Friday

Religious Comics 3

With the 17th -- and apparently final -- issue of The Crusaders (copyright 1988), the notorious Jack T. Chick concludes his six-part “Alberto” story arc with a blistering kamikaze attack on the religion of Islam. Entitled “The Prophet,” this 32-page full-color standard-format comic book reunites our heroes, Tim Clark and Jim Carter, with the sectarian whistleblower Dr. Alberto Rivera, who reveals more mind-blowing secrets from the deepest recesses of the Vatican vaults. Based on the testimony of the real-life Alberto Rivera, then head of the Antichrist Information Center in Los Angeles, Jack Chick presents a tale of centuries-spanning conspiracy, dramatically illustrated by the same artist who brought us the fire-and-brimstone mini-tracts The Contract, Titanic, The Letter, and The Greatest Story Ever Told, probably Chick’s longtime associate Fred Carter. Tempting the wrath of Islamic extremists the world over, Chick here features numerous illustrations of the prophet Muhammad as he makes his case that the founder of Islam was merely a dupe of the Roman Catholic Church in its sinister scheme for world domination.

The story opens in “Bierut,” Lebanon in 1983, as we meet a Ted Koppelesque television reporter named Rosco Baker. On his last day in the Middle East, Rosco has a pants-wetting close call with an angry Muslim soldier who accuses the reporter of being pro-Zionist and threatens to shoot him dead. However, when the soldier pulls the trigger on his rifle, there is only a hollow “click!” Rosco, shaking so badly that his shirttails come untucked, realizes the soldier was just blowing off steam. Meanwhile, the soldier erupts in cruel, mocking laughter -- “HAW HAW HAW!” -- which, as all Chick fans know, indicates that he is evil. On his way back to the office, Rosco is then chided by a Christian missionary who asks him why the media does not explain to the public that the Roman Catholic government of Lebanon is not really Christian at all. Fed up with the whole mess, Rosco spends the flight back to America contemplating a career change.

Eventually landing at Los Angeles International Airport, Rosco decides to relax in the coffee shop, where, as fate would have it, he bumps into Tim Clark, an old buddy from the Vietnam War. Tim introduces Rosco to Jim and Dr. Rivera, who are having a meal during what appears to be a really long layover. Recognizing Rosco from the television news, Dr. Rivera wastes no time steering the conversation into a discussion of the history of the Muslim faith -- or more specifically, the hidden history of Islam which Rivera learned in top-secret briefings in the Vatican during his former life as a Jesuit secret agent. The story began at the end of the third century A.D., he reveals, when the Roman Catholic Church, desperate to get their hands on the city of Jerusalem due to its religious history and strategic location, hatched a convoluted scheme by which the Children of Ishmael, commonly known as the Arabs, would be tricked into conquering Jerusalem for the pope.

First, however, Dr. Rivera provides Rosco -- and the readers -- with a “brief historical background.” This begins with a quick recap of the Passion of the Christ and the subsequent spreading of the gospel to what looks a lot like Polynesia. Then, we see a frightening image of Satan, surrounded by flames, looming over a line of naked men being led by slave chains. The text reads, “Ever since the crucifixion, the prince of darkness has launched constant attacks against the minds of men to kill [Christ’s] message of hope. We’ll now expose Satan’s cunning tactics that have been so successful in turning men into slaves.”

Here, Rivera returns to familiar territory, explaining the Satanic origins of the Roman Catholic Church as a counterfeit religion based on Babylonian goddess-worship, and its gradual development over several hundred years. As he explains it, “The statue of Jupiter in Rome was eventually changed to St. Peter, and the statue of Venus was changed to the Virgin Mary. The site chosen for its headquarters was on one of the 7 hills, called “Vaticanus,” the place of divination and the place where the Satanic temple of Janus stood.” Of course, he does not miss the chance to identify the Catholic Church as the Great Whore of Revelation 17, whose mission is to “make the nations drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

Next, Rivera turns our attention to the story of Isaac and Ishmael. Back in the Book of Genesis, he reminds us, when Abraham, “the father of nations,” could not get his wife Sarah pregnant, they resorted to a back-up plan in which her servant Hagar subbed for her. Hagar soon bore Abraham a son, named Ishmael. However, Sarah eventually did become pregnant and bore a son of her own, Isaac. Wanting her son to be the unchallenged heir to Abraham’s legacy, Sarah had Hagar and young Ishmael driven off into the desert. Once there, with the help of a friendly angel, Ishmael grew into a muscular bowman and eventually produced almost one billion offspring -- the Arabs.

Getting back to the fourth century A.D., Rivera notes how the ingenious Catholic writer Augustine wrote two famous works, The City of God and Confessions, both of which would play an important part in the Church’s scheme to use the Arabs to further their own ends. Many of the Arab tribes were converted to Catholicism by Augustine’s writings, but too many rejected the pope and refused to convert. Something had to be done about them, and so spies were sent throughout the land to tell the Arabs that one day a great leader would appear to unite them. But the Catholic Church is nothing if not patient, and two hundred years went by before they finally had their man, a young native of the city of Mecca named Muhammad, whom Rivera freely admits was “an amazing man.” However, he promises Rosco that he is about to reveal “the most incredible story of intrigue you will ever hear” -- the true origins of the religion of Islam.

Before getting into all that, though, Dr. Rivera finds it prudent to spend six pages giving his version of the official history of Islam, for comparative purposes. By Rivera’s account -- which is based primarily on the well-known biography of the prophet by Martin Lings -- the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia was established on the site of the well which enabled Hagar and Ishmael to survive in the desert, and it was there that Abraham helped Ishmael to build the “House of God.” Eventually, the original structure was replaced by a larger stone cube called the Kaaba, and it is in the direction of this site that faithful Muslims pray five times a day. The Kaaba serves as a focal point of the Muslims’ religion, much as Catholics have the Vatican in Rome and the Jews have their Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In the early days, Rivera continues, the Kaaba was considered a place of veneration by Arabs and Jews alike, until the structure eventually became filled with idols deposited there by pilgrims and thus evolved into a center of blasphemous idolatry. Over time, Mecca and the Kaaba were controlled by a succession of tribes, each with their own political and religious agendas, and eventually the well was filled in and its exact location forgotten. It was later rediscovered by one Adb Al-Muttalib, the grandfather of Muhammad, an accomplishment that made him famous.

Adb Al-Muttalib produced a son, Abd Allah, who narrowly escaped being sacrificed to his father’s god. Abd Allah then grew up to father Muhammad, though he died just before his son was born. Though orphaned at the age of six, Muhammad nevertheless was raised as a member of an important family. He also had one very remarkable experience in particular. Two mysterious men in white appeared one day and magically removed his beating heart from his chest. They cleansed it of a black clot, washed it with snow, and then put it back where it belonged, leaving the boy unharmed. Thus was he purified of the touch of Satan. A few years later, Muhammad ran into a Roman Catholic monk, who discovered an oval birthmark on his back and exclaimed that it was “the seal of prophethood.” The monk told Muhammad’s family to protect him from the Jews, who would surely try to kill him if they recognized his great destiny. Meanwhile, Roman Catholic Arabs continued to preach of a great prophet who would soon come to unite the Children of Ishmael.

