The Nightmare World of Jack T. Chick
Perhaps left in a phone booth, Laundromat, or other public place. Maybe a Fundamentalist coworker or a street evangelist gave one to you. Perhaps a child gave one to your child at school. They have titles such as Are Roman Catholics Christian?, The Death Cookie, and Why Is Mary Crying? They are Chick tracts—tiny cartoon booklets produced by Jack T. Chick (“J.T.C.”) and his publishing house, Chick Publications.
You’ve seen them . . . but have you read one? Do so, and you step into the nightmarish world of Jack T. Chick.
In this world, few things are as they appear. It is a world of shadow and intrigue, a world of paranoia and conspiracy theories, a world where demons haunt people sincerely trying to follow God, and the Catholic faith is the devil’s greatest plot against mankind.
Here are just a few things you will “learn” if you start reading Chick tracts and comic books:
- The Catholic Church keeps “the name of every Protestant church member in the world” in a “big computer” in the Vatican for use in future persecutions.
- But the conspiracy is much broader than this, and it has been going on for a very long time. In the sixth century, for instance, Catholic leaders manipulated the Arabian tribesman Mohammed into creating the religion of Islam to use as a weapon against the Jews and to conquer Jerusalem for the pope.
- The Jesuits instigated the American Civil War, supporting the Confederate cause and seeking to undermine the Union. When they failed, they arranged the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Later, they formed the Ku Klux Klan.
- “Jesuits worked closely with Marx, Engels, Trotsky, Lenin, and Stalin” to create Communism, and it was “believed that soon . . . Communism would rise up as the new strong daughter of the Vatican.” It was Rome that instigated the Bolshevik Revolution and the murder of the czar’s family. The Communist “liberation theology” movement also is a Vatican plot.
- The Nazi Holocaust of the 1940s was a Vatican-controlled attempt to exterminate Jews and heretics. Further, “Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco were backed by the Vatican for the purpose of setting up a one-world government to usher in the ‘˜Millennial Kingdom’ under Pope Pius XII.”
- The Vatican conspiracy is so extensive that, through the Jesuits, Rome controls the Illuminati, the Council on Foreign Relations, international bankers, the Mafia, the Club of Rome, the Masons, and the New Age movement.
- The Jesuits created the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, Unity, Christian Science, and other religious groups.
- “Pope John Paul II has been a good Communist for many years” and engineered a phony assassination attempt against himself in 1981 to shame Islam into warming relations with the Vatican, since the would-be killer was a Muslim.
Tracts are only one of the ways Chick spreads his messages of hate and paranoia. His website (www.chick.com) lists large-size comic books, posters, booklets, books, videos, and DVDs for sale. Still, it is the tracts for which he is most famous. According to Chick Publications, more than 500 million of them have been distributed.
With shocking, sensationalist allegations such as these being distributed to hundreds of millions of people, you may be wondering . . .
Who Is Jack T. Chick?
Jack Thomas Chick is a recluse. Little is known about him. He does not give interviews. Only two out-of-date pictures of him are publicly known (one is a high school yearbook photo). Rumors about him abound, making it difficult to sort fact from fiction concerning his life. He was born April 13, 1924, in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, and he was not always a Fundamentalist. According to the biography posted on his web site:
While in high school, none of the Christians would have anything to do with him because of his bad language. They all agreed not to witness to him, convinced that he was the last guy on earth who would ever accept Jesus Christ.
After graduation from high school, Jack won a scholarship to the Pasadena Playhouse to study acting, but his studies were interrupted by the military. He spent the next three years in the Army, which took him to foreign countries like New Guinea, Australia, the Philippines and Japan.
After being discharged from the service, Jack returned to the Playhouse, where he met and married his wife, Lynn, who was instrumental in his salvation. While visiting Lynn’s parents in Canada on their honeymoon, Jack’s mother-in-law insisted that he sit and listen to Charles E. Fuller’s Old Fashioned Revival Hour radio program. Jack recalls, “God was already working on my heart, but when Fuller said the words, ‘˜Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow,’ I fell on my knees and my life was changed forever.”
The scene of falling on one’s knees to accept Jesus is one repeated over and over again by characters in Chick tracts. But how did Jack Chick make the leap from being an ordinary Fundamentalist to the foremost Christian comic publisher in the world? For a time, he worked as a technical illustrator for an aerospace company in California, but he longed to be work for God:
He wanted to be a missionary himself, but his new wife wanted no part of missionary life. Her aunt had been a missionary in Africa. While pregnant, she was being carried across a river on a stretcher, when one of those carrying her lost a leg to an alligator.
Eventually, Jack started combining his work as an illustrator with his passion for evangelization, producing his first published religious works, Why No Revival? and A Demon’s Nightmare. He became convinced of the effectiveness of this technique after using it with a group of prisoners:
[Chick] was invited to present the gospel to a group of inmates at a prison near his home. He drew several pieces of cartoon art and prepared a flip chart to illustrate what he was saying. At the conclusion of his message, nine of the eleven inmates present trusted Christ as their Saviour. Jack became convinced that God had given him a method of reaching people with the gospel that worked. That art was later put into booklet form and became the tract This Was Your Life!
Following this episode, Chick Publications became a full-time venture for Jack, and, in the more than forty years since it was started, his tracts, comic books, and other publications have reached hundreds of millions of people, spreading their message of simple Fundamentalist theology fused with elaborate conspiracy theories.
In time, the art in the tracts received an upgrade—not because Chick changed his own style of drawing but because he hired an artist with much better skills. Yet he did not announce this fact and did not put the new artist’s name on the works he produced. Instead, they continued to carry the credit “by Jack T. Chick” or simply “by J.T.C.” The difference between the two drawing styles was so dramatic that it was immediately noticed by readers, and rumors circulated about who the “good artist” might be. It would be some time before Chick disclosed that the man’s name was Fred Carter.
In 1972, he hired Fred Carter, an African-American painter and illustrator from Danville, Illinois, who had studied at Chicago’s American Academy of Art. Carter’s realistic illustrations and distinctive inking style made him a perfect fit for the [Crusaders comic book] series’ action sequences and exotic locales. Witch burnings and ritual murders are captured in gleefully visceral detail, while the books’ sexual overtones—as well as scantily clad biblical sirens like Eve, Delilah, and Semiramis—have led critics to describe Carter’s work as “spiritual porn.”
At once, the artwork improved tenfold. Chick, however, kept Carter’s name off all of the comics. Rumors and speculation about the identity of the so-called good artist at Chick Publications began to spread. For years fans theorized that Carter’s work was produced by a team of illustrators or an unknown Filipino man dubbed “Artist J.” Chick finally revealed Carter’s identity in 1980, claiming that the artist is “rather shy and declines to put his name on his art.”
Jack Chick’s art in The Hit
Fred Carter’s art in The Deceived
Through the years Chick also became associated with others who had an impact on his publications. The conspiracy angle in his works jumped significantly through his involvement with two men in particular.
One was John Todd, an evangelist who claimed to have been raised in a “witchcraft family” and supposedly was part of a gigantic conspiracy of witches called “the Illuminati.” According to Todd, numerous political and religious figures were part of the conspiracy. He claimed that as a “Grand Druid High Priest” he was given a thirteen-state territory and that “over 90 percent of politicians in that thirteen-state area received financial support from him and took orders regarding political decisions from him.” The religious figures allegedly part of the witch conspiracy included Jim Bakker, Billy Graham, Walter Martin, Oral Roberts, and Pat Robertson. Also involved were C. S. Lewis, Pat and Debbie Boone, and a number of Protestant denominations, “from Assemblies of God to the Southern Baptists.”
One way the Illuminati spread their occult tendrils through society was through rock music. Songs in this genre often “contained coded spells or incantations that the listener wasn’t aware of.” Based on Todd’s claims, Chick issued a number of publications, including the large-format comic book Spellbound? (against rock music) and the tract Dark Dungeons (against fantasy role-playing games).
Todd was exposed as a fraud in publications such as Christianity Today and Cornerstone. He later was convicted and sent to prison for rape. Nevertheless, Chick is still publishing materials repeating his claims and thanking him openly for providing the information.
The other major figure hyping Jack Chick’s conspiracy theories was the late Alberto Rivera, and he is important enough to Chick mythology to deserve his own section.
Who Was Alberto Rivera?
|Alberto Rivera and His Comic Book Namesake|
Aside from Jack Chick’s own name, the name most familiar to readers of Chick comics is that of Alberto Rivera (1935—1997). He is mentioned in numerous tracts and serves as the central character in six issues of Chick’s The Crusaders full-size comic book. Chick even devotes space to him in the handful of books the house publishes.
