Responding to Taylor Marshall-2

Hello Everyone! This is the second video of my series responding to Taylor Marshall and Timothy Gordon.

The present video begins the actual content-review of the Marshall/Gordon podcast. It covers the first twelve or so minutes of the podcast, which largely surrounds a discussion of Pope Leo XIII and the vision he had that led to his composing the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

Below is a transcript of the video. Please remember to watch the videos consecutively.

Part III to come soon, stay tuned!


Hello everyone and welcome to this video! It is the first of the actual commentary to the Marshall/Gordon podcast. In this video, I will be commenting upon the first 12 or so minutes of the podcast wherein Marshall and Gordon discuss Pope Leo XIII and his famous vision.

Marshall begins the podcast with a general introduction. Marshall combines the topic of Marian apparitions with corruption and the Church. He sets the stage for his viewers by connecting events in the Church with previous apparitions/messages that have happened. [show clip]

Marshall starts off with the vision of Pope Leo XIII that led to his composing the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. [show clip] There is a notable issue with the introduction. Marshall raises for discussion the legend of Leo’s vision. That legend is about the alleged 100 years, or a century, that Jesus allegedly gave the devil to test the Church. In the research for my book Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael, I discovered that there was no foundation for this legend in any of the available resources. I cannot fault Marshall for not knowing this fact because when his podcast aired, Marshall had not previously heard of my book. I know this because we spoke on the phone shortly after this podcast aired. Regardless, the foundation that Marshall otherwise establishes here is highly contested and needed to be better nuanced.

Also, within his introduction, Marshall cites the famous words of Pope Paul VI from June 29, 1972 about the “smoke of satan” having entered into the Church. [show clip] A little-known fact about these words is that Paul VI later had no recollection of having said them and even contested them. This rather intriguing fact came up in conversation with Abbot Boniface Luykx, a rather respected liturgist in the Eastern Catholic Church. He recounted the conversation during an interview published by St. Joseph Communications under the title of The Failure of the Liturgical Reform. Let me be clear though: Paul VI did make the remark, he just had no memory of it.

Shortly thereafter, Marshall hands off the discussion to Timothy Gordon. In opening his discourse, Gordon uses the word “controverted” in reference to the (known) facts of the history that he and Marshall discuss. I think that was a good way for Gordon to begin. To his credit, he will use this word every so often during his discourse. I also appreciate how he established “three categories” in reference to what we can believe in matter of private revelation. He describes them as: 1) “can be confirmed,” 2) “worthy of belief,” and 3) “can be denied.” [show clip]

I am not sure if Gordon was aiming for proper theology in his three categories. I can say that there are three classifications that the Church has given us to classify claims for private revelation. They are known by their Latin terms: 1) constat de supernaturalitate (“consists of the supernatural”), 2) non constat de supernaturalitate (“the supernatural is not established”), and 3) constat de non supernaturalitate (“not supernatural”). Otherwise, I get what Gordon is trying to do here.

After specifying his categories, Gordon puts the “ideology and origin” of the St. Michael prayer into his second category of “worthy of belief.” He is correct to say that the origin of the prayer in a supernatural vision is “worthy of belief.” We have the testimony of the Cardinal Archbishop of Bologna, Cardinal Nasalli, who gives us this credibility. The million-dollar question, however, is what is the actual history behind the prayer that can be considered “worthy of belief?”

On that note, let me say that Gordon will then precisely launch into the debated history with the details of Leo being at Mass when it happened and that it occurred “33 years to the day before October 13, 1917, which is the miracle of the sun.” [show clip]

Here is the first major connection that Marshall and Gordon make to Fátima. Unfortunately, this “33 years” claim with the dates is unverified. The earliest reference to the claim goes back to an article in The Remnant by a Msgr. Arthur H. Durand of Minnesota. He gives the date of October 13, 1884 as the date of Leo’s vision, but then fails to tell us how he got that date. Others picked up on Durand’s dating and it was subsequently re-published in numerous other venues.

For many people, this dating of October 13, 1884 to October 13, 1917 is important because of its symbolism. Our Lord Jesus Christ lived 33 years on earth. Secondly, the connection to Fátima. The unspoken thought here being that the “coincidence” in the dating is taken as a sign of heavenly confirmation. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade here, but neither do I want to see people innocently being given false hope.

Could it be that Leo’s vision happened on October 13, 1884? Yes, it is possible, but unproven. The historical data tells us that the vision happened sometime between January, 1884 and August or November, 1886. My thought on the dating is this: I am open to the October, 1884 date, but if it is true, a question has to be answered. The earliest record of the Leonine Prayers being revised after Leo’s vision dates to August or November, 1886. Why, then, with so much urgency behind this prayer, would Leo have waited about two years for its promulgation?

Continuing along, at another point, Gordon talks about the prayer to St. Michael as being released by Leo “as a mini exorcism, a shorter version of the prayer said at the end of every Mass.” [show clip] Here, Gordon’s discourse is a bit unclear. He makes it sound like there was a longer version that Leo composed but then he made a shorter one that was put into the Leonine Prayers. If I am understanding Gordon correctly here, he is mistaken as it was the other way around.

Leo composed four prayers to St. Michael. The first was the shorter one inserted into the Leonine Prayers in 1886. The next one came shortly thereafter and was authorized for publication by Leo in September, 1888 (but not published, it seems, until about 10 years later). The third was issued in May, 1890 and was restricted to clergy. The fourth was published in 1902 and was a redaction of the 1890 text.