When Muhammad reached adulthood, he married a much-older woman, a wealthy widow named Khadijah. She bore him several children, including a girl named Fatimah. Then, one fateful day, Muhammad had a vision of the angel Gabriel, who started him on his career as the prophet of Allah. With the help of his wife’s cousin, a Roman Catholic named Waraquah, he began to interpret the many visions he received and to write numerous texts, many of which were collected in the Koran. Soon facing persecution from the rulers of Mecca, Muhammad sent many of his followers to Abyssinia, where they were welcomed by the king, himself a Roman Catholic. Then, Muhammad had another vision, in which the angel Gabriel led him to heaven upon a magical flying beast. Unfortunately, a sort of mist obscures all but the wings of this fantastical creature in the accompanying illustration. Anyway, after meeting Moses, Abraham, Jesus, and God himself, Muhammad received the creed of Islam. Then, having founded this new religion, Muhammad raised a mighty army, and within fifteen years had conquered Mecca, cleared the Kaaba of idols, and made most of the Arab tribes into Muslims. When he died, his body was entombed at the mosque of Medina, where it remains to this day.

At this point, Dr. Rivera finally gets down to the nitty-gritty and lays bare the secrets of the “cloak and dagger world of religion.” He reiterates the Vatican’s desire to gain control of Jerusalem, and the problems posed by both the Jews and the true Christians spreading the gospel in North Africa. Both groups had to be destroyed, and the Church “saw the multitudes of Arabs as a source of manpower to do their dirty work.” Thus, they hatched a plan to create a messiah for the Arabs, a great charismatic leader whom they could train to do their bidding, and have him raise a mighty army to rout the Jews and seize Jerusalem. Augustine was instrumental to the plan. His band of followers, based out of monasteries in the region, were notorious for destroying Bible manuscripts which they had stolen from the true Christians. These manuscripts were then replaced by Augustine’s own, specifically tailored to further the Vatican’s designs on the Arabs. For his service to the cause, Rivera notes, Augustine was eventually made a “saint.”

The shocking revelations come thick and fast as Dr. Rivera recounts what he learned in the top-secret briefings at the Vatican. The widow Khadijah, he asserts, was a devout Catholic who had given all her wealth to the Church and retired to a convent. There, she was recruited to serve the pope’s master plan. Her wealth was returned to her, and she was sent out into the world to choose a suitable candidate to be the Arab messiah. She selected young Muhammad, seduced him, and became his wife. Her cousin Waraquah, also an agent of the pope, was made Muhammad’s principal advisor, and indoctrinated him with the writings of Augustine. He was told that the Jews were his mortal enemies, and that the true Christians (the non-Catholics) were wicked impostors doing the work of the devil. As Rivera says ruefully, “This satanic teaching is believed today in the minds of Muslims worldwide, and it destroys the efforts of reaching them for Christ in every Muslim nation.”

Waraquah was also deeply involved in the interpretation of Muhammad’s visions, upon which the book of the Koran was based. However, there remain other, unpublished writings of Muhammad’s, which are now in the hands of high-ranking Ayatollahs. These documents, Rivera contends, are the “smoking gun” that links the Vatican to the creation of Islam, a fact that, if it were revealed to the world at large, would prove disastrous for both religions. After Muhammad’s death, the pope positioned himself as another “holy man” in the eyes of Muslims, and then gave the Arab armies permission to conquer North Africa, and even financed their campaigns. In the name of Allah, the Muslim war machine slaughtered Jews and true Christians alike, calling them “infidels,” and finally conquered Jerusalem. The prize the Vatican had sought for centuries was now within its grasp.

Unfortunately, Rivera gloats, the great master plan then began to backfire, and when the pope demanded the Arab generals surrender Jerusalem to him, they refused. The problem was, the Vatican had outsmarted itself. Under Waraquah’s direction, Muhammad had revised the story of Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his beloved son, inserting Ishmael in place of Isaac. This led the Muslims to build a mosque in Jerusalem on the site of the Jewish temple that had been destroyed by the Romans back in the first century. Dedicated to Ishmael, this mosque, called the Dome of the Rock, was the second-most-holy place in Islam, and the Arab generals knew they could not turn it over to the pope without causing a riot. Furthermore, intoxicated with the thrill of victory, the Arab generals were determined to conquer the entire world for their god, Allah. They now asked the pope for permission to invade Europe. He was, of course, outraged, for the doctrine of temporal power gave control of the world exclusively to him. Realizing that its creation was out of control, the Vatican raised its own army of Catholic Europeans and attacked the Muslims. Thus began the Crusades, which raged for many blood-drenched centuries.

Eventually, the Arabs realized their forces were overextended and offered to negotiate a peace with the Vatican. One of the negotiators sent to meet the Arab representatives, Rivera notes, was Francis of Assisi. Finally, a concordat was signed between the two mighty religions, with three basic provisions: First, each would occupy a country in the other’s sphere of influence, with the Muslims retaining Turkey while Lebanon went to the Catholics. Second, the Muslims would be permitted to build mosques in Roman Catholic countries so long as Roman Catholicism was allowed to flourish in the Arab world. And finally, each side would work to undermine the efforts of their common enemy -- “Bible-believing Christian missionaries.” Rivera also claims that the Vatican engineered a campaign of hatred between the Arabs and the Jews, before which they had peacefully co-existed. Furthermore, through the machinations of the Church, Satan all but guaranteed the spiritual destruction of the Arabs by convincing them that “the Bible believing missionary [is] a devil who brings poison to destroy the children of Allah.” Thus, Rivera laments, for centuries the efforts of missionaries to win souls for Jesus in the Middle East have come to naught.

With a lasting peace achieved, Dr. Rivera claims, the Vatican merely changed its tactics and sought to gain control over the Muslims through the Jesuits’ bag of dirty tricks. For example, a socialist uprising in Portugal in the early twentieth century offered an ideal opportunity to put one of their nefarious schemes into action. Taking advantage of the fact that the country’s Arab conquerors had named a village Fatima in honor of Muhammad’s daughter, the Jesuits staged an appearance of the Virgin Mary at the remote site and invented special prayers for the occasion. These “Novenas to Fatima” were then spread throughout North Africa, fooling the Arabs into thinking the Catholics were honoring the daughter of their great prophet. Apparently, this was only one part of a much grander design. Dr. Rivera continues to connect the dots as he proclaims, “As a direct result of the vision of Fatima, Pope Pius XII ordered his Nazi army to crush Russia and the Orthodox religion, and make Russia Roman Catholic…. A few years after he lost World War II, Pope Pius XII startled the world with his phoney [sic] dancing sun vision to keep Fatima in the newspapers. It was great religious show biz, and the whole world swallowed it.”

