The glorification of altar rails and such like*

I grew up during a very tumultuous time for Roman Catholics, during the implementation of the dramatic window dressing changes of Vatican II, and I’d like to share a few memories from that time.

Prior to Vatican II, all Catholic altars had a wooden or carved stone rail around them. The rail signified that the altar, where the priests allegedly changed bread wafers and wine into the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ and where surplus consecrated Jesus wafers were stored in the “tabernacle,” was an especially holy area. Just as the “common” Israelites were forbidden from stepping foot on Mt. Sinai or entering into the restricted areas of the Tabernacle and Temple, Catholics were generally not allowed to enter the altar area.

I was an altar boy from fifth through eighth grades and my first couple of years serving were prior to the Vatican II changes. The priests conducted the mass in Latin and the altar boys’ responses were in Latin even though we did not understand one word we were saying. The priests had their backs to the congregation and wooden rails were around the altar. I felt very privileged to be able assist the priests inside the restricted altar area.

Several men officiated as priests at the parish while I was an altar server and all of them struck me as a bit strange compared to my father, uncles, and other adult men I knew, but none more so than “father” Lynch.

The other priests at least made awkward attempts at civility towards us altar boys, but not Lynch. When we entered the church sacristy to prepare for mass, Lynch could barely be bothered to say hello. He never offered a smile. I sensed he had a keen dislike for us (or was he struggling with some other issue?). During the mass liturgy, the priests were required to read passages from the huge altar “missal” (i.e., a liturgical book containing all instructions and texts necessary for the celebration of Mass throughout the year). Lynch was a short, squat fellow and very near-sighted. He would have us boys stand on one of the lower steps leading up to the altar and he would place the huge, heavy book on our heads, not always gently, which he would then read from. It was very humiliating (and physically uncomfortable) to have to stand in front of the congregation with the heavy book on our heads. Lynch enjoyed demeaning us.

When it came time to distribute the Jesus wafers, the supplicants would kneel down along the altar rail and the priests would place the wafer on each person’s tongue while we altar boys walked backward, next to the priest, placing a round “patten” under the chins of the supplicant in order to catch a possible falling Jesus wafer. Lynch would always distribute communion twice as fast as the other priests and we altar boys had a difficult time keeping our balance as we walked backward and tried to properly position the patten under people’s chins in synch with the pace of the frenetic priest.

Vatican II dramatically changed the rubrics of the mass. The mass liturgy was changed to English and priests turned around and faced the congregation. The altar rails were removed so that the congregants could feel like they were more like participants in the ritual rather than just observers. But despite all the window dressing changes, the core doctrines of Catholicism remained. Catholics continue to be taught the false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Catholic traditionalists deeply resented the changes wrought by Vatican II and still clamor for the mass to be said in Latin, for the priest to face “ad orientem,” toward the altar, and for the reinstallation of altar rails. In Catholicism, the ritual and ceremony, the shell, has always been the focus rather than the Pearl of Great Price, which is salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Priests are not needed. Altars are not needed. Sacrifice for sin was finished for all time by Jesus Christ at Calvary. Place your trust in Jesus as your Savior by faith alone. Jesus Christ removes all rails and barriers between sinners and God, but you must accept Him as your Savior. Won’t you repent of your sin and place your trust in Him?

“And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” – Matthew 27:50-51

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” – Ephesians 2:13-14

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

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Priest Lynch, above, died in 2011. I never witnessed the smile displayed in this photo.

* “and such like” – for you non-Baptists out there, this phrase means “and similar things.”

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Ex-Jesuit gadfly criticized Catholicism’s obsession with temporal wealth and power

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church
By Malachi Martin
G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1981, 309 pages

I don’t recall exactly when I had first read “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church,” if I was still a Roman Catholic on my way out or after I had accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior in 1983 and was looking back? Either way, I remember that the bestseller did make an impression on me and when I stumbled across the title in our library’s database recently, I opted to take it for another spin.

