“World Gone Bonkers”
In 2020 I wrote a series of articles looking at Marian apocalypticism and some of the forms it takes today in the Church. Here, I am offering a new addition to this series by examining a figure who acts as an accessible social-media gateway to conspiracist apocalypticism: Father Mark Goring. My purpose is to provide a birds-eye view of Fr. Goring’s output and examine the ideas behind his rhetoric, so that those who are drawn to his work may develop a better understanding of what they may be getting into.
Fr. Goring is a parish priest in Ottawa, Canada (where I live), but his audience is global. His YouTube channel has 179,000 subscribers, and his video messages sometimes reach heights of engagement of over 100,000 views and/or 1000 comments each. His videos tend to be in the three-minute range and cover a variety of general spiritual topics, usually peppered with oblique commentary on politics and culture. His style is mildly folksy, but with a hard populist edge, and he continually stresses the idea that the world is going crazy—or in one of his more memorable phrases, that it is going “bonkers.”
Over time, Fr. Goring has forged contacts with many of the regulars in the reactionary Catholic mediasphere. On his YouTube channel you can find videos of him speaking with people like Bishop Joseph Strickland, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Taylor Marshall, Timothy Gordon, Ralph Martin, and Alexander Tschugguel.
I should say at the outset that there is much to praise about Fr. Goring. He is clearly passionate about the Catholic faith and has a talent for communication that is evidenced by the adoring comments he receives from those who apparently find great comfort and inspiration in his words. This aspect of Fr. Goring is not particularly problematic; my real concern is that he appears to be advocating a “lite” version of a particular brand of conspiracist apocalypticism, and that his ordinary parishioners or casual YouTube fans may not realize this. That being said, I do not wish to see Fr. Goring “cancelled.” If anything, I wish he wasn’t so cautious with his speech, so that his intentions might be more obvious to those unfamiliar with the idea-world he inhabits.
Six years ago, Fr. Goring started publishing short YouTube videos with titles like the following:
“Sober Intoxication of the Spirit”
“Our Children Must Know God’s Word”
“Spirituality of Digging a Stump”
“7 Ways the Ocean Is Like God”
“Where Peter Is, There Is the Church”
This is innocuous stuff, and the videos display Fr. Goring’s communication skills along with his “charismatic” orientation (in both senses of the word). For a few more years he continued in this vein, gaining exposure and an online following. He did make some waves in Catholic media in early August 2016 when, according to an article in LifeSiteNews, he released a video stating that “The blood of these unborn children is on your hands if you vote for and support an aggressively pro-abortion politician.” At the time he was the director of the Catholic Charismatic Center in Houston, Texas. The video appears to have since been deleted.
At one point in 2019 he was told to “cease and desist” by someone in a position of ecclesial authority (the details are not clear), and as a result he apparently deleted some of his videos regarding the abuse crisis. The videos from 2019 that are still up show an increased focus on culture-war topics and controversies drawn from conservative Catholic media outlets that tend to be hostile toward the Francis papacy. One can find titles like the following:
“Amazon Synod and Pagan Rituals”
“Cardinal Sarah Can No Longer Be Silent”
“Amazon Synod Statues thrown into Tiber River”
Apocalypticism and Conspiracism
Around the time of the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic things began to get darker, with apocalyptic themes surfacing regularly in his videos. I am including a long list of video titles here, but it is necessary in order to show some of the key terms used by Fr. Goring:
“One World Religion Warning”
“THE COMING CHASTISEMENT”
“The Chastisement: BE NOT AFRAID!”
“How to Avoid WW3: COMMUNION ON THE KNEES”
“2020: Illumination of Conscience Year”
“Coronavirus = Chastisement?”
“Pachamama & Coronavirus”
“The Three Days of Darkness”
“Writing a Book During Wuhan Chastisement”
“THIS IS A CHASTISEMENT: and here’s why…”
“Make Your Home A PLACE OF REFUGE”
“The Anti-Christ One World Government”
“MSM: I DON’T NEED YOU ANYMORE!!!”
“STOCKPILE FOOD NOW!”
“Darkness Over the Earth and a Sign in the Sky”
“THE GREAT RESET”
“Health Scare Dictatorship”
“Longing for an Illumination of Conscience”
“New World Order”
“My Friends who are Not Afraid to Die!”
“Don’t Mention the MARK OF THE BEAST”
“End Times Bean Cooker for the Coming Apocalypse”
“China Urges: Stockpile Food and Supplies?!?!”
