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Chapter 28

The Deadly Wound Inflicted

 

"And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death" (Revelation 13:3). The fulfillment of this prophecy precisely coincided with a second prophetic utterance concerning this first beast of Revelation. ". . . and power was given unto him to continue forty and two months" (Revelation 13:5).

As we have seen in the pre-millennial prophecies of Daniel and Revelation, the literal numbers are always associated with a symbol (see chapter entitled "Time, Times and the Dividing of Time"). The term "months" is a symbol of 42 thirty-day months, the days being symbolic of years. Thus the Papacy was to rule Europe for 1260 prophetic days or literal years. That spiritual-temporal rule commenced, as we have shown, in 538. Thus, if this prophecy was to be proven valid, the apparent demise of the Papacy must occur in 1798.

Right on schedule that prophecy was fulfilled. On September 22, 1774 Pope Clement XIV died. Cardinal Giovanni Angelico Braschi was elected his successor in 1775. As Pope Pius VI, he was to preside over the receipt of the deadly wound. Born on December 27, 1717, the new pope was fifty-seven at the time of his election. He was to die August 29, 1799 at the age of 81, an exile and supposedly the last of the long line of popes.

Few know that this intelligent lawyer, trained by the Jesuits, was courting when Pope Benedict XIV offered him the post of canon in Rome, at a time when he was not a priest. Indeed it was not his intention to take holy orders. Far from it! He was engaged to be married. He weighed the conflicting options and decided to accept entry to the priesthood while his fianceé entered a convent. He eventually rose to the post of Papal Treasurer and was appointed a Cardinal in 1775 by his predecessor.

Pius’ twenty-four year reign was the culmination of a century of rapidly declining Vatican influence in Europe as the Papacy moved toward its inexorable demise. Throughout Europe fierce fires of anticlerical discontent were raging and the successive popes of the eighteenth century were impotent to quell these violent conflagrations.

Gone were the days when mighty potentates humbly suffered humiliation at the hands of popes. When King Henry IV of Germany displeased Pope Gregory VII in the eleventh century he was summarily excommunicated. In deep penitence, no doubt motivated by self-interest and fear of the loss of his temporal power, the king wended his way to Canossa in northern Italy to personally repent of his claimed misdeed before the Pope. Asserting the arrogance of the Papal court of the day, Pope Gregory left Henry in the snow for three days before deigning to have him ushered into his supposedly august presence.

Henry IV accepted the Dictatus papae issued by Gregory VII in 1075, which included the outrageous assumption of rule over Europe:

All matters affecting the well-being of the Christian commonwealth are to be finally decided by the Pope, who himself cannot be judged by anyone. (Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 17, p. 206, 1963 edition)

We wonder if he included God in this prohibition.

Further, the Dictatus papae declared that,

A council is ecumenical only if the Pope has summoned it or authorized its decrees; the pope alone may wear the imperial emblems and alone has the right to demand the osculatio pedum [kissing of the feet], he may dispose kings and emperors and princes and create new kingdoms; he alone is the universal bishop. (Ibid.)

While the popes of the eighteenth century may have lamented that they no longer possessed the powers of their eleventh century predecessors, prophecy had spoken and every year of this century took them one step closer to the deadly wound to be inflicted two years prior to that century’s close.

As Hagenbach stated,

Pope Pius VI, whom the changed times did not permit to summon heretical sovereigns to the threshold of the Apostolic church, was compelled—since all written attempts had failed—to use the last resort of a journey to Vienna, in the year 1782. An old man, of handsome appearance and form, and, though unhealthy, yet eloquent and gifted with a melodious voice, he was self-sufficient enough to suppose that important results could follow this journey. But he achieved no more than to be treated with great respect, and to leave behind with the people, on whom he had pronounced his blessing, an imposing impression. He did not rescue a single cloister whose downfall had been determined. (Karl Rudolf Hagenbach, History of the Church in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century, Scribner, New York, 1869, Vol. 2, p. 432)

On Pius’ own doorstep, Emperor Joseph II’s brother, Leopold, was the Grand Duke of Tuscany which included the city of Florence. He acted along similar lines to his imperial brother. So loathed was he by church dignitaries that Bishop Ricci, Bishop of Pistoia, called a synod in 1786 in which extreme positions were taken in opposition to the Duke. But eight years later Pius found it prudent to condemn the edicts of the 1786 synod.

