Br. André Marie regrets tone in speech that called Jews “seed of the devil”

Louis Villarubia says he’s not an anti-semite.

The self-styled religious brother, who calls himself Brother André Marie, is listed as prior of the St. Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, which was recently put under strict sanctions by the diocese of Manchester and can no longer call itself a Catholic organization.

But now Villarubia’s a featured speaker at the upcoming first annual Chivalry Conference along with three prominent Catholics, including the scholar and author Joseph Pearce, radio personality Mike Church, and author C.G. Dilsaver. The conference, which is sponsored by Church’s Crusade Channel and The Latin Mass Society of Central New Jersey, will address the matter of “Raising Chivalrous Young Men In An Increasingly Decadent Society.”

Villarubia and the St. Benedict Center have been dogged by accusations of anti-semitism since its foundation; but Villarubia said in a recent statement on the Center’s website that the allegations are “a vicious and unfounded calumny.” He offered a “categorical rejection of the label, ‘anti-Semite'” and called the claim “purely manufactured.”

“Conversion to Jesus Christ and His true Church is our message to Jew and Gentile alike. Where is the hate there? It is purely manufactured,” Villarubia wrote. 

But in a 1998 speech at the St. Benedict Center, Villarubia said that Jews are the “worst enemy of the Church;” that God has turned his back on the Jews; that the Catholic Church is at war with the Synagogue; that the Jewish people side with the “seed of the Devil;” He spoke of the Jews’ “avarice, treachery and usury” as symptoms of their “supernatural sickness” and said Jews are like Cain and desire to overtake and usurp the Church, and that they’re responsible for the “loss of countless souls.” He referred to the late Cardinal O’Connor as a “Jew lover” who “defended the gospel of the Holocaust wherever he goes;” and said “The Jew is not my brother.” He concluded his speech: “We of St. Benedict Center must also hold a strong position against the Jews, or we would not be true to our foundation.”

I asked Villarubia on Monday if he rejects the statements he made in that speech. He answered, “I definitely reject any suggestion that a majority of the Jewish people are hostile to the Faith, and regret the tone of speech and some of the unkind expressions I used in it. We want to evangelize people, after all, not drive them away.”

The speech, which is excerpted extensively at the end of this article, was removed from the organization’s website around 2009 at the request of then-bishop John McCormack. After members of the group signed a letter renouncing anti-semitism and signaling their intention to come into compliance, the diocese then allowed the Center to bring a priest in good standing in from another diocese onto the premises to offer the sacraments. 

One of the priests they brought in was Fr. Rudolf Grega, a Canadian priest who, according to brotherandre.weebly.com was accused of having been dismissed from the FSSP for “failing to observe clerical celibacy.”

The St. Benedict Center has also been investigated by the FBI for allegedly holding a woman against her will, an accusation Villarubia has denied.

The Center, located in a remote, rural setting, houses a number of religious men and women who, according to the site, belong to the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, an order which is not recognized by the Church. It also attracts lay people and includes a school, a summer camp, and a printing press. The Center promotes their interpretation of the teaching “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” (no salvation outside the Church) as a major feature of its mission, which it makes a point of calling a “Crusade.”

Even after the Slaves signed letters of obedience in 2009, the Center continued to teach and promote an erroneously harsh and narrow interpretation of the teaching that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, explicitly contradicting Church teaching; and to persist in presenting themselves as an independent Catholic organization, leading the diocese to impose new sanctions in 2019. According to the Diocese of Manchester

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome, in April 2016 and again in October 2016, declared ‘unacceptable,’ therefore erroneous and contrary to Church teachings, the manner with which the Saint Benedict Center and the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary interpret the principle “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” (outside the Church there is no salvation.) Rome pronounced the matter closed, thus no longer open to dialogue or debate.”

The diocese said the organization and its school can no longer call themselves “Catholic,” and Catholics may no longer receive the sacraments there.

As of April 28, 2019, the St. Benedict Center’s website (which is called catholicism.org) continues to claim: 

“Our congregation is a de facto private association of the faithful (in accord with canon 299 §1). We have a priest in residence offering Holy Mass and hearing confessions with the requisite faculties from the Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire.” [boldface is in orginal]

They claim on their site to be a congregation of religious brother and sisters as well as a third order lay organization; but the Diocese of Manchester said:

“The individuals who work and reside at Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, NH, are men and women who have chosen to live in community having adopted and following their own set of rules. Neither Saint Benedict Center, the Immaculate Heart of Mary School, nor the self-referenced “Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” enjoy any recognition, canonical or otherwise, in the Universal Roman Catholic Church or in the Diocese of Manchester.”

