EXCLUSIVE: Interview with John Sharpe

With the kind permission of Stephen Heiner of TrueRestoration, we are honored to bring you this interview he did with John Sharpe, who heads IHS Press - one of the premier publishers of works promoting both Catholic Social Teaching and Distributism.

There has been much controversy swirling around both Mr. Sharpe and IHS Press for a while. Mr. Heiner gets to the bottom of such controversy and why, as well as discussing Distributism in depth.

I hope you will enjoy this piece. And again, we at the DR thank Mr. Heiner for allowing us to publish this interview.


Interviewer's Note: I conducted the interview by phone, and had the transcription reviewed, augmented, and approved by Mr. Sharpe. Please be advised that the interview is quite lengthy, but is necessarily so given the scope of the questions.

“I am glad, therefore, that I said and wrote what is before the public, even though for a time some men have called me a Socialist and a revolutionist, and have fastened upon a subordinate consequence, and neglected the substance of my contention in behalf of the natural rights of the poor.”
—Henry Edward Cardinal Manning, 1888

The purpose of this interview is to address some rumors that have wandered the web as “secret reports,” denouncing “nefarious connections” that John had. Above and beyond this spirit of attack, secret meetings, and email forwards there is a hostility to the work of IHS Press – painting its mission – the propagation of Catholic Social teaching – as an “impractical fantasy.” We hope to address all these matters in due course.

SH: John, you’ve been personally attacked since 2001. Why has it taken so long, and my asking you, for a response on your part?

JS: Well, it’s not totally correct to say I haven’t responded. Anyone who asks me anything in charity and good will gets an answer. As for people who create websites about me or about IHS Press (though it’s quite flattering) but who don’t have the common decency to get in touch with me first to find out the facts – no, I don’t “respond” to them, because those types of people are going to do and say what they want, never mind what I say or do. I suspect, in fact, that a reply on my part would only lead to further charges of dissembling, lying, and hair-splitting, and that kind of back-and-forth would just waste more of everyone’s time, including my own, not to mention putting my detractors in yet another near occasion of sin. In fact one of my most determined opponents, who I believe you have recently corresponded with on one of your chat groups, seems quite free with charging me with being of bad character, lying, and desiring to “acquire and wield the instruments of power.” (I’m not making that up!) So no, I’m not responding to that – it’s completely ludicrous. Not to mention that I’m obviously not very good at “seizing power.” I just barely get my daughters to bed on time.

Besides, these “attacks” – as distinguished from the reasonable questions from people of good will, all of which I have answered in all cases -- are a distraction. They have little to do – even though they are made to seem relevant – with the important question, i.e., the Social Doctrine of the Church and its implementation in the 21st century.

If those making the loudest accusations on the Internet were really interested in the truth, and in “fraternal correction” of errors that they perceive in my own actions or those of IHS Press, they would contact me and attempt to convince me – with the rational argument characteristic of a reasonable man – of my erroneous ways. But they have never done so – well, almost never (in one case I was contacted and the person involved said he was satisfied with my answers and content to support my efforts, but later on, without further contact, he publicly circulated a “dossier” he complied about my alleged evils and that of some of my contacts. He then flatly refused to reply to any further correspondence from me, so it’s hard to envision him as a man of good will who’s just trying to save me from myself. And there is another who blasted me a couple of times on his chat group (which I sincerely regret ever having participated in), but he did not correspond with me in any other way whatsoever. He now claims, as you know, to have invited me to have further conversation, and portrays me as the one who failed to acknowledge his offer. I may not be remembering correctly, but if memory does serve, that’s an outright falsehood.) Instead they post their lies and distortions and misrepresentations in public, hoping that I will dignify them with a public reply. I will not.

Remember, this isn’t about me. No matter how bad of a person I am, Distributism is either true, or it isn’t. It’s either conformable to the Faith, or it isn’t. And whether or not sinners, heretics, and fanatics (all of which categories I fit into, according to some; at least they’re right on the first count) support Distributism has little to do with its truth or its rectitude. That’s a simple enough fallacy to identify – you know, ad hominem. If you read the “attacks” you’ll find them long on assertions and irrelevancies, and short on doctrinal argument demonstrating Distributism’s incompatibility with the Faith. And that’s because such a demonstration is ipso facto impossible.

My guess is that since that’s impossible, the only remaining avenue for the effort to discredit Distributism is to attack its supporters. In some cases that’s an effective technique, but it’s more characteristic of non-Catholics (Abe Foxman seems to do it pretty well, for instance) than Catholics, of whom it is downright unbecoming.

Why did you start IHS Press?

I was in Italy, stationed there in the late 90s when I was still in the submarine business – as the Undersea Warfare Officer for the American submarine force HQ in the Mediterranean – when I met an Irishman, who is now a good friend and partner in IHS Press, at the traditional Mass in Naples. Deric and I began a correspondence and friendship, in which we had occasion to discuss the numerous interesting books published originally in the 20s, 30s, and 40s. I suggested that they all ought to be available for today’s Catholics and everyone else too. He said that he had also had a longtime hope of making those books available again, and IHS is the fruit of that mutual vision, along with a kind and modest donation from an elderly woman who wanted to enable a bit of what I hope is good work – Deo Gratias – before her death.

As our website (and the “About IHS” statement in the back of most of our books) indicates, we felt we had to go back to the 1930s, or before, to find the last point at which you had a body of Catholic thinkers producing a body of work dealing in an uncompromising, integral, coherent, and consistent way with the Social Doctrine, with modernity, and with the relationship between the two. In this body I include men like, of course, the Chesterbelloc, but also Fr. McNabb, Penty, Gill, Maxwell, Kenrick, Pepler, Shove, Fanfani, Thibon, Pesch, Fahey, Devas, Coughlin, Ryan, and more; this list goes on and on, and it includes the whole group of lesser-known but not less important thinkers from the inter-war social movements of all European countries, for instance, Germany (think of von Ketteler, Windthorst, Hitze, etc.), England (the whole panoply of Catholic Social Guild activists, Distributists, and some of the Guildsmen), France (the corporatists La Tour du Pin and de Mun, Villeneuve-Bargemont, de Bonald, de Maistre, etc.), Austria (Vogelsang, Siepel, Messner, Dollfuss, Schuschnigg), the U.S (the whole roster of National Catholic Rural Life Conference scholars), and so many more. (Have a look at Martin Conway’s books on what he calls “Political Catholicism” for a survey of Catholic movements ranging from England to Belgium to Latvia.) The hundred years between 1830 and 1930 saw no shortage of integral and courageous thinkers who called a spade and spade, saw the modern world for what it was, and articulated a – perhaps the – alternative.

World War II ruined all that, though, at least for the time being: the liberals joined forces with the Communists to combat “fascism,” and both were hailed by the post-war world as “victors.” From that point forward the notion of a “third way” that transcended the sterile poles of left and right was stigmatized in the public eye as somehow uniquely tied to Italian fascism and Nazi Germany, never mind that the Social Doctrine is itself a “third way” that cannot be pigeon-holed into categories of conservative or progressive, left or right, Republican or Democrat. This is clear from the references the Popes make (especially Pius XI) to steering between the twin pillars of shipwreck, individualism and Collectivism. It is beyond all of these, but those who accept the entire post-war worldview cannot seem to conceive of anything beyond the two, stock alternatives – and their conception leaves out of account not only the “odious” ideologies and “isms” of the 1930s, which is all very well, but it also ignores the Social Doctrine itself.

The rest, as they say, is history.

How do you get these books to republish?

