1995- Tracts Unsuspecting People Read- Pierre Savoie

by Victoria Jesswein published 2022/11/12 09:28:25 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:28:26-07:00
The Rise and Fall of a Joint Religious Catholic/Anti-Catholic Anti-D&D Tract That Just Wasn't Kosher by Pierre Savoie (InterNet: drac@wbb.com) Feb. 1995

Subject: Catholic anti-D&D (1/2)
Newsgroups: rec.games.frp.misc
From: drac@wbb.com
Date: Tue, 07 Feb 95 00:39:48 EST


The Rise and Fall of a Joint Religious Catholic/Anti-Catholic
Anti-D&D Tract That Just Wasn't Kosher

by Pierre Savoie (InterNet: drac@wbb.com) Feb. 1995

I am offering the following testimonial as a focus on
religious tracts which demean the Dungeons & Dragons fantasy
role-playing game, made by TSR, Inc. The Catholic tract I cite
is only a small part of many religious anti-D&D tracts, books and
even videos which vilify the hobby, and in fact it is the only
example from the Catholic sect that I could ever find. But all
religious tracts cite from the same sources, even if in this case
the result was disastrous for the religious integrity of the
In 1984, the Daughters of St. Paul (50 St. Paul's Ave.;
Jamaica Plain; Boston, MA; 02130; tel. (617)522-8911; and 25
other branches) published a tract entitled GAMES UNSUSPECTING
PEOPLE PLAY: DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS, written by Louise Shanahan
(who for a time was also a columnist for the [Canadian] Catholic
Register). This pamphlet had a catalog number PM0798, had 22
internal pages and a green cover, 6"x4". It had no "imprimatur"
(approval from a diocese that the material conformed to Catholic
teachings). Here are some excerpts from this tract, which is now
no longer sold:

[beginning, masthead] When a student steps into the fantasy
quicksands of _Dungeons and Dragons_[*], his life can be
irreversibly altered--and the lives of his parents and other
family members can be deeply affected.

Would your son stop going to Mass on Sunday and drop
out of Catholicism because of a game which has lured him
into a snare with many gods? Would your son admit to you
that his grades are plummeting at school because he has
discovered a fantasy world in a game that is much more
important to him than his grades? Is it possible that your
mild-mannered, easy-going high-school or college-age son has
gradually isolated himself from the rest of the family, and
as his parents you are deeply concerned? It is not drugs
nor is it alcohol; you are certain of that. In subtle ways
your son has changed.
Then, one day when you are straightening his room you
find a _Monster Manual_ carefully concealed under a stack of
school books. You, as parents, are about to make a
discovery which will dismay and frighten you. You have just
discovered that your son has joined the legion of
unsuspecting students who have become victimized by a master
con-artist: Gary Gygax. [...]

The bait used to lure the unsuspecting male deeper and
deeper into the mazes of _Dungeons and Dragons_ is as old as
human nature: adventure, power, conquest; all is possible
in this fantasy world where a player's imagination reigns
supreme. It is important to understand that while some
young women may become involved in _Dungeons and Dragons_
(perhaps because of a boyfriend's interest), the game
appears to be primarily a male preserve. And as
improvisations on the theme of adventure, power and conquest
are unfolded, _Dungeons and Dragons_ becomes more distinctly
masculine terrain. [...]

There follows an attempt at "explaining" the game, a claim that
it's as dangerous as drugs or the cults, a re-hash of the phoney
James Dallas Egbert case of 1979, and many other examples,
including Leon Wheeler, who dropped out of school, lost his job
and home, but hung on to his D&D "paraphernalia" [a "D&D hobo"?].

The tract ends with:

To date no de-programmers have surfaced to aid worried
parents whose children have become D&D cultists. While
_Dungeons and Dragons_ has been compared to the organized
cults, there is no professional group in Canada or the
United States which has acknowledged the game as an
addiction. Mental health clinics generally are not
concerned with it.[**] Thus more families must become
informed of the hazards of _Dungeons and Dragons_ in order
to prevent its introduction into the home, neighborhood and
school. An absolute prohibition of the game must be
Admittedly there is no easy solution or "quick fix" to
_Dungeons and Dragons_. However, when parents and community
organizations spread the word about its dangerous side
effects, then the battle for our children's minds will, at
least, be contained, and eventually more groups will join in
the effort and convince families and schools of its hazards
and harmful effects.