Alberto Magno Romero Rivera was born in 1937 in the Canary Islands. He claimed to have been a priest who served as an undercover operative of the Jesuit order to infiltrate and destroy Protestant churches and institutions. He maintained that he was so successful that he secretly was made a bishop. Yet he turned his life over to Christ and became a Fundamentalist evangelist. He claimed to have rescued his sister—a nun—after she nearly died in a convent in London.
In the 1970s he met Jack Chick, who publicized his story with much fanfare. It added immense amounts of detail (and implausibility) to Chick’s global Catholic conspiracy theory. The Alberto series included some of the wildest claims found in Chick’s publications—that the Vatican started Islam, Communism, the Masons, and the Klan; that it controls the Illuminati, the Mafia, and the New Age movement; that it created the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormonism, and is databasing the name of every Protestant church member for a future inquisition.
The Alberto series started a controversy that resulted in Chick being unable to sell the comic books in many Protestant bookstores. Following a complaint from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the Christian Booksellers Association began considering whether to expel Chick. Soon afterward, Chick withdrew from the CBA.
The protest against the Chick Alberto series was waged by both Catholics and Evangelicals. Many Catholics, naturally, protested the lurid and inaccurate depiction of their faith, and many Protestant bookstore owners who saw their point removed the series from their stores.
In response, Chick published My Name? . . . In the Vatican? in which he repeated many of Rivera’s sensationalistic claims and gave grudging acknowledgement to the ability of Catholics to get his works taken out of Evangelical bookstores.
While it is natural to expect Catholics to be upset over Chick and Rivera’s outrageous claims, many Evangelicals were upset as well, and they began to investigate Rivera. Prominent Protestant publications, including Christianity Today, Cornerstone, and even Forward—a publication of Walter Martin’s Christian Research Institute—did investigations leading to exposés of Rivera as a fraud.
From My Name? . . . In the Vatican?
Christianity Today’s story by researcher Gary Metz revealed that:
He is being sued in a Los Angeles court at the present time  by a man who said that Rivera, on behalf of the Hispanic Baptist Church, which he started, borrowed $2,025 with which to invest in property, but never purchased the land. When the man asked for his money back, he received a receipt acknowledging his “contribution” of $2,025.
The Christianity Today investigation further reported:
In October 1967, Rivera went to work at the Church of God of Prophecy headquarters in Tennessee and began collecting money for a college in Tarrassa, Spain. When the Church of God of Prophecy wrote the college to ask if Rivera was authorized to receive donations for the college, it received a reply stating the college had given him a letter to collect funds only during the month of July. The college later discovered that while “he claimed to be a Catholic priest . . . he had never been one.” The college reported that he left debts he had acquired in the name of the parish of San Lorenzo and that Spanish police were seeking him for “authentic swindles and cheats.” Finally, they said that no funds had ever reached the college from Rivera. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, Charles Hawkins of the Church of God of Prophecy said Rivera’s bank had contacted them because he had written a check on a closed account.
In 1969 two arrest warrants were issued for him in Florida. One was for the theft of a BankAmericard: The criminal division of the Bank of America reports that he charged over two thousand dollars on the credit card. The second warrant was issued for unauthorized use of an automobile. Rivera abandoned the vehicle in Seattle and went from there to southern California, where he started a number of organizations.
Concerning Rivera’s alleged liberation of his sister from a convent, Christianity Todayreported:
The sequel [to the Alberto comic], Double-Cross, devotes its first nine pages to a description of how Alberto flew to London and contacted an Anabaptist church, whose people helped him rescue his dying sister Maria from her convent. Actually, the person he contacted was not an Anabaptist but Delmar Spurling of the Church of God of Prophecy. Spurling said in an interview that Rivera did not rescue his sister, because she wasn’t a nun but rather a maid working in a private London home.
Concerning Rivera’s claim that he had been a priest, Christianity Today noted:
The Catholic Church denies Rivera’s most important claim, that he was a priest. To substantiate the claim, the Alberto comic book carries a picture of an official-looking document from the Archbishopric of Madrid-Alcala in Spain, dated September 1967. It identifies Rivera as a priest and gives him permission to travel abroad in his ministry. There is no other church documentation, such as an ordination certificate, shown in the book. An individual in California, who grew suspicious of Rivera in 1973, wrote to the archdiocese office in Madrid-Alcala to ask if Rivera were really a priest. The response was that no diocese in Spain had any record of Rivera as a priest. The archbishop’s office concluded that he was not a priest, and that the travel document, which was little more than a form letter, was “acquired by deceit and subterfuge” to enable Rivera to get a passport.
Christianity Today further discovered that “that not only was Rivera not a Jesuit priest, but also that he had two children during the time he claimed to be living a celibate life as a Jesuit.” It explained:
Although Rivera claims to have been raised and trained in a Spanish Jesuit seminary, his hometown friend, Bonilla, said Rivera was living at one point with a woman in Costa Rica named Carmen Lydia Torres. (Alberto says Rivera was sent to Costa Rica to destroy a [Protestant] seminary and that a woman named Carmen was with him, posing as his girlfriend. The seminary was not named.)
Rivera later stated on an employment form that he and Torres were married in 1963. Their son, Juan, was born in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1964, while Rivera was forking for the Christian Reformed Church there. Juan died in El Paso in July 1965, after his parents had fled New Jersey leaving numerous debts and a warrant for their arrest on bad check charges. The couple had two other children, Alberto and Luis Marx. The first two children were born during the time Alberto claimed to be a Jesuit priest in Spain.
Concerning Rivera’s claim to have been made a bishop, Metz reported in Cornerstone that:
Alberto now claims that he was once a Jesuit bishop. None of his former associates remember this being part of his testimony until early 1973. Former associate Rev. Wishart (once a pastor of the First Baptist Church of San Fernando), who questioned Alberto about this, reported that Alberto admitted that he had never been ordained a bishop but used the title for prestige. He continues to call himself the bishop of his own church, the Hispanic Baptist Church (Oxnard, California).
In Alberto, Rivera claimed that his conversion to Protestantism happened while he was being detained in a sanitarium following a public break with the Church. YetChristianity Today‘s piece noted that:
His later accounts of his conversion are contradictory. While speaking at the Faith Baptist Church in Canoga Park, California, Rivera pinpointed his conversion as March 20, 1967, after three months in the sanitarium, and he said he immediately defected from the Catholic Church. Five months later, however, he gave a newspaper interview in his home town of Las Palmas [in the Canary Islands], in which he was still promoting Catholicism. He said in the interview that he was doing ecumenical work for the Catholic Church in Tarrassa, Spain, during the previous six months, from February to August 1967. According to Alberto, he was in the sanitarium at the time.
Rivera, who now  lives in California, was asked for an interview to discuss the discrepancies in his tale, but he posed so many restrictions before he would agree that a legitimate interview was not possible. He did say that any wrongdoings prior to his conversion to Christ in 1967 were done under the orders of the Catholic Church and that any wrongdoings since his conversions are fabrications by conspirators.
Of course, if Rivera had been a secret Jesuit agent bent on conspiratorial acts, such deception and subterfuge might well have been part of his mission. Yet his fantastic tale lacks credibility. The numerous legal entanglements suggest that he was a simple con man. There are the contradictory accounts of his conversion, his admission that he was married, and the fact that he was the father of two children during his alleged time as a Jesuit priest. And then there is what was uncovered by the Christian Research Institute in its investigation of Alberto:
Bartholomew F. Brewer, a former Catholic priest who is now director of Mission to Catholics International in San Diego [a man long known to Catholic Answers supporters for his anti-Catholic activities and an authentic ex-priest] . . . related to us that several years ago Rivera wanted to work in conjunction with Mission to Catholics. Dr. Brewer did interview Rivera and decided not to use him in his ministry. Over a period of time, however, Dr. Brewer got to know Rivera better and he eventually concluded that Rivera was not only unfamiliar with Catholic theology, by obviously had never been a Catholic priest, let alone a bishop.
In examining the two Chick comics, one finds that statements are made that would seem to substantiate Dr. Brewer’s views. Rivera is apparently unfamiliar with Catholic doctrine, church history, and other factual information.
For example, in Alberto, Rivera seems to imply that celibacy is a sacrament. Also, he states that students studying for the priesthood were not allowed to read the Bible. He also claims that, in Catholic doctrine, Mary is co-equal with God the Father. These are all misrepresentations of the truth.
Rivera further calls his reliability into question by stating that the masterminds behind the Inquisition were Jesuits. This is an impossibility, since the Inquisition began around a.d. 1200, and the Jesuits were not established until the 1540s.
CRI also discovered Rivera inaccurately quoting sources:
Rivera’s believability becomes still more questionable in Double-Cross, when he claims that [suicide cult leader] Jim Jones was secretly a Jesuit deacon and an agent for the Vatican. He says that the Jonestown massacre was part of the Roman Catholic Church’s “diabolical conspiracy.” For support of this contention, he refers to Dr. Peter Beter’s Audio Letter #40, November 1978 (Beter is a self-proclaimed “conspiracy” expert). But, on listening to the tape, one discovers that Dr. Beter believes that Jones was a manipulated dupe of the CIA! Thus, the authority Rivera cites for supportive evidence is opposed to his view.
