A Critical Re-Examination of the Alberto Rivera Story

The Alberto Rivera story is one of the many things that may have fascinated many people, even saved people, for a very long time. Yours truly me, was once a follower of the story of the late Rivera’s supposed testimony of how, he an alleged former Jesuit priest, found Christ and became a missionary to Catholics. However, even during the time I was fascinated by the story, there were already links in the Internet that were proving Rivera was not a man of God but a charlatan. There are even claims that he wasn’t a former Jesuit priest. Though the Jack T. Chick had Sidney Hunter write a book to defend Rivera with a book called Is Alberto for Real? which tried to back-up some of Rivera’s claims. Some of Rivera’s claims can’t be denied as fact yet the guy has a lot of exaggerations. I failed to apply critical thinking and may have missed some parts that turned out exaggerated by artistic truth to start with.

The story of Rivera is divided into six parts. They are Alberto, Double-Cross, The Godfathers, The Force, Four Horsemen, and The Prophet. I really once owned all six comics (though I lost them eventually) which I used to share. It was said it contained very sensitive information. It was also said the comics were burned because they supposedly contained sensitive information. Yet, underneath Rivera’s charming smile in his videos and photos would hide a charlatan that we never knew was there. I used to dismiss all these claims as just “Jesuit misinformation” and believed that certain people were fed wrong information.

Remembering Catholicism: Crisis of Faith

One of the many videos still sold at Chick Publications is Catholicism: Crisis of Faith by Lumen Productions. The video itself featured some Catholic priests who left the system. Among then is the late Bartholomew Brewer, a former Carmelite priest, who founded Missions to Catholics International. I remembered reading Smokescreens? by Chick who later questioned Brewer’s credibility over Rivera’s. Chick was a distributor of the video for some time from Lumen Productions. I once questioned (and even wished) that Rivera was featured in that video because he had some interesting stories to tell. Later, it turned out that Brewer had information against Rivera. I thought Brewer was fed some wrong information yet along with him were two real former Jesuit priests, Victor Affonso (who was really in Spain at the time Rivera claimed he was a Jesuit) and Bob Bush. Neither former Jesuit priests gave a testimony as fantastic as Rivera’s! Bible Based Ministries (which worked with Brewer) wrote an expose revealing Rivera was a charlatan and that his story was far different from what Chick published.

Someone by the name of the late Roy Livesey wrote a book called Alberto Rivera: The True Story. The book revealed a lot of paranoia from Chick who accused Livesey (falsely) to be a Vatican agent. The book was picked up by Shaun Willcock who published it since Livesey went home to be with the Lord before it could be published. Rivera was published as a martyr, a man of God, and a victim of the Vatican. However, it seems that he really died of natural causes, not poisoning. Reading through the PDF document (as linked) would give anybody a mind-blowing expose. Rivera was not a man of God but a man of Satan, no better than the system he criticized. Livesey managed to interview some of the people involved in the making of Catholicism: Crisis of Faith regarding Rivera, including the two real former Jesuit priests. After reading the testimonies of Affonso and Bush-I’d say neither story would easily make a sensational comic book. Neither one of them told a story as fantastic as Rivera and that won’t sell as much as Rivera’s six-parter.

Page 62 of Alberto Rivera: The True Story reveals this one:

As regards Rivera’s idea of an asylum for such priests, I met with a former Jesuit priest, Victor Affonso. From 1960 to 1963 he was at the Spanish Jesuit house of San Cugat del Valles. This is only ten minutes by train from Tarrasa (Barcelona), and Victor said there was nothing in the Barcelona area like the insane asylum that the Alberto book describes. 

Victor Affonso was a Jesuit for more than 30 years and took the fourth vow. He is featured in the film, Crisis of Faith, which was available for sale at Chick Publications when I called there. The video exposes Roman Catholicism, and also includes the testimonies of former priest Bartholomew Brewer and former Jesuit priest Bob Bush, whom I have met and consulted concerning Rivera. Like all the other former priests interviewed, they believe Rivera was never a Roman Catholic priest.

What’s interesting to know is that Affonso was in Spain, at the same time when Francisco Franco ruled. If he was in Spain, he could’ve easily defended for Rivera’s testimony. Instead, what Affonso did was amazing to prove something was wrong. Affonso’s own actions would’ve already disproved some of Rivera’s claims such as the mad house for priests. Having been in a Spanish Jesuit house during that time would’ve meant he would’ve known Rivera, if ever, Rivera was a former Jesuit priest. Livesey’s consultation with the former priests verified that Rivera was never a former Roman Catholic priest!