[*] text flanked by underscores (_) is italicized in the
original. Also, the correct trade-mark for Dungeons & Dragons
does not spell out the word "and". This may be a clue that the
critic has never directly read a copy, in any version.
[**] Since this was written, the Hartgrove Hospital in Chicago
set up a Center for the Treatment of Ritualistic Deviance, a
psychiatric unit for teens supposed to be involved in Satanism or
cults. "Cult cop" Jerry Simandl of Chicago provided training to
the staff of this unit, organized by Dale Trahan. In the 80's
there was a wave of Satanism seminars attracting law enforcem
e were organized by the Cult
Crime Impact Network (based in a CHURCH in Boise, Idaho) and the
religious affiliation was never made clear. The Center's
brochure advises parents what to look for in susceptible teens, a
check-list including "heavy involvement in fantasy and role-play
games". [from IN PURSUIT OF SATAN by Robert Hicks (1991,
Prometheus Press, p. 309 ff.; as I keep saying, an excellent book
to debunk the "Satanic panic" of the 1980's)]

I immediately knew something was wrong with this religious
tract, because Louise Shanahan cited as her sources the Rev. John
Torrell, of Christian Life Ministries (now called European-
American Evangelistic Crusades; P.O. Box 41001; Sacramento, CA;
95841) and Albert James Dager, who published a newsletter called
MEDIA SPOTLIGHT and published a MEDIA SPOTLIGHT Special Report
[on D&D] in 1980.
Both of these are openly and notoriously anti-Catholic.
The Rev. John Torrell, on D&D, has said "[These kids] just
go nuts with it! They start to confuse fantasy with reality."
This is ironic in view of the Rev. Torrell's own religious
newsletter, THE DOVE, where he said that Ronald Reagan secretly
surrendered his country to the Soviet Union at the Iceland Summit
of Oct. 1986, and that the U.S. had only 5 years before the
Soviets assumed open control (Fall 1987). He also opens his
newsletter to articles and reprints from different authors,
including R.A. Cotter, the actual author of some 1980 flyers
against D&D, as well as articles from Ken Anderson about the
evils of preservatives and food-chemicals. Torrell in subsequent
editorials bemoaned the conspiratorial group which adds
formaldehyde to fish, which homogenizes milk "so that when you
drink this it will be like having your heart and arteries 'sand
blasted'", and steals all the enzymes from canned food so that
"the body cannot digest them. On top of this a drug has been
added called White Sugar, plus other preservatives." He says
this food-tampering is done to stupefy the American public so
they can't think straight, and that the conspiracy has its own
secret food markets where healthful food, NOT laced with toxins,
are sold to members. This man Torrell is around the bend!
Even worse, Albert James Dager in his anti-D&D article
compared the "evil" of D&D to the "evil" of what he calls the
"Babylon Mystery Religion". This code-phrase is used by some
Fundamentalist Christians, referring to their belief that
Catholicism is a mix of true Christianity and pagan Babylonian
rites such as pagan forms of communion and the confessional.
When examined, about half the Fundamentalist Christian groups
opposed to D&D are also anti-Catholic. And yet this totally
escaped Ms. Shanahan when she wrote her own anti-D&D tract! In a
direct way, two Catholic magazines and a Catholic publisher were
religiously subverted, which constitutes the sin of "apostasy."

I confronted the Daughters of St. Paul with the original
sources cited by Louise Shanahan, and suddenly the tracts
changed, adding a disclaimer-sticker that the tract was a re-
print of an article in THE FAMILY magazine of November 1984,
originally published in OUR FAMILY MAGAZINE published by the
Oblate Fathers, in Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada; Oct. 1983.
Later, when I insisted, the Daughters of St. Paul wrote back
(Oct. 3, 1987) and muttered something about a change in editorial
board since then, that they "could not defend the tract," and
that they would no longer accept any manuscripts from Ms.
Shanahan. It was pulled off the bookstore shelves; it is no
longer sold.

