The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Are these the End Times? Yes and No.

The current apocalyptic furor has numerous historical precedents.

"The Seventh Plague" (1823) by John Martin []

One of the more predictable byproducts of the coronavirus pandemic has been an uptick in apocalyptic warnings that the end of the world is at hand. The folks who send me emails announcing that covid-19 signals the arrival of End Times mean well, and their eagerness to spread the news is understandable. But they’re missing the point—two or three points, in fact.

The first is that Jesus himself discouraged this kind of speculation. In Matthew’s gospel it goes like this: “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but the Father only….Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come” (Mt 24:36, 42).

With that said, though, there really is a sense—point number two—in which we’re living in End Times. But there’s nothing new about that. For the End Times date back a good two thousand years—to the resurrection and ascension of Christ—and will continue until he comes again, whenever that may be. Meantime our only certainty is that each of us will be meeting Christ and rendering an account to him sooner than we probably expect.

The current apocalyptic furor has numerous historical precedents. People in earlier times reacted the same way to plagues and disasters. Now it’s the turn of the coronavirus. But—point number three—the real lesson of this pandemic isn’t that the End Times are here. Instead the pandemic is an especially graphic reminder that the human race is a global family, albeit a painfully fractured one, so that the right response to plagues and disasters is to seek divine assistance while simultaneously calling on the largely unrealized resources of human solidarity.

Popes have underlined the fundamental oneness of the human family often and forcefully. To take only one example among many, consider something Pope Pius XII, much maligned for supposed indifference to the Holocaust, said in his first encyclical.

The time was October, 1939, less than two months after the German invasion of Poland touched off World War II. The overriding cause of the tragic conflict then emerging, Pius XII wrote, was the repudiation of human solidarity so painfully visible in racism and exaggerated nationalism—an obvious reference to Nazi Germany and, to a lesser extent, Fascist Italy.

Deploring these “pernicious errors,” the Pope denounced “forgetfulness of that law of human solidarity and charity which is dictated and imposed by our common origin and by the equality of rational nature in all men, to whatever people they belong” as well as by the redemption of all by Christ. The Nazis knew Pius XII meant them, and he was on their enemies list from then on.

No doubt about it, the coronavirus pandemic is cause for concern. But people fretting about the End Times—and the rest of us, too—would do well to focus on another, even more threatening disaster now taking shape: the impending world food crisis in which it’s said as many as 230 million people—as usual, poor people in poor countries—could face starvation and death. Caritas Internationalis, the international federation of Catholic charities organizations, says this “aftershock of the pandemic” could prove to be “even more complicated and more deadly” than the impact of the virus itself.

America was slow in responding to the coronavirus, and people died as a result. Will we also be slow responding to this crisis? Here is a genuinely apocalyptic challenge to human solidarity that deserves our attention while there’s still time.

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About Russell Shaw 288 Articles
Russell Shaw was secretary for public affairs of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops/United States Catholic Conference from 1969 to 1987. He is the author of 20 books, including Nothing to Hide, American Church: The Remarkable Rise, Meteoric Fall, and Uncertain Future of Catholicism in America, Eight Popes and the Crisis of Modernity, and, most recently, The Life of Jesus Christ (Our Sunday Visitor, 2021).


  1. We do not know which particular hour(s), BUT we do know since the Incarnation/ Crucifixion/Resurrection/Pentecost that we are every day already in the ERA of the end times–with the verticality of God having interrupted the horizontality of human history.

    Searching for adequate words, von Balthasar even calls this disproportionate Encounter a “collision”. Christ is the center (!) of all human history, more than any episode on some rolling time line displayed in publishing-house text books.

    Not only St. Matthew, but also St. Paul: “These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom THE END OF THE AGES HAS COME” (1 Corinthians 10:11, caps added).

