When I awake at 5 A.M. and cannot get back to sleep, I meditate on my sins, mortality, whether the alarm system is turned on, and whether we have enough milk for breakfast. Sometimes my mind has been chewing on a problem while I sleep and comes up with some interesting reflections. Last night was one.

Maciel’s life was, if one tenth of the stories are true, both stunningly corrupt and stunningly successful. I wonder whether he was not simply a sinner and a psychopath, but something far more sinister: a false prophet.

Remember that the false prophets can lead astray, if possible, even the elect. That is, their message will be so close to the truth that even sincere followers of Christ could be deceived, and therefore we must be ever vigilant against them. We cannot even rely on the official approbation of the Church as an infallible guide. Infallibility covers doctrinal propositions, not prudential judgments.

Almost everything that Maciel taught was standard Catholicism; but there was a personal twist to it, and that twist was perverted. He encouraged and even mandated the cult of his personality. That alone should have been a sign that his ego, and not God, was the center of his message.

The most recent crop of false prophets (The Bakkkers, Bruce Ritter, Graham Pulkingham) have been often been exposed because of gross sexual immorality; but if they had not fallen into such obvious sin would their followers ever have been undeceived?

It is perhaps a mercy that God lets this happen. Gross sexual immorality is still shocking, and forces followers to look more closely at the whole message. A chaste and honest false prophet would be even more dangerous.

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