The Church Was Infiltrated… And the Gates of Hell Did Not Prevail
By Guillermo Moreno
June 12, 2022
Introduction: What Do We Mean by ‘Infiltration’?
A favorite objection to the authority of the so-called Vatican II Church, or the Novus Ordo Church, is that it was infiltrated. For the objectors, this constitutes as a sufficient reason to disobey the current hierarchy and to act independently from the divinely appointed Magisterium. It is a tragic fact that men have infiltrated the Church, with their goal being to take over the hierarchy for their own ends, which are not the Church’s ends. This is what infiltration consists of, this is its definition, that individuals have joined the Church hierarchy in order to pursue ends that properly belong to this world alone to the abnegation of the hierarchy’s religious duties. But if this objection is true, then we have another issue to address, namely, the Church has already been infiltrated at earlier times throughout history, by different parties who took over the hierarchy for their own purposes apart from the Church’s ends. If we take the radical traditionalists’ logic to its extreme, then how can we consistently stay faithful to the Church after one instance of infiltration, and not another? Answer: we cannot. It is all or nothing, in good times and in bad. The radical traditionalists have declared these to be the bad times to their own historical inconsistency.
Awareness should be spread about the infiltration that the Church went through and is still going through, in which communist infiltrators have made their way into seminaries and the Vatican for their unholy ambitions. As insidious as these plans are, we should recall the words of Christ in Matthew 16:18f, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church that he established, as well as the fact that the Church has been infiltrated before, that she survived those times of infiltrations followed by periods of saintly popes and bishops, and will be again infiltrated and then again followed by good times, and so forth in a cyclical fashion. This essay provides a brief history of cases in which the Catholic Church was in fact infiltrated up to the papal office. Our task is to raise awareness of those infiltrations, and it will serve to address this main objection by radical traditionalists regarding infidelity to the Church’s hierarchy in the midst of infiltration, and it will serve to demonstrate that, just as the gates of Hell did not prevail then, neither will they prevail now or ever.
The Battle in the Heart Between the Things of the World and the Things of God
Firstly, it’s no coincidence that those who seek to take over the ranks of the Church’s hierarchy have worldly ends, whether they intend to destroy the Church, as the communists do, or whether they intend to abuse the system that God established. In light of worldly ends, we should consider the difference between the things of God and the things of the world. Notably, the things of the world presuppose our temporal affairs and the need for territory to live in and to harvest for our survival. The things of the world are not intrinsically evil, but when they become the ends of our means, we completely miss our true ends, which are the things of God, eternal life, and God Himself.
About the intrinsic goodness of territory as a good of creation, the Church naturally needed somewhere as a headquarters and of course various physical locations for its dioceses, parishes, etc. This allocation of the Church owning property took a vital turn in the establishment of the papal states. In his book, The Reformation 500 Years Later, Dr. Benjamin Wiker segues to his chapter on the bad popes (who are among the cases of infiltration which we’ll address) with a chapter on the papal states. He begins by pointing out that the Church received property by donations including from Emperor Constantine and Pope Gregory. What follows is the donation of land from the Franks, from which the papal states actually began. “The creation of the Papal States, the so-called patrimony of St. Peter, made the pope a feudal lord, giving a real financial value to his office. The chair of St. Peter became a prize for the great families of Rome and its neighborhood.” Therein lie the clues to the afore-mentioned previous infiltrators of the Church and their end, which is political power due to the fact that now the Pope was sovereign over new acquired territories.
Furthermore, the forged “donation of Constantine” should be mentioned. As its title suggests, other land grants were deeded to the Church by someone forging the name of Constantine. This larger sum of land added fuel to the worldly lust of the eventual infiltrators, who overwhelmingly consisted of noble families, such as the Borgias and the Medici.
