Matt C. Abbott
March 22, 2007
Catholic traditionalists fire back at Southern Poverty Law Center
By Matt C. Abbott

Recently, the radically left-wing, pro-abortion Southern Poverty Law Center issued a report on anti-Semitism among "radical traditionalist Catholics."

John Grasmeier, a Catholic traditionalist who moderates the forum, has provided me with the following response to the SPLC's report:

    The indecent, scandalous libel contained in the SPLC 'intelligence report' is nothing less than a contemptible hack-job, and not a well done hack-job at that. Good hack-jobs tend to cover their bases, seeing to it that data and sources they present aren't able to be instantaneously discredited by those possessing only limited knowledge of the subject matter at hand. If it is at all possible to dishonor the already dishonorable profession of literary hacking, then the woman mostly behind the SPLC report one Heidi Beirich has managed to accomplish this.

    There is much in the report to be outraged over, but one of the most glaring examples of Ms. Beirich's repulsive irresponsibility is when she attempts to ascribe Nazi sympathies to Archbishop Lefebvre, the founder of the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). In a poorly veiled attempt to associate the archbishop with Nazi fascists, Ms. Beirich amazingly neglects to consider the fact that in 1944, the good archbishop's very own father tragically perished at the hands of the Nazis at their concentration camp in Sonnenberg, Germany.

    The SLPC claims their report was the result of a 'three-year investigation,' yet the information on the death of the archbishop's father is found in the very first link returned via a Google search using the terms 'Marcel Lefebrve.' Are we to believe that over a three-year period, Ms. Beirich would somehow not have come across what Google produces in literally .09 seconds? Unless we are to believe that killing a man's father somehow evokes sympathy for the killers from the dead man's offspring, her characterization of the archbishop can only be seen as inexcusable gross negligence or malicious intent the latter being the more plausible.

    Ms. Beirich's indiscriminate calumny doesn't stop at the top with the founder of the SSPX. She enthusiastically hacks her way down the entire worldwide congregation (which she labels a 'radical powerhouse'), dredging up every distorted reference she can acquire, in an effort to mass-denigrate the several hundred thousand faithful who attend SSPX Masses. The clownish picture Ms. Beirich attempts to impart looks nothing like the reality to which those of us who attend SSPX chapels are treated: decent, normal people raising good families who are simply trying to live their lives as good Catholics. They'd be quite surprised at the sentiments Ms. Beirich accuses them of harboring, considering they don't harbor them. But why let the truth get in the way of a good hack-job?

    Ms. Beirich should be ashamed of herself, but she probably won't be. Those who pursue such base agendas rarely are.

    Further proof of the incredible shoddiness of the report comes when Robert Sungenis gets his turn on the anti-Semite rack in the section entitled 'The Dirty Dozen.' When it was first posted, the piece started out by ominously describing Robert as an 'intense and bespeckled' anti-Semite. As 'exhibit A,' there was a captioned photo showing the featured villain wearing his glasses. In reality (as opposed to the SPLC fiction), the picture turned out to be that of Chris Ferrara.

    Considering Robert doesn't even wear glasses, the 'intense and bespeckled' description could only have been a result of the author using the picture of Chris to detractively create Robert's boogieman. In an effort to cover-up their mess, the SPLC has now changed the caption of the photo to read 'Christopher Ferrara,' despite the fact that Chris isn't mentioned anywhere on the page. They've also removed the 'intense bespeckled' description of Robert. As of the time of this article, he's simply a 'man' a man who, in the article, manages to have some form of the term 'anti-Semite' ascribed to him 11 times in two paragraphs.

    Michael Matt, publisher of the rather laid-back The Remnant doesn't escape a good dragging around in the mud as one of the 'Dirty Dozen,' and neither does Chris Ferrara. Chris commits the high crime critiquing the Holy Father's visit to a synagogue as the guest of liberal rabbis who condone abortion and gay rights. The SLPC conveniently cuts Chris' quote in mid sentence, leaving out the reason why he objected to the visit, then enthusiastically pins the anti-Semite scarlet letter on him as well.

    So outrageous was the treatment of these two men that Rabbi Mayer Shiller issued a statement that reads:

    'Unfounded charges of anti-Jewish sentiments not only malign the innocent. They also create a 'boy who cried wolf' syndrome, in that they may well render society insensitive to real bigotry when it does come along. I have known Chris Ferrara and Michael Matt for many years. The notion that they hate Jews is so absurd as to be beneath contempt.'

    Then there are the obscure groups the SPLC mentions as part of their 'dirty dozen,' which those of us who have been traditional Catholics for quite some time (some whose business it is to be aware of traditional Catholic issues) have never heard of. Many informed traditionalists are scratching their heads wondering where the SLPC found these previously unheard of 'Dirty Dozen' anti-Semites and how they became part of our evil anti-Semitic 'network' without our knowledge. They haven't even learned the secret handshake yet.

    This report is so replete with falsehood and defamation that there simply isn't sufficient room in this statement to address it all. Every page, literally every single page of the SPLC hack-job is so littered with distortions and lies that Catholic apologist Karl Keating devoted one of his e-letters to listing and correcting just a portion of the simple errors of fact made by the authors of this 'three-year study.'

    Rabbi Shiller is correct. The SPLC certainly is 'beneath contempt' to ruin the good name of those who did nothing to deserve it. Chris Ferrara and Michael Matt are entitled to their good names as they are innocent of what they've been accused of. Archbishop Lefebvre is entitled not to have his memory dirtied by the likes of the SPLC, as he is innocent of the outrageous charge of being a Nazi sympathizer.

    Additionally, Robert Sungenis deserves a prescription from his optometrist before becoming 'bespeckled.'

    This shameless report is not merely worthless because of its corrupted content; it's tangibly hurtful and malicious. It brings real world harm to innocent people, exploiting them and utilizing their reputations in order to mark notches in some fictitious belt of hate. It sows animosity and discord between Christians and Jews where none previously existed. It should be repudiated, along with the organization that audaciously produced it.

    This 'intelligence report' (an oxymoronic nomenclature if there ever was one) must be roundly and forcefully condemned, not only by our fellow Catholic brothers and sisters, but any and all persons of good will. Even if one doesn't believe that God's Eighth Commandment, 'Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor,' is divine law, one would be hard-pressed to find many human beings who deem it right to use lies and distorted information to destroy the reputations of those who did nothing to deserve it.

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Matt C. Abbott

Matt C. Abbott is a Catholic columnist with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication, Media and Theatre from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago, and an Associate in Applied Science degree in Business Management from Triton College in River Grove, Ill. He has worked in the right-to-life movement and is a published writer focused on Catholic and social issues. He can be reached at

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