12 Anti-Semitic Radical Traditionalist Catholic Groups
Traditionalist Catholic groups are scattered around America and the world. But only a handful preach anti-Semitic hatred.
There are hundreds of traditionalist Catholic chapels around the United States that celebrate the Latin Tridentine Mass and dislike many of the liberalizing reforms enacted by the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. But only a handful of these organizations qualify as part of the "radical traditionalist Catholic" movement that is characterized by open anti-Semitism and blames Jews for conspiring to destroy the Catholic Church and a number of other iniquities. The movement is far from unified, with these groups engaging in seemingly endless infighting and now splintered into an array of very small groups. The exception is the Society of St. Pius X, which has scores of chapels in the United States and many more elsewhere. What follows are profiles of 12 radical traditionalist groups in the U.S. that exhibit varying degrees of anti-Semitism, typically focusing in on conspiracy theories that accuse the Jews of corrupting the church and society. Because of that ideology, they are being added to the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of hate groups.
CATHOLIC APOLOGETICS INTERNATIONAL
State Line, Pa.
Catholic Apologetics International (CAI) was founded in 1993 by Robert Sungenis, a man who would develop into one of the most rabid and open anti-Semites in the entire radical traditionalist movement. Sungenis, who was born into a Catholic family but became a Protestant before returning to the Catholic Church in 1992, was taken seriously in mainstream Catholic circles for many years, even producing two religious series for EWTN, a Catholic television station. That ended in 2002, when Sungenis published a 33,000-word, anti-Semitic attack on a joint statement by the National Council of Synagogues and the Bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs that criticized the Catholic Church's history of attempting to convert Jews. The article repeated a series of ancient anti-Semitic canards, relied on anti-Semites like Father Denis Fahey as authorities, and even praised Fahey and Father Charles Coughlin (the viciously anti-Semitic "radio priest" of the 1930s) as "dedicated Catholic priests who lived impeccable lives and defended Holy Mother Church from every sort of Satanic deception." As a result, EWTN pulled Sungenis' TV series and removed all mention of him from its Web site; in a similar way, Envoy magazine also removed Sungenis from its website. Since then, Sungenis has gone even further into anti-Semitic conspiracy-mongering, frequently reminding people that the 1911 edition of the Catholic Encyclopedia "predicts the anti-Christ will come from Jewry." His CAI Web site has several articles attacking Jewish "power," including one by the Rev. Ted Pike, head of the National Prayer Network, that blames Jews for establishing a "New World Order" and refers to the alleged "Jewish origins of bolshevism, Jewish dominance of Hollywood and the media, [and] Jewish control of Congress." Sungenis is also a columnist for The Remnant, where, in a piece entitled "The New World Order and the Zionist Connection," he detailed a massive conspiracy aimed at Satan ruling the earth. "Among the major forces in the ascent of the New World Order," he explained, "are the Jews, Judaism and the land of Israel." Sungenis is also familiar with the world of non-Catholic anti-Semitism, as shown by his citations of Michael Collins Piper, a "journalist" who has worked for years for Willis Carto, a leading anti-Semite and Holocaust denier.
Established in 1999, Catholic Counterpoint, a publishing enterprise that specializes in the most extreme radical traditionalist materials, is run by John Maffei, who worships at a Society of St. Pius X chapel. An example of the material he produces and sells is a video, entitled "Synagogue of Satan," by Father John O'Connor, an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier. The video, Maffei writes in his promotional materials, includes "all [O'Connor's] presentations on the Zionist movement and how it controls the U.S. thru [sic] the banking system … and their bringing us into two world wars. … Few have the courage to speak the truth about the six million Jews that supposedly died in the concentration camps of Germany. This is a history course that will set you free." Maffei is also a big fan of Hutton Gibson, the anti-Semitic father of actor Mel Gibson. His Web site is filled with photos of the elder Gibson, and Maffei sells Gibson's books at the many radical conferences he attends. At one such event, put on by Catholic Family News (CFN) in 2003, Maffei told a participant that CFN head John Vennari, who has also attacked the Jews in his own writings, wouldn't let him sell Gibson's materials because they were "too extreme." Maffei had better luck at the 2006 conference of The Barnes Review, a journal specializing in Holocaust denial published by radical anti-Semite Willis Carto, where he sold those materials and more. Maffei also sells writings by Father Charles Coughlin, a leading American anti-Semite of the 1920s and 1930s, and even a book by neo-Nazi Artie Wheeler that outlines a complicated 9/11 conspiracy theory. Maffei, who also sells alternative health products including "miracle soap" and a book on how doctors actually make people sick, told the Intelligence Report in 2006 that "unknown forces" destroyed his car and blew up his garage after he conducted an interview with Wheeler.