I was thinking that perhaps Rivera wanted to be part of the video. However, Lumen Productions would’ve probably detected he was a fraudster. Probably, in some point, Affonso would’ve had a master list of Jesuit priests he worked with during that time duration and the name “Alberto R. Rivera” was absent. I think Affonso and Bush would’ve already exposed Rivera to be a charlatan. Lumen couldn’t risk adding lies into an anti-Catholic documentary that wants to win Catholics to Christ. They want the truth, nothing more and nothing less. Adding Rivera’s testimony into the video would be a serious distraction (by inserting conspiracy theories) and a number of lies that Rivera had told throughout the years!

Chances are that Affonso and Bush probably still spoke of Jesuit infiltration. However, they probably never spoke as fantastically as Rivera’s fraudulent testimony. They probably told Chick that Rivera was a fraudster but they were given the silent treatment. Chick could’ve chosen to retract the statement while he lived, release an apology letter, and decide to write Affonso’s and Bush’s testimonies into comic books. Yet, he chose to persist in releasing Rivera’s stories.

Page 101 also reveals this following information by Brewer himself:

In the same letter to me, Mr Brewer, at my request, enclosed a copy from “The Official Catholic Directory” containing the name of Bartholomew Brewer when he was in the priesthood. In brackets there was shown (SD). That means the “Diocese of San Diego.” Here was the evidence such as any former Jesuit priest ought to be able to supply.

As to Rivera’s supposed priesthood, Mr Brewer wrote: “…the burden of proof is on Rivera. Until he can be found in some “Official Catholic Directory” for Spain or wherever, he is not considered a priest. Can Rivera produce a copy of his baptism? If he was ordained a priest, a note would be affixed to the baptismal certificate about his ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood. It is always easy to identify the true former priest. Rivera is no exception.”Indeed, there are more ways that Mr
Brewer lists, and in his magazine, Mission to Catholics Challenge, he set down sixteen useful questions which might be asked of an ex-priest.

Indeed, how can hundreds or thousands of directories published year by year, with the names of the priests in a country or state, be eliminated? I have such directories in my office, and photostat copies from others. How can they all cease to exist? Jack Chick would have us believe that such is possible, and, from Chick Publications, 15th September 1980, he wrote: “Two months ago, this office received a telephone call from a European reporter telling of a sweep being made by priests through Spain,
destroying all evidence that Dr Rivera ever existed.

Which again starts to begin the question. Brewer mentioned he had plenty of records. Even more, Affonso and Bush were really Jesuit priests prior to salvation. Later, Chick wrote what could be the most blatant lie ever that any records of Rivera were “destroyed”. It seems that Chick had a very colorful imagination! Also, there’s even evidence of forgeries which I felt were not easy to do. I turns out that even his I.D. card was a fake.

Rivera as a sexually immoral pervert

The book also revealed the ungodly character of Rivera. Chick was really lying when he called Rivera as the most godly man he met. He probably knew Rivera’s story was “good for the money” so Hunter probably had to write the book.

What we can read about Rivera in page 66 is this fact that he cuts short out of the requirements to be a bishop or pastor in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

He (Rivera, emphasis mine) was a man that used to take advantage in advances with the girls, the students, with his eyes and with his hands. He was in the habit to come from behind and to embrace us, putting his hands on our breasts. Other girls had already stopped him using vulgarity. I was not very sophisticated, but I managed to grab his hand and to throw it back. He really was a pervert. When he was in class, he would go astray in his speech because he was looking under the table at the girls’ legs. That was despicable for a teacher. Well, he was trying to pass as a teacher. The worse is that he tried to trick us, telling us to be nice with him, that he also would be nice with us, giving us better grades and better treatment. It is a pity I don’t know the address of the other students. I know them but I don’t know where they live. They would say the same thing that I am saying about that guy, ‘the little priest’ as we used to call him.”

Teachers are supposed to be role models, mentors and not tormentors. Yet, reading this testimony that Rivera was supposed to be a role model, the husband of one wife, yet it was revealed he a very sexually immoral pervert like the late Jack Hyles and the late Tony Alamo. Speaking of Alamo, he also held a seminar with such powerful speech. Rivera sounded like he was a man of God. I listened to all his sermons and they felt very convincing. Too convincing. I once felt there was no way he was a fraud listening to them. He was so good in hiding himself. That alone is very chilling indeed. It’s really crazy how the comics tell the story of immoral Catholic priests but denies Rivera himself is no better than them.