“Prepper Advice for this Winter”
“We are in the End Times”
“Tyranny: Asking Questions is Illegal”
I should be clear that these are only video titles, and the content in the videos themselves is not usually as extreme as the titles might suggest. Some of the videos even display a tongue-in-cheek attitude when it comes to the use of apocalyptic language. This, however, seems to be part of Fr. Goring’s rhetorical strategy. “End Times Bean Cooker for the Coming Apocalypse,” for example, is intended to be a silly title. At the same time, the video does feature Fr. Goring testing out what might be called a “prepper” accessory at his wilderness retreat, and one gets the feeling that he is more than a simple camping enthusiast.
At times he veils what I assume are his real targets by focusing on something a little less controversial. “New World Order,” which was posted in late August 2021 when the vaccine controversy was reaching its peak in the North American Catholic world, is focused on the issue of transgender athletes in the Olympics. However, the viewer is left with the idea that such developments in athletics are just one manifestation of the NWO in action, and is encouraged to look for other signs of the times that point to a looming globalist tyranny (hint, hint!):
In some videos he speaks only in generalities, leaving the viewer to do the work of connecting the dots. In this video on the Mark of the Beast from mid-September, which generated almost 150,000 views and over 1400 comments, it’s difficult to determine exactly what he’s getting at:
With Fr. Goring, however, context is everything. He of course knows that there are fundamentalist Christians, both inside and outside the Catholic Church, who see the COVID vaccines as something equivalent to the Mark of the Beast. He knows that some Catholic sites like LifeSiteNews are relentlessly pushing misinformation about the vaccines and conspiracy theories about the machinations of global elites. Undoubtedly, many of Fr. Goring’s viewers will interpret him within this context, whether he is aiming for that or not.
Fr. Goring may sometimes laugh at himself, strategically shift focus, or speak only in generalities, but terms like the New World Order, the One World Religion, the Great Reset, the Anti-Christ, and the Mark of the Beast, especially when taken together and placed in our current cultural context, all point to that mix of Christian apocalypticism and conspiracism that has undergone a great resurgence and caused so much pain during the coronavirus pandemic. These are ideas with consequences.
Hints of “The Warning”
There is even more in Fr. Goring’s rhetoric, though, than garden-variety apocalypticism and conspiracism. Some of his language points to some rather strange ideas currently in circulation regarding the end times. In my last instalment of this series on Marian apocalypticism, in which I looked at the influence of Fr. Michel Rodrigue, I provided an introduction to a site named Countdown to the Kingdom which in many ways presents a synthesis of Marian apocalypticism as it exists in the world of charismatic-leaning Catholicism today. You can visit the “timeline” on their site, which offers a detailed prophetic narrative.
There’s a lot of information to take in on this timeline, and reading it all requires a lot of clicking around, but I will attempt to summarize the understanding of the end times presented by Countdown to the Kingdom. According to the site’s creators, we are entering the period of The Great Storm (visualized on their website timeline as a giant hurricane). First we will experience a time of social turmoil, economic distress, and persecution of Christians, followed by an event called The Warning, also known as the Illumination of Conscience. During the Illumination of Conscience, the sun will go out, a blazing sign of the Cross will appear in the sky, and for a short time all people on earth will be granted total comprehension of their sins and the consequences of their past sins. After the Warning will come The Reprieve—the eye of the hurricane—during which all people, having had their eyes opened by the Illumination of Conscience, will be able to choose whether or not to accept God. Those who accept God must then, during the Time of Refuges, seek both physical and spiritual shelter from the Divine Chastisements that are to come. During the terrible time of Divine Chastisement, the Antichrist will rise to power, leading to the climax of the Three Days of Darkness, during which hordes of demons will roam the earth, leaving death and destruction behind them. God will allow this to happen in order to cleanse the world, and only the faithful remnant in their refuges will be safe. After this great cleansing will come the much-anticipated Era of Peace, when God’s Will will be done on earth as It is in Heaven. During the glorious Era of Peace, the remnant will be rewarded by being transformed in both body and spirit. After the Era of Peace, there will be one last battle between good and evil before the Second Coming.
This narrative has been pieced together by the authors of the Countdown to the Kingdom website from the statements of an array of prophets and mystics—chief among them being Fr. Michel Rodrigue, who I have already mentioned, and Luisa Piccarreta, whose writings constitute the foundation of the dubious Divine Will movement. Father Goring is certainly familiar with both of these figures. For example, in this video he addresses the disavowal of Fr. Rodrigue’s messages by Bishop Gilles Lemay, but at the same time appears to nevertheless promote Fr. Rodrigue’s ideas regarding making one’s home a place of “refuge.”