From here, Gordon talks about the removal of the prayer to St. Michael from the end of Low Mass at the time of the Second Vatican Council. He also questions the “timeliness of these dispensations” from things like the prayer to St. Michael. [show clip]

I agree with Gordon that it was a tragedy for the prayer to St. Michael to be removed in 1964/1965. I also happen to question the justification used to defend the prayer’s removal, but that is another topic for another time. Perhaps Marshall would be interested in discussing the matter with me sometime on his podcast. He himself set the stage for this discussion when he responds to Gordon and says that the prayer to St. Michael was actually not part of the Mass itself.

There is also a point where Marshall and Gordon talk about the prayer to St. Michael as having been issued “in perpetuity.” In other words, that it was intended by Pope Leo XIII to remain and could never be abrogated from being said after Mass. This claim is not true. Gordon will also reference “two reliable cardinals” in the 50s, 70s or 80s that verified Leo and the importance of this prayer and its perpetuity. Gordon’s discourse is a bit unclear, but he does not give us the identities of these “reliable cardinals” and I have no idea who he is talking about.

Gordon then talks about how Leo XIII saw a lot of things coming down the pipeline and wrote document after document to warn the Church. [show clip] Insofar as this statement goes, yes, I agree with Gordon. My only problem being that the podcast has, thus far, established some “intellectual furniture,” so to speak, by which people are understanding Gordon.

In other words, they are judging the room (reality) by the furniture (ideas, theories, etc.) that Marshall and Gordon have set without regard for whether that furniture is appropriate for the room. I have some finer points of disagreement here, but fundamentally I agree with Gordon that Leo saw a lot coming. That is why I added in the appendix to the second edition of Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael a document from Pope Leo dated to 1902. It is a very rich document that bespeaks of what Leo saw coming at the end of the 19th century going into the 20th.

On a finer point, Gordon references the infiltration of the Church. He raises the figure of Pope Gregory XVI as having brought to light this infiltration in the 1860s. [show clip] Gordon is mistaken in his dates. Gregory was pope from 1831-1846. Pius IX was the Pope from 1846-1878.

Here, Marshall interjects to make a comparison. He talks about how popes had talked about the problems facing the Church whereas they are not doing such in the present. [show clip] I agree with Marshall here. We are presently in the midst of a crisis and that the Popes were, back in the day, much more direct about such things. For the last several decades, the Popes have adopted a more cautious style of writing on the difficulties faced by the Church. I happen to think that this difference would be a great study for an interested student of Theology. I would also ask Marshall his opinion as to whether or not he thinks Pope Francis has issued some very direct remarks.

After talking with Gordon for a bit about the point on crisis, Marshall asks Gordon about the “100-year window granted to satan” (alleged) component to Leo’s vision.[1] [show clip] Presuming for a moment that Jesus did give the devil 100 years to test the Church, Marshall’s question is good: when does the clock begin? Unfortunately, this is all a matter of pure speculation. There are two reasons for this characterization.

First, no one has ever established that the “100 years” story is true. Secondly, no one knows for sure when (again, presuming for a moment that the story is true) the clock started ticking. The only reason why this question is important is because of how it is being interpreted. I recall that at the end of the 20th century, the story was that Leo’s vision was specifically the twentieth century. Now, about twenty years into the 21st century, people still see evil around them and are attempting to “re-draw the lines” (as I like to put it) of the dates. It is false hope, and that bothers me.

Gordon responds by admitting that his opinion is the clock began in 1884. He mistakenly says that some “translations” have 70-100 years. This is not a matter of “translation.” It is, rather, a question about which version you read. This problem can be chalked up to the nature of oral tradition. As Fr. Albert Bandini aptly stated (and which I quoted in my book), as a tale spreads, it gets bigger.

Gordon then talks about apostasy in the Church, specifically within the hierarchy. [show clip] This statement is a throw-back to Fátima and interpretations on the third part of the secret. Gordon and Marshall will not get into these interpretations more deeply here at this point, but I wanted to note the reference. Gordon brings up this discussion in order to draw a parallel to Leo’s vision (as thus far presented by Marshall and Gordon). Gordon will argue that this apostasy and other evil coincides with the 70-100 years timeframe.

Let us conclude, then, this first 12 or so minutes of the Marshall/Gordon podcast with some final thoughts. What was have seen thus far is that Marshall and Gordon operate upon a very unsure foundation with respect to Leo’s vision. The details they raised are largely unverified. This is not the same as saying untrue, but there is not much evidence for what they have thus far presented. My book Pope Leo XIII and the Prayer to St. Michael has looked at this history and people can read the details there.

For now, it suffices to say that the “100 years” claim is one of the unverified stories about Leo’s vision. Could it be true? Yes, but the documentation either does not exist or it is unknown to the public at this time. Marshall and Gordon go by popular re-telling of the story, but there is no real critical evaluation of the sources. To be clear, the earliest-known reference comes from 1947 with a statement made in a two-part article by an Italian priest named Padre Domenico Pechenino. He says that it was actually 50-60 years.

Lastly, I want to be clear that I understand deeply people’s interest in Leo’s vision. People are looking for hope is the midst of the present crisis. That is the nature of prophecy: it gives people hope in the midst of danger and tribulation. My concern, however, is precisely for people’s well-being because false hope does us no favors. It could, in fact, become the cause for personal scandal as well as embarrassment upon the Church if it is not exposed. As I said in a recent interview with The Angry Catholic, we cannot “abuse” Leo’s vision in order to give us a false sense of hope. We have to know the facts and conduct ourselves accordingly.

Having said that, thank you very much for being with me in this video. In the next installment, we shall look at Marshall and Gordon’s initial venturing into the topic of Fátima. Thank you again and we’ll see you next video.

[1] Marshall asks Gordon, “when does the clock start ticking? Does that begin in 1884 and therefore end in 1984, which would put us in the pontificate of John Paul II? Does it begin later at 1900 or does it maybe begin at Fatima?”