Many of them are now in the public domain. In fact all of Chesterton's works become free of copyright in the U.K. at the end of this year, and many of the U.S. editions of his works are or soon will be in the public domain. Any of his other works -- or those of anyone else -- that aren't in the public domain we would pay royalties for, just like we would for the work of a living author.

Getting to the heart of what you publish, some people like to call Distributism Communism, mind you these people often misspell Capitalism as Catholicism, but how do you respond to the communism claim?

People who throw these labels around rarely understand what they mean in a real and historical sense. Communism, in its essence, is the denial of the existence of the right of private individuals or families to own productive property. It’s not the “curtailing” of that right, the “limitation” or “direction” of it, or the denial of it in limited, particular circumstances. It is the principled denial of the idea that families and individuals have the right to own productive property, and absent that denial there is no Communism or Socialism. And unless you can prove that someone engages in that categorical denial, you can’t, either accurately or validly, call him a Communist. You can look that up in Cathrein’s “magisterial” work on Socialism.

If you take the broad definition of Socialism or Communism that many neocons and Capitalists use, everyone who mails a letter at the Post Office – which is owned and operated by the government -- is at least implicitly “conspiring” with Communists for the destruction of private ownership. But that’s pure and simple nonsense, isn’t it? Indeed, how do these people react when they read the words of Pius XI where he says, “certain kinds of property, it is rightly contended, ought to be reserved to the State since they carry with them a dominating power so great that cannot without danger to the general welfare be entrusted to private individuals”? Was he a Communist too because he allowed for public ownership of certain kinds of enterprises?

As for Distributism, how one gets from a doctrine or philosophy that says that there should be MORE widespread private ownership of productive property to a doctrine which denies ownership of productive property to men and families is a complete mystery to me. Frankly, it is intellectually dishonest to even imply that there is any similarity between Distributism and Communism (unless you’re operating at the level of the absolutely absurd, like saying Distributism and Communism are somehow ideological “cousins” because both are, quite similarly, not the word “catfish”). Those like TIA who try to hint at that similarity by reviewing books by Arthur Penty and illustrating the reviews with pictures of Joseph Stalin are coming very close to LYING. If advocating that the use and ownership of private property be controlled and limited in view of the common good is Stalinism, then Pius XI is a Stalinist. Look at QA §49: “when the State brings private ownership into harmony with the needs of the common good, it does not commit a hostile act against private owners but rather does them a friendly service....”

Finally, if these were honest scholars making honorable investigations into Distributism, they’d feel compelled to read the primary sources of the Distributists, which denounced Communism and Collectivism time and time again. Think of Penty’s Communism and the Alternative (1933) or the Belloc pamphlets against Socialism or the “manifesto” of the Distributists, before Penty’s of 1937, called Liberty and Property by H. E. Humphries from 1930, in which he calls Communism “utterly opposed to Distributism”; “Our difference with the Communists,” he says, “is on philosophy and therefore on everything else.”

Also, people who haven’t bothered to read a single Distributist work characterize it as a “forcible equal redistribution” of land a la the land confiscations of the communists. Beyond the fact that this absurd idea is not to be found in any single work of any single distributist, do you characterize your work as aiming for such a goal?

No. One who would maintain the contrary would be obligated to provide proofs that we pursue such an aim; and those proofs would be 100% impossible to find.

As for the Distributists generally, one might profitably recall Chesterton’s remark at the end of What’s Wrong with the World: “In speaking of a sweeping redistribution, I speak of decision in the aim, not necessarily of abruptness in the means. It is not at all too late to restore an approximately rational state of English possessions without any mere confiscation.”

Seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? But then I know that it’s a lot to ask of some people that they take the words of me, my colleagues and contacts, and our much more worthy predecessors at face value. There is always the more-or-less unsubstantiated imputation of some kind of sinister motive – like your friend’s suggestion that I’m clamoring after the “instruments of power.” But again, none of this can be substantiated by anything I or any Distributist has ever said or written.

All that said, I think that intellectual honesty demands that we admit that the question of the state seizing (or “facilitating” the sale of) an unused or neglected piece of surplus land from a wealthy landowner – again, after compensating him for it in some fashion – and making it available for sale to the landless proletarian at an affordable price, so that he too can own a piece of productive property, is perfectly acceptable according to Catholic doctrine. No one is proposing this today, and no one can even think about doing it today (at least not in this country...). Anyway, the author of Quadragesimo Anno – Oswald von Nell-Breuning, S. J. – says as much explicitly in his commentary on the encyclical he drafted for Pius XI, and in a way the entire history of the land movement in Ireland bears the point out. The great Cardinal Manning of England supported this Irish movement, and he was hardly squeamish on doctrine. Again, not that it’s likely to happen in this country today, or that’s it is even an approach that anyone’s seriously recommending, but it is worth knowing what the Church’s experts and thinkers have said and written on a given topic before hurling epithets.

Well, is the label Distributism problematic, since it may imply a RE-distribution?

Let’s start with a counter example, the term ‘Collectivism.” What exactly does someone mean by “Collectivist”?

First, he means someone who thinks that productive property should be owned in some fashion by the community, and second he means someone who views that collective holding of productive property as a refutation of the idea that productive property can be privately owned. So the essence – as we looked at a little before – is a denial of the right of private ownership of productive property. But it implies nothing about how that denial is to be realized. It might be Stalinist-style, murdering everyone who doesn’t give up his land, or it might be Fabian-style, implemented through voting, bureaucratic reform, and propaganda. The point is that the term “Collectivism” says a lot about the ideal form of society, according to Collectivists, but it says quite a little about how that form is to be brought about.

So with Distributism. The goal is a widespread distribution of ownership of productive property. How one gets there is another question, and those who say that Distributism necessarily implies a wholesale “re-distribution” make as much sense as those who insist that “Collectivism” necessarily means a wholesale “re-collection.”

Now this isn’t to say that “Distributism” isn’t a bit of an awkward word. Would it, however, be too much to ask that those who criticize the term – and point out that the Church never herself used it – familiarize themselves with the actual works of the Distributists? These Distributists themselves admitted that “Distributism” was an awkward, novel, and even undesirable word invented to express an idea that was so common as to, in fact, lack a specific term, owing indeed to the idea’s commonness. Will Titterton’s 1936 memoir of GKC records Belloc even jokingly “apologizing to God and man” for having invented the term, if he did indeed invent it, during the first official meeting of the Distributist League in 1926. But of course this doesn’t mean that the term is necessarily vague. It’s actually quite clear, and the articles of Irish political economist Charles Stanton Devas in the old Catholic Encyclopedia do quite a nice job of hinting at exactly what Distributists are aiming for, if in case GKC’s Outline of Sanity and Belloc’s few essays aren’t enough. Devas says: “the proper unfolding of human liberty and personality is historically bound up with [private property], and cannot develop where each person is only a sharer in a compulsory partnership, or, on the other hand, where property is confined to a privileged few. Suitably, therefore, the same Pope who had defended the true dignity and true liberty of man urged the diffusion [emphasis mine; he almost says “distribution”...whew, that was close] of property as the mean between Socialism and Individualism, and that where possible each citizen should dwell secure in a homestead which, however humble, was his own.”

As for keeping the term “Distributism,” let’s also bear in mind that we do have some obligation to historical accuracy and continuity. Catholics, of all people, should recognize the importance of doctrinal and even semantic continuity – remember how sacred the formulas themselves of our Faith are, along with the actual Faith they express. The fact of the matter is that for the last several hundred years priests and laity alike, thinkers and doers alike – all loyal sons of the Church – have risen up to speak with Christian Faith on matters of society, politics, economics. In England in the 1910s, 20s, and 30s, a good portion of the men who did this were known as or called themselves Distributists. It’s simply a fact. Why not just admit it, live with it, pick up their torch, and carry it on?

