Houses of Sand: In Defense of Malachi Martin
Our Lord instructed His followers to build their house upon a rock, not on sand. What does this admonition have to do with Malachi Martin? To answer this question, it is first necessary to sketch an outline of the final phase of his life.
In the 1960’s, after leaving Rome and arriving in New York City, Malachi Martin began working in the field of communications. He wrote many books and articles and was heavily involved with the media, doing interviews and fielding questions on phone-in shows.
The combination of two factors eventually caused Malachi Martin difficulty. First, Fr. Martin’s primary thesis was that the Roman Catholic Church was going through a period of grave crisis and, in the words of Pope Paul VI, self-demolition. This thesis contradicted the official party line of the Church’s ascendant liberal faction that after the Second Vatican Council the Church was enjoying a second Pentecost, a period of great renewal. Secondly, Malachi Martin’s message resonated with the public. Sales of his books and recordings were phenomenally successful. Malachi Martin’s success in striking a chord with the public, combined with the fact that he was contradicting the party line of the liberal Church establishment, earned him the enmity of the liberals.
It is not surprising that the liberals did not like Malachi Martin’s message. However, a problem for the liberals was that Fr. Martin’s thesis was difficult to refute. The facts upheld Fr. Martin’s thesis. All of the statistical indicators of the Church’s vitality, such as seminary enrollment and church attendance, were in steep decline. And these statistical indicators which were in a death spiral did not take into account qualitative factors, such as the loss of belief and the spread of heresy among the churchmen. Liberals and moderate conservatives did attempt to refute Malachi Martin, but because his conclusions were based on the rock of reality, these attempts were not very successful in denting Fr. Martin’s popularity.
In an attempt to undermine the effectiveness of Malachi Martin’s communications, his opponents resorted to what are called “ad hominem” attacks, or attacks on the person. In fact, it is the only effective strategy that Fr. Martin’s opponents could have used. The focus of this article is to discuss these attempts at character assassination.
Denying Fr. Martin’s Priesthood
A characteristic of the personal attacks on Malachi Martin is that they are built on sand, in the sense that they are continually shifting. At first, many of the attacks on Fr. Martin focused on the premise of doubting his status as a priest. There were rumors that Fr. Martin had left the priesthood and got married. It was frequently stated that he no longer had the faculties to function as a priest. The effectiveness of these attacks came to an end after Fr. Martin’s death, when Fr. Vincent O’Keefe, a former vicar-general of the Jesuit order, stated that Fr. Martin had received a dispensation to release him from his vows of poverty and obedience, but not chastity. He stated that Fr. Martin remained a valid priest all of his life and had never married. Fr. O’Keefe was vicar-general at the time that Fr. Martin left the Jesuits. Thus, Fr. Martin left the Jesuits, but not the priesthood. He was secularized, not laicized. He continued to say Mass privately. The information that Fr. O’Keefe released was exactly what Fr. Martin had told me during our interviews.
Accusations of Robert Kaiser
The attacks on Fr. Martin did not cease with the official confirmation that he had never left the priesthood. The attacks since then have revolved around the accusation that Fr. Martin had affairs with women. This, by the way, is one of the oldest attack lines in the book. St. Athanasius, defender of orthodoxy at the time of the Arian heresy, was accused of having affairs with women. St. Gerard Majella was falsely accused of having engaged in this behavior.
The media sometimes reported that Fr. Martin was living with a female companion. This “female companion” was Kakia Livanos, an elderly Greek woman who was his housekeeper. She prepared his meals and did the tasks that housekeepers normally do. It is very common for Catholic priests to have a housekeeper, so there is nothing unusual about this situation. When Fr. Martin moved to New York, a cardinal advised him to find lodging with a family. Fr. Martin followed this advice and moved in with the Livanos family. At the time he moved in with them, they were what is called a nuclear family, consisting of mother, father, and children living at home. As the decades passed, the number of people living in the household dwindled until only Kakia Livanos remained.
Robert Kaiser, a liberal journalist, has written a book, Clerical Error, which claims that Malachi Martin had an affair with his wife during the time of the Second Vatican Council. This book was published in 2002, long after Malachi Martin’s death. If these accusations were true, why did Kaiser wait so long to write this book? Why did Kaiser wait until after Malachi Martin was dead and no longer around to defend himself? To have waited until Malachi Martin was dead to raise these allegations was extraordinarily cowardly.
An important factor is that Kaiser is not a reliable source of information. He has been described as a journalist who is incapable of distinguishing between fantasy and reality. In the book, The Desolate City, Anne Roche Muggeridge wrote that Kaiser’s characterization of Cardinal Ottaviani and Cardinal Bea was false. She wrote, “I recommend Kaiser to anyone planning to set up as a revisionist historian.” Like many liberal journalists, Kaiser has a definite truth problem.
