Malachi Martin wants to make our flesh creep. He thinks there is a Jesuit world conspiracy. Many have thought this, just as many have thought there was a Masonic world conspiracy or a Jewish world conspiracy. Such fantasies feed our desires for a world more marvelous, and more coherent in evil, than the commonplace world to which we ordinarily think ourselves to belong. What is singular about Martin’s theory is that he holds that the object of the conspiracy is to corrupt and destroy the Catholic Church from within.
Once, before the Second Vatican Council, the Church, as Martin sees it, was a strong city of shining certitudes, its walls well manned against external enemies and its inner tranquillity guarded by a vigilant central authority quick to put down heresies; and the most important defenders against attack from without and subversion from within were the Jesuits. They have now, Martin charges, fallen away from their role as the Pope’s spiritual army and have gone over to the enemy. In this they have been guided by certain leaders in the Society: Teilhard de Chardin, karl Rahner, and above all the Basque Arrupe, who was general of the Society of Jesus for so long, and whose name Martin uses to label the whole tendency of modern Jesuitism—Arrupism. The Jesuits could not have succeeded—or come close to success (it isn’t clear whether or not Martin thinks they have succeeded)—without the folly and weakness of others, notably Paul VI, who failed to see what was going on or, seeing it, failed to act. Even John Paul II hasn’t been able to act decisively, though he gets some marks from Martin for trying.
The success of the conspiracy, according to Martin, is to be found in the “Modernism” that has overcome Catholicism in all countries. Instead of a religion with a plain, authoritative dogmatic system, whose chief business was “spiritual,” that is, to enable as many men as possible to escape Hell, we now have a tentative, hesitant religion preoccupied with social and political issues and weak on the traditional moral teaching on sexual ethics. Hitherto unheard-of questions, such as the ordination of women to the priesthood, are now debated. The firm anticommunism of the Church, once a rock of certainty in an uncertain world, has been weakened. Indeed, there has been for years, so Martin assures us, a secret treaty of nonaggression between the Vatican and Moscow; and the Jesuits have had a hand in this too.
The point of a caricature is that the subject should be recognizable. Malachi Martin is a clever caricaturist. Some of the things he has to say are plausible, others are carefully fashioned half-truths, others are wantonly conceived fictions, others are absurdities of a kind that used to be found—and are still prevalent in French ultramontane circles (the Intégristes) and were long ago satirized by Gide in Les caves du Vatican. The whole picture is stitched together with malice. The …