The diocese has given the Center until the end of June to come into compliance with Church teaching. I asked Villarubia if the Center intends to comply. He responded,

“As canonical litigation against the precept is currently pending before the Holy See, I cannot answer your question at this time. We pray for the Bishop of Manchester, that he may come to see just how this community of truly Catholic daughters and sons of the Church have been and continue to be wronged by the precept’s false assertions of fact presupposing its issuance.”

According to the diocese, Bishop Libasci “[i]n his pastoral care for the souls of those who work, live at, or reside near the Saint Benedict Center” has arranged for a weekly celebration of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in nearby Winchester, NH.

The Catholic Herald UK recently noted:

Certain Catholics will write off the CDF’s sanctions as mere anti-traditionalist animus . . .[but] The CDF (or at least Manchester) is taking great pains to make clear that this dispute is about the dogma of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and not about the status of traditionalists in the Church more broadly. Bishop Libasci himself is considered broadly conservative and has made generous provisions for the traditionalist Priestly Fraternity of St Peter (FSSP) to operate within the diocese.

The group has been in Richmond since the mid 80’s, and they operate the St. Benedict Center, a school, and a summer camp, a priory and convent, as well as publications, a radio show, and websites. They are an offshoot of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart and St. Benedict Center in Still River, MA, which was founded in 1940; but they are no longer affiliated with each other.

Following a series of lawsuits which were decided against Br. Francis Maluf, co-founder of the Slaves, the Still River group cut ties with the Richmond group, and the Still River group has since been recognized by the Church as being obedient to their bishop. The Still River group is the topic of a new memoir, Little Sister, by Patricia Walsh Chadwick, who was raised by the group’s leaders and alleges that the insular religious community was abusive and violent, separating parents from children and splitting up marriages in the name of sanctification.

Fr. Leonard Feeney, who founded the original St. Benedict Center, was excommunicated in 1953 after he persisted in teaching that no one can be saved if they are not baptized Catholic; but he reportedly recited the Athanasian Creed on his deathbed and so is widely acknowledged to have died within the mercy of the Church. Even the ultra-traditionalist SSPX (Society of St. Pius X) acknowledges Feeney to have been in error on the matter of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Feeney is lauded on the Richmond St. Benedict site, and they are among his followers who deny that he repented of his heretical beliefs. The Richmond group is one of the most radical splinter groups to form from the original Fenneyites.

When I asked Villarubia how he came to regret the “tone of speech” and “unkind expressions” in his 1998 speech, he responded,

“Prayer and experience. In the time since I gave that speech, I have learned that a charitable approach toward those who do not accept our Faith is the best witness; it is the witness of the saints. If we are going to work for the evangelization of America, we must act out of love of God and love of neighbor. Our neighbor must see the Charity of Jesus Christ in us or we fail in our apostolate.”

In 1958, Feeney wrote that “the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal.” 

I asked Villarubia if he rejects this statement by Fr. Feeney. He did not respond. 

Joseph Pearce, one of the other speakers at the upcoming Chivalry Conference that will host Villarubia, said, “I hate and despise antisemitism and Neo-naziism; but I do have sympathy with the views of Voltaire: I may despise what you say, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.”

Pearce said that he was not familiar with Villarubia, but that as a former neo-Nazi himself who has publicly repented, he doesn’t believe in isolating extremists.
 

“One reason I’m happy to speak anywhere is in order to have what I hope is a positive impact, to draw people toward authentic Catholicism, whether they’re a ‘mad, bad trad’ or a liberal extremist. I’m hoping being out there, speaking and writing, will have a positive impact to bring them closer to reconciliation,” he said. 

The other two speakers are C. J. Dilsaver, developer of psychomoralitics and author of The Three Marks of Manhood: How to be Priest, Prophet and King of Your Family and Celebrating God-Given Gender; and Mike Church, an independent radio host whose Sirius XM show was cancelled in 2015, allegedly for being too Catholic. Church then launched the Crusade Channel, which is sponsoring the conference with the Latin Mass Society of Central New Jersey. Church did not respond to requests for comment.