Even worse, within his own clergy he saw the rise of Febronianism in Austria. This view had been enunciated by von Hontheim who wrote under the name of Febronius. His views cut at the very core of Papal power and prestige. He denied the universal preeminence of the Pope, stating that the Bishop of Rome was merely an equal among bishops. In the political sphere Febronius incited Roman Catholic monarchs to severely reduce Papal power.

When, in 1786, The Punctuation of Ems was issued, it was a serious blow to Pius VI’s control of his clergy. This document supported the ideals of Febronianism and was issued at the behest of three bishops who also ruled as princes in small territories—Mayence, Trèves, and Cologne.

To the south the Bourbon king of Naples added to Pius’ woes. King Ferdinand IV had married Maria Carolina, daughter of the powerful Queen Maria Theresa of Austria. Ferdinand’s queen possessed her mother’s genes; her ambition knew no bounds. She instigated the appointment of an Englishman, John Acton, with the rank of Minister. With Acton’s assistance Naples secured a rapprochement with two nations which were far from favored in the precincts of the Vatican—England and Austria.

These situations were daunting in themselves. But when on July 14, 1789, all hell broke loose in France—the "elder daughter" of the Roman Catholic Church—Pius’ fate was sealed, as atheism replaced Catholicism as the "faith" of the populace. Prelates, priests and Roman Catholic laity suffered under the revolutionary regime.

The fifth head of the beast was in its death throes and the sixth head, atheistic nationalism, was about to usurp its role as leader of the forces in opposition to God’s precious truth.

Meanwhile the bloody French Revolution decimated the clergy and religious orders of France, and Roman Catholic property was confiscated.

British peer, Baron Macauley, in his book the History of the Popes, published in 1846, well summed up the power of the atheistic movement generated in France in the eighteenth century:

Had the [atheistic] sect which was rising at Paris been a sect of scoffers, it is very improbable that it would have left deep traces of its existence in the institution and manners of Europe. Mere negation—mere Epicurian infidelity, as Lord Bacon most justly observes—has never disturbed the peace of the world. It furnishes no motive for action. It inspires no enthusiasm. It has no missionaries, no crusaders, no martyrs. If the Patriarch of the Holy Philosophical Church [Voltaire] had contented himself with making jokes about Saul’s asses and David’s wives, and, with criticizing the poetry of Ezekiel in the same narrow spirit in which he criticized that of Shakespeare, the [Roman Catholic] Church would have had little to fear. (p. 88)

Macauley perceptively isolated the genius which was to leave an indelible atheistic blot upon the entire map of Europe.

The real secret of their [the infidels’] strength lay in the truth which was mingled with their errors, and in the generous enthusiasm which was hidden under their flippancy. They were men who with all their faults, moral and intellectual, sincerely and earnestly desired the improvement of the condition of the human race. (Ibid.)

The injustices both instigated and tolerated by the Roman Catholic Church were to toll the Church’s own death knell in France and Continental Europe itself:

While they [the atheists] assailed Christianity with a rancor and an unfairness disgraceful to men who called themselves philosophers, they yet had, in far greater measure than their opponents, that charity towards men of all classes and races that Christianity enjoins. Religious persecution, judicial torture, arbitrary imprisonment, the unnecessary multiplication of capital punishments, the delays and chicanery of tribunals, the extractions of farmers of the revenue, slavery, the slave trade, were the constant subjects of their lively satire and eloquent disputations. (Ibid.)

The response of the Roman Catholic Church was not to repair injustices, but rather to use its authority against this dissent. Such a response was bound to prove ineffectual. The result of this pitiful tactic was the French Revolution.