Isn’t it intellectually dishonest for people to pretend they know what they’re talking about when they have never bothered to read a single Distributist work, such as the seminal An Essay on the Restoration of Property?

Agreed. But, interestingly, that doesn’t stop them from pontificating about all the evils of Distributism and those who advocate it. A more honorable, honest, and even Catholic approach would be to figure out what Distributism is, and then praise it or condemn it insofar as it is deserving, one way or another. If Distributism is so obviously against the Faith or condemned in light of Catholic doctrine, why are these very noisy critics so short on critical substance? The only piece to attempt – and I give him credit for at least sticking to substance – such a critique was John Clark’s scandalous hatchet-job of Belloc in The Latin Mass some years ago, and anyone who knows what Belloc believed and what the Church teaches knows that Mr. Clark was way off the mark. It’s a shame and a disappointment that TLM ever printed it. But again, it illustrates, by contrast almost, how plainly obvious it is that the Distributist vision is perfectly compatible with the Faith.

John, getting back to the idea of private property, there are some people in America, and lamentably, even some Traditional Catholics, who believe that private property comes with unlimited rights. No one can tell me how much property I can buy with my money.

That’s an outrageous assertion, at least for a Catholic. Narrowly considered, it’s fine to argue that a Catholic social order would not set a specific limit as to how much money you would have or how much land you would own. But that completely misses the point, because the issue isn’t how much property you have to consume (although I think it’s safe to say that the capitalistic “spirit,” indeed the whole mood of secular economics, whether Capitalist or Socialist, which sees man’s purpose as amassing and consuming as much property as possible, militates against the Catholic spirit of poverty which looks only for a frugal and becoming sufficiency of material goods, and therefore consciously rejects pursuit of more than necessary, and even feels an obligation to dispense surplus to those in need).

Rather the issue is, first, about productive property, and, second, what having too much does to the opportunity of others to have their share and to employ it productively. The argument against Wal-Mart isn’t simply that it’s big and sells lots of junk (though from a cultural or aesthetic standpoint those are probably valid criticisms), it’s that its bigness enables it to exercise an unfair advantage over smaller firms that are unable to compete – even while those firms represent people’s livelihoods and people’s fair share of productive property, the ownership of which everyone is entitled to, as Leo XIII and Pius XI made so perfectly clear. Note that I didn’t say “resources are finite” and people shouldn’t have more than their share. There’s a little truth to that – as in the case of land, for instance – but it’s not completely true. The more compelling point is that a certain huge mass of wealth enables companies to take competitive actions that shuts out their smaller competitors, and which they simply wouldn’t be able to do if they weren’t possessed of so much productive property.

When Henry VIII and his “nobles” confiscated the common lands that were held in trust by the community or the Church for use by those who would otherwise have been landless, the question was not really one of how he shouldn’t have enriched himself (by feudal law he was overlord of all England, anyway, so he had more than he could have ever been able to use or enjoy). It was more one of what the enclosures did to those who needed their small share of productive property, even if commonly held in trust, to provide themselves with both physical sustenance and also with – and this is even more important, and it’s an argument against the technology worshipers who say that people don’t need gardens and plots of land because technology makes all the “stuff’ (for consumption, mind you) we could possibly need – the sense of ownership, control, stewardship, and responsibility over the material means of their livelihoods, which has its own spiritual, moral, intellectual, and psychological benefits, and which is absolutely essential for all of us truly to work out our salvation while on pilgrimage toward heaven. These enclosures not only directly deprived peasants their share of ownership of common land, they massively enriched the textile manufacturers and merchants so that their newfound concentration of wealth could be employed to crush small competition – the guilds, basically – and enable the further amassing of wealth, unto the vicious cycle we have today. If anyone doubts this, let him look at the Shared Capitalism Institute’s statistics, which until recently (evidently) were available on the net, and quite convincing.

Well, let’s get to the accusations against you – the most severe one is “traitor.” Being a Pentagon employee, you must be pretty covert to conceal your treason. Are you a traitor, John?

To quote George Galloway from his recent Sky News interview, that’s a preposterous question. I’ve given 17 years of my life to Uncle Sam – with another half-dozen to go; my record of service during those years speaks for itself; if people want details, they can ask for them. I graduated 48 or 49 ( I don’t remember) out of some 900 from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, and – consider the irony! – John McCain handed me my diploma. I’m a Lieutenant Commander in the Navy; at the moment I am working aboard one of the nation’s 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers as a department head, having completed tours of duty at the Pentagon, U.S. Joint Forces Command, and U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

So what do you think?

If the term “traitor” is applied to me because I was associated with a couple of books of essays expressing the opinion that the war in Iraq is unjust, all I can say is that it’s news to me that disagreement with the civil authority – whether in time of war or otherwise – constitutes “treason.” This would be news to our venerable “founding fathers,” and it would be even more news to the American justices who presided over the Nuremburg tribunals.

In fact it strikes me as rather patriotic to speak out gravely and clearly when one believes one’s country to be on the wrong course. One could even argue that a military officer is even more obligated than the average citizen to think clearly and responsibly about the use that is made of our country’s military power, and to sound the alarm in a lawful way when that power is misused or abused. It’s the whole notion of being obligated to follow a lawful order and obligated to disobey an unlawful one. By way of illustration, we might ask whether the opposite would be legitimate: seeing my country on the wrong course and simply shrugging my shoulders, saying “it’s not my responsibility – in fact it’s really none of my business; it’s rather the responsibility of those in positions of authority.”

Right: isn’t it your job to be a responsible citizen?

Of course, and you’ve made the point by choosing the word citizen. I am a member of the larger society – the nation – just as I’m a member of my family, the Church, and my profession, the military. As a member of that latter organization I surrender certain very specific and narrow rights, but I don’t surrender my citizenship or – especially – my knowledge of and obligation to follow the civil and moral law. As a citizen, therefore, I bear a responsibility – an even greater one now, with our “modern” constitution, which is supposed to give us a government that is “of, by, and for the people” (of whom I am one); this is Amerio’s point in Iota Unum (p. 251) – to do my part to help my country’s actions conform to the natural law and serve, rather than damage, the common good. This is true Catholic Action according to St. Pius X, to make public laws conform to justice (see Il Fermo Proposito).

Look Stephen: 2600 of our countrymen – and, sadly, countrywomen – are dead because of the war that we started in Iraq. If that war is just, then one can chalk those deaths up to tragic necessity. But if not – and I think the evidence is truly overwhelming that it isn’t, and when I say evidence I mean not so much “evidence” in terms of intelligence reports and secret knowledge of Iraqi activity, but “evidence” in the sense of what the Church and her theologians and philosophers teach about criteria that must be met in order for a war to be just – if not, then this is murder on a mass scale, objectively speaking, notwithstanding the subjective intentions of those doing the killing. And it’s murder of not only our young men and women, but murder of thousands and thousands of Iraqis who have died since March 2003. How can we be so cavalier about that? How can we be so willing to simply shrug and say, “Well, it’s got nothing to do with me; the President makes these kinds of calls, and my duty is to support him.”

Many of your readers, as I understand it, feel quite comfortable ignoring the Pope or the bishops when they’re saying something that doesn’t square with what they know to be true or right. How can they feel so free to do so as regards what is arguably the most supreme and important authority on earth, but for a lesser authority – i.e., the civil power, and specifically the President – they are powerless to pass judgment on the rectitude of his actions, and instead they merely invoke the authority of his position, as if that somehow transforms the nature of right and wrong or eliminates the burden of all men to both know right from wrong in particular cases and act upon it up to the limit of what circumstances permit?

