PROVIDENCE, R.I. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Yet another bishop is warning that the proverbial end times may be near.
Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island is telling sinful mankind to read the signs of the times and then to get their spiritual affairs in order. On Thursday, Tobin suggested in a tweet that several natural and manmade disasters may be signs of "the end times." He then advises, "We'd better return to God. Now. Just in case."
I don't subscribe to dire forecasts of the end times, but with horrible wildfires out West, tropical storms in the ocean, widespread drought, a global pandemic, political division, and anger in the streets, one has to wonder. We'd better return to God. Now. Just in case.— Bp. Thomas Tobin (@ThomasJTobin1) Aug. 20, 2020
Tobin is but the latest prelate to weigh in on the "end times" scenario. As early as 1946, Abp. Fulton Sheen was speaking of an apocalyptic crisis fast approaching the Catholic Church. Sheen predicted the Devil would attempt to counterfeit the Church:
He will deceive even the elect. He will set up a counter church which will be the ape of the Church because he, the Devil, is the ape of God. It will be the mystical body of the Antichrist that will, in all externals, resemble the Church as the mystical body of Christ.
Instead of looking to natural disasters as a sign of impending doom, prelates are keying in on the developing Church crisis as a bellwether that seemingly lends credence to Tobin's insights. Catholics who think this is an over-the-top discussion may be surprised to learn that this eschatological topic is covered in the Church's official Catechism of the Catholic Church ("the Catechism").
The archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands pointed out the inclusion of this apocalyptic topic in the Catechism with a letter he penned in May 2018, which was featured in the National Catholic Register.
In the letter, Cdl. Willem Eijk lamented the then-failure by Pope Francis of forbidding German bishops from distributing Holy Communion to Protestants. He likewise warned of "cardinals who publicly propose to bless homosexual relationships."
Eijk said that the allowance of widespread attacks on the "Deposit of Faith contained in Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture" make him believe the Church is nearing her "ultimate trial" involving a worldwide loss of faith.
Before Christ's second coming, the Church must pass through a final trial that will shake the faith of many believers. The persecution that accompanies her pilgrimage on earth will unveil the "mystery of iniquity" in the form of a religious deception offering men an apparent solution to their problems at the price of apostasy from the truth.
A U.S. prelate also spoke of an impending apostasy when viewing the plight of Catholics in China's underground Catholic Church as well as those Catholics who are struggling to keep the Catholic faith in the Amazonian region. In July 2019, Bp. Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas took Church leaders to task for their questionable role in both regions.
"China and Amazonia are half a world apart but the Vatican seems to have both regions on the same path to apostasy," Strickland tweeted.
The Catechism in article 675 references "Antichrist" while citing 2 Thessalonians 2, in which St. Paul identifies the "man of sin," who comes in the wake of a great "revolt" from Catholic teaching and practice.
Article 677 of the Catechism further speaks of a great persecution accompanying this widespread revolt from the Faith: "The Church will enter the glory of the kingdom only through this final Passover when she will follow her Lord in His death and Resurrection."
This section of the Catechism concludes, "God's triumph over the revolt of evil will take the form of the Last Judgment after the final cosmic upheaval of this passing world."
Another prelate to speak of this final conflict within the Church was whistleblower Abp. Carl Maria Viganò (while still the papal nuncio to the United States). Pope Francis shocked Viganò in June 2013 by waving off massive sex abuse allegations against former cardinal Theodore McCarrick.
In November of that year, Viganò addressed the U.S. bishops at their fall general assembly with words that seemed to echo Sheen's warning from decades earlier. Viganò, then-nuncio, quoted a 1976 address given by Pope John Paul II to U.S. bishops shortly before his election to the papacy. Viganò stated:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has ever experienced. I do not think that the wide circle of the American society, or the whole wide circle of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-church, between the gospel and the anti-gospel, between Christ and the Antichrist. The confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is, therefore, in God's plan, and it must be a trial which the Church must take up and face courageously.
Among the various prelates who also have looked on the confusion within the Church as a sign that the "end times" are drawing nigh is Cdl. Raymond Burke, former head of the Vatican's highest court. During a 2017 interview with the Catholic Herald, Burke diagnosed the violence in the world and the confusion among Church leaders as "apocalyptic."
"In that sense, one may have the feeling that the Church gives the appearance of being unwilling to obey the mandates of Our Lord," he said, adding, "Then perhaps we have arrived at the end times."
Burke was expounding on comments he made at a Fatima conference in July 2017. There, he recounted a young priest asking him, "Cardinal, do you think that we are in the end times?"
"I did not hesitate to respond: 'It may be so.'" he said.