On Petras Romanas

Just maybe, after the failures of teachers like Edgar Whisenant and Harold Camping, the church has finally had enough. We can only hope so!

But there was a new and outlandish latest fad in eschatology; namely, the work of Thomas Horn, joined also lately by putative apologist Cris Putnam. Their recent book together, Petrus Romanus [PR], consists of nearly 500 pages of conspiracy theory that would be equally at home at a showing of the Zeitgeist movie. An earlier book by Horn, Apollyon Rising 2012 [AR2], offered some of the same at an earlier date, and as you may guess , both of these authors are on the "2012 end of the world" gravy train. We were here in 1988 and it didn't work out well. Thankfully, so far, it’s getting far less attention this time around.

But, as an object lesson for those still not healed by observing the fates of Whisenant and Camping, we'll do our own "countdown" in which we check out the major claims of these two books. We'll start with the central claim of PR, which is that there is a hint of an end to come in an obscure little "prophecy" attributed to an 1100s century bishop known as St. Malachy, which gives us the hint that once the current Pope, Benedict XVI, takes his last breath as pope, the one after that will be the last of the papal line -- and perhaps even (gasp) the false prophet who will usher in the age of the Antichrist.

Malachy allegedly experienced a vision revealing to him what became a document known as "The Prophecy of the Popes" (POP). Beginning with Celestine II (d. 1144), Malachy purportedly offered a series of pithy Latin phrases that are (supposedly) somehow prophecies of each successive pope. In all, that's about 140 "predictions" (though as we'll see, they hardly deserve to be called that).

You may already suppose that there would be problems, and there are -- even ones the authors acknowledge. For one, they agree to disregard about half of Malachy's prophecies because they believe the Catholic Church may have tampered with them, and we have no earlier manuscript than the 1550s. So, about 70 of the 140 are dispensed with before PR reaches page 20 out of 500. They also admit that many credible scholars have argued the whole thing is a forgery, though for the sake of argument, we will assume it is not, at least from the 1500s on, as the authors allow.

The authors then allow that in some cases, the Catholic Church -- apparently convinced this thing had some validity -- may have purposely rigged papal votes so that someone suitable to the "prediction" was elected. Or, they suppose, a Pope may have in some way seized on his assigned "prediction" in order to fulfill it. In the end, they don't seem to regard this as enough of a possibility to be worried that it makes their case a sham, although they should have.

I put "predictions" in quotes because these aren't "predictions" at all -- they're just very short Latin phrases, usually 2-3 words each, and with that length there is as much hard content as a bowl of Jello. [I won't even get into the whole problem of why they bother to use a prophecy from a source like the Catholic Church that they identify with waywardness. The rationalizations (e.g., "God often uses the most unlikely people") speak for themselves as circular reasoning and/or a desire to see only what they want to see.] The authors also note another author's assessment that past 1590, Malachy's mottos have an 80 percent accuracy. The bad news is that by Deut 13, that would get Malachy 100% stoned.

The authors, at least, have the sense to admit that critics say the phrases are vague enough to be twisted to be seen as fulfilled in anything. [42-3] They even allow that this is a "major weakness" and that only a few of the prophecies are precise enough to pass the test. The bad news for them is that their best examples are far worse than they realize, and we shall spend the balance of this article examining what they apparently take to be their "best case" fulfillments.

Leo XIII, 1878-1903 - Phrase: "lumen in caelo," "light in the sky."

"Light in the sky" could mean just about anything, and that should really be enough to dismiss this one as worthless. But the authors excite themselves with the observation that Leo's coat of arms "features a shooting star." Since Leo had this coat of arms long before being pope, they believe this is particularly impressive and a "compelling fulfillment."

No such luck here! The vagueness of the motto is shown in that other sources, like the 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, read it rather as fulfilled in calling Leo a "veritable luminary of the papacy" and specifically states that we don't need to bother with things like a coat of arms. Another Catholic site sees a fulfillment this way:

Leo XIII wrote encyclicals on Catholic social teaching that were still being digested 100 years later. He added considerably to theology.

Obviously, if the motto is vague enough to accommodate such diverse readings, it is worthless as a “prophecy.” And of course, many popes could be vaguely described as "a veritable luminary" (for whatever reason) rendering such a description equally worthless.

The authors’ rendition of a shooting star is likewise unhelpful. What escaped them on this point is that stars -- or, as they are sometimes called, estioles -- are standard symbols for a coat of arms, just as they are standard symbols for national flags. Leo has one. John Paul I (1978) had three stars of five points each. Pius X, the predecessor of Leo XIII, had one star, as did Gregory XVI (1831-46) -- and so did several other popes. Some others had more than one star; some had none.

But, also of interest is that Leo's coat had more to it; namely, a tree and two fleur-de-lis (keep this in mind). That triples the chance to make some sort of connection, especially with a vague phrase like "light in the sky." One could readily connect this to one of several comets discovered during Leo's reign -- even those not visible in his area (as we shall see, this won't stop the authors in another case, so it need not stop us here), such as the "Comet Wells" in 1882.

Thus, this "fulfillment," far from being "compelling," is useless.

Pius X (1903-1914) - Phrase: "ignis ardens" (burning faith).