Author Malachi Martin (1921-1999) was a Jesuit priest who ascended the bureaucracy of the Catholic church to become the assistant to one of the church’s most powerful cardinals, but became disenchanted with the direction of the church after Vatican II and left the order to eventually became Catholicism’s most prolific gadfly during the 1980s.

Martin’s premise in this book is that the church made a regrettable “deal with the devil” in consenting to become the official state religion of the Roman Empire. As the church adopted the imperial model and became increasingly institutionalized, the acquisition of worldly wealth and political power took precedence over spiritual matters. The church, in fact, abandoned the simple Gospel of grace for religious legalism and ritualism, all controlled by an increasingly powerful clergy class. Martin presents example after sorry example of popes and cardinals who used any and all means (torture, murder, bribery, military conquest, etc.) to advance their self-interests and counter political and religious opponents. This is all information that was withheld throughout my twelve-year Catholic education.

Martin was not a historian. The book includes no footnotes, bibliography, or index. He also utilized fictional elements such as imaginary faux dialogue between historical characters, but the book is valuable for its insights not found in publications from Catholic sources.

Writing in 1981, Martin prophesied a dismal future for Catholicism, as the liberal factions unleashed at Vatican II seemed at that time to be headed toward dominion over the church, but conservative pope, John Paul II, was able to temporarily forestall the inevitable. The current pope, the pragmatic Francis, is willing to consign certain doctrines to the theological dustbin in order to make the church more inviting and appealing to almost everyone excepting church traditionalists and conservatives.

Books that deal frankly with the darkest aspects of Catholic history are few and far between so “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church” is still an informative read thirty-seven years after its publication.

Postscript: Soviet Communism was still a very viable threat within and without Catholicism when Martin wrote this book in 1981 and so consequently some of his final warnings are no longer pertinent. I’m very familiar with modern Polish history and Martin bit off more than he could chew when he conjectured that Adam Michnik and KOR (Workers’ Defense Committee) were stooges of the Polish Soviets meant to foment dissent as an excuse for the Soviets to eradicate all “legitimate” opposition emanating from the Polish Catholic church (p. 293).

 

But were Roman Catholics REALLY champions of religious freedom?

A couple of weeks ago, I stumbled upon a relatively new book about anti-Catholicism in America (see here). I checked our local library for availability and, while they didn’t have a copy of that particular book, they did have…

Papist Devils: Catholics in America, 1574-1783
By Robert Emmett Curran
The Catholic University of America Press, 2014, 315 pages

As one would expect from a Catholic publishing house, this is a hagiographical history of Catholics in Colonial America, largely focusing on the opposition they faced from the Protestant majority.

The vast majority of Roman Catholics in Colonial America resided in Maryland (named after the “Blessed Virgin”), which received its charter in 1632 through the efforts of George Calvert, 1st Lord Baltimore. The situation for Roman Catholics in early-17th century England was precarious. Various Penal Laws had been enacted to suppress Catholicism. Lord Calvert was a crypto-Catholic who was able to rise to the powerful position of Secretary of State under Catholic-sympathizer, King James I (yes, THAT King James). He resigned his office in order to establish a religious haven for English Catholics in the New World. After the first attempted colony in Newfoundland floundered, Calvert focused his energies on Maryland.

The Maryland colony had an interesting history. The Calvert family ruled the colony in absentia from England as proprietary governors for five generations. Many of the largest landowners of the colony were Catholics, including the celebrated Carroll family. In theory, the Penal Laws of England restricting Catholics were also to apply to the colonies, but in Maryland the laws were often overlooked with a wink. Jesuit priests were brought in to “minister” to the Catholic population and to proselytize Native Americans and Protestants (mainly servants of Catholic families). The rigorousness of the application of Penal Law throughout Maryland’s colonial history often depended on how rigorous the laws were being enforced under a particular monarch in the Motherland.

