Thursday, June 27, 2019

Book Review: Infiltration by Taylor Marshall


A few days ago, when I spoke negatively about Dr. Taylor Marshall's book Infiltration on this blog's Facebook page, people responded with hostility, confusion, and consternation. Dr. Marshall's book purports to offer a causal explanation for the current crisis in the Church. It invokes Freemasonry, Fatima, Paul VI, and a whole slew of subjects important to traditional Catholics. Why speak poorly of the work, then? The man is doing a good thing for the Church; why knock it? Is this more of the  "circular firing squad" dynamic at work?

What is said is important, but how it is said matters quite a bit as well. When one is making certain historical assertions, this becomes desperately important. Cause and effect need to be clearly and indisputably linked by well-documented and universally accepted sources. The scholarly threshold is high. You can certainly publish a historical work where cause and effect are  not clearly demonstrated, where allegations are not documented thoroughly, where sources are questionable or non-existent—but what you have is not a work of history, but of gossip or innuendo.

Unfortunately, Infiltration is a work full of innuendo. It would be tedious to expand upon every unsubstantiated innuendo Dr. Marshall presents as fact; below I am posting a review from my friend Kevin Tierney who writes on this site occasionally. His review gets to the point much more lucidly and quickly than anything I would write. But I do want to expand upon what I mean by "innuendo" and why I think books like Infiltration are ultimately harmful to the traditionalist cause.

An historical argument by innuendo will usually start with a predetermined assertion and then try to prove it by appealing to causal factors which, taken on their own, do not rise to the threshold of establishing a certain cause and effect relationship. The author typically knows this but, rather than admitting the connection is tenuous, the author tries to bolster his claims by resorting to innuendo in lieu of actual facts. A classic example of this is well known historical sensationalist and journalist Graham Hancock, author of such books as Fingerprints of the Gods about Atlantis. Or we could take his book The Sign and the Seal on the Ark of the Covenant. In this book, Hancock opines that we really don't know what was inside the Ark, but points out that ancient cultures used to worship meteorites. He also speculates that a radioactive meteorite could have caused some of the effects we read about in the Old Testament associated with the Ark (e.g., making Moses "glow", killing people who touched it, etc). Now, does Mr. Hancock have any proof that the Ark contained a radioactive meteorite? Of course not. Could such an assertion ever be proven? Most likely not. But that is not going to stop Hancock from simply "throwing it out there" and then moving forward with his line of argumentation with the latent assumption that this implication is trustworthy. In essence, he makes a radically unverifiable statement, shrugs and says "maybe", but then moves ahead anyway on the working assumption that the hypothesis is correct, creating the illusion that an argument has been made when really only an innuendo was proffered.

In Dr. Marshall's Infiltration, you will see many such arguments. You will see the Siri Thesis rehashed, with no proof other than to retell the story because "legend says." Paul VI is alleged to be an Alinskyite on the premise that Cardinal Montini and Saul Alinsky were mutual associates of Jacques Maritain. It is asserted that John XXIII was referring to the children of Fatima when he referenced "prophets of doom", even though Marshall offers no proof of this and despite the fact there are many other more plausible explanations. He reports that Paul VI was a sodomite, on no evidence other than retelling the gossip of French diplomat Roger Peyerfitte who says he knows of an actor who said he had a homosexual relationship with Paul VI. In other words, it is pure hearsay. Marshall is just reporting what other people gossip about. It's historical writing of the shoddiest form. Tabloid material.