As with the above, and for the same reasons , this one is easily deemed useless. The authors unwittingly admit as much when they point out that some apply this to a star on Pius' coat of arms (while failing to see how this affects their explanation concerning Leo XIII!), but choose instead to apply it to a vision Pius had of Rome burning. One may as well apply it to Pius having a liking for good barbeque, or having a tendency to get rashes or sunburn, or (more seriously) to some ardency of spirit on some issue. The aforementioned Catholic site adds its own variation as follows:

The Pope had great personal piety and achieved a number of important reforms in the devotional and liturgical life of priests and laypeople.

At least the authors have the decency to call this one "debatable." Actually, it is worse than that. It is worthless.

Benedict XV (1914-1922) - Phrase: "religio depopulata" (religion depopulated)

For this one, the authors figure they have an ace in the hole with the fact that during Benedict's reign, the following happened:

Hold your breath. Once again, the vagueness of the terms causes a problem. The authors have allowed "religion" to be so vague as to encompass more than one religious tradition, which means all one would have to do is to find, during any papal reign, some instance of some religion, somewhere, suffering "depopulation" -- such as 7 million Jews in the WW2 era, or perhaps a million in Rwanda; or one might even appeal to Muslim deaths in the Iran-Iraq war.

Then, there's a real slipperiness, also, with "this period", where the 200 million figure doesn’t add up. It was hard to get accurate figures in this turbulent time when there was little means to conduct a rigorous census, but sources I have consulted place the population of Russia in 1914-1917 in the lower 100 millions. Furthermore, Stalin ruled and did his deathly work well after the reign of Benedict.

As such, it seems patently dishonest to use deaths from outside Benedict’s reign to fulfill this one. The Catholic site, by the way, also uses the Bolshevik revolution as a fulfillment, but only because it established Communism, not because of deaths, while another conspiracy theorist connects the motto also to millions of Christians being killed by the Spanish flu!

Pius XI (1922-1939) - Phrase: "fides intrepida" (intrepid faith).

"Faith" is so vague as to be of no use.; all popes ought to have that. Beyond this, the authors seem to have a hard time finding a way to make Pius X "intrepid." They note that the dictionary definition is: "calm, brave and undisturbed." Noting an instance where Pius X made a deal with Mussolini to restore power to the Vatican, the authors ask plaintively, "Perhaps 'cold and calculating' fulfills this one?"

Sorry! No it doesn't. This prophecy is a fail.

The Catholic site proves the vagueness of this phrase by applying it entirely differently:

This Pope stood up to Fascist and Communist forces lining up against him in the lead up to World War II.

Pius XII (1939-1958) - Phrase: "pastor angelicus" (angelic shepherd).

There is tremendous irony in this one. The authors uncritically accept the badly debunked findings of John Cornwell that Pius XII was too chummy with the Nazis, and so end up suggesting, rather lamely, that since Pius claimed the title for himself, it must be an "ironic sort of fulfillment." So, now they have made it so that even a complete 180 of the phrase can be a "fulfillment"?

In that light, Pius' real record as a benefactor to persecuted Jews actually does make a better fit for "angelic shepherd" -- not that it matters, since any pope with a decent heart could have fit this as well, and many of them would qualify. However, we may be thankful that the authors did foul up so badly by using Cornwell, since it helps expose their poor research skills, and their ability to strain and stretch the Malachy mottos to the breaking point in order to force a "fulfillment." (For the refutation of this see Dalin’s The Myth of Hitler’s Pope, and see the link below: Cornwell’s deception begins on the front cover with the picture!)

Adding to the proof of the vagueness of this motto, the Catholic site ignores all of that and sees the fulfillment this way:

This Pope was very mystical, and is believed to have received visions. People would kneel when they received telephone calls from him. His encyclicals add enormously to the understanding of Catholic beliefs (even if they are now overlooked because of focus on the Second Vatican Council, which occurred so soon after his reign).

John XXIII (1958-1963) - Phrase: "pastor & nauta" (sailor and shepherd).

Half of this prophecy , at once, dies a painful death since every pope could be called a "shepherd" in their very role as pope. So, can we find that John was ever in the navy somewhere? Or, maybe the merchant marines? Maybe he had a rubber ducky as a child?

Not even close. The authors strain for a match by noting that John was the "patriarch of Venice," where there are a lot of gondolas and a "nautical street system" (apparently meaning the canals). If that's the way they want to play it, then any port city overseen by the papal candidate at some time in his career would make them qualify, and they don't even have to get on the water for a split second to make this work. John wasn't a sailor, and if being "patriarch of Venice" fulfills this prophecy, then I too fulfilled it by having North Miami Beach as my hometown. Or, it could be fulfilled by getting a nice anchor tattoo that says MOTHER, or even eating a lot of spinach to funny music.

The authors underline their own foolishness by telling an uncertain story of how one papal candidate allegedly hired a boat, stuck some sheep on it, and rode up and down the Tiber River on it as a way to demonstrate a fulfillment to the papal conclave. This ought to be a warning to the authors (but it isn't) that a living pope, with only rare exceptions, has more than enough time to figure out a way to make himself an "intrepid fire" or a "light in the sky", or to fulfill any number of other conditions. Of all the mottos we will see here only "religion depopulated" seems like one that could possibly be beyond their control as popes. However, even then, it would not be hard to force some fulfillment by finding a religious massacre, or else making some statement about how Protestants, et al, are simply outside the fold of the true Catholic Church, which is declared to be "THE" religion. Effectively then, we just "depopulated religion" by merely defining it more closely. It also does not occur to the authors that the papal conclave (for whatever reason thinking these mottos meant anything) purposely chose a man from a port city to strain a fulfillment.

