Malachi Martin

Last updated
Malachi Brendan Martin
Born(1921-07-23)23 July 1921
Ballylongford, County Kerry, Ireland
Died27 July 1999(1999-07-27) (aged 78)
New York, New York, U.S.
Pen nameMichael Serafian
Professor (Pontifical Biblical Institute)
Nationality Irish, American
RelativesFather F. X. Martin (brother)

Malachi Brendan Martin (Irish: Maolsheachlainn Breandán Ó Máirtín; 23 July 1921 – 27 July 1999), occasionally writing under the pseudonym Michael Serafian, was an Irish Catholic priest and writer on the Catholic Church. Originally ordained as a Jesuit priest, he became Professor of Palaeography at the Vatican's Pontifical Biblical Institute. From 1958, he served as secretary to Cardinal Augustin Bea during preparations for the Second Vatican Council.


Disillusioned by Vatican II, he asked to be released from certain aspects of his Jesuit vows in 1964 and moved to New York City, where he later became an American citizen.

His 17 novels and non-fiction books were frequently critical of the Vatican hierarchy, whom he believed had failed to act on the Third Prophecy revealed by the Virgin Mary at Fátima. [1] Among his most significant works were The Scribal Character of The Dead Sea Scrolls (1958) and Hostage To The Devil (1976) which dealt with Satanism, demonic possession, and exorcism. The Final Conclave (1978) was a warning against Soviet espionage in the Holy See via Soviet spies in the Vatican.


Early life and education

Martin was born in Ballylongford, County Kerry, Ireland, to a middle-class family [2] in which the children were raised speaking Irish at the dinner table. Catholic belief and practice were central. His parents, Conor and Katherine Fitzmaurice Martin had five sons and five daughters. Four of the five sons became priests, including his younger brother, Francis Xavier Martin. [3]

Martin received his secondary education at Belvedere College in Dublin. He studied philosophy for three years at University College Dublin, and on 6 September 1939, became a novice with the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits). [4] He taught for three years, spent four years at Milltown Park, Dublin, and was ordained in August 1954. [5]

Upon completion of his degree course in Dublin, Martin was sent to the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium, where he took a doctorate in archaeology, Oriental history and Semitic languages. He started postgraduate studies at both the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the University of Oxford, specializing in intertestamentary studies and knowledge of Jesus Christ and of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts. He undertook additional study in rational psychology, experimental psychology, physics, and anthropology. [1]

Work and ordination

Martin took part in the research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and published 24 articles on Semitic palaeography in various journals. [6] [7] He did archaeological research and worked extensively on the Byblos syllabary in Byblos, [8] [ page needed ] in Tyre, and in the Sinai Peninsula. Martin assisted in his first "exorcism" while staying in Egypt for archaeological research. [9] He published a work in two volumes, The Scribal Character of the Dead Sea Scrolls, in 1958. [10]

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City Petersdom von Engelsburg gesehen.jpg
St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

He was sent to Rome to work at the Holy See as a private secretary of Cardinal Augustin Bea SJ from 1958 until 1964. This brought him into contact with Pope John XXIII.[ citation needed ] Martin's years in Rome coincided with the beginning of the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), which was to transform the Catholic Church in a way that the initially liberal Martin began to find distressing. He became friends with Monsignor George Gilmary Higgins and a fellow Jesuit priest, Father John Courtney Murray. [2]

In Rome, he became a professor at the Pontifical Biblical Institute, where he taught Aramaic, paleography, Hebrew and Sacred Scripture. He also taught theology, part-time, at Loyola University Chicago's John Felice Rome Center. He worked as a translator for the Orthodox Churches and Ancient Oriental Churches Division of the Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity under Cardinal Bea. Thus, Martin became well acquainted with prominent Jewish leaders, such as Rabbi Abraham Heschel, in 1961 and 1962. [11] Martin accompanied Pope Paul VI on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in January 1964. He resigned his position at the Pontifical Institute in June 1964. [2]

In February 1965, Martin requested release from the Jesuit Order. He received a provisional release in May 1965 [2] and a dispensation from his vows of poverty and obedience on 30 June 1965 [2] (cf. qualified exclaustration). Even if dispensed from his religious vow of chastity, he remained under the obligation of chastity if still an ordained secular priest. Martin maintained that he remained a priest, saying that he had received a dispensation from Paul VI to that effect. [5]

