In search of the foot soldiers of the Alta Vendita, we arrive at our second point and the work of His Excellency Rudolph Graber, the late Bishop of Regensburg. Appointed to his See in 1962 by St. John XXIII, Bishop Graber would later serve as a Council Father, and in 1977 acted as the principal consecrator in Joseph Ratzinger’s elevation to the episcopacy. A prolific theologian, whose works were widely disseminated throughout the world, we turn today to the English edition of his 1974 volume, Athanasius and the Church of Our Time.
In the fifth chapter of this text we meet Fr. Paul Roca (1830-1893). Ordained in 1858 in the Diocese of Perpignan, France, he was made an honorary canon in 1869. From there, he taught and traveled extensively abroad until he eventually ran afoul of Rome on account of his penchant of distributing occult propaganda among the youth. A known author of Freemasonic literature, Roca was ultimately excommunicated for his heretical teaching, but he regrettably never recanted.
Instead, he continued promoting the doctrine of the Alta Vendita, speaking about “a new, enlightened Church influenced by the socialism of Jesus and the Apostles”; and for Roca this meant a Church that “might not be able to retain anything of Scholastic doctrine and the original form of the former Church”; on the contrary, just before the turn of the 20th century, Roca predicted the following:
[T]he divine cult in the form directed by the liturgy, ceremonial, ritual and regulations of the Roman Church will shortly undergo a transformation at an Ecumenical Council, which will restore it to the veritable simplicity of the golden age of the Apostles in accordance with the dictates of conscience and modern civilization.
Restoration? Simplicity? Apostolic Renaissance? Adaptation to modern times? Dictates of conscience? Has an Ecumenical Council ever taken up such themes, and in the context of the liturgy no less? Even in hindsight, one could hardly concoct a more precise litany of the ideas that animated Vatican II. Thus, if St. John XXIII announced the Council to a stunned silence, we can safely assume – at least for those prelates of Roca’s ilk – that this silence had more to do with satisfaction than shock; but what should not be shocking to anyone who calls himself Catholic is the idea that Freemasonry should ever gain such influence in the Church.
Which leads us to our third point, and the approved apparitions of Our Lady of Good Success. Beginning in the late 1500’s, a Spanish Conceptionist nun, Mother Mariana de Jesus Torres, began receiving visitations from the Mother of God at her convent in Quito, Ecuador. Complete with the commissioning of a miraculous statue, added to a multitude of prophecies which have since come to pass, the Blessed Virgin spoke particularly about the pernicious activities of Masonic sects that would erupt in the 19th and 20th centuries; what is of special importance for our purposes is the fact that Freemasonry was not even founded until 1717 in London, England. That we should find such an exact descriptor – over a century in advance and on the opposite side of the world – is by itself a testament to the prophetic nature of these startling revelations:
Thus, I make it known to you that from the end of the 19th century and from shortly after the middle of the 20th century…the passions will erupt and there will be a total corruption of morals, for Satan will reign almost completely through the Masonic sects. They will focus principally on the children in order to sustain this general corruption. Woe to the children of these times! It will be difficult to receive the Sacrament of Baptism and also the Sacrament of Confirmation. They will receive the Sacrament of Confession only if they remain in Catholic schools, for the Devil will make a great effort to destroy it through persons in position of authority. The same thing will happen with the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Alas! How deeply I grieve to manifest to you the many enormous sacrileges – both public as well as secret – that will occur from profanation of the Holy Eucharist… My Most Holy Son will see Himself cast upon the ground and trampled upon by filthy feet… Often, during this epoch the enemies of Jesus Christ, instigated by the Devil, will steal consecrated Hosts from the churches so that they might profane the Eucharistic Species… The Sacrament of Extreme Unction will be little valued. Many people will die without receiving it… As for the Sacrament of Matrimony, which symbolizes the union of Christ with His Church, it will be attacked and deeply profaned. Freemasonry, which will then be in power, will enact iniquitous laws with the aim of doing away with this sacrament, making it easy for everyone to live in sin and encouraging the procreation of illegitimate children born without the blessing of the Church… Added to this will be the effects of secular education, which will be one reason for the death of priestly and religious vocations. The Sacrament of Holy Orders will be ridiculed… The Devil will try to persecute the ministers of the Lord in every possible way; he will labor with cruel and subtle astuteness to deviate them from the spirit of their vocation and will corrupt many of them. These depraved priests, who will scandalize the Christian people, will make the hatred of bad Catholics and the enemies of the Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church fall upon all priests… Unhappy times will come wherein those who should fearlessly defend the rights of the Church will instead, blinded despite the light, give their hand to the Church’s enemies and do their bidding. But when [evil] seems triumphant and when authority abuses its power, committing all manner of injustice and oppressing the weak, their ruin shall be near. They will fall and crash to the ground.
