"I don't expect Will to take this [i.e., being fired for no definable, let alone defensible, reason] lying down.... If he would go quietly and pursue his own interests, I would think better of the man."
Jack McManus e-mail to Art Thompson, October 3, 2006 (mistakenly cc'd to me).
Weeks have passed since Jack McManus's latest -- and by no means only -- constitutional atrocity: Endorsing, in comments published by The Hill, the trial of civilian terrorist suspects before military tribunals as a proper "wartime" measure, despite the fact that Congress has not declared war.
Absent a declaration of war, and with the civilian court system in operation, it is constitutionally impermissible to try civilians before military tribunals.
The best and most concise examination of this issue from a constitutional perspective was offered by former federal Judge Andrew Napolitano in an essay originally published in the Los Angeles Times -- that's right, an organ of the much-derided MSM.
Robert Welch explained that of the original purposes in creating the John Birch Society fifty-one years ago today was to provide patriotic Americans with vital information that wasn't available through the controlled media. Yet on this extremely vital issue -- one on which principled leadership is indispensable, given the eagerness of the talk radio-fueled right wing to tear down the constitutional court system and replace it with lynch mob rule -- the public was better served by a mainstream news organ than by the President of the JBS, the individual who is supposed to be the most reliable arbiter of constitutional and ideological matters.
Yes-suh -- that's leadership!
I am informed that Appleton had an opportunity to publish an essay by another writer that would have corrected Jack's statement without mentioning him by name. That essay was never published, which means that Jack's endorsement of the military tribunals, and his equivocal position regarding the constitutional requirement of a congressional declaration of war, are now de facto positions of the John Birch Society. That will remain the case until somebody -- anybody -- in Appleton compels Jack to overcome his petulant intransigence and admit that he was wrong.
This is what can be expected of an organization presided over by a management caste more concerned about image-making and ego maintenance than defense of principle. If the current JBS upper management were committed to the proposition that "truth is our only weapon," they wouldn't hesitate to retract Jack's statement -- at whatever cost in terms of PR and despite the injury it might do to Jack's ego.
If Art Thompson were actually a leader, rather than a shill, he would demand that Jack do the right thing for the organization. After all, Art is supposed to be Jack's boss, and Art has famously made it a policy to fire people over matters of "nuance." Of course, that policy appears to be a bill of attainder directed at one person -- Yours Truly -- and Jack's error in this instance deals with a basic constitutional principle, not a matter of "nuance."
Duplicity and hypocrisy come as easily as breathing to Art and Jack. It should be remembered that it was Art, many years ago, who first made an issue out of Jack's extra-curricular activism in propagating anti-Semitic notions before gatherings of schismatic Catholic groups. Art went so far as to map out an entire campaign to isolate, neutralize, and expel Jack from his post as JBS president.
A few years later, when it suited his interests to do so, Art allied himself with Jack, dismissing concerns about what he had called Jack's "anti-Semitic dialog." By the time Art had been appointed CEO of the JBS, Jack had been exposed as a liability to the organization by being targeted for blackmail. Those who targeted Jack made use of the very same anti-Jewish statements that Art had assembled years earlier.
More recently, when it appeared likely that Jack's career as a part-time anti-Jewish demagogue would be examined by the New York Times, Art and the JBS PR department enlisted a couple of Jewish JBS members to act as a human shield for Jack.
I suppose this is the current Appleton regime's idea of "putting the members first."
Prior to his "promotion" to the JBS Council several years ago -- an arrangement in which he resigned as president and took a pay cut in order to minimize the damage he was doing to the Society -- Jack had been urged to discontinue his involvement with the Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, where he (and other speakers) had unbosomed themselves of anti-Jewish sentiments.
What is genuinely amazing here is this: Jack has never stopped attending programs sponsored by that group. In fact, he was a featured speaker at an SBC function just weeks ago. This isn't surprising, once one understands the fact that Jack's religious obligations to the SBC are more important to him than his professional obligations to the JBS. Art Thompson pointed out as much in 2000: This is Jack's religion -- and the anti-Jewish nonsense is a central tenet therein.
