the saints before the "Final Coming" of Christ in glory.  This contradicts the most authorative account on the Antichrist given by the Church Doctor St. Robert Bellarmine, who  teaches that there is only one Antichrist who comes at the very end of time, and that the opinion of Lactantius:

"...was also of many of the older Fathers, such as Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Apollonaris and of a few others, as Jerome relates in chapter XXXVI of Ezechiel, and Eusebius. But for a long time it had been refuted as an investigated error. For the Lord clearly teaches that after the persecution of Antichrist the last judgement will immediately follow [Matt 24]. Then all the good are going to eternal life, while all the wicked into the eternal fire, hence there is not going to be another thousand years, nor any battle. 
(St. Robert Bellarmine De Controversiis Book 3 Chap XVII)

St. Augustine of Hippo reiterates this point forcefully:

"But he who reads this passage, even half asleep, cannot fail to see that the kingdom of Antichrist shall fiercely, though for a short time, assail the Church before the last judgment of God shall introduce the eternal reign of the saints". (City of God XX:23)

The adherents of the Divine Will Movement attempt to bypass the charge of millenarianism by arguing that this only rules out a physical return of Christ in "the Flesh" to establish the Millennium on earth, and that because they teach that this "Middle Coming" of Jesus will be spiritual in nature, this is not the same as the form of millenarianism that was condemned by the Church. In doing so, they confine the meaning of the word millenarianism to relate solely to the teachings of ancient Chiliasm - which is specifics which this word simply does not have. Since the middle of the 20th century, the word millenarianism has been used by academics to cover a wide range of eschatological theories which postulate the imminent arrival of an earthly utopia. The teachings of Joachim de Fiore are classified in modern academia as the most famous example of millenarian thought in the Middle Ages, and they similarly posit an earthly utopia in the form of an "age of the Spirit", rather than the physical return of Christ to rule on earth for the duration of the Millennium posited in Chiliasm. So to attempt to argue that millenarianism is solely confined to a physical return of Jesus in the Flesh is an utter fallacy which can be discarded from the outset.

The word millenarianism covers a much broader array of eschatological teachings, and refers to the creation of any sort of terrestrial paradise, and can be non-Christian or even secular in nature. When we look to the Catechism, the type of millenarianism which is most vigorously condemned is "secular messianism" - the idea that a secular state can fulfill the role of "messiah" through the creation of an earthly utopia:

The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism... (CCC 676)

So the Catechism most certainly isn't condemning merely the idea of a return of Christ in the Flesh to establish the millennial kingdom on earth before the events of the new creation, but rather the secular type of millenarianism which gave birth to the communist and fascist movements of the 20th century. The revolutionary spirit which is fomented by the ideals of millenarianism is the main reason the Joachite movement was so vehemently rejected by the Medieval Church, most notably by St. Thomas Aquinas.

The central concept of millenarianism has practical implications which have historically led to bloody revolutions and genocides, all when the quest to establish the perfect society on earth has ultimately went awry. The goal of "immanentizing the eschaton" (Voeglin) lies at the very core of what is being condemned by the Catechism. This is the Promethean attempt to realise within history the messianic hope that can only be established on earth beyond the general resurrection of the dead, which takes place at the Last Judgement, after which the creation of the new heaven and the new earth is finally established. The temptation for humanity to place itself on the throne of the Creator is the goad which the Ancient Serpent first lay before Adam and Eve in the Book of Genesis:

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.  (CCC 676)

Given the sudden popularity of Fr. Iannuzzi's millenarian theories through the promotion of Mark Mallett and Daniel O'Connor's new website by a best-selling Catholic author, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will now surely be forced into issuing a clarification on this matter. These authors have distorted the promises of Our Lady of Fatima into a bizarre millenarian heresy, and their collective works should be avoided by all faithful Catholics. 


It has recently emerged that Christine Watkins book The Warning: Testimonies and Prophecies of the Illumination of Conscience has been given a fake imprimatur from Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who controversially granted a canonically invalid imprimatur to Vassula Ryden. Ryden was condemned by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith for her espousal of a millenarian style "era of peace".

See the below post at Kevin Symonds' website:

Fr. Iannuzzi had used this fake imprimatur in a attempt to falsely assert that Ryden's book was approved by the magisterium of the Catholic Church. Church Militant TV has recently exposed the fact that not only was this imprimatur fake, but that Vassula Ryden also falsely claims that her book has been published by Cambridge University Press. See the below post:

Also, Mark Mallett appears to make some sort of effort to address some of the criticism in the above post at the Countdown to the Kingdom website: 

Mallett attempts to separate secular messianism from millenarianism, in order to keep the pretense that millenarianism only refers to the coming of Christ in the Flesh to rule with the saints for the future "thousand year" period described in the Apocalypse. However, the Catechism clearly states that secular messianism is a form of millenarianism. Indeed the very worst form of it: 

"The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism" (CCC 676)

Of course, secular messianism has nothing to do with Christ coming in the Flesh, but instead refers to the danger of secular powers attempting to assume a type of messianism, promising deliverance from a current unjust political system through revolutionary means. In the footnotes to this paragraph in the Catechism, it specifically highlights the dangers presented by Nazism and Communism in the 20th century. The upshot of this is that if secular messianism is a form of millenarianism, then the spiritual Chiliasm espoused by Fr. Iannuzzi, Mallett and O'Connor is most certainly just yet another form of millenarianism, all of which are condemned by the Catechism as the "deception of the Antichrist".

Below is Norman Cohn's appraisal of the definition of millenarianism as used in the modern academic sense of the word. Cohn was one of the most influential scholars of the 20th century to specialise in the area of millenarianism, and his work had a clear influence on Cardinal Ratzinger when he composed the section in the Catechism condemning millenarian beliefs:

"... in recent years it has become customary amongst anthropologists and sociologists, and to some extent amongst historians too, to use the word 'millenarianism' in a more liberal sense still. The word has in fact become simply a convenient label for a particular type of salvationism. And that is the way it will be employed in this book.
Millenarian sects or movements always picture salvation as
(a) collective, in the sense that it is to be enjoyed by the faithful as a collectivity;
(b) terrestrial, in the sense that it is to be realized on this earth and not in some other-worldly heaven;
(c) imminent, in the sense that it is to come both soon and suddenly;
(d) total, in the sense that it is utterly to transform life on earth, so that the new dispensation will be no mere improvement on the present but perfection itself;
(e) miraculous, in the sense that it is to be accomplished by, or with the help of, supernatural agencies.
Even within these limits there is of course room for infinite variety: there are countless possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it. Millenarian sects and movements have varied in attitude from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earthbound materialism. And they have also varied greatly in social composition and social function.
There was certainly great variety amongst the millenarian sects and movements of medieval Europe. At the one extreme were the so-called 'Franciscan Spirituals' who flourished in the thirteenth century."
See Cohn, N. The Pursuit of the Millennium, (Oxford: OUP, 1957), pp15-16