  2. Yes, Our Lord did say, “It is not for you to look at dates and times” at the Ascension but that was only to call the disciples to look to heavenly truths and not the earthly (Israel) kingdom. In the gospels he gives apocalyptic warnings in great detail and says, “I have told you these things in advance”. He did that for a reason : that it is something that we should consider as major doctrine of our faith. I personally find it inspiring that Jesus has the power to bring all things to an end and for right and wrong to be finally revealed – I just try to stay on the right side! I think the author has missed the point about the current stirrings about the “end time” : it is nothing to do with coronavirus (that’s just another plague); it is about the smoke of Satan entering the higher parts of the Church. Consider the German synod (‘There’s no difference between man and woman’, etc,etc) and all the enormous scandals that are ‘testing the faithful’. I think it is perfectly legitimate response to wonder about the end times and renew our efforts to be “on the watch”.

    • Good show Lionel:
      The main signs of the Second Coming of Christ is what happens in the Church. The new heretical Bible’s new protestant Sacraments. The horrific weather conditions are a reflection of the SINS of the Church and the World.
      One can NEVER prove the End is coming but the faithful will know better than to follow the AntiChrist.

  3. Thanks, not only do I feel rather depressed with the pandemic, but this author has now made me feel frightened. Thanks CWR for publishing this scaremongering article

    • Not only that, but there is an obvious lie about the USA reacting slowly to the pandemic. I touch on that in my comment below – that is, if it’s even allowed to see the light of day. I suspect not, since it looks like CWR is in bed with the leftists.

      • “since it looks like CWR is in bed with the leftists.”

        If by that you mean are we among the few who haven’t completely left our senses and who don’t make wild accusations, you might be on to something.

        Mr. Shaw’s opinion about Trump’s response is his opinion; we’ve had other opinion pieces state otherwise. CWR allows for debate and disagreement over such points. Personally, from what I know, I don’t agree with Shaw’s opinion on that particular point. For what it’s worth.

  4. Holy Smoke! Humorous allusion to heavenly incense. Satanic Smoke! Nauseating stench invading the nostrils of Paul VI. A great pope weakened by an avalanche of Modernist subterfuge, outright rage at times bewildered. Fought back with Humanae Vitae, rescinded hopelessly when Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle, socially progressive theologically conservative enforced and priests rebelled. God sent John Paul II to aright the listing Barque. Beaulieu and Hanaghan make solid points. Wherein lies the truth? Perhaps the median, often the best weather vane. An indicator is effect v pronounced intent. All moral acts must have both good intent and good object [act]. Aquinas adds they also must be ordered to a good effect [although unanticipated bad effect doesn’t disqualify a good act]. Take the current pontificate and we see much good intent, some not so, result a degree of ambiguity. Insofar as effect, Hanaghan pointedly considers the German synod, that there’s no difference between man and woman, all the enormous scandals. Unanticipated? Silence provokes complicity. After all Catholicism was invested by Christ with Apostolic leadership. Determinant in Peter. Polygonia finds its etymology in Amazonia. Laudato Si’s celebration now says global ecology is greater than the polygonic part. Although a polygonic heretic Church is a much larger untimely End.

  5. While it’s true that our global society is experiencing many of the same ills it has experienced throughout the centuries since The Fall, we must not lose sight of the fact that we at this time have the distinct benefit of “modern day” prophecies including those spoken by Our Blessed Mother at Fatima, Akita, and Kibeho, to name a few, as well as the locutions received by many modern day mystics and seers recognized by the Church, including Saint Padre Pio, not to mention the visionaries at Medjugorje and Garabandal, which although have not yet been approved by the Church, have not been dismissed, and have produced abundant fruit for the Glory of God’s Kingdom. These and countless other “revelations” all consistently point to the fact that we may indeed be in the “End Times”. Scripture tells us to “see and understand the signs of the times” and to “have flasks of oil ready for our lamps”. Our Lord told St. Faustina to “speak to the world about My mercy to prepare it for my second coming…” and “Before the Day of Justice, I am sending the Day of Mercy. I am prolonging the time of mercy for the sake of sinners, but woe to them if they do not recognize this time of My visitation.” It could be argued that the ills and abominations of our present day society have reached levels that are perhaps the worst the world has ever seen. This certainly holds true for Christian persecution which is bordering on genocide in parts of the Middle East and Africa, not to mention the mind-blowing extermination of the unborn which has reached unimaginable proportions over the last several decades, a scourge that Saint Mother Theresa told Congress would be the downfall of our country if it continued. Yes, one could argue as Mr Shaw has done, that there’s nothing “new” going on the world that hasn’t been seen before. That in itself, doesn’t postulate that we are not in the end times. I submit that the modern day prophecies coupled with with the severity of our present world’s societal ills, do indeed present strong evidence that we are indeed in the end times and therefore as our Lord warned us, should prepare by getting our “spiritual house” in order, and to await calmly, with firm faith and complete trust, His further instruction in carrying out His Holy Will for His greater glory as His divine plan unfolds.