The protracted French and Indian War (1754-1763) inflamed Protestant passions against the Catholic population with fears they would attempt to collaborate with the antagonistic French Catholic forces. But anti-Catholic passions were somewhat quelled during the American Revolution when the newly-formed United States signed an alliance with Catholic France in 1778. France’s support was pivotal in achieving victory against the British in 1783.

We in 21st century America rightly have no tolerance for religious persecution. Protestant suppression of Catholicism in 17th and 18th century England and Colonial America was certainly unfortunate, but such intolerance had an antecedent in Roman Catholic intolerance. Wherever it had the support of civil governments, the Roman church persecuted non-Catholics, not only in the 17th and 18th centuries, but right up into the 20th century (e.g., Franco’s Spain, Salazar’s Portugal, Mussolini’s Italy, inter-war Poland, Vichy France, Pavelic’s Croatia, Dollfuss’ Austria, Rexist Belgium, and Pan Latin America). Popes issued declarations as late as the end of the 19th century condemning freedom of religion and all democratic forms of government (see here). Was it any wonder that the Protestant colonists feared the Catholic presence?

As would be expected, Georgetown professor, Robert Emmett Curran, makes no mention of Catholicism’s persecution of Protestants in countries where it held sway. In this book, all Catholics are portrayed as honorable victims innocently attempting to practice their religion, while just about all Protestants are predictably characterized as hateful bigots. This book is self-serving, historical myopia that purposely avoids the wider context in order to make its case.

Trivia alert: I was surprised to learn from this book that the “Maryland Jesuits…were among the largest slaveholders” in antebellum America. – p. 284.

Postscript: I can vividly remember the nuns at my Catholic grammar school extolling Lord Baltimore, the Carrolls, and the Maryland Catholics as champions of religious freedom, but they made no mention of the absolute denial of religious freedoms in countries where Catholicism ruled.

Prayers of TBN regulars open U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Yesterday, the United States officially opened its embassy in Jerusalem (photo above) on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the modern nation of Israel.

President Trump’s decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is highly controversial and sparked criticism and protest throughout the world. The nation of Jordan had controlled East Jerusalem until 1967, when Israel took possession of the entire city during the Six Day War. Palestinians desire to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future, totally independent Palestinian state and that plan has the support of most of the international community.

Despite discussions in previous peace negotiations regarding the future status of East Jerusalem, there is little doubt that Israel will never willingly cede part of its capital to Palestinian/Muslim control.

I’m not one who focuses on endtimes eschatology a great deal, but the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, especially on the 70th anniversary of Israel’s founding, strikes me as an act of important spiritual significance.

I noticed that a pair of controversial American pastors were invited by President Trump to address the opening ceremonies at the Jerusalem embassy:

Robert Jeffress led the opening prayer. He’s a TBN regular, although the conservative Southern Baptist pastor is somewhat unusual in that he doesn’t share any of the cable network’s “Word of Faith” and prosperity gospel proclivities. However, Jeffress is probably the prime advocate today for church-state symbiosis. Jeffress gladly took on the mantle of the deceased Jerry Falwell, Sr. in the crusade to “reclaim America for Christ.” Jeffress was at one time openly critical of Roman Catholicism and its false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, but he did a 180-degree about-face (see here) in his efforts to enlist political conservatives of many denominational stripes in the culture war against secularism. Jeffress has been one of President Trump’s most unwavering and vocal supporters.

John Hagee delivered the closing “benediction.” Hagee is also a TBN regular and one who aligns much more closely with the cable network’s heterodoxies. Hagee is a leading proponent of the “Word of Faith” prosperity gospel and specializes in endtimes predictions. In his 2013 bestseller, “Four Blood Moons,” Hagee prophesied that the four lunar eclipses, which took place in 2014 and 2015, would signal the immediate beginning of the endtime apocalypse.

Together, Jeffress and Hagee represent some of the most unfortunate movements within evangelicalism today.