The bond formed between the Catholics and the Muslims by “Our Lady of Fatima” was put to good use in the Spanish Civil War, which Rivera prefers to call “the new Spanish Inquisition.” When Spain began to rebel against papal authority, going so far as to tax church property and remove priests and nuns from the public schools, the Vatican decided to make an example of the wayward nation. The Jesuits secretly contacted Islamic leaders and reminded them of the debt they owed the pope for refusing to surrender Jerusalem centuries earlier, and also of the concordat they signed pledging to aid the pope in a time of need. Honoring the ancient contract, the Arabs formed an army, financed by the Vatican and under the command of General Franco, and in 1936 initiated a bloodbath. The Vatican claimed to the world at large that it was a holy war against communism. As Rivera tells it, “The Spaniards watched in shock as Cardinal Pedro Segura led the Islamic army in slaughtering unfaithful Roman Catholic men, women, and children without mercy.” In a personal aside, Rivera notes that he remembers his own home being invaded by Muslim troops, though he was only three years old at the time. The inquisition was successful, he states, and nearly four million Muslim troops remained in the country to safeguard the Roman Catholic system. In exchange, the forward-thinking Arabs extracted from the pope a promise never to recognize any state of Israel which might come into existence sometime in the future.

At this point, Rosco’s journalistic skepticism finally kicks in, and he asks, “Dr. Rivera, wasn’t it a Muslim who shot the pope?” But Rivera has a ready answer and doesn’t miss a beat. He contends that the Jesuits planned the 1981 incident in order to pull Islam closer to the Vatican, as well as to give the pope and Ronald Reagan something in common -- and it worked like charm. President Reagan and the pope became “fast friends,” and all the world’s leaders expressed their sympathy for the wounded pontiff, including the Ayatollahs, who even apologized for “one of their own” having shot Jesus’ earthly representative. Moreover, the Jesuits made sure the KGB took the blame, further convincing the world that the communists are the pope’s enemies. “It’s a big game, Rosco,” he says. “[R]emember the assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, is one of Europe’s top hit men, and an expert marksman. He fired his weapon at a distance of only ten feet… Each bullet hit the pope below the navel.” When the pope subsequently visited Agca in prison and publicly forgave him, the Muslim world was abuzz with admiration for “His Holiness.” Furthermore, Rivera complains, since the pope and President Regan had become so friendly, “we ended up with a papal nuncio in Washington, D.C., and the U.S. Marines poured into Lebanon to defend a Roman Catholic nation.” Thus, the story comes full circle.

On the final page, Dr. Rivera once again looks forward to the Apocalypse to straighten out this mess once and for all. In the process, he reveals why the popes have been so desperate to gain control of Jerusalem: it is because the last pope (the Antichrist) must flee there to escape the destruction of the Vatican, according to biblical prophecy. But until then, Rivera concludes, Satan has used his treachery and deceit to destroy billions of souls, and just as he put up the Virgin Mary to get the Catholics’ attention away from Jesus, so the Vatican put up a “militant and sophisticated religion” to keep the Children of Ishmael from finding the true Christ. The final image we are left with is a multitude of white-clad Muslims, stretching all the way to the horizon, down on the floor praying, butts in the air.

As always, the inside back cover holds Jack Chick’s personal appeal to his readers, exhorting them to turn away from false religions and accept Jesus. He has a special message for Muslims, set off in a shaded box: “Some Ayatollahs, who are in command of your religion, know from reading the unprinted works of Muhammad that what I’ve told you in this book is true. But in their desperation to hold onto their power as religious leaders, they dare not admit to the betrayal of the children of Islam. Even the Vatican knows this is true.” Naturally, such assertions are impossible to dispute, though it seems unlikely any Muslims would be convinced after reading this comic book. It seems more likely they would simply feel insulted.

One of the enduring mysteries of this comic book is the significance of the giant ice cream sundae. On page five, while Dr. Rivera and Rosco are chatting, a young boy walks past carrying an ice cream sundae in a tall parfait glass. The tow-headed youngster is eyeing his treat hungrily. In the next panel, the sundae is seen in close-up, and it nearly fills the image, with Rivera and Rosco relegated to the background, peeking out from between their wordy speech balloons. We can clearly see the vanilla ice cream, the chocolate syrup, and the cherry on top. The discerning reader notes that Jim is looking over his shoulder, eyeing the sundae as well. This is an important detail, as becomes clear later on. Turn the page, and the boy can be seen chowing down on his frozen dessert in the background as Dr. Rivera begins his “brief historical background.” Apparently, while Dr. Rivera was enlightening Rosco, the temptation became too great for Jim, for twenty pages later, when Rivera is talking about Fatima, we see Jim in the cafeteria line buying the exact same kind of sundae! Jim’s face shows a mixture of relief and anticipation, for his sweet tooth is about to be satisfied. There may be, however, a tinge of guilt as well, for he seems hesitant to return to the table. Perhaps he fears the judgment of Dr. Rivera for his weakness in the face of temptation, or the censure of his friend Tim for leaving in the middle of the lecture to indulge in the pleasures of the flesh.

Unfortunately, in an egregious breach of story-telling etiquette, we are denied seeing what Rosco’s final reaction is to Dr. Rivera’s impromptu symposium. Did he fall to his knees and accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior? Did he write off Rivera as a deluded crank, giving Tim a sarcastic “thanks a lot” for subjecting him to such an extended tirade? Or did he jump on the next plane back to the Middle East, armed with his new knowledge of the truth behind the situation there, to achieve new levels of insight in his reporting and ultimately be rewarded with his own late-night news analysis show? We shall never know. To date, there have been no further issues of The Crusaders, although Jack T. Chick and his cartoon ministry are still going strong.


Sunday

Religious Comics 2

Fundamentalist Christian cartoonist Jack T. Chick continues to stretch the definition of “comic book” in the next installment of The Crusaders, a series of 32-page full-size, full-color comic magazines. Issue number 16 (copyright 1985) presents the fifth chapter of the earth-shaking “Alberto” storyline, written by Chick and illustrated by the same talented artist who brought us the Chick mini-tracts The Visitors, The Only Hope, Hi There!, and Miss Universe -- most likely Chick’s longtime associate Fred Carter. Here, in “Four Horsemen,” the self-professed ex-Jesuit priest Dr. Alberto Rivera continues to reveal to our heroes, Tim Clark and Jim Carter, the astonishing truth about the evils of Roman Catholicism, focusing largely on an exegesis of the notoriously cryptic Book of Revelations.