It is not my intention to disparage or mock Jack's beliefs as I describe them below. I think he is in grave theological error, and I find much of what his sub-sect of Catholicism teaches to be not only wrong but offensive. I can appreciate and respect his deep and serious commitment to his faith. What I cannot countenance, of course, is hypocrisy, in this case the protracted, ongoing pretense that someone can be as deeply involved in this particular sect as Jack has been without it creating a conflict of interest where the JBS is concerned.
Jack is a "Third Order member" of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, which was organized by a controversial excommunicated priest named Leonard Feeney sixty years ago.
Feeney's detractors considered him an heretic, a lunatic, or some combination of the two. His followers regard him as a vessel of truth in a world incurably corrupted by apostasy. To them, Feeney was, quite literally, more Catholic than the Pope.
The "Third Order" to which Jack belongs involves quasi-monastic discipline: Although they are not cloistered or required to take vows of celibacy or poverty, members are under the strict authority of their superiors and required to sustain and carry out the tenets of the Order. Obviously, those who adhere to the Order that Feeney founded are expected to treat his teachings as authoritative.
One of the central pillars of Feeney's teachings -- something that Jack is literally under covenant to believe and promote as truth -- is this:
"Essential to the understanding of our chaotic times is the knowledge that the Jewish race constitutes a united anti-Christian bloc within Christian society, and is working for the overthrow of that society by every means at its disposal."
According to a man esteemed by Jack as at least a quasi-prophetic figure, "the Jews" are a monolithic force for evil. That would include the two exceptionally decent Jewish men whom Jack and Art pressed into service as "character" witnesses for Jack earlier this year.
Here's Feeney, writing in the January 1959 issue of his journal The Point, at his most candid regarding what he considered to be the paramount enemy of Christian civilization (emphases added):
"...[O]ne topic especially has occupied The Point ’s attention during the past seven years: the problem, in its many aspects, of the Jews.
Why this emphasis? Because we think it is imperative that American Catholics wake up to the fact that the Jews, as an organized force, are the implacable, declared enemies of Christianity — of its tenets, its traditions, its moral code, its very culture. We think it is vital, too, for American Catholics to realize that the Church has always known this fact about the Jews, and, to the extent of her influence, has counseled and decreed regulations for curbing their malice. And since American Catholic publications, in general, seem determined to say little about these basic matters, we have tried to make up for their negligence by our own insistence.
Our solution to the Jewish problem, however, is not merely a series of warnings and exposures to let American Catholics know what their enemies are up to. For we will be able to withstand no enemy, however well informed we are, if we are not strong from within. The ultimate point of The Point is therefore to inject American Catholics with a crusading zeal for the truths and traditions of their Faith, and thus to foster in America a strong, militant Catholicism, worthy of a country that is dedicated to the Immaculate Conception."
As I noted above, I vehemently disagree with Jack's theology. This is the most important consideration in an ultimate sense, but it's not the most important objection in an immediate sense. My chief concern here deals with the notion of imposing "curbs" on what Feeney calls the "malice" of Jewish people, and also his endorsement of a "militant Catholicism" in the context of civic affairs.
Feeney was mortified that nominally Christian countries in Europe extended citizenship rights to Jews. In a Catholic polity, Jews would not be granted citizenship, and be subject to various other civic handicaps. The same most likely would be true of non-Catholic Christians.
From my exposure to the literature and rhetoric of this strain of Catholicism, I think it's fair to say that they see Torquemada as a misunderstood humanitarian (he was devoted to purging heresy through pain), the Holy Office of the Inquisition as a good idea that was poorly implemented, and the rack, thumbscrews, and stake as implements of a severe but necessary mercy, rather than instruments of diabolical torment.
If they were in control of the state it's likely that heresy would be considered a capital offense.
One political prescription endorsed by Father Feeney was found in a 1957 pastoral letter issued by Bishop de Castro Meyer of Brazil, which Feeney described as "A Sure Defence Against the Jews."
"We do not know how many Jews there are in the diocese of Campos, nor what Judaic inroads have been made into Catholic life there, but the things Bishop de Castro Mayer says in his Pastoral Letter ... are, pre-eminently, the sort of thing that needs to be said in the U. S.," insisted Feeney.
