I was not familiar with the idea of the “katechon” until a friend referenced it on Facebook recently:
In Nomos of the Earth, German political thinker Carl Schmitt suggests the historical importance within traditional Christianity of the idea of the katechontic “restrainer” that allows for a Rome-centered Christianity, and that “meant the historical power to restrain the appearance of the Antichrist and the end of the present eon.” The katechon represents, for Schmitt, the intellectualization of the ancient Christianum Imperium, with all its police and military powers to enforce orthodox ethics (see Carl Schmitt, The Nomos of the Earth in the International Law of the Jus Publicum Europaeum, G.L. Ulmen, trs., (New York: Telos, 2003), pp. 59–60.) In his posthumously published diary the entry from December 19, 1947 reads: “I believe in the katechon: it is for me the only possible way to understand Christian history and to find it meaningful” (Glossarium, p. 63). And Schmitt adds: “One must be able to name the katechon for every epoch of the last 1,948 years. The place has never been empty, or else we would no longer exist.”
Paolo Virno has a long discussion of the katechon in his book Multitude: Between Innovation and Negation. He refers to Schmitt’s discussion. Virno says that Schmitt views the katechon as something that impedes the coming of the Antichrist, but because the coming of the Antichrist is a condition for the redemption promised by the Messiah, the katechon also impedes the redemption. p. 60.
Virno uses “katechon” to refer to that which impedes both the War of all against all (Bellum omnium contra omnes) and totalitarianism, for example the society in Orwell’s Big Brother (Nineteen Eighty-Four). It impedes both but eliminates neither. Virno locates the katechon in the human ability to use language, which makes it possible to conceive of the negation of something, and also allows the conceptualization of something which can be other than what it is; and in the bioanthropological behavior of humans as social animals, which allows people to know how to follow rules without needing a rule to tell how to follow a rule, then a rule to tell how to follow that rule, and so on to infinity. These capabilities permit people to create social institutions and to dissolve or change them.