Wednesday, June 25, 2008
"Like it was in Greenwich Village around 1963, though with fewer berets"
What happens when you get Fr. Neuhaus, George Weigel, Jody Bottum, Russell Hittinger, David Novak, Robert P. George and company in the same room? A First Things Hootenanny
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Currently Reading: Weigel, "Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism"
I am presently reading an advance copy of George Weigel's -- as also, it appears, Jay Anderson and Gerald Augustinus (no doubt this will confirm Vox Nova's worst fears about an organized Catholic neocon conspiracy). ;-)
As it is nearing Christmas, I intend to blog my thoughts on Weigel's proposals in the New Year and look forward to what I'm sure will be an engaging discussion with my readers.
In the meantime, here's the publisher's info:
More than half a decade after 9/11, safe passage through a moment of history fraught with both peril and possibility requires Americans across the political spectrum to see things as they are.
The book has garnered high praise from Norman Podhoretz (Commentary), William Kristol (Weekly Standard), R. James Woolsey (former director of the CIA), Fouad Ajami (Middle East Studies author), and Senator Joseph Leiberman.
Lest you're wondering, I'm also reading Pope Benedict XVI's Spe Salvi (in between naps, as is the tendency these days), and will blog my (meager) thoughts in January.
Thursday, June 14, 2007
Rewarding Bad Behavior?
On Fr. Neuhaus and Mark Shea
I have over the course of the past two years joined many others in their increasing discomfort with the way Mark Shea has conducted himself as a Catholic apologist in the public sphere -- in his clear misrepresentation of others' positions and treatment of those with whom he disagrees by the imputation of the worst possible motives.
But as long as you support war in Lebanon, war in Iraq and a "war-fighting Republican Party," in the Weekly Standard's phrase, you get a pass on everything else. Beat the drum for permanent war for global democracy and against Islamo-fascism, and all other sins are forgiven you. . . .
and in a subsequent post I responded to the strange manner in which Mark's commentary on social and political issues had illustrated a reliance upon strings of jingles and catchphrases which bore little resemblance to the complexities of reality (and usually directed at the neocon shibboleth).
To cite but just two examples:
. . . "War Zealots and Master Planners with big ideas for a New American Century based on "creative destruction" and other Machiavellian schemes" (Catholic and Enjoying It August 19, 2006).Besides the fact that such phrases simply make no coherent sense to the reader even moderately acquainted with the many facets of neoconservatism and its proponents, my concern was the general impact this form of "arguing" would have on the discussion in general. I had likewise voiced this concern in his combox on several occasions (engaging Mark directly over his constant reference to "The Rubber Hose Right"), and entertained the hope that he would grow out of it.
Unfortunately, in the months that followed it became apparent that this combination of soundbytes with inflammatory rhetoric -- what one might expect from, say, Bill Maher, Michael Moore and other liberal pundits -- was simply becoming the norm.
This concern cemented itself with Mark's role in the so-called "torture debate" in the online Catholic blogging community. For what it's worth, here were my contributions to "the torture debate": On Torture, "Aggressive Interrogation" and The Military Commissions Act of 2006 (Part I), Part II and Part III.
Part II and III specifically concern themselves with Mark Shea's comments, especially on the matter of the Abu Ghraib scandal. While I share similar concerns about the policies and conduct of the Bush administration and the lack of accountability, I find that pounding the table and asserting that "Dick Cheney wants more Abu Ghraibs" (to quote Shea), that "virtually the entire field of GOP Candidates and most of the Allegedly Conservative Punditocracy Favors [beating a man to death]" (to quote Shea again), or that the only reason "people were prosecuted and sent to jail [for Abu Ghraib] is because it would have been political suicide not to do so" (Shea yet again) really does nothing to advance the discussion.
So has Victor Davis Hanson for that matter, who Mark recently dismissed as a "Pagan Realpolitik Zealot."
And the virtual mouthpiece of the neoconservative movement -- The Weekly Standard -- has published articles criticizing the Bush administration's practice of rendition and in support of a uniform standard prohibiting detainee abuse.
I have endeavored to point out all of this to Mark on numerous occasions (on this blog and in his combox), but he's quite wedded to his current approach of slamming the "Rubber Hose Right" and "The Torture Party" en masse -- which sacrifices clarity for convenience and actually has the unfortunate effect of alienating possible allies on the right (not to mention fellow Catholics).
This pattern of verbal abuse extends itself to other topics as well. Sadly, when Mark moves from hurling general broadsides at political parties ("Tweedledum" and "Tweedledee") and takes aim at specific individuals, his remarks are not merely ignorant and comical. Rather, to concur with Sydney Carton, his "so-called sarcasm is intensely personal, characteristic of a vindictivness that is surprising."
The matter of Mark's libel against Michael Ledeen has been explored and documented in the past; I wish to cite three more examples of such misrepresentation and unjust treatment:
Mark Shea on Michael Novak
As part of the trio of 'Catholic neocons', Michael Novak (along with Neuhaus and George Weigel) receives a great deal of criticism for expressing his personal support of the Iraq war and the foreign policy of the Bush administration in general. Whilte Fr. Neuhaus is curiously absent from Mark's criticism, his remarks about Novak leave much to be desired:
Mark Shea on Tom McKenna
In November 2006, responding to Mr. Tom McKenna on the matter of sentencing Saddam Hussein:
Tom McKenna is Predictably Angry with Me
At the time, Mr. McKenna was expressing his personal frustration with the comments of Cardinal Martino on the execution of Saddam ("punishing a crime with another crime"). He was certainly not alone among Catholic bloggers in doing so (see fellow apologist Jimmy Akin).
Nor was McKenna alone in expressing confusion over what he perceived to be the embrace of an 'abolitionist' mentality on capital punishment by the Vatican. Other Catholics like Justice Antonin Scalia (Antonin Scalia and His Critics: The Church, the Courts, and the Death Penalty in First Things and Michael Dunnigan ("The Purposes of Punishment" CHRISTIFIDELIS Sept. 14, 2003) have expressed similar concerns about the present faming of this issue in the Catechism.
One can certainly sympathize with Mark's inclination to defend John Paul II against McKenna's criticism, but Mark's decision to paint his subject in the worst possible light ("devoted to obsessing over how to execute as many people as humanly possible" and "naturally orgasmic at the idea of hanging Saddam") only greatly impeded this effort (much less the possibility of a fair and civil exchange on Shea's blog).
Incidentally, Tom McKenna happens to be a criminal prosecutor by profession. "Orgasmic at the idea of an execution"? Devoted to "death, death and more death"? -- No, but as he reminds us, he HAS "had to sit with the families of murder victims and witness first hand the social, moral, and personal destruction wrought by murderers", and one of the necessary obligations of his office is to weigh the "proportionate, careful use of the death penalty."