Here are excerpts from the speech delivered by Louis Villarubia, a.k.a. Brother André Marie, in 1998. 

***

What are we to say of the Jews?  It is horrible to say, but true: Both physically and spiritually the Son of God turned his back to proud Jerusalem and to its stiff-necked inhabitants.

[T]he Synagogue — the Church of the Old Testament — was replaced by the Catholic Church and the mystical war between the two — a war which will not end until the consummation of the world — was begun. 

… history is the story of the war between the seed of Mary and the seed of the devil. Upon their rejection of Christ, the Jews took sides in this war, and became the chief society of men forming the “children and slaves of the devil” . . . From the crucifixion on, the once chosen nation became the worst enemy of the Church — and will be until its prophesied conversion.

“This, in essence, is the ‘Jewish Problem'”: They are the anti-Christ people whose damnable nationalism and anti-messianic naturalism oppose the supernatural supranational aims of Christ and His Church. The avarice of the Jews, their refusal to assimilate into nations they inhabit, their usury and treachery are only symptoms of their greatest sickness; and although these traits are obvious to observers throughout all history, they are only naturally observable results of a problem properly viewed from a supernatural, that is, a Catholic, perspective. 

By way of Jewish takeovers, there is only one thing that could be worse than the usurpation of the Holy Land, the earthly Jerusalem and that is a Jewish takeover of the New Jerusalem, the new Zion: the Catholic Church . . .and like Cain before him, the old Jerusalem seeks to kill the one whose sacrifice was accepted, while his own was rejected. While a Jewish defeat of the Church is impossible, the corroding effect they have on the Mystical Body will be measured in the loss of countless souls. 

Richard Cardinal Cushing … insisted the Jews be absolved of the crime of deicide. Cushing had earned his reputation as a Jew lover years before, when he persecuted Father Feeney and accused him of anti-Semitism. “If i don’t see you in heaven when I get there, ” said the Cardinal to a group of Jews, “I’ll know that you haven’t died yet.” … [a]t the time of the Council, Bishops who were considered conservative had a hard time with an ecumenical Council’s promotion of the Jewish cause. Today, however, even supposed conservatives are Jew lovers. 

Lately, his Eminence [Cardinal O’Connor] has been defending the gospel of the holocaust wherever he goes.

When Cardinal O’Connor recently stated that the Catholic Church was not meant to replace Judaism, he justified his heresy by saying, “That’s what the Pope says and I work for the Pope.” Would that this were not true. On April 13, 1986, the Holy Father entered into the Synagogue of Rome where he and Chief Rabbi, Elio Toaff, addressed the assembled congregation. Part of the Pope’s message was this: “[T]he Church of Christ, in examining its own mystery, discovered its bond with Judaism. The Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us, but in a certain way is intrinsic to our religion… You are our favorite brothers and in some ways, one could say, our elder brothers.” This scandalous speech has been the source of all this talk of the Jews being our “elder brothers in the Faith.”

… 

To talk of the Jews as our brothers is to deny the supernatural order established by God. … The Jew is not my brother. I have God as my Father and Mary Immaculate as my Mother. This is true, because by faith and Baptism I am a member of the Mystical Body of Christ, and He is the only Begotten. He is the seed of Abraham to whom the promise was made, and we Catholics are the heirs of that promise because of our union with jesus. As for the Jews, our Lord Himself told them that they did NOT have Abraham for their Father, but the devil. Abraham is my father, not the father of any Talmudic Jew. 

Which is why the problem of the Jews is a serious problem . . . The Catholic Church has always had a strong position on the Jewish question and will again when she regains her vigor. As adherents of tradition, we of St. Benedict Center must also hold a strong position against the Jews, or we would not be true to our foundation. 

***

Photo of Louis Villarubia, aka Br. André Marie, at a recent town meeting in Richmond, NH; courtesy Damien Fisher

Catholics can’t afford careless anti-Semitism

It’s Advent. I’m very aware that it’s Advent. I don’t want things to be business as usual on the Catholic internet. So please believe me: I thought long and hard about how to approach this topic usefully, rather than just stirring up anger.

Last night, Catholic News Service tweeted out a “Happy Hanukkah” message “to those who celebrate.” Here’s a screenshot:

One problem: That’s an image of Roman soldiers carrying off loot from the Temple they desecrated. So yes, there is a menorah in the picture. No, that doesn’t make it appropriate for Hanukkah, any more than it would be appropriate to tweet out, “Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!” along with a photo of Herod slaughtering the innocents, or a lion mauling some martyrs, or maybe just a straight up crucifixion picture. It’s a depiction of one of the darkest moments in Jewish history.