Like the preceding chapter, “Four Horsemen” begins promisingly, bringing us a scene rife with dramatic tension. It is the year 60 A.D., and a shopkeeper in Rome greets a nervous little man who claims to have just arrived from Jerusalem. Wanting to hear the latest news from that city, the shopkeeper invites the man to a private area in the back of the shop, unaware that a steely-eyed centurion has them under surveillance. After establishing that his guest is a believer in Christ, the shopkeeper invites him to a secret meeting to be held after dark. And so, later that night, the pair enters the labyrinthine catacombs where the Christians meet, thinking themselves safe from persecution. However, Roman soldiers suddenly appear and place them all under arrest, announcing that their lives are forfeit. The nervous little man, it turns out, was a spy for the authorities and left a trail of small white stones for them to follow. The centurion returns the now-grinning spy’s bag of stones with a villainous chuckle -- “HAW HAW.” This tale is meant to serve as an example of betrayal during the early days of Christianity, to be followed by an explication of the form betrayal takes in modern times.

Unfortunately, the story quickly wanders into very abstract territory, with Alberto Rivera making only occasional appearances. In fact, for the first several pages, it is not even clear if the captions are supposed to be voiced by Dr. Rivera or some omniscient narrator. For their part, Tim and Jim are seen only twice, and never speak. The illustrations, though often skillfully rendered, lose much of the narrative force they had in the last issue, and barely qualify as ‘sequential art.’ Also, the drawings are often supplemented with half-tone photographs, apparently appropriated from books or newspapers. In all, there are 29 such photographs, most of which show Pope John Paul II engaged in various papal duties. These photos, coupled with the non-narrative nature of the illustrations and the unprecedented amount of text on every page, serve to reduce the art to the most perfunctory level, in spite of the issue’s stunning painted cover. This is a shame because the Chick / Rivera conspiracy theory is here at its most speculative.

Following a quick overview of the Vatican II Council of the early 1960s, which was portrayed to the public at large as a glorious attempt to change and modernize the Catholic Church in a spirit of love, healing and progress, we are informed that it was all just a smoke screen to deflect attention away from the papal plans for world domination. Dr. Rivera describes a meeting he attended along with other high-ranking Jesuits. After a special midnight mass administered by the Superior General of the Society of Jesus -- otherwise known as “The Black Pope” -- the assembled priests reaffirmed their sacred oath to make war on all heretics, especially Protestants, in the spirit of the Council of Trent. We see the Jesuit leader deliver his chilling announcement that the time had come for the Final Inquisition, during which all those who were unfaithful to the Pope would be exterminated.

The first step in the new inquisition was for Dr. Rivera to lead a select group of Jesuit agents into the secret underground complex of tunnels beneath the Vatican, which serves as the nerve center of their worldwide intelligence network, in order to study the espionage tactics of the Holy Mother Church. The intelligence branch of the Vatican is described as “second to none,” because well-placed Roman Catholics in the FBI, CIA, KGB, and all the world’s agencies provide a steady stream of classified information. Catholics are willing to betray their country’s secrets to the Vatican, Rivera explains, because their loyalty to the Church trumps any allegiance to a secular nation. Additionally, intelligence is gathered in confessionals around the globe and funneled back to Rome. Thus, as Dr. Rivera discovered, “information has been stored in their underground tunnels for centuries, from the darkest secrets of history up to the secrets of the most sophisticated weapons of the 20th century.”

It was here in the Vatican vaults that Alberto Rivera discovered the shocking truth behind the worldwide conspiracy of Roman Catholicism. He learned that the Emperor Nero ordered undercover agents in the Christian community to start the Great Fire of Rome in order to justify the persecutions of the true believers, and that Nero threw his spies to the lions to cover up his deception. He learned that the Emperor Constantine, centuries later, set up counterfeit churches to entrap true Christians, and even fraudulently claimed to be converted to Christianity himself, then becoming the first pope of the religious system that would evolve into Roman Catholicism. He learned that the Bishops of Rome took advantage of Constantine’s removal to Constantinople to seize the plundered gold that the Caesars had collected from all over the known world, using this vast wealth to take over the empire. Then, these “religious Caesars” bought up all the land they could, soon becoming the largest landowners in Europe.

Rivera learned of how, when the Muslim armies conquered many of the Church’s lands in the eighth century and threatened to sack Rome itself, the Pope and his subordinates hatched a wild, desperate plan to dupe King Pepin of the Franks into sending his mighty army to fight on their behalf. A letter was written in gold ink on the finest parchment that purported to be from Saint Peter himself up in heaven, personally asking King Pepin to save Rome. Of course, Pepin swallowed it hook, line, and sinker, and his troops swept into Italy and crushed the Muslim invaders. Afterwards, King Pepin gave the city and some of the surrounding land to the Pope, never suspecting the incalculable fortune hidden underneath it.

Rivera learned that after Pepin’s death, his successor, Charlemagne, was likewise swindled by the Pope, who forged a document saying that Pepin had in fact given the Church all of Italy, not just Rome. Since Charlemagne fell for that one, they forged yet another document claiming that Constantine had officially made the popes heir to the entire Roman Empire. Charlemagne was fooled again, as were all the kings and emperors of Europe. Soon, the megalomaniacal popes even claimed to be the successors of Saint Peter himself, representing the Kingdom of God here on earth. No claim, it seemed, was too grandiose for the emergent Roman Catholic Church.

Rivera learned that when the Church’s dominion was eventually challenged centuries later, they instituted a reign of terror to bring Europe back in line. Thus began the fearsome Inquisitions, run through the so-called “Holy Office” and led by the sadistic priests of the Dominican Order. In a mile-long row of shelving in the tunnels beneath the Vatican, Dr. Rivera browsed detailed files on each and every victim of the Inquisition throughout history. Here, we are treated to detailed renderings of the blood-soaked torments of one Doña Maria de Bohorques and her sister Juana, of Seville, Spain, both arrested as heretics and imprisoned in a secret dungeon. Maria is beaten bloody and burned at the stake. Juana has her arms and legs dislocated as the monks swing her body from ropes and pulleys. They then tie a weighted cord around her breasts to inflict greater pain, but succeed only in cracking her rib cage. As Rivera describes it, “Her ribs cracked inwardly, and blood flowed from her mouth and nostrils. They took her to her cell and she died a week later. In the files of the Dominicans, everything was recorded in detail… Even the curses the Dominicans uttered in response to the Scriptures quoted by the Christians under torture and questioning. Even as an unsaved man, the contrast shook me as I read those accounts.”