Mark Shea on Norman Podhoretz
In May 2007 Mark used the death of a U.S. soldier to smear Norman Podhoretz:
Another Cubicle Dweller Has More Plans for More Andy BacevichesNo doubt, criticial commentary on Norman Podhoretz's "The Case for Bombing Iran (Commentary ) might be ventured. But again, here is not so much an attempt to engage Podhoretz's argument as simply to mock, and imbue the worst of motives. This is what passes for a "response" in Mark's eyes. (Sydney Carton is to be commended for his attempting to reason with Mark in the combox and demonstrate where he might have been amiss in his depiction).
I want to reiterate: my criticism of Mark is not motivated by personal disagreement with the content of his position. There are some issues on which we disagree and a great deal more on which we are in clear agreement. And on the matter of the conduct of the Bush administration and their prosecution of the war in Iraq and even its defenders, reasonable criticisms should and has been made. But if you hope to persuade somebody of your position on the war or any other issue, fostering an environment conducive to civil exchange and accurately presenting your opponent's positions will work in your favor.
To quote Fr. John Courtney Murray, SJ:
Barbarism likewise threatens when men cease to talk together according to reasonable laws. There are laws of argument, the observance of which is imperative if discourse is to be civilized. Argument ceases to be civil when it is dominated by passion and prejudice . . . when dialogue gives way to a series of monologues . . . when the parties to the conversation cease to listen to one another, or hear only what they want to hear, or see the other's argument only through the screen of their own categories; when defiance is flung to the basic ontological principle of all ordered discourse, which asserts that Reality is an analogical structure, within which there are variant modes of reality, to each of which there corresponds a distinctive method of thought that imposes on argument its own special rules. When things like this happen, men cannot be locked together in argument. Conversation becomes merely quarrelsome or querulous. Civility dies with the death of the dialogue.One need only spend a little time with Mark Shea online to see that his conduct and treatment of others is the antithesis of civil discourse and Christian charity.
On Fr. Neuhaus' Foreward
It is at this point I'd like to note Mark's mention of Fr. Neuhaus' decision to write a foreward to his upcoming book. I have been a subscriber to First Things for decades (at least since I was in college) and have long-admired the journal as an example of how the free exchange of ideas ought to occur.
For example, it's refreshing to pick up a magazine and see such disparate parties as George Weigel, Peter Griffiths, Rowan Williams and Stanley Hauerwaus weigh in on just war theory in the pages of a single journal; or Cardinal Dulles and Justice Scalia debate the contemporary application of capital punishment and its presentation in the Catechism -- contrast this with the daily dose of polemics and what merely passes for debate on, say, Fox News and even on many blogs. And if First Things has been a model of civil discussion, Fr. Neuhaus has exemplified the same -- both in his own writing and in his response to various critics.
Now contrast this with Shea's caricatures of neoconservatives in general as "Money and Power Firsters" who are "All About Power and Realpolitik" and "pissing away our grandchildrens savings and trying to make the world into the image and likeness of Michael Novak through the exportation of our democratic capitalist system at the point of a gun" to the more recent (and completely absurd) fulminations about "sinister rhetoric of Creative Destruction that is animating the latest Big Thinkers in their Wilsonian/Machiavellian attempts to create heaven on earth" -- and his persistent slander and obstinate misrepresentation of countless individuals. . . .and you have an inkling of why I am absolutely baffled that Neuhaus would, at this particular time, commend Mr. Shea in the form of an introduction to his forthcoming book.
It is a strange and disappointing move for someone dedicated to fostering -- in his own words -- a "civil public square."
A reader had responded to me privately posing the question of whether -- as opposed of being dishonest -- Mark Shea was merely out of his league, his present approach and blogging style masquing an ignorance of the complexities of the political situation.
"Change--above all violent change--is the essence of human history." - Michael Ledeen
Mark Shea links to a CBS News story about U.S. soldiers rescuing "24 special-needs boys from a Baghdad orphanage after finding the children suffering in horrific conditions" in a government-run orphanage:
Inside the building, a government-run orphanage for special needs children, the soldiers found more emaciated little bodies tied to the cribs. They had been kept this way for more than a month, according to the soldiers called in to rescue the 24 boys.Fortunately, the neglected kids were saved by U.S. troops (on routine patrol), and the perpetrators are now under arrest and detained by the Iraqi government.
It's a brutal story, but let's face reality: it could happen anywhere, indeed probably has happened, in every major city in the U.S. (and then some). Want to experience the loss of humanity? The callous neglect of the poor and suffering? Turn on the six o'clock news.
So why, may I ask, would Mark deliberately choose to link to the story in such a way as to suggest that Michael Ledeen is responsible? To suggest that Ledeen condones this kind of abuse?
I posed this question twice in the combox -- deleted on both counts.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
An "Idolization" of Democracy?
"I think that, on the whole, the faith that democratic capitalism is the Answer is one that tends to characterize the neocon project."That's Mark Shea, circa 2006, summing up the "idolatry" of the neoconservative project in his latest post.
Methinks there is more to "neoconservatism" than meets the eye, or the curt dismissal of Mark Shea. For example, here is Irving Kristol, considered the "founder" of American neoconservatism:
Though the phrase "the quality of life" trips easily from so many lips these days, it tends to be one of those cliches with many trivial meanings and no large, serious one. Sometimes it merely refers to some externals as the enjoyment of cleaner air, cleaner water, cleaner streets. At other times it refers to the merely private enjoyment of music, painting and literature. Rarely does it have anything to do with the way the citizen in a democracy views himself -- his obligations, his intentions, his ultimate self-definition.
Shea portrays neoconservatives as treating democracy as a panacea for troubles in the Middle East -- their fault in, quoting Shea, "predicated on a sincere religious faith in a false god and that god's power to redeem and heal": overthrow a tyranny, put in a "managerial" form of democracy, and things will right themselves as long as the machinery of democracy is in place.
I think the quote from Kristol -- a neoconservative if there ever was one -- demonstrates that Kristol possesses anything but a faith in democracy as a "cure-all," as "The Answer." Kristol in this case (if I read him correctly) argues against such an idolization of democracy, a concern for establishing the "machinery" of democracy without taking into consideration the development of character that is essential for its very survival.
So when Shea characterizes "the Neocon project" as an idolatry of democracy, I have to wonder how much he really knows of Irving Kristol, the founder of neoconservatism?
At the same time, it was reading Mark's post that called to mind a passage from Building the Free Society: Democracy Capitalism and Catholic Social Teaching, edited by George Weigel, Robert Royal. (Eerdmans, 1994), a great compilation of essays -- not necessarily "neoconservative" -- on various encyclicals and conciliar documents. This from Kenneth Grasso:
There is no single notion of democracy. Rather, there are various theories, rooted in different understandings of politics and animated by divergent conceptions of nature and destiny of man. Although similar in their institutional and procedural frameworks, the democracies created by these conflicting philosophies differ greatly in their spirit and substance. In the face of the democratic revolution that is sweeping the world today, the key question becomes: Which conception of democracy is animating this revolution?
Friday, August 18, 2006
A Second Response to Mark Shea
I see Mark Shea has responded to me ("The Ratzinger Fan Club is Taking Me to Task" Catholic and Enjoying It August 17, 2006). Let me point out that this blog is hosted at the RatzingerFanClub -- I do employ it as a means of posting the monthly Pope Benedict Roundups as has become a hobby since the time of the conclave. But as I clearly note in the margin, Against The Grain features "Occasional notes by the guy who maintains the RatzingerFanClub and the Pope Benedict XVI Fan Club" -- I don't presume to speak for anybody but myself on this topic.