  6. America was slow to respond to the ccv19?it was known and info suppressed in China in November and perhaps earlier,travel to the west uninterrupted and when it was finally admitted it was down played by The Party.When the President banned flights from China in January he was called all manor of names in the media and by the party that had been defeated in the last election.His timely action provided medical supplies and hospital beds that exceeded the need.His call for a return to normalcy was ignored,countered by additional quarantines,and subverted by the media and certain States
    The real pandemic we are facing in the USA is losing our freedom.of life,liberty and religious persecution

  7. For me, personally, the talk about The Last Days is much ado about nothing. It’s a distraction. All of us are in our personal Last Days from the moment of birth. It is only by God’s grace that we awake to a new day and there is no promise that we will see another. As Mr Hanaghan points out “I just try to stay on the right side”!

  8. A good priest in my earlier life said that every one of us will see the end of the world. Because we all die! That is the “end of the world” we should concentrate on, for it is the time we have left that we ought to reach towards God with our spirituality and our interactions with each other. We are not in management, God is. We are in sales!!

  9. I have a question that has been bothering me since this lockdown started and that is, “Do you think Almighty God could be using this lockdown to get us ready for the three days of darkness?

  10. Let’s be clear – America, least of all, President Trump – was NOT slow in our response to the coronavirus. Need I remind everyone that our great President was going through a fake impeachment designed to remove him from office? Apparently, I do.
    The moment he stopped travel from China, while both the WHO & China itself were lying & covering up the scope of the virus, he was derided as “xenophobic”. Then the left started saying he didn’t do it fast enough. STOP with the lies already. President Trump, while not being PERFECT in his response – much of it due to getting poor info from so-called “experts” & the WHO/China liars – did what he could with the info he had. Are you at CWR also on board with the leftist lies? If so, please stop drinking the rotten Koolaid. Thank you.

    • If you are looking for an anti-Christ then look no further than Trump – it isn’t about right or left, it’s about humanity. He has represents the very lowest qualities, utterly self-centered, narcissistic, racist, misogynistic and corrupt – the antithesis of the qualities of Jesus. And yet he plays well to his base, to your weak-spots, to your own personal agendas, so you conveniently manage to stay blind to what is glaringly obvious. He has sought to create division, stirred up tensions and brought out the worst in America. Will you fooled by a photo op of him holding a bible that he doesn’t even read from after the path to a church that doesn’t want him is cleared by tear gas? Please rub your eyes and see clearly who you are supporting, or walk blindly into fascism.

  11. I see BBC comments from the British about how slow their government was to enact lockdowns and how it caused more people to die.
    Sweden took an entirely different course.

    No one really knows what the best plan is and I doubt we’ll have a real picture of what’s worked best for a couple years.
    Hindsight is always 20/20 but I think it’s too early yet for hindsight.

  12. Compared to Mr. Shaw’s previous offering, this piece is relatively good. The notion, though, that a nation with borders as porous as America’s could have prevented the deaths we are experiencing so far is laughable. Given the situation, it was inevitable that this virus would hit the US and spread rapidly. Certain measures, such as the foreign travel ban, helped somewhat and should have been taken earlier. I wonder if that is type of step Mr. Shaw favored. What is becoming glaring obvious, is that the societal lockdown strategy was, to put it mildly, misconceived and should have been abandoned weeks ago. In Ohio, to give one example, nursing home patients account for 70% of deaths attributed to the Wuhan virus. Suspending religious services, wrecking the economy and causing massive social disruption, when more targeted measures could have been taken, were totally without justification.

  13. This is a weak and disappointing article, based on a faulty premise in an attempt to distract from the serious problems facing the church and the world. No thank you, church of nice.