CATHOLIC FAMILY NEWS/CATHOLIC FAMILY MINISTRIES, INC.
Niagara Falls, N.Y.
Catholic Family Ministries, which publishes the monthly Catholic Family News (CFN), is run by John Vennari, a former monk at the Holy Family Monastery in Berlin, N.J., who says he is now part of the official Vatican press corps. Vennari is a contributor to the radical traditionalist book We Resist You to the Face, whose last sentence tells reader that the Catholic Church is afflicted with "Jewish errors." In his CFN newspaper in 2003, Vennari called Judaism "part of the Kingdom of Satan" and accused the Talmud of "teaching of contempt" for Christ. His newspaper also regularly publishes columns by Joseph Sobran, who was fired by the conservative National Review over his anti-Semitism and has written for the Journal of Historical Review, a leading Holocaust denial publication. Vennari has also accused the church of being overrun by homosexuals. But he is probably best known for his exposition of the so-called Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theory, which claims that Jewish Masons have been infiltrating the church since the 1700s in order to destroy the institution and install a puppet in the Vatican. Vennari's booklet on this topic, The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, is essential reading in radical traditionalist circles. CFN holds yearly conferences that feature prominent Catholic extremists including American Catholic Lawyers Association head Christopher Ferrara, Father Nicholas Gruner, and Michael Matt. At the 2003 CFN conference, Vennari decried Vatican ecumenical outreach as "pandering to other faiths, especially Jews." Vendors at CFN conferences have sold wildly anti-Semitic books including The Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Hilaire Beloc's The Jews.
CULTURE WARS/FIDELITY PRESS
South Bend, Ind.
E. Michael Jones, a former hippie who says he spent his honeymoon stuck in traffic while trying to reach the 1969 Woodstock Festival, started down the road of radical traditionalism in 1981, when he founded Fidelity magazine after being fired as a professor at South Bend's Catholic women's college, St. Mary's. According to religion scholar Michael Cuneo, Fidelity was devoted to exposing wrongdoing in the church with a special emphasis on sex, a topic Jones seems obsessed with. Jones developed a reputation for his frequent clashes with other radical traditionalists, notably Father Nicholas Gruner. (For his part, Gruner told Cuneo that Jones was "secretly a Jew.") In 1996, Jones changed the name of his magazine to Culture Wars, and he has increasingly focused on the alleged evils of the Jews as he adds to his "continuing series on the Jews." The magazine's cover stories over the last year or so are instructive: "Judaizing: Then and Now," "John Huss and the Jews," "The Converso Problem: Then and Now," "The Judaism of Hitler," "Shylock Comes to Notre Dame" and so on. Jones runs through all the usual anti-Semitic canards -- the ideas that "Jewish media elites" run the country, that Jews are "major players" in pornography, and that Jews are behind Masonry and the French Revolution -- but that's only the start. He also accuses Jews of poisoning society with thinkers such as Karl Marx (a devotee of Satan, says Jones) and Sigmund Freud (who set off an epidemic of sexual sin, he says). And he describes the World War II Nazi genocide of the Jews as "a reaction to Jewish Messianism (in the form of Bolshevism)." Last April, in an article raging about a new president of Notre Dame University, Jones charged that anyone who went to a mainstream university would emerge "with a Jewish world view … and maybe a Jewish spouse." Jones, who has written nine books and hundreds of articles, regularly cites extremist sources, especially the American Free Press run by veteran anti-Semite Willis Carto. He also has taken up race, most obviously in his "Rooted Culture" conferences that include a trip to Germany. The 2005 trip theme would be familiar to any neo-Nazi -- "the continuing deracination in Germany." Jones has one other line of business that would be familiar to the racist right: the "neo-ethnic songs" he sells as part of a bid to create what he calls a true "Volk" music.
