At the Orviteo Cathedral in Central Italy lies perhaps the most frightening religious painting ever constructed. The Italian renaissance painter, Luca Signorelli, painted it. The painting is called Deeds of the Antichrist. What makes it so unsettling is it depicts an eerie portrait of how the devil operates.
The painting shows this human antichrist figure listening as the devil whispers in his ear. What is interesting about this image is the devil puts his hand in the vesture of the antichrist in such a way that it looks for all the world like the antichrist’s own arm when, in fact, it is the devil’s arm super-imposed on to him. This image is a clever way of suggesting how the dark powers influence us. They do it secretly, subtly, and manipulating through cryptic insinuation. It is done in such a way that it looks like human activity, and indeed it is, but it’s heavily guided by the dark powers that have invaded into the human space. The painting illuminates how the demonic realm intervenes and controls this world in a subtle way all the while slipping their hand in so they control the human hand.
The other vivid point the painting makes is the devil’s main motive is to cause internal damage to the Church. After all, if the devil takes down Christ’s Church, he’s got nothing to stop him. We can know this is true. Zachary King had probably the most radical conversion story as he went from a 20-year Satanist high priest and turned into a dedicated Catholic when he had a mystical encounter with the Blessed Mother. Because of his dark past as a Satanist, King gives us clues as to how the devil operates. One of the devil’s primary goals is to take down the Catholic Church. As King has said, “The one church that drives the devil nuts is the Catholic Church. This is the church he wants to destroy more than any other church.” Later, King goes on to connect that everything the devil does is done to mock the Catholic Church (such as the black mass).
Now, if the devil is bent on destroying the Catholic Church that should tell us something. The fact that the devil goes after the Church with such vengeance and aggressiveness explains that the devil knows only she can destroy him. Therefore, the Church has something that the devil does not like – The Sacraments – the divine medicine that will destroy him. You hate what you fear. The fact that the devil wants to wreck the Church proves that the Catholic Church’s medicine is the real deal.
Another critical point we have to realize is that Scripture reveals that the devil, at times, is successful at penetrating into the Church. After all, Judas Iscariot was technically a bishop, and look what happened to him. Scripture reads, “Jesus answered to them, ‘Did I not choose you the Twelve, and one of you is a devil?’ He spoke of Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the Twelve, was to betray him” (John 6:70-71).
Even more so, look what happened to Peter (our first pope). Shortly after announcing Jesus’s divinity and receiving the keys of the kingdom, Peter rebuked Jesus announcement that he was going to suffer and die. How did Jesus respond? By saying to Peter, “Get behind me Satan!” (Matthew 16: 23). Here, Jesus is alluding that the devil had temporarily entered St. Peter. If this is the case, sadly no one (even a bishop) is off limits from the devil’s tricks.
In fact, when Jesus first announced the formation of the Church, he said that the “the gates of hell would not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The key word here is “prevail.” The Greek word for prevail reads very much like overcome. “Prevail” and “overcome” implies that there will be a constant struggle in which, at times, the devil appears to get in and knock down the Church. In sum, the devil will win some battles, but ultimately God will crush him.
With this, we come to the realization that the Church is not off limits from the devil’s corruption. Jesus very much alludes to this in his parables about the kingdom (i.e., the Church) in which he describes how the evil one planted weeds among the good wheat in his kingdom (see Matthew 13: 24-30, 36-43). He also illustrates how the kingdom will contain bad fish right alongside with the good fish (see Matthew 13: 47-50). While we would like to think of the Church as perfect, Jesus’ parables illuminate how the Church will contain weeds and bad fish embedded in it. As the saying goes, “The Church is not a museum of saints but a hospital of sinners.” This, by the way, has been the case throughout salvation history. God’s chosen people, Israel, contained some of the most corrupt kings and key figures in their royal lineage. Indeed, Jacob deceived his father on his deathbed. Judah had an illicit affair with his daughter-in-law. Moses was a murder. It was the high priest, Aaron, that initiated the golden calf apostasy. David was a liar, adulterer, and orchestrated the murder of an innocent man, and on it goes.