This remark from page XXX (from the front matter) of Neo-CONNED! speaks directly to the point at hand; if you don’t want to take my word for it, at least take Fr. Delaney’s:

There is something immoral or amoral in the constant statement: I think it would be wrong, morally wrong, stupid, foolish for us to get into the war, but if we should get in, then it’s the duty of all of us to rally behind the President. National unity before all else!

National unity, even in the prosecution of an unjust war? If a war is unjust, then it must be opposed before the outbreak of hostilities and after. If a war is unjust, I must refuse to be a party to the injustice after the declaration of war, as well as before. It is only when nationalism is put before conscience that leaders can do what they will with a country, and a country’s wealth, and a country’s blood. If leaders knew that the people would not follow them into an unjust war, if leaders knew that in an unjust declaration of war, they would have to build prisons and concentration camps to house thousands upon thousands of conscientious objectors, leaders would not lead us to war. A sit-down strike even on the barbed wire of a concentration camp is the only answer to an unjust participation in war. (from Fr. John P. Delaney, S.J., The Catholic World, April, 1941)

The only way to make the charge of “treason” stick as regards the publication of the two books on the war in Iraq is to assert that when a nation prosecutes a war, every citizen, Catholics included, are obliged to concede that the war is just simply because the state decided to prosecute it. That line of thinking reduces ultimately to the absurd proposition that the duty of a Catholic as a citizen is to support every act of the government, precisely because the government does it.

This whole discussion reminds me of something one of my colleagues, David Alexander, recently told me – that he remembers that when Kennedy was elected, the sense was that now it was okay for “Catholics to be good citizens too.”

Well, whatever the relevance of that, I can certainly tell you that of the whole range of people who opposed the war in Iraq, there were not too many that don’t still qualify as “good Americans,” unless of course you make unconditionally supporting your country’s wars a prerequisite for being patriotic. The point is, if so many other people across the political spectrum can dissent from the reigning orthodoxy of the neoconservatives who are making our foreign policy without coming anywhere near “treason,” why can’t Catholics do so as well? This is perhaps where the phrase your colleague remembered comes in – there are a lot of Catholics who seem to want to make sure that our government thinks that we Catholics are the “best” citizens, in the sense of most loyal, most compliant, most submissive, notwithstanding the law or old-fashioned notions of right and wrong. Of course when the government orders something good and legitimate, by all means let Catholics be examples of loyalty and obedience – indeed, we should be the first to obey. But to insist upon this “reputation-building” by an outright waiver of the moral law...

Yeah, by waving the flag instead...

Right. We must obey God rather than men. Besides, what we’re talking about isn’t rocket science. People just need to READ and educate themselves with what constitutes a just war. At some point after a bit of reading – like Romano Amerio’s chapter on war in Iota Unum or Cardinal Ottaviani’s treatment of war in his text on the Public Law of the Church, in which, by the way, he argues for the abolition of modern warfare – it will become obvious just to what an extent our current foreign policy conflicts with the natural law and the law of nations. For heaven’s sake, it was Pope Pius XII – not some hippy idiot – who used the phrase “a war on war” in his 1944 Christmas message.

It’s been some time since I’ve read Amerio, but I remember references to war being a plague and a result of our own sins…

Well of course. And this is from the Church as well, where she prays to be delivered from war as from a plague. Amerio’s treatment is quite moving; he points out that war is fratricide – because at some level all men are brothers (he will therefore no doubt be accused of being a Freemason) – and also that it is a kind of sacrilege when wars are fought between baptized men. He envisions the eventual setup of a tribunal or authoritative international body that can arbitrate between nations that have disagreements, so that men can settle their differences by discussion rather than by violence, which is the approach to disagreements more befitting beasts than men. Ottaviani also looks in his writing to the triumph of reason and arbitration over force, but mention any of this to “our” people and you frequently get denounced as a supporter of Masonry, the UN, etc. Never mind that this too was endorsed by Pius XII in 1944.

Truly, no Catholic ever wishes for war. And in light of what you said about World War II being a death-blow, or at least a near-fatal blow, to our civilization, I can’t help but think about the axis of Fatima and Our Lady’s warning about wars to come. I think for me, reading Neo-CONNED! and Neo-CONNED! Again was a re-education in the horrors of war that jingoist simians like Sean Hannity just don’t get, no matter how many veterans call into his show or how many troops he goes to visit.

Ah, this reminds me of something else. I’ve seen a quote pulled out of context in which Reagan is complimented by the Archbishop, and so people then say, the Archbishop supported Reagan against the Communists, so he would support Bush against “terror” (whatever that is). Let me reproduce it for my readers who have not seen it.

For twenty years, Msgr. de Castro-Mayer and I preferred to wait; we said it was more prudent and more in conformity with Providence to wait because it is so important, so tragic, when it is not just a bishop, archbishop or cardinal, but the man in the chair of Peter. It is so important, so grave, so sad, that we prefer to wait until Providence gives us such evidence, that it is no longer possible to refuse to say that the Pope is a heretic. So, to say that I think we are waiting for the famous meeting in Assisi, if God allows it! Maybe war will break out, and here I take the opportunity to congratulate America and its President on their resolute action in Libya against an enemy of all civilization. In Europe they are all afraid, afraid, afraid of the Communists. Why? Until the Communists occupy all Europe. But President Reagan's action may have delayed war by making the Communists afraid; we don't know, because they are fanatics and could start war any time just to take power.

I highlighted the relevant quotes – it looks like an aside of the Archbishop in order to – as he often did – give a Catholic point of view to current events. He always saw the social order in terms of Christ and His Church and those corresponding rights, instead of saying, oh, well, we live in a capitalist secular democracy, that’s where God placed us, so we don’t have a duty to do anything about it, to make it, at the very least, a Catholic democracy. That being said, John, what do you think of this ripped-out-of-context quote that makes the Archbishop bosom bodies with Bill Kristol?

Well, I have no idea what was in the Archbishop’s mind when he uttered these words. It would be nice to have the complete context. If people extrapolate from this, however, to make the Archbishop into a supporter of the War on Terror – or World War IV as Podhoretz, Kristol, and so many others are fond of calling it – I’d say that’s a bit of a stretch. We should perhaps hesitate before putting words into his mouth about the GWOT [Global War on Terror —Ed.], as it is called.

And at the end of the day, what are we fighting for in this GWOT? The imposition of secular democracies on religious theocracies. Say what you want about the Muslims, at least they don’t have the social aspect of their religion clouded with some silly idea of separation of mosque and state.

Well the War on Terror is really a frightening look at how “conservative” sympathies – i.e., those that are inclined, correctly, to see Islam as a false religion and to see it as a threat (principally a demographic one) – can be co-opted and made to serve a far more sinister end. It’s about a global democratic revolution, and the “creative destruction” that Michael Ledeen sees at the heart of American foreign policy. This is scary stuff, right out of Albert Pike, with his third great global conflict between Islam and the liberal West. The problem is that as sincere Catholics we should at the very least not be rooting for either side, as neither is worthy of support in an integral way. More specifically, however, we are obligated to support people’s natural rights and legitimate freedoms, many of which are being violated under the guise of stamping out “Islamo-fascism.” And yes, we’re obligated to defend those freedoms even when it’s the freedoms of Muslims that are being violated. Injustice is injustice no matter whether it’s being perpetrated against people we don’t happen to like or agree with. As for the “Islamo-fascism” term, any time we’re being told that we are in a crusade against “fascism,” we should be very, very skeptical.

Let’s get to the guilt by association argument. The three classic groups held against you in these accusations are the International Third Position (ITP), the St. George’s Educational Trust (SGET), and the Legion of St. Louis (LSL). Let’s deal with each of these individually.

The ITP.