 

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Robert Jeffress and John Hagee at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem

Happy Mother’s Day!

Just a very short post to say Happy Mother’s Day! to all the moms, step-moms, and grandmas out there! Your family loves and cherishes you!

“Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” – Proverbs 31: 28-30 

I first learned about unconditional love from my Mom and I remember her with love today.

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Welcome to the Weekend Roundup! – News & Views – 5/12/18

Who would give up one second of their time or one nickel to religious con artist, Jim Bakker (above with wife, Lori)?

Last week, I posted that liberal German Catholic bishops had encountered conservative resistance to their push for intercommunion with Lutherans. Both factions were summoned to the Vatican where pope Francis directed them to solve the disagreement themselves. This week, some conservative Catholics were railing about Francis’ lack of leadership. After all, deciding doctrinal disputes is supposed to be the infallible pope’s job! But savvy conservatives know Francis DOES have an agenda, it’s just not theirs.

Conservative Catholics were thrown into a tizzy this week over news of a gala celebrating the opening of “Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination,” a new exhibit at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which will be displaying papal robes and accessories from the Sistine Chapel sacristy. Celebrities showed up at the gala wearing costumes “inspired” by Catholic clerical garments. Pop celebrity, Rhianna, wore an outrageous outfit based on the pope’s outrageous garb. Catholics called it all offensive and blasphemous, but true blasphemy is the Catholic sacrifice of the mass, which is staged 350,000 times on Catholic altars every day around the world.

Padre Pio’s relics are touring across the U.S. and manage to pack near-empty churches wherever they go. Church liberals have attempted to tone down this kind of blatant, superstitious voo doo, but traditional and conservative Catholics still crave this kind of stuff.

Oprah disciple, Dr. Phil, is certainly not the arbiter of what constitutes a cult, but the Church of Wells (Texas) is dangerous. When church leadership controls every aspect of members’ lives, that’s a cult. It was nowhere near as bad as the Wells church, but there were elements of leadership idolatry in the first Bible-preaching church we attended.

Some believers heard Bono mention Jesus a few times and overeagerly jumped the gun by claiming him as a fellow Bible Christian.

I initially wasn’t going to post the above news story because I thought it had been kicked around enough, but pastor Standridge has some interesting comments about Francis and the papacy.

The documentary, “Pope Francis: A Man of His Word,” opens in movie theaters across the country next Friday, May 18th. Pshaw! Will traditionalist and conservative Catholics be picketing on the sidewalks outside?

Thursday, May 10th was the Feast of the Ascension for Roman Catholics, in which they celebrated the ascension of Jesus into Heaven forty days after Easter. The feast day was a Holy Day of Obligation meaning Catholics were required to attend mass under threat of incurring mortal sin resulting in eternal damnation. But what percentage of Catholics actually attended mass on Thursday? According to church statistics (see here), 65% of Catholics seldom or never attend mass on Holy Days despite the threat of damnation. The ironic thing about the Feast of the Ascension is that Catholics claim to celebrate Jesus’ ascension while at the same time asserting that their priests call Jesus down from Heaven during every mass to be changed into consecrated Jesus wafers and offered as a sacrificial victim for sins. So is Jesus in Heaven or on Catholic altars?

Who would desire Catholicism’s “smells and bells” over the Good News! of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone?

Via its many media outlets, Roman Catholicism likes to boast about alleged “evangelicals” who converted to the Catholic religion.* On the EWTN (Eternal Word Television Network) cable channel, one particular show, “The Journey Home,” is devoted exclusively to showcasing converts and returning reverts (aka “lapsed” Catholics). The stated purpose of the EWTN radio show, “Called to Communion,” is to convince Protestants to convert to Catholicism. This all might seem a little unsettling until you check the numbers. A 2015 Pew Research study (see here) found that 10 percent of people raised as Catholics become evangelicals while just 2 percent of people raised in evangelical church culture wound up as Catholics.

