“I saw also the relationship between two popes … I saw how baleful would be the consequences of this false church. I saw it increase in size; heretics of every kind came into the city of Rome. The local clergy grew lukewarm, and I saw a great darkness…
“I had another vision of the great tribulation. It seems to me that a concession was demanded from the clergy which could not be granted. I saw many older priests, especially one, who wept bitterly. A few younger ones were also weeping. But others, and the lukewarm among them, readily did what was demanded. It was as if people were splitting into two camps.”
“I see the Holy Father in great anguish. He lives in a palace other than before and he admits only a limited number of friends near him. I fear that the Holy Father will suffer many more trials before he dies.
“I see that the false Church of darkness is making progress and I see the dreadful influence it has on the people. The Holy Father and the Church are verily in so great a distress that one must implore God night and day…”
So what does the text of this particular vision actually say? I think it’s important to read the whole chapter. (There are no line breaks in the original text, but I’ve inserted some for readability. The emphasis has also been added):
MARY OF THE ROTUNDA AND THE CHAPEL OF THE PROTESTANT EMBASSY, AT ROME May 13, 1820
“Last night, from eleven to three, I had a most wonderful vision of two churches and two Popes and a variety of things, ancient and modern. I shall relate, as well as I can, all that I remember of it. My angel guardian came and told me that I must go to Rome and take two things to the Pope, but I cannot now recall what they were— perhaps it is the Will of God that I should forget them. I asked my angel how I could make so long a journey, sick as I was. But when I was told that I should make it without difficulty, I no longer objected. An odd-looking vehicle appeared before me, flat and slight, with only two wheels, the flooring red with white edges. I saw no horses. I was gently lifted and laid on it and, at the same instant, a snow-white, luminous child flew toward me and seated himself at my feet. He reminded me of the Patience child in green, so sweet, so lovely, and perfectly transparent. He was to be my companion, he was to console and take care of me. The wagon was so light and smooth that at first I was afraid of slipping off; but it began to move very gently of itself without horses, and I saw a shining human figure going on ahead.
The journey did not seem long, although we crossed countries, mountains, and great waters. I knew Rome the instant we reached it, and I was soon in the presence of the Pope. I know not now whether he was sleeping or praying, but I had to say two things to him, or give him two things, and I shall have to go to him once again to announce a third. Then I had a wonderful vision. Rome suddenly appeared as in the early ages, and I saw a Pope (Boniface IV) and an emperor whose name I knew not (Phocas). I could not find my way in the city, all was so different, even the sacred ceremonies; but yet I recognized them as Catholic. I saw a great round building like a cupola— it was a pagan temple full of beautiful idols. It had no windows, but in the dome was an opening with a contrivance for keeping out the rain. It seemed as if all the idols that ever existed were gathered together there in every conceivable posture. Many of them were very beautiful, and others exceedingly odd; there were even some of geese which received divine honor. In the center of the building stood a very high pyramid formed entirely of those images. I saw no idolatrous worship at the time of which I speak, although the idols were still carefully preserved. I saw messengers from Pope Boniface going to the emperor and petitioning for the temple to be changed into a Christian church. I heard the latter declaring distinctly that the Pope should allow the ancient statues to remain, though he might erect therein the Cross to which the highest honors should be paid. This proposal, as it seemed to me, was made not wickedly, but in good faith.
I saw the messengers return with the answer and Boniface reflecting as to how he might in some measure conform to the emperor’s will. While he was thus deliberating, I saw a good, pious priest in prayer before the crucifix. He wore a long white robe with a train, and an angel hovered by his side. Suddenly he arose, went straight to Boniface, and told him that he should by no means accede to the emperor’s proposal. Messengers were then dispatched to the emperor, who now consented to the temple’s being entirely cleared. Then I saw his people come and take numbers of the statues to the imperial city; but still many remained in Rome. Then I saw the consecration of the temple, at which ceremony the holy martyrs assisted with Mary at their head. The altar was not in the center of the building, but against the wall. I saw more than thirty wagon-loads of sacred relics brought into the church. Many of them were enclosed in the walls and others could be seen through round openings covered with something like glass.