With all this corruption and weeds within the mystical body of Christ, we now come to the sex scandal that has rocked the Church. In fact, this ugly weed has been growing for some time. In 1968, Pope Paul IV cautioned about the errors of contraception in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. Unfortunately, this encyclical was largely rejected by the culture and by some clergy within the Catholic Church. When certain bishops and priests shunned this encyclical and cast doubt on its message, Pope Paul VI declared, “The smoke of Satan has entered the Church.”
What Pope Paul was likely getting at is just as Satan entered St. Peter when he denied Jesus teaching about the cross; Satan entered the Church when some of its members denied God’s teaching about sex (see here). As the Signorelli painting depicts, the devil works by slipping his way into key figures within the Church he so desperately wants to destroy.
What started out as a demonic seed of questioning Humanae Vitae and the purpose of sex has grown into a complete distortion of sex in which several members of the Church have embraced LGBT philosophy. Many theologians, and well documented research, have made the connection that the sex abuse scandal in 2002 was not a pedophilia problem; rather it was a homosexual problem among the clergy as the vast majority of cases where male to post adolescence male. Indeed, research connects that pedophilia/ephebophilia (attraction to either teen or pre-teen) is more prevalent in homosexuality (see also here and here). For example, in a report in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers found that 39 of the 48 homosexual men surveyed indicated they preferred sexual partners in the age group of 15-20. If you doubt this then just do some research into NAMBLA (North America Man Boy Love Association) and you’ll find the this organization consists of active gay men that identifies their pedophilia philosophy with LGBT doctrine. In addition, former gay man, Robert Oscar Lopez, continuously documents how violent same-sex acts are performed on innocent young men. So, rather than just point to pedophilia as the issue, the real culprit when we zoom in is homosexual behavior.
In fact, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice study of sex-abuse complaints from 1950-2003 found that in more than 5,000 incidents, 81 percent involved priests with young male victims and of the young male victims, 90 percent were teenage boys. Therefore, the original sex abuse problem was largely homosexual based (see also here).
Fr. John Hollowell writes about his experience as a seminarian in which he encountered men with same-sex attraction making subtle advances to him. This fact has caused Pope Francis to announce for a more stringent process on vetting out priests that have same-sex attractions. The newest scandal of McCarrick and the PA cases exposes a strange homosexual subculture within the Church as reports are indicating that the abusers were primarily acting on homosexual tendencies. Therefore, these abuse cases are mainly a by-product of homosexuality secretly masquerading within the Church.
Indeed, Joseph Sciambra, a former active gay man that experienced an attempted abuse by a priest repeatedly highlights how LGBT affirming priests and bishops are becoming more prevalent. Sciambra’s research connects the affirmation of LGBT philosophy within the Church to the ugly effects of man to young man sexual acts. As Sciambra recently tweeted, “In my experience, Catholic bishops and priests who spend a lot of time trying to justify homosexuality of others, in reality – are trying to justify their own homosexuality.”
There undoubtedly exists a pro-gay subculture within the Church that has produced these negative effects (see here and here). In fact, in a 2002 survey of a national sample of 1,852 Catholic priests by the Los Angeles Times, 44% responded “yes” when asked if there was a “homosexual subculture in your diocese or religious institute.” To the question, “In the seminary you attended, was there a homosexual subculture at the time?” 53% of recently-ordained priests responded “Yes.” In fact, recent news reports have exposed a secret life of priests actively performing same sex acts with one another.
Moreover, books by former seminary rector Donald Cozzens and psychologist Richard Sipe have described how such subcultures encourage and cover up sexual misconduct. Therefore, unless this homosexual element is not carefully removed, this ugly mess will not go away. Heresies often take time to eradicate within the Church. However, as Cardinal Burke recently commented, Pope Francis “must take swift action to purify the homosexual root” within the Church.
Here, we notice an ironic situation. Officially, the Church does not endorse homosexual behavior precisely because that behavior will sadly destroy the person (see CCC 2357 – 2359). However, there are a growing number of those members who dissent from this teaching and want to implement LGBT lifestyle as new doctrine. Yet, as the evidence shows, the end-product of the dissenters’ teaching is the man – teen sex scandal mess we continuously witness. Therefore, we come to the ironic conclusion that these sex abuse incidents did not come from the Church’s magisterium, it came from those who want to change the magisterium’s teaching. When will we learn that when we break from God’s instructions destruction will always follow.
