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Here We Go Again


The first chuckle I had at the new Pope’s expense came from my friend Jeff, who quipped on Facebook, “The Jesuits have finally admitted that they’ve infiltrated the Catholic Church!” He added, “I just figured I’d join the ‘Jesuits have infiltrated everything under the sun’ club.”

On the same day I read some emails and Facebook statuses from fellow believers about Pope Francis that were more not at all funny. This is the Pope who will bring it all down around us, they said. Never mind that these people said the same about the last pope. And the one before that. Apparently undiscouraged by their earlier predictions, they lit into Francis for his Jesuit connection, his faux humility that only camouflages evil intentions.

Then came an email quoting the “Jesuit oath”, a statement claimed to be required of all Jesuit initiates, which is supposed to tell us what kind of man is now Vicarius Filii Dei. A few excerpts:

I do further promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly and openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Masons, as I am directed to do, to extirpate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex nor condition, and that will hang, burn, waste, boil, flay, strangle, and bury alive these infamous heretics; rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women, and crush their infants’ heads against the walls in order to annihilate their execrable race.

That when the same cannot be done openly I will secretly use the poisonous cup, the strangulation cord, the steel of the poniard, or the leaden bullet, regardless of the honour, rank, dignity or authority of the persons, whatever may be their condition in life, either public or private, as I at any time may be directed so to do by any agents of the Pope or Superior of the Brotherhood of the Holy Father of the Society of Jesus.

I do further promise and declare that I will have no opinion or will of my own or any mental reservation whatever, even as a corpse or cadaver, but will unhesitatingly obey each and every command that I may receive from my superiors in the militia of the Pope and of Jesus Christ.

… and should I prove false, or weaken in my determination, may my brethren and fellow soldiers of the militia of the Pope cut off my hands and feet and my throat from ear to ear, my belly be opened and sulphur burned therein with all the punishment that can be inflicted upon me on earth, and my soul shall be tortured by demons in eternal hell forever.

Scary, right? Except it’s rubbish. It’s made up, invented, pure fiction. It has been on the lips of no Roman Catholic religious except in fictional narratives smearing Roman Catholics. These foul anti-Catholic accusations originated in the religious turbulence of Elizabeth I’s reign[1], and have been much embroidered upon since. Among their creators was Robert Ware, son of respected Irish historian John Ware. Thomas Edward Bridgett, a late-Victorian historian, did some remarkable document sleuthing[2] to show that after his father’s death Robert had inserted into his father’s papers (in distinctly different handwriting) anti-Catholic anecdotes, letters and liturgies, as though they were his famous father’s discoveries. As soon as they were picked up by another historian, Robert published them as sourced from the historian who originally got them from him. They’ve been pure gold for Catholic-haters ever since.

If you google “Jesuit oath” you’ll find it said that it’s factual because it’s in the Library of Congress (true—but so is “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”), or that it’s factual because it’s in the Congressional Record. Given what we know about political rhetoric, that something appears in the Congressional Record is hardly proof of facticity. But it turns out the oath was entered into the record around 1912 when a member cited it from a newspaper editorial written against a Roman Catholic candidate in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional district—as an example of unscrupulous campaign practices.[3]

Of course the Roman Catholics deny it! They’re inveterate liars! Possibly—but the burden of proof is on the accuser. One of William of Ockham’s principles of argument goes “Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur”—“That which is asserted without reason may be dismissed without reason.”

I have no burden to defend the Jesuits. Some Jesuits have undoubtedly done bad things. The Roman Catholic church was an evil institution in the Middle Ages, persecuting Jews, Protestants, and whomever else caught their attention—which isn’t defensible, and isn’t defended by modern Catholics, though that history helps to explain why such deep fear of the Papacy persists.[4] However, please remember that the Roman Catholic church has been around for close to 2000 years, with billions of adherents. These events happened centuries ago. We’ve been around for less than two centuries, with fewer than 20 million adherents. What would be recorded in our history if the Seventh-day Adventist church had existed in the brutal Middle Ages, and had such enormous power?

In our mere century-and-a-half, have all of our church leaders behaved with perfect probity? Was every decision wisely and thoughtfully made, every person in authority honest and pure? Do you want our church judged by our failures, our extremists, our sinners, our stupidities? Should others bring up our past (such as the erroneous expectation that Jesus would return on October 22, 1844) as evidence of who we are now, as though we’ve learned nothing? Do you think it’s fair or right when websites like interpret Ellen White’s life and work as though she were a psychopathic charlatan?

The thinking of some of these folks is as twisted as ribbon candy. I have heard preachers deliver whole sermons about the Papacy, with Jesus mentioned only in passing. These vultures draw from anything that makes their point, whether an old dusty tome that has nothing to do with contemporary Catholicism, or outright anti-Catholic propaganda like the mad ravings of Maria Monk[5]. They’d rather we hate Catholicism than love Jesus. But as Thomas Edward Bridgett said of the effect of Robert Ware’s forgeries, “It would probably be useless to tell men who do not see the intrinsic folly of such documents that they are refuted by external evidence.”[6]

Enough. I am sick to death of lies used to advance truth, of credulous believers purveying slanders against other Christians in order to advance their message. If your faith requires unverifiable accusations, then you have no faith. If you must rely on malicious lies about other Christians to make your point, you have no point. You’re like hyenas skulking about the edge of the church universal, waiting for other Christians to fail so you can rush in and gnaw their bones. You’re parasites sucking up your nourishment from the sins of others. If in order to feel faithful you must trade in untruths, rumors and calumny (or even truths not “of good report” that, if they’d happened among us, we’d want others to forgive rather than exploit) you are the religious equivalent of the pervert who requires pain to enjoy love.

So please: shut up. You are hindering, not helping the cause of Christ. When faith has become so deformed that you have to send out emails about the Pope rather than lifting up Jesus, then it’s time to follow Jesus’ advice and sever the offending organ: if your internet access is causing you to sin, cut it off.

Someone is, as he or she reads this, preparing to offer up the moronic accusation that I’m a Jesuit infiltrator. So I might as well stoke your inflamed imagination a little more. Though I have my own objections to the Papacy, its theology, methods and patriarchal structure, yet I believe the larger cause of Christ stands to gain from a good pope. There’s much he teaches that I not only disagree with but preach the opposite of, but if he is striving to be a Christlike man, if he believes we are saved by the grace won at the cross, if he wants others to have the assurance of salvation, if he seeks to relieve suffering as Jesus did, then he and I have much in common. I cannot believe he’s Christ’s chief representative on earth, but he is the religious leader of billions of Christians. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s an honest, decent man until I see evidence to the contrary.

[1] Which, by the way, Elizabeth won for the Protestant side by executing her Roman Catholic cousin, Mary. Neither party of Christianity behaved well in those savage times.

[2] Thomas Edward Brigett, Blunders and Forgeries (London: 1890). Online here.

[3] You shouldn’t be surprised that the other “proof” is that “Father” Alberto Rivera said it was true, and Jack Chick wrote it in a comic book. Yes, that really is the level of scholarship!

[4] Yes, I know Ellen White said the Papacy will never learn, never change. She could have said the same thing about some of us.

[5] Maria’s ghostwritten  book Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, or, The Hidden Secrets of a Nun’s Life in a Convent Exposed (ca. 1836) was the origin of stories about priests impregnating nuns and killing the babies in pits of lye. Her mother testified that Maria was addled ever since in her childhood she’d had a pencil rammed into her head.

[6] Ibid. p. 249

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