I like Dr. Taylor Marhsall. I'm happy he has gravitated more towards the traditionalist camp. And I know people will inevitably say that myself or Mr. Tierney are harming the traditional cause by ripping this book. On the contrary, it is the existence of books like Infiltration which do damage to the traditionalist cause by making us look like a bunch of conspiracy theorists for whom a certain narrative is more important than the facts. It's highly likely that anyone I gave this book to in hopes of convincing them of our cause would walk away shaking their head. I don't deny the book is entertaining and engaging; but as history, it's a huge fail. And please don't tell me "He's just trying to do a good work for the Church." We can't play loose with the truth in service of the truth. When I was in college, I wrote a paper on the Protestant Reformation for my history class. It was a blistering critique of the Lutheran movement. I thought my professor, a militant Catholic, would heartily approve of it. Instead he lambasted it ruthlessly. My citations didn't prove what I said they proved. Connections I inferred were not sufficiently demonstrated. Too much reliance on secondary sources and not enough on primary. He ripped it to shreds. It didn't matter that I was "trying to do a good thing for the Church." And he was right to destroy it. The scholarship of that paper was garbage. Its shoddy reasoning and weak citations were actually more damaging to Catholicism than supportive of it. And that's always been my approach as well. You can show me a book that argues 100% in line with things I believe, but if it's scholarship and citations are sloppy I'm still going to say it's bunk. Even if I happen to agree with a lot of Taylor Marshall's conclusions, he offers no compelling reason why I ought to believe them.

Well, that's enough for my introduction. I guess I should actually get to Kevin's review.

Review of Dr. Taylor Marhsall's Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within by Kevin Tierney


How does one explain the crisis in the modern Church? This is a subject that has taken up endless amounts of discussion. After this review, we will spend even more hours, but God willing, not too many. During that time, in addition to discussing the root causes of the crisis, we will discuss how present these problems, and what one can do to solve them. In having that discussion, a wide variety of viewpoints will be presented.

Taylor Marshall has given his own viewpoint in Infilitration: The Plot to Destroy the Church From Within. This is a 250 page work with 50 pages of appendices, in addition to a glowing foreword by Bishop Athanasius Schneider. By appearances alone, this is a serious and sober book. Yet as with many things, appearances are deceiving. Infiltration fails as a serious and sober look at the problems facing the Catholic Church. More importantly, the ways in which it fail can have real consequences for how that crisis is perceived, and for those who advocate it along these lines.

Yet in reviewing this work, we must be careful. We must avoid being like Dr. Jeffrey Mirus, whose review of Infiltration was less a review on the book and more on his belief that Taylor Marshall is a moron. There is no valley so low to which Mirus will not stoop in his quest to insult Dr. Marshall, no pettiness he will not engage in to further his belief that Marshall is a crazy uncle. Sadly, many people have picked up on this review, and are promoting it. While this no doubt makes them feel good and superior, I doubt its actually reaching anyone who has actually read the book, or who isn’t absolutely certain of the intellectual capacity (or lack thereof) of Dr. Marshall. In this review, I want to avoid those pitfalls. This is a bad book, but we need to explain why exactly it is bad, even if you agree with the authors overall conclusions about there being a modernist crisis in the Church.

A PARANOID MANIFESTO

In his rejection of a certain theological position, Marshall says he rejects it because it “does not present a consistent theological narrative” for the present crisis. For Marshall, the narrative is what matters above all else. The narrative about the crisis matters more than the actual crisis, which is almost secondary. Unlike most traditionalist polemics, Infiltration spends a shockingly small amount of time talking about the problems the Church faces. Instead, he is concerned most with telling you what the cause of these problems are. The cause of these problems are a hyper-organized and almost omniscient cabal of secret societies (the Carbonari, Freemasons, the Sankte Gallen Mafia, among many others) carefully and calmly putting together a plan to take over and subvert the Church. The blueprint of this plan is the Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, written in 1859. Marshall’s job is to trace a straight line from this document up until 2019, and show how it explains everything about the current crisis.