THE FATIMA CRUSADER/INTERNATIONAL FATIMA ROSARY CRUSADE
The International Fatima Rosary Crusade, known popularly as the Fatima Center, takes its name from Fatima, Portugal, the place where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to three peasant children in 1916 with a series of revelations. The center was founded in 1977 by Father Nicholas Gruner, a Canadian who became obsessed with Fatima after an Italian priest told him that he had a special calling to promote devotion to the Virgin Mary. The following year, Gruner launched The Fatima Crusader, a quarterly that Gruner claims now has some 1 million readers. The publication has carried anti-Semitic articles such as the 1992 piece, "The Program of Christ Against the Plans of Satan," which denounced what it saw as Jewish "naturalism" and blamed Jews for putting "the Christian state in danger." The Crusader also has staunchly defended the work of Father Denis Fahey, a hard-core anti-Semite whom it called "brilliant." In an interview with Catholic scholar Michael Cuneo, Gruner accused a fellow radical traditionalist, E. Michael Jones, of being "secretly a Jew" who was "planted in the American Church to confuse Catholics and sow hatred against people like myself." The Fatima Center heavily promotes a conspiracy theory about the Vatican allegedly working to hide the so-called "Third Secret of Fatima" from the faithful. (Among other things, the theory accuses Pope John XXIII of making a blasphemous pact with Moscow that prevented the Vatican from denouncing communism and has resulted in Satanism flourishing "inside … the Vatican itself.") In 1995, Gruner was ordered to report to his bishop in Italy, but did not; as a result, the Vatican suspended Gruner from his priestly duties in 2001 (a lesser sanction than excommunication). Gruner owns a share of Catholic Family News, helped publish the schismatic book We Resist You to the Face, and is a regular speaker on the radical traditionalist circuit. In 2005, for instance, Gruner told an audience at the annual St. Joseph's Forum conference that Masons -- by which he meant the Jews -- "sacrificed their babies to the pagan gods." Gruner also rubs shoulders with hard-line Holocaust deniers, selling his wares at a 2006 conference of the anti-Semitic Barnes Review.
LEGION OF ST. LOUIS/IHS PRESS
John Sharpe Jr., a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former submarine officer and media spokesman for the Atlantic Fleet, runs both the Legion of St. Louis (LSL) and IHS Press -- two of the most nakedly anti-Semitic organizations in the entire radical traditionalist Catholic pantheon. LSL explicitly pledges in its vision statement to unite Catholic men around the teachings of Father Denis Fahey and other anti-Semites, particularly Hilaire Beloc, author of the anti-Semitic book The Jews. It calls for the creation of self-contained communities of Catholic "militants" who intend "to wage ... real ideological and political war" against their enemies, "the Judeo-Masonic tendencies of the modern social order." LSL's bulletin brims with anti-Semitic materials from the likes of Ernst Zundel, the neo-Nazi author of The Hitler We Loved and Why who is now in prison in Germany for Holocaust denial, and the American Free Press, a newspaper run by veteran American anti-Semite Willis Carto. Sharpe blames the 9/11 attacks not on Al Qaeda, but on "Judeo-Masonry." "The temporal power that the Jews have achieved since … 1789 is both pervasive and relatively unchallenged," he writes. "[T]he current and historical mortal enemy of Christian civilization is Judeo-Masonry." At the 2006 conference of American Renaissance, a racist magazine specializing in theories of race and intelligence, Sharpe sold his two-volume set Neo-CONNED!, which has several articles by racists and anti-Semites. LSL also serves as the U.S. distributor for Britain's St. George Educational Trust, which sells a catalogue of anti-Semitic books including works by the late "radio priest" Charles Coughlin, Holocaust denier Michael Hoffman's Strange Gods of Judaism and Henry Ford's The International Jew. The trust's board includes convicted Italian terrorist Roberto Fiore, who Sharpe has described as a close personal friend, Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) priest Michael Crowdy, and other hard-liners. Sharpe also has written articles for The Angelus, published by SSPX, including "Judaism and the Vatican," which blames Jews for three centuries of political liberalism. In The Angelus' June 2003 issue, Sharpe approvingly cites the assertion of his mentor, Father Denis Fahey, that "every sane thinker must be an anti-Semite." Sharpe's parents, John Sr. and Judith, run a similar radical group, the In the Spirit of Chartres Committee, which sponsors regular conferences in Phoenix and hosts an array of radical traditionalist speakers.
