Alberto Rivera

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» November 29, 2023
Alberto Rivera


 

Alberto Rivera is possibly the single person who was most influential on the output of Jack Chick. His anti-Catholic conspiracy theories were responsible for eight comic books[A], and at least twelve tracts[B].


 

o Introduction

Alberto Rivera was a religious activist with notable hostility towards the Catholic Church and its’ members. Before his conversion to fundamentalist Christianity, he claimed to have been a member of the Society of Jesus (commonly known as Jesuits), an order of clerics engaged in evangelisation and ministry across several nations[C].


 

o Birth

Little is known of Rivera’s early life, beyond the fact that he was born on September 19, 1935 in the Canary Islands[D], a Spanish autonomous community and archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.


 

o Religious Training

According to Rivera[E][F], he was inducted into a Catholic seminary in 1942 at the age of 7. Following the death of his mother 2 years later, he continued to receive education at an unnamed Catholic seminary (including four doctorates). Once complete, he was sent to destroy various Protestant organizations and discredit various Protestant leaders, but experienced disillusionment with the Catholic Church upon learning the involvement of the Catholic Church in Freemasonry and core tenets of Catholic belief (reverence of the Virgin Mary and the concept of purgatory) being contradicted by the Bible. He claims to have become disillusioned with the Catholic Church upon finding out that the Vatican was behind Freemasonry and that core tenants of Catholicism (such as reverence to the Virgin Mary and the concept of purgatory) was contradicted by the Bible.

Following his disillusionment, during an Ecumenical Conference in Guatemala in 1965, he denounced the Catholic Church to an audience of 50,000 and claims that the Catholic hierarchy then sent him to a secret psychiatric hospital to attempt to make him “recant his faith”. This involved torture and the administration of poisons until near death, and required Rivera to be placed into an iron lung as a result of extensive lung damage. He prayed to Jesus and was miraculously healed, to which a senior Jesuit was purported to have attempted to persuade him to return to Catholicism, but then experienced sympathy and gave him a passport and papers in order to leave Spain. Not long after he flew to London where he rescued his sister, Maria, from a convent, suffering from an unspecified illness and migrated to the United States of America.


 

o Claims Against the Catholic Church

Alberto made several claims against the Catholic Church, namely that the Jesuits were responsible for the creation of communism, Islam[G] and Nazism and the Klu Klux Klan (a notoriously ant-Catholic organization). Alberto further claimed that the Church instigated the World Wars, economic recessions, the assassinations of both Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, as well as the massacre at the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project (more commonly known as the Jonestown Massacre[H]). He also claimed that the Catholic Church wanted to spread homosexuality and abortion, that the Popes are Antichrists and that the Catholic Church is The Whore of Babylon [I].

In the 1970’s, he attempted to have his story published, but no notable Christian publishers would agree to publish his work[J]. At some point, he met Jack Chick, who was enthralled by his tales and agreed to publish his story. This resulted in the publication of six comics that feature Rivera himself; Alberto, Double Cross, The Godfathers, The Force, Four Horsemen and The Prophet. In addition, content from Rivera was also used and is the basis of in other media published by Chick, such as Are Roman Catholics Christians and My Name… in the Vatican?


 

o The Downfall

Following this success, several Christian organizations and publications[K][L] decided to investigate Alberto’s claims, writing expose articles that showed the claims were fraudulent. In addition, The Catholic Church has denied his claims that he was ever a Jesuit priest and bishop, and the documentation provided by Alberto himself as proof of his priesthood was a letter obtained via fraud that gave him permission to travel abroad. While Alberto did enter a seminary, he was expelled for his ‘continual lying and defiance of seminary authority’. There is no evidence that he was ever ordained as a priest, and Alberto provides no documentation of it other than an ID card that shows him wearing a Roman collar. There is no evidence the speech before 50,000 ever took place. Former associates of Alberto have also stated that Alberto had admitted to them that he was never ordained as a bishop, and that the usage of the title is merely a bid for prestige.

Further evidence and investigation would reveal that while Alberto did have a sister in London, her name was not “Maria” nor was she living as part of a convent as a nun. Rather, she was living in a private home as a live-in maid. In addition, Alberto himself would have past relationships, including a marriage to a woman named Carmen Lydia in 1963, whom he had two sons with, Juan and Luis Marx, and his second marriage in 1977 to Nury Frias (his current wife at the time of his death). Of note is that the timeline for his marriage with Carmen Lydia contradicts his claims regarding his priesthood while in Europe.

Alberto has alleged numerous degrees, including a Masters in Psychology and Doctorates in Theology, Philosophy, Divinity and Naturopathy (Th. D., Ph. D., D.D. and N.D. respectively), but there are inconsistencies, as the alleged timeline of his life did not allow him to achieve such degrees in the indicated time. When pressed by a friend (Reverend Wishart), Alberto admitted to receiving his degrees from a diploma mill in Colorado.

There is further reason to doubt the veracity of Alberto. In 1965, he fled New Jersey when a warrant was issued for his writing of bad checks. He defrauded one of his associates of $2000. He collected funds for a college in Terrassa, Spain. Alberto's bank indicated he had written a check to Delta Air Lines on a closed account. In 1969 two warrants were issued against him, for the theft of a Bank-Americard and for the 'unauthorized use of an automobile".


 

o Influence on Jack Chick

Alberto Rivera is the man who was primarily responsible for convincing Jack Chick that it was the Catholic Church that was behind much of the world’s evils. For example, Alberto claims that the Catholic church maintains a computer system with the name and religious affiliation of every Christian worldwide, which will be employed by a new Inquisition (the central topic of the Chick Tract My Name… In the Vatican?[M]).

Despite the evidence of Alberto’s deception, Jack Chick has steadfastly defended Alberto. Chick’s opinion on Alberto is that he is a very godly and devout man, and that following prayer, he knows Alberto’s story is accurate. Chick also expects his life to be taken by Jesuit assassins, likely as a result of Alberto’s claims and being convinced of their accuracy[K].


 

o Death

Alberto died on June 20, 1997 of colorectal cancer, with his ministry at AIC carried on by his widow, Nury Rivera[D]. Chick claims that he was murdered[N].


 

o Conclusion

Alberto has been a controversial figure in the world of fundamentalist Christianity, and his claims, while false, have served to worsen the views that Protestant Christians (such as Jack Chick) hold about the Catholic Church.[D] He had managed to create a defense fueled by paranoia that made pinning him down on specific issues difficult, as he believed any accusation was part of the conspiracy from the Jesuits to discredit him. Yet despite this, his claims were discredited and ultimately, he was shown as little more than a charlatan.


 

o Further Reading


 

o References