The Rule of the Harlots
Among the previous infiltrators of the Church were the Theophylacti family, who took over the papacy in the tenth century. This was made possible by lay control of Church appointments, in which wealthy noble families like the Theophylacti, who felt entitled due to land grants to the Church, appointed their heirs to prestigious religious positions including bishops, abbots, and even popes. This infiltration began with Pope Sergius III, the protégé of the Theophylacti family. Theophylact was the senator who presided over the Papal treasury and was commander in chief of the Papal army. His wife, Theodora, ruled during Sergius’s pontificate. Not only was Pope Sergius elected to the papacy by the ulterior influence of the Theophylacti, but he also arranged the assassination of his two immediate predecessors. Furthermore, his mistress was Marozia, one of the daughters of Theophylact and Theodora. With her, Pope Sergius fathered a son who grew up to become Pope John XI, the only elected pope who was the illegitimate son of a previous pope.
Of course, among the popes between Sergius III and John XI is John X, who as a bishop was the lover of Theodora. Theodora had him enthroned as pope. John X, however, was later assassinated by Marozia and her accomplices, and was eventually succeeded by Marozia’s son, John XI.
Dr. Wiker admits, however, that much of these historical points overwhelmingly come from a single source, Bishop Liudprand of Cremona, who contemporary historians distrust and who was biased against the Italian families. The series of sexual affairs aside (with the exception of that between Pope Sergius III and Morazia), the historical consensus confirms the lay investiture of these popes and the assassinations of various of those popes during the Rule of the Harlots, or the Pornocracy. This period of infiltration ended in one of two ways: with the intervention of Emperor Otto I, a German emperor who strove to reform the papacy, or with the pontificate of Pope Benedict IX, the last of the Theophylacts. Benedict, “whose election was the result of a systematic campaign of bribery by his father, the Tusculan Grandee Count Alberic III, was as bad as any of the popes of the preceding ‘dark century.’” He was deposed in 1048.
The Babylonian Captivity
The next period of infiltration was by the French monarchy and cardinals, during the Babylonian Captivity, “when the popes abandoned Rome for Avignon in southern France (1305-1377).” This was due to the conflict between King Philip IV of France and Pope Boniface VIII. After various transgressions by King Philip against the Church, Pope Boniface issued a papal bull called Unam Sanctam, which “declared that temporal power was entirely subordinate to papal power and the French king had no right to make the French Church a royal appendage, a mere national Church…” King Philip proceeded to have Pope Boniface kidnapped and brought to trial in France, but he failed and the Pope actually died from being beaten by King Philip's emissary. The King then “decided to kidnap the papacy itself, strong-arming the College of Cardinals into electing a Frenchman, Clement V… The College of Cardinals was stacked with Frenchmen, who kept electing French popes who became ever more worldly and beholden to the French monarchy.”
The goals of the masterminds behind infiltration are, again, not the goals of the Church itself. The temporal benefits that “the Babylonian Church” received cast a long shadow on the Church’s reputation. This, as well as cases of simony and nepotism, tainted the papacy, scandalizing the public and leading many to believe that the Black Plague was a punishment from God due to the Church’s corruption, political and moral.
Eventually, the papacy returned to Rome and an Italian pope, Urban VI, was elected. The French cardinals, unhappy that their infiltration was over, returned to Avignon and soon after elected their antipope, Clement VII, causing a series of popes and antipopes in what became a schism, which was healed at the Council of Constance (1414-1418).
The Renaissance Popes
Up next, the Church was infiltrated by other noble families, notably the Borgias and the Medici, who assumed the papacy due to nepotism and/or bribery. This series, referred to as the Renaissance Popes, began with Sixtus IV (1471-1484) and ended with Clement VII (1523-1534).
Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484), while from neither of the above-mentioned noble families, came to be elected pope through the influence of a cardinal of the Borgia family, Rodrigo Borgia (the future Pope Alexander VI). Sixtus was an enemy of the Medici, the family who ruled Florence at the time. A conflict regarding Sixtus’s purchase of land for his nephew, with the backing of the Pazzi family, rivals of the Medici, resulted in murders on both sides. The struggle for the papacy became a tug of war between these warring elite families.