OMNI CHRISTIAN BOOK CLUB
Omni is a leading purveyor of radical traditionalist Catholic materials, including a cornucopia of rabidly anti-Semitic and conspiratorial writings. Run by Phil Serpico, son of the former aerospace technician who started the organization in 1958, Omni describes the Jews as "the first civilization to practice the belief in racial supremacy, and the chief advocate of that practice today." That's mild compared to the offerings that grace Omni's book catalogue, including Richard Harwood's Did Six Million Really Die? (published by neo-Nazi Ernst Zundel); Henry Ford's The International Jew, available abridged or in a deluxe, four-volume set; Arthur Butz's Holocaust-denying The Hoax of the Twentieth Century ("a must read into the biggest hoax in world history, who's behind it, how they've profited from it, and what can be done to put an end to it"); several issues of the late Father Leonard Feeney's Jew-bashing monthly The Point; The Judaic Connection, describing a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy against the Catholic Church; and even defenses of Hitler. Omni also sells masses of antigovernment conspiracy materials that decry the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and the supposedly imminent "New World Order." Overall, Omni sees the Vatican II church reforms as a con pulled off by liberal bishops, and pledges to expose "elements detrimental to the survival of our culture and civilization" and to supply "an alternative source of facts for a more meaningful understanding of world and local events." Finally, Omni also sells Coast Lines Depots: Los Angeles Division, a 1992 book by the younger Serpico, who turns out to be a railroad buff who runs another Web site specializing in that topic.
THE REMNANT/THE REMNANT PRESS
Forest Lake, Minn.
The biweekly newspaper The Remnant was started in 1967 and edited for decades by the recently deceased Walter L. Matt, who had worked for his family's conservative newspaper The Wanderer but left over a dispute about the Vatican II church reforms. The Remnant has been edited since 2002, when Matt died, by his youngest son, Michael J. Matt, and features a Who's Who of radical traditonalist writers. These include columnist Mark Alessio, American Catholic Lawyers Association head Christopher Ferrara, Robert Sungenis, and John Vennari. Although The Remnant describes itself as a loyal opposition to the Vatican, it has consistently attacked "Nostra Aetate," the Vatican proclamation seeking to reconcile with the Jews, railed against the "takeover" of the church by homosexuals, decried ecumenism, and fretted about the much-feared coming of the "New World Order." In a 2000 article in the newspaper, Vennari praised the anti-Semitic priest Denis Fahey and demanded that "Jewish rabbis … repudiate their blasphemous Talmudic errors and convert." More recently, in a February 2006 article, Vennari and Matt criticized Pope Benedict XVI for visiting a synagogue in Cologne without exhorting the Jews there to convert. Last August, Alessio used the pages of the newspaper to defend actor Mel Gibson after his drunken anti-Semitic tirade, arguing that Gibson had been victimized by "a year-long, merciless slander campaign on the part of Jewish activists (and their apostate Catholic cronies)" who objected to his recent film "The Passion of the Christ." A year earlier, Alessio had attacked Anti-Defamation League-sponsored tours of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, describing them as an effort to indoctrinate Catholic educators into the "holocaust religion." The newspaper has also carried repeated attacks on the Masons, who it sees as a primary enemy of Catholicism. The most extreme columnist at the paper, however, is Sungenis, author of a two-part, 2005 series entitled "The New World Order and the Zionist Connection." Sungenis' articles repeat almost every anti-Semitic canard, from the allegation that Jews run Hollywood to the claim that Jews were behind communism. Using materials by hard-line Holocaust denier Willis Carto, Sungenis even reminded readers that the Antichrist, when he arrives, will be a Jew.
