Taylor Marshall “Infiltration” Book Review: Part II

To read Part I, click here

In May 2019, Dr. Taylor Marshall of Texas published Infiltration: The Plot to Destroy the Church from Within (Manchester, New Hampshire: Sophia Institute Press, 2019). Marshall firmly maintains that the Catholic Church has been literally infiltrated by her enemies, thereby experiencing a massive campaign of disruption and distortion. This topic, however, has not received much attention from “mainstream” Catholicism until more recently, especially with the attention drawn to it by Taylor Marshall. Does Infiltration live up to its hype though?

Infiltration—Some Historical Background

Treated for far too long as a taboo subject, the notion of the Catholic Church’s “infiltration” by enemies from within has received increasing mainstream attention in recent years. Two reasons for this development readily come to mind: first, various decisions taken by Pope Francis, and second, the emergence of new and many revelations of sex-abuse within the Church dating back at least to the 1950s and 1960s.

Many Catholics have become dismayed at various actions and pronouncements of Pope Francis. The publication of Francis’ 2016 Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia has prompted much debate over the moral question of divorced-and-remarried persons receiving Holy Communion.[1] In October, 2019, during the Amazon Synod the Holy Father was alleged to have promoted pagan worship through the Pachamama statues that turned up not just in the Synod hall, but also in St. Peter’s Basilica and even in a nearby church (S. Maria in Traspontina on the via della Conciliazione).[2] Such behavior on the part of the successor of St. Peter has many Catholics puzzled.

Concerning the increase in revelations of clerical sexual abuse, in 2018, the Catholic Church in the United States was buffeted severely by three glaring events in particular. First, in June, 2018, came the revelation from the Archdiocese of New York that Theodore McCarrick, now an archbishop and cardinal, had, as a priest decades earlier, sexually abused at least one minor.[3] By 2018, McCarrick’s subsequent resignation from the college of cardinals and his defrocking made him the most senior churchman in history to have been so demoted owing to sexual abuse. Next, on August 14th, the State of Pennsylvania released a grand jury report that made public a few hundred cases of sex abuse by clergy.[4]

Lastly, on August 26th, the former Papal Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, published a trenchant “testimony.” Corroborating both the McCarrick story and the Pennsylvania grand jury report, Viganò stated that he himself had directly informed Pope Francis about McCarrick. The Holy Father, Viganò claimed, did nothing except to permit McCarrick to continue working, thereby reversing a ban imposed earlier by Benedict XVI.[5]

From these events and others, a scandal had arisen, shaking many people. The image of the solid rock of the papacy and all the continuity of faith that it represents, had been severely compromised. As a result, people “[have come] face to face with the blind and silent forces of nature, which are inexorable to weakness and ignore pity.” In their pursuit of answers, many turned “instinctively…to the rhetoricians who accord them what they want.”[6] Enter Taylor Marshall and an increasing acceptance of the idea that the Church was “infiltrated.”

Infiltration—Marshall’s Thesis

Marshall is a fairly recent convert to the Catholic Church, having crossed the Tiber only in 2006. Previously, he had served as a priest in the Anglican Communion.[7] After becoming Catholic, he published several books, and was involved for a number of years in higher education as a college professor.[8] In more recent years, he has been teaching online courses and has engaged in other projects on the Internet involving self-marketing and the promotion of his materials.[9]

Marshall was an ardent defender of Pope Francis from 2013-2016. Marshall, however, reversed his defensive stance by August, 2016 with a public apology via Twitter to the popular traditionalist web site Rorate Caeli.[10] This web site has been openly critical of the pope for most of his pontificate. Marshall had previously criticized the web site’s editors especially in their questioning of Pope Francis’ disciplinary actions towards the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate.[11]

Having himself become disillusioned by events in the pontificate of Pope Francis, Marshall has not allowed his faith to be shaken without some response. He has taken action to find answers, the result of which is his book Infiltration. In doing so, Marshall is now considered by many to be a “leader” and a defender of the Faith.[12] He has acquired considerable personal prestige.[13]

With respect to Infiltration itself, over the course of thirty-three chapters, Marshall briskly takes the reader through some interesting information. He builds a case based on events beginning in the nineteenth century and continuing up to the present.[14] He argues that there were, in fact, enemies of the Church who sought to infiltrate her and make her life and mission synonymous with those of the world. Consequently, such calculated and malicious infiltration became the source of many, if not all, of the present evils in the Church.