That’s all seven sacraments (in case you weren’t counting) and all – according to Our Lady’s prophecy – wasting away under the withering influence of the Devil reigning in the Church through Masonic sects. It reads like a narrative description of our times, and here we have explicit references to a mode of liturgical life which lends itself to the Holy Eucharist being trampled underfoot. Considering the manner in which Mass was celebrated in the 1600’s, who could imagine such a thing without also imagining some corresponding degradation in the character of the liturgy? And note also the parallels with the Instruction: targeting the youth, infiltrating schools, and corrupting morals. If the Masons laid out their strategy for destruction, the Blessed Virgin described its rotten fruit in morbid detail. Is it any wonder that Pope Leo XIII had this to say about Freemasonry in his 1884 encyclical Humanum Genus?
The race of man, after its miserable fall from God, the Creator and the Giver of heavenly gifts, “through the envy of the devil,” separated into two diverse and opposite parts, of which the one steadfastly contends for truth and virtue, the other of those things which are contrary to virtue and to truth. The one is the kingdom of God on earth, namely, the true Church of Jesus Christ… The other is the kingdom of Satan… At every period of time each has been in conflict with the other, with a variety and multiplicity of weapons and of warfare, although not always with equal ardour and assault. At this period, however, the partisans of evil seems to be combining together, and to be struggling with united vehemence, led on or assisted by that strongly organized and widespread association called the Freemasons… They are planning the destruction of holy Church…with the set purpose of utterly despoiling the nations of Christendom, if it were possible, of the blessings obtained for us through Jesus Christ our Saviour.
Relentless in his condemnation the Holy Pontiff excoriates Freemasonry for its perpetration of all manner of public crimes. Among these (which ought to sound familiar to those of us now suffering through them) he includes the propagation of lewd materials and unbounded sexual license “by which virtue may be lulled to sleep” (20); the promotion of relativism, religious indifferentism, and the dissolubility of marriage (21); the co-opting of education and the replacement of religious instructors with laymen (21); the elimination of God from governance, and the erosion of Natural Law and hierarchical social structures in exchange for a materialistic and hyper-egalitarian majority rule (22); and ultimately, the very destruction of religion and the Church founded by Jesus Christ (24). The Holy Father continues:
In this insane and wicked endeavor we may almost see the implacable hatred and spirit of revenge with which Satan himself is inflamed against Jesus Christ. So also the studious endeavor of the Freemasons to destroy the chief foundation of justice and honesty, and to cooperate with those who would wish, as if they were animals, to do what they please, tends only to the ignominious and disgraceful ruin of the human race.
In the face of such flagrant, far-reaching, and disastrous assaults the Holy Father understood quite keenly the need to mount a strong resistance; as such, he sets forth the following remedial program “for the extirpation of this foul plague which is creeping through the veins of the body politic.” First and foremost he counseled exposure, exhorting his readers to “tear away the mask of Freemasonry, and to let it be seen as it really is” (31). This was to be achieved by primarily through preaching and publication, but also by the promotion of virtuous organizations such as Catholic schools (36) religious guilds for workmen (35), and Third Order lay associations (34).
Yet above and beyond all these efforts the pope called especially for prayer, recognizing “that our united labors will by no means suffice to pluck up these pernicious seeds from the Lord’s field, unless the Heavenly Master of the vineyard shall mercifully help us in our endeavors.” To this end, the Holy Father closes his encyclical on a hopeful note trusting that, in so far as the Church perseveres in prayer, so will she be delivered her from her enemies.
It’s an altogether brilliant exhortation, which not only exposes Freemasonry’s plans, but also sets forth the appropriate tactical countermeasures; and yet its inherent vulnerability lies in the danger of alerting the opposition respecting how and where they ought to strike; for to the degree the Church is strengthened by a renewal of prayer, so too is she compromised by its corruption. A simple maxim, but nevertheless staggering in its implications for the integrity of the Church’s most powerful and essential prayer. Thus, if it was made painstakingly obvious that the Magisterium must, above all else, safeguard the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it was no less evident that – should a spirit of liturgical revolution ever succeed in masquerading as source of renewal – it would signal a decisive conquest for the enemies of the Church.
And so it has.
An important question remains unanswered; namely, how would the Devil ever attain such power? Efforts at infiltration notwithstanding, it seems only fitting that God would nevertheless place special protections around the Church’s supreme and existential act of worship. In light of this reality, it is therefore reasonable to conclude that should such a masterstroke ever successfully fall, it could only occur in an era when Satan had been granted unprecedented license by God himself in his designs to destroy the Church.