Rivera’s response to this investigation was to call CRI “a ‘˜tool’ of the Jesuits and its director [Walter Martin, at the time] an ‘˜agent’ of Rome.” He subsequently claimed that Martin “was working with the Vatican and stated that his name was on a secret Jesuit list.” CRI further reported:
After our initial research gave us reason to question the comic’s reliability, we attempted to contact both Alberto Rivera and Chick Publications’ founder Jack Chick. With no success in contacting Rivera by mail, two certified letters were sent to Chick Publications. In them, we conveyed our concern over some apparent discrepancies in Rivera’s story and asked for answers. When no reply was made to our letters, follow-up phone calls revealed that Jack Chick would make no reply whatsoever. He said that he was not answerable to any man and that the comic books could stand on their own.
Alberto Rivera went on to found the “Antichrist Information Center” or AIC (which later explained its initials as meaning “Assurance in Christ”). He died in 1997 of colon cancer, and his ministry was carried on by his widow, Nuzy Rivera.
The impact of Alberto Rivera on Jack Chick’s universe is difficult to underestimate. It was Rivera that provided Chick with his most sensationalistic, most anti-Catholic claims and allowed Chick’s conspiracy theories to grow increasingly complex and bizarre.
Jack T. Chick’s Gallery of Anti-Catholic Tracts
It’s hard to judge a book—or a comic book—by its cover. You can tell that some of Chick’s tracts are clearly aimed at Catholicism just by looking at them. Others you have to read before you discover the anti-Catholicism buried within them. Here is a brief guide to Chick’s anti-Catholic tracts and what they contain.
Are Roman Catholics Christian?
Unlike most Chick tracts, this one is not primarily a story. It is an essay intended to prove that Catholics are not Christian. To show this, it tries to walk through the life of a typical Catholic woman—”Helen”—from the time of her baptism to the time of her death. At each stage, Chick takes swipes at Catholic doctrine and practice.
Themes: Anathema, Anointing of the Sick, Baptism, Clergy & Religious, Confession, Divided Loyalties, Eucharist, Inquisition, Mary, Other Christs, Paganism/Idolatry, Pope, Purgatory, Whore of Babylon
Chick’s defense of the King James Version of the Bible. According to this tract, the devil and the Catholic Church vigorously opposed the KJV and even murdered some of its translators. In its place they have sought to provide modern translations based on corrupt manuscripts for their own evil ends. All modern translations except the KJV are evil and the product of a Catholic conspiracy. A key objective of the conspiracy is to insert “the Apocrypha” (i.e., the deuterocanonical books of Scripture) into the Bible.
Themes: Anathema, Bible Corruption, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics
A look at the end times, á la Jack Chick. In the near future the Rapture will occur. Afterward, the pope will be revealed to be the Antichrist and will compel all to take the number 666 on their foreheads or right hands. The world will become a gigantic, occult “witches’ coven,” in which true Christians are persecuted. The battle of Armageddon will be fought, leading to a 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth. Then, God will condemn the wicked—including those who remained faithful Catholics—to hell and reward Protestant Fundamentalists with heaven.
Themes: Antichrist, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Millennium, Rapture
The Death Cookie
Jack Chick’s most prominent attack on the Eucharist. He tells the story of an unkempt man who wishes to control others. This man is counseled by a sinister (satanic-looking) advisor who encourages him to invent the doctrine of the Eucharist. Based on this advice, the man is soon controlling those around him as the Catholic pope.
Themes: Eucharist, Clerics & Religious, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Other Christs, Paganism/Idolatry, Whore of Babylon
Two Muslims start reading a Chick tract and are horrified to discover that Islam is a fraud. Worse, they discover that the pope manipulated Mohammed into starting Islam to conquer Jerusalem for him. Even Mohammed’s wife Khadijah was a Vatican operative on a secret mission to set up her new husband!
Themes: Conspiracy, Mary, Paganism/Idolatry
A Latin American young man named Juan joins a Communist revolutionary movement, only to discover that the movement is tied in with liberation theology. This, Chick informs us, is a Vatican plot. Among other things, it allows Latin American Protestants to be killed as heretics and enemies of the state.
Themes: Conspiracy, Communism, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Repulsive Catholics
Here He Comes!
The priest who becomes a Fundamentalist is having nightmares about being left behind when the Rapture happens. A Fundamentalist tells him that he won’t be, but goes on to him about the horrors to come, including the revelation of the pope and “the Jesuit general” as the false prophet and the beast.
Themes: Antichrist, Millennium, Pope, Rapture
After a tense confrontation between a Jewish concentration camp survivor and a group of American Nazis, a Fundamentalist kindly explains that the German Holocaust was actually a Vatican plot to kill Jews. In fact, “the Gestapo was run by the Jesuits” and “Hitler was a faithful Roman Catholic simply following the laws set forth in the Council of Trent.” Worse, the Vatican plans a new inquisition in America to force Catholicism on the United States.
Themes: Anathema, Conspiracy, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Nazism, Pope, Repulsive Catholics, Whore of Babylon
Is There Another Christ?
An essay tract in which Chick attacks the pope as the vicar of Christ, the role of the priest as an alter Christus, and the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Each of these, Chick claims, is an infringement on the person and work of the true Christ.
Themes: Clerics & Religious, Eucharist, Other Christs, Pope, Tradition, Whore of Babylon
Kiss the Protestants Good-bye
An essay tract in which Chick details the Vatican conspiracy to wipe out Protestantism—and his own role in fighting it! Chick claims that Catholics have subverted Protestant Bibles, including the Scofield Reference Bible, which Chick himself learned from. The goal has been to first rid Protestantism of its anti-Catholicism and then impose Catholicism. Chick has worked to thwart this plot, the tract explains, by publishing the Alberto series of comic books, which infuriate the Vatican.
Themes: Bible Corruption, Conspiracy, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Rapture, Repulsive Catholics
The Last Generation?
In the near future, a global totalitarian state is proclaimed, with the pope as its head. The announcement is made by a Jesuit at the United Nations. True Christian believers are driven underground and betrayed to the sinister superstate at every turn, even by evil “Hitler Youth”-type children.
Themes: Antichrist, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Mary, Rapture
This tract tells the story of an unpleasant Catholic man named Henry who gets killed in a car crash. He receives the last rites, but after dying he is taken before God, who condemns him to hell for trusting in Catholic “works” to save him instead of Jesus Christ.
Themes: Anointing of the Sick, Assurance of Salvation, Baptism, Confession, Eucharist, Paganism/Idolatry, Purgatory, Repulsive Catholics, Whore of Babylon
Man in Black
A drunk, suicidal Catholic priest attempts to kill himself but is stopped by a passing Fundamentalist. After the suicide attempt the two discuss Catholic doctrine over coffee. The Fundamentalist convinces the priest that Catholicism is a revived form of paganism, and the priest gives his life to Christ.
Themes: Bible Corruption, Clerics & Religious, Conspiracy, Eucharist, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Mary, Paganism/Idolatry, Pope, Repulsive Catholics, Whore of Babylon
An obnoxious Catholic policeman—”Murph”—is mortally wounded in the line of duty. His ex-Catholic partner tells him that he must trust Jesus instead of the Church before he dies. When Murph’s priest comes up short on answers, the dying cop does so and goes to heaven.
Themes: Assurance of Salvation, Purgatory, Repulsive Catholics, Tradition
My Name? . . . In the Vatican?
Chick explains—based on information from Alberto Rivera—that the Vatican keeps the name of every Protestant church member in a “big computer.” The purpose is to make future persecutions easier. Chick laments the resistance he’s met in getting his Alberto comic books carried and cites the effectiveness of Catholics in getting these comics pulled from Protestant bookstores.
Themes: Conspiracy, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Repulsive Catholics
The Only Hope
A more-explicit-than-usual look at the future Chick envisions. It expressly tells us: “The last pope will be the antichrist, or the Beast. Satan will enter his body, and he will be worshipped worldwide.” In the course of re-treading events from the book of Revelation, it also tells us that “ten nations hate the ‘˜whore’ of Rev. 17 and destroy the Vatican by fire” while “the pope (Antichrist) escapes to Jerusalem.”
Themes: Antichrist, Millennium, Rapture, Whore of Babylon
The Poor Pope?
Claims that “the pope controls more wealth than any other man on this planet” and gives a fanciful history of how this came about, with numerous unsourced allegations of wrongdoing on the part of the Vatican in a relentless drive to gain wealth. (For example, when the California Gold Rush started in the 1800s, the Vatican sent “liquor, gambling tables, and Roman Catholic prostitutes to take back the gold from the miners.”) The tract declares that “the average person would go into shock if he knew the extent of the Vatican’s wealth and political power.”