When I had witnessed this vision even in the smallest details, I saw again the present Pope and the dark church of his time in Rome. It seemed to be a large, old house like a town hall with columns in front. I saw no altar in it, but only benches, and in the middle of it something like a pulpit. They had preaching and singing, but nothing else, and only very few attended it. And lo, a most singular sight! Each member of the congregation drew an idol from his breast, set it up before him, and prayed to it. It was as if each man drew forth his secret thoughts or passions under the appearance of a dark cloud which, once outside, took some definite form. They were precisely such figures as I had seen around the neck of the illicit bride in the Nuptial House, figures of men and animals. The god of one was short and broad with a crisp head and numerous, outstretched arms ready to seize and devour all in its reach; that of another was quite small with miserable, shrunken limbs; another had merely a block of wood upon which he gazed with rolling eyes; this one had a horrible animal; that one, a long pole. The most singular part of it was that the idols filled the place; the church, although the worshippers were so few, was crowded with idols. When the service was over, everyone’s god re-entered into his breast. The whole church was draped in black, and all that took place in it was shrouded in gloom.
Then I saw the connection between the two Popes and the two temples. I am sorry that I have forgotten the numbers, but I was shown how weak the one had been in adherents and human support, but how strong in courage to overturn so many gods (I knew the number) and to unite so many different forms of worship into one; and, on the contrary, how strong in numbers and yet how irresolute in action was the other since, in authorizing the erection of false temples, he had allowed the only true God, the only true religion to be lost among so many false gods and false religions.
It was also shown me that those pagans humbly adored gods other than themselves, and that they would have been willing to admit in all simplicity the only God, the Most Holy Trinity. Their worship was preferable to that of those who adore themselves in a thousand idols to the total exclusion of Our Lord. The picture was favorable to the early ages, for in them idolatry was on the decrease, while in our days it is just the contrary. I saw the fatal consequences of this counterfeit church; I saw it increase; I saw heretics of all kinds flocking to the city. 2 I saw the ever-increasing tepidity of the clergy, the circle of darkness ever widening.
And now the vision became more extended. I saw in all places Catholics oppressed, annoyed, restricted, and deprived of liberty, churches were closed, and great misery prevailed everywhere with war and bloodshed. I saw rude, ignorant people offering violent resistance, but this state of things lasted not long. Again I saw in vision St. Peter’s undermined according to a plan devised by the secret sect while, at the same time, it was damaged by storms; but it was delivered at the moment of greatest distress. Again I saw the Blessed Virgin extending her mantle over it.
In this last scene, I saw no longer the reigning Pope, but one of his successors, a mild, but very resolute man who knew how to attach his priests to himself and who drove far from him the bad. I saw all things renewed and a church which reached from earth to Heaven. I saw one of the twelve new apostles in the person of the young priest whom the unchaste bride wanted to marry. It was a very comprehensive vision and portrayed anew all that had been previously shown me regarding the Church’s destiny. On another occasion, I had a vision of the Vicar-General’s stanch resistance to secular power in behalf of the interests of the Church. The affair covered him with glory, 3 though upon some other points he was to blame. I was told that I should have to go again to the Pope; but when all this will take place I cannot say.”
Schmoger, Very Rev. K. E.. Life and Revelations of Anne Catherine Emmerich Volume 2 (with Supplemental Reading: A Brief Life of Christ) [Illustrated] (Kindle Locations 3740-3797). TAN Books. Kindle Edition.
On reopening the case, Paul VI finally made public the reasons for the 1928 reponatur: concerns about Emmerich’s chastity and the Brentano writings. The Pope declared that the first factor no longer applied, since studies had shown that the charges against Emmerich’s chastity were mere slanders. The only obstacle to be tackled now, according to the Pontiff, was Brentano’s writings. That any of the Roman authorities had ever had a problem with the writings came as a great shock to theological experts, since for over a century they had been recommended by an unending list of holy priests, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even by the now St. John Neumann.[…]
In the reopened case, the Brentano writings are a moot point. Since Brentano wrote Emmerich’s visions down, and not Emmerich herself, they cannot technically be considered Emmerich’s writings. They therefore bear no positive or negative weight in the case. Critics of this decision must remember that the experts involved in the process are just that — well-experienced experts in the field of beatification and canonization affairs. They are following stringent and accepted rules. This should be realized before criticizing the behavior of the sacred congregation involved in the case. By excluding the writings, they were, however, by no means condemned. On the contrary, all the Brentano Emmerich works have been recently re-published in Germany. In excluding them from the official case, the experts are merely following a former decision made in 1916 during the positio super scriptis, which was reaffirmed by the Congregation of Rites on May 18, 1927.