The problem with conspiracy theories is they adopt an approach of paranoia in their reading of history. In every event, they see otherwise invisible narratives—and if you look hard enough, there are signs of these narratives, signs the author will gladly tell you about if you spend the money for their book. Hence he begins his narrative by asking why lightning struck the Vatican the day Benedict resigned the papacy. Was it connected to the Vatican banking scandal? Was it about sex abuse? Doctrine? To Marshall, that lightning strike means something. To the reader, that strike might also mean something: a weather pattern developed in the earths atmosphere that was conducive to strong storms, and one of them produced a bolt of lightning which struck the Vatican. That possibility is never once mentioned by Marshall.

Another problem is that it gives the enemy far too much credit. That secret societies exist, and that they are often hostile to the Catholic Church is no doubt true. Yet Marshall presents these societies less as the dangerous threat that they are, and more as cartoonish supervillains who are all powerful, hyper organized and disciplined, and every action done is followed verbatim by a plan written 160 years ago. Anyone who has studied the history of these societies for even a second will be skeptical of this. The movements of secret societies and radicalism spends just as much time knifing each other as they do trying to attack their common enemy. They splinter into factions upon factions. If anything, that’s what makes the assault on the Church so difficult from these groups: it is highly decentralized. Even today you could excommunicate and jail every member of the Sankte Gallen Mafia (the liberal group that by their own admission and boasting were the ones who lobbied and organized for Pope Francis during the recent conclave), and the crisis would continue without missing a beat. The problem isn’t so much a central playbook they are following, as there are a bunch of highly motivated individuals whose only thing they agree upon is a disdain and loathing for tradition and the Gospel.

HABITUAL LOGIC LEAPING


For Dr. Marshall, one of the biggest problems the Church faced was the loss of the Papal States.  For a variety of reasons (although not important enough to elucidate in great detail in the book), the Papal States are central to everything.  It goes without saying that Dr. Marshall would not be happy about the Lateran treaty which gave rise to the modern Vatican City and the protection of the city from outside threats, in exchange for the pope relinquishing claims on everything else that comprised the Papal States.  The absurd assumptions that follow upon this are legion: for example, did you know that Ambrogio Ratti took the papal name Pius XI to rebuke his two predecessors named Pius?  Did you know that he took the name explicitly because he would solve the tensions with Italy that they failed?  And did you know that this Lateran treaty unleashed a demonic army that infiltrated the Vatican, culminating in the pontificate of Pope Francis, a Masonic Manchurian Candidate?  This is all just fluff; Marshall nowhere gives evidence that Ratti chose Pius XI as a slight towards his predecessors, or that Pius XI viewed himself as repudiating their failed policies.  He takes frequent leaps of logic to arrive at these conclusions.  He’s a habitual logic leaper.  Often, it is harmless.  Other times, he says things like the following:

Flanked by representatives of Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, Pope John Paul II opened the Jubilee Year of 2000. One year later, he would be diagnosed with Parikson’s disease and begin his slow, painful descent into death (Infiltration, pg. 192).

Now, maybe God really did punish John Paul II with Parkinsons for mistakes regarding ecumenism. I would be very careful in writing that opinion in public though. As in, don’t write that in public. It's unprovable and a tremendous leap of logic; yet Marshall seems to imply a causal relation here that the reader is invited to uncritically accept.

BIASED REPORTING

             
In addition to seeking out the emanations of penumbras of various events in the Church, Dr. Marshall will also inform the readers of various theological controversies. Yet the way he does so is, quite frankly, fundamentally dishonest. In discussing “infiltration” of the Sacred Liturgy, he states his belief that the prayer “for our dearly departed… and all who died in your friendship” you hear during one of the Eucharistic Prayers is “seen” as promoting universal salvation. Nowhere does he mention who sees this, and where they record that view. Nowhere does he state if he agrees with that view or not. It is just “seen” by some. Yet for the purposes of his narrative, that “seen” is then treated as a verifiable fact. Elsewhere, he says it is “still debated” whether Vatican II’s decree on religious liberty gives a divine right to engage in idolatry. He nowhere mentions where this is “still debated.” He nowhere mentions what side of the debate he finds himself on. He is simply noting some impersonal passive debate going on somewhere. Yet, for purposes of the narrative, the Church, in a decree from an ecumenical council, gave divine sanction to idolatry. Yet if you press him too hard on this, he will fall back on saying the text “seems to suggest” it, and then just continue onward as if it is undebatable truth. The problem with both is clear: they are very much not established truths. If they are not established, then there’s a real chance his “infiltration” narrative is incorrect. Debating such a mindset is impossible. It is heads he wins, tails you lose. Even if one is disposed to agree with Dr. Marshall's fundamental arguments here, he offers no reason why you should believe them.