Even among the clergy of France there were some who,

rejoicing in the new license, flung away their sacred vestments, proclaimed that their whole life had been an imposture, insulted and persecuted the religion of which they had been ministers, and distinguished themselves even in the Jacobin Club and the Commune of Paris, by the excess of their impudence and ferocity. (Ibid., p. 89)

Atheism spread from France all through Europe. Atheism—

became conqueror in its turn; and not satisfied with the Belgian cities, went raging over the Rhine and through the passes of the Alps. . . . Spain was now the obsequious vassal of the infidels. Italy was subjugated to them. (Ibid., pages 89, 90)

Thus the sixth head of the first beast of Revelation 13 spread throughout Europe and beyond. The deadly wound of the Papacy, inflicted because of its own folly, provided the opening that atheism and its incipient political arm, Communism, grasped to usurp the pathetically weakened Papal role, as chief opposition to the truth of God.

Macauley recognized that his age was still too close to that of the infliction of the deadly wound to trace the healing of that wound.

Some future historian. . . . will, we hope, trace the progress of the Catholic revival of the nineteenth century." (Ibid., p. 90)

In this book, written about 160 years later, we have attempted to address Baron Macauley’s desire. That revival has taken two centuries to reach its fast approaching prophetic climax.

Macauley made a comment, still valid today: he concluded that,

No [European] Christian nation which did not adopt the principles of the Reformation before the end of the sixteenth century [has ever] adopted them. Catholic communities since that time have become infidel [and we could add, Communist] and become Catholic again, but none has become Protestant. (Ibid., p. 91)

Lord John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton in his work, Lord Acton on the States of the Church had concluded that,

She [the Roman Catholic Church] had resisted the outward assault of the Protestant Reformation to be sapped by the Revolution which had its seat in Catholic countries, and extensively prevailed in the Church herself. The spirit of opposition to the Holy See grew in energy, and the opposition to its system and ideas spread still more widely. (reprinted 1940 by R.I. & F.E. Lally)

Lord Acton was not alone in drawing comparisons between the Reformation and the French Revolution as they impacted Rome. In a pointed statement in The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 4, p. 192, the American author Ellen Harmon White wrote in 1884,

Romanism had enjoined image worship; now [during the French Revolution] divine honors were paid to the vilest objects. The work which the papacy had begun, atheism completed. The one withheld from the people the truths of the Bible; the other taught them to reject both the Bible and its Author. The seed sown by priests and prelates was yielding its evil fruit.

The Reformation which had been crushed in France was, as a consequence, bearing its baneful fruits in the late eighteenth century.

King Louis XVI, soon to suffer the guillotine as a consequence of the Revolution, compliantly acceding to the demands of the revolutionaries, agreed to totally reorganize the Roman Catholic Church more to their liking.

Rome had not hitherto been confronted, without prior consultation, with anything like this entire reorganisation of the French Church, this turning of the hierarchy of her authority upside down, this spoliation presented as a fait accompli. It was more than even Pius VI, an elderly and conciliatory pontiff, whose reign came at the conclusion of a long period of decline in the power and prestige of Rome, was prepared to accept. On July 10, 1790, he wrote to Louis XVI telling him he should not approve the new laws. But the Pope’s letter arrived on July 23, and the King had [already] approved the Civil Constitution. (E. E. V. Hales, The Catholic Church in the Modern World, Hanover House, New York, 1958, pp. 37, 38)

With the rise to power of Napoleon Bonaparte, the cause of the Papacy worsened. Indeed, by 1797 Napoleon had determined to exterminate the Papal line.

One of the first measures of the new government [the Directory] was to despatch an order to Joseph Bonaparte at Rome, to promote, by all the means in his power, the approaching revolution in the papal states; and, above all things, to take care that, at the pope’s death [he was ill, 1797], no successor should be elected to the chair of St. Peter. (Archibald Alison, History of Europe, Harper, New York, 1852, Vol. 1, pp. 543, 544)

Napoleon counted on the ailing Pope’s death certificate to fulfill his termination of the Papacy. Since in 1797 the Pope was so gravely ill that his physicians confidently anticipated his death that year, Napoleon awaited his demise. The Jesuit priest and historian, Joseph Rickaby in his Lectures on the History of Religion stated that,

When in 1797, Pope Pius VI fell grievously ill, Napoleon gave orders that in the event of his death no successor should be elected to his office, and that the Papacy should be discontinued. (Catholic Truth Society, London, 1910, Vol. 3, Lecture 24, p. 1)

Contrary to all expectations Pius made a remarkable recovery. How accurately does Bible prophecy outline the future! Had Pius died in 1797 as expected, the 1260-year rule of the Papacy would have fallen short by one year. God does not deal in approximations in his prophecies.

