We Had Been Warned:
Father E. Sylvester Berry on the Persecution of the Church in the Last Days (Part 1): Satan will Attack the Papacy
This may not be new to frequent visitors of our web site, but it bears repeating, especially now: The terrible afflictions Holy Mother Church has had to endure since the death of Pope Pius XII were predicted and prophesied, in one way or another. We have had numerous posts on this topic in the past, and today we would like to call to mind one of them: The prediction made by Fr. Elwood Sylvester Berry (1879-1954), professor of apologetics at Mt. Saint Mary’s seminary in Maryland, as part of his interpretation of Chapter 12 of the book of the Apocalypse (a.k.a. Revelation).
In 1921, Fr. Berry published a wonderful commentary on the last book of the Bible, entitled The Apocalypse of St. John. Using his great erudition and understanding of the subject matter, Fr. Berry unpacks and explains the many mysterious chapters and verses of this important scriptural book in light of Catholic teaching. While we do not mean to get anyone caught up in an uncalled-for “end times mania”, as so many like to do, we do want to point out that the book of the Apocalypse is divinely inspired and was given by God for our instruction (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17); and although one must tread very carefully when writing and thinking about it, it should not be altogether ignored, either. This is evident also from the fact that Fr. Berry published an entire book properly explaining Revelation.
In view of what has transpired in the 20th century in the Roman Catholic Church, and the counterfeit “Catholic” church that was set up after the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958 (which the same Fr. Berry predicted in 1927 — see here), the following passages from his book The Apocalypse of St. John are of particular relevance to us today. To appreciate the full import of this excerpt, we encourage you highly to read the entire chapter in context, which is provided in a link further below:
In the foregoing chapter [i.e. Apoc 12] St. John outlines the history of the Church from the coming of Antichrist until the end of the world…. In this chapter, he shows us the true nature of that conflict. It shall be war unto death between the Church and the powers of darkness in a final effort of Satan to destroy the Church and thus prevent the universal reign of Christ on earth.
Satan will first attempt to destroy the power of the Papacy and bring about the downfall of the Church through heresies, schisms and persecutions that must surely follow. Failing in this he will attack the Church from without. For this purpose he will raise up Antichrist and his prophet to lead the faithful into error and destroy those who remain steadfast.
The Church is ever in labor to bring forth children to eternal life. In the sad days here predicted the sorrows and pains of delivery shall be increased many fold. In this passage there is an evident allusion to some particular son of of the Church whose power and influence shall be such that Satan will seek his destruction at any cost. This person can be none other than the Pope to be elected in those days. The Papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell. In consequence the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter.
The words of St. Paul to the Thessalonians [2 Thess 2:6-8] may be a reference to the Papacy as the obstacle to the coming of Antichrist: “You know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. And then that wicked one shall be revealed.”
…Seven, the number of universality, indicates that in this final struggle to prevent the universal reign of Christ all forms of sin and error will be marshalled against the Church. A prelude to this may be seen in the errors of Modernism which has been rightly designated “a synthesis of all heresies” [by Pope St. Pius X]. The number seven is also appropriate since all sins are included in the seven capital sins. In like manner all errors that have afflicted the Church may be summed up in these seven: Judaism, paganism, Arianism, Mohammedanism, Protestantism, rationalism, and atheism.
The dragon is seen in heaven which is here a symbol of the Church, the kingdom of heaven on earth. This indicates that the first troubles of those days will be inaugurated within the Church by apostate bishops, priests, and peoples,–the stars dragged down by the tail of the dragon.
The tail of the dragon represents the cunning hypocrisy with which he succeeds in deceiving a large number of people and pastors — a third part of the stars. Arianism led away many bishops, priests, and peoples. The pretended [Protestant] Reformation of the sixteenth century claimed still larger numbers but these cannot be compared to the numbers seduced by Satan in the days of Antichrist.
The dragon stands before the woman ready to devour the child that is brought forth. In other words, the powers of hell seek by all means to destroy the Pope elected in those days.