I have little to say about any "charges" in this area because IHS Press and the ITP have nothing to do with one another, despite what our critics might say. But I will offer some general observations.

My co-founder, Deric, was involved with the ITP some years ago. Many people make an issue out of this. I do not: firstly because IHS does not have to endorse Deric's entire life or all his actions - just as it is does not have to vouch for my entire life or all my actions; indeed, it has nothing to do with any of that, and only to do with doctrine. Secondly, from a doctrinal standpoint there is nothing I'm aware of that Deric believed or did while he was associated with the ITP which was not acceptable in light of the Faith, at the very least according to his point of view at the time, if not in plainly objective terms. And this, of course, is our frame of reference - the Objective Truth of the Catholic Faith, not the opinion of this or that man. It is probably also worth noting that Deric has been involved in Catholic Tradition for 25 years. He has never hidden his political beliefs or connections ­- certainly he hasn't done so from me, nor to my knowledge from anyone else, least of all from priests. As I understand is he has a good many close friends in Tradition who are priests, and he has often sought their comments on ideas, strategy, etc. If there had been anything heterodox in his thinking or activities, I am sure they would have told him so - both as friends and as priests. I am not aware of their ever having done so.

If you accept the premise of our detractors, which would make IHS somehow responsible for or connected to the beliefs, actions, whatever, of the ITP – a premise which I completely and strenuously deny – then we are most conspicuously guilty because of a plank in the ITP platform which refers to the desirability of a “National Revolution.”

Notwithstanding the “disclaimer,” which I’m serious about – IHS and the ITP (assuming it still exists, which I do not know) have nothing whatsoever to do with each other in any way – this “concern” is rather easily dealt with on a rational and philosophical level.

Now revolution is a fairly generic and ambiguous term. We have the French and Russian revolutions, alongside the Copernican, scientific, and industrial revolutions. The latter are references to historical fact, the former are in addition ideological movements worthy of condemnation. But Chesterton, Ed Willock (of Integrity Magazine), Dr. Willis Nuting and Fr. Leo Ward of Notre Dame University, and other Catholics of sound reputation referred to the need for a “revolution” against the prevailing atheism, materialism, secularism, and nihilism of our age. The Abbe de Nantes, in his 150 points for the restoration of France, writes that “there can be no profound restoration of order without revolution, and revolution by definition is the overturning of oppressive social groups and institutions.” Here he sounds strangely like Chesterton in What’s Wrong With the World: “Now in history there is no Revolution that is not a Restoration,” and elsewhere: “I do not object to Socialism because it will revolutionize our commerce, but because it will leave it so horribly the same.”

The point is that the advocacy of what is termed “revolution” is either good or bad depending upon what those advocating it mean by the word. Given that in other planks of its platform the ITP condemned naturalism, materialism, etc., it’s a bit of a stretch to suggest that the “national revolution” it envisioned was designed to usher in a secularist utopia that would inaugurate the worship of pure Reason, as the French did after 1789.

And it is for this reason that you have the French counter-revolutionaries in the drivers’ seat among those that condemn “revolution,” because the Revolution in France was in fact such an evil thing. The Irish revolution was quite a different thing, as were in the 1930s Franco’s revolt against the Spanish Republic and the Cristeros’ revolt against the Masonic government in Mexico. Are these movements condemnable because they are “revolutionary” or because they used political action – even force – in the service of truth and justice?

No doubt, some out there – they know who they are – will wish to split hairs over whether the Spanish, the Mexicans, and the Irish, to name a few, in the movements described above, were in fact reactionary movements of conservatism against revolutionary disorder. But at this point we begin playing a semantic game attempting to determine whether we are for revolution or reaction, whether we are revolutionary conservatives or reactionary revolutionaries – the important point is that whatever you call it, you move in the right direction.

How many of our detractors, for instance, condemn the “American revolution” because of its use of the term “revolution”?

The other issue with “revolution” is, I gather, its allegedly specific and necessary connection with violent insurrection. From my memory the ITP never advocated violence or armed opposition to anything. If I’m wrong on that, then so be it – again I’m neither a partisan nor a “member” (if such things even exist), nor is IHS Press in any way whatsoever connected with whatever the ITP was or currently is – but we ought to operate in the realm of fact and not fiction. And the fact is that the ITP was not arguing for armed insurrection or social subversion – rather the contrary, if their “ten points” are indeed indicative of what they believed: and upon what else are we to base a judgment of what they stood for, if not what they themselves proclaimed they believed?

Most all other charges, as far as I can tell, are fabricated, misrepresented, or otherwise manipulated, to make what in some cases is a plainly explainable fact look like an indictment. I’d be happy to get into any of the specifics if you’ve got further questions. But I cannot emphasize enough how peripheral all this is to IHS Press. The fact that my colleague was connected with this movement in the past has nothing at all to do with the work of the Press today or since its founding. His connection may have been good or bad, wise or unwise, but it’s a part of his personal history, just like my connection to the American military is a part of my personal history that is irrelevant to the Press. Deric’s past connection to the ITP – or his prior or ongoing connection to anything, like my own connections and those of anyone associated with IHS – is only of concern to me insofar as we at IHS Press want to be as certain as possible that those who work with the Press – myself included – aren’t heterodox on any points of the Catholic Faith (the social doctrine in particular), and don’t condone violations of the natural or divine law, but rather strive for their observance. That this is so in Deric’s case I am completely convinced based on a wealth of personal experience (certainly more than anyone else in this country has), and the burden of proof rests – according to those sacrosanct principles of American democracy of which I am sometimes alleged to be an insufficiently enthusiastic supporter – not with me but with those who think otherwise.

To put this all in perspective, let me remind you that Fr. McNabb once wrote a provocative article about the threat made by some of the English hierarchy in the first part of the 20th century to deny Holy Communion to Socialists. He said that he wasn’t an advocate of Socialism, but if being an atheist, a materialist, and a plutocrat who believed in the concentration of wealth and the effective abolition of private property were grounds for being refused the sacraments, then the Capitalists would have to be denied Communion along with the others. Ditto for “ITP” people: if it is a grave sin to be in a political movement that 1) isn’t overtly Catholic, 2) doesn’t make the profession of the Catholic faith one of its membership criteria (as if such a thing isn’t plainly counterintuitive and even contrary to the explicit wishes of Pope St. Pius X), and 3) leaves room for the modern errors of naturalism, secularism, materialism, and indifferentism, then the priests had better start denouncing from the pulpit those Catholics who are Republicans, Democrats, libertarians, and partisans of every other party in the nation – since none of them are free from those errors. In fact, strangely enough, they are all less free from those errors than the ITP was when it was active back in the 90s. So why the obsession with the ITP when the pews of many traditional Catholic chapels are full of Republicans?

The SGET and the LSL. The reading list has the New Unhappy Lords, International Jew, and Judaism's Strange Gods.

I don't know what's wrong with these groups. To my knowledge all the St. George Trust ever did was reprint some books, very much in the spirit of IHS Press. The Legion did even less than that. So I'm not sure what the big deal is. To my recollection, there has always been a traditional priest as a trustee and a number of other priests who have been involved in one way or another with the St. George Trust. None of them had any misconceptions about the political activities and beliefs of those in the Trust. Deric, as far as I know, was never a trustee or any other kind of official person with the group. I am aware that the St. George Trust and the Legion are said to be or have been in some way "front" groups for ITP, which, as I said, may or may not even exist at this point: I just don't know. Anyway, if they were "fronts" for this organization, that would raise another question: so what? (The answer to that is above.) But the evidence for their "fronting" is pretty thin, aside from, once again, some overlap in some people who were involved in these (now pretty much defunct?) groups and those at one time involved with the ITP. The more appropriate and honest question is: "what are these groups trying to achieve, and what is their agenda; and can any of the outlandish allegations be proven by anything other than hysterical assertion and hyperbole?" If they are promoting Catholic literature and other books of interest, how is that proof of some kind of sinister, hidden motive? What evidence is there that beneath the respectable book-publishing surface, there are ITP "operatives" and plans for world takeover? It strikes me as a lot of nonsense, frankly.