One wag on Twitter had the same thought:

After several people immediately chastised CNS for their image choice, they deleted the tweet and posted this:

Which . . . was not great. It puts the onus on “many of our followers” for having been offended, rather than saying, “We posted something terrible, and we’re terribly sorry.” There was more backlash, and this morning, they posted this:

I do believe the original image choice was inadvertent. I do believe it’s possible that some overworked or lazy social media manager simply Googled “menorah” and thought, “ooh, that one looks classy” and went with it. Dumb stuff happens, and I’m willing to believe the photo choice was not a veiled threat against Jews, despite how it appeared.

The barely-an-apology apology is harder to get past. The follow-up apology is better, although it puts the blame a single person, even though the tweet went out under the CNS name; but I feel a dreary certainty that CNS learned the lesson “Jewish people are touchy” rather than the much more important lesson, which is this:

Antisemitism is in the Church.
Catholics who aren’t antisemites are obligated to reject even the smallest hint of it, whenever it turns up.

Even if it was unintentional; even if it seems minor; even if it seems to gentiles like an isolated, meaningless incident that can be explained away if everyone would just calm down. Even if the antisemite does other good things or is an effective fundraiser for Catholic causes.

If we don’t step up and say something every single time, then those who really are malicious become more bold, and ideas that once pushed the envelope become commonplace.

A few months ago, the Catholic News Agency published an article about Franciscan University’s response to allegations of mishandling sexual assault, which was uncovered by freelance journalist Jenn Morson and published in the National Catholic Reporter.

CNA named George Soros as the originator of the funding, and then devoted eight paragraphs of their article to the funding angle. But the funding was not, in fact, from George Soros, and even if it had been, Morson was unaware of the grant and did not receive it until after the story was published. Her editors clarified:

The grant was made eight years before Morson started writing her story. The putative connection to George Soros was, in short, imaginary. Moreover, even if it had existed, it would not have been newsworthy, much less deserving of eight paragraphs.

But Morson is a Catholic of Jewish origin, and “Soros” is shorthand in the United States for “evil Jewish influence.”

So, maybe the CNA reporter, and the editor who okayed the story, simply didn’t know the name “Soros” is an anti-semitic dogwhistle. That happens.

But after Morson and several others told them what “Soros” means to so many people, they defended their story. They added a paragraph noting that Morson was not aware of the origin of the funding; but they retained the eight paragraphs noting the alleged source of funding. It’s hard to understand why that information was relevant unless CNA wanted readers to believe the source of funding affected the reporting itself.

Well. Still. Why is this worth bringing up? Why can’t we just give the benefit of the doubt to Catholics who do good work otherwise? Why are Jews so damn touchy?

Because there are so many Catholics of bad will. Because anti-semitism is once again gaining ground in the Church, just as it is everywhere else. Anti-semitic attacks in the U.S. have surged 57% in the last year alone.  If you think those attacks only happen outside the Church, just ask any public person with a Jewish-sounding last name. Stroll by the wrong hornet’s nest, and the anti-semitism comes swarming out, sometimes disguised as piety, sometimes proudly acknowledging itself for what it is.

Does anti-semitism exist only in Catholic circles? Of course not. But when it does exist there, it’s every Catholic’s job to stamp it out in horror. Catholics of good will are obligated to be especially careful to utterly reject even the hint of antisemitism, before it gains strength.

But they’re not. They’re not stamping it out, and they’re not learning to be careful. And when they’re not careful, those without good will consistently amplify dogwhistles, whether they were originally intentional or not. The Catholic Crisis Magazine followed Catholic News Agency’s “I spy George Soros” cue and gleefully doubled down on the imaginary Soros-Morson connection with an article titled “The Soros-Funded Attacks on Orthodox Catholic Universities.” The word “attacks” is plural because the author, Austin Ruse, included my Christendom articles in this category of attack. It is common knowledge that I am Jewish.

My articles were, of course, in no way funded by George Soros, and were in no way part of a coordinated attack. But that’s not relevant, if you know your readership. And Crisis does.

