“We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.”
~Richard Hofstadter, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”
Not long ago a rumor resurfaced that through the years has amused me for its sheer risibility: a commenter on Facebook decided to again expose me as a Jesuit infiltrator into the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And it’s not just me: I am but a minor factotum in a cabal of Jesuit spies who have weaseled their way into church leadership, all the way up into the highest offices in Silver Spring.
Stories of my nefarious associations first surfaced when I wrote a piece called “Letting Roman Catholics Off the Hook,” published in Adventist Today magazine back in the winter of 2010. In the piece I argued that inasmuch as over a hundred years has passed since Ellen White first identified Roman Catholics as the end-of-time enemy, and that many other enemies (communism, fascism, radical Islam, to name a few) have done a lot more damage to Christians in that time than Roman Catholics have, we might consider applying the principles that define the beast of Revelation 13—a power that usurps religious freedom through persecution—to all tyrannical powers, rather than focusing only on the papacy. Perhaps, I suggested, that would thrust us into a prophetic stance against all tyrants, rather than spending our energy micro-analyzing just one possible enemy. My interest wasn’t in embracing Roman Catholicism, affirming its doctrine, or denying the evils in that massive organization (as there are in all organizations) but in refocusing Adventists on a broader present truth.
Many understood what I was trying to get across. But a few saw something more sinister: a Jesuit plot.
Oh, Those Jesuits!
There’s a long history of demonizing the Jesuits, starting centuries before Seventh-day Adventists appeared. The imputation that they are manipulative has a basis in fact: they were an order of wealthy, intelligent, and sophisticated scholars, who through their five-century history moved among the powerful as agents for the Pope. But the order is now, along with most Catholic religious orders, floundering, with almost twice as many dying or leaving than entering, and a median age around 60.
The charges raised against Jesuits have occasionally been curiously inventive. Take, for example, the Jesuit Oath, which we are told is authentic because it was once entered into the U.S. Congressional Record (2):
“I do further promise and declare that I will, when opportunity presents, make and wage relentless war, secretly and openly, against all heretics, Protestants and Masons, as I am directed to do, to extirpate them from the face of the whole earth; and that I will spare neither age, sex nor condition, and that I will hang, burn, waste, boil, flay, strangle, and bury alive these infamous heretics; rip up the stomachs and wombs of their women, and crush their infants’ heads against the walls in order to annihilate their execrable race…”
It goes on in the same abattoirial tone for several more paragraphs. (1)
This work of fiction goes back to the 16th century, to an anti-Catholic forger named Robert Ware. It did, in fact, get quoted during an early 20th century US House of Representatives election in which one of the candidates was Roman Catholic. (At the time it was called the Knights of Columbus oath.) It was disavowed by both political parties, and was entered into the Congressional record only to identify it as false. Yet it is still cited, usually by the same people who believe The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is a real thing.
Yet perhaps the most comical notion is that Jesuits have nothing better to do than to hang around Seventh-day Adventist denominational offices. Speculation about Jesuit infiltration is like heroin to the itching-ears set: there’s something spy-thriller about it, very cloak-and-dagger, and they’re willing to believe it with no proof whatsoever.
I’ve been around denominational offices most of my career, and know many of the people working in them. I can tell you that they have few secrets that would merit the attentions of even the nosiest Jesuit.
As for their destroying us from the inside, that’s hardly necessary: as long as we’re talking about the Catholics rather than about Jesus, they have very little to fear from us.
My Jesuitical Connections
After my 2010 Adventist Today piece was published, a dam of Jesuitical speculation burst. A couple who signed themselves Rich and Joyce Weber wrote this to me: “WW ONE, WW TWO, Korea, Vietnam, and a host of other wars and revolutions are all the work of the Jesuit Papal New World Order! Iraq, Afghanistan, are part of Rome’s ‘FINAL CRUSADE’ and soon Iran and other Moslem countries will be attacked; see Daniel 11:40-45. Rome has not given up torture, at this very moment thousands are in the prisons and convent and monastery dungeons, being tortured in the most horrible Satanic cruelty!”
Rich and Joyce, God bless you, I believe you believe this, but I’d be surprised if you could show me even the tiniest bit of real evidence that thousands are being tortured by Roman Catholic religious orders, or that the Jesuits have masterminded all major wars. I think you would, by way of answer, refer me to other people who have written these things, who don’t have any proof either. Your belief in this is based on faith. I prefer to spend my faith trusting in the power of God to see us through to the end.
