The Lincoln assassination: a Jesuit conspiracy?

The Suppressed Truth About The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
By Burke McCarty
The Lutheran Library Publishing Ministry, 2020, 332 pp. (Originally published in 1922)

2 Stars

Conspiracy theories abound these days, but they’re nothing new. After the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, some conjectured that the murder was part of a Jesuit conspiracy to undermine Protestant America. I had read an interesting scholarly book about the Lincoln assassination plot multiple decades ago and when I saw this provocatively-titled book (ebook edition) that was originally published in 1922, I thought I’d give it a whirl.

President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theater in Washington D.C. on April 14, 1865 and died the following day. Booth’s attack on Lincoln was part of a larger conspiracy by a cadre of Confederate sympathizers that included an attempt on the life of Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Seward, and unconsummated attacks on Vice President Andrew Johnson and General Ulysses S. Grant. Booth was killed on April 26th at the Garrett Farm near Port Royal, Virginia as he attempted to flee from Federal authorities. Ten of Booth’s co-conspirators were eventually arrested. Four were subsequently hanged – David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt, and Mary Surratt – and four were sentenced to imprisonment at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys.

Above: St. Mary’s Roman Catholic church in Bryantown, M.D., cira 1901. John Wilkes Booth attended mass here along with co-conspirator, Dr. Samuel Mudd. Mudd set fugitive Booth’s broken leg, which the assassin fractured after leaping from the presidential box at Ford’s Theater.

Of the ten conspirators arrested, four were Roman Catholics. It was also alleged that Booth was a recent convert to Catholicism as he was wearing an “Agnes Dei” medal at the time of his death and had regularly attended mass at St. Mary’s Catholic church in Bryantown, Maryland. One of the main conspirators, young John Surratt, another Catholic, escaped to French Canada and to Europe with the direct assistance of Catholic clergy. Making his way to Rome, he became a member of the Papal Zouaves. Surratt was apprehended by U.S. agents in 1867 and brought to trial, but avoided conviction due to legal technicalities.

A number of books were subsequently written suggesting that the plot had been orchestrated by the Jesuits, including this book, which was published 57 years after the assassination. There is circumstantial evidence that may indicate something more than a coincidence on the part of the Catholic church in connection with Lincoln’s assassination, especially the church’s aid to fugitive, John Surratt. Despite the sensationalistic extrapolations by the author,* no credible evidence has ever been discovered demonstrating the Jesuit’s direct or indirect involvement in the conspiracy. I’m not a conspiracy mongerer. Such people as former-publisher, Jack Chick, did tremendous harm to Gospel witness to Roman Catholics by spinning conspiracies that blamed the Jesuits for every major calamity. That’s not to say the Jesuits were never involved in efforts to manipulate politics and to counter Gospel outreach. Even Catholic monarchs in Europe resented Jesuit interference and subterfuge to the point that they demanded that pope Clement XIV disband the order. The pope “suppressed” the Jesuits in 1773, but the order was reinstituted in 1814.

I read this conspiracy-themed book as a lark, but definitely would like to read another scholarly book about the Lincoln assassination plot.

*Perhaps author McCarty’s most outlandish claim is that the Jesuits orchestrated World War I in order to divert attention away from the 400th anniversary of the Reformation in 1917 (p.16).

15 thoughts on “The Lincoln assassination: a Jesuit conspiracy?

  1. Wow I need to read this later!
    Answering your question on my blog: Today is going well so far, just finished teaching the kids, eating lunch now; we plan to see if we can visit a museum today where the kids can take notes and later I plan to teach them this week how to write a report.
    I hope to read more today!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Interesting period with the escalating tensions over slavery. What an albatross.

        I need to ready my grill. Haven’t BBQ’D since early-Fall last year.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wow that is some time! Hope you can BBQ this summer.
        Also I’m reading my present book just to understand better the decades leading up to the Civil War

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow what a fascinating read, to even see perspective of back then. We’ve gone from thinking Catholicism is behind every evil to the idea among conservative Christians that Catholicism can do no evil! If you do read a historical and scholarly look at the connection with Roman Catholicism and Lincoln’s assissination, you got to review it for the rest of us! Can’t believe though that Catholics aided those behind Lincoln’s murder

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! The best part about this book was the description of conspirator John Surratt’s escape from Washington to Montreal, to London, to Paris, and then to Rome, where he ended up “serving” as a Papal Zouave. Surratt was aided by priests, staying at rectories all along his escape route. This is documented fact. So, were the RC clerics in on the conspiracy or were they merely assisting a “son of the church”? John Wilkes Booth had traveled to Montreal in October 1864, six months before the assassination, for a secret meeting with Confederate sympathizers. Something smells fishy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 👍🏻
        Yup, and I think academic historians generally stay away from speculating on foggy bottom conspiracy theories, especially if they potentially involve the RCC. Maybe a history professor at Bob Jones University? 🤓 Just kidding.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crissy. People still debate the degree of the RCC’s involvement in the assassination, but the church’s assistance to fugitive conspirator, John Surratt, is undeniable.

      Liked by 1 person

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