SLAVES OF THE IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY
At the end of a dirt road atop a wooded mountain in southwestern New Hampshire, the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary own a complex of three main buildings, the basement of one of which is used as a church. Members of the larger Slaves community live in the surrounding country, sending their children to a school run by the organization. The Slaves are followers of the anti-Semitic priest Leonard Feeney, a "genius" who started the organization after he was excommunicated in 1953. The group began operations in Boston, but later moved to Still River, Mass., where it became known for such unusual practices as allowing one nun to remain married after taking her vows and raising children communally. After the founder's death in 1978, the organization broke up into several factions, with the most radical setting up shop in Richmond (the old Still River site is now known as St. Benedict Abbey, which is in full communion with the Vatican). Today, the Slaves continue to endorse Feeney and to defend him from charges of anti-Semitism, despite his well-documented hatred of the Jews. (One unsigned 1958 article in Feeney's rabid publication, The Point, summed up the situation like this: "Essential to the understanding of our chaotic times is the knowledge that the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal.") Like Feeney, the Slaves today see the Vatican II reforms as the product of Jewish pressures and argue that the "Jewish nation is at enmity with Our Lord's Plan." They have denounced the Vatican's moves to reconcile with Jews as "capitulation to the tyrannical demands of the most insidious elements within Jewry (e.g., the Vatican audiences granted to the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual, anti-Christ Jewish Anti-Defamation League)." In fact, the Slaves say that Jews will be the first people to accept the Antichrist and will quickly join "in launching the most savage persecution of the Church in the history of the world." This kind of ugly rhetoric earned the Slaves a sharp rebuke in 2004 from Bishop John B. McCormack of Manchester, N.H., who called their teachings "blatantly anti-Semitic" and "offensive to all people of good will." That didn't stop the Slaves' Brother Anthony Mary, while lecturing at the 2005 St. Joseph Forum's conference, from describing the "Jewish nation" as "the perpetual enemy of Christ" and saying that the Virgin Mary had threatened the Jews with "blood and terror if it's required." The Slaves, who also inveigh against "feminists, sodomites, and those who advocate the sin of birth control," hold annual conferences that feature prominent radical traditionalist Catholics from around the country. Last August, speakers included John Sharpe and Father Nicholas Gruner.
ST. JOSEPH FORUM
South Bend, Ind.