Not to mention, Rivera’s ungodly character was revealed in his first failed marriage with Carmen Lydia Torres, a woman who he alleged helped him destroy colleges in the Alberto comic book. The information can be found in pages 57 to 58:

1965: Alberto left Hoboken (April 27th) with his wife Lydia, and infant son Juan. We have also seen this woman referred to as Carmen Lydia. The picture book fantasy, to be conceived much later, involved a character identified as Carmen. The identity of the factual person is Carmen Lydia Torres, from Puerto Rico. We meet her again later in the book.

1965: During Rivera’s stay in Hoboken, his wife made many complaints to the people at the Christian Reformed Church of her child being maltreated by him. The child died in El Paso of external hydrocephalus due to microgyria, on 27th July 1965.

Based on this one, Rivera is even further more disqualified as a pastor. Not only was he cheating on his first wife Lydia-he was also an abusive father. Later, he married his second wife Nury in the Dominican Republic. It seemed that Rivera wasn’t even formally divorced from Lydia. Page 46 of the book reveals this:

In 1977 Rivera married Nury Frias from the Dominican Republic. Her name, as well as other convenient changes, was substituted for Carmen Lydia’s. Unfortunately, ugly personal events, denied
by Rivera himself, are a feature of the Rivera story to which we have to return.

What would be interesting is that after Rivera’s marriage to Nury, he would set himself up as a Baptist minister and meet with Brewer. What happened to Lydia is somehow ambiguous according to the book. Apparently, she probably just disappeared into obscurity to protect herself but that’s just my assumption.

Manufactured evidence and tall tales

I remembered one of the “proofs” that Rivera was supposedly a former Jesuit priest was the ID card. However, the book in pages 70-71 reveals this about the alleged ID card for priests:

The picture will doubtless have served Rivera well as he established the idea of himself as a Roman Catholic priest in 1967. We see other individual pictures of him, wearing the Roman collar, in the front of all the 1991 comic books. Such a picture would be helpful for an Identity (I.D.) card. Rivera,
a native of Spain now returned, would doubtless be able to apply for one. It was twelve years since he left. His old one may have been lost or out of date.

“Father” Bustamente eventually was to make reference to Rivera’s I.D. card (see Picture 20). However, before his information, the subject warranted and received careful attention. For myself, I was able to give the card such attention in company with well-informed Spanish people (one a medical
doctor; another a pastor) when in the Canary Islands. When applying for an I.D. card in Spain in 1967, there was no check upon the occupation entered in the application for the card. Indeed, much like an application for a passport in my own country, the authorities would be hard-pressed if they were to
trouble about the occupation described. Indeed, they never did in my own case, and such was the case with occupations on I.D. cards in Spain in 1967. Furthermore, there was no restriction upon the kind of collar worn or not worn for an I.D. photograph.

Former Dutch Roman Catholic priest, H.J. Hegger, meets ex-Roman Catholic priests from overseas in the course of his ministry. In his report after travelling to California to interview Rivera, he confirm that the I.D. card much flourished by Chick Publications has no evidential value, and: “According to
Spanish ex-priests we know that 20 years ago it was very easy to obtain such a document with a bit of
deception.”

The date of the I.D. card is 19th June 1967, and we are entitled to take it that he was with the parish of San Lorenzo when he obtained the card. Mr Vila tells us that the address on the card, “Calle Pl. Immaculada,” is the address of “Parroquia de San Lorenzo, Tarrasa.” This, to the mind of Rivera, would surely add to the card’s evidential value. Did he seek the status of a priest with a parish address and a uniform? Was this all his fantasy? Did he yearn to be looked up to? Whatever his motives then,
with “Sacerdote” (priest) entered as his profession, the small I.D. card would prove a valuable tool in Rivera’s hands. It would be valuable for many years to come, not so much during this very short sortie back into Spain, but in the United States and, in particular, for the eventual marketing of Alberto by
Chick Publications

In earlier editions of Alberto (Part One), the important reverse side of the I.D. card containing the detail was not reproduced. All we had was the information we find in Alberto. Packed with irrelevant information, and flying in the face of the truth of the matter, the descriptive narrative written there by
Jack Chick is as follows:

“The I.D. Card was issued by the Spanish Government in Spain in 1967, under the rule of the Spanish Dictator Franco. His security forces were equally as strict as the Gestapo had been in Germany. To obtain this document, Alberto had to supply birth certificate, identification papers and positive proof from his archdiocese of being a priest. Several security organizations were involved, similar to our CIA and FBI. The priest, Alberto Rivera, had to be approved by all these organizations to receive this document. There was no way it could have been a forgery. There is no question he was a priest. What you see there is positive proof…”

Such is the statement of “J.T.C.” – Chick’s style as the author of these picture books. We are entitled to ask what proof Mr Chick has found. Many have asked him. Sadly, Jack has turned down
invitations to consider the evidence of others, and he produces little of his own. He has often stated that he believes Rivera’s story because he “prayed about it.”