Themes: Conspiracy, Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics, Paganism/Idolatry, Pope, Purgatory, Vatican riches, Whore of Babylon
The Story Teller
A Muslim returns home after many years abroad and tells his village the story of what he learned. During his travels he met Alberto Rivera and was informed not only that Catholicism is a false religion but that it created Islam as part of a Vatican plot. More recently, the Vatican staged an apparition at Fatima (named after Mohammed’s daughter) to cozy up to Muslims. It also staged the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II using a Muslim as the marksman “to guilt-induce the Muslim world, bringing them still closer to the Catholic faith!”
Themes: Conspiracy, Mary, Paganism/Idolatry
A Fundamentalist and the ex-priest from Man in Black try to scare the priest’s sister into accepting Fundamentalism by telling her that the pope is the Antichrist, that we are living in the end times, and that if she wants to escape the great tribulation she must become a Fundamentalist in order to be raptured and to escape to heaven.
Themes: Antichrist, Millennium, Pope, Rapture
Why Is Mary Crying?
Chick’s attack on Marian doctrine and practice. He tells us that these devotions deeply sadden the real Mary and make her cry. In this tract the Virgin Mary herself declares that she is a sinner and implores Catholics not to believe Catholic doctrine concerning her. She says that Catholic teaching and practice regarding her is an outgrowth of Babylonian paganism and that Catholics must repent and follow what God teaches in the Bible.
Themes: Mary, Paganism/Idolatry, Whore of Babylon
Answering Chick Tracts
It’s tempting to laugh off Jack Chick’s tracts and comic books. Their lurid tales and paranoid conspiracy theories make them hard to take seriously. But millions of people take them very seriously. That is why Chick has been able to distribute more than half a billion of his tracts. What is worse, many are aimed directly at Catholics, attempting to convert them to Fundamentalism. His most anti-Catholic tracts tend to conclude with a final panel like this one, urging Catholics to repudiate their faith:
With many Catholics weak in their faith today, there are a lot of people who are vulnerable to appeals such as this, especially when they have just been told untruths that they don’t know how to refute. Even Catholics who are strong in their faith can have a difficult time knowing how to answer specific anti-Catholic charges, because Chick makes so many and such bizarre ones.
This is part of the problem: With the sheer volume of errors, half-truths, and misrepresentations that Chick makes about the Church, there is simply no way to refute them all. Often even a single panel from one of his tracts contains multiple mistakes. Doing a thorough refutation of everything Chick says would require several book-length works.
The procedure this report recommends is to use critical thinking skills whenever one looks at a Chick tract—whether one is a Catholic seeking to answer the tract or a non-Catholic seeking to evaluate what it has to say. To that end, keep several principles of critical thinking in mind:
- Use common sense. If something seems to violate common sense, it probably does. Think about it: Is it really plausible that the Vatican is operating a multi-century conspiracy during which it created Islam and Communism, started the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, arranged the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the assassination attempt of John Paul II? That it keeps the name of all Protestant church members in a database so that they can be hunted down, interrogated, and if need be tortured or killed in a future persecution? That the Vatican created or runs the Masons, the Klan, the Mafia, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the host of other organizations and religious groups that Chick says it does?This is all a gross violation of common sense, and that ought to tell you that something is wrong with the picture Chick is painting. So if you encounter something in Chick’s works that is incredible, outrageous, or unbelievable—go with your instincts and assume that it’s false unless it can be backed up with solid evidence. This leads directly to the next point.
- Identify, evaluate, and check sources. Chick tracts make many assertions but cite few sources—and fewer reliable ones—yet he needs to provide solid sources in order to give evidence for the preposterous claims he makes. Therefore, when reading a Chick tract, you should evaluate the sources he is using. Ask yourself: Does he even provide a source to document this claim? Often he does not. If there is one, ask: Is this a reliable source? Some of his main sources are notoriously unreliable, including Alberto Rivera, John Todd, and Alexander Hislop (discussed below). Finally, check the source. It may not say what Chick would lead you to think it does. For example, above we saw an instance in which CRI found Alberto Rivera erroneously claiming that a source said something it didn’t say.
- Check for misrepresentations. Very often when Chick cites a source (including the Bible), he misrepresents what it says. Sometimes this is because he doesn’t understand how a word is being used. (We will see later that he is greatly mistaken about what the word anathema means.) Other times he will cite Bible verses that are on the general topic he wants but that don’t really say what he wants. In other words, they are not relevant to the claim he is making. So ask yourself: Is this passage really relevant? Does it say what he wants it to say? What else could it mean?
- Consult authentic sources. Don’t let matters stop at what Chick and his sources say. Consult other sources—the best ones that you can find. If Chick says that a doctrine is taught by the Catholic Church, look it up in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and find out. If you don’t know where to check out a claim he makes, call Catholic Answers.
- Note admissions of lack of evidence. Sometimes when Chick doesn’t have evidence for what he wants to claim he will try to conceal the fact by saying “this was all covered up” or that someone “secretly” was a Catholic. When this happens, take note of it and recognize it for what it is: an admission that he can’t back up the claim with evidence.
From My Name? . . . In the Vatican?
- Think through the implications. As part of using common sense to evaluate Chick’s claims, think through the implications of what he says. Ask yourself: What else would have to happen for this to be true?For example, take the claim that the Vatican has a database of “every Protestant church member in the world.” How would the Vatican get such a list? Many countries (the U.S. among them) do not require people to register their religious affiliation. In these countries, most Protestant churches don’t publicize their membership rolls. The Vatican would have to spies everywhere, gathering evidence about the members of every one-room, backwoods country church in the world. This violates common sense.
- Look for double standards. Chick often will portray a particular belief or practice as an abomination when it is done by Catholics, even though the same thing occurs in Protestant circles.For example, he points to the Catholic belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, belief in baptismal regeneration, and the practice of infant baptism as key points in his argument that Catholics are not Christian. Yet each of these is paralleled among Protestants. Lutherans and many Anglicans believe in the Real Presence. The same also believe in baptismal regeneration. And infant baptism is practiced by the majority of Protestants in the world, including not only Lutherans and Anglicans but also Presbyterians, Dutch Reformed, Methodists, and others. Only the Baptist and Pentecostal traditions (and those movements stemming from them) oppose the practice.
- Watch for prejudicial presentations. A key technique that Chick uses is to make Catholics, their beliefs, and their practices “look” or “sound” bad by presenting them in a prejudicial light. This happens when he takes something innocent and uses language that makes it sound sinister. Or when he shows Catholics as angry, ugly, and foul-mouthed. Or when he uses exaggerated, hysterical language. Or when he tries to play upon one’s emotions by drawing demons lurking about. Be aware that this kind of subterfuge is a major part of what Chick does and be on the lookout for it. When you see it, ask yourself: How could this same thing be presented in a balanced, non-prejudicial manner?
These principles of critical thinking will go a long way toward helping you answer and evaluate Chick tracts. They will let you see through a large number of the errors, half-truths, and misrepresentations that fill their pages. But you also need specific facts to answer or evaluate many of the particular things he says. It is not possible in a special report to do a thorough refutation of all of Chick’s claims, but here are some things you should be aware of concerning the most common themes in his tracts, as well as pointers for where to go for more information.
Like many, Chick does not understand what the term anathema means. He thinks that it means “damned as a heretic.” Elsewhere he uses “damned as a heretic” in place of the word anathema.
But this is not what the term means. In Catholic documents the term refers to a kind of excommunication. By the time of the Council of Trent (which Chick faults for using it), it referred to an excommunication done with a special ceremony. Thus when Trent says things like “If anyone says . . . let him be anathema,” it means that the person can be excommunicated with the ceremony. It also did not apply to Protestants since they were not part of the Catholic Church. Only someone who is part of the Catholic Church can be excommunicated from it.
The purpose of excommunication is not to damn a person but to bring him to repentance—the same principle Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 Corinthians 2:5—10.
Further, though ordinary excommunication still exists, the ceremonial form of excommunication (anathema) does not exist. The 1983 Code of Canon Law ended the penalty. Thus, while one can still be excommunicated for holding beliefs against the Catholic faith, one cannot be anathematized.
Anointing of the Sick
Chick doesn’t like the anointing of the sick, but it has a firm biblical basis. The book of James tells us: “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith will save the sick man, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas. 5:14—15).
From The Only Hope
Chick presents Alberto Rivera as saying that John’s prophecy (cf. 1 John 2:18—22) of many antichrists and a final Antichrist “are fulfilled in the dynasty of the papacy and that the Antichrist will be the pope who is in power when Jesus Christ returns.” Chick himself agrees. He always shows the Antichrist wearing papal robes and says that “he rules from the Vatican.” In The Only Hope we are told bluntly: “The last pope will be the antichrist, or the Beast.”