I was a member of the Roman Catholic church for 27 years (1956-1983) and was educated at a Catholic grammar school and high school. In 1983, after having read the Bible for several years, I renounced Catholicism and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone. I no longer believed that salvation was dependent on receiving the sacraments and “cooperating with grace” by perfectly obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!) and church rules in an effort to merit Heaven. Instead, I believed as God’s Word taught, that I was a totally depraved sinner destined for eternal damnation and I trusted in Jesus Christ as my Savior by faith alone.

But we do hear about people from evangelical churches who “convert” to Catholicism. How does that happen? Could a person who is genuinely trusting in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone choose to join Catholicism, which teaches a person must receive sacramental grace and obey the Ten Commandments in order to merit their salvation? How do we explain those who leave evangelicalism for Catholicism?

I don’t believe a person who genuinely understands the Gospel of grace and trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone would voluntarily join Catholicism or any other works religion. Yes, there are people who were brought up in evangelical church culture or who attended an evangelical church for a period of time and left without ever having actually trusted in Christ. They somehow got a taste of Catholicism and began making worldly-minded comparisons like the six below:

 

“Drawbacks” to evangelicalism “Advantages” of Catholicism
1 No elaborate ritualism and ceremonialism – just some singing and a sermon 1 Plenty of ritualism and ceremony to impress the eyes and stimulate the senses
2 The genuine Gospel seems far too easy – the natural man is inclined to attempt to merit salvation via a long legalistic laundry list 2 A massive collection of 1752 Canon Laws and 2865 numbered paragraphs in its official catechism that all testify to Catholicism’s world-pleasing complexity.
3 Little history. Nondenominational mega-churches are getting farther and farther away from mentioning the Reformation and the Five Solas 3 Oodles and oodles of history, although vast portions of it are unflattering at best
4 No “impressive” visible authority, just the Bible, Pastor Smith, and the small elder board 4 An organizational hierarchy and structure that would put to shame any Fortune 500 company. Topping it all off is an allegedly infallible leader!
5 Plain, drab church architecture 5 Grandiose church architecture and ornate decorative artistry
6 “Just” the Bible to study 6 Volumes and volumes and volumes of rich church traditions to “supplement” (aka supplant) the Bible

 

Yes, there are some people who were part of evangelical church culture but never genuinely accepted Christ, who surveyed all of Catholicism’s “smells and bells”** and decided they would rather ride in the Catholic “Cadillac” than evangelicalism’s “Hyundai.”

“For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4:23-24

Yes, some choose the elaborate “smells and bells” over (simple but GLORIOUS) salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Don’t make that mistake. Salvation is not through grandiose, worldly ceremonialism, but through a relationship with the Savior, Jesus Christ.

Are Roman Catholics Christian?
https://carm.org/are-roman-catholics-christian

*Catholicism likes to sound the trumpets when a quasi-evangelical joins its ranks, but, most ironically, many evangelicals think it’s ungracious, divisive, and very bad form to acknowledge those folks who accepted Christ and left Roman Catholicism because it does not preach the genuine Gospel and who testify about their experience.

**Even the Catholic church readily acknowledges that today’s elaborate mass liturgy bears little resemblance to the simple worship gatherings of the early church. Some may think I am being offensive by using the term, “smells and bells,” to describe Catholic practices, but this is a term often used by Catholics themselves.

Just in need of a little rehab or TOTALLY depraved and in desperate need of the Savior?

Roman Catholicism and Biblical Christianity use many of the same terms – God, sin, grace, faith, Jesus the Savior, Heaven, etc. – so there is a tendency on the part of many to assume they share the same basic beliefs, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Below I would like to focus on just one of many vital differences.

Wounded or Depraved?