Indeed, along with many other well meaning, professing Christian men, confronted with such a man as Alberto, they will do anything except think about it in order that they might pray intelligently about it. The I.D. card described on the inside covers of all the later printings of the six books is described as
follows: “Dr Rivera was assigned to stay at the address on the above I.D. Card pending the decision of his ecclesiastical trial in 1967, just before his conversion to Christ.” Indeed, the address could be a correct one, and such is the small grain of truth in the caption. The rest are lies. The lies help relate the I.D. card to the further lies of the books. Alberto puts his conversion later on in 1967. Yet, now with the card in his hand and a set of priest’s clothing, we don’t find Rivera staying in Barcelona, or in
Tarrasa which is part of the Barcelona administrative district.

The evidence that he was allegedly a “director” at a certain parish turned out to be manufactured as well as revealed in pages 69-70:

A Teacher at Colegio San Juan XXIII Explains the Photograph of Rivera Seated at the Desk with Her and Other Teachers

Mrs Celia Ros is the teacher seen seated on Rivera’s left, seen on the inside front cover photograph (Picture 20). She identified the other teachers in the picture with Rivera and described that scene. It is the Colegio San Juan XXIII. It is known from an original and official source that this school later reported its serious complaints about Rivera to an enquirer from the United States.

Celia Ros said the school was founded in the 1960s as a private organisation by the Escolopian priest, “Father” Alejandro Garcia-Duran de Lara. At that time the neighbourhood lacked urban and social amenities after a storm in 1962 with loss of life and much damage. Mrs Ros worked personally with “Father” Alejandro from 1963 to 1968. He is now in Mexico City, working among poor children there. Mrs Ros adds that he has not forgotten Rivera and the problem of the money. The school has
since become a public school, dependent upon the authority of Catalonia.

Another teacher in the photograph became a priest. “Father” Corbera was, at that time, teaching classes in the school. Today he is the parish priest of San Jose. He still lives in Tarrasa.
In the photograph, the teachers are in the teachers’ room, where they prepared the lessons. Mrs Ros said it was difficult to know why Rivera would be there, but that probably the photograph was to provide some evidence of his presence. Rivera was neither director nor one of the personnel of the school. The director was a priest of the religious order of las Escuela Pia (the Pious School). Mrs Ros evidenced that Rivera was a Protestant. She informed me that Rivera was accommodated because of
the ecumenical spirit which then prevailed. In the beginning she regarded him as a Protestant religious man who was eager to know of the religious activities of the officers of the Catholic Church. She said his eventual disappearance was much talked about, because he left so many unpaid debts as the result
of many telephone calls to the United States. Mrs Ros added that there was suspicion that Rivera was an impostor.

Some still try to say that Rivera could’ve not time-traveled. However, this evidence shows that Rivera indeed was really a charlatan who knew how to create manufactured evidence. Not to mention, the use of artistic license really could help. A re-reading of the Alberto series with a critical mindset may make you realize some details that were missed. You may also notice some inconsistencies and claims that can’t be backed up. I do believe that Kathryn Khulman was indeed openly a Vatican shill, however, is there any evidence that cult leader Jim Jones was secretly a Jesuit agent as said in Double Cross?

Not to mention, the artistic license can be described as followed by the Kindled Flame Blog’s article “The Mirror Image Syndrome“:

In the Double Cross, after he had left the monastery with his sister, the Mother Superior said with a frown:

“He is damned forever! The Virgin will take care of this Father Rivera. He is another Judas that has sold out our Holy Father, the Pope.”

How did Rivera know she said this?

Later, a Vatican priest asks his fellow, “Would Father Rivera go to the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons?” the other priest replies, “Never! He’s a real Christian and he knows about their false teachings.”

Rivera wasn’t present there, so how did he know they said this?

Was he also suggesting that Catholic leaders don’t consider themselves to be real Christians but secretly admit that Protestants are?

Either Rivera or Chick was putting words into these people’s mouths to further an agenda.

Which again, I really have to agree that I used to buy that, hook, line, and sinker, without considering the artistic license behind it. Blink and you will miss that Rivera himself has some fantastic claims.