From a comparative philological and literary view, the contention that Brentano “fabricated almost all” the Emmerich material is exaggerated and false. Editorial work there certainly was, but Brentano’s accounts agree with the basic picture of Emmerich found in the firsthand written accounts of Dr. Franz Wilhelm Wesener (Emmerich’s medical doctor) and author Luisa Hensel. Moreover, as the internationally renowned and critically reserved Germanist Dr. Anton Brieger states, the Emmerich visions recorded by Brentano have all the marks of a woman’s psychology and a feminine attention to detail. Additionally, Fr. Joseph Adam, the author of Emmerich’s new officialpositio accepted by the Roman authorities, has demonstrated that the former charges made by Fr. Winfried Humpfner (whose activities led to the 1928 reponatur), namely that Brentano was guilty of wholesale fabrication, were “rabid attacks” against a pious Catholic, and were furthermore “hard and pre-emptory.” Although recognizing at times their problematic nature and that they were adapted and edited, Adam nevertheless characterizes the Brentano Emmerich writings as exhibiting simultaneously “a deep piety and a solid ecclesiastical spirit.”
I mention this first to dispel the inevitable objections that Brentano “made up” the visions. (The criticism of historical errors is also addressed in the Wanderer article, so I recommend the full text to those who want to know more.)
Second, I bring this to your attention because it appears, based on the parentheticals in the above-cited vision, that it is Brentano who has worked out that the first pope in Sister Emmerich’s vision was Pope St. Boniface IV. For it was Boniface IV who, in the early 7th century, collaborated with the Byzantine emperor Phocas to Christianize that famous Roman temple devoted to a plethora of pagan gods (known as the Pantheon) by converting it into a Catholic church and renaming it Santa Maria ad Martyres. (If you want to have some fun with dates, Sister Emmerich’s vision of this event happened on the 1,211th anniversary of the consecration of the Church — both events occurring on May the 13th. This date is, of course, now most strongly associated with the first apparitions of Our Lady at Fatima.)
This means that the first of the “two popes” in Sister Emmerich’s famous vision is Pope St. Boniface IV, who brought about the conversion of the pagan temple used for idolatry to a Christian edifice intended for the worship of the True God.
His example, therefore, serves as the contrast against which the other pope can be evaluated; this latter pope who is unnamed and unrecognized, who presides over a Catholic church wherein idol worship (and self-worship) are practiced, thus reversing the accomplishments of Pope Boniface. Sister Emmerich speaks of this latter pope as “the present Pope and the dark church of his time in Rome.” One wonders about the use of the word “present,” since it is unlikely she was speaking of the servant of God, Pope Pius VII, who was the reigning pontiff at the time of her vision. (His cause for canonization was advanced, in fact, by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.)
One has the impression, reading her words, that these visions were such a regular occurrence for Sister Emmerich that the tenses she used could be misleading, inasmuch as she saw so many things outside of her present time. For example, she speaks of the “present pope”, but then lapses into the past tense when referring to the outcome of his failures: “I saw the fatal consequences of this counterfeit church; I saw it increase; I saw heretics of all kinds flocking to the city. I saw the ever-increasing tepidity of the clergy, the circle of darkness ever widening.”
It is my contention — and I’m open to correction on this — that Sister Emmerich’s vision of the false dark Church and the pope who oversaw it was a prophetic vision; whereas the actions of Pope St. Boniface IV was a vision of the past. The relationship, then, of “the two popes” was not a relationship between two contemporaries, but two historical bookends, as it were, held apart by centuries: the pope who Christianized the most notable symbol of the pagan world, and the pope who would subsequently paganize the Catholic Church, thus reversing his sainted predecessor’s gains.
In sum, I do not believe it can be argued that Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s vision of the two popes applies to the relationship between Pope Benedict and Pope Francis; this is a misreading based on missing context and wishful thinking.
Whether the pope who reigns over the false dark Church is Pope Francis, or some future successor, remains open to interpretation and debate — but one could, without great effort, make the case that these two sections of her prophetic vision apply rather startlingly to our present day, from the implications of uncritical ecumenism and interfaith gatherings to the celebration of the Protestant Reformation by Rome to the admission of communion to Lutherans to the nearly certain infiltration of the Church by Freemasons and Communists alike:
I was shown how weak the one had been in adherents and human support, but how strong in courage to overturn so many gods (I knew the number) and to unite so many different forms of worship into one; and, on the contrary, how strong in numbers and yet how irresolute in action was the other since, in authorizing the erection of false temples, he had allowed the only true God, the only true religion to be lost among so many false gods and false religions.
I saw in all places Catholics oppressed, annoyed, restricted, and deprived of liberty, churches were closed, and great misery prevailed everywhere with war and bloodshed. I saw rude, ignorant people offering violent resistance, but this state of things lasted not long. Again I saw in vision St. Peter’s undermined according to a plan devised by the secret sect while, at the same time, it was damaged by storms; but it was delivered at the moment of greatest distress. Again I saw the Blessed Virgin extending her mantle over it.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.