I listen to a lot of Catholic talk radio for research purposes and the hosts regularly admit that Catholicism differs from evangelicalism with regards to the condition of men’s souls. A phrase that you’ll hear repeatedly within Catholicism is that people are born into this world with a “wounded” spiritual nature; that people are “inherently good” but are wounded by sin. With baptism, which allegedly washes away all sin, and then through the subsequent administration of the church’s grace-infusing sacraments – the eucharist and reconciliation (confession) regularly, and confirmation, anointing of the sick (last rites), and marriage or ordination only once – a Catholic is supposedly able to rehabilitate their “wounded” spiritual nature and become increasingly and subjectively good and righteous. If they persevere in their goodness and righteousness, they are told they will be able to merit Heaven at the moment of their death.

“(The Council of) Trent articulates the classic Catholic position that the human condition is not self-sufficient but a ‘fallen’ one, and yet we are not totally depraved but remain ‘inherently good.’” – from “What Makes a School Catholic” by Thomas Groom

Contrast the above with Biblical Christianity, which teaches the depravity of all humankind. Even those thoughts and actions that we might call “good” are tainted with sin. There is no absolutely no righteousness within us. When a person repents of their sinful, rebellious condition and trusts in Jesus Christ as their Savior by faith alone, He imputes His perfect righteousness to them. Before we accept Christ, we are NOT wounded, rather we are slaves to sin and at enmity with God.

“…to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.” – Titus 1:15-16

After we accept Christ as Savior, we follow Him in obedience as Lord, albeit imperfectly.

So, are people “inherently good but wounded” and able to rehabilitate themselves with the help of the sacraments in order to merit Heaven as Catholicism teaches…

or

…are people totally depraved and without any hope unless they trust in Jesus Christ by faith alone and receive His imputed perfect righteousness?

One way is right and one way is wrong. Both ways cannot be right!

David Anders (photo below), host of the ”Called to Communion” Catholic talk radio show, regularly disparages the Biblical view of the total depravity of man and propagates the Catholic view of “good but wounded” souls rehabilitating themselves through the sacraments and good works. That is not Christianity, folks, but a very dangerous false gospel. Although I am vehemently opposed to his false gospel, I do “respect” Anders in a certain sense for constantly and uncompromisingly pointing out the unbridgeable differences between his Catholic false gospel and Biblical Christianity. It’s unfortunate that many evangelical Christians are not as uncompromising in regards to the genuine Gospel of grace as Anders is in regards to his false gospel.

Postscript: “Catholic guilt” is legendary, but Catholics generally have a veeeeeery low view of sin. If asked, most Catholics will say that they do a pretty good job of obeying the Ten Commandments (impossible!). After all, they will say, they never killed anyone or robbed a bank.

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Catholic apologist, David Anders, disparages Biblical Christianity almost every day on his talk radio show

Better resources available

A Primer on Roman Catholicism
By John H. Gerstner
Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 1995, 42 pages

This booklet is a brief analysis of Roman Catholicism from an evangelical perspective. Chapters include:

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation, or Communicant Church Membership
  • The Mass
  • Penance
  • Last Rites
  • The Bible
  • Justification by Faith Alone

John Gerstner (1914-1996) was one of the preeminent Reformed theologians of two generations ago and a mentor of R.C. Sproul, but he wrote this article at the age of eighty and, in all charity, it does not appear he was up to the task. The opening chapter on baptism presents the information in a rather clumsy, discombobulated manner. After finishing that chapter, I was ready to stop reading this booklet altogether, but the following sections were an improvement so I was able to finish. The booklet as a whole reads like a transcribed, extemporaneous coffee talk without any corrective editing.

I would describe Gerstner’s arguments against Catholicism as largely based on “logic” and “common sense” rather than on Scripture. He makes some good points, but there are so many other resources on Catholicism that do a much better job with stronger Scriptural support. Several times, Gerstner introduces some uniquely Calvinstic doctrines, but an outreach tool such as this is not the place for that.

For all of the reasons above, I can’t recommend this booklet. For my list of over 340 books that examine Roman Catholicism, see here.