[Mark Shea:] First, the issue for me is not Lieberman as Senator but the Weekly Standard's dreamy hopes for Lieberman as a GOP Veep. If that's not prostitution of the entire pro-life movement to the neocon agenda, I don't know what is.The chief intent of my post ("Some Thoughts on Mark Shea, Joseph Leiberman and Ned Lamont" August 16, 2006) -- was to explain why I think Kristol might have a legitimate motivation for reaching out to Leiberman, and perceiving the Democratic Party's abandonment of the Senator to embrace the "Lamont/Sharpton/Jackson/Murtha/Soros/Sheehan/Moore/Kos" wing as something we should be concerned about.
Personally I hold no enthusiasm for bringing Leiberman aboard as VP on any kind of ticket -- but at the same time, I think I know Kristol well enough through his other writings to find myself skeptical of your explicit agreement with Pat Buchanan's caricature (and your own "Money and Power Firster"). As I believe I've demonstrated, rather than impute in Kristol the most Machiavellian of intentions, another (perhaps more charitable) reading is possible.
I don't think "neocon" is a code word for "Jew". . . .Of course you don't, Mark. I'm very much aware of your opposition to the antisemitism of the "Catholic" fringe. (Wish I could say the same for Pat Buchanan, but that's another sad topic altogether). That said . . .
[Mark Shea:] I think ["neocon"] is a term that loosely defines a wide number of people from many backgrounds who have the Administration's ear and who have had Big Dreams about making America a force for good in the world, even if some eggs have to be broken to make that geopolitical omelette. It's not an ignoble dream, but it is one that has shown itself vulnerable to all the normal drawbacks associated with attempts to seize the One Ring and do good with it. The commonality I see between the contemptible power-worshipping ideas of guys like Michael Ledeen and the equally contemptible power-worshipping ideas of John Derbyshire (not Jewish, so far as I know) are an easy willingness to do evil that good may come of it. What irked me about the warm fantasizing over Lieberman at WS was the transparent disinterest in issues some of us still think are vital, so long as it afforded an opportunity for Gondor to continue the dream of remaking the world in this New American Century. . . .Q: What makes a neocon? -- Given the twists and turns in the interpretation of the term 'neocon' over the decades, I believe that when the 'neocon' label is liberally applied without proper clarification, it all to easily becomes an impediment to the discussion. This is as evident on your blog as it is on any other anti-war or conspiracy website.
When Joseph Lieberman and Hillary Clinton are referred to as "neocons" (Is Neoconservatism Really Conservative?, by J.P. Hubert Jr. TCRNews.com); when the Houston Catholic Worker can assert that "Neoliberalism is known in the United States as neoconservatism"; when conspiracy-minded "end-times" quacks rave about The Prince of Darkness and Other [Jewish] Neocons Pulling Bush's Strings . . . it's more than enough to propose that the term neocon be banished from blogdom. And I daresay you'd agree with me here.
[Mark Shea:] I'm just sayin' some of us think that it's possible to have a conservative who supports the war on Terror *and* cares about human life. That the latter issue is so remote from Kristol's mind as he gazes dreamily into the New American future says rather a lot about him, and Weekly Standard's editorial stance, and about some of the fault lines in American conservatism.Just out of curiousity, Mark, how often do you read the Weekly Standard and how do you view its relation to neoconservatism? What is neoconservativism?
I admit I find myself confused by your mish-mash of terms. In one of your latest posts you exclaim
I find myself thinking that I'd rather live in a world of people who err as the Pope does than in a world of War Zealots and Master Planners with big ideas for a New American Century based on "creative destruction" and other Machiavellian schemesBut who are you referring to exactly in the above sentence? -- It is often the case that you wildly tar the "neocons" and "conservatives" alike with broad, sweeping strokes, without bothering to clarify who or what you're referring to.
Example -- Neither Michael Ledeen nor John Derbyshire are affiliated with the Project for a New American Century or one of its principle documents, Rebuilding America's Defenses [.pdf format]. Nor do they write regularly (if at all?) for the Weekly Standard (the locus of "neoconservative" thought these days) -- their affiliation is rather with the National Review. But you refer to both Ledeen and Derbyshire in your explication to me of what you mean by "neocon."
Likewise, the term "creative destruction" is properly attributed to Michael Ledeen. Can you tell me how Ledeen refers to the principle of "creative destruction" and where it appears in the proposal of PNAC? -- "War Zealots and Master Planners with big ideas for a New American Century based on "creative destruction" and other Machiavellian schemes" rolls easily enough off the tongue and makes for a good soundbyte . . . until you start to think about the origin of the terms and their relation to each other, and just who is being referred to here.
Likewise, I'm mystified by your present hostility to the Weekly Standard as a neoconservative publication -- are you at all aware that, with respect to torture (a subject you're undoubtedly familiar with), the Standard has, under the editorship of the same "Money and Power Firster" William Kristol, published articles adopting a moral stance more sympathetic with your own?
In May 2005 Reuel Marc Gerecht published Against Rendition: Why the CIA shouldn't outsource interrogations to countries that torture (which I wholeheartedly agree with, by the way); and in One Code To Rule Them All (October 4, 2005), Tom Donnelly and Vance Serchuk charged that
FOOL ME ONCE, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. When it comes to detaining prisoners seized in Iraq, Afghanistan and on the other fronts of the terror war, the Pentagon's "just-trust-us" mentality continues to undercut American strategy. Thankfully, Congress is at last on the verge of doing what the administration clearly cannot: set clear standards for the treatment of detainees.And on a similar note, here's the Hobbsian and "demi-pagan" (as you called him), professor Victor Davis Hanson, who asserted:
The United States can win this global war without employing torture. That we will not resort to what comes so naturally to Islamic terrorists also defines the nobility of our cause, reminding us that we need not and will not become anything like our enemies.(The Truth about Torture Dec. 5, 2005).
I'm not sure whether you had linked to any of these articles while blogging the case against "The Torture Apologists" and "Rubber Hose Right." I know each of us has a blogging 'style', but I think that we might have had a lot better discussion on these issues (which are controversial and inflammmatory enough as they are) if such generalizations could be abandoned in favor of seeking a definition of terms and attribution of views (properly represented) to specific individuals rather than an amorphous group of "neocons."
Last year, I found it refreshing that a number of individuals including Daniel Darling (Detainee abuse redux Winds of Change October 6, 2005) and Fr. Neuhaus could engage in a civil and intelligent discussion on so inflammatory a topic while foregoing this kind of rhetoric.
If you want to know what set me off with your citing of Buchanan, I caught a whiff of these same tactics -- the misrepresentation, the generalization, the caricatures -- in your treatment of William Kristol.
Perhaps if the 'McCain-Lieberman ticket' were a reality and Kristol had actually joined their campaign, I would readily share your concern (and would probably have some questions for Kristol of my own).
