The Dispatch: More from CWR...

Confessions of an anti-Catholic antichrist

Writing a first-person perspective novel on the antichrist is a clever and intriguing idea, but Addison Hodges Hart, a former Catholic, persistently imposes upon the lips of the characters his own grievances and objections against the Catholic Church.

Did you know the Catholic Church has officially ruled that we’re not to try and fix a date for the arrival of the antichrist? The decree was composed in 1516, at the Fifth Lateran Council, under Pope Leo X. It says: “We command all those who exercise the function of preaching or will do so in the future, not to presume, either in their sermons or in their affirmations, to fix a date for future evils, whether for the coming of Antichrist or for the Day of Judgment.”

That certainly hasn’t stopped the figure of the antichrist and his war on the Church filling the imagination and moving the pen of popes like St. Pius X in his first encyclical, or St. John Paul II when still cardinal, saints, mystics, theologians, and novelists down the centuries. Confessions of the Antichrist, by Addison Hodges Hart, is among the latest additions to a well-established genre of dystopian, antichrist literature.

Author with an axe to grind?

However, Confessions of the Antichrist bears little resemblance to more established and respected literature. Published at the start of this year, it reads as a vehicle for the author to vent his spleen, through the plot and characters in the novel.

It’s generally considered poor form to embark on ad hominem critiques, but the figure of the author is relevant. Addison Hodges Hart was an Anglican clergyman who joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1997, and was ordained to the priesthood. However, in 2011, he left the Catholic Church.

In a sort of ‘departing note’ in the form of a blog comment left on his brother’s blog (also an Anglican clergyman) on new year’s eve 2011, he dismisses the dogma of papal infallibility as an invention; rejects the eucharistic dogma of Transubstantiation as an “illusion” and “scholastic nonsense”; the Immaculate Conception of Mary as an “unnecessary and unverifiable belief, if ever there was one;” and also rejects her bodily assumption into Heaven. For Hart, “Anglicanism is doctrinally sound and blessed with great forms of worship. Rome is neither.” His note drew the attention of priest and blogger Fr. John Zuhlsdorf.

Writing a first-person perspective novel on the antichrist is a clever and intriguing idea, but is obscured and never reaches fruition, because Hart persistently imposes upon the lips of the characters his own grievances and objections against the Catholic Church.

The antichrist

The antichrist is no myth or literary device. The Catechism of the Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Catholic Church both teach us that the antichrist is a real person who will herald a final persecution of the Church, and an apostasy under the guise of a pseudo-messianism and religious deception.

Biblically, parallels are drawn between the beasts and horns in the prophecy of Daniel 7, and those seen in Apocalypse 13. Then there’s several references to antichrists in the epistles of St. John. The writings of the church fathers are also awash with speculation, predictions, and biblical extrapolation on the antichrist.

In May 2020, the antichrist received a mention in an interview style biography of retired pontiff Benedict XVI, written by collaborator Peter Seewald:

“Modern society is in the process of formulating an ‘anti-Christian creed,’ and resisting it is punishable by social excommunication. The fear of this spiritual power of the Antichrist is therefore only too natural, and it truly takes the prayers of a whole diocese and the universal Church to resist it,” said Benedict.

Hart’s Satan

The main character in the novel, Mr. President, is a former chief of the World Bank turned secretary general of the UN turned two-time president of the US. Satan has been hanging around for centuries disguised as a cardinal, grooming Mr. President to be the antichrist. Satan has him kidnapped by Vic (Mr. President’s barber who is really a senior clergyman and disciple of Satan), and brought to his secret lair, and sets out his motives and plan with the final decision to take up the role or not, left to Mr. President.

In Hart’s novel, Satan has been living within the Catholic Church for centuries, calling himself Cardinal Fieropasto (Italian for ‘vicious meal’, and found in canto 33 of Dante’s Inferno). The Church hierarchy, once it realized who Cardinal Fieropasto really was, decided to “shield one of their own.” Satan is now a “respected” cardinal, which is a “matter of ongoing acceptance, concealment, and even amusement” among the cardinals.

Hart tells us that Satan has kept the hierarchy at bay for the last 500 years, “tied up with matters of theology and canon law and preoccupied with its own survival,” rather than Jesus’ true teachings, which read like a tired anti-Catholic trope used by any number of Protestant start-ups. The antichrist-designate ponders and reinforces Satan’s boast: theology exists to get around the sticky problem of Jesus’ teaching, he says to himself.

In other parts of the novel, there appear subtle insights into the deceptiveness of evil. For example, Cardinal Fieropasto (a.k.a. Satan), holds forth on his views of Jesus as intriguing, admirable, a messiah figure he wanted to help with his triple temptation in the desert, but ultimately a figure of ineptitude with high ideals which have proved impractical and soppy. With the preparation and appointment of the antichrist, Cardinal Fieropasto wants to give the world the true peacemaker-savior, who rules with power and governance, rather than the sentimental ideals of Jesus.