In making his case, Marshall builds upon the Church’s ongoing struggle against secret societies (notably the Freemasons), various approved, or alleged, private revelations, as well as some controverted historical conspiracy claims (e.g. the purported poisoning of Pope John Paul I). All told, he presents a case which might appear compelling to the average reader. Is this presentation, however, enough to prove his case?

Infiltration—Criticism

One of the strengths of Infiltration is its ability to re-package information that is well-known among many older Catholics. Given, however, that the notion of the Church being “infiltrated” had long been considered taboo by mainstream Catholicism, the subject did not gain much traction until recently. How, then, to communicate information or to present truths from hard-earned and lived experience to a new, younger generation of Catholics lacking that experience?

If it is true that “experience constitutes almost the only effective process by which a truth may be solidly established in the mind of the masses…”[15] then it seems that Marshall’s Infiltration is the answer to this question. The book forms an intergenerational bridge between older and younger Catholics. Against the background of the current malaise and with ever more people raising pointed questions, Infiltration appears fresh and cutting-edge to the new generation. By way of originality, though, both in thought as well as in material, Marshall presents nothing new of any real substance.[16]

Moreover, Marshall treats his selected topics with a striking degree of superficiality. Naturally, scholars and other experts in the field have pounced on this weakness.[17] Infiltration furthermore contains numerous errors of fact throughout. In the final analysis, it is little more than a “cut and paste” job from many different sources. More knowledgeable readers conversant with liturgical history and theology therefore ask why Marshall chose some sources as opposed to others.[18]

The primary strength of Infiltration is, perhaps, Marshall’s overall attempt to simplify complex subjects in order to make them more comprehensible to the average Catholic reader. In this regard, he shares a similar talent with Dan Brown, author of The Da Vinci Code—which amounted to pseudo-historical fiction. Still, this ability to condense, summarize, and simplify could be helpful, but unfortunately, Marshall fails to do so. Like The Da Vinci Code, Infiltration’s fast-paced presentation of information can prompt the reader to an uncritical acceptance of the information presented.

Not to be overlooked is a welcome warning against such an effect by Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, who wrote the foreword to Infiltration. Schneider here notes that, owing to a “lack of sufficient resource materials,” “some issues considered in this book…must remain as hypotheses” (x). Accordingly, many of the stories described by Marshall require much care because what is taken as truth today could be disproved by historical documentation tomorrow.

For example, Bishop Schneider himself cites the circumstances surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I. In chapter twenty-five, Marshall insinuates that John Paul I was assassinated. He fails to tell his readers, however, that the Holy Father already had a weak heart and had been up late the previous night much vexed by a shouting match with Sebastian Cardinal Baggio, who, ironically, was a known Freemason.[19] This information certainly circulated prior to the publication of Infiltration.

One is compelled to ask, then, why Marshall, himself an academic and published author, would not have been more circumspect to the delicate matters that he discusses. Two observations present themselves here. First, Marshall is inexperienced with the topics about which he writes. Second, Marshall seems more concerned about marketing and “riding the wave” of discontent that presently exists within the Church than in sifting fact from fiction.

How much time has Marshall invested in his research? Has he taken sufficient time to search out older and more experienced scholars with greater knowledge of such delicate topics? Infiltration does not read like a careful study. For that matter, the book reads as though Marshall has concluded that all the evil in the Church is a result of some plot or scheme by dastardly people. What about the perennial mystery of sin and the fact that there have always been sinful people within the Church? There have always been “infiltrators” in the Church, so what separates the present age from past ones?

An imbalance appears within the covers of Infiltration. Marshall appears to have become overly-enthusiastic about seemingly new information which he has recently gained, but about which he has not given much deep thought or sober reflection. Indeed, he makes little original contribution to highly disputed matters that deserve greater care and more precise treatment.

Alas, controversy sells! The current climate within the Catholic Church is doubtless susceptible to a book like Marshall’s Infiltration. Plots, conspiracy theories, and murder mysteries all lend themselves generously to a sensational and fantastic narrative like that found within the covers of Infiltration.[20] The question, at least to this reviewer, is not about who tells the best story, but rather who tells the truth.

Motivations aside, the delicate topics that Marshall discusses require a more seriously-integrated faith, one that sees matters from within the larger context of divine and Catholic Faith. Marshall apparently did not have sufficient time to digest the information maturely, and examine it critically in order for it to be properly tried and tested. Marshall’s book, simply speaking, draws incomplete, premature and therefore irresponsible conclusions. Perhaps if more time had been afforded to its research and composition, Infiltration could have been a more solidly-written and hence more reliable book.