But what I see now in Kristol and a number of other writers (some of them Catholic, like William Bennett), is a concern of what the Connecticut Democrats have chosen to embrace by its ousting of Lieberman -- and the necessity of reaching out across party lines to those like Lieberman who, for whatever their defects or disagreements on a host of other issues, nonetheless recognize the existential threat posed by the global jihad against the West.
To those not remotely interested in this issue or wondering what purpose it has on this blog, thanks for indulging. Another "Pope Benedict Roundup" is in the works and I'll be returning to our usual fair shortly.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
Some Thoughts on Mark Shea, Joseph Leiberman and Ned Lamont
Siding with (and citing) Pat Buchanan, Mark Shea takes issue with the (neo)conservative embrace of Sen. Joseph Lieberman:
Last year, Joe's rating by Americans for Democratic Action was 80. The ACLU gave him an 83, the NAACP an 85, the AFL-CIO a 92, LULAC a perfect 100. In 2004, Joe got a 100 rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League and a zero from National Right to Life. His American Conservative Union rating was zero. His Christian Coalition rating was zero. The National Rifle Association, which grades by letters, gave Joe a big, fat "F."Mark links directly to Buchanan's editorial, but fails to provide readers with the original essay by Kristol (Anti-war, Anti-Israel, anti-Joe: The New Democrats, Weekly Standard 08/14/2006, Volume 011, Issue 45). I'd like to forego the paraphrasing and examine what William Kristol actually thinks:
The key point in Kristol's essay is that "You fight the global war against jihadist Islam with the political parties you have." Not necessarily, he might have added, with the political parties you desire.
As Kristol observes, we have the Republican Party, led by President Bush, whose "heart and mind are mostly in the right place. Its performance as a governing party in time of war is, admittedly, another matter." Despite some legitimate criticisms on what he perceives as a dearth of leadership (Kristol has strong words for Sec. of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and has sharply criticized the Bush administration's handling of the war in the past),
". . . at least we have a president who knows we are at war with jihadist Islam. And he is willing to stake his presidency on that fight, and to support others, like Israel, who are in the same fight."Kristol goes on to recognize a similar disposition in the person of Joseph Lieberman, who has distinguished himself from a Democratic party which -- to quote William Bennett -- "think[s] they can become a national party by taking their cues from Howard Dean, George Soros, MoveOn.Org, the Daily Kos, and George McGovern’s appeasement-first philosophy."
There is a political opportunity for the Bush administration if the Democrats reject Lieberman. If he's then unable to win as an independent in November, he would make a fine secretary of defense for the remainder of the Bush years. If his independent candidacy succeeds, it will be a message to Bush that he should forge ahead toward victory in Iraq and elsewhere. Either way, the possibility exists for creating a broader and deeper governing party, with Lieberman Democrats welcomed into the Republican fold, just as Scoop Jackson Democrats became Reaganites in the 1980s. Is it too fanciful to speculate about a 2008 GOP ticket of McCain-Lieberman, or Giuliani-Lieberman, or Romney-Lieberman, or Allen-Lieberman, or Gingrich-Lieberman? Perhaps. But a reinvigorated governing and war-fighting Republican party is surely an achievable goal. And a necessary one.William Kristol - "Money and Power-Firster"?
I can't say I share William Bennet's or William Kristol's personal enthusiasm for the good Senator and will refrain from indulging in speculation on a presidential ticket. At the same time, I think Mark Shea and Pat Buchanan, in their venting against the dreaded neocons, are being more than a little unfair in their portrayal of Mr. Kristol.
In July 2006, Mark Shea professed his indecisiveness or agnosticism on whether "William Kristol and other neocons are warmongers untethered from reality", on account that "I distrust the reliability of the information I'm getting and I just don't know enough yet to make a judgment that's worth any thing."
Yet, in August 2006, Mark quotes approvingly Pat Buchanan's depiction of William Kristol as one willing to sacrifice core moral principles and "give a pass on everything else" to anybody who "beat[s] the drum for permanent war".
Presumably Kristol is included as well in Shea's description of the current political debate as a struggle between the "God first conservatives and the Money and Power First Conservatives":
And it's quite clear that, for the neocons, the only thing that matters is war and the entire prolife movement and social conservative types can drop dead. The Neocons are All About Power and Realpolitik. Conservatives are morphing into the mirror of their postmodern nihilistic Leftist opponents.Now, if you listen to the chatter from the anti-war left (antiwar.com, daily kos) and the "paleoconservative" right (The American Conservative), you might recognize William Kristol as a member of the Project for the New American Century, editor of the Weekly Standard, and one of the grand architects of the neoconservative-Zionist conspiracy for perpetual warfare.
Others, however, might recall another side to his political career:
In 1996 he signed his name to The America We Seek: A Statement of Pro-Life Principle and Concern, a joint statement by Catholics, evangelicals and conservatives. In his opposition to human cloning, Kristol has allied himself with Charles Colson, William Bennett, Fr. Neuhaus, James Dobson, George Weigel and other major pro-life religious and conservative voices.
Kristol has demonstrated a personal interest and keen grasp of the issues involved in the recent debate over ESCR (embroyonic stem cell research) and human cloning. In February 12, 2001 he authored an editorial "The Future Is Now" in that infamous neocon propaganda machine otherwise known as The Weekly Standard. Drawing from C.S. Lewis' prophetic The Abolition of Man, Kristol concluded that
"Before this prospect [of genetic human conditioning], before this possibility, every other issue pales not into insignificance, for many other issues are significant, but at least into lesser significance. The challenge of the scientific revolution in genetics and biotechnology, of scientific "progress" loosed from natural, human, or religious moorings, is the challenge we face."Together with Eric Cohen (editor of the Ethics & Public Policy Center's journal New Atlantis), Kristol co-published The Future is Now: America Confronts the New Genetics (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), providing a substantial introduction to the debate (see contents and excerpts here).
In May 2004, he co-authored another article with Eric Cohen, "The Politics of Bioethics: Playing Defense is Not Enough", The Weekly Standard, Volume 009, Issue 33.
It's because of Kristol's thought on these issues and the overall nature of his writing that I can't help but take umbrage with Pat Buchanan's -- and Mark Shea's -- depiction of him. Frankly, I think the choice of phrase tells us more about a personal animosity toward the elusive neocons and the war in Iraq than it does about Kristol himself.
Lieberman's Pro-Choice Credentials
Shea/Buchanan base their criticism of Lieberman largely on his pro-choice credentials. But, correct me if I'm wrong, Ned Lamont's record on the life issues is no more admirable than Lieberman's -- and if you happen to read some of the more liberal blogs, they're characterizing NARAL's support of Lieberman as a scam, calling into question his loyalty to the pro-abortion cause:
There is much one could -- and should -- rightly criticize about Lieberman's record on the life issues, but at the same time we should recognize that his "pro-choice" credentials, as touted by Buchanan, aren't as stolid as he makes them out to be. In the end, given as how Republicans haven't exactly offered any contenders with a fighting chance against the Democrats, we are left with the choice of Lieberman or Lamont in Connecticut. Which leads us to the question:
What's wrong with Ned Lamont?
