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The prophecies of Malachy

Part of “Pseudoscience A to Z”, a series of articles in the Skeptics Canada newsletter.

Malachy O’Morgair is known today as Saint Malachy, and like many saints, he had humble beginnings.

The son of a teacher, he lived in the northern Irish county of Armagh from 1094 to1148, worked his way up the priesthood, and eventually became bishop. If not for the intervention of a Benedictine monk named Arnold de Wyon he might be consigned to relative obscurity, but a quick perusal of the Internet indicates that even today controversy swirls around him, especially among breakaway groups who believe that Roman Catholicism has strayed from the true path. (One such group, which runs the website, has even elected its own Pope.)

Saint Malachy’s holy status rests upon the prophecies attributed to him, which were allegedly discovered in the Vatican archives by the aforementioned de Wyon in 1590, a rather significant date as we shall see.

His 112 prophecies deal primarily with descriptions of future Popes, right up until the last one before the end of the world. According to most interpretations the current Pope Benedict is the penultimate pontiff, so I may be renting a backhoe this weekend and starting on the shelter.

Just as with the prophecies of Nostradamus, most of the prognostications of Saint Malachy are vague snippets which could be adapted to almost any circumstance. However, two are so specificc that one might question their provenance or consider them evidence of genuine revelation. One predicts that the English will persecute Ireland, which is correct, and the other says that England will eventually revert to Catholicism.

If we look back at the date of de Wynon’s discovery we see the problems. England did indeed persecute Ireland, and it began with an invasion by Henry II in 1171, 23 years after Malachy’s death. So is this a true prophecy? Perhaps, though it would be easier explained as hindsight by a later chronicler. Ironically, the invasion was apparently fully authorized by the only English Pope, Adrian IV, as a means of reforming the church in Ireland.

The gift of hindsight is glaringly obvious in the second prophecy, that of the return of Catholicism to England. In order for it to be restored it must first be tossed out. So how did Malachy know that England would reject Catholicism? Significantly, this turning-away does not seem to be mentioned in any of the prophecies I turned up. That did not occur until Henry VIII had his famous dust-up with Rome in the 1530s, which brought about the Church of England. As mentioned previously, de Wynon brought the document to light in 1590, which makes the whole thing look a little less like iron-clad proof of St. Malachy’s prognosticative abilities and more of de Wynon’s attempt to shore up church influence, with perhaps some level of personal gain in the bargain.

Such nefarious business is not without precedent. For another example of this kind of maneuvering, look up the Donation of Constantine on the Internet. A concise analysis is available at the following web address:

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