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The Apocalyptic Vision of “Lord of the World”

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Rev. C. John McCloskey - published on 05/31/15 - updated on 06/07/17

Much has been made of Benson’s prophetic insight in the novel, such as global air travel via airplane-like Volors and what we would today refer to as weapons of mass destruction, but to my mind most prophetic is how accurately he foresaw in the "Prologue" the political, religious, and ideological history of the world in our own time. The fictional 90-year-old Mr. Templeton recounts to the main protagonist of the book, Fr. Percy Franklin, what has transpired from 1904 up to our own time:

"Briefly," he said, "there are three forces–Catholicism, Humanitarianism, and the Eastern religions. About the third I cannot prophesy, though I think the Sufis will be victorious… But in Europe and America, there is no doubt that the struggle lies between the other two. We can neglect everything else. And, I think, if you wish me to say what I think, that, humanly speaking, Catholicism will decrease rapidly now. It is perfectly true that Protestantism is dead. Men do recognize at last that a supernatural Religion involves an absolute authority, and that Private Judgment in matters of faith is nothing else than the beginning of disintegration. And it is also true that since the Catholic Church is the only institution that even claims supernatural authority, with all its merciless logic, she has again the allegiance of practically all Christians who have any supernatural belief left. There are a few faddists left, especially in America and here; but they are negligible. That is all very well; but, on the other hand, you must remember that Humanitarianism, contrary to all persons’ expectations, is becoming an actual religion itself, though anti-supernatural. It is Pantheism; it is developing a ritual under Freemasonry; it has a creed, ‘God is Man,’ and the rest. It has therefore a real food of a sort to offer to religious cravings; it idealizes, and yet it makes no demand upon the spiritual faculties. Then, they have the use of all the churches except ours, and all the Cathedrals; and they are beginning at last to encourage sentiment. Then, they may display their symbols and we may not: I think that they will be established legally in another ten years at the latest.

"Now, we Catholics, remember, are losing; we have lost steadily for more than fifty years."

Ironically, Templeton identifies 1989 as the year of the acceptance of Karl Marx’s doctrines in Great Britain, while in reality that year signaled the largely total collapse of Communist rule throughout the world.

Now, of course, Msgr. Benson does not get everything "spot on," as he might have put it, but he certainly foresaw the worship of nature, the triumph of the machine, the rule by bureaucracy, the growing mass apostasy from Catholicism in the West, and the indifference to the worth of human life. Although birth control is not mentioned, the childless marriage of Oliver and Mabel Brand, the couple whose political and religious struggles are central in the novel, is clear evidence of its normalcy. The Culture of Death is omnipresent in the novel, particularly the universal availability of euthanasia. Chillingly in an early scene, the "ministers of Euthanasia" descend upon the survivors of a "Volor" crash in order to finish them off.

And, of course have not we all seen in recent time the rise of a political figure who seemed to rise from nowhere of whom the populace knows virtually nothing of his background, who upon his mysterious appearance on the world stage has been greeted both in the U.S. and abroad with adulation bordering on the Messianic and seems to be the first leader of "Globalization," attempting to eradicate the barrier between traditional nation states and with a social agenda regarding the Life issues that could not be more anti-Christian and with a clear animus against the Catholic Church?
I will stop here lest I ruin your enjoyment by revealing too much of the plot. Of course, every man faces the end of his world as he approaches his own death. As long as he possesses the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity, he has nothing to fear and everything to look forward to. When the Lord will come again has not been revealed; like death, we know neither the day nor the hour. God asks us to do our best to be in the "Friendship of Christ" (the title of another book by Msgr. Benson), providing us with all the graces we need, and our salvation will then be assured. And he calls us to bring as many people with us as possible.

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