Malachi Martin has been accused more than once of having affairs with women, but what all of these accusations have in common is that they are built on the sands of rumor, gossip, and innuendo, not on provable facts. None of these accusations would stand up in a court of law. And in our justice system, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. The burden of proof is on the accusers, not the accused. And so far, the accusers have come up with no proof.
Let’s take a worst case scenario. Even if one of these accusations were true, it wouldn’t mean that Malachi Martin’s arguments are false. It wouldn’t even mean that Fr. Martin’s soul is destined for hell. Fr. Martin went to confession regularly, so if he did have one of these affairs, he certainly would have confessed it and received absolution. Implicit in the line of argument of Fr. Martin’s accusers is the idea that if he had affairs with women, then we shouldn’t listen to what he has to say. This line of argument is logically false. According to this logic, St. Augustine of Hippo never should have been made a saint. Before his conversion, St. Augustine lived with a woman outside of the bonds of marriage and sired a child out of wedlock.
Malachi Martin: Double Agent?
Some traditional Catholics mistrust Malachi Martin, saying that he held liberal opinions in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Some Catholics even suspect that he was a double agent and a member of some shadowy Jewish conspiracy.
It probably is true that Fr. Martin became more traditional as he grew older. He even said so himself. He once jokingly told me, “Bernard, I find that I am becoming more and more of an irredentist as I grow older.” There is nothing unusual about this. Many of the leaders of the traditional movement only became traditional after a period of soul searching. The late Hamish Fraser, the editor of Approaches, a traditional journal based in Scotland, was at one time a communist. Even the most prominent traditional leader, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, signed all but two of the sixteen Vatican II documents. Does it matter what Malachi Martin believed in 1960 or 1970? God judges souls on the basis of where they end up, not where they were. According to the logic of these critics of Malachi Martin, St. Paul never should have been made a saint.
It is possible to exaggerate the extent of Malachi Martin’s liberalism at the time of the Second Vatican Council. Some Catholics mistrust Fr. Martin because he was an assistant to Cardinal Bea, the former head of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity. Yet, in The Desolate City, Anne Roche Muggeridge points out that Cardinal Bea was orthodox in his beliefs. He was horrified when he found out that two liberal theologians, Hans Kung and Edward Schillebeeckx, were using the Second Vatican Council to revolutionize the Church’s beliefs and practises. Of course, Cardinal Bea did have liberal tendencies, but why would we assume that Malachi Martin agreed, even at that time, with all of the opinions of his boss?
As for the suspicion that Malachi Martin was a double agent and a member of a shadowy Jewish conspiracy; there really is no solid foundation for this kind of suspicion. Fr. Martin adhered to the doctrine of outside the Church there is no salvation, even to the point of being supportive of Fr. Leonard Feeney. Fr. Martin was critical of John Paul II’s policy of ecumenism towards the Jewish religion. In the books Windswept House and The Deserted Vineyard, he was critical of the Pope’s handling of a concert organized to commemorate the holocaust. Fr. Martin supported the traditional Church’s position on the need of the Jews to convert and accept Jesus as the Messiah.
This article has discussed the most commonly cited accusations against Malachi Martin and suspicions about him. Their common thread is that they lack substance. Based on rumors and not provable facts, they are houses built on sand. We shall now see that the case for Malachi Martin is built on a stronger foundation.
The Fruits of Malachi Martin’s Work
Because Malachi Martin was controversial and successful, it was inevitable that he would draw attacks. As Fr. Martin once told me, “If you are not receiving any criticism, then you are not saying anything worthwhile.” Ultimately, Fr. Martin must be judged on the results of his work. “By their fruits you shall know them.” (Matthew 7:16). The effect of Fr. Martin’s books and recordings has been to sustain the faith of numerous souls. In our files, we have numerous testimonials from people who have written to us, stating that Fr. Martin’s words have been a great help to them. Some souls, who lapsed in the practise of the Faith, have been led back to the Church by Malachi Martin. Other souls, who have had their confidence in the Catholic religion shattered by the crisis in the Church and the malfeasance of churchmen, have gained the strength to persevere during what is perhaps the greatest crisis in the history of Catholicism. They have stated that by gaining an understanding of the crisis of the Church, they are better able to cope with it. Many, many souls have been led to traditional Catholicism by Malachi Martin. The webmaster of one of the leading traditional Catholic websites told me that many people have started attending the Traditional Latin Mass through Malachi Martin. The conclusion that Fr. Martin’s work has helped the faith of numerous Catholics is based on real evidence, solidly based on the hard rock of reality.