  14. America wil not be slow in it’s response. Unfortunately, the catholic charities no longer respond to the cries of the poor, engaging instead in “social” justice, while CRS, for example, which claims to be helping the poor worldwide, is teaming up with Bill Gates Foundation and other “non-profits” to peddle contraception and abortion in third world countries, because nothing says “I help the poor” like encouraging them to kill their offspring…

  15. It definitely looks like we are living in the end times and not just from the Christian perspective. Here is the sequence of events from the perspective of different religions and they all seem to match our current situation:

  16. I do agree that the Blessed Mother has sent messages so that we can prepare spiritually. Any Christian who states that things have the potential to go back to normal is either delusional or in denial. We should be more concerned about the salvation of our souls instead of following fake news: “don’t wear a mask” oh no! It’s a deadly virus “wear a mask”. The only one we can now trust is the one who said “I am the way, the truth & the light.”

    • I’m seeing a lot of fellow Catholics following in the footsteps of Trump. I find it disheartening knowing that by accounts he is an enemy to Jesus and what Jesus stands for. If members of our church truly support Mr. Trump our church is lost in this country. I pray for its survival around the world.

      • “…. that by accounts”? Well, sure, by some accounts.

        Not to defend (or demean) Trump, but maybe you need to read a bit more widely?

      • Does the
        U.S. Government, FEMA and other World Governments take the
        “Rapture” doctrine Seriously, do they take Bible Prophecy Seriously ? What Emergency Plans does
        FEMA and the U.S. Government have in Place if the Rapture Happens and countless Hundreds of Millions or Billions of Christians suddenly vanish into thin air and are “beamed up” as they say in
        Star Trek, what Emergency Plans are in place for those who are
        “Left Behind”
        Ever hear of something called
        Project Blue Beam ? Not to be confused with Project Blue Book

  17. Don’t forget. Christ also told His apostles in Luke 21:25a, “There will be signs in the sun, the moon, and the stars……………”

    Christ was surely referring to SOMETHING meaningful here, wasn’t He?

  18. I, think we have about 10,500 years until the end of the world. The, book of Revelation speaks of this time as the one who”was, and is not”. It, says this in PAST TENSE. A, priest said sometimes the bible lays out like a conversation that kind of jumps around from here to there, not always in sequencial order of events, and later througout the stuff things make sense. It, seems there is a kind of meeting between so much stuff and universes and our own and Earth, kind of like the beginning of creation before we all got together, hung out for maybe 1,000,000 years or something and started messing up, and God said, ” you guys can’t hang out anymore”. It’s, almost like we all got another chance, but bad people have been messing it up doing all these evils. I, wish we had millions of years to experience everything God created for us. I, think what we’re in the process of doing right now is getting rid of the evils were doing, and I think we’ll have about 10,000 years of peace. Maybe, that’s represented by the 144,000( I can’t remember the exact number). I, imagine Popes and others educated in biblical history, history, past events, current and future projected events, and science could probably get a rough idea of when we can expect God to wrap things up. I, think things have presently been “delayed”, as far as the end of the world goes, because we have so many special people during these present days around the world helping us, making sure we and others in the universes and worlds God created get a chance. I, think God loves us and everyone in the universe and universes wants everyone to have and enjoy life as much as possible. It’s, just a hard time right now, because everyone has to fight back to make sure we get our period of peace and get the devil out of here for a while. It’s, a nice though to think God cares so much about a simple 10,000 year period of peace when our universe alone has been around for such a long time. I, wish we had millions of years left to experience and enjoy all the wonderful things God has created people don’t ever think about too much, but are so much of our technologies source. I, should be more grateful for God Shari g so much with me. I’m, often bitter with all the evil I experience in daily life, but we’re kind of in a twoo hundred year battle, or so all around the world to ensure everyone gets to enjoy just a little bit of beauty throughout creation. It, seems the most innocent people these days are suffering most, but there’s still a period of peace coming before people really mess things up for Gods people. Today’s, times are kind of the devil’s “trial run”, and practice, but please know, we already won, spoiled the devil’s plan. We’re, fighting back and we will have the peace God promised.

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