He moved permanently to New York City in 1966, where he first worked as a dishwasher, a waiter and taxi driver, [2] and continued to write. [5] He co-founded an antiques firm and was active in communications and media for the rest of his life. [1] After his arrival in New York, Cardinal Terence Cooke gave him written permission to exercise his secular priestly faculties. [ citation needed ][ dubious ]

Communications and media

Central Park, New York Lower Central Park Shot 5.JPG
Central Park, New York

In 1967, Martin received his first Guggenheim Fellowship. In 1969, he got his first breakthrough with his book The Encounter: Religion in Crisis as a result of his expertise in Judaism, Christianity and Islam and with which he won the Choice Book Award of the American Library Association. [12] Afterwards came other liberally oriented books like Three Popes and the Cardinal: The Church of Pius, John and Paul in its Encounter with Human History (1972) and Jesus Now (1973). Malachi Martin became a United States citizen [13] in 1970.

He received a second Guggenheim fellowship in 1969, which enabled him to write his first of four bestsellers, [14] Hostage to the Devil: The Possession and Exorcism of Five Living Americans. With this book, published in 1976, Martin references his experience as an exorcist. According to the book he assisted in several exorcisms. William Peter Blatty "wrote a tirade against Malachi, saying his 1976 book was a fantasy, and he was just trying to cash in." [9]

He became "an iconic person in the paranormal world." [9] He was a periodic guest on Art Bell's radio program, Coast to Coast AM , between 1995 and 1998. [15] The show continues to play tapes of his interviews on Halloween. [9]

During that decade, Martin also served as religious editor for National Review [16] [17] from 1972 to 1978, when he was succeeded by Michael Novak. He was interviewed twice by William F. Buckley, Jr. for Firing Line on PBS. [18] He was an editor for the Encyclopædia Britannica . [19]

Martin published several books in quick succession the following years: The Final Conclave (1978), King of Kings: a Novel of the Life of David (1980) and Vatican: A Novel (1986) were "factionals". The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church (1981), The New Castle: Reaching for the Ultimate (1982), Rich Church, Poor Church: The Catholic Church and its Money (1984) and There is Still Love: Five Parables of God's Love That Will Change Your Life (1984) were non-fiction works. His bestselling [14] 1987 non-fiction book, The Jesuits: The Society of Jesus and the Betrayal of the Roman Catholic Church, was highly critical of the Order, accusing the Jesuits of systematically undermining church teachings. [20]

Later life

Martin's The Keys of This Blood: The Struggle for World Dominion between Pope John Paul II, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the Capitalist West was published in 1990 and was followed in 1996 by Windswept House: A Vatican Novel .

Martin continued to offer Mass privately each day in the Tridentine Mass form, and vigorously exercised his priestly ministry all the way up until his death.[ citation needed ] He was strongly supported by some Traditional Catholic sources and severely criticized by other sources, such as the National Catholic Reporter. [21] [22] [23] Martin served as a guest commentator for CNN during the live coverage of the pastoral visit of Pope John Paul II to the United States 4–8 October 1995.

In the last three years of his life, Martin forged a close friendship with the Traditionalist Catholic philosopher, Rama Coomaraswamy (1929–2006). In the final years before his death, Martin was received in a private audience by Pope John Paul II.


The footstone of Malachi Martin in Gate of Heaven Cemetery Malachi Martin Footstone 2011C.jpg
The footstone of Malachi Martin in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Malachi Martin died of an intracerebral hemorrhage due to a fall in his apartment in Manhattan in 1999, four days after his 78th birthday. It was stated in the documentary Hostage to the Devil that Martin had said that he was pushed from the stool he was standing on by a demonic force. His funeral took place in St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Chapel of West Orange, New Jersey, before the burial at Gate of Heaven Cemetery, in Hawthorne, New York.


In 1964, Martin, under the pseudonym Michael Serafian, wrote The Pilgrim: Pope Paul VI, the Council, & the Church in a Time of Decision, an apologia for the Jews, which, among other things, told the story of the Jewish question and the Second Vatican Council. He produced a number of best-selling fictional and non-fictional books. His fictional works purported to give detailed insider accounts of Church history during the reigns of Popes Pius XII, John XXIII, Paul VI (The Pilgrim, Three Popes and the Cardinal, Vatican: A Novel [14] ), John Paul I (The Final Conclave [14] ) and John Paul II (The Keys of This Blood, Windswept House).