A conspiratorialist from Down Under wrote in a Facebook comment, “Loren Seibold must be the Pope’s favorite Jesuit!”
My wife and my family were surprised to hear it. They’re amazed at how well I’ve hidden it, since they know me as a 4th generation Adventist who’s worked for the church for nearly 40 years, without any extended absence to become indoctrinated in a faith I know little about and whose distinctive beliefs they’ve always heard me preach the opposite of. (My wife wonders why, if I am indeed the Holy Father’s favorite, I’ve put up with some of the stuff that pastors have to put up with when I could have retired to one of the Vatican’s country villas in Tuscany. She thinks that for having put up with it with me, they would let her come along.)
Someone going by the name of Brenden Connelly wrote to ask me, “Are you a secret Jesuit?”
It can’t have been much of a secret if Brenden figured it out—though I enjoy the irony that an Irishman would ask me to peel back the layers of my secret papist life. But for the record, the answer is no, I’m not a Jesuit, secretly or otherwise.
I got an email from a young woman that was titled, “YOU ARE A JESUIT AND NOT AN ADVENTIST — PULL OFF THE MASK.”
Years ago, when we were at the seminary, someone passed around writings by a woman who claimed to be a successor to Ellen White. Among her messages (most of which were typical Adventist jeremiads) she wrote that our General Conference leaders had been poisoned at church potlucks, and when taken to the hospital were replaced with surgically-sculpted Jesuit doubles.
(I particularly remember that detail about being poisoned at church potlucks. I think I’ve been to some of those potlucks.)
Still, it seemed unlikely. Why would Jesuits go to the trouble? Just as most of the sins that will keep people out of heaven will result from common temptations rather than spectacular demonic manifestations, so Satan can trip up our denomination without going to the trouble of some priest having permanently to wear the face of (at the time, GC president) Neal Wilson.
I don’t know how I could convince this young woman, short of letting her examine my face for herself. However, I present this evidence against it: if I had had to wear someone else’s face, I would have chosen a better-looking one.
Put Up, or Shut Up
For decades, accusations of this sort have been circulated through the church, not by our enemies but by Seventh-day Adventists themselves. Whole “ministries” have been built on them. And, astonishingly, though not a shred of fact has ever been adduced in their favor, there seems to be no surcease.
So here I throw out a challenge to some of you dear brothers and sisters in this denomination. For years I have heard you talk about Jesuit infiltrators in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. All I ask is that you produce one actual, verifiable case. Just one. Since you endlessly repeat this claim, surely you have the goods on at least one contemporary church leader who you can expose publicly, and so provide clear, irrefutable evidence that someone in a critical position in our denomination has been placed there by the Jesuit order and is operating on behalf of the Vatican.
I don’t mean people whose leadership decisions or whose interpretations of Adventist doctrine you don’t agree with, so you reflexively fling this accusation at them like a monkey with a handful of dung. We can’t accept as evidence Jack Chick’s comic book stories about “Father” Alberto Rivera, which have been thoroughly debunked. Nor is it enough to quote Colin Standish, who has made such speculations in print, or “world-renowned scientist” Walter Veith. They don’t have any proof, either. Nor “I heard this happened to the friend of a nephew of the second cousin of the grandfather of a guy I used to work with whose name I can’t remember.” Or “It happened back in 1957.”
Put up, or shut up. Lay current, crystal-clear, stand-up-in-court proof before our church leaders. If you’ve got it, I will not only print it in Adventist Today, but personally advocate your case to my friends in offices all the way up to the General Conference.
And if you can’t, then follow the counsel of Exodus 23:1: “Thou shall not utter a false report.” These absurd accusations are not strengthening our work, but making the Seventh-day Adventist church a laughingstock.
And they don’t make you look all that smart, either.
(1) Richard Hofstadter wrote, “Very often the fantasies of true believers reveal strong sadomasochistic outlets, vividly expressed…” “The Paranoid Style in American Politics, ”Harper’s Magazine, November 1964, pp. 77-86.
(2) H.R. Rep. No. 62-1523 (1913), reprinted in the Congressional Record, February 15, 1913, pp. 3215-3220