The Remnant Magazine used a similar tactic in their strange, rambling article about me: They called my work “satanic” and then devoted two paragraphs to my Jewishness and how I convey it, even though my articles has nothing to do with Judaism.

In other words, they said: We are not antisemitic. But you should know that this evil article was written by a Jew.

Because this kind of thing is tolerated, because people want to pretend it’s not happening, the authors grow more bold. Austin Ruse, the author of the Crisis article fallaciously linking Morson to Soros, recently said this on Twitter of his nephew, who is an “Elder” in the Proud Boys.

Ruse, who has received numerous awards from mainstream Catholic organizations, including Franciscan University, has repeatedly insisted that Proud Boys are
mostly a men’s drinking club” and “not an extremist group nor or they even remotely white nationalist.” According to the ProudBoysUSA.com:

Men have tried being ashamed of themselves and accepting blame for slavery, the wage gap, ableism, and some fag-bashing that went on two generations ago, but it didn’t work. So they’re going with their gut and indulging in the natural pride that comes from being part of the greatest culture in the world. It’s very freeing to finally admit the West is the best. That’s because it’s the truth.

Jason Kessler was a member of the Proud Boys when he helped organize the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville where tiki torch-wielding marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us.”

This is the organization that brings Austin Ruse such familial pride.

Of course, it’s all about context and nuance, when you’re marching through the streets with torches.

John Zmirak in 2016 reissued his Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He’s gone on the record rejecting anti-semitism, which is bold. Was that before or after he worked for the white nationalist publication VDARE, including this Christmas essay, which is essentially a chattier version of the 14 words? Before or after he recorded at least one giggly interview, now mysteriously vanished, with neo-Nazi Richard Spencer? If he’s repented, the man has some public reparation to catch up on.

I don’t like guilt by association. I don’t like punishing people for failing to expunge every possible hint of unsavory connections from their public past. But I’m also no fool. I know that evildoers count on the cover given them by the naiveté, the timidity, the mistaken charitable intentions of decent people.

Jewish writers will tell you that anti-semitic insults and threats from people calling themselves “Catholic” are commonplace. Gentiles have told me they have no idea such a thing happens. So I’m telling you: It happens all the time. My family has received numerous explicitly anti-semitic threats of violence from people calling themselves Catholic. After years of writing for Catholic publications, it doesn’t even raise eyebrows anymore. It’s routine.

Guys, the Catholic people and publications I named are only ones I happened to have come into contact with recently, and so their names popped into my head. They are the tip of the iceberg.

I am exhausted. I am exhausted with extending good will where it is neither desired nor deserved. I am exhausted with taking the high road, telling myself people simply didn’t know any better, they simply travel in different circles, they simply don’t realize what it’s like to be Jewish. I am exhausted with arguing with myself over whether I’m overreacting or not, whether I’ll make things better or worse by saying something.

And I am exhausted with trying to persuade myself, “No one is listening to these fringe figures anyway, and I’m just boosting their signal if I respond.”

People are listening to these fringe figures. They’re becoming less fringe as people listen. My children walk through the halls of a public school where swastikas are scrawled by self-described “rednecks” who think “oven” jokes are just some snarky fun. Down the road from us is a traditionalist Catholic Church that has preserved the beautiful and reverent music and liturgy my family craves — and which teaches its children that the Jews are here to infiltrate and subvert the Church from within. It’s not dying out on its own. New generations are being raised on casual or even ardent antisemitism, and Catholics are letting it happen.

Jews ought to be able to count on Catholics to reject antisemitism with vigorous revulsion, because that is what Catholics are for: defending the vulnerable, defending the truth, defending our Faith which is inextricable from its Jewish roots.

Instead, we hear excuses: We didn’t realize. It was an honest mistake. We’re sorry you were offended. Let’s not jump to conclusions. But they do so much good otherwise. Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll go away.

Or: It’s Advent. Can’t we take a break from thinking about this stuff? It’s Advent!

And during Advent, Jewish Mary and her Jewish baby boy fled for their lives. During Advent, Jews all over the world are in danger, and their danger increases when Catholics pretend they don’t see antisemitism in their ranks. It is here. I, a Jew, a mother of Jews, am asking you, if you’re a writer, an editor, a social media manager; if you book speakers or hire teachers; if you’re in charge of choosing curriculum; if you are active on social media; if you are a priest, if you influence other people:

Please see this cancer on the Body of Christ for what it is. Name it as evil, every single time, and keep it from spreading.