Which brings us to our fourth point, and the truly frightening vision of Pope Leo XIII in which he reportedly witnessed the unfolding of exactly this scenario:
October 13, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had just finished celebrating Mass in a chapel in the Vatican. At the Mass were a few Cardinals and members of the household staff. Suddenly the Pope stopped at the foot of the altar. He stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. Then going straightway from the Chapel to his office, he composed the prayer to St. Michael and later issued instructions that it be said after all Low Masses everywhere in the world. He explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he had suddenly heard voices – two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. There he heard the voice of Satan in his pride, boasting to Our Lord: “I can destroy your Church.” The gentle voice of Our Lord: “You can? Then go ahead and do so.” Satan replied, “To do so, I need more time and more power.” The Lord said, “How much time? How much power?” “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.” was Satan’s reply. Mysteriously our Lord said, “You have the time, you have the power. Do with them what you will.”
While there are several permutations of this story in circulation, the most frequently cited authorities are the 1946 Pastoral Letter of Cardinal Nasalli Rocca, and the eyewitness testimony of Fr. Domenico Pechenino, first recorded in the Italian journal La Settimana del Clero (those who would seek to discredit this last attestation due to its affiliation with the Society of St. Pius X need also to recognize that this source is unique in providing authentic translations from the original documents). What these accounts make clear, especially in the absence of evidence discrediting their veracity, is that there is good reason to conclude that Pope Leo’s vision actually took place; more importantly, the vision itself offers good reason to conclude that the 20th century would witness a diabolical assault on the Church unlike any she had previously known.
To this end, if St. John Paul II is correct in proclaiming that the Holy Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Faith,” it stands to reason that those attempting to effect its demise would seek to undermine the very ritual given for its manifestation and exaltation. And even though such an attack could never entirely compromise the validity of the Eucharistic consecration, it may nevertheless achieve a degree of distortion so pronounced that it effectively obscures these Sacred Mysteries from all but keenest (or most pious) observers.
Is it any wonder then that today more than 60% of American Catholics deny the reality of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist? It shouldn’t be. The conclusion is obvious: when the Church ceases acting as if Christ is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament, the faithful stop believing that Christ is truly and substantially present in the Blessed Sacrament. This creates a vicious cycle: as belief begins to falter, praxis suffers further. Why else do we tolerate banal sanctuaries cluttered with laity, communion in the hand, indecent attire, rank irreverence, awful music, and unrestricted chatter in church? The list of abuses common in our era is lengthy, but the answer to why they persist is always the same: there is among Catholics today a widespread and practical apostasy from the central miraculous dogma of the Mass; that is, we no longer believe that the Eucharist is God Himself, veiled in hidden majesty, made present so that we may worship and adore Him; and consequently, we blithely construct liturgies which forsake the First Commandment while emphasizing shallow and insipid ways to amuse or gratify ourselves.
Excepting of course, the Church’s ultimate indefectibility, if left unchecked, these efforts can only move us ever closer to the stated end of Freemasonry; namely, “the destruction forever of Catholicism and even of the Christian idea.” Again, this is because the Mass is the Church’s existential act of worship. She depends upon it for her very existence, and thus the measure of its destruction will be the measure of her demise.
For some, it may be difficult to concede that the Church could stray so far afield, especially when it seems that her own Council ultimately acted as the catalyst; but when we recall that the popes repeatedly warned of a Masonic plot to destroy the Faith; that known Masons went on to disclose their intent to fundamentally transform the Mass at an Ecumenical Council; that even before their existence as a society, Our Lady prophesied that Masons – “shortly after the middle of the 20th century” – would besiege all seven sacraments; that both the Mass and the sacraments did in fact find themselves dramatically altered “shortly after the middle of the 20th century”; and that all this should occur precisely during an era when Satan had been granted unparalleled power to assault the Church; when we consider all these things together with the fact that a compromised Mass is the surest way to destroy the Faith, suddenly the specter of a revolutionary coup cloaked in the guise of conciliar renewal is brought into sharp and disturbing relief.
Those who have eyes let them see.
It is vital for us to understand how these most recent developments came to pass. In the next and final installment, we will once more consider both the prevailing zeitgeist that so strongly influenced the era of Vatican II, and those things which followed in its wake.
Originally published on April 20, 2015.
Alongside his career in the insurance industry, Brian Miles is an avocational author of fiction, poetry, and the occasional essay. He received a BA in Religious Studies from the University of Colorado and an MA in Divinity from the University of Chicago. He is a convert to Catholicism from Evangelical Protestantism. He lives with his wife Elizabeth in Dallas, Texas.