Conclusion

Taylor Marshall’s book Infiltration has brought some attention to a subject long considered taboo by many faithful Catholics: the infiltration of the Church in the twentieth century. For this, he is to be thanked. Marshall, like many of us, is looking for answers to the present catastrophe in the Church. Although he cannot be faulted at all for this desire, it could be hoped that he might be more careful in his treatment of the topic. Infiltration offers food for consideration, but its claims and underlying assumptions deserve to be carefully analyzed and guided by more experienced hands.

Unfortunately, Infiltration’s strength is not in original research that is carefully laid out and nuanced. Rather, it seems as though such careful work was largely discarded in favor of rushing to deliver a sensational narrative, clothed in pseudo-academic guise but thinly veiled and hurriedly distributed for the general masses. Many wrong-headed assumptions and irresponsible allegations seriously compromise the strength and integrity of this monograph. Marshall clearly has a particular gift for marketing, but it seems as though, at least in this case, he allowed this skill to override a more mature and reliable treatment of some gravely and rather difficult issues.

Some information here in Part II also appeared in Part I.

Click here to read a PDF document with specific observations on Infiltration


[1] Acta Apostolicae Sedis 108 (2016), 311ff. For some of the debate, see Life Site News.

[2] Official Amazon Synod Web Site. For an example of the criticism, see Life Site News. The Holy Father’s biographer, Austin Ivereigh, complicated matters when, on his Twitter account, he responded to the Twitter user “Ignace Bourguignon” on October 27, 2019. Ivereigh stated, “….They were Amazonian Catholics praying to Mother Earth…. Call me a liar again, and you’re blocked.” Ivereigh was challenged by JD Flynn of Catholic News Agency.

[3] See The New York Times.

[4] See The Washington Post. While this news was very upsetting to many people, there was at least one challenge to how the report was portrayed in the media.

[5] See The National Catholic Register.

[6] Gustave Le Bon, The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind (London, England: T. Fisher Unwin, 1907), 125.

[7] See Marshall’s web site.

[8] See Marshall’s Curriculum Vitae.

[9] See the New St. Thomas web site.

[10] I use the term “traditionalist” here to refer, generally, to Catholics who desire to maintain a sense of tradition within the Catholic Church and who have questions about both the understanding of and interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s documents. There are differing opinions among traditionalists, hence a distinction from Marshall between “traditionalists” and “radical traditionalists.” The particular “tweet” is no longer available, but was preserved by Rorate Caeli. See also Marshall’s December 21, 2019 podcast (see also here) entitled Is Pope Francis Against Fatima?

[11] Click here for one example of Marshall’s rhetoric against Rorate Caeli.

[12] Here, Le Bon provides a significant insight: “The leader has most often started as one of the led. He has himself been hypnotized by the idea, whose apostle he has since become. It has taken possession of him to such a degree that everything outside it vanishes, and that every contrary opinion appears to him an error or a superstition” (Le Bon, 134).

[13] Cf. Le Bon, 148-149.

[14] One could argue that the intellectual origins of the case date back further back in time.

[15] Le Bon, 126. In order for this “truth” to be established, Le Bon argued, “it is necessary that the experience should take place on a very large scale, and be very frequently repeated. The experiences undergone by one generation are useless, as a rule, for the generation that follows…” (Ibid).

[16] Marshall does give one minor novel idea. In his discussion of the election of Pope Francis, Marshall attributes the phrase in the Alta Venditá about a revolution in “cope and tiara” to Pope Francis (Marshall, 225). Before, this revolution had been attributed to Pope John XXIII and the Second Vatican Council.

[17] Dr. Jeffrey Mirus authored the essay Infiltration: An Idiot’s Guide to the Problems of the Church. Jennifer Roback Morse published her own critique on the same day in Catholic World Report.

[18] For example, in recounting Fátima, Marshall does not cite the actual Memoirs of Sr. Lúcia, the last surviving visionary. The document Marshall cites from EWTN’s web site contains numerous errors in both content as well as translation. Also, see Marshall pages 88-89 and confer with the list given on Cesare Baronio Opportune Importune.

[19] For more on this matter, see the interview of Fr. Charles Murr with Jesse Romero and Terry Barber.

[20] Learning about the Freemasons, for example, and playing “connect the dots” to the present situation of the Church can be an exciting and thrilling task for someone relatively new to the discussion like Marshall. He or she may even think they are doing something great for the Church. One can, alternatively, come to ruin by drawing parallels and seeing coded messages everywhere but is not working within reality.

One thought on “Taylor Marshall “Infiltration” Book Review: Part II

  1. Pingback: Taylor Marshall “Infiltration” Book Review Part One | Kevin J. Symonds

Comments are closed.