Eventually, Alexander VI became Pope (1492-1503), having previously gotten his foot in the door to the cardinalate by his uncle, Callixtus III (1455-1458), a Borgia pope. As a cardinal, he bribed his way to the papacy (bribery was common, from within and from without), and, tragically, he was able to grasp the highest rank in the hierarchy despite his unworthiness, to say the least. Not only did he bribe his way into the papacy, he also had multiple mistresses and fathered various children, before and after becoming pope, and rewarding them with the riches that came from his pontificate. Furthermore, he married his children off to form alliances with princes, also dividing parts of the papal states according to his family’s benefits.
One pope later, after the death of Alexander VI, Julius II became pope, who was a nephew of Sixtus IV; they were of the della Rovere family. Julius was an enemy of the Borgias, and during his pontificate, he set out to reclaim the papal lands from secular rulers, including those that Alexander’s family had received.
Pope Leo X became pope after Julius II. Leo was from the Medici family, and another pope after Leo, Clement VII, was another Medici and considered the last of the Renaissance popes. However, the pope after him was Paul III, who was of another powerful family, the Farnese. He was the pope to initiate the Council of Trent. The disturbing fact about Paul III is his case of nepotism. Pope Paul III had been made a cardinal by Pope Alexander VI due to the influence of his sister, Giulia Farnese, who was Pope Alexander VI’s mistress.
What Does Infiltration Entail, According to Radical Traditionalist Objections?
According to radical traditionalist objections, church infiltration is grounds for disobeying the legitimate authority for one of two reasons: one, the authority is illegitimate, or two, the end justifies the means. Considering the first reason, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s disobedience to Pope John Paul II’s instructions against ordaining bishops for the Society of Saint Pius X is justifiable because Pope John Paul II is not the legitimate pope. While SSPX would readily admit that they acknowledge the papacy as valid, sedevacantists would reject Pope John Paul II’s authority. But if this is the case, that a pope’s election is invalid due to church infiltration, then sedevacantists, and SSPX advocates who fully follow radical traditionalism’s theocratic end, logically wade into dangerous waters because, as we’ve discovered, the church had been infiltrated in the 900s. If that makes the authority invalid, then this suggests that the papacy ended and has been invalid ever since. At least, we can pin point for sure that Pope Paul III’s cardinalate and thus pontificate were due to infiltration, and a combination of adultery and nepotism, and thus invalid. That would suggest that the Council of Trent was invalid as well, and the “Pre-Vatican II Church” never made the Traditional Latin Mass the Mass of All Time. Logically, this suggests not only that the Council of Trent and its effects (i.e. the Tridentine Mass) are invalid, but also that the Catholic Church ended at a point in history.
Let’s consider the second point, that the end justifies the means. The means is disobedience against the legitimate authority, and the end is theocracy. Then the sedevacantists were consistent by rebelling against SSPX; some sedevacantists claimed that Lefebvre was too liberal. SSPX advocates would have to rationalize why their disobedience was justified, but not the disobedience against themselves by the likes of Bishop Daniel Dolan of the Society of Saint Pius V and Bishop Richard Williamsom of the SSPX Resistance. Ultimately, any reason that the SSPX provides would prove hypocrisy on their part.
What is, in Fact, the Church’s Status?
Building on the previous section, let’s address the first reason for disobedience more thoroughly: that the authority is illegitimate due to infiltration. But if this is the case, then the authority had become invalid during any of the above mentioned instances of infiltration, but notably during the first case, the Rule of the Harlots. If that is the case, then the divinely appointed hierarchy established by Christ himself had ceased to exist, and the Church had thus ended.
Here is the obvious problem: this theory contradicts Christ’s promise that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against his Church (Matthew 16:18). The Church has been and always will contain sinners. In fact, in the parable of the fishing net (Matthew 13:47-50), Christ uses the net as analogous to the Kingdom of Heaven: the net includes good and bad fish; the good fish will be stored, and the bad will be thrown away. In the same way, the righteous will be saved and the evil will be damned. A final note on this point, Christ assures that this will happen at the end of the world, further confirming the eternal nature of the Church: the Church will last until the end of the world. Infiltration cannot and will not thwart Heaven’s plan. Infiltration is just one more manifestation of sin. It has disastrous results, but no sin is greater than the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the soul of the Church.
