By 1946, there were probably hundreds of war criminals in Spain, and thousands of former Nazis and fascists. According to US Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, Vatican cooperation in turning over asylum-seekers was “negligible”. According to historian Michael Phayer, Pope Pius XII “preferred to see fascist war criminals on board ships sailing to the New World rather than seeing them rotting in POW camps in zonal Germany”. This was the so-called “rat line”, a system of escape routes for Nazis and other fascists fleeing Europe at the end of World War II. (“Ratlines”, Wikipedia, March 18, 2013)
A prototype of the World War II “rat line” was used by Vatican agents to assist and shield John Surratt (image above) in his flight from the authorities following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.
John Surratt had been implicated in an alleged conspiracy involving his mother, Mary Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, Louis Paine (a different person than Lewis Powell, see March 13, 2013 Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry), and others. And yet the Roman Church, through its priests and agents, elected to shield John Surratt from the pursuing authorities.
John T. Morse, Jr., in his introduction to the published diary of Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy under Abraham Lincoln, confirms that the Confederacy was “slavocratic and aristocratic.” John A. Logan, a great hero of Illinois who is recognized in the Illinois official state song, wrote that the Southern Democrats, leaders of the rebellion, “disliked a Republican and preferred a Monarchical form of Government.” The Confederacy was oligarchic and aristocratic in its intent, so it is no surprise that Pope Pius IX would have looked kindly upon it. (Background: “Pius IX and the Murder of Abraham Lincoln”, Ersjdamoo’s Blog entry of March 17, 2013)
The Pope is, of course, the “vicar of Christ” in the Roman faith. As “King of Earth”, the Pope favored aristocracy over Lincoln’s populist idea of government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” So when the Catholic smuggler John Surratt, agent of the Confederacy, was in trouble, what may have been the first “rat line” was implemented for John Surratt.
In a short book written by the Union brigadier general Thomas M. Harris, Rome’s Responsibility for the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln (First published 1897), Harris details the prototype “rat line” set up for John Surratt, in defiance of the U.S. government. Here are the facts, as given by Harris:
- The “headquarters of the conspiracy in Washington City, was the house of a Roman Catholic family, of which Mrs. Mary E. Surratt was the head; and that all of its inmates, including a number of boarders, were devoted members of the Roman Catholic Church. This house was the meeting place, the council chamber, of [John Wilkes] Booth and his coconspirators…”
- John Wilkes Booth, “a drunkard and a libertine”, had been raised a Protestant but “had become a convert to Catholicism” due to “the wily Jesuit.”
- Harris claims that Mrs. Surratt, her son John Surratt, John Wilkes Booth, Dr. Samuel Mudd, and Michael O’Laughlin all belonged to the Roman Catholic Church at the time of the Lincoln assassination.
Among the emissaries of the rebel government headquartered in Montreal, Canada are listed by Harris as (1) Jacob Thompson; (2) Clement C. Clay; and (3) Beverly Tucker. “These had associated with them as helpers, George N. Sanders, Dr. Blackburn, and others…” Harris claims the “assassination plot” was known of in advance by “Bishop of Montreal (Bourget) and a number of his priests…”
Fleeing pursuers, John Surratt reached Montreal on April 18, 1865, four days after the Lincoln assassination. There John Surratt was “kept hidden carefully, in the house of Poterfield, one of [Jacob] Thompson’s assistants…” From there, according to Harris, John Surratt was handed over to one “Father Boucher, a Roman Catholic priest, who lived in an out of the way country parish, forty-five miles from Montreal.” There John Surratt reportedly remained for two months, well hidden. Thereafter, a Father La Pierre, canon to Bishop Bourget of Montreal, took the fugitive back to Montreal. There, John Surratt stayed hidden for three months.
“In the early part of September, 1865, these unholy Fathers thought it safe to unload their charge onto their brethren in England; and so made arrangements for sending Surratt across the Atlantic, under an assumed name, and in disguise.” Passage was secured on a British steamer, The Peruvian, and Surratt, with dyed hair, painted face, and wearing spectacles traveled under the name “McCarthy.” Surratt was secluded in Liverpool for awhile, then went on to Italy. There he was “mustered into the army of the Pope,” the papal zouaves. After over a year, a detective ferreted out the fugitive and agents of the U.S. government informed the Pope that one of his soldiers, under the name “Watson”, was in reality John Surratt. Harris claims that the Pope superficially acted to help the U.S. government authorities, but that Surratt in fact “was allowed to escape by his guards.” Surratt was finally captured in Alexandria, Egypt and brought back in chains to the U.S.