As for the books on the “reading list” you refer to, the first is a rather mild but interesting political exposé by G.K. Chesterton’s cousin, the second a collection of articles by Henry Ford which were published in his newspaper in Michigan in the early part of the 20th century, and the third is a dispassionate and scholarly treatment of modern Judaism. People may call the authors of these texts “anti-Semites.” That and a buck and a half, as the saying goes, will get you a cup of coffee. The question, I would think, is whether the texts are true or false, or whether they are worth reading or not, and not what names we can call the authors. Or should we burn at the stake the Jesuits who edited the Civilta Cattolica – established by Pope Pius IX and commended by Benedict XV – because they published a series of articles in the 1890s called “On the Jewish Question in Europe”?

I called Fr. Ringrose in Virginia and he said he didn’t carry IHS titles because of Deric Holland’s reputed dubious connections with Neo-Nazis and Fascists. How do you respond to this – I will not say “charge” but rather “suspicion” of Fr. Ringrose?

Whether Fr. Ringrose sells our books is not a huge concern to me, though I'd like for his faithful to have access to them; obviously his bookstore is his operation to run as he sees fit. It is a shame, however, that this ruling has been made based upon rumors and accusations in regard to Deric's reputation, without there having been any real examination of the facts or exposure to the "other side of the story."

Sadly, there were opportunities for Fr. Ringrose to have heard that other side. I asked him on more than one occasion in very clear terms, and in writing, to make explicit his "suspicions" or "doubts" about Deric's alleged connections or past or whatever. I asked for proof of whatever the vague charges were, specifics as to the sources of the charges and the supporting detail for them. I went through all this not only because I figure that it is my right as an accused individual to have some opportunity to at least know, if not refute, whatever "charges" there are, but also just to have the occasion arise where I could provide answers and clarifications to the specifics, should those have been necessary. Unfortunately, Fr. Ringrose studiously avoided providing any responses to those requests, aside from reiterating his extremely vague concerns and indicating that he was not interested in discussing it. The reason or reasons why chose that course are known only to him and to God; the rest of us are left to come to our own conclusions.

Your email list is given as “evidence” against you. Can you be judged by your email list? Why or why not?

You’ve got to be kidding.

Yes, it’s actually in at least one of these “secret reports.”

OK, then, the answer is no. You refer to my “email list.” I have no idea who was on the “list” at the time of that email or whether I even had a list. But if the e-mail you refer to included some “very bad people” as addressees on the cc line, can we not entertain the hope that if I happened to have said something true or worthwhile, by God’s grace, and if those words had the slightest positive impact upon one of them – as Our Lord’s words had an impact upon “very bad people” like tax collectors – that it might well have been worthwhile for them to have been included on that email?

The inference that is totally unsupportable is the claim that if someone who is bad is a recipient of an email from someone else, the sender ipso facto approves of the recipient’s badness simply because the recipient was included on the original email! I trust you can see plainly how utterly ridiculous this all is.

A specific piece used against you is an LSL recruitment letter from March 2002. Your critics say you are wrong to welcome Feeneyites or Sedevacantists as collaborators. Is this a fair characterization of part of that letter, and how do you respond?

Yes, it is a fair characterization to say that from a social/political/economic standpoint, Feeneyites, sedevacantists, modern Catholics, non-Catholics – and all men of good will – should be invited to enjoy the riches of Catholic social teaching.

Somehow we’ve gotten into our heads the notion that we cannot dialogue – or shouldn’t dialogue – with people who might be in error, or people who might be sinners. And that to do so risks our contamination and definitively implies that we approve of the errors or evils of our interlocutors. This applies as well to your frankly silly question (sorry) about my email list.

How otherwise are we to bring the Truth to those who are missing it? Are we better off piously refusing to have anything to do with people of genuinely good will, who are seeking solutions to social problems with sincere hearts, if they are not already Catholics or not sufficiently possessed of perfection as we understand it? Ah yes, I see, let us instead storm into the sanctuary and belt out, “I thank Thee Lord, that I am not like the rest of men.” (You remember who it was that said that.)

But if this is the approach advocated by some Catholics today, how is it that in 1931 Pius XI could have encouraged the Catholics “who want[ed] to be apostles among Socialists.” He even invited Catholics to point out the just aspects of Socialists’ demands, and to reason from those just demands to the value of Catholic social teaching as a more effective means of realizing them: “If [Catholics] truly wish to be heralds of the Gospel,” he said, “ let them above all strive to show to Socialists that socialist claims, so far as they are just, are far more strongly supported by the principles of Christian faith and much more effectively promoted through the power of Christian charity.”

This has always been the Church’s approach to apologetics. Take people’s sincerity for granted, unless there is reason to believe otherwise, and walk them from what they already know (e.g., that the gross material inequality in the world is fundamentally disordered) to what they need to know (e.g., that some inequality is tolerated and willed by God, but that some is hateful to Him and must be remedied by the application of Christian social doctrine). Hamish Fraser and Douglas Hyde both converted to Catholicism through this process. Christ Himself didn’t exclude anyone from the possibility of being convinced and converted. Should we?

That same accuser seems to take umbrage at you referring to a “Catholic village.” Why is such an idea repugnant to someone?

My faint recollection of this letter is that the village comment was made tongue-in-cheek: I was explicitly saying what we were not going to do exclusively. Retreating to some kind of Catholic ghetto is not at all the vision of IHS Press when it promotes getting back to the land.

Fr. Scott replied to someone in 2002 (which may have never meant to be reprinted, but this person publicized it, so I must refer to it) that said in substance 2 things:

1) You don’t have clerical support
2) If you did, it wouldn’t be from Society priests.

It’s 2006. Is either of these claims true?

I have no idea what to say about either of these. You should call around to some clerics and ask them. Personally, I like being on good terms with priests. I want to be sure that we are on the right path with IHS, and insofar as the priests can help us stay on it, then I look forward to hearing from them. Given that we are pushing a certain doctrinal line with our books, I welcome correction from those charged with enforcing doctrinal orthodoxy. Technically it is the bishops who possess the fullness of jurisdiction, but in a kind of informal but efficacious way we can certainly expect the priests as well to help with keeping us pure in our understanding and promotion of the Church’s social teachings; I welcome their assistance in this regard. People of good conscience and sincere faith rarely do anything unless their priest allows or supports it, so for this reason too – and for the good of the whole movement – it would be preferable to have the support of a wide range of priests. I could go on about clerical support. But I cannot speak for them. Ask them yourself what they think about IHS Press and its fruits.

It is said that you and your colleagues spend all your time trying to solve the world’s problems instead of sanctifying yourselves and your families – and that you have no respect for women – especially your wives.