We can also point out the office of Judas, the Apostle who betrayed Christ to the Pharisees. Judas, as we know, committed suicide. In the book of Acts we read that his office as an Apostle had to be filled. The office Judas occupied was a seat of authority that remained despite the horror Judas committed. Acts informs us that Mattias took over the office and brought forth many good fruits. The office of authority of a pope, bishop or priest is not negated by personal sin or worldly ideological ends, but remains as the seat of legitimate authority. Did not Christ tell his Apostles to respect the authority of the Pharisees because they occupied the seat of Moses?
We can also point out the fact that Judas is the first infiltrator into the Church. St. John’s Gospel tells us that Satan himself literally possessed Judas when Judas decided to betray Christ at the Last Supper. This infiltration led to the execution of God Himself! Both the greatest folly and victory of man.[31b]
In light of this, the Church’s hierarchy remains intact and will continue to do so according to Christ’s promise, even in the midst of infiltration. The truth will prevail, and the Holy Spirit will continue to work in the lives of the ordained and the lay faithful, with their fidelity to the hierarchy established by Christ and their faith in the eventual passing of the storm that the Church endures during a given age. In the words of St. Pius X:
Do not allow yourselves to be deceived by the cunning statements of those who persistently claim to be with the Church, to love the Church, to fight so that people do not leave Her… But judge them by their works. If they despise the shepherds of the Church and even the Pope, if they attempt all means of evading their authority, in order to elude their directives and judgments… then about which Church do these men mean to speak? Certainly not about that [one] “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Eph 2:20).
They err greatly, therefore, who lose faith during the storm, wishing for themselves and the Church a permanent state of perfect tranquillity, universal prosperity, and practical, unanimous and uncontested recognition of her sacred authority. (Communion Rerum, 30).
We Have Seen Something Like This Before
In comparison to the obvious point of this rad trad logic contradicting the words of Christ, a less obvious point is that the Church endured a similar logic in the heresy of Donatism. Donatism denied the intrinsic efficacy of the sacraments of ordained men who were or had been in a state of mortal sin; it asserted that only “sinless” men could administer the sacraments validly, and thus the authority of the validly ordained clergy was rejected and, at the same time, schismatic clergy were illicitly but validly ordained. Contextually, the Donatists rejected both the validity of the sacraments administered by, and the authority of, clergy who committed grave sins including handing over copies of the Scriptures to the Roman persecutors of the Church at the time. They even rejected the decision of the Pope himself who rightly judged as valid the ordination of a bishop who had been reconciled with the Church; like radical traditionalists after them, the Donatists subsequently rejected the authority of the Pope, all in favor of their own doctrines. Thankfully, Donatism ended, having lasted only one-hundred years.
In conclusion, the Church has been infiltrated before, and just as the gates of Hell did not prevail, neither will they now. While the purpose of this essay is to demonstrate several instances of church infiltration, the Church’s response varied depending on her members during the times of these infiltrations. For example, we could follow the example of St. Catherine of Siena, who remained faithful to the Church’s hierarchy and served the authorities where she could for the good of the Church. Or, in contrast, we could follow Martin Luther, who eventually rebelled against the hierarchy and took it upon himself to impose his doctrines as authentically Catholic, over and against the authority, to act independently of the Church’s hierarchy, and in direct rebellion against the legitimate leaders. Radical traditionalists are clearly rebelling against the Church, and infiltration is no excuse for it. If it were, then they have to explain why they follow the “Pre-Vatican II” Church and not, for example, the “Pre-Tridentine Church” or the “Pre-900’s Church” because the Church has been infiltrated numerous times before. Perhaps their response is because this time, the infiltrators want to destroy the Church. In that case, independence from and resistance against the Church is counterproductive, for it only serves to further assault the unity of the Church and her legitimate teaching authority. One would be dared to call them Lenin’s useful idiots since they are actively working towards the same ends as the communist infiltrators.[39b] The division in the Church is precisely what the Enemy wants. Let’s not give the Enemy what he wants.
 “#208: Bella Dodd: A Communist Infiltrator Repents—Mary Nicholas, MD,” Patrick Coffin Media, November 23, 2020, https://www.patrickcoffin.media/208-bella-dodd-a-communist-infiltrator-repents-mary-nicholas-md/.