And as one of Mark's commentators ("Ed the Roman") observed,
Everything for Mark to dislike about Lieberman is there in Lamont, except that he's anti-war.Forgive me for the lengthy quotation, but Clifford D. May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, has put it best:
Spin it as he may, the central plank in Lamont’s platform is for the U.S. to accept complete and utter defeat at the hands of terrorists and insurgents in Iraq — and, by implication, before long, elsewhere too. It does not fool most of the people to say, as Lamont did, that he will bring the troops “home to a hero’s welcome.” In the real world, that is not what awaits those who suffer defeat — however painful their wounds, however great their courage under fire.In the end, we are faced with the question: Is it possible for Kristol to appeal for possible cooperation and common ground between "Lieberman Democrats" and Republicans on the issue of national security without sacrificing pro-life principles?
Update! For those arriving at this post by way of Mark Shea's, I've written a response to Mark here. Probably the last in this little exchange.
Saturday, May 20, 2006
Concerning My Involvement in the "Jewish Neocon" Conspiracy
A Response to Thomas Herron
On Thomas E. Woods' The Church and the Market
In March 2005 Thomas E. Woods, Jr. published a book titled The Church and the Market : A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy (Lexington Books). A summary of the book is included in one of Wood's columns, Capitalism and Catholicism (LewRockwell.com February 14, 2005).
In light of its chosen subject matter and based on a number of reviews I've read by some credible sources, I saw fit to include it in my website, The Church and the Liberal Tradition, which focuses in part on the interpretation and application of Catholic social doctrine and Catholic approaches to economics.
Writing for the blog 'Catholic Neocon Observer' -- dedicated in theory to "a clinical observation of the spread of the neoconservative [re: predominantly Jewish] virus within the Catholic print and electronic media," but extending in practice to criticism of Catholics who would hardly fit the elusive "neocon" profile -- Thomas Herron (Culture Wars) reads something more into my inclusion of Wood's book.
In his January 2006 post, "Selective Dissent on Catholic Moral Teachings: Economics Department", Herron states:
It appears that Christopher Blosser the web master of The Church and the Liberal Tradition, has made the acquaintance of Dr. Woods and they have become friends which wouldn't be surprising as "the Augustinian-Whig tradition" that Blosser talks about apparently is fairly close to the libertarianism that Thomas WoodsIn a subsequent March 2006 post, Herron revisits the allegation:
Now apparently Mr. Blosser and Dr. Woods are acquaintances in the New York City Tridentine Mass group and we know that it's good to give your friends a boost in your web site . . .That Herron relies entirely on hearsay is evident at this point, as Woods and I have never had the pleasure of meeting in person, in New York city much less at a 'Tridentine Mass group.' My friendship with Dr. Woods has not developed beyond a brief exchange of email last year, our discussion limited to his motivation for writing The Church and the Market.
Also, if I may take a moment to correct Mr. Herron, the term isn't "Augustinian-Whig" but rather "Whig-Thomist" -- which refers to Michael Novak and a few other Catholic scholars who are appreciative of the classical liberal tradition. Given Herron's unfamiliarity with the term and the "Whig-Thomist" / "Augustinian-Thomist" debate, he may want to refer to the very website he has just mentioned, as well as Dr. Tracy Rowland's two-part interview "Benedict XVI, Thomism, and Liberal Culture" (Zenit, May 27, 2005), and my post Aquinas:"First Whig?" - Novak's Catholic Whig Tradition (Religion and Liberty September 21, 2005).
Fuming over Fringewatch and My Alleged "Jewish Neocon" Backers
Mr Herron appears to be particularly upset over a February 2006 collaborative investigation into the background of IHS Press and its founders, John Sharpe and Derek Holland: "IHS Press, Potential Fascist & Antisemitic Connections, Etc.: A Chronicle of Disturbing Patterns" (Against the Grain February 27, 2006). This particular post was a summarization of the investigative series FringeWatch, a blog by Matt Anger devoted to "monitoring the attempted neo-fascist and racist infiltration of conservative/traditional Catholicism."
In the course of his "rebuttal" to the investigation "straining out the gnat, but swallowing the camel", Herron refers to Dale Vree's editorial (What is a Neoconservative? And does it Matter? New Oxford Review December 2005), in which Vree mentions an alleged offer of support by a "neocon foundation," musing
Michael Novak (very pro-Israel) founded Crisis . . . and Fr. Neuhaus (also very pro-Israel) founded First Things, both with huge financial support from neocon foundations. So the neocons found a way to get Catholic and Christian magazines to front for their largely Jewish neocon interests . . . .Vree's neocon-conspiracy theorizing prompts Herron to speculate in turn:
Now isn't it amazing that Mr. Blosser has two web sites dealing with exactly these topics [Just War[?] and The Church and the Liberal Tradition], and it isn't amazing that the attacks on Dale Vree and New Oxford Review started in earnest in St. Blog's Parish when he made this revelation? Just wondering, if that Jewish neocon who visited Dale Vree long ago, took the subway out to visit Christopher Blosser in Queens, N.Y.? Mr. Blosser thinks that I'm attacking him and his family for being recent converts to the Catholic Church. Nothing could be further from the truth, I'd just like to know if he has hidden sponsors.Well, Mr. Herron -- nothing could be further from the truth. I have received neither a visitation nor an offer of financial backing by a "Jewish neocon," and the various online projects I'm engaged in are largely the result of my own inspiration.
Besides, my influence over St. Blog's parish is largely exaggerated. Criticism of Dale Vree "started in earnest" quite some time ago, and (if I recall) chiefly as a result of Vree's sniping at Amy Welborn, Mark Shea, Scott Hahn, Dave Morrison, et al, each of whom have their own reasons for taking issue with New Oxford Review.
If Mr. Herron is truly curious about my own criticism, he can read all about it in Dale Vree and the New Oxford Review (Against the Grain February 10, 2006); and my subsequent criticism of Vree's interpretation of just war reasoning, Toward a Proper Understanding of the Catholic Just War Tradition (May 18, 2006).
The title of Herron's post, "straining out the gnat, but swallowing the camel", refers (again) to my willingness to include Dr. Wood's The Church and the Market, and the fact that I have scrupulously removed books published by IHS Press from my website. Herron asks:
In view of Christopher Blosser's stated scrupulosity with recommending books on his web site from questionable sources, how does he explain an outright attack on the popes which clearly state that they should not be listened to because they don't understand the "science" of economics?"Suffice to say in light of Matt Anger's investigation of IHS Press and my own confrontation of John Sharpe's promotion of anti-semitic works by his organization (The Legion of St. Louis), I have strong reservations about linking to this particular publisher. With respect to The Church and the Market, I know enough by way of reviews (and my own familiarity with Woods' columns on this topic) to give Dr. Woods the benefit of the doubt.