Rivera learned of the origins of the Protestant Reformation, and how the early leaders of that movement had openly condemned the Pope as the Anti-Christ, a teaching sadly ignored by the modern-day leaders of their respective denominations. He also learned of the Church’s subsequent recruitment of the brilliant military strategist Ignatius Loyola, who had a cunning plan to secure for the Pope absolute control over the earth’s political leaders and their military might, as well as establishing an invincible one-world church. In pursuit of this aim, Loyola developed his secret organization, the Illuminati, into the “militia of the popes,” the Society of Jesus -- better known as the Jesuits. It was the Jesuits, Rivera discovered, who were the driving force behind the Council of Trent, where the Church officially adopted the tenets of Loyola’s scheme. Rivera says, “Those opposing the plans of the Jesuits were threatened. Many were murdered. Laws were passed at this time to put Catholics deeper into bondage and destroy all opposition.”

Next, Dr. Rivera knocks down the two metaphorical pillars that Loyola established as the basis for the religious authority of the Vatican. He asserts that the doctrine of apostolic succession -- the claim that the apostle Peter was the first in an unbroken line of popes -- is based on an intentional misinterpretation of the famous quote from Jesus in the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Matthew: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” According to Rivera’s interpretation, when Jesus says “this rock,” he is not referring to Peter himself, but to Peter’s preceding affirmation that Jesus is the Christ, son of the living God. Jesus’ statement is a play on words, Rivera says, which actually means something akin to “Peter, you are a pebble, but upon the bedrock of my divinity, I will build my church.” Thus, Jesus Christ is the true rock, and poor Peter has merely been used by the Popes to further their unholy cause. Furthermore, Rivera counters Catholic claims that Peter was the head of the church in Rome by pointing out that Paul never mentioned Peter in any of his epistles to the Romans -- and why would he have written such letters in the first place if Peter was already there to run things? Also, in the Book of Acts, we see that Peter was not even in charge of the church in Jerusalem. That honor fell to James, and when Peter misspoke, the other apostles were ready to tell him he didn’t know what he was talking about. Finally, the clincher: “Peter wasn’t a pope. He even had a wife.” Rivera concludes this diatribe by proclaiming, “The Roman Catholic system is simply religious show biz, and their public relations has sold the world a big lie.”

Dr. Rivera wastes no time debunking the second of Loyola’s pillars, “Temporal Power,” the claim that the pope has authority over the kings of the earth, which is based entirely on the forged “Donations of Constantine,” which the Church used to swindle Charlemagne, as detailed earlier. Furthermore, when the Pope kisses the ground upon his arrival in another country, it is not an act of humility, as many believe, but a sign that the Pope claims that land as his own through the doctrine of temporal power. Rivera goes on to reveal that when the Pope holds up two fingers, also a common trope in Roman Catholic depictions of Jesus, it is a sign of the two pillars herein described. Likewise, the very similar peace symbol, favored by hippies and their ilk, was originally a coded message saying that “peace and victory could only come through world acceptance of apostolic succession and temporal power.” For good measure, Rivera throws in the following quote from Revelations: “…and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”

Now, Dr. Rivera turns to his analysis of the Book of Revelations in order to prove his contention that the one true and final Anti-Christ at the time of the Second Coming will be the pope who is in power at that time, a man whose body, soul, and spirit will be completely possessed by supernatural forces of evil. To do this, Rivera focuses his attention on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The Bible describes Jesus’ opening of the first of the famous seven seals, causing the Anti-Christ to burst forth on his white horse (here, of course, he is dressed in the raiment of the pope), and goes on to list some of this horseman’s peculiar attributes. As Rivera explains, the rider on the white horse has no title of his own, just as the pope assumes a pontifical title in place of the name he was born with. The rider on the white horse is “given” a crown, just as the chosen pope is given a crown and a kingdom that are not his by birth, as with a royal dynasty. The rider on the white horse has a bow with no arrows, just as the pope has no weapons or armies but relies on his followers to fight for him, as seen in the fact that popes have been orchestrating wars from behind the scenes for more than a thousand years.

For example, Rivera asserts, World War II was really yet another brutal Roman Catholic inquisition, started when three faithful Catholics -- Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco -- tried to conquer the world for the Pope to set up his millennial kingdom. Each of the three governments signed concordats with the Vatican -- contracts of mutual support. As evidence, Adolf Hitler is quoted as saying, “…as for the Jews, I am just carrying on with the same policy which the Catholic Church has adopted for fifteen hundred years, when it has regarded the Jews as dangerous and pushed them into ghettos, et cetera, because it knew what the Jews were like. I don’t put race above religion, but I do see the danger in the representatives of the race for church and state, and perhaps I am doing Christianity a great service.” The quote is attributed to the book The Nazi Persecution of the Churches by historian John S. Conway.

Furthermore, Rivera contends that the Holocaust was perfectly legal under Roman Catholic law as established by the Council of Trent, for the Jews were considered heretics and thus enemies of God. Then, to get a further dig in at the Catholic Church, the text notes that the Vatican has not yet recognized Israel as a nation, though it was the only sovereign government to officially recognize the Confederate States of America. Since World War II, the Catholic Church has been on the move, according to Rivera, polishing its tarnished image through feel-good shams like the Vatican II Council and a relentless blitzkrieg of pro-Catholic propaganda in the mainstream media, fooling even Bible-believing Christians into thinking the Pope is a man of peace.

Returning to his textual analysis, Dr. Rivera makes the obvious assumption that, since the horse released by the opening of the second seal is red, he must represent Communism, and indeed, the second horseman is dressed in the long overcoat, fur hat, and bushy moustache of a Russian soldier, and is wielding a large scimitar. Rivera claims that the communist nations are unwitting pawns of the Vatican, and John Paul II, “the Communist pope from Poland,” has concordats prepared for the Soviet Union and China, offering political and financial support in exchange for guarantees that Roman Catholicism will be the only recognized religion behind the Iron Curtain. Meanwhile, priests and bishops in the U.S. lead protests advocating total disarmament to ensure that the United States loses World War III. Worse, as Rivera adds cryptically, “legislation is now being pushed through our judicial system which will make it possible for our freedoms to be taken from us.” The accompanying illustration shows the nightmare scenario of armed police stormtroopers, egged on by a crucifix-brandishing priest, arresting congregants at a Baptist church.

When the third seal is opened, the black horse issues forth, here ridden by a priest holding up a pair of balances. Rivera explains that this represents the Catholic Church’s control over the world’s economy and food production -- hence the black horse’s traditional association with famine. More to the point, however, is the third horseman’s grip on the oil and liquor industries of the earth, and the color black clearly represents the Jesuit order. At this point, a helpful flow chart appears, showing the means by which the Jesuits seek to dominate the world economy using a number of front organizations. An icon representing the Vatican connects to a box labeled “Jesuits,” and underneath that are eight boxes, labeled “The Illuminati,” “The Club of Rome,” “The C.F.R.,” “The Opus Dei,” “International Bankers,” “The Masons,” “New Age Movement, etc.,” and, of course, “The Mafia: Criminal Arm of the Vatican.” After all, anyone familiar with media portrayals of organized crime knows that all mobsters are Roman Catholics, so it makes perfect sense that they are actually working for the Pope. The true mission of the rider on the black horse, we are told, is to use his power to control, manipulate, and legally destroy Protestant America.