The most important of those recommendations, at least in my view, was that the Roman Catholic Church be made the state religion (in Brazil, but also in the United States), and that freedom of religion be abolished (emphasis added):
“The Church ... has the right to see her laws and doctrines respected by temporal public powers. The State must declare itself officially Catholic; it must offer all its resources for the preservation and expansion of the Faith. "
Toward the end of creating an authoritarian Catholic state, some limited collaboration with infidels is permissible, albeit as a temporary and most unpleasant expedient (once again, any emphasis is mine):
“Collaboration of the faithful with non-Catholics so as to attain common objectives is only occasionally allowed by the Church ... The Church looks at these associations with apprehension, and bans them. When, under some exceptional circumstances, she feels as if she were forced to tolerate such collaborations, so as to prevent greater evils, she does it fearfully and full of sorrow."
Think of this directive in light of Jack's involvement with non-Catholics, including Jews, in the John Birch Society. At best, according to this perspective (given the unqualified endorsement of Father Feeney), that collaboration is a source of sorrow and apprehension for the Church, and can only be justified as a means of pursuing the eventual creation of a Catholic state.
The Saint Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire is the focal point of Feeneyite efforts to claim the U.S. on behalf of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism. Jack lectures at the SBC at least once every year, and that's where he's delivered most of his anti-Semitic harangues. His most recent speech to the SBC took place on October 7 during the group's fall conference.
Once again, Jack's attachment to this organization is a matter of covenant; it's a religious obligation. This explains why Jack wouldn't desist from giving speeches before those groups. Perhaps the assumption that collaboration with non-Catholics is permissible on a limited basis explains why he refuses to admit that Feeneyite teachings and political ambitions are incompatible with the JBS's values and perspective.
What's really disturbing here is that the JBS can't, or at least won't, be rid of him. Jack spent spent years, or perhaps decades, agitating on behalf of his cult on company time, defiantly indifferent to the damage he was doing to the organization. Not even Vance Smith (who wanted to get rid of Jack) was willing to cast him aside completely, despite the fact that he was audio-and video-taped giving speeches to the SBC and related groups while identified by name as JBS President.
At one point, Appleton literally went so far as to pay for Jack to make a bogus "business trip" to Canada to give him a cover story so he could back out of a speech at the St. Benedict Center. That strikes me as a species of fraud and failure to carry out fiduciary responsibilities on behalf of JBS management. This was as much Jack's fault as Vance's, I suppose. In any case it still strikes me as amazing that nobody in Appleton had the dangling anatomy to force Jack to choose between the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and serving as President of the JBS.
I wasn't aware of Jack's irrepressible conflict of interest when I, along with the rest of the editorial staff, was called into a meeting with Jack a couple of years before Appleton threw me under the bus. Jack held forth at length -- probably about two and a half hours or more -- about what he called the "Masonic infiltration" of the Catholic church, as well as sharing faith-promoting fables about nuns who were able to be in two places at once through "miraculous bi-location" or somesuch.
That lecture was interesting, but it struck me as an odd use of company time -- not only Jack's, but of several other people who, like myself, were required to do actual work in order to produce a magazine.
Shortly after I joined the staff of the JBS in October 1993, I asked Jack about Robert Welch's reported deathbed conversion to Catholicism. Jack proudly confirmed that he had supervised that event, describing it in some detail. On the strength of Jack's confirmation, I'll share the late Gary Allen's description of that event from an August 19, 1985 letter (scroll down to the bottom of the page here), which is somewhat less than complimentary:
The Feeneyites believe the Pope, whom the KGB tried to assassinate, is a Communist and that all non-Feeneyites are going to Hell.... [T]his cult virtually runs
Not all of the traditional Catholics in Appleton are Feeneyites. In fact, I think Jack is the only significant figure on the JBS staff to adhere to that group. So Allen's despairing description of Belmont two decades ago isn't an accurate description of Appleton today.
But Jack's behavior remains at the center of the problems afflicting JBS upper management. And it helps explain why, after he and three other upper management castratti knifed me in the back, Jack was so concerned that I "go quietly."