Alberto: the Big Brou-haw-haw!
Perhaps the most controversial thing Jack Chick ever did was hook up with and publish Alberto. Sure, he caught heat for taking on the homos, but there are lots of folks who dislike them. The Catholics, on the other hand, are usually considered part of the morally upright crowd. It was pretty divisive for a Christian to criticize another religion that claims to be Christian as well.
At the center of the controversy is Alberto Rivera himself. Some say he was indeed an ex-Catholic priest. Many others (especially Jesuits) say he was a fraud. But if he was lying, why would he do it? There certainly wasn't much profit in it. (He didn't receive any royalties for Chick, and Alberto's religious tape and video sales couldn't have been that lucrative.)
Some say he was self delusional. If so, he certainly had a vivid and precise memory of his delusions. All the biographical details he provides about his life are much more concise than what I could provide about mine. Any minor difference given in dates from the comic book and his public lectures can easily be written off as common memory lapse, especially in light of his claims to have undergone electric shock treatments at the Catholic sanitarium. (You can bet the doc who discharged him really caught hell!) And far from dodging critics, Alberto always seemed to seek them out and confront them. He would call up radio shows and debate with them (uninvited), or meet with them privately like he did with Doctor Walter Martin. These discussions and debates never seemed to improve Alberto's credibility. He would give specific answers, but that's a far cry from hard proof. And whatever documents he DID provide were always downplayed by critics (although never proved to be forgeries). In the end, the constant attacks on his honesty made many people doubt him. It wasn't the quality of accusations, but the quantity of accusations that made him look bad. Still, Alberto seemed completely oblivious to this and continued to engage doubters whenever the opportunity arose. He often offered tapes of such debates along with his religious materials.
Alberto said he intended on publishing four 500 page books giving additional details and documents to dispel critics, but he never got around to it. Was it because he couldn't provide those documents? Or was it because, like many of us, he got distracted with other priorities and procrastinated until it was too late. There's no way to be sure...
On page 27 of the first Alberto comic (Crusaders vol. 12), Rivera's ID papers are published along with two official documents. Chick correctly points out that Fascist Spain was a police state at the time. Defrauding the authorities would not be easy and the penalty extremely severe. Chick states, "To obtain this document, Alberto had to supply his birth certificate, identifications papers and positive proof from his Archdiocese of being a priest."
Alberto claims on the same page that "I was made a Bishop in the Old Roman Catholic Church, receiving my Bull of Consecration under the Apostolic succession of Roman Popes." Some critics have pointed out that the Old Catholic Church doesn't serve the Pope. But Alberto claims he was made a Jesuit agent and placed under Extreme Oath and Induction because of his espionage work. If he was to continue his covert duties, putting him the Old Catholic Church would make sense, because it would make him appear to be outside the control of the Pope and less likely to be Jesuit serving the Black Pope ("the Jesuit General who actually runs the Vatican in Rome behind the scenes"-page 28).
Then there's the corroborating testimony provided by Dr. Gerard Bouffard. He was a high ranking bishop born in Quebec, Canada. He rose from lower levels of his orders to become an assistant for many years to Popes such as Paul VI and John Paul II. He converted to protestantism and claims he was the man who received the order to eliminate Rivera. In a documentary called Unveiling the Mystery Behind Catholic Symbols, Bouffard shows a fancy 18-carat gold plated pen containing a special disappearing ink with which the Holy Office authorities sign top secret documents. He claims, "With this pen that I am holding, I signed the order to kill Dr. Rivera". Pretty dramatic cloak and dagger stuff! His previous high profile position would make him an easy target for discrediting... Yet the silence is deafening.
And of course, there's also the alleged evil content of the Jesuit Oath, which seems to outline much of the mischief that Alberto claims his fellow Jesuits were up to.
The Vatican also has its own credibility problems to contend with. From a historical context, Alberto's claims to be a Jesuit working undercover to destroy protestant churches is not as far flung as it might seem. The Jesuits were created in 1541 by Ignatius De Loyola for that very purpose (although some Jesuits dispute this, naturally). They engaged in countless dirty tricks, assassinations, and treasonous plots during their hay day. The Office of the Inquisition was an out growth of their mission which resulted in the torture and/or murder of millions of innocent people for "heresy". That department has since been renamed The Holy Office, but the Jesuits have never bothered with a name change. How much their goals have changed with time is also a uncertain. Neither organization is very transparent and both serve the interests of the Pope. Bad reputations are not easily forgotten.
If Alberto's story is a lie, it's brilliant piece of fiction with amazing consistency. There are certainly other conspiracies that have been dreamed up which are equally vivid and intricate. The JFK assassination conspiracy and the UFO /Majestic 12 conspiracy come foremost to mind. But these conspiracies were created and improved by hundreds of people over a long period of time, then pieced together and rearranged until they formed a plausible narrative. After twenty or so years of "public input" and revisions, a semi-"official" version is adopted. If any particular part of it is proven to be false, it morphs into a slightly different version without the disproven parts.
Alberto didn't have these resources. His personal story came from him alone. It wasn't revised and honed for decades by committee before Chick published it. On the contrary, it was published in its entirety and then sublimated with additional volumes (five more comics) giving more names and dates but no retractions. If he in fact "made it all up", then he certainly deserves a prize for literary genius. Especially as far as his own biographical intrigues are concerned (move over Baron von Munchausen?).
After twenty years of investigation, all the Pope's resources have failed to "prove" Alberto was a fake. Of course, Alberto failed to "prove" his allegations against the Vatican as well. So at best, the contest is still a draw. Maybe future developments will yield something dramatic. But don't count on it. We'll probably never know if Alberto was really "real" unless the Pope were to come straight out and confess it. (And that stands about as much of a chance of happening as a flying saucer landing on the White House lawn.) It is definitely delicious food for thought, however, and far more scary than any premise aired on X-files.
To read a defense of Alberto from the Chick site, go here:
To see Alberto's new website, go to www.albertolastdays.com
To see Alberto's wife in a movie about Idols, see http://www.albertolastdays.com/documents/45.html
Read about Alberto's Death (Assassination?)
To visit Alberto's Grave (from a Catholic Priest's perspective) go here.
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