Next, the fourth seal is opened, leading to one of my personal favorite quotes from the Bible: “Behold a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.” Death here appears in the traditional guise of the Grim Reaper, a cloaked skeleton holding a scythe, while Hell is represented by a grinning mass of flame sitting behind the Reaper. Without further explanation, they set off on their mission of murder and destruction.

Then, following a brief note about the Rapture and the opening of the fifth seal, we are treated to a scene of black-robed priests going about their inquisitional duties against those poor souls left behind. Aside from the classic “burning-at-the-stake” technique, we see an ingenious set-up of a small guillotine on a steel cart with inflatable rubber tires. A fish tank sits next to the guillotine, ready to catch the severed head after the blade drops. Truly, a dark day for the human race.

On the final page, the end comes quickly. The Vatican is utterly annihilated, reduced to smoldering rubble, since, naturally, Satan always double-crosses his followers. However, the Anti-Christ escapes to Jerusalem, the text informs us, where he comes under attack by the Russian communists and the Arab armies. This is the far-famed Battle of Armageddon, which ends in a blinding flash as Christ returns to earth and wipes out his enemies. We see the Pope and a priest both flung into “a lake of fire burning with brimstone.”

The last panel, however, shows the Four Horsemen tearing across the landscape, the Pope leading the charge, as the boldface text shouts to us: “Tremendous events are ahead! The four horsemen are riding today across the earth. Jesus is coming soon to take His bride (the true believers) to heaven. The antichrist is helping Satan prepare his bride… for the lake of fire. The showdown is coming fast. Only those who commit their lives to Christ and make Him Lord of their lives will be saved from God’s awful coming judgment.”

It is disappointing that the spectacular events of the Apocalypse are dealt with in such an abbreviated fashion, shown in small, cramped panels with captions containing mostly long passages from the Bible. Also, Dr. Rivera’s unique point of view fades to the point of invisibility, especially since he does not even appear in the last nine pages of the book. The case against the Catholic Church might have been made more compelling if the events had been dramatized. As the success of the recent series of Left Behind novels shows, the Second Coming of Christ offers a wealth of dramatic potential, and it would have been interesting to see it presented in the visual medium of comics. Jack Chick seemed more interested in merely hitting the main points of Alberto Rivera’s anti-papist interpretation of the scriptures, however, and so squandered his artist’s evident talents. Thus, we are left with more of an illustrated treatise, one so broad in scope and arcane in subject matter that the emotional impact of Dr. Rivera’s fight against a worldwide satanic conspiracy is lost.


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Religious Comics 1

Many people have come across the small cartoon tracts published by Jack T. Chick, which carry a fire-and-brimstone message of Christian evangelism. Lesser known, however, are Chick’s standard-format comic books, 32-page full-color stories intended to deliver his fundamentalist message to adults and teens. Although these comics are typically shunned by fans of the art form, I decided it would be interesting to take “the road less traveled” into the backwaters of the comic book industry.

Issue number 15 of The Crusaders (copyright 1983) presents the fourth chapter of the epic “Alberto” storyline, in which our heroes, Tim Clark and Jim Carter, sit in a room listening to Dr. Alberto Rivera explain many of the astonishing secrets he discovered deep within the Vatican vaults while he was a Jesuit secret agent. As the dramatic tension builds, the characters are driven to stand up, and they continue their conversation in this manner.

The character of Dr. Rivera is based on the real-life Alberto Rivera, who was born in the Canary Islands in 1935 and died in Oklahoma in 1997. Rivera claimed to have been a Jesuit priest in the 1950s and ‘60s, during which time he discovered a fundamental corruption at the very heart of Catholicism. The Roman Catholic Church vehemently denied such claims, and painted Rivera as a crook and a fraud. Jack Chick, however, was convinced that Rivera was genuine, and agreed to publish his story in comic-book form. The six-part storyline was written by Chick based on Rivera’s testimony, and, although the artist is not credited, it is most likely Chick’s long-time associate Fred Carter. In any case, it is certainly the same artist who drew memorable Chick mini-tracts such as Dark Dungeons, That Crazy Guy, Bad Bob!, The Sissy?, The First Jaws, and Room 310.

This chapter, entitled “The Force,” opens with a suspenseful scene of an exorcism held in a village on Rivera’s native Canary Islands early in his career. When the local parish priest is overwhelmed by the evil “force” within the Montez home, Rivera is called in, for, being a Jesuit, he has been expertly trained in dealing with the occult. The hapless local priest is torn to bloody shreds by the demonic forces, but Rivera is undaunted and enters the dwelling. Once inside, he is swept into the air and spun about, as the women of the house, also levitating, vomit great quantities of green slime. Flying furniture and exploding chairs menace the heroic priest as his vestments are shredded by the unseen force. The sinister sound of laughter, the evil “HAW HAW” familiar to Chick fans, permeates the scene. Finally, he manages to administer a communion wafer to each member of the Montez family, driving away the evil spirits. However, Rivera reveals, although it seemed he had won the day, in truth he had merely been a pawn in an elaborate scheme perpetrated by none other than Satan himself.

Next, Rivera fills in some backstory by describing the origin of Satan and the development of his nefarious conspiracy to damn the human race to hell by setting up a false religion. The character of Satan is here depicted as a humanoid wearing an all-concealing magenta robe with a hood that leaves his face in opaque shadow. Only the eerie red glow of his eyes is visible. He lives in a cavern deep in the bowels of the earth, attended by his legions of monstrous demons. In a sequence curiously thin on scripture citations, Rivera describes the war in heaven that led to Lucifer and his fallen angels being cast down to earth, where the rebellious Lucifer became Satan, the Prince of Darkness, the Devil, and subsequently gained complete “legal and spiritual control” over the human race. Eventually, his demons had possessed everybody except Noah’s family, leading to the Great Flood and the famous animal-filled ark. Although the hapless humans all drowned, the cunning demons merely retreated to hell, where Satan began to scheme to subvert the biblical prophecies, all to gain revenge on God. In essence, he is the ultimate diabolical mastermind.