Marshall responds to these criticisms by hinting that people are afraid of his work and his conclusions, while other defenders point to the fact Bishop Schneider endorsed the work. That Bishop Schneider endorsed this work is tragic. Yet it is a reminder that staunch doctrinal orthodoxy does not always translate into sound judgement. Just as Christopher West was (wrongly) endorsed by several orthodox bishops, so it is with this work. As far as the conclusions, I am not "afraid" of those conclusions. I have no problem believing that people have tried to undermine the Gospel from within positions of the Church. If you don’t believe that, you haven’t been paying attention the past 50 years.

Yet there is a right way and a wrong way to respond to those conclusions. Sound evidence and logic matters. We must be careful to present the facts as they happen, and when we are engaging in speculation, make clear we are doing so, and make sure that speculation is backed by sound evidence. If we don’t, it becomes far too easy to paint critics as a bunch of crazy reactionaries and as Alex Jones with incense. Nobody is expecting a modern day Iota Unum, a dry manifesto 800 pages long outlining the problems with the Church’s surrender to liberalism. (Yet it is a great book!) We badly need a book outlining in easily readable fashion the problems the Church is facing, and how to confront them. (You see almost nothing in how to confront the problems from Marshall, outside of pious generalities.) Infiltration is not that book.


18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this review! It's a shame that someone with the knowledge and education of Dr. Marshall would forget that explaining the truth requires due diligence!

Anonymous said...

"Marshall responds to these criticisms by hinting that people are afraid of his work and his conclusions, while other defenders point to the fact Bishop Schneider endorsed the work."

Yup, pretty much. For someone who has written on Aquinas, etc. it's astonishing the amount of fallacies that he employs within this book. Whether it's Appeal to Authority, Strawmen, Cherry Picking, Non Sequiturs and so on.

Not That Guy said...

Have you guys checked out this book yet?

https://www.amazon.com/Vatican-II-Exposed-Counterfeit-Catholicism/dp/0988274442

Boniface said...

^Thank you for the suggestion, but I am not interested in giving a platform to Sedevacantist material.

Anonymous said...

And why exactly would Sedevacantist material be problematic?

Boniface said...

Well because I am not a Sedevecantist and I consider the position to be not only potentially heretical but ridiculous. I wouldn’t promote Sede stuff just the same as I wouldn’t promote Protestant stuff. I don’t mean to offend you if you’re a Sede but that’s my position and it’s the position I’ve always taken on this blog.

Concerned Catholic said...

Thanks for the review, very helpful. If he is not presenting supported answers to the problem, it suggests that there must be answers, because we do indeed have a problem. Do you offer any answers in place of his claims?

Boniface said...

Sure I have my own ideas. But it's not relevant. I don't have to have to cure for cancer in order to say a specific book about cancer is no good.

Concerned Catholic said...

Sure, i hear you, i wasnt suggesting that you had to.All good.

thomaejacobi said...

I have read Marshall's book and will readily grant that he could have certainly taken more time to gather documentation and citations to support his conclusions. However, let's not forget that we're talking about Freemasons, Communists, and other assorted henchmen of the Father of Lies himself - should we expect them to leave unambiguous trails of direct evidence? Rather, it's up to men of faith to connect the dots and make reasonable conclusions from the "signs of the times" around them.
I think Marshall's book could be useful for those who are completely uninitiated into the "hidden hand" behind world events of the last few centuries, and can open the door for them to further learning...