…Scarcely has the newly elected Pope been enthroned when he is snatched away by martyrdom. The “mystery of iniquity” gradually developing through the centuries, cannot be fully consummated while the power of the Papacy endures, but now he that “withholdeth is taken out of the way.” During the interregnum “that wicked one shall be revealed” in his fury against the Church.
It is a matter of history that the most disastrous periods for the Church were times when the Papal throne was vacant, or when anti-popes contended with the legitimate head of the Church. Thus also shall it be in those evil days to come.
The Church deprived of her chief pastor must seek sanctuary in solitude there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days…. In those days the Church shall also find refuge and consolation in faithful souls, especially in the seclusion of the religious life.
…Those shall be days of great persecution in which the Church will suffer all the horrors of the early ages, but she will likewise be crowned with the glory of innumerable martyrs.
…In the faith and prayer of her children, and especially in the contemplative life of religious orders the Church shall find a refuge of consolation which Satan cannot violate.
(Rev. E. Sylvester Berry, The Apocalypse of St. John [Columbus, OH: John W. Winterich, 1921], pp. 120-124,126-127; underlining added.)
Again, for more details and full context, you are encouraged to read the entire chapter, which is entitled, “Conflict Between the Church and Satan”, which begins on p. 119. Here are the relevant links:
- Electronic version (free): The Apocalypse of St. John by Fr. E. Sylvester Berry (1921)
- Print and Kindle editions: The Apocalypse of St. John by Fr. E. Sylvester Berry (1921)
- Also by Fr. Berry: The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise (1927/1955)
We have also produced a short video clip that showcases Fr. Berry’s 1921 prediction. You can use this clip to share with friends and family to make them aware of what is going on.
Our Commentary on the Above Excerpts from Fr. Berry
Recall that Fr. Berry wrote this commentary in 1921, during the reign of Pope Benedict XV, approximately 40 years before the Vatican II revolution got underway. The insights he gives, therefore, are entirely unbiased with respect to what transpired after the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958; and nothing he wrote was in any way “tainted” either in favor of or in opposition to the Novus Ordo Sect or Sedevacantism. The book bears the nihil obstat and imprimatur of Bp. James Hartley of the diocese of Columbus, Ohio, indicating that the work is safe to be read by Catholics and nothing in it contains errors on faith or morals.
In other words: There is nothing to lose and a lot to be gained by reading Fr. Berry’s work on the apocalypse of St. John the Apostle.
The first point we wish to draw attention to is the fact that Fr. Berry emphasizes that we are dealing here with what is essentially the devil’s ultimate battle, which he wages in two parts (of these we are mostly concerned with the first part, which is the one in which he tries to destroy the Church from within). This is significant because, as the author says, “the papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell” — in other words, this is the devil’s last stand, and he’s giving it his all, and it stands to reason that this is where he tries every strategy he has, every last effort he can muster, to bring down the Church of Our Lord. Therefore, this last hurrah of his is going to be the ultimate attack on the Church, with weapons and trickery that he has never used before, or at least not to this extent. It is Satan’s “all or nothing” battle, his “Armageddon”.
We know from Holy Scripture that in this final period of making war upon the Immaculate Bride of Christ, Satan will pull off a very great deception, so great that, if it were possible, even the elect themselves would be deceived: “For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect. Behold I have told it to you, beforehand”, says Our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 24:24-25).
Now, we must bear in mind that something that is easily seen to be a fraud, and identified as such by most, could hardly constitute a “great deception”, for then virtually no one would be deceived. The good Fr. Frederick Faber, in a sermon given on Pentecost Sunday in 1861, warned Catholics as follows:
We must remember that if all the manifestly good men were on one side and all the manifestly bad men on the other, there would be no danger of anyone, least of all the elect, being deceived by lying wonders. It is the good men, good once, we must hope good still, who are to do the work of Anti-Christ and so sadly to crucify the Lord afresh…. Bear in mind this feature of the last days, that this deceitfulness arises from good men being on the wrong side.