In The Force, Rivera even goes as far as to create a fantastic claim in the introduction scene in doing an exorcism. Eventually, the more you read it, the more you’ll realize it’s probably fabricated. The scene almost feels like it was taken from a godless Hollywood horror movie (such as The Exorcist) than a real-life exorcism. I think Affonso and Bush would’ve probably talked about it as another manufactured story. Where were the newspapers to even prove the incident really happened? Then, you’ll even read, blink and you’ll miss, the claim that somebody’s leg allegedly got restored in Lourdes. Crowds were cheering. However, you may be surprised (or not) to find that no Catholic ever claimed that legs grew back in Lourdes! Sure, we can hear of miracles of legs healed at that same spot but not a missing leg restored. Something is really wrong with Rivera’s claims!

The long-term consequence of promoting the fake story

Pages 111-112 reveal the long-term damage that it caused in the quest to win Roman Catholics to Christ. The following words should tell you of the long-term impact of Chick Publications’ intellectual dishonesty:

Historically it has always been difficult to evangelise Roman Catholic people because of fear, suspicion, religious pride, ignorance of God’s word and a misguided loyalty. Since the Chick comic books, it has been made more difficult. Catholic people have become more defensive and more reactionary. 

In one sense it is easier today because of the crisis of confusion in the Roman Catholic church. However, on the other hand the comic series has made Roman Catholics apprehensive about those Christians who reach out to Roman Catholic people with the sufficiency of His Word. In speaking around the country, we have had a number of Alberto followers, always in groups, and during question and answer time they commonly become rude and antagonistic when we express our concern about the comic books. In every situation they were young enthusiastic people, impressed by the comics, and let down to find that things were not so. For example there is the overwhelming evidence that he was not a priest, and the burden of proof is upon him. 

“The same questions have come up in Britain, the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and in the Philippines. In the United States ninety per cent of the people tell me, whether in public or in private, that they ‘thought something was wrong.’ The fact that the question is asked is indicative of doubt.” 

Wilson Ewin’s book, You Can Lead Roman Catholics to Christ, has run through many editions since it was first published in 1961. The 1991 edition lends weight to what Mr Brewer and other ministries to Roman Catholics are saying about wrong evangelism tools. Referring to the bad evangelistic literature that has already reached Roman Catholic hands, Wilson Ewin writes: “This has already created a suspicious or even hostile attitude in the mind of the Catholic as he is approached with your literature… One source in particular must be held responsible for damaging the ministry among Roman Catholics on a global scale. Chick Publications of Chino, California began printing full-size comics on the topic of Catholicism in the 1970s. These have been distributed around the world and advertised as useful for ‘winning Roman Catholics to Christ.’ However the contents of The Crusaders produce the very opposite effect when used indiscriminately, that is, without careful selection by the evangelist. No word of caution or warning has ever come from Chick Publications.

What can be seen is that Brewer’s desire to win Catholics to Christ has been ruined by such a false story. It’s really a sad thing that I bought everything just because a book was published to defend him. It seems to be that Hunter’s book was nothing more than a pathetic attempt to defend a sensational story for money. It seems Chick did have a huge love for money over the truth. It would be best to question Chick Publications’ credibility because it has really damaged any opportunity to win Catholics to Christ.

Page 130 of the book would tell you something is wrong with the book Is Alberto for Real with this statement to close:

In reply I can answer that I read Is Alberto for Real? before ever commencing any research of my own. I dismissed the book because it failed to address the question in its title. It presents no evidence to show that Alberto is for real, and the Canadian Protestant League have produced nothing either. It should be easy for Rivera and his supporters to produce positive evidence, assuming Rivera is not a fraud. Inevitably it can prove to be a major task to prove a negative, particularly where such a
smokescreen has been sent up, and with a subject who has been a fraud, virtually unchecked, for getting on for forty years. Yet I trust that by this point in our book most readers will have been
persuaded that no stone is being left unturned in addressing Rivera’s claims, and those made on his behalf, by his dupes among the professing Christian leaders around the world.

Different reports and different stories come from different people and different places. Most are ugly stories. This author has encouraged every kind of testimony in the hope of getting some kind of balance and evidence of something good. It was an ugly story that was related to me in Colorado, where I was staying in a lovely, spacious home. It belonged to an Evangelical author and her husband. When speaking locally, Rivera was taken there with his family, but he was not satisfied. Strangely, he said it was important that he had five telephones. He was taken by my friends to a smart hotel. They duly settled him in at their own expense.

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FRANKLIN

A former Roman Catholic turned born-again Christian. A special nobody loved by a great Somebody. After many years of being a moderate fundamentalist KJV Only, I've embraced Reformed Theology in the Christian life. I'm here to share posts about God's Word and some discernment issues.