Finally, regarding John XXIII, it is worth nothing that he was only patriarch of Venice for 5 years, from 1953 to 1958. He was born in a mountain city of Italy. He spent a lot of time in that area and also spent some time in Bulgaria. If this “prophecy” can be fulfilled by spending any amount of time in a port city, it is just that much more worthless.

Paul VI (1963-1978) - Phrase: "fios florum" (flower of flowers).

The authors here return again to heraldry, and their effort is no more successful. They point out that Paul had on his coat of arms a fleur-de-lis, which means "flower of lily." As before, though, this fails inasmuch as the fleur-de-lis is a fairly commonplace symbol. It is not even, as the authors claim, "unique to (Paul) among the papists," for as we have seen, it was part of Leo XIII's coat, and is also found in the coat of arms of John XXIII, Innocent X, Leo XI, Pius IV, Paul III, Clement VII and even Leo X of the famous fake “Christ a fable” quote. You can also find the fleur-de-lis in not a few famous places, ranging from the flag of Quebec to the helmets of the New Orleans Saints football team.

The authors claim that "flower of lily" matches "flower of a flower" "quite well" but it doesn't match it "well" -- it only matches it 50%. And, since it would hardly be any chore to somehow intentionally fulfill this, especially with a 15 year reign, this motto also fails miserably in terms of authentic and meaningful fulfillment.

John Paul I (1978) - Phrase: "de medietate lunae" (from the midst of the moon).

Here the authors think they have a whopper of a match, since John Paul was: 1) ”born in the diocese of Belluno" (and "luno" is Latin for moon); 2) John Paul ascended the papacy "on the precise day of a half-moon in its waning phase."

A "compelling match", as they say? Hardly! Again, the papal conclave would have little difficulty saying, "Hey, here's a guy who was born in Belluno. Ding. Forced match." (Not that this works anyway; the name of the city came from a Celtic phrase “belo dunums,” meaning “splendid hill”) And, if they hadn't had a guy from a place with a name like that, no problem because by just making sure his first day of service was on the half-moon day wouldn't be terribly hard (i.e., just dawdle in the conclave as long as needed so that it all works out). The authors' own records showed that it could take as long as 15-20 days to pick a new pope, and since there are two half moons, there were 2 chances each month to pin the tail on the donkey.

If all that failed, any papal candidate could have easily anticipated time to work out some fulfillment. John Paul ended up without that, since he died only a month into his reign, but he could hardly have known that would happen. As it is, a dawdling conclave makes for the quickest and easiest fulfillment.

We'll close by adding that the authors also uncritically accept the conspiracy theory that John Paul was poisoned. As with their acceptance of Cornwell's nonsense, this again reflects poorly on their research skills.

John Paul II (1978-2005) - Phrase: "de labore solis" (from the labor of the sun).

Yet another "light source" motto would make this an easy fulfillment in any event, but the authors, and Malachy, seemingly, got very lucky with this one. It is pointed out that John Paul was born during a solar eclipse, albeit one over the Indian Ocean, far away from Rome! And, he was also buried during one, albeit again, far away from Rome (over South America and the Pacific). Since it doesn't seem to matter to the authors (or maybe Rome) where a "fulfillment" occurs, even without the eclipse, it would not be hard to find something that would work like: sunspot activity, exceptional heat over some location, or even cloudy conditions where the sun "labors" to peek through the clouds. Also, it would not have been hard to delay John Paul's funeral to accommodate an eclipse. As it is, it took place 6 days after his death, but since he was born during one, this was just obvious "icing on the cake". And, of course, the papal conclave could easily select John Paul on that basis of having been born during a known eclipse. But, if they did not have such a candidate, there is, as noted, plenty of time to figure something out, especially with such a vague "prophecy."

As further proof of how useless this is, the Catholic site acknowledges the eclipse, but also suggests John Paul might have fulfilled it because he “comes from behind the former Iron Curtain (the East, where the Sun rises)” or “might also be seen to be the fruit of the intercession of the Woman Clothed with the Sun laboring in Revelation 12 (because of his devotion to the Virgin Mary).” Another conspiracy theorist connects it to John Paul’s origins in Poland, the “star of communism” or “sun of the workers.” Only Acharya S could do a semantic sashay to beat this one.

Pope Benedict XVI - Phrase: "gloria olivae" (glory of the olive).

The authors, by their reckoning, make this one a self-fulfiller, and it is an easy one. All Cardinal Ratizinger had to do, by their notion, is to pick the name "Benedict," for the olive branch is the symbol of the Benedictine monks. With typical “Left Behind” fervor, the authors also suppose this might connect to the soon fulfillment of the "Olivet Discourse", offering a series of potential future connections to Antichrist-like actions, which are little different than what we have heard from past failures like Hal Lindsey.

In contrast, the Catholic site rejects the connection to the Benedictines and goes for the idea that maybe Benedict XVI will be a peacemaker, a bearer of the “olive branch.” Given that it would not be hard for a pope, as a respected world figure, to find a way to do this somewhere during his reign, I don’t expect that will be hard to fulfill. It should be noted that before Ratzinger was elected, some speculated that it would be fulfilled by the election of a pope with “olive” skin (e.g., someone from Latin or Central America, or maybe someone of Jewish descent, relating to the olive tree as a Jewish symbol). Just more proof of how useless these “prophecies” are!)

