This question falls into the category of Church history and the Catholic-Protestant debate that has been going on for centuries since the Protestant Reformation.
Sir Isaac Newton wrote an extensive theological work, Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John, which is a moderately lengthy read that asserts that the Roman Catholic Church is the eleventh horn on the head of the fourth beast in one of Daniel’s visions. Although I am usually very quick to dismiss railing accusations against the RCC and would have dismissed this accusation immediately if it had come from any lesser source, it is very difficult to dismiss an attack by Newton, one of the world’s greatest intellectuals.
Newton’s argument is rather lengthy, but I will provide a brief summary along with web links to the chapters of Newton’s book:
- The four beasts seen by Daniel are the Babylonian Empire, the Persian Empire, the Greco-Macedonian Empire, and the Roman Empire, respectively. (Newton 1733, Observations, Chapter 4, isaacnewton.ca/daniel_apocalypse/pt1ch04.html)
- Since the fourth beast in the vision is the Roman Empire, the ten horns (ten kings) on its head must have been kingdoms that were geographically located within the boundaries of what had once been the Roman Empire. (Newton 1733, Observations, Chapter 4, isaacnewton.ca/daniel_apocalypse/pt1ch04.html)
- Newton enumerates ten kingdoms that arose after the collapse of the Roman Empire. (Newton 1733, Observations, Chapter 6, isaacnewton.ca/daniel_apocalypse/pt1ch06.html)
- Newton discusses the rise of the Church culminating in the crowning of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne in the year 800. He explains how the Church gained control of three of the ten kingdoms left after the Roman Empire dissolved and asserts that this fulfills the prophecy in Daniel in which three of the ten horns were uprooted by the eleventh horn. (Newton 1733, Observations, Chapter 7, isaacnewton.ca/daniel_apocalypse/pt1ch07.html)
Although I have a print copy of this book and have read it with interest (though I do not know Latin and am, therefore, unable to read some of Sir Isaac Newton’s quotes from his primary sources), this book may not be easy to find. A web link to an online copy of this book is provided below.
In any discussion of Newton’s arguments, it is very important to bear in mind that we must focus on the premises, logic, and conclusions of the arguments themselves and not on Newton himself. For example, it is true that Sir Isaac Newton was regarded as a heretic for apparently holding anti-Trinitarian beliefs, and many scholars believe he was an Arian Christian. However, none of the arguments in his Observations appear to be based on anti-Trinitarianism. Some will argue that Newton was merely parroting the anti-Catholic arguments of his day while adding a few innovations of his own. Although it is true that anti-Catholicism was strongly dominant in the Protestant countries of the day, it is still necessary to analyze Newton’s argument itself based on its premises and logic.
Have any Catholic responses specific to Newton’s writings been published? Sir Isaac Newton was one of the greatest minds in recorded human history, and it is difficult to merely dismiss his arguments the way one could very readily dismiss con men like Alberto Rivera. Although it is clearly infeasible to publish responses to every attack on the RCC, and responses are not needed given that so many of these attacks are obviously frivolous, we certainly cannot say the same of the great Isaac Newton.
As it took a tremendous body of scientific evidence to dethrone Newtonian mechanics, it seems to me it may take an equally tremendous body of evidence to disprove the Newtonian argument regarding the Roman Catholic Church.