(Fr. Frederick Faber, Sermon for Pentecost Sunday, 1861; qtd. in Fr. Denis Fahey, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World [text here])
This is a crucial piece of advice, because many are distracted and led astray by the apparent good intentions of others. For example, how many downplay the wickedness of “World Youth Day” on the grounds that many of the participants and organizers “have good intentions”? Let’s be serious here and forget about intentions for once, and focus on the objective acts. A mockery of Christ is still a mockery of Christ, even if the perpetrators “didn’t mean it” this way. We must finally go beyond presumed intentions and deal with reality. And we all know what the road to hell is paved with, don’t we?
Most significant for our times is probably Fr. Berry’s allusion to the Church’s Papacy falling prey to the devil’s attacks. He writes that “Satan will seek his [the Pope’s] destruction at any cost” — note well: at any cost! — and therefore “the Papacy will be attacked by all the powers of hell,” that is, like never before in history. The devil will pull off a stunt that has never been seen before, and as a result of this “the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter.”
Does this ring a bell yet? Fr. Berry goes further and suggests that St. Paul may have been referring to the Pope as the one who holds back the “wicked one” but only until the Pope “be taken out of the way”, at which time “the wicked one shall be revealed”. This is precisely what Cardinal Henry Edward Manning explained in his 1861 lecture series on the Pope and the Antichrist (details here).
Our position at Novus Ordo Watch is that of Sedevacantism, that the papal claimants after Pius XII (that is, John XXIII, Paul VI, John Paul I, John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis) have been illegitimate, that is, impostors, and the institution they head not in fact the Catholic Church but a counterfeit church (“Vatican II Sect” or “Novus Ordo Church”) whose purpose it is, ultimately, to lead Catholics to damnation through its false teachings, evil disciplines, bogus marriage “annulments”, impious liturgical rites, and so forth. Because of this invalid usurpation of the Catholic structures and in particular the Holy See, there is now no true Pope, at least not as far as we know, and Fr. Berry’s comments in this regard cannot but underscore this very position.
It is no coincidence that Fr. Berry refers to Modernism as a “prelude” to the Antichrist’s attacks upon the Church and the Pope because it is indeed the “synthesis of all heresies,” as Pope St. Pius X called it (Encyclical Pascendi, n. 39), and Modernism has proved itself to be the foundation of the entire Vatican II religion instigated by “Pope” John XXIII, especially with the convocation of the bogus Second Vatican Council (1962-65), which mirrored a lot the errors of the pseudo-council of Pistoia condemned by Pope Pius VI in 1794. It is Modernism that has crafted the Novus Ordo Church and is found in its every breath, as it were, and the result is nothing but apostasy. Modernism attacks the very foundations of Catholicism, and even whatever truth may still be adhered to by those infected with Modernism, this truth is merely held by happenstance rather than as a necessary consequence of embracing Catholic principle.
“There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition”, warned Pope Leo XIII in 1896 (Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 9). And Pope Benedict XV also made clear: “Such is the nature of Catholicism that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole or as a whole rejected” (Encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum, n. 24).
How many today still hold the true, unchangeable Faith? How many would be recognized by Pope Pius XII as Catholics, if he were to come back to earth today?
Next, it is very interesting to see — again, about 40 years before Vatican II — Fr. Berry predicting, based on his reading of the Apocalypse, that the final battle against the Church and the papacy would be inaugurated by “apostate bishops, priests, and peoples”, which is, of course, exactly what happened, gradually during the first few decades of the twentieth century, especially during the waning days of the pontificate of Pius XII, then at the conclave of 1958, and finally at full speed during Vatican II and beyond.
Underscoring once more the seriousness and uniqueness of this final persecution of the Church and the Pope, Fr. Berry points out that neither the magnitude of the Arian crisis nor that of the Protestant Reformation could hold water to “the numbers seduced by Satan in the days of Antichrist.” In other words, whatever show the devil will put on, it’s going to be big and unlike anything that’s ever happened before.
“The powers of hell seek by all means to destroy the Pope elected in those days,” Fr. Berry predicts. And while he is thinking here of martyrdom, as per the context, why not dig a little deeper and consider that what is meant here is not merely the physical killing of the Pope. Throughout the Church’s history, Popes have died every few years, some of them of natural causes, some of them as martyrs during persecution, others killed by the people around them. Surely what the devil has in mind in his final battle isn’t simply killing one more Pope.