We have thus seen that the ten most recent Malachy "fulfillments" are either gross failures or are so vague that they could be easily and readily "fulfilled" in any number of ways -- especially given that Popes had their entire reign to work something out, and papal conclaves had every ability to make the process easier. We might add that past mottoes were no more difficult to fulfill, such as:

Other mottoes may have been harder to fit -- such as Innocent XII, "rake in the door" (?! … supposedly fulfilled because his surname was the Italian word for “rake”), but given all the available options for intentional fulfillment, and the vagueness of the mottoes, Horn and Putnam are doing no more than engaging in eschatological con artistry. For whatever reason, the Catholic Church is apparently wanting to match on these mottoes, but that in turn makes it worthless as real prophecy (a point that escapes Horn and Putnam completely).

According to the list, up next is the authors' title character -- Petrus Romanus, or Peter the Roman. Horn and Putnam think this will be the false prophet. The Catholic Church, of course, does not see it that way, and I suspect they are thinking, "well, thank goodness, we'll be done with this list after this guy" and fully expects to continue the papal line without having to worry about making some sort of match to Malachy's list.

I imagine Horn and Putnam would be little impressed, no more so than Whisenant or Camping were when elements of their case were debunked. They would say we are missing the forest for the trees, and that their case was more complex (though we'll take on more aspects as we proceed with this series), or come up with some other sort of holier-than-thou threats of the wait-and-see variety.

Well, we will wait and see … and when Horn and Putnam find themselves on the ash heap of history, along with Whisenant and Camping, I'm sure we'll also see the same sort of skilled rationalization we got from those characters.


For our next installment on Petrus Romanus (“PR”), we will have a look at some of the outlandish conspiracy theory claims the authors use as secondary evidence for the corruption of the Catholic Church (which, in turn, enables them to more freely errantly argue that Petrus Romanus is the expected "false prophet" of Revelation).

Satanic Practices

PR appeals to the works of several authors who assert that various Satanic practices have been hidden by Catholicism. The first alluded to is Luigi Marinelli, an author of Gone with the Wind in the Vatican. The reliability of this source can be immediately questioned – as the obituary linked below notes, “no names were given, and most of the stories were decades old.” None of this means, of course, that the Vatican is free from scandal, but it also means that Marinelli is not a credible source to use for such outrageous charges made light of by the authors. Professional researchers, and practicing law professionals, would never use such tenuous material as evidence.

The authors also appeal to Emmanuel Milingo, who reputedly, while at an “Our Lady of Fatima” conference, charged high ranking members of the church hierarchy with being in league with Satan. It becomes quickly apparent that Milingo is not exactly a credible witness. Milingo is famous for having taken part in a marriage ceremony under the auspices of Sun Myung Moon (link below). Any evangelical leader who pulled such a stunt would hardly be taken as a credible witness. His statement about Satan, moreover, was tied to unspecified accusations of sexual impropriety, not to any sort of conspiracy theory. Again, this is not to say that the Vatican is free of all such things, but that the use of someone like Milingo as a source is the wrong way to make a solid case.

Their chief source of the sort, however, is Malachi Martin – a rather prolific writer in his time who also produced works of fiction. In one of those works, Windswept House, there is an account of a reputed "enthronement of the fallen Archangel Lucifer" in the Roman Catholic Citadel, on June 29, 1963, with an alleged parallel ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, the site of an important Masonic Lodge. The authors make much of this, and you can find this story repeated on many conspiracy-theory websites. Yet why take this as history when it is in a fictional novel?

That’s a Dan Brown story of sorts wherein the authors appeal to an interview of Martin by John McManus, in the New American of June 9, 1997, in which Martin said that the events described actually happened. However, there’s plenty of reason to be suspicious of these claimed “facts” based on what little Martin offers in the interview:

Q. Your book begins with a vivid description of a sacrilegious "Black Mass" held in 1963 in Charleston, South Carolina. Did this really happen?

A. Yes it did. And the participation by telephone of some high officials of the church in the Vatican is also a fact. The young female who was forced to be a part of this satanic ritual is very much alive and, happily, has been able to marry and lead a normal life. She supplied details about the event.

Any prosecutor would find a conviction difficult based on such limited hearsay. Martin’s sole source is (reputedly) one woman who was said to be part of this event – and who apparently only concluded, based on a telephone conversation at the event, that Vatican officials were on the other end of the line.

Various sources – many of them also of questionable worth – identify the woman pseudonymously as “Agnes” and say this event occurred in 1957, not 1963, and connect the event to Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (who was also accused of pedophilia by someone else later on, though those charges ended up dropped when the reputed victim, Stephen Cook, recanted – suffice to say there’s enough controversy there for another article entirely). At the time, the woman was supposed to be 11 years old, and supposedly reported these events to Martin in 1990.

Given historic hysteria surrounding claims of Satanic ritualism, and the confusion of dates, these claims will require a lot more refinement and checking to deserve the status and importance that PR gives them.

Franklin’s Hellfire

Among selected claims that follow are many offered in the service of a thesis that America was in some way founded as a Freemason’s occult paradise. We will check some of these in more detail in other contexts, but here, we will consider a claim – borrowed from their fellow conspiracy theorist Christian Pinto – that Benjamin Franklin was involved in occult sacrificial practices.