His non-fictional writings cover a range of Catholic topics, such as demonic exorcisms, Satanism, liberation theology, the Second Vatican Council (The Pilgrim), the Tridentine liturgy, Catholic dogma, modernism (Three Popes and the Cardinal; The Jesuits), the financial history of the Church (Rich Church, Poor Church; The Decline and Fall of the Roman Church), the New World Order and the geopolitical importance of the Pope (The Keys of This Blood).[ citation needed ]


He spoke and wrote often about the Three Secrets of Fátima and was an ardent supporter of Fr. Nicholas Gruner: "Father Gruner is fulfilling a desperately needed function in the ongoing perception of Mary's role in the salvation of our imperiled world. Father Gruner is absolutely correct that the consecration of Russia as—Our Lady desired, has not been executed". [24]

Martin said concerning the three secrets of Mary at Fátima in 1917, she requested that Russia be consecrated to her Immaculate Heart. He said that he stood outside the papal living quarters in 1960 whilst Pope John XXIII and Cardinal Bea and others were reading the document containing the third secret and that, in order to assure Russian cooperation at the approaching Second Vatican Council, the Pope decided against the mandate. Later, Paul VI and John Paul II decided against it for various reasons. [25] [ unreliable source? ]

He was an outspoken opponent of the alleged apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Međugorje in former Yugoslavia. Martin said that false pretenses were used in obtaining earlier his recommendation. [26] Concerning the Garabandal apparitions, he remained open-minded. [27]

In March 1997, Martin claimed on Radio Liberty's Steel on Steel, that two popes were murdered during the 20th Century:

Martin partially gave credence to the Siri thesis, saying that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri was twice elected pope in papal conclaves, but declined his election after being pressured by worldly forces acting through cardinals present at the conclaves. Martin called this the little brutality. On the one hand, Martin says that Siri was intimidated: on the other hand he says that Siri did indicate that his decision not to accept was made freely. [28] [30]

Martin claimed that Popes John XXIII and Paul VI were Freemasons during a certain period and that photographs and other detailed documents proving this were in the possession of the Vatican State Secretariat. [28] He allegorically mentioned these supposed facts in his 1986 novel Vatican: A Novel, where he related the Masonic adherence of Popes Giovanni Angelica and Giovanni De Brescia. [12] He claimed Archbishop Annibale Bugnini C.M. was a Freemason and that Agostino Casaroli, long-time Cardinal Secretary of State, was an atheist. [28]

In his 1987 book The Jesuits, Martin claims to prove the existence of a diplomatic agreement between the Vatican and the USSR called the Metz Accord. The Vatican allegedly promised non-condemnation of communism in exchange for participation of Russian-Orthodox prelates as observers at the Second Vatican Council. In his book The Final Conclave, published on 1 August 1978, [31] the month of the 1978 conclave that resulted in the 26 August election of Albino Luciani, Malachi Martin wrote of the unexpected election of a Cardinal Angelico, a figure that has been interpreted as corresponding to Luciani. [32] [ page needed ]

Martin stated that, along with diabolic possession, angelic possession also exists and that angels could have use of preternatural powers in certain circumstances. [25] [ unreliable source? ] [33]


Alleged affairs

There were three allegations made against Martin of having affairs with women:

Laicization dispute

The traditionalist Catholic website Daily Catholic said in 2004 that Father Vincent O'Keefe S.J., former Vicar General of the Society of Jesus and a past President of Fordham University, stated that Martin had never been laicized. According to this report, O'Keefe stated that Martin had been released from his Jesuit vows except for chastity. [38]

Religious vows such as those of Jesuits include that of chastity, but a religious priest dispensed from them is still bound by the obligation of chastity that is attached to his priesthood, unless he is also laicized, which usually includes dispensation from the obligation imposed by the law of celibacy. [39] When a priest of a religious institute becomes a secular priest, he must first find a bishop willing to accept him as a member of the clergy of his diocese. [40] No claim has been made that Martin was incardinated into any particular diocese.