When I was informed of "Catholic Neocon Observer" (and its various allegations about me), I weighed the tedious chore of responding against the likely possibility that, in so doing, I would risk providing Thomas Herron with the online audience he so desperately craves. However, seeing as how Bill Cork has felt compelled to respond to far more serious charges ("From the Fringe ..." Built on a Rock May 20, 2006), I decided now was as good an opportunity as any to get it over with.
Inasmuch as my alleged friendship with Dr. Thomas Woods and financial backing by "Jewish neocons" have caused Mr. Herron no small amount of concern, it is my hope that this post will relieve him of his worries.
Monday, February 27, 2006
IHS Press, Potential Fascist & Antisemitic Connections, Etc.: A Chronicle of Disturbing Patterns
I usually am not inclined to blog on this kind of topic, but having conducted several weeks' investigation into this matter I believe the questions raised by fellow Catholic Matthew Anger (Fringe Watch) are credible, and that this issue, disturbing as it is, should be brought to the greater attention of the public. Please note that as any more information pertaining to this issue becomes available this post may be updated in the future -- Thanks, CB].
In September 2001, John Sharpe and Derek Holland founded IHS Press, its stated mission "to bring back into print the classics of last century on the Social Teachings of the Catholic Church" -- which the publishers hope will be "a welcome and refreshing change for any socially-conscious reader who, in a search for a humane solution to modern social problems, is looking for a break from worn-out theories."
In December 2005, IHS Press, under the imprint "Light and Darkness," published the two-part anthology Neo-Conned and Neo-Conned Again. Featuring "20 months of extensive research" and the contributions of a broad range of authors (a "who's who" of those who opposed the Iraq war), including "paleoconservative" Pat Buchanan (The American Conservative), Joseph Sobran, Deacon Keith Fournier (former editor of TCRNews.com), Paul Likoudis (The Wanderer), William T. Cavanaugh, Ph.D. (author of Torture and Eucharist), Scott Ritter (former chief UN weapons inspector for UNSCOM), journalist Robert Fisk, Professor Noam Chomsky, Justin Raimondo (antiwar.com), Mark & Louise Zwick (Houston Catholic Worker) and E. Michael Jones (Culture Wars) -- with endorsements by everyone from Dale Vree (New Oxford Review) to Howard Zinn (historian, Boston University) to Bishop Williamson (SSPX). . . . in the publisher's words, "a hard-hitting, no-holds-barred examination of the immorality, the injustice, the illegality, and the insanity of America’s aggression against Iraq."
In December 2005, Matthew Anger (who some might recognize as a frequent contributor to the Seattle Catholic) launched a blog called Fringe Watch, its primary aim "a study on the Third Positionist neo-fascist infiltration of conservative/traditional Catholic circles," but extending its investigation into such controversial figures as Bishop Williamson (SSPX), Fr. Leonard Feeney (1897-1978) . . . and IHS Press founders John Sharpe and Derek Holland. The relevant posts from his blog are as follows:
It also appears that the co-founder of IHS Press is none other than Derek Holland (presently going by the name of Deric O'Huallachain), a former International Third Position (ITP) leader with a sympathy for anti-American Arab governments, having traveled to Libya in 1988 (a field trip organized by Ayran Nations Australia leader Robert Pash).
According to Wikipedia's biography:
Holland's last public appearance was at a Swedish nationalist convention in 2002 (hosted by Nationaldemokratisk Ungdom, the youth wing of the National Democrats). Since that time the ITP appears to have gravitated towards the European National Front, and Holland has retired from active involvement in politics, though his Political Soldier writings are still circulated amongst radical nationalists.According to Matt Anger, Derek Holland now resides in Ireland and sits on the board of directors of IHS Press:
From the moment that IHS Press was established in 2001, people expressed concern, but were reassured (as was this writer) that Holland had put his extremism "behind him." Apparently that didn't stop him from being guest speaker at the February 2002 racial nationalist Nationaldemokratisk Ungdom (NDU) in Sweden. In March of that year the German neo-nazi Deutsche Stimme (German Voice) featured his essay, "Theory and Strategy: The Path of the Political Soldier." An overnight transition from political radicalism to religious orthodoxy seems improbable. And his activities in Ireland have covered as recently as 2005 in the Brandsma Review.
Having blogged previously on the disturbing presence of anti-semitism in "radical traditionalist" circles -- Dubious Sources in Catholic Family News May 17, 2003; Anti-semitism: Another Obstacle to SSPX Reconciliation Against the Grain Dec. 28, 2003; Pope Benedict XVI, the SSPX and Impediments to Reunion Sept. 10, 2005 -- I took an immediate interest in Matt Anger's investigation. (And lest you suspect Anger of possessing "neocon" affinities like myself, do read his Anti-War Conservatives vs. Subversives: A Clarification Fringe Watch Jan. 20, 2005).
Where is all this heading? -- Back in January I had touched on John Sharpe's dubious connections in my introduction to Matt Anger's blog. I was at the time greatly disturbed by these revelations concerning IHS Press, on account that various bloggers and websites I knew(TCRNews.com, for instance) were vigorously promoting the Neoconned series.
Likewise, I myself had promoted IHS Press on my website The Church and the Liberal Tradition (focusing on Catholic social doctrine and the debate between "Whig-Thomists" and "Augustianian Thomists"), and listed one of their books, Dr. Amintore Fanfani's Catholicism, Protestantism, and Capitalism.
Others, however, were somewhat dismissive of Matt Angers' investigation. One commentator protests:
. . . As for Sharpe's views on "the Jews," which I knew nothing of until reading Matt's piece, that is separate. We at our end believe we can praise one work while deploring the rest. We do the same with First Things all the time, which we consider theologically very substantive though politically compromised (again, from our point of view; no offense intended to anyone here).I responded in turn that this was a grave mistake: perhaps one can separate the content from the source, "praising the work while deploring the source" -- but in this case, I would be pressed to ask whether, under the present circumstances, it is right to further the financial gain of this kind of publisher without at least inquiring more closely about their political/ideological views?
Another friend urged me to write John Sharpe and IHS Press regarding these allegations, and I agreed it would be the best idea to confront them directly. On February 8, 2006, I emailed the publishers at IHS Press, by way of their own website as well as their Neoconned promotional page, inquiring about the present connections of John Sharpe to the Legion of St. Louis and IHS Press' co-founder Derek Holland's relationship to the International Third Position (as described in the article Faith-based fascists bridging the waters, Searchlight March 2004). (Recieiving no response, I wrote them again on Februrary 21st).
On February 21, 2006 I received the following response from IHS Press:
I write on behalf of IHS Press as the editor. You should contact the Legion of St. Louis for information on their status or activities. IHS Press is not connected to the Legion of St. Louis.Mr. Sharpe and I corresponded further on the above topics, although his responses to my inquiries regarding the Legion of St. Louis and Derek Holland's background were in large part the same and stuck to the above points. My observations are as follows:
John Sharpe and the Legion of St. Louis
Mr. Sharpe advises: "You should contact the Legion of St. Louis for information on their status or activities. IHS Press is not connected to the Legion of St. Louis." (He reiterated this point in our subsequent correspondence). Now, while this is "factually" true (there is indeed, no formal connection between the two organizations), it remains the case that the founder of "The Legion of St. Louis" is none other than John Sharpe, as documented by the "founding email" of the organization, reproduced here on The LeFloch Report, and this article in the Dec. 13, 2002 edition of Seattle Catholic.
