Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Communist infiltration: a comforting fantasy

I've just read Marie Carré's strange book AA-1025: Memoirs of the Communist Infiltration into the Church. I've seen it around and hear references to it so I got round to reading it. It is very short, only 120 pages or so; someone has gone to the trouble of putting the whole thing online. It is not very well written, but you can find lots of breathless endorsements online so I thought I'd say something about it.

First of all, it is obviously a work of fiction. It says so on the flyleaf ('This book is a dramatized presentation of certain facts...'). The premise of the book is that it is the autobiography of a Soviet agent who had got himself ordained, which is discovered by chance when he is involved in a car accident. The idea is that Communist efforts to subvert the Church from the 1930s onwards would explain the Church's problems, particularly theological liberalism and the liturgical reform. (More detail here.)

The book was first published (in French) in 1972; since then two things have happened to demolish the plausibility of this idea. (I don't say: to demolish it as an alleged record of a conspiracy theory, because, to repeat, the book is fiction.)

The first is the way real Communists reacted to developments in the Catholic Church, particularly in light of what we now know about their activities in the Cold War from secret files which have become available since the fall of the Soviet Bloc. It is perfectly true, and under the circumstances perhaps inevitable, that in countries under Communist rule the Catholic Church (and the Orthodox too) was riddled with agents; the interesting thing is that the activity of these agents was not, as far as one can see, connected with any terribly sophisticated ideological subversion of the Church. As far as theological and liturgical liberalism is concerned, Poland (for example) under Communism was rather conservative; Communion in the Hand did not come about until after the fall of Communism (and, interestingly, the death of Pope John Paul II). In China, the Patriotic Catholic Church, a wholly-owned arm of the Communist state, was very slow in introducing liturgical reforms after the Council, and the Traditional Mass is still widely available there.

What were all the Communist agents doing? Straightforward stuff about blackmailing each other and trying to stop effective political opposition to the regime being aided by the Church. Just what you'd expect, in fact. Of course, the Communists hated and feared the Catholic Church, and wanted to advance Atheism, but they weren't as clever as all that and anyway had other fish to fry.

The second is the sex-abuse scandal. If anything might lend itself to manipulation by Communists, this would be it. Marie Carré is as blissfully unaware of this possibility as everyone else was in 1971; it doesn't come up in the book. And although sexual failings were meat and drink to the system of blackmail and character assassination carried out by the Communists against Catholic priests, there is no reason to think that any blame for the crisis in America, Ireland, Germany and the UK can be laid at their door.

Who can we blame for the crisis in the Church? Naturally there are external influences on the Church: philosophical and theological ideas from Protestantism, the Enlightenment, and Freud, for example. And in a sense all problems in the Church come from Catholics not being Catholic enough, adopting ideas incompatible with the Faith. But the origin of the ideas of 1960s liberalism is quite clearly the modernism of the early 20th century, which in turn derived from the liberalism battled by John Henry Newman in an Anglican context in the middle of the 19th century.  These poisonous ideas, such as the denial of the transcendent in theology and the liturgy, and the denial of moral absolutes leading to sex abuse, were incubated in Catholic institutions from early in the 20th century, and became the badges of the superior people: the people who regarded themselves as real scholars, real intellectuals, people who weren't backward, childish, reactionaries.

An excellent guide to this process is Malachi Martin's book The Jesuits.

One thing the Carré  book is correct about, is to draw our attention to the long-term causes of the problem, and stop us imagining that everything was perfect up until 1962 or thereabouts. In terms of the intellectual leadership of the Church, the revolution had already triumphed: it just needed to manifest itself. But we can't blame the Reds for this. The rot came from within.

13 comments:

  1. Could you then also dispel Bella Dodd's account of what she experienced as a communist--is that fiction also? The accounts of AA-1025 are similar to the story of Bella Dodd.

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    1. Are they? In what way? Bela Dodd was talking about entryism in the institutions of civil society. No one disputes this Communist tactic - they were still doing it in the UK in the 1980s.