A privately run organization dedicated to "addressing the root causes of the crisis in the Church," the St. Joseph Forum specializes in popularizing the writings of the anti-Semitic Irish priest, Father Denis Fahey, through its "Project Awaken" program. In several books, the late Fahey wrote that society and the church had been twisted by "the leadership of the Jews, who wield such enormous power in the modern world through the subjection of man to production and production to finance." The forum decries what it describes as the Jews' "Naturalistic Revolution" -- materialism and rationalism -- and urges battle against "the visible and invisible" forces working to destroy Christianity. The group raises funds to distribute Fahey's writings and has put on an annual conference in South Bend for 11 years. The conferences typically bring together some of the most extreme voices in the radical traditionalist world, including John Vennari, E. Michael Jones,, Father Nicholas Gruner, John Sharpe, and Brother Anthony Mary, who described Jews at the 2005 conference as "the perpetual enemy of Christ." Tapes of the forum conferences are sold by the Saint Augustine Institute of Catholic Studies, a publishing arm of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
ST. MICHAEL'S PARISH/MOUNT ST. MICHAEL
Formed in 1978 when radical traditionalist Francis Schuckardt bought a Tudor-Gothic building on a bluff overlooking northern Spokane, Wash., St. Michael's Parish has long been a center of extreme-right Catholic activities. Schuckardt, who argued that the liberalizing Vatican II church reforms were part of a demonic conspiracy to destroy the church and inaugurate an atheistic world order, lost control of the group in 1984 during a major scandal: Four young male acolytes accused him of sexual assault right around the same time that a newspaper published an exposé that detailed abusive cruelty inside the compound, including severe beatings of children and one case where a child was fed rotten carrots and then made to eat her own vomit. Schuckardt's successor is Mark Pivarunas, who was consecrated a "bishop" in defiance of the Vatican by renegade Mexican Archbishop Moises Carmona Rivera. Under Pivarunas, St. Michael's Parish has remained an anti-Semitic organization, selling books like John Vennari's The Permanent Instruction of the Alta Vendita, which details a "Judeo-Masonic" conspiracy to destroy the church. On the group's Web site are Pivarunas writings that condemn Vatican II for "promot[ing] the work of the anti-Christ" and for its efforts to reach out to Jews and Muslims even though, he argues, those religions have "persistently attacked the Catholic Church throughout history." At a St. Michael's conference last October, Australian John Lane gave a talk earnestly recounting how he had learned "about the Protocols of Zion [a book alleging a Jewish plot to take over the world], I mean, the whole story." Lane also spoke reverently of meeting Hutton Gibson, the actor Mel Gibson's father and a hard-line anti-Semite. Pivarunas chimed in with a condemnation of Pope John Paul II's outreach to Jews, which included a visit to a German synagogue. Such attitudes aren't new at St. Michael's. In the mid-1990s, when the religious scholar Michael Cuneo visited, his official guide told him: "We know that Freemasons and Jewish leaders have wanted for centuries to bring on a one-world government, and we know that the Church was the only thing really standing in their way." St. Michael's, which is part of the larger Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen, has 800 lay adherents, a cloistered residence for nuns, a church, and an academy for students from kindergarten through high school.
TRADITION IN ACTION
Los Angeles, Calif.
Tradition in Action was formed in 1995 by Marian Horvat and is dedicated to creating "counter-revolutionaries" -- people willing to fight changes in the church, starting at the time of the French Revolution, that were supposedly wrought by Masons, Jews, and "other seminal secret forces." Horvat was joined in 1996 by a Brazilian church scholar named Atila Sinke Guimarães, who like Horvat was a former leader in the far-right Catholic anti-abortion group, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, which threw them out in 1998. Tradition in Action is particularly angry with the late Pope John Paul II, arguing that before him the Catholic Church "was vigilant for 2,000 years against the enmity of the synagogue." Horvat helped Guimarães launch the 1997 English edition of his In the Murky Waters of Vatican II, an attack on the Vatican II reforms. Guimarães moved to the United States to join Horvat in 1999, and has been here ever since. Guimarães has also been writing for John Vennari's Catholic Family News since 1998, and for Michael Matt's The Remnant since 1999. Guimarães, Vennari, Matt and Horvat collaborated in the 2000 anti-Vatican book We Resist You to the Face, in which the four authors "respectfully suspend obedience to the Pope" and declare themselves in a "state of resistance" to the Vatican II reforms. The book also condemns John Paul II for accepting gun control and the United Nations, and even for allowing pop singer Bob Dylan to perform for him. Tradition in Action goes further than that, however. On its Web site, it cites approvingly church actions against Jews over the centuries, listing a series of religious edicts condemning Jews for usury and blasphemy, and banning marriage between Catholics and Jews. In the same vein, the site approvingly quotes the infamous 1492 edict of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic monarchs of Spain, that expelled from the country all Jews who declined to convert to Christianity.