This is not possible. John tells us: “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22; cf. 4:3; 2 John 7). The Antichrist will deny that Jesus is the Messiah. But the pope’s authority as the vicar (representative) of Christ depends on Jesus being the Christ. The pope is the one man least likely to deny that Jesus is the Messiah. His job depends on it! For this same reason one cannot refer the “many antichrists” (cf. 1 John 2:18) to “the dynasty of the papacy.”
Assurance of Salvation
Chick occasionally takes swipes at the Catholic Church for not teaching “assurance of salvation” and cites verses such as 1 John 5:13—”I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.” He’s taking this verse out of context. John has just been giving tests by which one can tell whether one is in a state of salvation (1 John 4:16—5:12). These tests include whether one believes in God and Jesus, whether one loves God and one’s neighbor, and whether one keeps God’s commandments. This means that one can have a reasoned assurance of salvation but not an absolute one. One cannot claim to “know” that one has eternal life without applying (and passing) the tests, and there is always the possibility that one could be self-deceived about whether one passes the tests. Thus assurance can be only relative, not absolute.
Chick singles out two problems with baptism as understood and practiced by Catholics. The first is that one is born again in baptism and the second that Catholics baptize infants.
Scripture clearly indicates that we receive God’s grace in baptism. Peter says that in the ark “eight persons were saved through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body [i.e., not by the physical effect of baptism] but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ [i.e., by the spiritual effect of baptism]” (1 Pet. 3:20—21). Paul tells us that when we were baptized we were united to Christ’s death so that “we might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4), and when Paul himself was baptized, he was told: “Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). The early Church Fathers were unanimous in understanding John 3:5 (“unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God”) as referring to baptism.
Regarding infant baptism, when Peter preached baptism for the forgiveness of sins, he added: “For the promise is to you and to your children” (Acts 2:39). Jesus himself said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16), and he was speaking of infants (cf. Luke 18:15)! It is no surprise then when we see entire households being baptized at once (Acts 16:15, 33; 1 Cor. 1:16). This is natural when one recognizes that baptism is “the circumcision of Christ” (Col. 2:11) or the Christian equivalent of circumcision—which was applied to infants.
It also is worth noting that many Protestants believe in baptismal regeneration and practice infant baptism. The first Protestant of all—Martin Luther—did so, as does the Lutheran church to this day.
Chick is a supporter of the King James Version of the Bible. He denounces multiple other Protestant translations. His chief grievances are: (1) that the other translations are based on corrupt “Alexandrian” manuscripts rather than on the “Textus Receptus” manuscript tradition, (2) that even Protestant preachers “correct the Word of God” according to what the original languages say, (3) that some Bibles have footnotes, and (4) that some Bibles contain the deuterocanonical books of Scripture (“the Apocrypha”). All of this, Chick says, is a satanic and Catholic plot.
- The issues regarding what manuscripts are the closest to the original is too complex to go into here, but suffice it to say that the differences between the different manuscript traditions are tiny. They do not, as Chick says, “downplay” the deity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, or salvation by grace through faith. Westcott and Hort (the textual scholars Chick blames most) were not “closet Catholics.” They were Anglicans.
- It is good for Protestant preachers to correct Bible translations in light of the original languages because no translation is perfect—even the KJV. For example, in Acts 12:4 the KJV says “Easter” where the Jewish holiday of Passover is being referred to.
- While bad footnotes are a problem in many Bibles, footnotes also can help, given the complexity and obscurity of some passages. When Philip asked the Ethiopian eunuch if he understood the prophet Isaiah, he replied, “How can I, unless some one guides me?” (Acts 8:31).
- The deuterocanonical books were reckoned as Scripture by the early Christians. As Protestant church historian J. N. D. Kelly writes, “It should be observed that the Old Testament thus admitted as authoritative in the Church was somewhat bulkier and more comprehensive [than the Protestant Bible]. . . . It always included, though with varying degrees of recognition, the so-called apocrypha or deuterocanonical books.” Further, some New Testament passages clearly allude to passages in the deuterocanonicals. (For instance, compare Hebrews 11:35 with 2 Maccabees 7.)
Clergy & Religious
Chick has a big problem with the pope, priests, and religious (e.g., monks and nuns). We will deal with the pope in another section, but as for priests, the word priestis actually taken from the Greek word presbuteros (“elder”).
From Are Roman Catholics Christians?
Further, Paul tells us that God’s ministers in the New Testament age doperform “priestly service” (Rom. 15:16).
Regarding monks and nuns, the Old Testament records people who took special vows of consecration to God (Nazirites, cf. Num. 6), the Old Testament equivalent of monks and nuns. In the New Testament, Anna the prophetess seems to have lived like a cloistered nun, as “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day” (Luke 2:37). Paul tells us of an order of widows devoted to good works who had vowed to not marry again (cf. 1 Tim. 5:9—12).
Chick’s claim that Communism is a creation of the Vatican is one that does not pass the common sense test. Historically, Communism has been militantly atheistic, and the Church has condemned it in extremely forceful terms.
Neither is the claim that “liberation theology”—the misguided attempt of some third-world priests to fuse Catholicism and Marxism—credible as a Vatican plot. The Vatican cracked down on the movement and censured its theologians.
The claim that John Paul II is a Communist is especially preposterous. He suffered under Communist rule, has written against it forcefully, and is credited by many as one of the key players in the downfall of the Soviet Bloc.
Chick tells us that “no man has the power to forgive sins.” It’s true that God’s forgiveness is the one that counts, but this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t use men as the instruments by which he absolves people.
From Last Rites
The Pharisees made the same charge against Jesus during his own public ministry (cf. Mark 2:7), but Jesus proved he had the power to forgive sins by healing the paralytic man. When the crowds saw it, “they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 9:8, emphasis added).
With the coming of Christ, God began to use men as instruments of his forgiveness, and after the Resurrection Jesus commissioned his disciples to do this, telling them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:22—23).
One of the problems with Chick’s grand, Vatican-centered conspiracy theory is that so many of the groups the Vatican allegedly created or controls are anti-Catholic. Muslims, Communists, Nazis, Masons, the Klan, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.—all are anti-Catholic, some as much so as Jack Chick. Further, many of these movements are large enough that they have been specifically rejected by the Vatican. The idea that the Vatican started or runs them is simply absurd.
From The Death Cookie
Demons lurk the pages of Chick tracts, sometimes guffawing at the misfortunes of humans, sometimes plotting devilry, sometimes just hovering sinisterly.
The extensive use of this theme is one of the ways Chick plays on the emotions of his readers. Instead of making a calm, rational appeal for why his readers should or should not believe certain things, Chick wants to engage the reader on a sub-rational level. He substitutes disturbing, even horrific imagery for reason and argument. He doesn’t want the reader to think. He wants to generate emotions of fear and revulsion toward certain doctrines and practices and so associates demonic imagery with them. No proof is necessary to show why a doctrine or practice is bad; Chick just wraps demons around it to make the reader want to reject it.
From Man in Black
From The Death Cookie
Chick attributes many things he doesn’t like directly to the devil. Again, no proof or argument is offered. He simply asserts that something was engineered by Satan. Sometimes he even shows the devil plotting the object of Chick’s contempt. Once again, he substitutes fear and revulsion for offering evidence.
From The Attack
Frankly, he gives the devil too much credit. While one may reasonably assume that the devil looks favorably on every moral evil that occurs in the world, this is not the same as saying he causes every individual evil. While he may have set the human race on a bad road in the beginning (Gen. 3), this does not mean that he directly engineered every individual sin since that time.
Chick occasionally takes swipes at Catholics for having divided loyalties between the Church and the U.S. (insinuating or directly stating that their loyalty to the former is greater than to the latter). This kind of argument was common in many older American anti-Catholic works. At the time these works were written, many Catholics in the U.S. were immigrants, and their loyalty to their new country was suspect. Most anti-Catholics today have dropped this allegation—and with good reason—yet Chick hangs onto it. It’s essential to his Catholics-out-to-subvert-the-U.S. conspiracy theory.
From Are Roman Catholics Christians?
The reason that most anti-Catholics no longer make the charge is that now most Catholics in the U.S. are native-born. They are as loyal to America as anyone. They have put their lives on the line for her whenever the nation has gone to war, and many are war heroes.
In addition, Chick’s facts are wrong. Catholics are not “citizen[s] of two countries.” The Vatican City State has a tiny number of citizens—fewer than a thousand. They are mostly people who live and work at the Vatican. The vast majority of Catholics are citizens of only one state—their homeland—and they understand their civic duties as well as anyone. The Catechism of the Catholic Church stresses these duties, and the Catholic Bible says just as much as the Protestant one, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:21).