Postscript: Both Gerstner and Sproul were enthusiastic Thomists, admirers of medieval Roman Catholic theologian, Thomas Aquinas, although Gerstner doesn’t refer to him in this publication. As I’ve written in a previous post (see here), evangelical infatuation with Aquinas is problematic.

The Legion must find the traitor in their midst before an impending alien attack

It’s time to take a break from theological discussions and continue with our reviews of classic Legion of Super-Heroes tales.

As we witnessed at the end of Adventure Comics #346 (see here), the warlike Khunds were threatening to invade 30th-century Earth. The Legion of Super-Heroes suspected a spy had infiltrated their ranks and was subverting their efforts to defend the planet. Circumstantial evidence seemed to point to new member, Karate Kid. Let’s conclude this saga with…

The Traitor’s Triumph!
Adventure Comics #347, August, 1966
Writer & Layouts: Jim Shooter, Penciller: Curt Swan

Plot

With the Alaskan electro-tower destroyed, Cosmic Boy, Phantom Girl, and Karate Kid join Superboy, Lightning Lad, Shrinking Violet, and Nemesis Kid at Ceylon at one of the two remaining defensive towers. Chameleon Boy, Light Lass, Princess Projectra, and Ferro Lad leave their post guarding the tower at Tierra Del Fuego to join their teammates at Ceylon as the Legion formulates a new battle plan. In the middle of the meeting, the team learns that the Tierra Del Fuego tower is under attack. Superboy chooses four of the veteran Legionnaires to accompany him to the besieged tower, but they encounter only a small Khundian raiding party, which they subdue in short order with their super powers. Just as the team celebrates its victory, a powerful electro-bolt destroys the tower. Concluding the bolt could only have come from the remaining Ceylon tower, the five Legionnaires return there only to find it also destroyed with Phantom Girl, Ferro Lad, and Princess Projectra rendered unconscious by gas. Cosmic Boy concludes the saboteur must have been a Legionnaire and since Karate Kid is missing, assumes he is the culprit.

With the three electro-towers destroyed, the only weapons powerful enough to stop the Khund attack are in the Legion’s own arsenal. The team arrives at their clubhouse in Metropolis only to witness Karate Kid standing over the destroyed weaponry. Superboy begins to accuse the startled Karate Kid, but Nemesis Kid appears from behind a storage tank and, mistakenly thinking the Boy of Steel is addressing him, admits to being the spy. Karate Kid had suspected earlier that Nemesis Kid was the spy and was following him. Just at that moment, the Khundian fleet arrives and begins its attack on Earth. Suddenly, a fourth electro-tower rises from the ground and destroys most of the invading ships. Superboy reveals that he suspected treachery after the destruction of the Alaskan tower and built a bogus tower at Tierra Del Fuego, the one that was previously destroyed, and concealed the authentic one.

With only a handful of ships remaining, Garlack, the Khundian leader, orders an attack against the Legion. The team goes into battle mode and thrashes the invaders using their super powers. Still upset about being accused of treachery, Karate Kid breaks his way into the Khund command ship and personally vanquishes the alien leader. As the Legion discusses what to do with Nemesis Kid, the traitor breaks free and teleports himself away from Earth.

Comments

This was 14-year-old, Jim Shooter’s very first Legion story and it’s definitely not a page turner. How did Nemesis Kid leave Ceylon to destroy the Alaskan tower without being missed? Likewise, why didn’t Cosmic Boy and the others notice Nemesis Kid was also missing after the Ceylon tower was destroyed? This saga has more holes than Swiss cheese! But the story is notable for adding three new members to the Legion’s already-dizzying twenty-one full-time-member roster. Curt Swan’s pencils are terrific! Nemesis Kid would return in later issues to battle the Legion as a member of the Legion of Super Villains.

Next Review: The Legion must find a way to stop the evil Dr. Regulus in “Target 21 Legionnaires,” Adventure Comics #348.

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Superboy and the Legion engage what’s left of the Khundian fleet on page #1 of Adventure Comics #347