Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote an essay on the Patristic Notion of Antichrist. It is a very fine essay, in four parts.
In this essay, he treats the various prophecies regarding the fall and destruction of the great beast. That great beast is Rome. The Fathers are clear that some day, Rome shall fall. Pope Gregory the Great registered this opinion (Dial 2.15).
Newman notes that whereas in some respects Rome has fallen, in other respects Rome has not fallen. Rome is not simply the old Empire. Rome is, perhaps the rule of law, European civilization, etc. These are still with us. So long as we do not seriously embrace the denial of the Principle of Non-contradiction. So long as we still retain key fragments of the natural law. But these things are crashing down around us.
Why has Rome not yet fallen, Newman asks? Why not yet punished? Newman contends that the only reason Rome has not been annihilated as of yet is that there must still be some who are righteous in it. There must be some preservation of Christ’s ways. But, as Pope Gregory indicated, some day, storms and earthquakes shall, executing Divine Wrath, shake Rome to its foundations.
“If [modern] Rome were as reprobate as heathen Rome itself, what stays the judgment long ago begun? [I.e., the judgment of Divine Wrath through Barbarians.] Why does not the Avenging Arm, which made its first stroke ages since, deal its second and its third, till the city has fallen? Why is not Rome as Sodom and Gomorrah, if there be no righteous men in it?”
Newman says, by implication, when Truth has gone out of Rome, when the natural law is upturned, when the remembrance of things sacred has fled, when the veil once again descends over the eyes of those who tickle their ears, then shall the Divine Wrath descend, offering a chance of repentance for those who, setting the hearts on the ways of the world, refuse to keep their eyes upon the plow, in faith in God’s work and truth. Should these then not accept, should they turn back upon the vomit of their sins, how can they not become as Lot’s wife?
Finally, if it is not simply Rome itself, a city in Italy, that is object of the prophecies, it is then the World Itself in its Worldliness. Perhaps it is both, each in its own way.
Newman closes with this caution to all:
We are warned against sharing in [the whore’s] sins and in her punishment; against being found, when the end comes, mere children of this world and of its great cities; with the tastes, opinions, habits, such as are found in its cities; … with all the low feelings, principles, and aims which the world encourages; with our thoughts wandering (if that be possible then), wandering after vanities; … with a haughty contempt for the Church, her ministers, her lowly people; … [with] an utter ignorance of the number and the heinousness of the sins which lie against us….