Holy Father

Mel Gibson's Dad is one Mad Max

Houston Press July 24, 2003


The pope isn't Catholic. John Paul II, the man most people believe to be

pope, is really an imposter. He's deliberately plotting to destroy the

Catholic Church from within. Catholics have been lied to, and they have

been robbed. These are the messages Hutton Gibson preaches in his

crusade to save the souls of his fellow Catholics.

>From his home in northwest Houston, he mails out his eight-page

newsletter titled "The War Is Now!" He has 600 subscribers worldwide.

He's also authored the self-published books Is the Pope Catholic? and

The Enemy Is Here, which features a cover with a map of Italy and an

arrow pointing to Rome.

He's gained international notice in some segments of the theological

community from his years spent denouncing the pope as an imposter.

"Whenever you say 'plot,' people automatically think 'nutcase,' " Gibson

explains. "But there's no way this could happen by accident. There's no

way this was not rigged."

However, Hutton Gibson gets recognition far beyond his scholarly

arguments about Catholic conspiracy theories. He also happens to be

Mel's old man -- he's the father of one of the most established

superstars in Hollywood, and he lives right here in the Houston area.

The elder Gibson doesn't believe the holocaust happened and thinks the

idea of evolution is ridiculous. He likes detective novels. The

84-year-old closes his blue eyes when he talks, often slipping into

Latin. Instead of saying hello or using any other greeting when he

answers the phone, he just says the last four digits of the number in a

brisk military tone.

The missal Gibson uses is in Latin. The prayer book's battered spine is

covered in masking tape; his 11 children have torn out hunks of its


While he avidly tells of his crusade against the Catholic leadership,

Gibson refuses to talk about his family or his famous son. Mel

reportedly was outraged when The New York Times Magazine recently

interviewed his father; the New York Post reported that Mel Gibson

declared the Times story a "hit piece" on him and that the newspaper had

harassed his father. The Times story quoted the elder Gibson calling the

pope a "Koran kisser" and implied that he sounds a bit like the

obsessive-compulsive, newsletter-writing, Catcher in the Rye-collecting

character Mel played in Conspiracy Theory.

The elder Gibson's unique life would seem suited for big-screen

treatment itself.

His mother, an opera singer, died in New York City before he was two.

She had slipped in the shower and injured her neck. "It was a rather

large neck," Gibson says. Gibson's father manufactured brass plumbing

supplies until he went out of business in 1928. He died almost ten years


Gibson was third-best academically in his high school class, graduating

when he was only 15. "Nobody's ever going to get me into a classroom

again," he says.

Gibson studied for the priesthood at a mission 20 minutes outside

Chicago. He intended to become a missionary, but he balked at the idea

of being sent to New Guinea or the Philippines. "I just lost it," he

says. "I did not want to go."

He went after lots of other work. Gibson delivered telegrams for Western

Union, planted trees for the Civilian Conservation Corps and built

houses for the forestry department. During World War II, he was a first

lieutenant in the Army Infantry and Signal Corps based in New Caledonia

and Guadalcanal.

Gibson married after his military discharge. The couple planned to have

12 kids and a Saint Bernard. "We never made it," he says. They had only

11 kids. "We did get the dog." But the dog was run over two weeks later.

He told his kids that he wanted 100 grandchildren. Thus far, he's the

grandfather of 48 and has 15 great-grandchildren. He doesn't buy any of

them Christmas presents.

He worked on the railroad as a brakeman for 24 years, until he slipped

off a steel platform covered in oil and snow. He was forced to retire

because of the injuries.

The sixth of the Gibson children, Mel, described his dad in a Playboy

interview as "just a regular guy who worked long hours, supported a big

family and kept us all in shoes and foodÖHe's a bookish guy. Uses words

I've never heard of."

In the interview, the younger Gibson told of a strong disciplinarian.

His dad once got so angry at two of Mel's siblings, he knocked their

heads together. "He told them they were not allowed to talk to each

other for six months, and if he ever saw them even looking at each other

he would beat the shit out of them. And they didn't communicate at all

for a real long time. When they finally did, they were the best of

friends. It worked."

In 1968, Hutton Gibson took his disability money and the cash he had won

on Jeopardy! and moved to his mother's native Australia. He didn't want

his eldest son drafted in the United States.