John Sharpe's Commentary on 9/11
[Note: This particular section has been revised on 3/1/06 in light of additional documentation uncovered from MediaMonitors.net -- CB]
Furthermore, as "editor of the Legion of St. Louis", Mr. Sharpe authored a series of essays on 9/11 for conspiracy website MediaMonitors.net, in which he airs views that would be of concern to most Catholics. In the first essay, "Thou Shall Not Kill Sept. 17, 2001, Sharpe suggests that the United States pretty much brought 9/11 on itself. Citing the work of (suprise!) "the master of secret history, Michal A. Hoffman, II," Sharpe muses that "there remains the possibility that that official story [of 9/11] will be a cover for something else, and that there are individuals who benefit from the results . . . who are other than the hypothetical crazy Arabs," speculating in his second essay (The Mainstream Media Reaction to the Attacks: Who's Pulling the Strings? Sept. 19, 2001) that the culprits may very well be "The Mossad or the U.S. Govt."
In this third essay, Islam vs. the West: Is This Another Crusade? October 18, 2001, Sharpe charges that:
Commentary on the geopolitical situation of 2001 can be neither complete nor sufficient if it fails to take into account the Jewish Nation. The temporal power that the Jews have achieved since, picking a somewhat arbitrary date, 1789, is both pervasive and relatively unchallenged. Some readers will doubtless call this extremism, anti-Semitism, and, God-forbid, some strange brand of Nazi fanaticism. On the contrary. It is simply a fact. The forces of high finance, government, and the media have been in largely Jewish hands for some time now; we should therefore expect that the direction in which the world is guided by those forces (or at least in which those forces attempt to guide the world) largely corresponds to a generally Jewish aim.Sharpe goes on to discuss the Catholic response to 9/11 from the Vatican ("little more than a nicely robed fan club for everything modern") and Pope John Paul II ("of scandalous Koran-kissing fame") -- such references to the Holy Father are to be expected -- before concluding:
1. The current and historical mortal enemy of Christian civilization is Judeo-Masonry. There can be no doubt about this fact from an analysis history, both recent, and that which dates from the time of Our Lord. Islam is a sideshow, albeit a powerful and vigorous one, to the main drama. It has been a tool of Jewry and may in fact be so in this case.Part III of Sharpe's 9/11 commentary ends with the anticipation that he "will try to pull together what is known about the "official story" and why it doesn’t wash. It will also consider just what role this 'greater Judaism' may have had in 9-11, particularly in light of the ideological gains which it continues to reap in the name of pluralism and tolerance."
The Sept. 11, 2002 - "9/11 Anniversary Edition" of the LSL's Legion News & Views [available here on the restored website of the LSL, or via the Google cache], again indulges in wild conspiracies about 9/11, recommending the conspiracy-theory websites The Abbé de Nantes" and http://www.whatreallyhappened.com -- speculating (from the former) that Bin Laden is "the secret ally of the United States"; (from the latter), that the Zionists, again, were the true perpetrators of the crime.
John Sharpe's endorsement of Judaism's Strange Gods, by Michael Hoffman II
Mr. Sharpe recommends Michael Hoffman's Judaism's Strange Gods as an "excellent and balanced treatment of an obviously difficult question." Who is Michael Hoffman II?
Michael Hoffman II is a conspiracy-theorist and Holocaust-revisionist, who heads the revisionist website Campaign for Radical Truth in History. He has authored a number of books such as Hate Whitey - The Cinema of Defamation ("tracking Hollywood's psychological war against whites, Christians, Germans and gentiles"); Witches and Rabbis: Legacy of the Reagan White House (the chapter titles alone are a good indication of the content: "Reagan's Kosher Cash Cow; Greatest Presidential Friend of the Israelis; Patron Saint of the Holohoax Lobby," etc.); on revisionisthistory.org, he bemoans the fact that
"The white race --at least in its current degenerate state as manifested in modern America-- is now the golem of the rabbis. Without the unstinting financial and military support of America's white leaders and white voters, the Israeli Zionists would not have one-tenth their power in the world today. The supremacy of whites in America such as George W. Bush, Donald Rumsefeld, Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, George Bush Sr., Justice Antonin Scalia, . . . is synonymous with the rise of Judaic supremacy. I repudiate white supremacy and Judaic supremacy with every ounce of my being."
In subsequent correspondence with Mr. Sharpe I pointed out Michael Hoffmann II's rather dubious connections and asked, whether in light of his other writings as a Holocaust revisionist, Hoffman's Judaism's Strange Gods could honestly be considered to offer a "excellent and balanced" exploration of Judaism. Mr. Sharpe responded:
I am not aware of the books of his that you say indulge "in the worst form of 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion"-esque conspiracy-theorizing", whatever that means exactly. Notwithstanding your own point of view of Mr. Hoffman, his book on Judaism is balanced and enlightening. I suggest you read it before you comment on it one way or another.Although Sharpe professes an ignorance of Hoffman's other works, he has freely cited Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare in his speculations on 9/11. Although he may not be aware of his other works, I admit I was greatly disturbed by his apparent lack of concern about Hoffman's connections when I pointed these out to him.
Truth be told, I have not bothered to read Strange Gods of Judaism. While I am somewhat familiar with the selective-quotation from the Talmud by anti-semites (see the Anti-Defamation League's The Talmud in Anti-Semetic Polemics February 2003, which addresses the spurious charges of Michael Hoffman II and white-supremacist David Duke), the fact that Michael Hoffman II is a celebrated author of, and heavily marketed by, white-nationalist, neo-nazi, "revisionist history" and "New World Order" conspiracy-theory organizations is enough to repel me.
With regards to learning about Judaism as a religious tradition, I have found Hayim Halevy Donin's To Be a Jew: A Guide to Jewish Observance in Contemporary Life (Basic Books, 1991) particularly helpful, along with Back To The Sources: Reading the Classic Jewish Texts (Simon & Schuster, 1986); I suppose Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's Jewish Literacy: The Most Important Things to Know About the Jewish Religion, Its People and Its History wouldn't hurt, either. And to understand Judaism from a Christian/Catholic perspective, one might read Roy H. Schoeman's Salvation is From The Jews (Ignatius Press, 2004).
Point being: if you want to learn about contemporary Judaism, ask a Jew. Better yet, ask a religious orthodox Jew, not a conspiracy-theorist with a background in "white-separatism" and Holocaust-revisionism.