Satan’s false religion would, of course, eventually become Roman Catholicism, but it had its origins in ancient Babylon, where, according to Rivera, Satan established an occult religion centered around the beauteous Queen Semiramis and her hirsute husband Nimrod. At this time, which was shortly after the Great Flood, many familiar elements of Catholicism were introduced, such as the celibacy of the priesthood, the confessional, and the use of crosses and crucifixes. Each was a devious scheme concocted by Semiramis to keep the people under her wicked thumb. “The nuns were temple prostitutes, serving the priests -- just like today,” quips Dr. Rivera. Additionally, he continues, Nimrod oversaw the development of astrology, until he was finally killed by one of the sons of Noah in an attempt to end such occult practices. However, Semiramis merely claimed that Nimrod had become a god, and that he was reincarnated in her son Tammuz, a product of virgin birth. Already claiming to be a moon goddess, she added the title “Virgin Mother” to her list of accomplishments, and had statues made of her holding her son, the infant sun god, which were displayed in most Babylonian homes and gardens. Semiramis, the so-called Queen of Heaven, was clearly the prototype for the Virgin Mary. Rivera further claims that all the world’s pantheons were inspired by Semiramis, Nimrod, and little Tammuz in one way or another, and that Satan and his demonic agents even performed the occasional “miracle,” such as making a statue move or weep, in order to convert the gullible.

As Tim and Jim listen with rapt attention, Rivera continues his history lesson, briefly telling of the creation of God’s chosen people, the Children of Israel, commonly known as the Jews, and their period of slavery in Egypt. As the Egyptians adopted the religion of Semiramis, further pieces of the puzzle appeared, such as the concept of transubstantiation, by which their sun god Osiris was transformed into an edible wafer. Curiously, Rivera claims that the familiar monogram IHS originally stood for “Isis, Horus, and Seb,” although, of course, the ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics rather than an alphabet. This point is not explained, although a footnote does reference the book The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop. Anyway, time passed, and dark days befell the Children of Israel. As they moved into Canaan after escaping Egypt, they slowly became corrupted by the influence of the false religion, which included, as we are shown, babies being sacrificed to Nimrod (in the guise of “Molech”) by being tossed kicking and screaming into a raging fire. Many of the Jewish elders offended God by creating a secret society “similar to Masonry” and engaged in both idol- and sun-worship. Thus, as a grim Dr. Rivera intones, “after the book of Malachi was written, God remained silent for 400 years.”

Although God may have been silent during the interregnum between the Old and New Testaments, Satan was, of course, very busy. Among the blasphemies he invented during this time was the Apocrypha, a set of books meant to subvert the true scriptures (which can, apparently, be found only in the Protestant version of the King James Bible). Out of the Apocrypha came the idea of purgatory, although Rivera defers revealing its sinister purpose until later. He further claims that the Devil also took the opportunity to lay the foundations for the concepts of liturgy, canon law, and dogma -- each of which would work its dark magic in the centuries to follow. Finally, though, God sprang into action, leaving heaven to be born on the planet earth as a flesh-and-blood boy named Jesus. Dr. Rivera gloats, “Satan’s deadliest enemy had arrived!” After knocking down the Roman Catholic contention that Mary remained a virgin throughout her life, Rivera introduces God’s “last prophet to the Children of Israel,” John the Baptist, who utters God’s first word after four centuries of silence: “REPENT!”

Then follows a three-page summary of the ministry of Jesus and its bloody, prophecy-fulfilling end. Rivera asserts, “Jesus is not a weak fairy like so many would like to picture him. He had guts and strength.... He didn’t pull any punches, and they hated him because of that.” However, Jesus appears quite passive and non-violent in the illustrations. The only violent image is of one of King Herod’s soldiers hacking a two-year-old child to death with his blood-drenched sword. The third page is given over to a dramatic splash of the crucifixion. Although Jesus is naked, a strategically-placed caption preserves his modesty. Rivera explains that the cross is shaped like a “T” in honor of Tammuz, and is not actually a Christian symbol, according to the Bible. Next, to Satan’s horror, Jesus rose from the dead and returned to heaven. Thus began the supernatural “cold war” between the Savior and the Devil. Satan’s initial tactics included the creation of the Latin Vulgate Bible and the persecutions of Christians in the Roman Coliseum. As the Christian church continued to grow despite Satan’s attacks, the Devil finally converted the Roman Empire itself into his new church, with the Emperor Constantine as the first pope. Rivera asserts that the letters of Constantine’s mother, Helena, which are housed in the Vatican vaults, reveal that he actually remained a worshipper of Nimrod / Tammuz (now in the guise of “Sol”) and continued to persecute true Christians after publicly declaring his conversion to Christianity. Rivera flatly states that “her son was an Anti-Christ, completely controlled by seducing spirits, just like every pope who ever followed him.”

Following the death of Constantine, Rivera reports, Roman Catholicism began to spread throughout Europe, and in its wake followed “witchcraft,” i.e., the practice of “hexes, spells, curses, soul travel, black masses, sacrificial murders, and drinking of human blood. Much of this,” Rivera adds, “went on in the convents and monasteries throughout Europe.” He further claims that “witches” were servants of the Vatican, and those who were put to death by Roman Catholics were merely renegades. “That is why Joan of Arc was burned to death,” he notes matter-of-factly, without elaboration. We are then treated to a gruesome image of the severed heads of Anabaptists, caked in blood and gore, atop posts stretching thirty miles along the road to Rome, illustrating Satan’s treatment of true Christians in the early days of his phony church.

Nevertheless, a revival was underway as the true Christians converted -- or “saved” -- numerous Catholics by preaching the true gospel. When Jim asks Dr. Rivera where he learned all this, the former Jesuit responds, “I read it in the archives of the Vatican. Every detail had been recorded, but very carefully kept out of our history books.” To counter this revival, he continues, Satan raised up his own champion, none other than Ignatius de Loyola, who instituted a series of inquisitions that, according to Dr. Rivera’s calculations, ultimately killed a staggering 68 million people -- which apparently includes the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, as Rivera claims, in his inimitable off-handed way, that even that was masterminded by the Catholic Church. Furthermore, Loyola created the Illuminati to “control the minds of European leaders through hypnosis, witchcraft, and mind control” and also his crowning achievement, the Jesuits, who mastered such Satanic practices as levitation, telepathy, speaking in tongues, transcendental meditation, parapsychology, psychoanalysis, psychotherapy, and psychiatry.

Dr. Rivera bitterly complains of the Jesuits’ studies of the occult, Buddhism, and Voodoo, as well as the many Satanic cults they have spawned, such as Freemasonry, Mormonism, Christian Science, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, all of which were molded by undercover Jesuit agents to serve the interests of the Vatican. Meanwhile, the Illuminati gained control of the world’s military forces and international banking systems, while cleverly covering-up their connection to the Roman Catholic Church, even using patsies like Adam Weishaupt to muddy the waters.