The sum of the matter is that Franklin – reputedly a Freemason of some note – was a member of a group called the Hellfire Club that mocked traditional religion, took part in orgies and also performed animal and human sacrifices. The main claim we will consider is this:

On February 11, 1998, the Sunday Times reported that ten bodies were dug up from beneath Benjamin Franklin’s home at 36 Craven Street in London. The bodies were of four adults and six children. They were discovered during a costly renovation of Franklin’s former home. The Times reported: “Initial estimates are that the bones are about two hundred years old and were buried at the time Franklin was living in the house, which was his home from 1757 to 1762 and from 1764 to 1775. Most of the bones show signs of having been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been drilled with several holes.”

The original Times article reported that the bones were “deeply buried, probably to hide them because grave robbing was illegal.” They said, “There could be more buried, and there probably are.” But the story doesn’t end there. Later reports from the Benjamin Franklin House reveal that not only were human remains found, but animal remains were discovered as well. This is where things get very interesting. From the published photographs, some of the bones appear to be blackened or charred, as if by fire… It is well documented that Satanists perform ritual killings of both humans and animals alike.

To begin, I think it is wise to report what the whole of this Times article said, including important parts PR (or Pinto?) left out, with the most important bolded.

WORKMEN have dug up the remains of ten bodies hidden beneath the former London home of Benjamin Franklin, the founding father of American independence.

The remains of four adults and six children were discovered during the £1.9 million restoration of Franklin's home at 36 Craven Street, close to Trafalgar Square. Researchers believe that there could be more bodies buried beneath the basement kitchens.

Initial estimates are that the bones are about 200 years old and were buried at the time Franklin was living in the house, which was his home from 1757 to 1762, and from 1764 to 1775. Most of the bones show signs of having been dissected, sawn or cut. One skull has been drilled with several holes. Paul Knapman, the Westminster Coroner, said yesterday: "I cannot totally discount the possibility of a crime. There is still a possibility that I may have to hold an inquest."

The principal suspect in the mystery is William Hewson, who, like Franklin, was a Fellow of the Royal Society, and the husband of Polly Stevenson, the daughter of Franklin's landlady, Mary Stevenson.

In the early 1770s Dr Hewson was in partnership with William Hunter, who, with his brother John, was one of the founders of British surgery. Dr Hunter and Dr Hewson ran a school of anatomy in Soho, but after an argument Dr Hewson left to live in Franklin's house, where he is believed to have established a rival school and lecture theatre. Dr Knapman added yesterday: "It is most likely that these are anatomical specimens that Dr Hewson disposed of in his own house, but we are still not certain about the bones' exact age or origin."

Evangeline Hunter-Jones, deputy chairman of the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, the charity concerned with restoring the property and opening it to the public, said: "The bones were quite deeply buried, probably to hide them because grave robbing was illegal. There could be more buried, and there probably are."

Brian Owen Smith has volunteered to lead researches on behalf of the friends. He said yesterday: "The discovery represents an important insight into very exciting years of medical history. Benjamin Franklin, through his support for Polly and Dr Hewson, socially and scientifically, was very much part of that."

To the suggestion that Franklin might have been a grave robber, or an accomplice to Dr Hewson, Hilaire Dubourcq, of the Friends of Benjamin Franklin House, responded: "It is possible that he has an alibi. It seems likely that he actually let Dr Hewson have use of the whole house for his school for a time, and went up the street to live with Mary Stevenson. He did not necessarily know what was happening below stairs in the house during his absence."

Dr Hewson fell victim to his own researches at an early age. He accidentally cut himself while dissecting a putrid body, contracted septicemia and died in 1774, aged 34.

Franklin, who wrote the opening words to the Declaration of Independence, continued to support the widowed Polly, and when he returned to Philadelphia he invited her there to live as his neighbour. Both her sons became eminent medical men, as have successive generations of Hewsons in America.

If the first Dr Hewson did obtain bodies for his experiments and demonstrations by robbing local graveyards, he risked the death penalty or deportation. He might have had the help of his students in secretly burying the remains beneath the four-storey house, where the dissections may have been performed.

It is hoped to reopen the house to the public at the end of the year. Regular visitors during Franklin's residency included Pitt the Elder (the Earl of Chatham), Edmund Burke, James Boswell, Adam Smith and Thomas Paine, the author of The Rights of Man.

It is notable that PR omits all reference to Hewson – and to the house being four stories, which makes it all the more possible that someone like Franklin could miss such a thing in “his own house.” (Pinto's own website, in what appears to be a 2011 version of what is quoted, does refer to Hewson, but merely quotes authorities as being "uncertain" of the reason for the bones, and does not check any further. Unfortunately I cannot check earlier versions as the page is not archived.) The official website of the Franklin house (links below) affirms the connection, as these worthy quotes indicate:

During the conservation of 36 Craven Street, excavation of the basement uncovered over 1,200 pieces of human and animal bones in what would once have been the House’s garden. Glass slides, ceramics, mercury and other material found, as well as the marks of saws and other instruments, suggest that these were the remains of William Hewson’s anatomy school, run from the house between 1772 and Hewson’s death of septicaemia in 1774. For the first time since their discovery ten years ago, a variety of the larger bone fragments, including skull and limb bones showing instrument marks, will be on display at Benjamin Franklin House, along with contextual information and images on Hewson’s life and contributions to anatomy and surgery.