With the recovery of the Pope, Napoleon lost patience. By 1798 he felt it was time for decisive action to implement his will, despite the the Pope’s compliance with the harsh treaty of Tolentino forced upon him by Napoleon in 1797.

General Berthier was chosen to lead what amounted to a coup d’etat. He entered Rome on February 10, 1798 and unilaterally proclaimed a Republic. The pontiff refused to recognize the declaration, a recognition which would have violated his oath of office. He firmly refused to resign his post.

That the head of the church might be made to feel more poignantly his humiliating situation, the day chosen for planting the tree of liberty on the capitol was the anniversary of his election to the sovereignty [Feb. 15]. Whilst he was according to custom, in the Sistine Chapel, celebrating his accession to the papal chair, and receiving the congratulations of the Cardinals, Citizen Haller, the commissary-general, and Cervoni, who then commanded the French troops within the city, gratified themselves in a peculiar triumph over this unfortunate potentate. During that ceremony they both entered the chapel, and Haller announced to the sovereign Pontiff on his throne, that his reign was at an end.

The poor old man seemed shocked at the abruptness of this unexpected notice, but soon recovered himself with becoming fortitude; and when General Cervoni, adding ridicule to oppression, presented him the national cockade, he rejected it with a dignity that shewed he was still superior to his misfortunes. At the same time that his Holiness received this notice of the dissolution of his power, his Swiss guards were dismissed, and Republican soldiers put in their place. (Richard Duppa, A Brief Account of the Subversion of the Papal Government, 1798, G. G. and J. Robinson, London, 1799, pp. 46, 47)

Duppa recorded the pitiful journeys of Pius from Rome to Valence.

The time, however, was arrived, when it became more desirable to send him [the Pope] entirely out of the way, in order that his effects might be disposed of with a better grace.

It was decreed that he should go; and on the morning of the 20th of February [1798], about seven o’clock, he left Rome, accompanied by three coaches of his own suite, and a body of French cavalry, to escort him safely into Tuscany; and on the 25th arrived at Siena, where he was requested to remain till further orders. Here he was received into the monastery of S. Barbara of the order of S. Augustin, whose members sorrowfully welcomed him at the gate, and offered all that their Convent could bestow, to console him under his misfortunes.

An earthquake having taken place at Siena in the month of May, the Pope was removed to a Carthusian Convent within two miles of Florence. . . .

He was suffered to remain in the Carthusian Convent until the 27th of March, 1799. He was then removed to Parma; from whence he was conducted to Briançon in France, and afterward to Valence, where he died on the 29th of August of the same year. (Ibid., pp. 50—54)

Thus had the deadly wound, long foretold, been inflicted upon a power thought at its zenith to be so powerful that no potentate, no general nor any force could remove it. Had such individuals valued Scripture, no such misapprehension could have been harbored.

Equally, those who in 1798 saw Pius’ unceremonious removal from office as the final chapter in Papal rule could never have validly held this mistaken view had they prayerfully studied Scripture, for it had unequivocally stated that following the receipt of the deadly wound,

and his deadly wound was healed; and all the world wondered after the beast. (Revelation 13:3)

No historian has better described the apparent death of the Papacy than George Trevor in his book, Rome: From the Fall of the Western Empire, stated,

The object of the French directory was the destruction of the pontifical government, as the irreconcilable enemy of the republic. . . . The aged pope [Pius VI] was summoned to surrender the temporal government; on his refusal, he was dragged from the altar. . . . His rings were torn from his fingers, and finally, after declaring the temporal power abolished, the victors carried the pope prisoner into Tuscany, whence he never returned (1798).

The Papal States, converted into the Roman Republic, were declared to be in perpetual alliance with France, but the French general was the real master at Rome. . . . The territorial possessions of the clergy and monks were declared national property, and their former owners cast into prison. (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1868, pp. 439, 440)

Thus 1,700 years after the apostle John, writing in exile on the Isle of Patmos, had foretold the infliction of the deadly wound upon the Papacy, the wound was inflicted precisely in the year indicated.

 


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