Chick makes the usual charges against the Eucharist. He doesn’t like the Real Presence and the sacrifice of the Mass in particular. He even says that the Mass is not mentioned in Scripture, despite the fact that the very first Mass occurred during the Last Supper (cf. Luke 22:19—20). The charges he makes have been answered many times.
What is distinctive about his approach is the attempt he makes to link the Eucharist with paganism. He claims: “On the altars of Egypt were sun-shaped wafers made of unleavened bread. These wafers were consecrated by the Egyptian priests and supposedly they magically became the flesh of the sun god, Osiris.”
Although Osiris was an Egyptian god, he wasn’t the sun god. That was Ra (in some cases identified with Horus). Osiris was the grain god and the god of the dead. There were grain cakes (little and not so little) connected with the worship of Osiris, but, since he wasn’t the sun god, they were not shaped like the sun. They were shaped like a man since Osiris was pictured as a man. The use of these grain men was connected with Osiris’s annual cycle as the god of grain. Every year, the Egyptians made cakes shaped like Osiris out of grain as an offering asking the grain god to reappear and make the land fruitful again. According to Egyptian wall art, priests even watered the cakes to get the grain in them to sprout and send up shoots. These Osiris cakes weren’t anything like communion wafers.
From Man in Black
Another of Chick’s attempts to link the Eucharist with paganism is found in his frequent depictions of the host imprinted with the lettersIHS. He tells the reader that this stands for a trio of Egyptian gods (who were not a trinity, incidentally). Chick’s claim is nonsense. The letters aren’t English at all, but Greek. In fact, they are the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek: iota-eta-sigma (capital etain Greek looks like the English H). This has been a common abbreviation for Jesus throughout Church history.
Though you wouldn’t know it from Chick, few Catholics have ever seen a host imprinted with these letters. Most hosts either have nothing on them or a cross design. What design, if any, is imprinted on a host is up to the maker. There is no Church regulation on this, and few makers have used the IHS design. Yet Chick would lead one to believe that it is omnipresent in Catholic churches.
One would expect Chick to have problems with Catholic teaching on salvation, and he does. The verses he uses most often to attack it are Ephesians 2:8—9—”For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast.”
Catholics agree with what is being said in these verses. Even if one grants Chick’s understanding of “works” in this passage as “good works” rather than “works of the [Mosaic] Law,” it remains true. Good works do not contribute to our coming to God and being saved. In fact, Catholic theology holds that it is impossible for a person who is not in a state of justification to do good works, because he lacks the principle—charity—that makes them supernaturally good. It is when one is in a state of justification and has the virtue of charity that good works become possible.
Inquisition/Death to Non-Catholics
Chick’s lurid comics are filled with tales (and scenes) of Catholics killing non-Catholics. These images are often linked to one of the various historical inquisitions (though Chick does not seem to be aware that there was more than one of these). He sees the breaking out of a new inquisition as not only an ever-present danger but a certainty.
Regarding the historical inquisition, Chick credits it with killing 68 million victims from 1200 to 1800. This is not accurate. The inquisitions that took place in Europe were localized—in France, Spain, and Italy—and there the total population never approached 68 million. Even spread out over six hundred years, that many executions is impossible. Chick is relying on sources using grossly inflated figures.
Chick also is wrong about the identity of the people who were executed. He portrays them as “Bible-believing Christians” (meaning those with Fundamentalist theology), many of whom were hiding the Textus Receptus to keep it safe, and claims that English Bible translator William Tyndale was executed for translating the Bible. These claims are false. Protestantism did not exist during much of the time in question, and there is an utter lack of evidence of anyone being put to death for hiding the Textus Receptus. Indeed, this Greek New Testament manuscript tradition springs from the work of the Catholic scholar Erasmus.
Chick does not seem to understand what a heretic is. Heretics are baptized individuals who obstinately reject an obligatory part of Christian dogma. They do not include Jews, though Chick appears to think they do. Further, the fact that someone may be a heretic does not give anyone the right to kill him. The penalties for heresy specified in the Code of Canon Law include things like not being able to receive the sacraments and not being able to exercise a Church office. Death is not one of these penalties. Yet Chick assures his readers that Trent created the right to “slaughter Jews and non-Catholics alike.” It didn’t, though Chick thinks it did based on his misunderstanding of anathemas.
He further tells his readers: “Still in effect? Yes! All the popes during the Vatican II council and since have accepted the ratification of the entire council on this decree [of Trent].” This isn’t the case, since Trent did not order the death of anyone and the penalty of anathema has since been abolished.
As for the prospect of a looming attempt of the Catholic Church to exterminate non-Catholics, apply the common sense test: Canon law contains no provisions calling for the death of anyone (read the entire Code of Canon Law from front to back; you won’t find any). The penalty of anathema (which did not mean death) has been abolished. Rome is very reluctant to see the death penalty used at all.
Anti-Catholics of Chick’s ilk often wish to portray the Catholic Church as bent on bloodshed and their own religious forebears as opposed to religious violence. But this is erroneous. Both sides have things to apologize for. Religious violence tainted every stream within the Protestant Reformation. To cite a few cases: Henry VIII executed St. Thomas More, Elizabeth I executed St. Edmund Campion, John Calvin executed the heretic Michael Servetus, Martin Luther advocated the killing of Anabaptist leaders and the burning of Jewish synagogues, and Anabaptists seized the town of MÃ¼nster in 1534 and killed many people before their attempt to establish a “New Jerusalem” in the town fell apart the next year. Protestants have the same fallen human nature as Catholics and are just as prone to violence.
Chick makes a lot of the conventional anti-Marian arguments that are common in Fundamentalism: that Mary is not the Mother of God, that we are not to ask for her intercession, that statues of her should not be venerated, that she was not preserved by God’s grace from sin, etc.
What is distinctive about Chick’s approach is his is claim that “the ‘˜Mother of God’ that Catholics worship is not the Mary of the Bible. Satan has tricked them into worshiping a counterfeit goddess.” The basis for this claim is a story he borrowed from Alexander Hislop, according to which there was a queen in ancient Babylon named Semiramis. She married her son, Nimrod. After his death, she claimed to have had a virgin birth of another son, Tammuz, who was Nimrod reincarnated. This pair of Semiramis and Tammuz was often depicted in artwork as a mother and child. They form the basis of all of the mother-child statues in the different religions of the world, and when Catholics worship Mary and the Baby Jesus, they are actually worshiping Semiramis and Tammuz.
What is one to make of this? Setting aside the fact that Catholics do not worship Mary, it is still complete nonsense. Hislop’s wild ideas cannot be substantiated historically. We have mother and child images from cultures that predate Babylon. Further, if you want to depict a famous mother, a good way of doing it is by picturing her holding her child. Thus before literacy became widespread Christians often would picture Mary holding the Baby Jesus, and it became an established image in Christian art.
All Christians recognize the existence of the time period known as the Millennium, which is spoken of in Revelation 20:1—10. During this period Satan is bound so that he cannot deceive the nations (Rev. 20:3). The question is: When in history does this period refer to? Chick belongs to a school of thought known as pre-millennialism or millenarianism, which holds that the Millennium is a future time period during which Christ will reign on earth as its King. He further holds that the Millennium will be preceded by an event known as the Rapture. These views are common among Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, though the idea of the Millennium being preceded by the Rapture goes back to only about 1830.
The Catholic position is similar to the position of traditional Protestants. In Protestant circles the position is called amillennialism, and it was held by Luther, Calvin, and the majority of traditional Protestants. It holds that the Millennium is a present reality—that the devil is bound now in such a way that he cannot deceive the nations by stopping the proclamation of the gospel. This is why the world is no longer swallowed in pagan darkness the way it was at the time of Christ. The devil has not been able to stop the spread of Christianity, and now a third of all men are Christians, and half are believers in one God. Today, the prophecy is fulfilled that “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9), and Christ reigns from heaven (1 Cor. 15:25—26) and through his Church on earth (Rev. 20:4). At the end of the Church age, there will be a period of bitter deception and persecution of the Church as the devil is again freed to deceive the nations (Rev. 20:7—8). Then Christ will return, as the Creed says, “to judge the living and the dead” (Rev. 20:11—15).
Chick makes the bizarre claim that not only was Pius XII sympathetic to Nazism (as some in the popular press have claimed) but that Hitler and his cohorts were trying to conquer the world in order to bring about the “Millennial Kingdom” under Pius XII. This doesn’t pass the common sense test since Catholics view the Millennium as a present rather than a future reality.
Further, Pius XII was not sympathetic to Hitler at all. On April 28, 1935, four years before the war started, Eugenio Pacelli (the future Pius XII) caught the attention of the world press. Speaking to an audience of 250,000 pilgrims in Lourdes, France, Pacelli stated that the Nazis “are in reality only miserable plagiarists who dress up old errors with new tinsel. It does not make any difference whether they flock to the banners of social revolution, whether they are guided by a false concept of the world and of life, or whether they are possessed by the superstition of a race and blood cult.” It was talks like this—in addition to his private remarks and numerous notes of protest that he sent to Berlin as Vatican secretary of state—that earned Pacelli a reputation as an enemy of the Nazi party.
