We Need a Catholic Anti-Defamation League

George Cardinal Pell has walked out of solitary confinement a free man. Accordingly, we Australian Catholics might be said to have won a battle. But we have not won the war. We are not within a million miles of winning the war. On present indications, we lack, humanly speaking, the slightest capacity not just to win the war but to wage the war.

Worse still, the vast majority of us remain unaware that a war is taking place. Many Australian Catholics are such recent immigrants from Asia that their English, even when adequate for daily transactions, is utterly inadequate for grasping the intellectual background of all local heresies, let alone antipodean anti-Catholicism.

The Catholics who were born here, and for whom English is their first—indeed their only—language, totally lack the immigrants’ extenuating circumstances. Compared with the typical ideologically comatose Joe and Jodie Sixpack in Australia’s pews (or, more often, illicitly absent from our pews) each Sunday, Rip Van Winkle is the world’s most vigilant insomniac.

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This state of affairs, of course, is exactly what Australia’s rulers—the Whig-atheist-Marxist-Masonic-Hollywood-Homintern deep state that governs us irrespective of which political party is better at counting noses than the others are—desire from Catholics. They desire to eliminate altogether any threat from Catholics and to turn us from the Church Militant into the Church Marshmallow. That they have succeeded beyond their most sanguine fantasies only the willfully blind, the deliberately malicious, and the intellectually compromised can doubt.

But enough of complaining, even complaints which simply state logical truths. B.A. Santamaria—Australia’s leading lay Catholic, dead these 22 years—never tired of asking himself and his staffers the question that (long before Lenin was born) exercised the 19th-century Russian critic Nikolai Chernyshevky: What is to be done?

Every Australian Catholic with the slightest historical awareness knows what must be done because, in the past, it was done. The fact is that it is no longer done. That Mavis Mouthbreather no longer drags her gaze from her 374 weekly Netflix screenings for long enough to know precisely why it is no longer done has no bearing on the legitimacy of the program itself.

What needs to be done, with all possible urgency, is the establishment in Australia of a full-time, properly salaried Catholic Anti-Defamation League. To understand why this must be carried out—and why, absent such a league, all efforts in Australia that are merely party political, personalist, or rosary crusades will remain unavailing even if commendable—it is necessary to trace the history of the Santamaria movement.

This is not the appropriate venue for a detailed biography of B.A. “Bob” Santamaria (1915–1998). Google and Wikipedia will provide, for the curious, some quick and dirty background. Sufficient in this context to state that Santamaria was far and away Australia’s most efficacious Catholic activist. Those who knew him never forgot him. Over six decades, his determined apostolate (invariably mocked as “fanaticism” by nihilists) combined a journalistic style vigorous enough and courageous enough to be worth the closest attention more than a century after his birth. It was the chief influence on Cardinal Pell’s thinking.

But what, exactly, is Santamaria’s relevance for a Catholic Anti-Defamation League, especially given that none of the organizations which he founded and ran—the National Catholic Rural Movement, the Industrial Groups, Peace with Freedom (during the Vietnam War), and the National Civic Council—bore that name?

His relevance is this:

Thanks almost exclusively to his movement, the task of breaking Australia’s blue-collar unions free from communist control (particularly urgent during the 1940s and 1950s) was accomplished without violence. Although freeing the labor movement from Soviet and Chinese control was obviously desirable in itself, Santamaria’s goal was accomplished, not as a desideratum in itself, but as part of a wider plan.

Much influenced by Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton and profoundly indebted to the encyclicals of Pius XI and Pius XII (as well as his own embittered Depression-era memories of Protestant buccaneer capitalism), Santamaria arrived at a realization which changed Australia forever. That realization was the potential of the communist fighting unit of the “cell”—a tiny cadre of dedicated activists purged of homme moyen sensuel slackness and prepared to die if necessary, but to sell their lives at terrible expense. In other words, he turned the communists’ own methods against the communist themselves.

There was no ambiguity attached to a member’s role. He was expected to undergo rigorous training in debate, catechetics, and the history of the Church. He was required to lead a private life of irreproachable purity. If he failed in these areas, he was given every encouragement to leave.

Santamaria was not free from original sin, and sometimes his enterprise was responsible for unfortunate decisions. Even so, compare and contrast these methods with your typical secularist all-expenses-paid campus boondoggle devoted to The Challenge of Catholicism in a Liberal-Democratic Habitus, or How We Can Defeat the Left by Reading Tolkien to Them Until They Scream for Mercy. As all of us involved at various stages of Santamaria’s movement will testify, the amazing thing was that it worked.

The extreme tactical pragmatism produced, paradoxically, strategic breadth of culture. At an age when many, if not most, Australian Catholics’ intellectual horizons were bounded by the Don Camillo stories on one side and the not very amusing Speck the Altar Boy cartoons on the other, the Catholics in Santamaria’s operation knew about Belloc’s The Servile State and José Ortega y Gasset’s The Revolt of the Masses. For us, his office was a de facto university, which introduced us to much more significant thought than we would ever have discovered from the tenured Madame Maos who dictated the terms of our “higher education.”

In 1955, however, it all came crashing down. Communist agents within the Labour Party purged Santamaria and his supporters, systematically slandering them as “fascists.”

