By Mary Polking, Columnist
Over spring break I took a bus down to a college town in South Carolina to visit my boyfriend – a two-and-a-half hour trip over badly paved South Carolinian highways, past knockoff Waffle House and nondenominational Christian churches, in a half-full Greyhound with no air conditioning. For those of you who haven’t traveled on a Greyhound bus before, it’s really an experience like no other. What’s the mysterious fluid in the seat next to you? Did anyone else see your driver run that red light just now? Who started the fight that made the bus 2 hours late to your stop, who ended it, and how many cops were required to break it up? You may never learn the answers to these questions, and that’s probably for the better. But as long as you keep to yourself and mind your own business, it’s not an unpleasant time.
Knowing I’d get bored staring out the window at the knockoff Waffle Houses and speculating about the mysterious fluid in the seat next to me for two and a half hours (pretty sure it was Arizona tea, judging from the empty bottle in the cupholder), I’d packed some reading for my trip: a book my mother had been talking about, although she hadn’t read, called AA-1025. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Maybe you haven’t. It’s a small, fairly old (early-to-mid 20th century) book, around 100 pages, with a strong claim: the Church has been infiltrated by Communist spies intent on tearing Catholicism apart from the inside.
The book was released by a French nurse and religious sister by the name of Marie Carré. According to the claims made in her introduction, a man critically injured in a car accident was brought to the hospital where she worked, and she cared for him until his death, trying her best to get to know him although he could not speak or communicate. When he died she discovered among his possessions a briefcase containing a hundred-page-or-so memoir of the man’s life, and this memoir is published as AA-1025: the story of the unnamed man who serves as the 1025th Anti-Apostle (hence the name) to infiltrate the Church as part of a Communist scheme to dismantle Her from the inside.
Let me tell you, this man is a trip. After a happy childhood in Poland with loving, caring parents, he finds out at age fourteen that he’s adopted and is so overcome with angst that he leaves Poland for Russia to become a Communist. In Russia, he hangs out with his friend’s cool uncle, who is also a Communist, and after six years of angst gets a job taking down the Catholic Church by becoming a priest so that he can pervert Catholic culture from the altar.
So our guy returns to his native Poland and tells dear old Mom and Pop – who are pretty stoked to learn that he’s still alive – that he intends to be a priest. When the local parish priest, described as a wise and well-loved man, senses that something is off and tells the man that his soul isn’t worthy of priesthood, AA-1025 kills him with the kung fu skills he apparently has (that he hasn’t mentioned until now), makes the death look like a heart attack, and goes on with his mission. He goes to seminary in Rome, where he’s super popular and first in all his classes. He confesses to every priest in the seminary that he’s secretly a Communist spy knowing they can’t snitch on him because they’re under the Seal of Confession (which, like every other facet of Catholicism, he thinks is stupid). In his downtime, he begins writing his own plans for the future of the Church – plans involving instating female priests, becoming more friendly to Protestants, and removing Catholic traditions like candles on the altar until the Mass becomes nothing more than a sort of family dinner. What’s funny is that a lot of the details of his plans are easily recognizable by us – things like Mass translations in the vernacular – as actions taken after Vatican II. In fact, the man talks about Communist influence in Vatican II, and plans for a Vatican III that destroys even more traditions.
In time dear old AA-1025 falls in love with a beautiful Catholic woman whom he tries and fails to convert to Communism, gets ordained and thereby loses his lady love forever, finds that she has joined a convent, which upsets him, and launches a movement to loosen up the rules of convents in the hopes of maybe one day seeing her again, and our story comes to an unhappy close with a brief afterward from Marie Carré herself. All in all, it touches all the bases of a great secret agent story: intelligent and capable hero, plan to take down a major worldwide organization, tragic backstory, tantalizing romance, and kung fu.
But that’s the thing. A story that great can’t possibly be true, can it?
The first few chapters I read with relative credulity. They reminded me of another memoir about Communism and the Church, The Deliverance of Sister Cecilia, which I read and loved in middle school because it’s a genuinely amazing story. However, by the time AA-1025 broke out his incredible martial arts skills, I was having doubts. This guy takes every opportunity to toot his own horn – he makes sure to emphasize that he’s much smarter than literally everyone he encounters, including his Communist superiors – but killing a priest with his bare hands with no evidence whatsoever? That’s a lot to swallow. In the next few chapters I started noticing recurring themes. Communist agents, supposedly the man’s comrades, are described in consistently negative lights. AA-1025 has no respect whatsoever for most of his coworkers, casting them as stupid or traitorous most of the time – to be fair, they’re Communist spies after all, and our guy does want to emphasize how much smarter and cooler he is than everyone else, but it’s still a bit odd that in a memoir about his work for the Communists, he’d describe them as such buffoons and snakes. On the other hand, Catholics are portrayed in an extremely positive light. AA-1025 makes sure to emphasize that he hates priests, but he also goes into detail on their charisma, their good reputations, their wise responses, their willingness to die for their beliefs. His love interest, a devout Catholic, is described as the most beautiful woman in the world, and at times he details her responses to his opinions more than he details his own opinions. Which is … odd, considering how much he hates Catholics and their beliefs. All in all, despite the fact that this man writes himself as the protagonist of this story, he makes clear in his writing that he’s working for the bad guys and against the good guys. Not to mention, if his influence in Vatican II was half as impactful as he claims, surely there’d be some kind of record of him somewhere, with maybe a mention of his mysterious disappearance, but there’s no such record to be found.
This begs the question: what, precisely, is AA-1025?
Is it a lie written by traditional Catholics to scare others into returning to pre-Vatican-II traditions? If so, it’s intensely upsetting. Whatever one believes about Vatican II, making up a Communist conspiracy to further your beliefs is kind of a drastic action to take, not to mention a deceitful one. Either way, it’s a warning. When we do away with Church traditions, we do away with the Church itself. The bad guys know this, so we need to be aware of it too.
This, however, brings me to dwell on what AA-1025 isn’t. Warning though it might be, it isn’t a very good one. Too straightforward to be a parable, too convoluted to be a sermon, possibly fabricated, incredibly pretentious, and taking the worn-out route of blaming Communism for everything that’s gone wrong.
Whether AA-1025 is true or fabricated is not my judgement to give. Personally, I find it hard to believe, but I’m also an adult woman who considers five Oreos and a bag of microwave popcorn a balanced meal, so you may want to look elsewhere for truly solid and sensible judgments. If you have the time, read it. Look it up online and see what people say about it. Believe it, if you think it’s true, and if you get the chance send me your opinion on our guy’s incredible kung fu skills.