A Catholic and a Protestant separately predict apocalyptic judgment on America. But are they interpreting events to suit their agendas?

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Just weeks after a Vatican-approved article hit out at the 'ecumenism of hate' in the US between ultra-conservative Catholics and evangelical Protestants, a pair of leading figures from those two Christian strands have formed an unlikely alliance in using imagery signalling the end times.

In the case of the respected evangelist Anne Graham Lotz, she has written a blog post about the impending solar eclipse of August 21 entitled, 'Is God's Judgment Coming on America?'

She heads the article with a reference to Joel (2:31): 'The sun will be turned to darkness...before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord' and goes on to say that when she was teaching that book a few years ago 'the ancient words of his prophecy came up off the page. I knew with hair-raising certainty that God's severe judgment was coming on America! I have taught Joel several times since. Each time has served to confirm with deep conviction that God is warning America of impending disaster and destruction.'

Wikimedia CommonsAnne Graham Lotz

Lotz adds: 'I feel compelled to issue the warning once again. The warning is triggered by the total solar eclipse of August 21, 2017, nicknamed America's Eclipse. For the first time in almost 100 years, a total solar eclipse will be seen from coast to coast in our nation. People are preparing to mark this significant event with viewing parties at exclusive prime sites. The celebratory nature regarding the eclipse brings to my mind the Babylonian King Belshazzar who threw a drunken feast the night the Medes and Persians crept under the city gate. While Belshazzar and his friends partied, they were oblivious to the impending danger. Belshazzar wound up dead the next day, and the Babylonian empire was destroyed.

'Jewish rabbi's have historically viewed solar eclipses as warnings from God to Gentile nations. Therefore, my perspective on the upcoming phenomenon is not celebratory. While no one can know for sure if judgment is coming on America, it does seem that God is signaling us about something. Time will tell what that something is.'

Then there is the famously conservative Cardinal, Raymond Burke, who every few months appears to make the headlines with a controversial statement.

Burke was quoted by Lifesitenews.com as telling the Church Teaches Forum in Louisville: 'We are living in most troubled times in the world and also in the Church' and that those times 'realistically seem to be apocalyptic'.

'Confusion, division, and error' within the Catholic Church coming from 'shepherds' even at the highest levels indicate that we 'may be' in the end times, he was quoted as saying.

He continued: '[In] a diabolical way, the confusion and error which has led human culture in the way of death and destruction has also entered into the Church, so that she draws near to the culture without seeming to know her own identity and mission, without seeming to have the clarity and the courage to announce the Gospel of Life and Divine Love to the radically secularized culture'.

The cardinal cited recent remarks from the president of the German bishops' conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, who said that the legalisation of same-sex 'marriage' in Germany was not a major concern for the Church.

Burke, who is one of the four Cardinals who signed a letter asking Pope Francis to clarify alleged ambiguities in his teaching, said there are 'many shepherds' who are no longer truly shepherding the faithful.

'For whatever reason, many shepherds are silent about the situation in which the Church finds herself or have abandoned the clarity of the Church's teaching for the confusion and error which is wrongly thought to address more effectively the total collapse of Christian culture,' he said.

Burke also claimed that a relative lack of attacks by the secular media against the Catholic Church signifies failure.

ReutersCardinal Raymond Burke.

'Some time ago, a Cardinal in Rome commented on how good it is that the secular media are no longer attacking the Church, as they did so fiercely during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI,' he said. 'My response was that the approval of the secular media is, on the contrary, for me a sign that the Church is failing badly in her clear and courageous witness to the world for the salvation of the world.'

Further, the cardinal attacked Pope Francis directly for choosing to 'speak in a colloquial manner, whether during interviews given on airplanes or to news outlets, or in spontaneous remarks to various groups.'

By this point, however, we are straying from his central point about the end times, and pursuing instead his own personal gripes against the current leadership of the Church.

But isn't that the point? Every now and again, conservative church leaders, be they Catholic or evangelical Protestant, reach for apocalyptic imagery to suit their own agendas.

And yet, for now, at the risk of sounding complacent, the world continues to spin on its axis.

Antonio Spadaro and Marcelo Figueroa condemned 'Manichaean language that divides reality between absolute Good and absolute Evil' in their article on the 'surprising ecumenism' between the two groups.

Fundamentalists, they say, 'do not hesitate to base the economic growth of the country on a literal adherence to the Bible. Over more recent years this current of thought has been fed by the stigmatization of enemies who are often "demonized".'

Spadaro is a Jesuit priest who edits La Civiltà Cattolica and Marcelo Figueroa is a Presbyterian pastor who is editor-in-chief of the Argentinian edition of L'Osservatore Romano. Spadaro's paper is considered the official voice of the Vatican and its contents are approved before publication by the Vatican secretary of state.

Their piece threw evangelicals around Donald Trump into a spin. But with two leading lights from the two wings they identify predicting, literally, the end of the world, perhaps they had a point after all.

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