Chick periodically rails against Catholics worshiping multiple Jesuses, as in this picture:
From Man in Black
Let us see if Chick’s charge of idolatry holds up:
- Images of the Baby Jesus: Catholics do not worship these. They worship Jesus by venerating images of him, just as one might kiss a photo of a departed loved one.
- Crucifixes: First, who says that Jesus on the cross is dead? He is depicted being crucified, and there is no reason to suppose that crucifixes depict only the brief time between when he died and when he was taken down from the cross. Second, we worship the real Jesus in heaven by venerating his image on earth. The crucifix is an image of the most important thing he did for us on earth.
- The Pope: The pope is not “Jesus on earth,” and Catholics don’t worship him. He is the vicar (representative) of Christ. What is wrong with treating one of Christ’s representatives with respect?
- Priests: Priests aren’t worshiped, but they do represent Christ as his ministers. Don’t Protestants treat their own ministers with respect (1 Thess. 5:12)?
- The Eucharist: The Eucharist is worshiped, but since it is Jesus himself it does not amount to worshiping “another” Jesus. Many other Christians, including Lutherans, believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist (although they do not in fact have the Real Presence in their churches) and recognize that Jesus is to be worshiped wherever he is.
From Last Rites
- The “Angry Jesus” in Heaven: Literal anger is not compatible with being in the beatitude of heaven. In keeping with the language of Scripture one can speak of God being “angry” with our sins (Eph. 5:6), but Catholics recognize this as a metaphor for divine justice. It is far less clear that Chick understands the concept of divine wrath as a metaphor, and his Jesus sometimes seems very angry. In any event, the Jesus ruling in heaven is still the real Jesus, not another one.
One of the major themes of Chick tracts is the attempt to portray Catholicism as a form of paganism. According to Chick’s mythology, ancient Babylonian paganism spread all over the world, with deities taking new names in different cultures but remaining fundamentally the same. He holds Catholicism to be one of its expressions and devotes many pages to showing that the Catholic Mary is actually the ancient Babylonian queen Semiramis and that the Eucharist is based on the worship of ancient sun gods.
Unfortunately, Chick gets his mythology all wrong. For example, he claims that “in ancient Babylon, they worshiped the sun god, ‘˜Baal.’ Then this religion moved into Egypt using different names.” In reality, ancient Babylonians worshiped the sun god Shamash. Baal was neither a Babylonian deity nor the sun god. In fact, he was the Canaanite storm god. Chick could not have had his ideas more muddled.
The source Chick depends on for his mythological ideas is The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop, an eccentric nineteenth-century Anglican clergyman. Chick essentially recycles Hislop’s central thesis of Catholicism being a revival of Babylonian paganism. This allows him to identify the Catholic Church with the Whore of Babylon.
Yet the book lacks credibility. Hislop was writing when anthropology and archaeology were in their infancy, and the idea that all world religions spring from a common source (especially one in Babylon) has been completely disproven. We have knowledge of multiple mythologies from all over the world that are unrelated to Babylonian paganism. Fundamental differences between them are easy to illustrate. For example, Indo-European paganism (to which Babylonian mythology is related) typically has the sky deity being male and the earth deity as female. But in Egyptian mythology this is reversed: The sky deity is female and the earth deity is male.
The most thorough refutation of The Two Babylons was written by one of its chief twentieth-century popularizers. As a young man, Ralph Woodrow wrote a book called Babylon Mystery Religion, which introduced many to Hislop’s ideas. It was very popular in Fundamentalist circles. Yet with time Woodrow realized that Hislop’s claims and logic were deeply flawed, and he wrote a new book—The Babylon Connection?—to refute them.
Chick’s problems with the pope seem to be as follows: (1) The line of popes is a fulfillment of the biblical prophecy of there being many antichrists, and the final pope will be the Antichrist. (2) The popes have been engaged in a global conspiracy spanning centuries, with tendrils in almost every major world event. (3) There is no biblical basis for the office of the pope.
It is very clear in Scripture that Jesus told Peter, whose name means “rock,” that “you are Peter [rock], and on this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). To undermine this, Chick makes the familiar claim that two different words are used here in Greek—petros and petra—and that the first means a small stone or pebble while the latter means a huge rock or boulder.
This simply is not true. The difference in meaning can be found only in Attic Greek, but the New Testament was written in Koine Greek—a different dialect. In Koine, both petros and petra simply meant “rock.” The argument shows a faulty knowledge of Greek. Further, Jesus’ native language was Aramaic, not Greek, and in the Aramaic underlying this passage, the same word—kepha—would have been used in both instances.
Chick claims: “Purgatory is NOT in the Bible! It was created by the Vatican as one of the greatest sources for money ever invented. Billions have made ‘˜the Whore’ rich from poor Roman Catholic survivors who paid to get their loved ones out of purgatory.”
What Chick is referring to (as he makes clear in context) is the paying of Mass stipends when a priest says Mass for a departed loved one. This does not make the Vatican rich. A typical Mass stipend is five dollars, and if a priest gets an occasional five dollars for saying Mass for someone’s loved one, it doesn’t make him or the Church rich. The priest himself keeps the stipend, and the practice is closely regulated to prevent abuse. As a moneymaking scheme, purgatory leaves a lot to be desired.
But then that isn’t what it is. It has been part of the Judeo-Christian tradition since before the time of Christ. Judah Maccabee and his men prayed for and took up a collection for an offering (the Old Testament equivalent of a Mass) for men who, although they “fell asleep in godliness” (2 Macc. 12:45), nevertheless needed to be purified from the consequences of their sins. Similarly, Paul tells us: “The fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor. 3:13—15). Even common sense tells one that, since we will be totally pure in heaven, we must be purified if we are still impure at our deaths. Purgatory is the name the Church gives to this purification.
From The Only Hope
“The Rapture” is the name given in Evangelical circles to an event where living and dead Christians are caught up in the air to be with Christ. When this term is used, it usually is assumed that the event will occur shortly before the Millennium, conceived of as a period in which Christ reigns in person on earth, before the end of the world. This idea dates back to around 1830, when it was popularized by John Nelson Darby and by a school of thought called “Dispensationalism,” which stems from his work. Chick is a big believer in the Rapture, and it appears in his tracts.
Though it does not use the term Rapture, the Catholic Church acknowledges that Christians will be gathered to Christ (likely not with exploding graves), but at a different time. The Church’s view is like that of traditional Protestants: The dead in Christ will be raised and caught up together with him and living Christians at the Second Coming, at the end of the world. Thus Paul speaks of the event happening in the time of those who “who are left until the coming of the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15, cf. 4:16—17).
From Fat Cats
A typical tactic in Chick tracts is to portray Catholics as being unpleasant or revolting in various ways. They drink. They smoke. They cuss. They are mean-tempered. They may even be willing to kill non-Catholics. Some are eager to do so. Frequently, Catholics are drawn to be physically ugly as well. The only good Catholics in Chick tracts are ex-Catholics—those who have left the Church to become Fundamentalists. (Apparently becoming a Fundamentalist helps your appearance, too, because the ex-Catholics are better looking than their former co-religionists.)
When you see this in Chick tracts, recognize it for what it is: an attempt to avoid calm and rational discussion by substituting emotional manipulation, making Catholics “look bad”—literally and figuratively—so that you won’t like them and will transfer this dislike to their beliefs. This is a prejudicial way of presenting Catholics, and it illustrates the prejudice Chick harbors against Catholics.
From Last Rites
From Man in Black
Chick makes the typical charges against tradition, for example, quoting Matthew 15:3—”Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” What Chick fails to note is that the Bible does not condemn all tradition, only traditions of men that are contrary to the Word of God. Traditions of men that are notcontrary to the word of God (e.g., having carpeting in churches) are not a problem.
Then there is a whole other class of tradition: apostolic ones, traditions coming from the apostles. These not only are not problematic, but the keeping of them is praised and commanded by Scripture. Thus Paul tells the Corinthians, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2). He commands the Thessalonians: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).
Like many, Chick faults the Catholic Church for having too much money. It is true that the Church does have a lot of money invested in churches. You need a lot of churches for a billion Catholics to worship in. It also is true that many of these churches are beautiful and ornate, but it is the natural impulse of Christians to honor God by making the places where he is worshiped beautiful and ornate. This same impulse is reflected in the Old Testament, where God actually ordered his house to be made of costly materials, down to gold c.asps for its curtains (Ex. 26:6).