The human remains derive from over 15 people and show dissection marks from surgical instruments (animal remains were found primarily in the front of the House in the old coal depositories). For example, a femur bone has been cut cleanly probably demonstrating the process of amputation. This was a valuable skill when there was little knowledge of sterilization and much diplomacy took place on the battle field! The skull pieces have circles drilled out from a trepanning device – a sample of one is on display in the Seminar Room. Trepanning was primarily used to relieve pressure on the brain. However, relatively few surgical operations had any likelihood of success; invasive procedures were made difficult by the possibility of major blood loss and infection, and the lack of anesthetic, not used until 1846.

Key evidence linking the Craven Street bones to Hewson’s anatomy school is a portion of a turtle spine and mercury found in the bone pit. In an experiment conducted in 1770 at the Royal Society, Hewson showed the flow of mercury through a turtle to highlight the lymphatic system. With help from Franklin, Hewson was elected to the Royal Society and received their Copley Medal for his work. Other items linked to anatomical study were also found in the bone pit, including microscope slides.

In Georgian England, the practice of anatomical study became increasingly popular. Limited hospital teaching left a gap filled by private schools like Hewson’s. They also satisfied growing interest in public health and talks by the experts were financially successful. Despite this, procuring bodies for dissection was not easy. It did not become a fully legal practice until 1832. It is likely that some of Hewson’s cadavers came from the so-called ‘resurrectionists’ – bodysnatchers who shipped their wares along the Thames under cover of night.

Given the evidence related to medical practice, it seems rather outlandish to make any connection – as Pinto and PR do – to any sort of occult activity. Pinto himself, in the aforementioned article online, waves off the evidence by saying that unnamed "researchers" are "doubtful" about this explanation; from this one suspects that the "researchers" are not actual experts in the subject, but conspiracy lunatics like Pinto. Another source, the Royal College of Surgeons, notes that:

Human and animal bones and teeth were interspersed with fragments of pottery, glassware, metalwork and even free-flowing globules of mercury. Amongst the zoological remains there was material from cats, dogs, fish and even marine turtles.

One wonders what Satanic rituals Pinto has in mind that sacrificed fish and turtles?

That leaves one point, where Pinto says that from “published photographs” some of the bones “appear to be blackened or charred as if by fire...” It is hard to address this without knowing what photos Pinto has in mind, but I could find no reputable source saying the bones had been burned or charred. I did find that bones can turn black because of manganese (an element critical to bone health, which also happens to cause the black staining one often sees in the toilet!), so barring better documentation by Pinto or PR, this should be taken as the better option.

We might close with some alleged "uncomfortable questions" Pinto asks in a vain attempt to refute the evidence:

If the humans were medical cadavers, why were they disposed of like so much trash beneath the house? Why not give them some kind of proper burial? If grave robbers could sneak into a graveyard to steal a body, they could also sneak in to put one back. Furthermore, why were the human remains mingled with those of animals?

Pinto is evidently not very bright, as it fails to occur to him that sneaking remains back invokes at least twice the risk of getting caught. That they "could" sneak back is true, as true as it is that a bank robber could return to rob the same bank twice. And not make a bit of sense in doing so. As for the mingling of bones, one may as well ask why medical experiments are done on animals even for human products. The disposal was obviously a convenience regardless of the purpose. Pinto's "uncomfortable questions" merely reflect his own ignorance and wishful thinking.

The Name of America

Common knowledge says America’s name came from an Italian explorer named Amerigo Vespucci. PR has a conspiracy theory with what they think is a better explanation which “mainstream academia has yet been willing to accept.” I can’t imagine why not!

According to PR, America was named after “Amaru” – a Peruvian deity to be equated with Quetzalcoatl. Thus, it is said, “Amaruca” literally means, “land of the plumed serpent.”

Their source for this claim is already a red flag the size of Rhode Island; namely, a non-serious historian named Manly P. Hall, a Freemason. A number of difficulties attend this thesis, not the least being one that escapes PR even as they have it in their own book: “America” is first listed as such on a map in 1507 by a German cartographer, while Hall traces the origins of “Amaruca” to the activities of Spanish priests in the early 1700s. It never occurs to PR’s authors to ask about the missing 200 years and where the German cartographer got the name.

There are a few other problems as well. “Amaru” associated with South American history is the name of an Inca monarch who lived in the mid-1500s (link below). Listings of Inca deities from various sources are conspicuously void of any “Amaru,” although there was apparently a tribe by that name, and the word did mean “serpent.” At best, it seems Hall confused an abstract term for a proper name.

One would like to see some comment on this sort of thing from a linguist specializing in the Incan language, but alas, Manly P. Hall is somehow good enough for PR. In the meantime, what do the real scholars say? There are other options on the table (link below, including a note that the –“ica” suffix would mean something like “great” or “high,” as applied to mountains – which belies Hall’s reading of “Land of the serpent”). An older one is that the name came from a gold-rich district and tribal name in Nicaragua, Amerrique. Another theory has the name coming from a Welshman named Richard Ameryk. And so on, as reflected in the conclusion to the article:

No definitive conclusions can be reached. Too many claims are, for lack of hard evidence, based on speculation. Theories about the true origin of the name are ultimately historical fictions. Yet behind these fictions lie compelling views of the New World. Taken together, they form a multicultural vision of its distinctive character. To hear Americus in the name; to hear the Amerrique Mountains and their perpetual wind; to hear the African in the Mayan iq' amaq'el; to hear the Scandinavian Ommerike, as well as Amteric, and the Algonquin Em-erika; to hear Saint Emeric of Hungary; to hear Amalrich, the Gothic lord of the work ethic, and the English official, Amerike — to hear such echoes in the name of our hemisphere is to hear the wishful projections of their proponents, as well as ourselves.