"They had a draft in Australia, too, but they were a little more

humane," Gibson says. "He couldn't see from here to the wall, but they

would have taken him anyway. So I figured, why should he go? I saw what

happened to my war -- they just gave it away."

But Gibson's new war -- a religious one -- began in Australia. Gibson's

kids came home from Catholic school with a catechism titled "Shalom."

"Shalom," Gibson says, clearly horrified. Shalom is the Hebrew form of

aloha, meaning hello, good-bye and peace.

"Shalom," Gibson repeats again, as if it were a four-letter word. He

declared the catechism heresy. It's what spurred him to look at the

documents from the Vatican II Council and examine the changes in the


Vatican II was a series of meetings between 1962 and 1965 to update the

church, although Gibson said it went against God's will. "Nowhere did He

say we would accommodate to the times."

One of the main changes was that mass would be said in the language of

the congregants, rather than in Latin.

"The Vatican Council called for a full, active and conscious

participation in the liturgy," says Monsignor Frank Rossi, chancellor of

the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. Priests no longer turned their backs

on the congregation for mass, but instead faced them. Parishioners got a

more active role in the church.

"The first changes that came in were very subtle," says Jack Davignon, a

traditionalist Catholic and coordinator for Saint Michael the Archangel

Chapel in Spring. "It was like putting a lobster in water, then bringing

the temperature up slowly. At first, you didn't notice the water was

getting hotter."

Gibson believes the church has changed so much that the Holy Ghost

doesn't recognize it. He argues that the church had been fine for

thousands of years and it didn't need to change to pander to a few

people who didn't want to learn Latin.

He joined the Latin Mass Society, a small group of older people who

supported the Latin mass. He was appointed secretary and authored the

newsletter. The group kicked him out because he was too outspoken,

particularly against the pope. "It's not just my salvation -- but a lot

of other people's [salvation] depends on it," he says. "It does me no

great deal if everyone else goes to hell. I'm not just out for myself."

While his religious campaign was escalating, his life in Australia was

becoming more difficult. Gibson says the country was beautiful, but jobs

were becoming harder to find.

His son-in-law found work outside Houston. And a few years ago, Gibson

decided to move to Texas with his daughter's family. What sealed the

decision was his discovery of a church in the southwest part of Houston

that offered a traditional mass that Gibson recognizes. Those churches,

he says, are impossible to find in Australia.

After the death of his first wife about ten years ago, Gibson fell in

love with a woman at the church and they were married in 2001. He says

he should have done it sooner. They live in a new home with lead-crystal

candlesticks and fake grapes on the dining room table.

Sitting in the dining room with his eyes closed, Gibson says the

Vatican's new dogma is as "self-contradictory as a square circle." He

says the Vatican II Council was "an act of foolishness, stupidity,

defiance and deliberate rejection of Christ."

Mel Gibson, in his Playboy interview, defended his father's books as

canonically and theologically sound. "Everything he was taught to

believe was taken from him in the sixties with this renewal Vatican

Council," the son said. "The whole institution became unrecognizable to

him, so he writes about it."

While he has supporters who say his arguments are based on fact, some of

them have trouble with his notion that the pope isn't really Catholic.

The more recent popes may not have acted like Catholics, Davignon says,

"but we can't say that there is no pope."

Father James Gordon, a traditionalist priest who runs Mater Dei Chapel

out of his house near Gulfgate Mall, says of John Paul II, "Good, bad or

otherwise, his tushie warms the chair of Saint Peter."

Rossi argues that the new mass is actually more traditional than the

traditional mass. The old mass has more scripture readings, longer

prayers, more incense and more bells. He laughs at the idea that the

Holy Spirit has left the church. "Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to the

church," he says. "So the Spirit will not leave the church."

He trusts Jesus to keep his word.

Inside the Vatican recently reported that Nigerian Cardinal Francis

Arinze has drafted a major disciplinary document that will end "do it

yourself" masses and will encourage wider use of the traditional mass.

Some traditionalist priests in the area think that's a step in the right

direction, although the monsignor at the Houston diocese says he doubts

it will lead to a resurgence of old Latin masses. And so does Gibson.

But Gibson doesn't trust anything that comes out of the Vatican.

Gibson says that the destruction of the church is a sign of the

Apocalypse. And as soon as the church is destroyed, the world will end.

"I figure that as long as there's one [true] Catholic in the world, it

hasn't finished," he says. "So I'm trying to keep it going."

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