Over the last year or so I have been receiving regular emails from adjuncts of thewarningsecondcoming.com, the front for the self-styled seer, Maria Divine Mercy. I assume the messages I am receiving are from robots, since I never get a response to my pleas to stop sending me emails.
I believe the phenomenon of the virtual visionary is another symptom of the sickness of the Catholic Internet. There are always those who will be easily duped by scams. All an unscrupulous chiseler has to do is promise something too good to be true, or propose an arch-villain to explain every woe, or fix a doomsday on the calendar, and those who suffer will empty their pockets to have their empty cup filled with snake oil.
But this. This is almost too much to believe except that I have learned not to be surprised by anything. We are largely blind to the fact the increase in the amount of information we have access to only requires us to have new much larger sewers and leach fields installed to process all the discharge.
Anyone can play peekaboo gossip on the Internet and win a virtual crown of laurel for their anonymous heroism because this is the new information age in which the downtrodden now have a voice and can hide at the same time from Big Brother. But this?
There are many reasons to know this woman is a fraud, some of them doctrinal, some of them having to do with the money trail, and some of them just common sense: Is MDM the seventh Angel of the Apocalypse? No she is not.
That there is not a single bishop that supports her, but many who condemn the messages one might think would be a clue. But of course, conspiracy theory always has a ready answer. Everything is connected: false prophet pope, evil bishops—you know, private revelation comes first.
The reason why I have decided to say something about this now is because in my frustration with the emails I just realized that this provides me with a great opportunity to go after my favorite whipping boy of late: the Catholic Internet. You would think the fact that MDM is hiding behind the great world-wide-war-machine would be the give away. But apparently not. It seems the Internet is the perfect cover for the religious scam.
Prophecy by definition is public witness. Since the death of the last Apostle, it is not public revelation, but regardless no one can bear credible testimony from hiding. God does not hide. His word does not hide, and neither does he send His spokesmen to act from hiding. Prophecy is a human act. God speaks through men and women. They are his witnesses. No prophet who spoke the word of God has ever hid his or her face in fear of reprisal. Witness and martyr mean the same thing.
Were there exceptions to this rule of prophecy, say, like the case of St. Catherine Labouré? Sure. But the Saint was transparent to her religious superiors and spiritual director, and the latter submitted everything to the Archbishop of Paris before any of the visions were acted upon. On the other hand, MDM has no ecclesiastical support, and like other heresies of the past (and present revivals), such as Donatism, Millenarianism and Joachism, this one justifies its extra-ecclesial status by the evil of the times and the holiness of the seer’s apocalyptic remnant church.
As if God had no one else to choose from, so he had to settle on someone who could not afford to go public. No, wait, He had to choose MDM because she is the Seventh Angel of the Apocalypse!
One would think that reason just plain common sense would demand that the more extraordinary or extravagant the claims, the more signs, like hard evidence and verifiable miracles, would be required for assent to be given. But the scammer, that is, the practiced manipulator, knows just what buttons to push, what fears to kindle and what vanities to indulge.
Mothers used to tell their children that too much television would turn their brains into jelly. In some ways the Internet, including the Catholic Internet, has become the digestive tract of hell. If there is anything anti-Christic going on right now that needs to be outed on the Internet it is the Internet itself.
I understand people are suffering and afraid. I understand they feel left out to dry by their leaders. There is real suffering, anxiety and fear—and good reasons for it. And in times like these there are also those who will cash in on people’s vulnerabilities.
Extremists dodge the logic of the faith. They either submit every jot and tittle to personal analysis and declare their contingent opinions to be metaphysically necessary, or they make squishy and gratuitous assertions to be accepted without question because of some personality or prophet. But the logic of the faith is the Cross, and it is this logic that stands in the brink of historical crisis. It rises above both human calculation and the claims of seers, precisely because it is the fundamental evidence of the deposit of faith. It judges mere reason and private revelation, not the other way around. The Cross is our victory not our ruin. The fear mongers are never right. The Apocalypse is not about making people afraid, it is about giving the martyrs hope.
Satan plays on our fears. His minions cash in on our fears.
The Head of the Internet
I have a theory about the Internet.
Throughout the history of salvation, the human imagination has functioned as a kind of ground of religious sensibilities. I am not talking about fancy, but about the function of signs and the way we relate the things we see to those beyond our senses. This is also a function of reason. But popular imagination adheres more easily to the metaphors. At a glance we understand much theology in the name “Lamb of God.” For the same reason—and others as well—the imagination is a fertile place for the Enemy to work. In fact, he cannot infuse thoughts into our mind, nor can he force us to do anything, but he can manipulate the images we have acquired on our own.
The occult is the inversion of the image and sign, the reorganization of the imagination and memory with the hopes of gaining power, of quickening the desired effects that are either impossible to achieve naturally or too slow and arduous to do without demonic help.
The Internet is something like a virtual mind, full of images and bits of information to which we are joined and through which we are linked to other people all of whom are actively accessing, modifying and adding to the data stream. It flows in and out, mind to mind, so to speak, through the central nervous system of the Internet. Our access to it and our use of it is partly voluntary and partly accidental, but very often it can be more influenced by random clicks and passionate reaction than it is by reasoned use. I think it is open to great manipulation from below and I believe that without disciplined vigilance against the great caldron of information on the web, we end up believing that what is virtual is real—that the narratives we create by applying our favorite filters to the sewage produces truth.
It is only a theory, but someone has to explain why it is that when we get on the Internet we behave like our brains have been turned to jelly or like our own nervous systems have become an extension of the sewer system of the Internet. I am not saying that the Internet is possessed or that it is evil per se, but I do believe we have reached a new level of exposure of diabolic temptation through it, and that many Catholics are not sufficiently aware or prepared for what they encounter on the web.
Whenever I think about this subject I am reminded of C.S. Lewis’ third volume of his Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. In the novel, the world is subtlety taken over by the by a fusion of the godless state and godless science represented by the National Institute of Co-ordinated Experiments or NICE. But this figure for the secular, freemasonic Big Brother is actually a front for something even more sinister.
NICE is run by a menagerie of characters, all of them slightly off, either psychologically or preternaturally, or both. For example, the Deputy Director, John Wither gives the impression that his own “withered” personality is only half the story of who he is and what he says. The business of NICE shares in the same uncanny ambiguity, and no matter how hard the new recruit, Mark Studduck, tries, he can never get straight answers about what NICE really is and what it does. But everyone there continues to make passing references in Mark’s presence to their anonymous Head, with whom, if he intends to stay on as a committed member he will have to meet for a personal interview.
For the sake of those who have not read the book I don’t want to give away too much, but what NICE really is, who the Head is and what NICE’s business is all about is a key revelation within the plot. Those who have read the trilogy know what I am talking about and why I bring it up.
Like Mark Studdock, we need to ask ourselves what is really going on within the tangled data streams of the Catholic Internet. What are the origins of the narratives in this information democracy? What exactly is this network of ambiguous, ever shifting and (many times) nameless entities we have created? What is the intelligence behind the project of virtual Catholic discourse and why do the internecine wars that erupt in the Catholic blogosphere lack even minimal rules of engagement?
The title of this post is meant to be ambiguous. Is the Internet False Prophet the Internet’s disposition to deformity, or those who capitalize on that deformity, or both?