Rather, the ultimate plan would surely be a lot more sinister than that. In the Catholic Church, a dead Pope is quickly followed by a conclave and the election of a new Pope, so only little would be gained by the forces of hell if they were to simply put to death one more Pope. Fr. Berry explains that the “‘mystery of iniquity’ gradually developing through the centuries, cannot be fully consummated while the power of the Papacy endures.” So what’s a much more sinister and more lasting way to get rid not simply of the Pope but of the power of the Papacy?
Fr. Berry’s next observation sheds more light on this: “It is a matter of history that the most disastrous periods for the Church were times when the Papal throne was vacant, or when anti-popes contended with the legitimate head of the Church. Thus also shall it be in those evil days to come.” The worst of both of these scenarios would be that a legitimate Pope is elected but then suppressed, whereas a false claimant is put in his stead and presented to the world as the real Pope, when in fact he is an impostor. This suppression — not killing — of the true Pope would guarantee that the false claimant would be free from all interference by the Holy Ghost, who would prevent a true Pope from teaching heresy, promulgating an evil rite of Mass, invalid sacraments, etc. “The Church shall be in eclipse,” said Our Lady of La Salette, and a true Pope blocked by an impostor would fit the definition of “eclipse” very well. Moreover, the secret suprression of a true Pope would render almost impossible the election of a new one upon the former’s death, squaring very well with Fr. Berry’s point that “the Church will suffer great trials and afflictions in securing a successor upon the throne of Peter.”
There is some circumstantial evidence that such suppression of a validly-elected Pontiff is indeed what happened at the conclave of 1958 that was to choose a successor to Pope Pius XII. Most people do not know or remember this, but on October 26, 1958, the second day of the conclave, white smoke was visibly pouring from the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Radio announced that a Pope had been elected, and the Swiss guards were preparing to greet the new Pope. Yet, it was later announced that there had been a “mistake”, and balloting continued until October 28, when Cardinal Angelo Roncalli stepped out as (the putative) “Pope” John XXIII (see more information and video footage of this here). This is how the entire Vatican II revolution and the Novus Ordo Church began. Surely, this conclave, this watershed moment, bears deeper investigation.
Fr. Berry’s commentary on Chapter 12 of the Apocalypse is invaluable, especially since it was written so long before this whole Novus Ordo circus began.
Do we know what happened at the conclave of 1958? Not for sure, no. Do we know if there was a true Pope before John XXIII? Not for sure, no. Do we know who the true Pope is today, if there is one? No, we do not. But what we do know is that the Vatican II “Popes” are invalid and their religion is not Catholic and therefore false, with Francis being the lead example. This we prove throughout our web site in countless articles and blog posts.
The main point of this blog post, however, is to reassure the doubtful and help those who are looking for answers, that this entire Novus Ordo mess was predicted, in one way or another, and is entirely within the realm of God’s holy Providence. Just because we do not know exactly what happened or how, does not mean we cannot know that the Vatican II Church is bogus and its leaders aren’t true Popes. These are separate issues. But let all take comfort in the fact that this situation is by no means irreconcilable with the promises of Christ and has even been foretold and thus even, in a sense, expected.
We close with this last quote from Fr. Berry, which is as consoling as it is beautiful: “The Church deprived of her chief pastor must seek sanctuary in solitude there to be guided by God Himself during those trying days…. In those days the Church shall also find refuge and consolation in faithful souls, especially in the seclusion of the religious life.”
Let us pray that all people of good will shall be delivered from the great deception that is the Vatican II Church.
Behold, He had told it to us beforehand.
- Fr. Sylvester Berry (1927): “Satan Will Set Up a False Church”
- Mgr. Fulton J. Sheen on the Creation of a Counter-Church to deceive Mankind
- Fr. Herman Kramer (1956): If Satan could Hinder a Papal Election, Church would Suffer Greatly
- Fr. James O’Reilly on the Idea of a Long-Term Vacancy of the Holy See
- Ex-FBI Consultant: U.S. Intel Docs show Cardinal Siri elected Pope in 1958
- Now What? How to be a real Catholic today