However, the Daughters of St. Paul had 25 bookstores of
their own in North America, from addresses listed in the tract
itself, and traded these anti-D&D tracts to many other Catholic
bookstores over a four-year period.
The ideas were widely propagated and were cited by another
Catholic author, Marc Gauthier in his small 100-page book WOLVES
IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING (Companions of the Lamb; P.O. Box 4070,
Station "E"; Ottawa, ON; K1S 5B1; Canada. publ. 1986). This
book has many small chapters about corrupting influence from non-
Christian cults, and D&D is Chapter 5! He cites only the
Shanahan tract as well as the anti-D&D book PLAYING WITH FIRE by
John Weldon and James Bjornstad (Moody Press, 1984). When I
confronted him over the phone, he appeared displeased at what I
was saying about the Rev. Torrell, and identified himself as a
"Pentecostal Charismatic Christian." When I said, "What, not a
Catholic?" he replied, "Well, yes; a CHRISTIAN Catholic..." He
appeared increasingly uneasy, and hung up on me. Far from being
worried about the subversion of Catholics by ideas from non-
Catholic groups, he seemed to be participating in the process
I was no doubt the first to get at the roots of this
particular tract. I did so because there was a spectacular ban
on D&D in a school board, widely reported in local media. 1985
is a year that I consider the blackest, for anti-D&D media
reports (including CBS' "60 Minutes" of Sept. 15, 1985, which
faked the suicide of the Erwin brothers of Lafayette, CO as a
"D&D double-suicide", despite the parents (who were never shown
on camera) who angrily denied this a day later and presented the
actual motivations, but that only in local media.) Of course,
after NBC's "Cruel Doubt" mini-series (aired in 1992 *and* 1993)
where a forged piece of artwork was presented as belonging in the
pages of the AD&D Player's Handbook, 1st edition, visibly pasted
in the pages, one can place no trust in any fairness of the
media; there is too much temptation by these to lie about AD&D in
form AND content to make it look horrific.
In that year, the Metropolitan Separate School Board of
Toronto ["separate" means a Catholic school board, in the
Canadian tradition], which is Canada's largest single school
board by number of students (then 95,000), had a new D&D game
club at Neil McNeil High School brought to its attention. This
school has a good academic reputation and is where the late actor
John Candy graduated, among others. The school board's trustees
asked for an internal report on D&D to be written up. At a June
20th meeting this report was presented, and it had NOTHING to say
against D&D.
However, the Board heard from 7 demonstrators against the
games, who re-echoed media reports of D&D murders and suicides.
Their names were: Tony Teresi, Father Fred Perna [now deceased;
provided a media quote saying "There is no D&D-player who is not
in need of some form of deliverance."], Doreen Hare, Ian
Cruickshank, John Aldorasi, Dr. Joseph P. McKenna, and John McRae
of "Global Beacon Community". This information was VERY
difficult to obtain, since names of speakers and motions are
filed separately in the board's bureaucratic records, and two
years of asking for the names were never responded to until I
involved the Toronto Star newspaper's "Star Probe".
Whatever these people said in two hours of discussion
convinced the trustees to vote for an amended motion changed from
"further study" to a full ban, in the following wording:
"[Resolved] That Dungeons and Dragons and any other games
involving the occult not be permitted on the property of MSSB
schools." This policy has never been amended since, leaving the
impression that D&D games are bad and that some CATHOLIC
authority said so. In fact, there is direct sedition through a
widely scattered source of "information" on D&D that in fact
derives from ANTI-Catholic groups.

One should not just laugh at how this proves some Catholic
tendency to "follow the leader" without questioning who the
leader is, or even if this leadership in an issue is really
Catholic! This example applies to other religious denominations
as well: the original flyers found in the Rev. Torrell's
literature (anti-D&D circulars authored by R.A. Cotter) and the
Albert James Dager article, are the roots of all other religious
tracts, endlessly quoting each other in circles for their D&D
"information". Mrs. Patricia Pulling of B.A.D.D. (Bothered About
Dungeons & Dragons) was convinced that her son committed
suicide because of the game, by a policeman on the scene who had
been reading the wrong religious tracts and who TOLD her D&D was
"Satanism". References to the Torrell/Cotter and Dager tracts
appear again and again, in such sources as the book PLAYING WITH
FIRE; or TURMOIL IN THE TOYBOX I and II (books by the Rev. Phil
Phillips), or many others. Regardless of your denomination, it
ALL goes back to them.

This information may amuse you, but I hope that it may also
inspire D&D-players to fight back and confront sources of
misrepresentation DIRECTLY, no matter how lofty the anti-D&D
religious authority seems to be. Such people have no case, as it
turns out, not even in vague theological arguments. There is a
temptation to agree with generalisms about how D&D could be
"obsessive" for some people, when one is religious, simply
because this ties-in to theology against gambling or other
"sins". But religious D&D fans should especially resist such
specious arguments "by analogy". D&D and role-playing games are
something TOTALLY ORIGINAL, not seen on this planet before the
late 1960's. They defy facile classifications. Fans should skip
through anti-D&D fluff, and point to the unpleasant and realistic
facts about the origins of anti-D&D ideas, and not shirk from
doing so, to make people understand what is going on.
--Pierre Savoie

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