That is probably the best way to describe how PR manages to see “Amaru” involved.

Read more:

On Marinelli

On Milingo

Forum post preserving Times item on Franklin (WARNING: Forum user uses profanity)

Items from official Ben Franklin house website here and here

Items on Amaru here and here

On America's name here HR>

The following represents, for now, our final installment on Petrus Romanus (“PR”). Not that there is very little left; however, much of what remains, from the point we last stopped, consists of tendentious anti-Catholic rants, which places the commentary outside my scope of expertise. I will only say that since they rely on popular writers like Dave Hunt and John MacArthur for much of their information (and barely interact with any Catholic scholarship) I would be disinclined to trust Horn and Putnam, even if they happened to be right.

Mayan Mess

Starting on page 157, the authors appeal to the work of another fringe theorist, David Flynn. Flynn, it so happens, died in January 2012, so we won’t see any new material from him, which is just as well. His own specialized lunacy relates to the alleged “face” on Mars, and he was also into the usual Roswell conspiracy nonsense.

In PR, though, he is used for reference to alleged satellite images which found “a vast network of patterns that surround Lake Titicaca in Bolivia…”. Appeal is also made to “the megalithic ruins of Tiahuanaco”, which are alleged to exhibit “technological skill that exceeds modern feats of building.” Both of these are used in service of a notion that these things were built by Nephilim (i.e., giants).

How much is all of this worth…really, nothing. Horn’s website features airborne images of the “patterns” and Flynn’s analysis, but doesn’t mention that someone else more qualified decided that these were not what Flynn thought them to be. The patterns were determined by a scientist to be the remnants of an enormous agricultural project – one pursued by normal, everyday farmers (see link below). Flynn was aware of this interpretation, and while he admitted that some of the patterns are related to agriculture, he assured us that:

The raised farming fields (viewed above) are distinctly labyrinth in design and though extensive, constitute a small portion of the patterns that appear more ‘ritualistic’ in design.

We are also assured that one particular feature “is not consistent with any Inca farming technique,” though what qualifications Flynn has to assess and report on such a specialized topic is not explained.

What then of the ruins of Tiahuanaco? On this, it seems clear that Flynn and Horn are simply uncritically repeating folklore. One example will suffice: It is said that one of the larger stones was about 400 tons, and was moved to the site from over 200 miles away. Multiple sources (including David Browman’s Advances in Andean Archaeology) indicate that the heaviest stone at the site weighs 131 tons – and was taken from a site a mere 6 miles away. If this simple fact is gotten wrong by Flynn, what more needs to be said of the rest of his analysis, which attributes this feat to a race of giants?


Again, I won’t say much about the anti-Catholic rants in PR, but there are a couple of points worthy of note. One is the complaint that the Catholic Church excommunicated Martin Luther, but not Hitler or Mussolini. Thus it is said, “Rome’s record of spiritual fornication is unparalleled.”

There is, although, a big problem here; namely, this PR position is incorrect. Of Hitler, Margherita Marchione says in Pope Pius XII: Architect for Peace:

Because of their apostasy and violent actions against German clergy, Hitler and the other Nazi leaders, who were born Catholic, incurred automatic excommunication under Canons 2332 and 2343, which state, in part: “Those who, either directly or indirectly, impede the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction…persons who lay violent hands on the person of a Patriarch, Archbishop or Bishop…incur excommunication….

Of course, it is important to note that Hitler, as an adult, had long since abandoned Catholicism, so in a way, there was no basis on which to “excommunicate” him. One may as well try to excommunicate Farrell Till, from the Church of Christ, decades after his apostasy.

By the same token, just how relevant an excommunication would have been to Mussolini is open to question. Multiple academic sources report that Mussolini was an avowed atheist, and a fan of Nietzsche. This is a simple matter to discover, which says volumes about the lack of competence of Horn and Putnam as researchers.

2012: Later Additions

In Ticker posts we explored some claims of Horn from Apollyon Rising that in 2012 was predicted as an end by certain factors. To this he now adds that Jonathan Edwards – using Harold Camping-like mathematical shenanigans – predicted 2016 as an end date, and since this is 3 ½ years after 2012, it could fit in with a Tribulation period. As the authors unwittingly admit, though, Edwards' prognostication was based on shaky premises; namely, that he interpreted the 1260 days of Rev. 12:6 as years, and then counted up 1260 years from two dates he assigned significance to (i.e., the AD 606 recognition of the bishop of Rome, and the AD 756 acceding of temporal power to the Pope, the latter leading (+1260) to 2016). Though these are significant events, this is simply the same process used by Camping, in which he selected events and counted forward, merely picking the events randomly when others would do as well. Whatever virtues Edwards had as a preacher, he was clearly too creative when it came to eschatological exegesis. Although, and to Edwards’ credit, he also admits that his ideas were speculative (see link below for a copy of a letter reflecting his views).

The authors also managed to find a Presbyterian minister in 1878 who selected 2012 as an end date for the world, based on the same mathematical premises Edwards used, but selecting AD 752 as his start date, and so ending up +1260 at 2012. Unfortunately, the event he chose as his “start,” the Donation of Pepin, which organized the Papal States, didn’t occur in 752 (as the authors admit, but not clearly enough, when they refer to “a little disagreement” over the date). Instead, it consisted of two donations, in 754 and 756, but of course, the authors have the expedient for 756 of also using the 3.5 years of the alleged Tribulation.