Fr. Goring also conducted an extensive interview with Daniel O’Connor from the Countdown to the Kingdom website on the subject of Luisa Piccarreta:
O’Connor’s fascination with Piccarreta is rooted in the idea, drawn from her prophecies, of a coming Era of Peace or Eucharistic Reign. Although he does not provide extensive details regarding this Era of Peace in his talk with Fr. Goring, he does in his book The Crown of History: The Imminent Glorious Era of Universal Peace (2019), where he describes “A Day in the Life of a Citizen of the Era.” During this Era, according to O’Connor, all people will live in mystical communion with God’s Will. The earth will be transformed by new and wondrous forms of vegetation, decrepit urban ghettoes will be transformed into rural paradises, and box-stores will give way to small marketplaces. Through “infused knowledge,” people who were previously ordinary will become great polymaths whose talent and intelligence will easily exceed even the great Renaissance masters. Without any special training or exercise, people will be capable of great feats of strength. All animals will obey humans and serve them. Death will still exist, but human bodies will be incorruptible. It’s pretty weird stuff, and although I know O’Connor has a great library of talking points explaining why he is not promoting the heresy of millenarianism, it sure sounds a lot like millenarianism. In any case, it’s far from mainstream Catholicism and it’s unsettling that Fr. Goring appears to give it some credence.
In the end I can’t say how deeply Fr. Goring has absorbed the Countdown to the Kingdom apocalypticism, but if we look at the titles of Fr. Goring’s more recent videos we can find a number of the key terms from their timeline, namely the Chastisement, the Illumination of Conscience, Refuges, and the Three Days of Darkness. Conspiracy theories regarding the New World Order, COVID, and the coming of World War III, while certainly not unique to this type of Marian apocalypticism, can also be found on the Countdown to the Kingdom website.
This is the idea-world into which Fr. Goring is drawing his fans—and possibly also his ordinary parishioners. His rhetoric may inspire a feeling of spiritual vitality, but this vitality is ultimately based on a fearful view of the world, despite all of Fr. Goring’s “be not afraid” rhetoric. His fear of the world outside Catholicism (and even perhaps forces within Catholicism) has driven him to entertain fantasies of things to come that have, at best, a very uncertain connection to what the Church actually teaches.
“Hold my beer”
I’ll provide one more example to reinforce my claim that conspiracist apocalypticism is Fr. Goring’s central obsession these days. Earlier this year, Fr. Goring published a novella—available from Amazon, but in paperback only—called Hold My Beer: An Apocalypse. The title itself captures the essence of Fr. Goring’s approach, namely apocalyptic ideas wrapped in a friendly and jokey package (“hold my beer” being a popular saying on social media).
The novella tells the story of an Ottawa priest, Father Pedro, and five American Catholics who must take refuge in the Canadian wilderness after they find themselves caught in the midst of the “Media Reset”: the takeover of all global telecommunications networks by the New World Order, who are also referred to as “the Globies.” These American Catholics are all participants from the annual Kingdom Media Conference in Ottawa. Ralph is a traditionalist podcaster, Christie is a black woman who works for Pro-Life News Service in Detroit, Texas is a young Catholic YouTuber, Mother Elijah (her name being an allusion to Michael O’Brien’s novel, Father Elijah: An Apocalypse) is a Louisiana sister and writer, and Dominic is a Dominican friar who is well-known on social media. All of them are known opponents of the NWO. Worried that that they will be arrested by NWO forces and put into concentration camps, they escape to a cabin on a remote island where they must wait out the period of persecution.
It’s a strange little book that once again shows an apocalyptic, paranoid worldview at work. If we read it in context of Fr. Goring’s career as a YouTuber, the implications are pretty clear: Fr. Goring, we may assume, sees himself as someone like the American Catholic Internet personalities in the story—the brave few who are willing to stand up to the globalists of the New World Order and their mainstream media outlets. Like them, he is ready to face being persecuted or driven into exile for his Catholic views. It is not a stretch to claim that he is living a persecution fantasy like the one in his novella. One of his more recent homilies is actually called “Not Bowing to the New World Order,” which you can watch here:
In the homily, he compares mainstream media to the populist Hutu media outlets that helped fuel the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This comparison is simply not rooted in reality, and is a profound insult to those who have suffered from violent persecution and genocide.
All of Fr. Goring’s conspiracist apocalypticism feeds into his sense of grandiosity—of being the central figure in a cosmic drama—and he may be instilling these same feelings of grandiosity in those who listen to him. To do such a thing is irresponsible while we are in the midst of a global crisis, when people need to be thinking clearly and calmly about their own health, the health of their families, and the health of society. Further, it contradicts the calls for dialogue, openness, and cooperation that Pope Francis has been sending to both the Church and the world.
Sure, it does sometimes feel like the world has gone bonkers, but this is not the time to indulge in persecution fantasies or seek refuges in anticipation of the great chastisements to come. This is a time for Catholic unity and the establishment of solidarity and fraternity as we face great global challenges. We must stay rooted in our shared reality, fragile and confusing as it may be, and resist the easy answers provided by demagoguery and doomsday prophecy, even if they come wrapped in an appealing clerical package on YouTube.