Those of us old enough to recall Cold War rumors prior to Vatican II may remember stories about Soviet agents sent en masse to infiltrate seminaries and to bring down the Church by stealth from within. Some of these rumors originated with Bishop Fulton Sheen. One of his converts from Communism indicated that she had had a part in recruiting these special agents.
In 1972, the French author, Marie Carré (1905-1984), published a novel – a purported memoir of a soviet agent, entitled AA-1025: The Memoirs of an Anti-Apostle. The protagonist, a French nurse who had converted (like Marie Carré herself) from Protestantism to Catholicism, comes across an injured man, unable to speak, whom she decides to call “Michael,” and finds a hundred-page diary in his possessions.
It recounts his being a Soviet spy and Catholic seminarian, working undercover to subvert the Church until the beginning of Vatican II. The diary also reveals that he is the latest addition to the 1,024 agents already commissioned in this strange espionage. The injured man dies, and the nurse, warns her reader, “Do not try to find out who I am, you will never do so.”
She declares that this man’s story has to be made public, and a plot of subversion unfolds, complete with romantic interludes involving a faithful Catholic woman who surprisingly catches the interest of “Michael.” In the introduction and towards the middle of the novel, Carré adds her own comments, underlining the shocking nefariousness of agent 1025.
The master-plan of “Michael,” who has the irritating habit of commenting on how great and brilliant he is in comparison to other humans, and even to fellow Communists, includes the following key elements:
- Change “Catholic” to “universal.” All religions are the same: “You must drive into the head of men, and particularly into the head of Churchmen, to search for, at any price, a universal religion into which all churches would be melded together.”
- Make use of “charity” to instill remorse into Catholics, apologizing for lack of consideration for Protestants and other religions. Let the apologies begin!
- Ultimately, change “charity” itself, which has supernatural connotations, to “love” and urge churchmen to instill love of lower classes and social justice.
- Return to Protestant simplicity. The agenda: “To show that the luxury and art found in Catholic and Orthodox Churches are intensely disliked by Protestants, Jews, and Moslems. To suggest that this useless show must be suppressed for a greater welfare. To excite an iconoclastic zeal. Youngsters must destroy all this hodgepodge: statues, pictures, reliquaries, priestly ornaments, organs, candles and votive lamps, stained glass, and cathedrals, etc., etc. …”
- As corollaries of this movement, a whole gamut of further changes must follow: Get rid of cassocks and any external garb indicating religious dedication; suppress Latin, kneeling at liturgies, the Rosary and Marian devotions, Gregorian chant and traditional sacred music; and especially, downplay any special reverence for the Host as the “Real Presence.”
- Supplant the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with “the Lord’s Supper.” Anything redolent of sacrifice has to be downplayed. The whole ceremony should represent only a common meal, as among most Protestants. Altars must disappear, and bare tables, to which all are invited, should take their place.
- What must take priority over everything else is that each one will follow his own conscience. “This method, invented by Protestants, which consists in obeying one’s conscience, is of great excellence. It does not permit giving orders that will risk displeasing some, and it allows replacing these orders by various suggestions which let freedom act at ease. All that is permitted among Protestants, even if only in one sect, must be authorized among Catholics, that is, the remarriage of divorcees, polygamy, contraception and euthanasia.”
- Conscience becomes the sole arbiter: “As for the Sacrament called Penance, it would be replaced by a community ceremony, which will only be an examination of conscience directed by a well-trained priest, all of which would be followed by a general absolution, as in some Protestant Churches. The motives for contrition will be only the lack of justice toward others.”
- The sacrament of Extreme Unction will have to be renamed, to emphasize comfort in sickness. But “we will have to see to it that the notion of eternal life, judgment, Heaven, Purgatory or Hell be replaced by the sole desire to be cured.”
- Finally, all emphasis should be put on the goodness of God: “Many are well disposed to believe that the goodness of God surpasses every offense. All we have to do is to insist on this goodness. A God whom no one fears quickly becomes a God about whom no one thinks.”
Carré’s novel is, in many respects, just one more contribution to our repertoire of conspiracy theories. However, a conspiracy theory is not necessary to explain many post-Vatican-II developments that are thorns in the side of traditionalists. For example, the substitution of “conscience” for the teaching magisterium can be traced to the hundreds of theologians signing a protest to Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on contraception in the New York Times, followed up by thousands of priests and bishops.
The changes in the Mass and Sacraments can be traced to emphasis by scripture scholars on restoring the “Lord’s Supper” and other usages as described in the New Testament writings, before altars, churches, statues, etc. existed; the vernacular Mass was a response to complaints about lack of participation in the Latin Mass; and of course, the civil rights movement of the sixties, and collective guilt for eras of segregation, has led to the perception that social justice must be emphasized above all.
The Soviets engineered incredible evils in the twentieth century, but these ecclesiastical developments seem to have emerged within the Church, without their assistance.