Failure is already evident for PRs 2012 predictions by the authors’ use of rumors they heard in February 2012 that Pope Benedict would step down in April 2012. Rumors of Benedict’s resignation at that time, of course, proved false, and there is currently no sign of any resignation. The authors will be in for quite a time if Benedict remains pope as of 1/1/13, but we are sure that, like Harold Camping, Edgar Whisenant, and so many before them, that they will have excuses ready.

We also find a few new “2012” markers that have been added and, some others from Apollyon Rising, no longer present. Appeal is made to the Jewish Zohar, which is a forgery (link below), but which also contains this:

In the year seventy-three (5773 or 2012/2013) the kings of the world will assemble in the great city of Rome, and the Holy One will shower on them fire and hail and meteoric stones until they are all destroyed, with the exception of those who will not yet have arrived there.

Horn and Putnam were so excited about this one that they failed to notice a problem connecting it to their own ideas. They believe Petrus Romanus will destroy Rome, but here, it is not the city that is destroyed, it is the “kings of the world.” In addition, they fail to report the manifest failure of surrounding prophecies. If indeed, as they say, "73" is 2012-2013 (which is also far from clear, but we will leave it at that), then this prophecy should have been fulfilled in 2005/2006 -- and obviously has not been:

In the year sixty-six the Messiah will appear in the land of Galilee. A star in the east will swallow seven stars in the north, and a flame of black fire will hang in the Heaven for sixty days, and there shall be wars towards the north in which two kings shall perish. Then all the nations shall combine together against the daughter of Jacob in order to drive her from the world.

Another point, which I may have missed in Apollyon Rising, is a reference to the “Cherokee Indian calendar” and a set of prophecies that allegedly see an end coming in 2012. A problem arose at once when I could find no reliable academic sources that recorded these alleged prophecies. Eventually I dug out an astrology website (! – link below) that made these claims:

The Cherokee Rattlesnake Prophecy, also called the Chickamaugan Prophecy, is part of the Cherokee prophesies of 1811 made by “Charlie” and two women of the Cherokee tribe. They had visions in early February of 1811 near Rocky Mountain in Georgia. These prophesies are all over the internet, and from what I can gather, they were originally documented by missionaries and then finally published in 1993 in the American Indian Quarterly [1].

I ordered this magazine -- which surely ranks as the oddest thing I have ever ordered for the ministry -- and the article does not list any of these alleged prophecies reported by Horn and Putnam (see below). Thus I am now without even any proof that these prophecies they appeal to are authentic.

But what does it all mean, even if it did? Not much. The prophecies allegedly say, “In the year 2004 and 2012 an alignment will take place both on the Cherokee Calendar and in the heavens of the Rattlesnake Constellation both. It is the time of the doublehead serpent stick. It is the time of the Red of Orion and Jupiter against White Blue of Pleiades and Venus.” The astrology site connects this to a rare occurrence called the transit of Venus, in which Venus slides right in front of the sun (from our perspective). The rub of this: This isn’t a common phenomenon, but it does happen in a predictable cycle. Stargazers have been observing it for centuries, and the last instances occurred in 1761/1769 and 1874/1882. Quite frankly, it would not have been that hard for even an amateur stargazer to have calculated that the next one would be in 2004/2012.

Siri Thesis

As noted, we won’t comment extensively on issues related to Catholicism, but we would comment on the authors appeal to the so-called “Siri Thesis” – the idea that Cardinal Giuseppe Siri was elected as Pope in two conclaves, but refused the office because of some outside pressure. Horn and Putnam relate the pressure to “Masonic influences,” but are there any grounds for this “Siri Thesis”?

No, none at all. This is yet another fanciful conspiracy theory, and you can find it debunked in several places (links below), which also connect the alleged refusal of Siri to potential pressure from the Communist bloc (Siri was anti-Communist). One of the links also deals with the one scrap of real evidence Horn and Putnam allude to for this thesis, which is a quote from Siri in which he says he cannot reveal any secrets.

Horn and Putnam also appeal to rather questionable evidence by Malachi Martin, who claimed to have been an eyewitness to the conclave and seen this happen. However, apart from Martin’s questionable reputation as a conspiracy-monger (see earlier entry in this series), Horn and Putnam quote Martin as saying that there was influence by an “emissary of an internationally based organization” and then add in parentheses after the quote, “the Freemasons.” Martin himself does not name the Freemasons as the “organization” and there is no argument given for why they should be. It should also be noted that their chief source is one “Dr. William G. von Peters,” of whom nothing is said (in the online document) in terms of qualifications, or what that doctorate is in, and the only person by that name I can find is a doctor of alternative medicine.

Finally, a shameful note: Horn and Putnam incredibly buy into the proposition that the Spanish Inquisition killed around five million people, saying: “the death toll of the inquisition is difficult to ascertain largely because of Rome’s penchant for revisionist history.” Not surprisingly, they do not use a real scholarly source, like Kamen, for this claim; rather, their source is a horrifying-looking KJV Onlyist website (jesus-is-lord.com) which in turn cites J. A. Wylie, a 19th century Scottish Protestant commentator with no relevant credentials.

Our present interactions with Petrus Romanus conclude here, with the ultimate disproof already past.


  • 42 months
  • Andean references: (links defunct)
  • Siri thesis, (links defunct)
  • Zohar
  • Cherokee references here