Boniface said...

Hmm. While I understand that not every historical event is going to leave sufficient amounts of evidence behind, the lack of evidence cannot itself become evidence. Otherwise we’d have a world where nothing was ever provable.

I do not argue that the thing is Dr. Marshall has written about are false, only that e has not proven them but essentially writes as if he had. A historical argument with insufficient evidence becomes mere conjecture—not even probable conjecture, just “mere” conjecture. That’s what Dr. Marshall offers. And that’s fine, but it should be put forward as such.

thomaejacobi said...

Boniface - thank you for that clarification, and I agree.

Kevin Tierney said...

I think it has to be forcefully stated his conjecture was attacked precisely because we want to focus on the issues of substance and fight the real battles.

But Marshall seems more interested in spinning some narrative out of cloth that sells really well, but doesn't have solving the problems very high on the list

c matt said...

I have no problem believing that people have tried to undermine the Gospel from within positions of the Church.

At least since Judas.

Pertinacious Papist said...

Love Marshall's book! Both Morse and Tierney raise excellent critical points about historical documentation, inference, and demonstrating causality; but I don't see these as accurately targeting Marshall, who is clear throughout his book about when he's engaging in conjecture (like the "reconstructed theory" about how JPI died) and when he's citing known facts (like who the known Cardinals were were on Pecorelli's list of Freemasons). An analogy: the Comtean (Positivist) view of what counts as "scientific" historiography leads many Catholic biblical scholars to dismiss as unreliable those New Testament references by Jesus and the apostles to Old Testament texts as foretelling events in their own day. I wonder whether this same Comtean view does not prevent many of us today from discerning the historical red flags (or "signs of the times," to quote Jesus' own words) leading up to the ecclesial apostasy and implosion of our own day. True, much of what Marshall presents is circumstantial and probabilistic, at best -- AS HE ACKNOWLEDGES, and as historical evidence inevitably is; but when circumstantial details are amassed in such numbers as to present a grid of mutually supporting probabilistic evidence, it strikes me as irresponsible to dismiss it. If the Bark of St. Peter is on fire and listing precariously the responsible thing to do is to pull together whatever evidence one can for what might have caused the emergency, not to dismiss a reasonably coherent narrative as mere "paranoia" and "conspiracy" mongering and to ask which direction we should be sailing. Conspiracies have happened in history; and even the popes have referred to "conspiracies." Kind regard, PP

FC said...

Great review - hits the nail on the head! taylor's Infiltration and conspiracy theories are nonsense and make good traditional Catholics look like idiots. Perhaps there should be a book about the Infiltration of an Episcopalian clergyman???

Son of Ya'Kov said...

I do know of many principled critics of Pope Francis who are livid over this nonsense. Let me make a political analogy. There is a clear practical, intellectual and moral difference between the sober, straightforward criticism of President Donald Trump from a Ben Shapiro or Mark Levin vs the conspiracy theory fruitcakery of a Rachel Madcow or Fredo Cuomo. This book is way more Fredo than Shapiro.

Vigano has spoken positively about Taylor's book. Well thanks for nothing guy you just shot yourself in the foot! Who is going to believe you now? Yer enemies wanted to paint you as a kook now you just handed them a stick to beat you with and Schneider writes a forward to it! Again thanks for nothing buddies! I am sure there is a lot of corruption at the Vatican. Maybe the Holy Father has a hand in it or maybe he is a dupe like Pope St John Paul II was with Fr. Marcel(we can hope)? I don't know but finding out will now be that much harder with this fringe nonsense sucking up all the oxygen in the room.

At least Burke has kept his hands clean for now and I really like him.

One has to hand it to the Devil right now successfully fighting a war on two fronts. Still I have faith that thought the Devil may have his hour God will have His Day.

Lasserre deVillier said...
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