Well, the latter remark is ridiculous, so I won’t answer it. As for the first point, I don’t really see a disconnect between doing my duty of state to look after the common good of my country – which is what “solving the world’s problems” is all about – and working for my own sanctification and that of my family. I agree with Ousset that a doctrinal or spiritual attachment to the Faith that doesn’t lead to committed action in its defense is, in this day and age, immediately suspect. Sister Lucy herself said that we must have both prayer and action; neither are sufficient by themselves. Actions, if they are human, are necessarily moral or immoral, so how “action” can be seen as somehow irrelevant to salvation or on some other plain from prayer is frankly beyond me. If we commit an action that is morally good, this contributes to our sanctification, the opposite, to our damnation. I would suspect that a complacent ignorance of injustice is not looked upon kindly by the Almighty. Pius XI lamented that economic conditions in the early 1930s were so grave as to make it almost impossible for people to consider the “one thing necessary”; should we be insensitive to this? Should we ignore what he wrote about the obligation to practice the virtue of social justice? Should we violate the teaching of St. James, which calls for our Faith to be incarnated in actions? Should we ignore the warning of Our Lord Himself, who complained of those who merely say “Lord, Lord” but fail to do the will of His Father in heaven?

Or should we perhaps rather pray and act, indeed with a genuine and charitable concern for the world’s problems?

Matthew Anger calls Neo-Conned “impassioned rhetoric.” He doesn’t engage the arguments of the two volumes, which although I’ve only started “Again!” I feel are airtight, he just says “Well, the publisher is shady, hence don’t read the book.” Did I miss something? And would someone please get a memo to Fr. Iscara, the SSPX priest who is in Neo-Conned?

I doubt very much that Mr. Anger has read either of these volumes. His comments are not, however, uncharacteristic. He seems quick to judge but rather slow to investigate facts.

Matthew Anger denounces Fr. Fahey in his article against you. Someone should get a memo to Fr. Francis Gallagher, who had us read Fr. Fahey in Senior Theology during my time at St. Marys College. On this point I’m going to pause the interview and insert some remarks from Fr. Lawrence Smith regarding you, because I mentioned this attack on Fr. Fahey also.

Father, what do you know about John Sharpe?

I’ve known him for about 4 years. I wrote an introduction for Distributist Perspectives and I’ve contributed to a forthcoming work. I’ve also spoken with him and his wife and I asked him in 2003 about some vague things I’ve heard about “bad connections” he had. He reassured me personally that he had no such “bad connections.” I find him generous, warm, inviting, obviously orderly, due to his military background….

What do you say of the charge of “guilty by association” even if he doesn’t have “bad connections”?

I’d ask what is the nature of these guilty associations. One may associate with Republicans and Democrats even though they help to murder babies or remove food and water from helpless humans, but associated with Mobsters or Freemasons, no way!

But then again I have not seen the evidence.

What about the charge of John’s “pan-Traditionalism”?

I work in Northeast Wisconsin trying to save souls. As far as these groups try to do that – I support them. I have to buy groceries from people who are divorced, support abortion, and euthanise their grandparents. What am I to do? Stop eating because I might be “nefariously connected” to my grocer?

What do you think about IHS Press in general?

I think it’s great – I just wish we saw more action behind the outstanding works they put out. All these anti-Distributist tracts I read – invariably they are written by people who have never read Belloc or Chesterton, or try to say they “recanted” on their deathbed, as if they thus invalidated all their great ideas.

I’d say all anti-Distributist tracts are propaganda pieces, whereas Distributist literature tends to directly or indirectly quote the Magisterium.

What about this famed Fr. Fahey quote that “every Catholic is an anti-Semite”?

I both agree and disagree with Father Fahey. I agree because the Jews are directly guilty of deicide and Talmudic Judaism is specifically anti-Catholic, and hence is an instrument of the devil. So yes, I’m anti-Semitic insofar as I am also anti-Buddhist, anti-Mormon, anti-Orthodox, anti-Democrat, anti-Republican, etc.

I disagree with him because he fails to define “Semite.” I mean, Palestinians are Semites, Arabs are Semites. Semites are sons of Sem. If I’m against Anglicans, it doesn’t make me an Anglophobe.

Within the context of Father’s comments, John, do you have any final comments?

Well, the good Father’s remarks are well-intentioned and mostly correct, but he doesn’t give Fr. Fahey enough credit. Fr. Fahey is perfectly clear about what he means by “Semite,” and he says specifically that “Semites” include Arabs and Jews of the eastern Mediterranean. It should also be pointed out – for those who have patience for facts – that he condemns race hatred, and includes in this category anti-Semitism – as the term should be understood by Catholics.

At any rate your Fr. Fahey quote is inaccurate: he never said “every Catholic is an anti-Semite”; he said, “every sane thinker must be an anti-Semite,” and he prefaced this with the CAVEAT “in that sense” – and of course the “sense” is what he provides in the preceding paragraphs of the book in which he makes that statement. In effect he reiterates the old Joe Sobran joke, which is this: in the old days, an anti-Semite was someone who hates Jews. Today it is someone whom the Jews hate. It’s a little simplistic, but the point is – and this is Fahey’s idea – that real race hatred against Jews or anyone else is of course condemnable and completely out of the question; but today you have the charge “anti-Semite” being thrown around as a way of stifling discussion and silencing people who are attempting to raise serious questions about the way the world is heading. This is therefore the sense in which being an “anti-Semite” – like Mel was accused of being for making the Passion – is simply a sign of being willing to speak out on subjects that the powers that be don’t want publicly discussed. The reception afforded by many prominent Jews in the press to the Walt-Mearsheimer foreign-policy paper is a perfect example of this.

John, thanks for your time, it is well appreciated.

My pleasure. Permit me to say, though, Stephen, that though I have been very glad to provide answers to your questions - and I'm happy to follow up with anything that remains doubtful, if you wish - I nevertheless have no doubt the handful of oddballs, self-confessed "saints," and outright malefactors out there, who have dedicated themselves to an apostolate of lies and rumor-mongering, will misrepresent whatever they can from our brief exchange, unto only more and more wasted time, useless argument, and continued character assassination. Of course in an objective sense they risk their souls in doing so, which should be argument enough for them to cease and desist. Whatever the result, I thank you too for your time and trust that we've gone on record with forthright and honorable replies; the rest is up to God.

I don’t feel it is fair for a man to have his character attacked by so-called Christians in secret little “private reports” circulating the web. I felt this was necessary for you to clear your name with people who’ve only had the “other side” to listen to for the last 5 years. Now you have your side out, and people can judge for themselves who is hysterical, encouraging rash judgment, and operating in secret meetings, as opposed to who is calm, clear, and truly sentiens cum Ecclesia.


Michael Hoffman Friday, August 18, 2006 at 10:35:00 AM CDT  

First, kudos to Stephen Heiner for consistently engaging in a type of web activism almost nowhere practiced today by the thousands of laymen and amateurs who chew the fat on their multitudinous blogs --journalism--something that has never occurred to most of them, probably because it is too much like work. The most revealing interview I have read with an SSPX bishop was the one Mr. Heiner conducted with Bishop Tissier. Like the interview with John Sharpe, Heiner took the time and trouble to practice what the French call, exactitude: he followed-up with clarification and correction of the transcript.

Now to the matter at hand: 1. the title of my book is "Judaism's Strange Gods" and not "Strange Gods of Judaism." 2. With all due respect to Fr. Fahey, "anti-semitism" is never proper to Catholics because it smacks of race hate, i.e. hate for Judaics merely because of their ethnicity. This bigotry emerged most strongly in the 19th century on the coat-tails of the scientism of Darwin and was expressed as scientific racism by its theoretician, Wilhelm Marr and of course, later amplified by Hitler and his occult nazi movement. Opposition to the religion of Judaism, however, is definitely incumbent upon Christians because Orthodox Judaism is the continuation of the Mishnaic Phariseeism with which Jesus was in constant combat. The warfare is spiritual, not racial.