Possibly suffering from twinges of bad conscience, or possibly (to quote Stalin’s phrase) “dizzy with success,” the communists took stock of their achievement. They discerned that destroying the Santamaria organization’s influence at the level of national politics was all very well, but the organization might recover from the bottom up. Yet repeating this shakedown entailed serious risk. Entryism entailed less risk—they had not studied Gramsci for nothing!—while it promised fathomless rewards.

So, white-ant they did—they and their useful idiots. Freemasons already controlled Victoria’s police, as they do still. (Santamaria’s headquarters was in the Victorian capital city of Melbourne, where Cardinal Pell served as archbishop.) They were also over-represented within the Australian judiciary at state and federal levels. In two areas, above all, entryism triumphed: in public-sector unions (above all those representing teachers in public schools) and the mass media.

The word soon went out: Catholics were not to be victimized as such. That might be counterproductive and might conduce to the glamor of martyrdom. One must find other labels by which to smear them—“fascists,” for instance, or “reactionaries.”

Two exceptions to this emollient approach, nevertheless, remained integral to the policy of, first, the card-carrying communists, and then the cultural Marxists. They are integral to this day. First, any reluctance to turn Catholics into victims applied, at best, to cradle Catholics. Any lay heterosexual Australian so diabolically disoriented as to convert to Catholicism had to be first shunned, then vilified, and then lastingly pauperized. Second, this same treatment sequence was also to be meted out to any Catholic, cradle or convert, with a clear record of allegiance to the Santamaria organization.

These tactics are still used by the political and media elite today, not only in Melbourne (as Cardinal Pell’s persecution testifies), but across Australia.

Outside the renewal of an anti-defamation apostolate, every possible expedient for defending the rights of the Church in Australia has been tried in recent years. None, alas, have succeeded.

We had Senator Cory Bernardi with his “Australian Conservatives” party, which was as much indebted to classical liberalism as the ruling Liberal Party from which Senator Bernardi split. The “Conservatives,” like the Santamaria-inspired Democratic Labour Party, have since collapsed in a heap of debts and lawsuits. Abortion and euthanasia are now defended to the uttermost by both Labour and the Liberals in Victoria and will soon be thus defended in the other states, as the parties have themselves admitted.

We did not need Belloc to explain to us the fundamentally jejune nature of our political play-acting. Think tanks have become equally worthless at disseminating ideas now that anyone with broadband, a blog template (or even a social media membership), and a conniving accountant can set up a “think tank” for himself. Electoral and media campaigns are luxuries that we can no longer afford. What we can afford is to have a dedicated vanguard of faithful lay Catholics  committed to the most rigorous orthodoxy, whose permanent assignment it will be to counter the lies, the hatred, and the threats now assailing Holy Mother Church.

This Catholic Anti-Defamation League (CADL) would be fundamentally reactive not proactive. The object is not primarily to make the liars into good Catholics. The object is primarily to make the liars frightened and silent. It would model itself upon existing Jewish and Muslim counterparts, which have effectively countered slander and calumny against their members.

The CADL would be media-savvy (with adroit treatment of mailing lists), but not media-dependent. It would not go begging for Fourth Estate favors. These favors it might condescend to bestow, just as the Jewish and Muslim lobbies do already.

The CADL would be hierarchical, as the Church Herself is. It should be headed by a Catholic of unimpeachable morals with a journalistic background. Committees and discussion groups are as paralytic as any embalming fluid. Like Santamaria’s cadre, it would bring the same criterion of unimpeachable morals to everyone whom it hired. There would be the most thorough investigations of candidates’ backgrounds.

And the CADL would be small. Ten staffers would be plenty. Half a dozen staffers would be better. If you cannot keep an eye on every colleague in one video conference call (an important consideration amid the coronavirus), then you are overstaffed. Meanwhile, the average annual salary in Australia is just over $86,000. Multiply $86,000 by six staffers, and you get $516,000. In the United States, the annual salary is about $56,500, meaning it would cost about $340,000 to finance an American Catholic Anti-Defamation League.

Are we lay Australian Catholics really being asked to believe there isn’t $516,000 to help protect the Church from 24/7 calumny? Coronavirus is taking its toll on the economy, I know. So, maybe the U.S. bishops—flush, as they are, with government monies—could help foot the $340,000 bill, in order to help defend our Holy Mother against constant secularist slander. Or are they, too, completely skint?

Perhaps we are asked to believe this. The mass media assume in us the I.Q. of imbeciles. (“There was this archbishop, right, and he was in the middle of a procession, but he lifted up his alb and his chasuble, and then he undid his trousers…”) But if, as I still suspect, there persist a few brain cells lurking somewhere within even the most cognitively-challenged Catholics, then it is the ethical duty of these Catholics to make a firm decision about this and stick to it.

Should they balk at setting up the sole mechanism which has the slightest chance of combating anti-Catholic bigotry (as it combated anti-Catholic bigotry in Bob Santamaria’s day) and ensuring that lynch mobs against innocent prelates will belong to a discredited past, then let them answer a simple question: What’s the alternative?

Image: B.A. Santamaria (YouTube/Melbourne Press Club)


  • R.J. Stove

    R. J. Stove is a Catholic convert and resident of Melbourne. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative who, for several years, also edited the quarterly Organ Australia.

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