However, wicked cardinals on the side of Satan, recourse to Christ’s temptation in the desert, and a supposed desire for a universal kingdom of peace all bear a striking similarity to Dostoyevsky’s grand inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov. The grand inquisitor (generally a bishop or cardinal, with the most famous being a Dominican friar) has Jesus arrested, put on trial and berated for refusing the temptations of Satan in the desert. The inquisitor then confesses that ‘they’ (the leaders of the Church) have been on the side of Satan for eight centuries, accepting the triple offer which Jesus rejected, with the ultimate aim of a universal kingdom of peace. Coincidence with Hart’s portrayal?

Hart redeems Satan and the masons?

In a disturbing, but clearly theologically motivated move, Hart gives the reader something of a detailed explanation of Origen’s writing on apocatastasis, specifically an understanding of salvation that would include the restoration and salvation of Satan and the devils. Scholars still debate whether or not Origen held this view.

For Hart, the Catholic Church, in the person of Dominican Br. Antonine rejects this idea, as it proposes an “absolutely all-merciful deity” and doesn’t appreciate where God’s love ends, which would be problematic for the Catholic Church, apparently.

However, in this novel Jesus agrees with author Hart. In the closing chapter, Hart, speaking to us through Jesus, tells us that at the Second Coming, Jesus is going to be the “tempter” of Satan and offer him the chance of redemption, whom he refers to as “the prodigal.” All this is weird, and done to push a theological agenda, but comes as little surprise.

Addison Hodges Hart is no other than the brother of David Bentley Hart, perhaps the leading universalist theologian in the world, and author of That All Shall Be Saved: Heaven, Hell, and Universal Salvation, and even provides a written endorsement of his brother Addison’s novel.

Saving Satan not being enough, Hart also wants to attempt another unexpected act of redemption. Our antichrist-designate, a freemason no less, tells readers that the Catholic Church’s fear of secret societies is “hysterical and overwrought, as freemasons are about as conniving and dangerous as the boy scouts”, even though several centuries of papal teaching, Vatican condemnations, history, confessions by ex-masons, and scholarship, would suggest otherwise.

Br. Antonine, OP – Hart’s straw man

Then there’s the unfortunate caricature in Br. Antonine, OP. He’s portrayed as a young, old-fashioned, traditionalist Dominican, who thinks Vatican II is a mistake, rejects the current pope’s liberal tendencies, and works for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith – a veritable king-size bagel of clichés. And of course, Br. Antonine reads St. Thomas Aquinas and Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP. Br. Antonine is all the things Hart has come to reject as an ex-Catholic.

What’s more, Br. Antonine is tasked with striking a deal with the antichrist: encourage him to take up the antichrist role, knowing full well the catastrophe that awaits, but please,  spare the Church and its property, bargains Br. Antonine. Of course, young trads are only really concerned with reading the right books and preserving nice church buildings, or so Hart wants the reader to think?

Better alternatives

More established literary works readers might find of more interest and use include The Pope and the Antichrist, by England’s Cardinal Edward Manning, based on lectures given in 1861; Lord of the World by Msgr. Robert Hugh Benson, published in 1907; and the two-part Father Elijah: An Apocalypse (1996), and Elijah in Jerusalem (2015) by Canadian Michael O’Brien.

There’s also Russian philosopher and theologian Vladimir Sergeyevich Soloviev, whose final book before his death in 1900 was The Three Dialogues and the Story of the Antichrist. It was he who popularised, via the late Italian Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, the figure of the antichrist as a pacifist, environmentalist, and ecumenist who is elected president of the United States of Europe (remember, his book was published in 1900). Like Bishop Fulton Sheen’s 1947 radio broadcast on the antichrist, it’s the sort of thing we’d call ‘prophetic’ in describing the lay of the land today in terms of geopolitics and the values touted by civic and religious leaders.

Divine Comedy or cliché sandwich

Reading Hart reminded this reviewer of elementary school fiction writing, which came with the teacher’s warning to the class not to end stories with, “and then I woke up and it was a dream” – a common sin among eight-year-olds.

The opening chapter begins with a dream – Prague, racing around on a scooter, a mysterious woman, an actor who played Dracula in a film – all very forgettable as the story continues, and seemingly having little relevance to the rest of the book.

The cliché sandwich continues, with closing chapters filled with sudden black-outs, a car skidding on ice and a march through the snow with Vic (copying Dante and Virgil’s trek through the ice of Canto 34, out of hell, perhaps?), and then we’re suddenly and mysteriously transported to the Middle East for an encounter with Jesus.

The author packs in as many clichés as each sentence will allow: Jesus is wearing sandals (of course), and has a flock of sheep nearby (what a surprise), offers our protagonist some bread (symbolic!). Deciding that he doesn’t want to be the antichrist, the protagonist and Vic whip out a couple of cigars and light-up to celebrate, reminiscent of that Catholic classic, Top Gun.