John Sharpe's Lack of Concern about Derek Holland
That IHS Press' founder should plead ignorance of and willful disregard for the past activities of Derek Holland is extremely troubling for this reason: according to Matthew Anger,
The [International Third Position] has long been involved in a scheme of Marxist style "entryism" – with the aim of co-opting groups which profess non-mainstream views (not extremist per se) in the hopes of bringing them under their neo-fascist umbrella. But a breakthrough came with the ITP's St. George Educational Trust (SGET) set up in the early 90s as a "Catholic charity" organization (an investigation of the group by the UK Charity Commission took place in 1997).In subsequent correspondence, John Sharpe reiterated his position that
IHS does not scrutinize the activities of its staff provided those don't violate either the moral or the civil law, and, to repeat, Mr. O'Huallachain's activities - whether or not you endorse them - don't violate either. Therefore they are of no concern to IHS Press.In light of the fact that 1) IHS Press co-founder Derek Holland/Deric O'Huallachain has a known history of involvement in British fascism, including the origination of the International Third Position; 2) Derek Holland's comrade, Italian fascist Roberto Fiore, masterminded a plot in the 1990's to fund "nationalist commmunes" in Spain through "Catholic charities" which purported to be merely thrift stores and distributors of traditional Catholic literature; 3) that, as late as 2002, Derek Holland had a speaking engagement to a convention of the German NPD (Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands) . . . then, in this writer's humble opinion, it probably would be in Sharpe's best interest to evaluate his background before entering into a joint publishing venture.
In the past several years, IHS Press has received recognition as a mainstream Catholic publisher. In September 11, 2003, Zenit News Service interviewed Mr. Sharpe on the founding of IHS Press and the revival of Catholic social doctrine ("As a complete sociopolitical creed the social doctrine really is a third way that isn't just between the Left and Right -- it rather transcends both Left and Right and rises above them with its own vision of social order"). They have received a fidelity rating of "excellent" by CatholicCulture.com; and in a November 2004 book review for the New Oxford Review, Thomas Storck commended their publication of Chesterton and Belloc, "their efforts to provide American readers with these foundational works cannot be praised too highly."
In addition to its promotion of traditional Catholic works, IHS Press has, through its "Sheffield Hallam University Press" imprint , published several books on economic socialism, including study of the controversial publisher Alfred Richard Orage and Gary Taylor's Socialism and Christianity: The Politics of the Church Socialist League -- a study of late 19th, early 20th century Christian socialism in England which challenges the notion that "socialism is anti-Christian".
Under its "Traditionalist Press" imprint, IHS Press also published the book The Rural Solution: Modern Catholic Voices on Going “Back to the Land”, an anthology which argues "why city-dwelling Catholics should settle and work in the country." The authors of the text are listed as:
Richard Williamson is a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church. Peter Chojnowski is a teacher of religion, philosophy, and social thought at Immaculate Conception Academy. Christopher McCann is an associate of Angelus Press, a Catholic publisher of books about contemporary issues of the Catholic faith. John Marx was a professor of social science and economics at Catholic University of America. Willis Nutting was a frequent contributor to the Catholic journal Integrity.Now, Bishop Williamson is more than "a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church," being in fact excommunicated by Pope John Paul II in 1988, along with the other leaders of the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) (see John Paul II's apostolic letter Ecclesia Dei Adflicta); Angelus Press is more than "a Catholic publisher" -- being the inhouse publisher of the SSPX, and Peter Chojnowski currently teaches for the Society of Saint Pius X at Immaculate Conception Academy in Post Falls, ID.
I should also mention that Richard Williamson also has a history of extremist views that mirror those of Sharpe and Derek Holland (see The Politics of Bishop Richard Williamson Fringe Watch January 25, 2006).
While it appears that the publishers' description of Williamson, Chojnowski and McCann could be construed as a willful attempt to conceal their controversial membership in the SSPX, one should also note that, according to Matt Anger, “whether one agrees with the SSPX or not, it is clear that Bishop Williamson has been an extremist and divisive force in Catholic tradition,” and that many within the SSPX remain severely critical of Richard Williamson’s relationship with Sharpe, Holland, and their involvement in neo-fascism.
Likewise, we should distinguish between those within the SSPX militantly opposed to Rome (like Williamson) and those who are not averse to entering into dialogue with Benedict XVI, with the goal of reconciliation.
IHS Press has also been vigorously marketing the Neo-Conned series, which received positive reviews by Dr. John Hubert TCRNews.com, Catholic "traditionalist" Michael Semin, and, curiously, a group called Muslim-Jewish-Christian Alliance for 9/11 Truth (the latter reviewer has his own distinct criteria for determining the book's quality: "I went back through the book counting the 9/11 references. According to my quick survey, Neoconned Again includes 14 references (in ten essays) that take the official story [of 9/11] for granted; ten that cast doubt upon it indirectly or through innuendo; and three clear statements that the official story of 9/11 is a lie").
Over the past months, John Sharpe has also done promotional spots on left-wing radio (AntiWar.com's "Weekend Interview") and television (Dr Hesham Tillawi's "Current Issues" interview no longer available online but Sharpe's photo is posted). He will be presenting his work on Neo-Conned and Neo-Conned Again: Hypocrisy Lawlessness and the Rape of Iraq an an Arab/Islamic Center on March 31, 2006.
The publishers of the Neo-Conned volumes present themselves in a rather innocuous light:
J. Forrest Sharpe is the publisher and managing director of IHS Press. He is a student of Catholic Social Doctrine and the English Distributist movement. D. Liam O'Huallachain is the editorial director of IHS Press and is a student of Catholic Social Doctrine, the English Distributist Movement, and contemporary alternative political movements. Both have edited and annotated editions of works by 20th-century social thinkers such as G.K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Fr. Vincent McNabb, Fr. Heinrich Pesch, and Dr. George O'Brien.But as we have seen in this post, there is more to D. Liam O'Huallachain's study of "contemporary alternative political movements" than a cursory or academic interest.
At the time of this writing, it also appears that the domain name "http://www.legionofstlouis.com/" expired (on February 6, 2006 to be precise). Perhaps we may take this as a sign that Mr. Sharpe intends to abandon his earlier project and concentrate fully on the advancement of IHS Press. One may hope as much -- but in light of Sharpe's past editorship of the Legion of St. Louis, his co-founder's questionable political activities (which continued even after the founding of IHS Press), and the many controversial connections unnearthed by Matthew Angers' Fringe Watch investigations, serious questions and concerns remain.
Had Sharpe expressed the slightest bit of concern over Michael Hoffman II's writing and views on Judaism, or Derek Holland's ideological history as a Third Positionist; or admitted that he was indeed the founder of Legion of St. Louis, but had repudiated the opinions he was disseminating at the time as editor, I would have been inclined to let the matter rest and give IHS Press "the benefit of the doubt."
But the fact that he immediately went on the defensive in his support for Michael Hoffman II's Strange Gods of Judaism, his utter lack of concern for Derek Holland and his connection as founder of the Legion of St. Louis prompted the writing of this article.
Given their ideological background and connections, is it a good idea to lend one's support to these publishers by way of promoting their books?
And what of the "neo-fascist infiltration of conservative/traditional Catholic circles"? -- in addition to the left-wing and "paleoconservative" authors who penned works for the Neo-Conned volumes, there were also good Catholics who supported this project, either by contributing their work or lending their voice in endorsement.
Would they have done so as readily had they been fully aware of the ideological affiliations of its publishers?