3. The conspiracy theories swirling around John Sharpe fall flat because none of his colleagues can get along with each other long enough to "conspire"! I have protested John's admiration for Buchanan, Sobran and Mel Gibson as misplaced and naive and potentially self-sabotaging, while at the same time I have supported Lt. Cmdr. Sharpe's apostolate against buccaneer capitalism, which is far more manly and interesting intellectually, than the creepy ADL-style snitching and clothesline tattling carried on by persons it is better to leave unnamed. John's friendship with the eccentric Derek ("Derec") Holland is a case in point. None of the critics mention that Holland was a bulwark against resurgent neo-Nazism in the British Right in the 80s and 90s.

It's interesting that John is taken to task for not being more involved in personal "sanctification." According to Fr. Christopher Hunter in his wonderful essay, "Cocoon Catholics," that's all traditional Catholics are about these days, a ghetto mentality of personal piety and a fear of "contamination" from going into the political trenches with non-Catholics.This is a serious neglect of Catholic social action. Missionary work inherently entails mixing with disparate peoples.

Bellarmine's criticism of the Reformers was that they were lousy missionaries because they felt themselves too pure to mix with the "infidels." There are some startling Protestant features to certain "traditional" Catholic "purity" attitudes today.

But then who reads Bellarmine anyway? Energetic contemporary Protestant intellectuals have translated almost every tract their champions wrote against Bellarmine, while Bellarmine's classic polemical works remain untranslated. (Catholics have recently translated one of Bellarmine's devotional works, his commentary on the Psalms). Locutions and visions by the most obscure female apparitionists from 17th century convents are translated and rushed into print as soon as they are discovered, but the intellectual writings of a giant of Catholic theology and statecraft are utterly neglected.

Roy F. Moore Tuesday, August 29, 2006 at 6:59:00 PM CDT  


We disagree that Br. Bugnolo makes a convincing case in attacking Mr. Sharpe, and will answer his objections in the near future. Like too many others, Br. Bugnolo thinks distributism is socialism when it is not.

We cna only pray that the Lord will free him from such a delusion soon.

Richard Aleman Wednesday, January 17, 2007 at 8:09:00 PM CST  

Hi Roy,

I thought this was a wonderful interview and would like to copy it in my blog.

Do you know how I can contact Stephen Heiner? His Blog is by invitation only and I wouldn't want to just copy it without permission.

Thanks Roy!

AY_Lamb Monday, March 12, 2007 at 12:53:00 AM CDT  

This should not surprise anyone. This honest man has the courage to speak what is in his heart. In my 20 years of service, I have witnessed an extreme regression in spiritual neutrality. The Army particularly has become an exclusive and not inclusive organization. Blatantly pejorative epithets have not only become commonplace but actually encouraged by senior officers and leaders and now a prohibition on proselytizing and increasing influence of the chaplaincy has created a Vail or Cloak that hides fundamental discrimination. Simply put proselytizing is interpreted as speaking of anything not Trinitarian Christian. I have been forced to attend prayer meetings where attempts to force me to pray in the name of the “Father and the Son” have been made. I have had my Kippah laughed at and ridiculed by numerous senior leaders, although I am not totally observant even if I was allowed to be I have tried to conceal my beliefs for the comfort of others and in return I have been ridiculed and had my Kippah stolen. I have heard numerous field grade officers refer to the Sate of Israel as the 51st State. I have been “witnessed to” and pressured to renounce the most basic tenets of my faith in order to save my sole from this phenomenon of damnation. I have heard countless condemnations of Islam to many to even name here. The good news to all of this is I have become even more resolved in my beliefs and those of my predecessors and I am convinced that change is coming and thanks to the contributions of men like Lt. Cmdr Sharpe the framework is established that will promote this change. The fundamental precepts of Christian Doctrine rely on dominance not just coexistence and this is becoming more and more self-apparent. It is a shame though because earlier I observed an incident of discrimination towards Catholics. It happened at Fort Knox, KY 1990 when visiting officers from Muslim countries received the Asr call to prayer over the loud speakers and out of respect we ceased activity until the vigil was complete. One soldier stated in anger “why do we have to respect their religion when they don’t respect ours”. I had to issue the responsa asking just “what is our religion” and I was told “everyone in America is Christian of course” I just slightly chuckled at this soldiers ignorance and shortly after the argument ensued about which denomination was actually the most Christian. I heard someone state that he was Catholic and part of the first Christian faith and albeit not 100% accurate other soldiers started making fun of him saying he didn’t really worship G-d he in fact worshiped the Virgin Mary, as a copious student of theology I looked this up and of course academia says this is not true. Catholics even though they may not remember it now can be victims of prejudice to, I think the Commander should abandon his position of bias. I do appreciate his honesty and candor though and his brazen statements of belief that literally hundreds of officers share. Many of his peers are far too cowardly to admit it publicly and they hide behind there symbols and position sending others in to prosecute their dubious Wars. Don’t fear Justice shall be done though. Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai elohaynu Adonai echad

AY_Lamb Monday, March 12, 2007 at 12:53:00 AM CDT  

This should not surprise anyone. This honest man has the courage to speak what is in his heart. In my 20 years of service, I have witnessed an extreme regression in spiritual neutrality. The Army particularly has become an exclusive and not inclusive organization. Blatantly pejorative epithets have not only become commonplace but actually encouraged by senior officers and leaders and now a prohibition on proselytizing and increasing influence of the chaplaincy has created a Vail or Cloak that hides fundamental discrimination. Simply put proselytizing is interpreted as speaking of anything not Trinitarian Christian. I have been forced to attend prayer meetings where attempts to force me to pray in the name of the “Father and the Son” have been made. I have had my Kippah laughed at and ridiculed by numerous senior leaders, although I am not totally observant even if I was allowed to be I have tried to conceal my beliefs for the comfort of others and in return I have been ridiculed and had my Kippah stolen. I have heard numerous field grade officers refer to the Sate of Israel as the 51st State. I have been “witnessed to” and pressured to renounce the most basic tenets of my faith in order to save my sole from this phenomenon of damnation. I have heard countless condemnations of Islam to many to even name here. The good news to all of this is I have become even more resolved in my beliefs and those of my predecessors and I am convinced that change is coming and thanks to the contributions of men like Lt. Cmdr Sharpe the framework is established that will promote this change. The fundamental precepts of Christian Doctrine rely on dominance not just coexistence and this is becoming more and more self-apparent. It is a shame though because earlier I observed an incident of discrimination towards Catholics. It happened at Fort Knox, KY 1990 when visiting officers from Muslim countries received the Asr call to prayer over the loud speakers and out of respect we ceased activity until the vigil was complete. One soldier stated in anger “why do we have to respect their religion when they don’t respect ours”. I had to issue the responsa asking just “what is our religion” and I was told “everyone in America is Christian of course” I just slightly chuckled at this soldiers ignorance and shortly after the argument ensued about which denomination was actually the most Christian. I heard someone state that he was Catholic and part of the first Christian faith and albeit not 100% accurate other soldiers started making fun of him saying he didn’t really worship G-d he in fact worshiped the Virgin Mary, as a copious student of theology I looked this up and of course academia says this is not true. Catholics even though they may not remember it now can be victims of prejudice to, I think the Commander should abandon his position of bias. I do appreciate his honesty and candor though and his brazen statements of belief that literally hundreds of officers share. Many of his peers are far too cowardly to admit it publicly and they hide behind there symbols and position sending others in to prosecute their dubious Wars. Don’t fear Justice shall be done though. Sh’ma Yisrael, Adonai elohaynu Adonai echad

Chris Campbell Thursday, February 12, 2009 at 11:35:00 AM CST  

Thanks to Mr.Sharpe for all his hard work.Borke as I am, have bought several books-for me and others-from IHS Press to support John.....weill continue to do so!..Thanks John for your brave stances!

BTW-let me know if you have any employment openings......

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