But if all that wasn’t enough, the protagonist then suddenly wakes up in bed – again! Has it all been a dream, did he really meet Jesus, where is he now – and will readers care? To boot, there are several examples of misuse of Our Lord’s name throughout the book.

There will continue to be no shortage of writers yearning to vent their spleen through the plots and characters they concoct, in the spirit of Hart. And the figure of the antichrist and his war on the Church will continue to fill the imagination and move the pen of popes, saints, mystics, theologians, and novelists down the centuries, until we arrive at the “Love that moves the sun and the other stars.”

Confessions of the Antichrist (A Novel)
By Addison Hart
Angelico Press, 2020
184 pages


If you value the news and views Catholic World Report provides, please consider donating to support our efforts. Your contribution will help us continue to make CWR available to all readers worldwide for free, without a subscription. Thank you for your generosity!

Click here for more information on donating to CWR. Click here to sign up for our newsletter.


About Daniel Blackman 6 Articles
Daniel Blackman is a journalist who has written for New Blackfriars, Catholic Herald, Catholic Times, Pro-Life Times, SPUC blog, Humanum, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, Human Life Review, MercatorNet, Christendom Awake, The Remnant, Regina, Catholic Voice, Thomas More Institute, LifeSiteNews, Aleteia, and Israel Affairs.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for this review. I have no intention of buying or reading this book. I find these attacks on our Church so painful. That they continue to proliferate unchecked is frightening. It may be a work of fiction, but fiction frequently impresses its beliefs on the reader in very subtle ways. So sad.

  2. Sounds lime the book and its author are both visible signs of the spirit of error and antichrist at work in the world to destroy the Church. Not the first time a book like this has appeared…nor the last.

    • Some seek and don’t find. Truth is a grace I feel. I’ve known people starting off protestant, moving on to Jehovah Witness then sadly becoming New Agers and finally ending up Muslim. It’s a confused world for the lost.

  3. “Hart tells us that Satan has kept the hierarchy at bay for the last 500 years, tied up with matters of theology and canon law and preoccupied with its own survival, rather than Jesus’ true teachings” (Daniel Blackman). Hart’s theme is closely associated with Pope Francis’ alleged universalism by Journalist Eugenio Scalfari, and openly suggestive remarks on the same, such as the frequent questioning even denials of an eternal hell. That he left Catholicism just prior to the Pontiff who raised these issues and has feasible similarity to the benevolent Antichrist seeking to convert Christ to Satan’s last appeal is irony, and suggests a reason for his book. Coming out virtually alongside Fratelli Tutti. “Again the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Mt 4:8). Cardinal Bergoglio’s mentor Martini in a last sermon seems to speak to this temptation. “No one can say: ‘These words are not for me: sincerity is not for me, loyalty is not for me, the struggle against the appropriation of the world’s resources is not for me…’. It is a sermon for everyone, which unites all and calls them to their own deep authenticity, and it is this sermon that will permit us to live together amid our differences, respecting each other, not isolating each other, not destroying each other, and not even maintaining the proper distances, but ‘fermenting’ one another” (Cardinal Carlo Martini Archbishop Milan homily 2005). Addison Hart mixes Satan and Antichrist’s role, the former deceiver of the Church the latter it’s redemptor seeking to convert Christ to a more accommodating reality. A complex figure Hart was and is at odds with himself over the two approaches to Christ’s Revelation. While still a Catholic priest he touched on that interior conflict, “Alongside the biblical injunctions to adhere, as the normative standard of faith, to what I will call ‘conventional piety,’ the Scriptures also present a much more complex and variegated interaction with God. On the level of adult faith, nothing is monochrome or monolithic when the canon is taken as a whole. The approach to God includes uncertainties of doubt and darkness, and melancholy and skepticism are unapologetically present in these holiest books of Christianity and Judaism” (Addison Hart Knowing Darkness 2009). Why someone who so sharply repudiates Catholicism post departure could have embraced Catholicism to begin with, to have experienced dual epiphanies within a short span speaks to ambivalence and conflict. It appears he would have remained a Catholic priest had he held out until the election of Francis. Instead today he muses on the complexities of his inner fracture in idyllic Norway. Rather than contempt I have pity. The words of Christ are clear. We can’t bend them to and fro to suite ourself.

  4. Could it be that Hart never really converted to Catholicism, but wanted to be like his brother, making money writing fiction and therefore attacking with the excuse of having been involved and left because of a change of heart? Reading the review I felt pity for Hart and like other people who commented, he won’t be the last to attack our faith and in closing, no person knows the time, but live in God’s grace and follow Jesus teaching!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

All comments posted at Catholic World Report are moderated. While vigorous debate is welcome and encouraged, please note that in the interest of maintaining a civilized and helpful level of discussion, comments containing obscene language or personal attacks—or those that are deemed by the editors to be needlessly combative or inflammatory—will not be published. Thank you.


*