 

Suggested Lenten reading: Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist

This year for Lent, we’re reading aloud Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper (affiliate link) by Brant Pitre.  I’m hoping to finish before Easter, so we’ll have plenty to think about over the Triduum. The high school kids are following it fine, and the younger kids are listening in and picking up some, if not all. I LOVE THIS BOOK. Pitre is a teacher, so the book is a pleasure to read out loud.

(You may recall that we were reading Bendict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth. Well, I really dug it, and so did Damien, but the kids were just not into it. So after a few chapters, we gave up. I still heartily recommend it, for high school-aged kids and up. If you’re looking for Lenten reading, you could go with the Holy Week volume of this three-book series.)

Here’s my review of Brant Pitre’s book, which was originally published on Patheos in 2011.

***

Having celebrated more than forty Passover Seders with my Hebrew Catholic family, I anticipated already knowing most of what Brant Pitre has to say in Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist: Unlocking the Secrets of the Last Supper I already knew that Moses prefigured the Messiah to come; that the Last Supper was a Passover meal; that Jesus is both the paschal lamb and the unleavened bread eaten by the Jews, and that we celebrate this same mystery at Mass.

But, the details!

Did you know that the Jews’ Passover lamb was commonly nailed to a cross-shaped board? Did you know that the manna which sustained the Hebrews in the desert was thought to have been created before the Fall, and “had existed ‘on high’ in heaven” until God gave it to the people to eat? Did you know that the Bread of the Presence, which was consecrated and reserved in the tabernacle of the Temple, constituted both meal and unbloody sacrifice, and was offered with wine each Sabbath?

Did you know that temporarily-celibate Jewish priests would elevate this bread on feast days, and proclaim, “Behold, God’s love for you!”

All astonishing and illuminating facts. But this book is no mere collection of obscure coincidences and historical novelties related to Christ. Pitre sweeps the reader up in his enthusiastic rediscovery of the glorious symmetry of salvation history. It is a gorgeous, persuasive, and enthralling story that you’ve heard bits of here and there, but never with this cohesion. Pitre puts it all together.

The overwhelming sensation I had on reading this book was one of relief. I had fallen into thinking of the New Testament as the half of the Bible that is bright, hopeful, and fresh; whereas the Old Testament is blood and thunder, irrationality and murkiness, with flashes of half-understood prophecies whose fulfillment could only be appreciated in retrospect. As I read Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist, I imagined Pitre’s research and exegesis rescuing generations of pre-Christian believers from that terrifying squalor of the half-life of prefigurement. He shows how all the world always has been, and always will be, loved and guided, and nourished most tenderly by the one true God.

A minor quibble—and I offer it mostly to show some balance to my enthusiasm; in his zeal to illustrate how Jesus’ contemporaries would have perceived his words and actions, Pitre occasionally strays into slightly jarring language. He speaks of Christ “expecting” and “hoping for” future events in His own life to fulfill the prophecies and traditions of the Jews. Although Pitre by no means implies that Jesus was not omniscient, this vocabulary sat oddly with me. It is, perhaps, the natural way to speak about the life of Christ in a book about the fulfillment of promises; but I wish he had made it more clear that the Exodus, the manna, the Bread of Presence, the Passover meal and its fourth and final cup of wine were all ordained expressly for, and in anticipation of, the things to come. Pitre does say this, to be sure (and the evangelist John says the same thing: that Jesus did things “to fulfill scripture”); but his tone occasionally implies that Christ’s actions were cannily calculated to persuade the Jews.

This is, as I say, a very minor and debatable quibble, which is overwhelmed by the true brilliance of the rest of the book.

Although this book is rigorously researched, Pitre’s tone is conversational and appealing. Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist began as a lecture, and reading it is like sitting in class with a gentle and intelligent teacher who anticipates questions, reminds us of what he told us before, and even suggests that we mark certain pages for future reference. The book is highly accessible, but by no means light reading. It is insightful, original, and frequently profound. Pitre shows his sources, and he warns the reader when his ideas are speculative.

This is, above all joyful book. And who may appreciate it? Curious Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah. Protestants who think of the Eucharist as mere symbol. Casual scholars who sanction the mundane dumbing-down of miracles. Indifferent Confirmation students, whose eyes glaze over when they hear the words “sacrifice” and “covenant.”