Martin himself is quoted as stating that "'In 1965, Mr. Martin received a dispensation from all privileges and obligations deriving from his vows as a Jesuit and from priestly ordination' (Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, 25 June 1997, Prot. N. 04300/65)". [41]

The Daily Catholic said its 2004 statement was based on one by William Kennedy, according to which the declaration of Martin's laicization was mounted in retaliation for his book The Jesuits, which accused the Jesuits of deviating from their original character and mission by embracing Liberation Theology. [42] [ failed verification ]

Alleged ordination as a bishop

During a videotaped memorial titled Malachi Martin Weeps For His Church, Rama Coomaraswamy, a sedevacantist cleric, claimed that Martin had told him that he had been secretly ordained a bishop during the reign of Pius XII in order to travel behind the Iron Curtain ordaining priests and bishops for the underground churches of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. Coomaraswamy died in 2006. [43] [44] [45] [46]

Alleged authorship

Joseph Roddy allegations

Journalist Joseph Roddy alleged — in a 1966 Look Magazine article about the debate about Jews during the Second Vatican Council [51] — that one and the same person under three different pseudonyms had written or acted on behalf of Jewish interest groups, such as the American Jewish Committee, to influence the outcome of the debates. Roddy wrote that two timely and remunerated 1965 articles were penned under the pseudonym F.E. Cartus, one for Harper's Magazine [52] and one for the American Jewish Committee's magazine Commentary . [53]

Roddy alleged that tidbits of information were leaked to the New York press that detailed Council failings vis a vis Jews under the pseudonym of Pushkin. Roddy claimed two unidentified persons were one and the same person — a "young cleric-turned-journalist" and a "Jesuit of Irish descent working for Cardinal Bea...who was active in the Biblical Institute" — he figuratively named as Timothy O'Boyle-Fitzharris, S.J. so as not to reveal the true identity of his source. Roddy mentioned The Pilgrim in a footnote to his article.[ citation needed ]

In his 2007 book Spiritual Radical: Abraham Joshua Heschel in America, Edward K. Kaplan confirmed that Martin cooperated with the American Jewish Committee during the Council "for a mixture of motives, both lofty and ignoble...[He] primarily advised the committee on theological issues, but he also provided logistical intelligence and copies of restricted documents." It is confirmed in the book that Martin used the pseudonyms Forest and Pushkin. [11] Kaplan acknowledges that the kiss and tell book about the internal workings of the Council, The Pilgrim by Michael Serafian, was requested from Martin by Abraham J. Heschel, who arranged for the book to be published by Roger W. Straus, Jr.'s Farrar, Straus and Giroux printing company. It was published in the hope that it would influence the deliberations in the council. Once Martin's identity as author was revealed, it led to protests "and the book had to be removed from circulation at considerable financial loss to the publisher". Kaplan lastly states that Malachi Martin was the primary source of information for Joseph Roddy in writing his 1966 article for Look Magazine, and that O'Boyle-Fitzharris was, in fact, Martin. Kaplan judges the Roddy article as "dangerously misleading [due] to the credence it gives to the claim that without organised Jewish pressure the council declaration on the Jews would not have been accepted." [11]

Martin explicitly denied he was a spy, along with denying other rumors. Michael Cuneo, in his book American Exorcism, writes that "Martin told me that he was perplexed, and more than a little annoyed, by the swirl of rumors surrounding his personal life."

Elsewhere, Martin admitted some of his work involved intelligence gathering behind the Iron Curtain and throughout the Middle East, and at times threatening cardinals with blackmail if they did not want to do what Cardinal Bea and Pope John XXIII wanted from them at the council. "I saw cardinals sweating in front of me," Martin recalled. "And I began to enjoy it." [54]

Alleged Jewish heritage

Rumors appearing on various Catholic or sedevacantist websites [55] and magazines [56] alleged that Martin had Jewish ancestry of ancestral descent from Iberian Jews migrating to Ireland and Great Britain in the 15th century, and alleged him being an Israeli spy [25] [ unreliable source? ] because of his first name, Malachi , after a Hebrew prophet and his extensive travels in the Levant. These allegations were rebutted by William H. Kennedy (In Defense of Father Malachi Martin). [57] After having made genealogical inquiries with surviving relatives of Martin in Ireland, Kennedy concluded that Martin's father was an Englishman who moved to Ireland, and that Martin's mother was Irish on both sides. Fr. Rama Coomasrawamy confirmed this independently. [43] The Irish language name Maélsheachlainn is usually anglicized as Malachy and Saint Malachy was a 12th Century Irish saint.

Alleged photograph

Claims that Martin features as a curial monsignor in full regalia on a prominent photograph next to Pope John Paul I and his assistant Diego Lorenzi appeared on the Internet. [58] The photograph, published in David Yallop's In God's Name: An Investigation into the Murder of Pope John Paul I as number 28 between pages 120 and 121, shows a "Monsignor Martin", visibly different from Malachi Martin. [59] This is a case of mistaken identity: the cleric in the photograph was Jacques-Paul Martin, Prefect of the Casa Pontificia from 1969 to 1986. [60] [61]

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