In terms of its liquid assets, the Vatican has a remarkably small budget and regularly runs deficits. For example, in 2002 it spent $260 million but only took in $245 million, with a deficit of $15 million. This budget—much of which is devoted to human relief efforts—is quite modest on the scale of world affairs. Many individual dioceses have budgets this size, and it is dwarfed by numerous companies and by every state in the U.S.
Whore of Babylon
Chick identifies the Catholic Church as the Whore of Babylon described in Revelation. He frequently cites Revelation 18:4 as a biblical imperative to leave the Church—”Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues.” This would be a good proof text—if the Catholic Church were the Whore of Babylon. But it isn’t.
When the Whore falls we read, “Rejoice over her, O heaven, O saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her! . . . And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth” (Rev. 18:20, 24). This shows that the Whore persecuted not just Christians but apostles and prophets. Apostles existed only in the first century, since one of the requirements for being an apostle was seeing the risen Christ (1 Cor. 9:1). Prophets existed as a group only in the Old Testament and the first century (Acts 11:27—28, 13:1, 15:32, 21:10).
Since the Whore persecuted apostles and prophets, the Whore must have existed in the first century. This demolishes the claim that Christian Rome or Vatican City is the Whore. Rome was not a Christian city at that time, and Vatican City did not even exist, so neither of them could be the Whore. Furthermore, Chick (wrongly) claims that Catholicism itself did not exist in the first century but was created by the emperor Constantine. This means that on his very own argument Catholicism could not be the Whore.
Who is the Whore? Most likely first-century Jerusalem, which was renowned for persecuting both apostles and prophets. The fall of the Whore is likely a depiction of the fall of Jerusalem in a.d. 70.
You have completed your journey through the nightmare world of Jack T. Chick. It is time to take a break, breathe a sigh of relief, and settle back into the real world, glad at last to see the light of day.
But you must not forget what you have learned.
Chick has still sold over half a billion tracts in the forty-year life of his company, and he is still selling tens of thousands of copies per day. Chick and his tracts are deceiving countless individuals—both Protestants and Catholics. That’s why he can continue to print and sell so many tracts. Someone is paying the printing and distribution costs for all these tracts. People really do respond to them.
If you care about the cause of truth—and Jesus is the Truth (John 14:6)—then you must do what you can to fight the errors found in these tracts.
- If you are an ordinary church member—Protestant or Catholic—you can get more general information on Jack Chick from Catholicism and Fundamentalismand The Usual Suspects by Karl Keating. For added help, check out www.catholic.com.
- If you are a Catholic, you now know answers to many of the anti-Catholic slurs Chick makes in his tracts—and you have seen the principles to use in answering them.
- If you are a Protestant, you have seen something of the magnitude of Chick’s misrepresentation of the Catholic faith. Even though you may disagree with parts of the Catholic faith, you know enough now to recognize that Chick tracts fundamentally misrepresent it and are not good witnessing tools.
- If you are an Evangelical bookstore owner, you have seen the gross distortions of Catholic teaching and the paranoid conspiracy theories that he weaves around the Catholic Church. You know that—regardless of your differences with the Catholic Church—distributing Chick tracts to your patrons will do a disservice to the body of Christ by spreading error, fear, and prejudice among your customers.
- And if you are an employee of Chick Publications—or even Jack Chick himself—you have seen a more thorough answer to the material in your tracts than you may have seen before. Numerous errors and misrepresentations have been documented. You now know why, if you are to be a faithful servant of Christ, these tracts must be pulled from the market and the presentation of Catholics in your publications must be changed.
In the love of Jesus Christ,
- My Name . . . In the Vatican? Note: The small Chick tracts do not carry page numbers. Page numbers are given for large-format Chick comic books.
- The Deceived; The Story Teller.
- The Poor Pope?; The Big Betrayal, 53—59.
- The Godfathers, 31.
- Ibid., 12.
- Ibid., 13.
- Fat Cats.
- Four Horsemen, 30.
- The Force, 25.
- The Prophet, 30.
- The Story Teller.
- Robert Ito, “Fear Factor,” L.A. Magazine, May 1, 2003, 56.
- Ito, “Fear Factor.”
- The Illuminati are a group often talked about among conspiracy theorists. They are not usually presented as a hidden group of witches.
- John Todd, Surviving Till the Trumpet, quoted in Gary Metz, “The John Todd Story,” Cornerstone (www.cornerstonemag.com/pages/show_page.asp?437).
- Spellbound? 20.
- “The Legend(s) of John Todd,” Christianity Today, February 2, 1979.
- The first page of Spellbound? states: “My deepest appreciation to John Todd, ex-Grand Druid priest, for the authenticity of the occult information used in this story. Also to those others who came out of witchcraft and have verified this material.”
- “Booksellers’ Group May Expel Chick,” Christianity Today, October 23, 1981, 62.
- Gary Metz, “Jack Chick’s Anti-Catholic Alberto Comic Book Is Exposed as a Fraud,” Christianity Today, March 13, 1981.
- Gary Metz, “Alberto Rivera’s False Anti-Catholic Story,” Cornerstone (www.cornerstonemag.com/pages/show_page.asp?228).
- Brian Onken, “Alberto: The Truth about His Story,” Forward, February 25, 1983.
- AIC International Ministries catalogue, 1998—1999.
- This gallery includes only the more substantial anti-Catholic Chick tracts. Anti-Catholic themes (typically, brief depictions of repulsive Catholics) occur in other tracts, such as Gomez Is Coming, The Hit, The Thing, Tiny Shoes, and The Trial.
- The themes listed under each tract will be discussed in the “Answering Chick Tracts” section of this report. Two themes we will not list (because they are in almost every tract) are Demons and Faith Alone. These will be discussed in the “Answering Chick Tracts” section.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- The Attack.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?; Last Rites.
- Four Horsemen, 22.
- The Beast.
- There is one tract where Chick seems to doubt this. In Here He Comes! Chick identifies the pope and the Jesuit general as the False Prophet and the Beast. From the art in the issue he appears to identify the pope as the “man of sin” and the False Prophet, while the Jesuit general is portrayed as the Beast or Antichrist. However, by the sequel to this tract—Who’s Missing?—Chick again is openly identifying the pope as the Antichrist.
- The Attack.
- J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (San Francisco: Harper, 1978), 53.
- CCC 2238—2243.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- James Frazer, The Golden Bough (Carmichael, Calif.: Touchstone Books, 1996).
- Last Rites; Man in Black; Murph.
- The Attack. The figure of 68 million is repeated in other tracts as well.
- His source may be Alberto Rivera, since The Attack begins with a note thanking Rivera for the information used in the tract.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- The Attack.
- CIC 751.
- CIC 1331.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- CCC 2267.
- Why Is Mary Crying?
- Ralph Woodrow, The Babylon Connection? (Palm Springs, Calif.: Ralph Woodrow Evangelistic Association, 1997).
- Eugenio Pacelli, quoted in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, March 4, 1963, quoted in the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, Pius XII and the Holocaust (Milwaukee, Wisc.: The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, 1988), 106—107.
- Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, Ill.: TAN Books and Publishers, 1960), 45.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- Four Horsemen, 19.
- For an Evangelical Protestant Greek scholar’s admission of this point, see D. A. Carson, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 8 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1984), 368.
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?
- CIC 945—958.
- The Beast; The Last Generation.
- The Poor Pope?
- “Holy See, in ‘˜Lean Years,’ Posts a Financial Deficit,” Zenit News, July 10, 2003 (www.zenit.org/english/visualizza.phtml?sid=38645).
- Are Roman Catholics Christians?; The Death Cookie; Holocaust; Man in Black; Why Is Mary Crying?
- Man in Black.
For more information . . .
Tracts from: www.catholic.com
Books, Articles, and Church Documents
Akin, Jimmy, “Anathema,” This Rock, April 2000, 37—39.
——— False Profit: Money, Prejudice, and Bad Theology in Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series. A special report from Catholic Answers, 2003.
——— “The Pagan Influence Fallacy,” This Rock, March 2000, 39—41.
——— “Tracking the First Pagans,” This Rock, November-December 1999, 38—39.
——— The Salvation Controversy. San Diego, Calif.: Catholic Answers, 2001.
Bernstein, Carl, “The Holy Alliance,” Time, February 24, 1992 (www.time.com/time/archive/preview/from_search/0,10987,1101920224-159069,…).
Carson, D. A., The King James Version Debate: A Plea For Realism. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1978.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Instruction on Certain Aspects of “Theology of Liberation,” August 6, 1984.
Father Mateo, Refuting the Attack on Mary. San Diego, Calif.: Catholic Answers, 1993.
John Paul II, encyclical Centesimus Annus, May 1, 1991.
Leo XIII, encyclical Quod Apostolici Muneris, December 28, 1878.
Peters, Edward, Inquisition. Berkeley and Los Angeles, Calif.: University of California Press, 1988.
Pius XI, encyclical Divini Redemptoris, March 19, 1937.
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