And most of all, Catholics who desperately want to be more attentive, more engaged in the mystery of the Eucharist, because every time they go to Mass they know it’s really, really important, but it’s so hard to pay attention after all these years.

Pitre’s book will get your attention. With his strange and beautiful story of how God brings us the gift we receive every week, Pitre’s book will make you rejoice again—or maybe for the very first time—for what you have.

 

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“Pro-life” Trump is engineering an American Kristallnacht

Here’s a ridiculous scenario: Imagine you drive a red car. One day, the mayor of your town says that, every week, he’s going to head over to the post office and pin up a list of people who have done bad things with red cars.

The list includes people who have bought red cars, people who have borrowed them, and people who have stolen red cars; and it includes everything from driving with a broken tail light to deliberately plowing through line of kindergarteners. The list doesn’t specify: It just has names of people driving red cars, and it says they’ve all done something bad.

This goes on week after week, and even though you’ve never so much as failed to use a turn signal, you start to notice that you’re getting dirty looks when you step out of your red car. You find yourself parking around the corner, just so no one realizes that you’re one of those “red car people.” Your neighbor sees you washing your car in the driveway and she makes a disgusted sound and loudly tells her kids, “Let’s go find some other friends to play with.” One morning, you wake up and discover that someone has slashed your tires and beat in your windshield, and “NO RED CARS HERE” is spray painted on your driveway.

You haven’t done anything. But you do drive a red car.

Stupid, right? That is a silly story. Let’s talk about something that hits a little closer to home with some of my readers:

At the peak of the Catholic sex abuse scandal, a priest friend — a holy, kind, exemplary man — told me that when he passed a woman and child on the sidewalk, the woman instinctively shoved herself between her child and him. She made a physical barrier to protect her kid, as if, just because he had a Roman collar on, he was going to lunge over and start groping her child.

How unfair! How grievously unfair, to behave as if every priest is probably a sexual predator, when in fact priests are no more likely than any other man to abuse children.

But at the same time, my priest friend couldn’t blame the woman. When it does happen, molestation of children is an unspeakable crime. And every day, week after week after week, the papers and the TV news carried stories of priests who did abuse children, or who were accused of abusing children, or who didn’t do enough to stop the abuse of children.

Or, maybe they actually did everything they possibly could to stop the abuse of the children, but still, ugh, they’re one of those priests . . . 

We all know what priests are like. We know, because we read it in the news.

Imagine being a priest in this climate. I heard priests debating with each other whether it was safe to go out wearing clerical garb. Why put a target on your back? Everyone you meet has been trained to look at you and think, “Sex crime! Sex crime!”

This is the power of the selectively chosen printed word. This is what can be achieved when you take a story that is true (some people in red cars do commit crimes; some priests do molest children) and play it over and over and over and over again, chanting in the ear of the reader: DANGER. DANGER. WARNING. WARNING. NO TIME TO THINK. ALERT. ALERT. PROTECT YOURSELF.

Protect yourself against what? Why, against people like that: people who commit crimes, people you can easily pick out on the street, because they’re illegal immigrant criminals. Well, they’re illegal immigrants. Well, they’re immigrants. Well, they have brown skin and an accent, and you know what people like that do.

We know, because we read it in the news. We read the weekly lists that the president of the United States says he is going to publish — lists of “crimes” (he doesn’t specify if we’re talking about rape or murder or driving over to Kroger’s without a license) committed by “aliens” (he doesn’t specify legal or illegal).  The important thing is, we have to have constant reminders that there are people coming into our country and doing bad things! Never forget!  Immigrant and crime! They go together.

Never mind that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than people born in the United States. Doesn’t matter. What matters is the constant reminder of facts without context to create an emotional response. It’s not rational. It doesn’t have to be. In fact it works better when it’s not rational (especially when you’ve been training the populace to believe that there is no such thing as objective truth, just facts and alternative facts).

There are already laws on the books about deporting illegal immigrants. There are already laws on the books about arresting and prosecuting criminals. There are already numerous public records of crimes committed in this country. We don’t have a secret court system. Just about every arrest is public record. There are already numerous aggregators of statistics to tell us who commits what kind of crime. Most Americans already agree that crime is bad, illegal activity is wrong, and criminals should be punished by the law.

These lists do not give us more information. They do not “better inform the public,” despite what Trump’s statement claims. All of the information in them is already public information.