The devil has planted his seed that twists the meaning of sex in the Church. It likely started with a rejection of Humane Vitae and has grown into this perverse homosexual subculture in the Church in which this current scandal represents the ugly fruit of.
The devil is not stupid. He wants to crush the Church and sadly, throughout the ages he has won small battles. The devil also knows that the best way to destroy the Church is from the inside not the outside. Remember, the attempt to take down Jesus was largely from the inside (Judas and his fellow Jews) and not so much from the outside. This fact is why the devil works tirelessly to corrupt priests and bishops within the Church.
This demonic infiltration of the Church goes back even further to Pope Leo XIII’s vision in which God granted the devil control over the Church much like God granted the devil temporary control of Job’s family in the book of Job. Bishop Fulton Sheen, who echoed the crisis of a demonic entrance back in the 70’s, noted that we are living in the fourth 500-year period of Church history. Bishop Sheen explained, “The Church is not a continuing thing — it dies and rises again.” In other words, just like Jesus died and rose again so too does his mystical body, the Church, go through periods of death and rising again.
There seems to be a death and rising cycle every 500 years. In 500 AD was the fall of Rome and what looked like the death of Christendom and rise of pagan religions. However, within these “dark ages” the Church witnessed massive growth throughout Europe and the Middle East. Then, in 1,000 AD was the rupture of the Church in which the Greek patriarch separated themselves from Rome into the East and West split we see today. This era was further complicated by Islamic conquests of Christian lands and the ensuing war of the Crusades. The third “death” of the Church came in the 1500’s when Martin Luther ushered in the Protestant Reformation, which resulted in the even sadder split of the Church into the 30,000+ denominations we see today. And as we have moved into the 2000’s we witness another “death” in which sexual abuse has destroyed many lives and caused numerous Catholics to walk away.
Much like the crucifixion was hard to witness for the disciples, these decaying periods of the Church are challenging to watch. However, they don’t ultimately defy the Church just like the death on the cross didn’t defy Jesus. This rotting of the Church is a momentary, small victory for the devil. However, just as Jesus’ body rose, so too will his bride and mystical body, the Church, rise from the ashes.
Yes, the scandals over the years such as the inquisition and the sex abuse are bad, and, the people in the Church have done cruel, sinful, and stupid things. These examples represent the “weeds” and “bad fish” Jesus warned us would be a part of his Church on earth. However, these “bad fishes” do not prevent the Church from being holy when we recite the creed at Mass. The holiness is the Church’s medicine in the Sacraments are God’s divine medicine for all. Additionally, the Sacraments have the ability to work through corrupt outlets. A bad priest does not prevent the Sacraments from working much like an unhealthy doctor can still provide healthy medicine. St. Augustine articulated in the 4th century that the grace of the Sacraments comes not from the moral excellence of the priest, but from God alone (see CCC 1128). St. Paul as well said that God’s treasures (such as the Sacraments) come from God, not men (see 2 Corinthians 4:7).
While many will understandably want to walk away from the Church from this scandal, we need to be reminded that in this situation we are dealing with high-level spiritual warfare. It is true that when you are in the church that the devil wants to destroy, and the Bible suggests that he does enter into it, you’ll have to confront some demonic moments. However, Paul alluded that in this battle we are not simply dealing with human beings, but are fighting against principalities of dark spirits (see Ephesians 6: 11-13). We can see this idea visualized in Signorelli’s painting of the devil reaching his hand into the antichirst’s body.
While the devil will sadly win some battles here and there, don’t leave the battle because in the end, Christ wins in a route. However, he prefers to have you with him while he battles for you on your behalf.
Post Script: Since this article has been written, an in-depth report revealed a direct correlation that the recent sex abuse cases (in PA and elsewhere) were due to same sex attracted clergy. This report can by viewed here. It was published by the Ruth Institute lead by psychologist Fr. Paul Sullins, PhD.