 C.f. Pope John Paul II, Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body (Boston: Pauline Books & Media, 2006). TOB 26.
 Benjamin Wiker, The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know (Regnery History, 2017), p. 46-48.
 Ibid, p. 48.
 E.R. Chamberlin, The Bad Popes (New York: Dorset Press, 1969), p. 9, quoted in Wiker, Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 48.
 The Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 49-51.
 C.f. ibid. P. 33-34.
 Rev. Fr. John Laux M.A., Church History: A History of the Catholic Church to 1940 (TAN Books, 1930). P. 266.
 The Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 57.
 Ibid, p. 57-58.
 Ibid, p. 58.
 C.f. ibid, p. 33.
 Ibid, p. 58-59.
 Eamon Duffy, Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes, (Yale University Press, 1997). P. 87.
 Ibid, p. 59.
 The Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 59.
 Ibid, p. 60.
 Ibid, p. 61.
 Ibid, p. 62.
 C.f. ibid, p. 63, 67.
 Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker, Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture, 1300-1700 (Herder & Herder, 2013). P. 119-120.
 The Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 64-66.
 Saints & Sinners, p. 142.
 The Reformation 500 Years Later, p. 66.
 Ibid, p. 67.
 Ibid, p. 67.
 Ibid, p. 121.
 “One of the first arguments one encounters from SSPX apologists is the Quo Primum argument… Many SSPX proponents claim that St. Pius V promulgated the Tridentine Mass in perpetuity, meaning for all time.” Patrick Madrid and Pete Vere, More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism (Our Sunday Visitor, 2004). P. 123.
Terry Carroll, “Patrick Coffin: The Truth about the SSPX,” Video, YouTube, December 8, 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRw-w7dlb-c.
 C.f. Francis J. Sheed, Theology and Sanity (Ignatius Press, 1993). P. 316.
[31b] I would like to thank Jeremy Hausotter for this point.
 More Catholic Than the Pope. P. 123.
 As cited by Patrick Coffin in The Truth About the SSPX cited above.
 Patrick Madrid, “Donatism,” Catholic Answers, April 1, 1994, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/donatism.
 C.f. Church History, p. 147-148.
 C.f. Church History, p. 400-401.
 For more on Luther and the Protestant Reformation, Dr. Wiker’s The Reformation 500 Years Later is urgently recommended.
[39b] I would like to thank Jeremy Hausotter for this point.
Carroll, Terry. “Patrick Coffin: The Truth about the SSPX.” Video. YouTube, December 8, 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRw-w7dlb-c.
Chamberlin, E.R. The Bad Popes. New York: Dorset Press, 1969. Quoted in Wiker, Benjamin, The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know. Regnery History, 2017.
Duffy, Eamon. Saints & Sinners: A History of the Popes. Yale University Press, 1997.
Hahn, Scott, and Benjamin Wiker. Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture, 1300-1700. Herder & Herder, 2013.
Laux, John. Church History: A History of the Catholic Church to 1940. TAN Books, 1930.
Madrid, Patrick. “Donatism.” Catholic Answers, April 1, 1994. https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/donatism.
Madrid, Patrick, and Pete Vere. More Catholic Than the Pope: An Inside Look at Extreme Traditionalism. Our Sunday Visitor, 2004.
Patrick Coffin Media. “#208: Bella Dodd: A Communist Infiltrator Repents—Mary Nicholas, MD,” November 23, 2020. https://www.patrickcoffin.media/208-bella-dodd-a-communist-infiltrator-repents-mary-nicholas-md/.
Pope John Paul II. Man and Woman He Created Them: A Theology of the Body. Pauline Books and Media, 2006.
Pope Pius X. “Communium Rerum (April 21, 1909).” Vatican Website. Accessed June 4, 2022. https://www.vatican.va/content/pius-x/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-x_enc_21041909_communium-rerum.html.
Sheed, Francis J. Theology and Sanity. Ignatius Press, 1993.
Wiker, Benjamin. The Reformation 500 Years Later: 12 Things You Need to Know. Regnery History, 2017.
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