Malachi Martin’s Profile: Saint or Scoundrel?
A man’s work generally corresponds with his character. I would invite anyone who has doubts about Malachi Martin to listen to the twenty-two hours of recorded interviews that we conducted with him. Would a scoundrel be able to deliver such a message of genuine spiritual inspiration? The real experiences that people have had in their encounters with Malachi Martin produce a far different picture than that of a scoundrel. On one occasion, Fr. Martin arrived late for one of my interviews because he had gone out to buy food for a hungry family. On another occasion, he interrupted our interviews so that he could go to confession to a ninety year old priest. On another occasion, Fr. Paul Wickens and I expressed mutual amazement at the number of people that we had encountered who had received spiritual assistance of some kind from Fr. Martin. During the last decade of his life, Fr. Martin worked himself to exhaustion for the cause of the Faith, despite being in frail health. Fr. Martin appeared to have the gift of prophecy. He foresaw many events, such as the coming of the new world order and the institution of homosexual marriage, long before they became a reality. He saw the gravity of the situation in the Church and the world clearly, perhaps because he had encounters with the supernatural realm, primarily through his work as an exorcist. Fr. Martin was one of those rare individuals, even among the clergy, who seemed to live partly on the eternal side of reality. He was unusually conscious of his mortality and was continually striving for his salvation and the salvation of the souls he encountered.
When you add together the factors of his life such as his generosity, gift of prophecy, and spiritual awareness, the overall profile that emerges is that of a man with the characteristics of a saint. Is it possible to square this profile of Malachi Martin, which is based on the reality of real-life experiences, with the profile of him as a scoundrel? Answer: It isn’t possible! Then where does the information of those who portray him as a scoundrel come from? This question can be answered in one word: Lies.
It is very possible that the spread of misinformation is behind the attempts to destroy Malachi Martin’s reputation. It has been documented that during the Cold War the KGB conducted operations to disseminate misinformation. In his autobiography, advertising guru David Ogilvy mentions that during the Second World War, the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) (David Ogilvy worked for the SIS during World War II) conducted operations in South America to ruin the reputations of pro-German businessmen. One of Malachi Martin’s bestsellers, The Jesuits, is highly critical of the post-Vatican II Jesuit establishment. Would it not then be surprising if some of the Jesuits would attempt to tarnish Malachi Martin’s reputation? Since the picture of Malachi Martin as a scoundrel is so out of line with the real man, it cannot be ruled out that an exercise of misinformation is at work.
Importance of the Battle over Malachi Martin’s Reputation
Why is the battle over Malachi Martin’s reputation so important? This battle is important because Fr. Martin’s books and recordings have been an effective means of reaching souls and working for the restoration of traditional Catholicism. In the English-speaking world, Malachi Martin is the traditional Catholic author who has reached the widest audience. Even after his death, Fr. Martin’s words are still bringing the traditional Catholic message to the public and getting results. The attempt to ruin Fr. Martin’s reputation is an attempt by liberals to sabotage this good work.
Shame on you, traditional Catholics, who spread these nasty rumors about Malachi Martin! Why are you doing the liberals’ dirty work for them? You are harming the Church, perhaps even jeopardizing the salvation of some people’s souls. And by spreading these rumors, you may even be jeopardizing your own soul. Do you not know that calumny is a sin?
The works of Malachi Martin have been described as the most complete and accurate assessment of the situation of the Church since Vatican II. On the other hand, critics of Fr. Martin have disputed his conclusions. It is important to discuss and debate his conclusions so that an accurate assessment of the period in Church history following Vatican II can be established. In the debate over this vital question, the attempt to ruin Fr. Martin’s reputation is nothing more than a pathetic sideshow, equivalent to attack ads in an election campaign. The attempt to ruin Fr. Martin’s reputation is an attempt to sidetrack the debate away from the vital issues. This attempt will fail, falling into the dustbin of history, because it is a house built on the sands of rumor, gossip, innuendo, and lies. Traditional Catholics must rally around and support the defenders of the Faith. We must also stay on message, focusing our efforts on defending the truth, while resisting the temptation to stoop to the level of spreading gossip about the personal lives of our liberal opponents. In this battle of battles to rebuild the Church in the hour of its greatest crisis ever, let us always remember the words of Our Lord, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32).
Note: Triumph Communications is defending Malachi Martin, whose message is so vital in these times when the traditions of our faith are being eroded. We are continuing to publish and promote the works of Malachi Martin and other authors who defend the traditions of the Faith. Please support us in these endeavors.
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