Next, Dr. Rivera rails against the evils of Christmas, an unbiblical Roman Catholic “holy day” that Protestants have been pressured into celebrating. In reality, however, he explains, it is a ceremony of white witchcraft derived from Semiramis, who declared December 25th to be the birthday of her child, Tammuz the sun god, since it is at this point in the year that the sun is furthest from the earth. With the first Catholic mass, which was said on December 24th of the year 394 A.D. (or thereabouts), the Church changed the birthday of Tammuz into the birthday of Jesus, adopting many of the pagan practices used to celebrate the day, such as decorating trees with shiny balls (which represent the sun), drunkenness and merriment, orgies, and, of course, roasting babies on an open fire.

The true Christian holiday, according to Dr. Rivera, is Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, even this has been marred by Satan’s sinister scheming, for every November, the Vatican-controlled mass media is sure to remind everyone about the Salem Witch Trials, calling them a “terrible blot on American Protestantism.” The Jesuit-controlled Church of Wicca and all its witches proclaim self-righteously to the TV cameras, “Never again will we witches be put to death by Christians!” However, they know as well as Dr. Rivera does that it was only Christians who were put to death during the Salem Witch Trials, while their accusers -- the real witches -- went scot free.

At this point, Tim becomes extremely concerned for the souls of Catholics worldwide, and Dr. Rivera assures him that their prospects are dim, due to the indelible mark of Satan placed upon them during the abomination that is infant baptism. Rather than throwing the baby on the fire, as in times past, the canny priests practice a symbolic sacrifice of the child to Nimrod / Tammuz (or “Baal,” as Rivera now calls him). They take the baby to the back of the church, far from the altar containing the cracker god (the pre-transubstantiated communion wafer), where they put the occult mark of Tammuz (the sign of the cross) on the baby’s head with oil, put salt in his mouth, and “baptize” him with water, all according to the Babylonian practices set down by Semiramis. Thus is the innocent baby made a member of the evil Roman Catholic system, which Rivera identifies as the “Great Whore of Revelation 17.” Unless saved, the baby will be kept in spiritual bondage by the mass, which is a counterfeit Last Supper using the ancient Egyptian IHS wafer, now called “the host.” Catholics are told that if they refuse to eat the host, they will be eternally damned, little realizing it is transubstantiated not into the flesh of Jesus, but rather that of Baal, the Satanic sun god of Babylon.

Likewise, the crucifix represents strong demonic forces that Catholics surrender themselves to when they pray to the blasphemous object. In order to illustrate Rivera’s point about the power of the crucifix, Count Dracula makes a cameo appearance, seen recoiling from such an item, “as depicted in the vampire movies.” Here, at last, the story comes full circle, as Rivera reveals what really happened during the Montez exorcism. The occult force behind the crucifix that the young priest wielded drove the weaker demons out of the women only so that they could be possessed by seven more, just as Jesus warned might happen in the Book of Matthew. Thus, the entire charade worked to Satan’s advantage, and the Montez women were merely bound that much more tightly to the Roman Catholic system.

Then, Dr. Rivera relates his most blood-curdling story yet. When he was 14 years old, he claims, he and a group of fellow students at the Jesuit college visited a nunnery elsewhere on the Canary Islands. While romping on the grounds, they discovered a deep trench, in which were hidden the bodies of seven babies. On the heads, hands, feet, and chests of each victim had been carved the symbol of the “Pax Christus,” and their hearts had been cut out. The boys were terrified. Days later, one of Rivera’s friends revealed their discovery to his teen-aged sister, who told her priest about it in the confessional. Shortly afterwards, her mutilated body was found dumped by the side of the road, and her brother vanished without a trace. Rivera was shaken to learn that the girl’s ears, tongue, and heart had been removed and the “Pax Christus” had been carved into her chest. Years later, he learned the motivation for these atrocities: the babies had been sacrificed to the Virgin Mary, just as babies had been sacrificed to Semiramis ages ago. “Nothing has changed,” he says grimly. The Jesuits use the “Pax Christus” as a sophisticated Satanic symbol for Mary worship, to indicate that the victim has suffered, as Mary suffered during the crucifixion, to gain her sympathy so that she might intercede on their behalf with her son Jesus on his heavenly throne. Without suffering, the thinking goes, there can be no peace. Rivera asserts, “If a nun is bleeding to death giving birth to a priest’s baby, medication is withheld so she can suffer for Mary... and if need be, die for her. The baby is always baptized before it is sacrificed. Many times, they are tortured so they can suffer.” This cold-hearted Virgin Mary is not the sweet, innocent Jewish girl who gave birth to Jesus; she is none other than Semiramis herself.

In the light of these purported horrors, Rivera advises a “zero tolerance” policy toward Roman Catholicism. He excoriates “Bible-believing fundamentalists or evangelicals” who support dialogue with the Vatican, and who attend Catholic healing services where the priests of Baal worship their occult symbols. In the final panels, Tim and Jim are utterly aghast, and Dr. Rivera closes by saying that true Christians have been betrayed by their own leaders -- modern-day Pharisees -- who have compromised with the Devil by cozying up to the Catholic Church rather than taking a stand against it. Furthermore, Rivera intones, unless the eight hundred million Roman Catholics in the world are saved, “they will be eternally lost and their blood will be on our hands at the judgment seat of Christ.”

As always, on the inside back cover, Jack Chick summarizes the message in his strongest possible language. Here, he writes, “Satan has tricked almost everyone into believing that the Roman Catholic institution is Christian. We found out that their “Jesus” is Tammuz, their “Mary” is Semiramis, the pope is an Anti-Christ, their “host” was stolen from the Egyptians and represents the sun god, and the Catholic crucifix is the heart of the occult. The Bible tells us this system is the habitation of devils. Jesus hates, and has cursed, this evil religion, and warns Catholics to get out of it.... Only by coming out and receiving Christ as lord and savior, can Roman Catholics be freed from this occult power and escape the lake of fire.”

Strong stuff in this extremely text-heavy comic book, with illustrations that, though skillfully done, are generally quite static. The lettering is typographical, done long before the advent of computerized lettering, and has a clumsy feel that detracts from the skilled rendering of the art. The sans-serif font is quite easy to read, however, and the sheer amount of text would have taxed the skills of even the most prolific hand letterer of the day. The coloring is actually quite sophisticated, far more so than was typically found in mainstream comics from this period, although it is occasionally hampered by poor registration of the color plates during the printing process. There are no ads, making, all in all, for a very dense read.

While the authors’ most basic premise, that much of Roman Catholic dogma and practice is not based on the Bible, seems valid, Chick’s overarching conspiracy theory is a tough pill to swallow -- in no small part because it hinges on there being a controlling intelligence provided by a malevolent immortal being with virtually a free hand in human affairs. And the true Christians, beset on all sides by this malevolence since time immemorial, seem to have done little else but survive in the face of it, which I suppose is commendable. But it should be remembered that, for an apocalyptic thinker like Chick, it won’t be long before Jesus rides down on his mighty steed to bail them out and set things straight once and for all. But that’s a story for another time....


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