There is only one reason to publish a list like this, and that is to whip up fear, suspicion, and outrage. To make people feel unsafe and angry. To constantly remind them (as Trump did in his inauguration speech) that we are drowning in crime, awash in violence, crumbling into ruin, teetering on the brink, losing ourselves in the darkness.

Things are terrible, terrible, terrible. And whose fault is it? Well, I happen to have a list. And I’ll be updating it every week, so you’ll know who to blame.

Now imagine that you are the one with dark skin and an accent. Imagine your kids have dark skin and accents. Maybe you’re legally here and maybe you’re not, but it’s very clear that you’re some kind of immigrant.

Remember: immigrant crime immigrant crime immigrant crime. That’s the important thing to remember. Your neighbors have been hearing it for months.

Imagine that you live in a country where, every single week, your president has been telling everyone that people with dark skins and accents are criminals. Imagine getting your kids ready to walk to school, and knowing that half their classmates have been reading these lists every week. Imagine leaving work at night and finding that a couple of guys have had a couple of beers and they’ve decided they’ve had enough of these fucking immigrants fucking up their country, and if the police won’t do anything about it, then they will.

Think it won’t happen? Why? Because fearful, angry people never lash out at the innocent?

bundesarchiv_bild_146-1970-083-42_magdeburg_zersto%cc%88rtes_ju%cc%88disches_gescha%cc%88ft

Because we’d never let things go that far?

Why not? If we’re not going to say “halt” now, then when?

This is classic scapegoating. It’s what fascists do to gain control. They tell the people, over and over and over again, “You’re not safe. You’re not safe. It’s the fault of THESE PEOPLE. I will protect you from THESE PEOPLE, and then you can be safe.” And then, while you’re thrilled to get his help and protection, you barely notice the other stuff he’s doing, stuff that directly contradicts the things you said you cared about ten minutes ago. Stuff like small government, religious freedom, freedom of the press, respect for the disabled, protection for the innocent and vulnerable.

My friends, I have always thought that Trump would be a bad and dangerous president, a vulgar and ridiculous man, but I thought the accusations of fascism were overblown. I thought it was hyperbole.

I don’t think so anymore. This is textbook behavior. This is how it always starts. This is how totalitarians persuade the population to give him everything he wants: By whipping up fear and anger, by pointing to a scapegoat, and then by offering to take care of that scapegoat for you.

Up until now, I’ve been angry at Trump. Last night, he broke my heart. I wept when I heard of his plans, and I wept harder when I saw some of my friends defending them. Not because I want to protect criminals, but because I want to protect my country. I love my country. This is not what I want for my country.

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. A good day to remember that everything Hitler did was with the consent of the people, whom he had primed to fear and hate certain groups of people. He started by posting lists of Jews who were accused of committing crimes. He started by reminding Germans of what a shambles their country was in, and then he told them, over and over and over again, whose fault it was.

And then they let him do whatever he wanted.

We have seen this before. We have seen this before. There is no Mexico City Policy, no phone call to the March for Life, no promise of new jobs that can justify the American Kristallnacht that our president is openly trying to engineer.

Resist. Even if you need a job. Even if you are pro-life. Even if your city is full of people who don’t speak English. Even if you think Hillary belongs in jail. Even if you voted for Trump. Resist this path we are on. Remember who you are, and resist.

***
EDIT Friday around 5:00 eastern: Thanks to a reader, I realized that I misread and mischaracterized Trump’s statement. It was an honest error, not a malicious one, but that’s no excuse. I have edited the post to make it more accurate.

The original passage, as far as I can reconstruct it, read:
We know, because we read it in the news. We read the weekly lists that the president of the United States says he is going to publish –‘lists of “aliens” (he doesn’t specify legal or illegal) who have committed “crimes” (he doesn’t specify if we’re talking about rape or murder or driving over to Kroger’s without a license).

The corrected passage now reads:
We know, because we read it in the news. We read the weekly lists that the president of the United States says he is going to publish — lists of “crimes” (he doesn’t specify if we’re talking about rape or murder or driving over to Kroger’s without a license) committed by “aliens” (he doesn’t specify legal or illegal).

I apologize for the error. It does not change my argument in the slightest.
Kristallnacht image: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1970-083-42 / CC-BY-SA 3.0 [CC BY-SA 3.0 de (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/de/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons