New Satanic Panic Puffed on WND

The New Republic currently has an excellent profile (and critique) of American Catholic intellectual Richard John Neuhaus. Author Damon Linker covers a lot of ground, and includes one interesting observation:

For many Catholics, the [paedophilia] scandal raised serious questions about what it was in the institutional practices of the Church that made possible such sordid crimes. The fact that so many priests were accused of sexually molesting children and teenagers–as opposed to, say, embezzling from church coffers–seemed to point directly to a problem in the Church’s teachings and practices regarding sex.

It’s a difficult question – but one man has an answer. Step forward documentary-maker Michael Calace, whose Rape of the Soul is currently being puffed on WorldNetDaily:

Could the Roman Catholic Church’s sex abuse crisis be tied to embedded Satanic and occultic imagery in its artwork – some of it hundreds of years old?

That is the seemingly incredible thesis of a new documentary, “Rape of the Soul,” made not by anti-Catholic bigots, but by devout followers of the Church.

…The documentary explores the prevalent use of satanic, sexual, occult and anti-Catholic images in historical and contemporary religious artwork. The film also discusses the mysterious acceptance of the artwork at the highest and most trusted levels of the Catholic Church.

More cautious new sources might have thrown one or two “allegedly”s in there, but WND is quite happy just to parrot Calace’s press release, which is the source for most of the article. Calace explains:

“Artists from DaVinci to Botticelli have embedded subliminal images into their art for centuries,” said Calace. “In this case we found penises on crucifixes, anarchy symbols, swastikas, demonic faces and in modern works even the word ‘sex’ encrypted into the images. The works in question include modern artists’ work currently on the covers of missalettes and hymnals that at this very moment sit in the pews of churches throughout the U.S. and on children’s religious teaching aids.”

There was a time when you had to be a rock musician to get accused of embedding Satanic messages into works of art – but now Led Zeppelin can share the stigma with the best Renaissance artists. A short review in LA Weekly gives further details of the thesis:

Calace finds the English word S-E-X embedded in paintings from the Italian Renaissance…Hundreds of years ago, an artist pre-cognitively painted an exact portrait of Vladimir Putin; Calace suggests the devil gave him access to future visions.

To back up his claims, Calace has assembled a panel of “experts” – including WND columnist Judith Reisman.

These images, unrecognized by the untrained eye, can be a ticking time-bomb to an individual who is unaware of their presence, especially someone who is already predisposed to deviant sexual behavior,” said Reisman.

The quote on the original press release adds:

“Sexually explicit and graphic images are taken in by the subconscious mind, to the point where the person, most-often against their will, will act upon them without even knowing why they did it.”  She adds, “This film reveals the lewd and demonic images that priests have been exposed to on a daily basis in their surroundings.  I have no doubt in my mind this is a strong contributing factor to the proliferation of sexual abuse amongst Catholic priests.”

Reisman was featured on this blog in 2004, when I noted her influence in heading up the religious right’s campaign against the movie Kinsey. Her claims against Alfred Kinsey were widely endorsed by Christian sites such as Agape Press and by Ted Baehr, who makes a living watching movies and judging whether they are suitable for Christians. Reisman actually tried to sue the Kinsey Institute, but had to withdraw when her lawyer decided she was a crank and deserted her. Miss Poppy Dixon has more.

Calace also draws on Wilson Bryan Key. The movie’s press release explains:

Dr. Wilson Bryan Key, an internationally recognized embedded imagery expert with over 30 years of expertise as both a former professor at the University of Western Ontario and a wealth of first-hand experiences as a former advertising executive.  Key is a MENSA member and author of five books on the subject.

When an academic feels the need to mention their MENSA membership, something is usually amiss. A useful site by Craig M Johns – who asserts that “Wilson Bryan Key is insane” – includes the following:

Belief in subliminal messaging reached a surreal apex in 1980 with the publication of The Clam-Plate Orgy and Other Subliminals the Media use to Manipulate Your Behavior by Dr. Wilson Bryan Key. Key claimed that advertisers were using subliminal messaging of a very serious sexual nature in order to manipulate behavior. In a chapter titled “Sex is Alive and Embedded in Practically Everything”, Key says, “Sex is the most frequently embedded word in the American advertising industry”. He claims the one-word cue for lust is hidden in everything from liquor ads to Ritz crackers, the holes of which he says are arranged during baking to form several depictions of the letters S, E, X…Key claims that while carefully examining a Howard Johnson’s menu, he saw that a plate of clams pictured on the menu was actually the portrayal of a sexual orgy, which included various people and a donkey. Key suggested that this is only the tip of the iceberg of a subliminal conspiracy of major proportions. Subliminal stimuli “have been regularly used in North American media for over twenty-five years without anyone getting wise to what was going on,” he wrote.

Plus this quote:

Consider a cigarette ad that was designed to appeal to the women’s readers of Cosmopolitan…Kent is a strong masculine name, suggesting a solid distinguished WASP heritage. Simply change the vowel from E to U, however, and Kent becomes the phonetic word symbol for the female genital.”

I used to live in Kent in the UK, by the way…Calace also gets input from Stanley Monteith “the nationally syndicated talk show host of Radio Liberty” (actually a conspiracy theorist; WND also promotes one of his books) and Marc Oster, “an expert in clinical psychology and hypnosis, who now teaches at Argosy University”.

But what about Calace himself? Rape of the Soul was made by his Silver Sword International company, which sees itself as “merging media with morality™”. Calace, however, is a strangely obscure figure. According to the LA Weekly review:

he describes himself as an actor and an “inventor” who holds a patent in golf technology.

He was inspired in his efforts by a trip to church a few years ago. A 2004 press release explained:

The Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), supplier of the worship materials used in two-thirds of American Catholic parishes, has published demonic cover art featuring a 666 on their “2004 Today’s Missal Music Issue.” The missals have been distributed to U.S. Catholic churches, and are in widespread use for an apparent covert message.

… After his young children became attracted to the colorful 2004 OCP Music Issue during Mass, film producer Michael A. Calace discovered that the missal showcased a 666 along with demonic imagery, as part of a wild cartoon-like cross. This further confirmed Calace’s recent uncovering of a trend of occult laden church artwork by perpetrators within trusted Catholic organizations.

Catholic blogger Bill Cork at Built on a Rock commented on this in a somewhat sceptical vein. He received an email from SSI:

No hoax. Not in the slightest. Leave the visual arts to the experts.

We have all of the evidence, the players, the corroboration, or it would not have been announced.

Feature documentary to educate all on the techniques and the uncovering of several scandals is on its way.

Mr. Calace, a devout Catholic has already been featured on several national talk shows.

We’ll keep you on our list, as many Catholics still have the ridiculous notion that the Church is free from evildoers, when it has them, as well as “good Catholics” looking to hush up scandals instead of ridding the cancer, at all levels.

The greatest triumph of Satan, is to convince “good” that evil does not exist.

Stay tuned. You’ll never look at art, especially “Church Art” nor those responsible, the same way again.

UPDATE: Jesus’ General brings a hidden reference to Spongebob Squarepants in The Passion of the Christ to Judith Reisman’s attention.