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    2. This is not only about infiltrating "civil society", Dr. Shaw. Bella Dodd told Alice von Hildebrand that there were four cardinals in the Vatican working for the communists. That was 12 years before the Second Vatican Council.

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  2. It is a fact that the document signed by Bishops during dicussion on The Church in the Modern Worldasking that Communism be named as a scourge of the 20th Century were "lost" and only found after Vat 11 had finished

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  3. I agree with Joe that this communist infiltration theory doesn't stack up. It's a convenient piece of American propaganda and our own Cardinal Heenan thought the American bishops obsessed with the issue even before the Council.

    I suspect that the problem was WWII and the new hubris acquired by the USA and the Anglo-Saxon countries in general. It was the USA’s influence in occupied Germany which in part explains how German theology went off the rails and also how their obsession with decentralisation emerged and informed their ecclesiology.

    The great myth about the America is the continuity between post-civil war American and the founding fathers’ vision of their country. It’s arguable that the USA is on at least its fifth republic and yet I can recall a sermon by Pope John Paul when visiting the US on the subject of freedom which seemed to imply that the country’s founding fathers were in the congregation when they manifestly were not. Surely Pope Benedict committed a similar error at Westminster in 2010 with his faith in the public square speech. How can a foreign Pope demand a public voice for the church when the British constitution already provides for one courtesy of the Church of England?

    The Catholic Church got in way out of his depth in the post-war era and what I like about Francis is that he seems to understand this.

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    1. The position that the entire book is American Propeganda, is highly unlikely, bearing in mind that the author and original publishers are French. It is remotely possible, that AA-1025 could be a False Flag operation (designed to deceive in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities, groups or nations than those who actually planned and executed them). It would only aid to further demonise Communism, which was already condemned in the Encyclical Divini Redemptoris. It would seem superfluous and a bearly tenable position. Occam's Razor shows the postition that AA-1025 is a factual account is most tenable.

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  4. Freemasons are probably a lot more sophisticated.

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  5. Objection 1: On the flyleaf it reads 'This book is a dramatized presentation of certain facts...'. Therefore it is a pure work of fiction.
    Response to Objection 1: The flyleaf says 'dramatized presentation of certain facts...' the word "facts" is used. Literature fiction is subdivided into Realistic Fiction (untrue, but could actually happen), Non-realistic Fiction (could never happen), and Semi-Fiction (implementing a great deal of non-fiction). The use of the phrase "pure work of fiction", seems to imply Non-realistic Fiction, while the statement given by the French Editor at the most is consistent with the definition of Semi-Fiction.
    However, later in the book, in the Publisher's Note About This Book (p. vii) it reads "According to the publisher at Editions Saint-Raphael, the story as she tells it is essentially true and the way it happened; however, she did apparently, do some slight editing of the text to make it more readable."
    This statement supports the definition of Non-fiction (a narrative, account, or other communicative work whose assertions and descriptions are believed by the author to be factual).

    Objection 2: The way real Communists reacted to developments in the Catholic Church, prove that the Communist regime and agent as depicted in AA-1025 are false. Evidence: Catholic Church in Poland, and the Patriotic Catholic Church in China.
    Response to Objection 2: Since the publisher gives fiat to author of AA-1025 in asserting that "the story as she tells it is essentially true and the way it happened", and that the author is given the presumption of innocence (as justice deserves), then one must admit that there is in existence the original text of the agent. It is certain that not all Communist activities have been published, especially high level attempts at subversion or espionage. Subversion being named as the highest value and most politically sensitive operation in the 1986 RAND report on 'Countering Covert Aggression' by Stephen T. Hosmer & George K. Tanham.

    Objection 3: The absence of any reference to sex-abuse as a method of subversion, proves that the book is falsified.
    Response to Objection 3: Absence of any reference, is not substantial evidence for discrediting the book as a factual reference in this particular case of attempted subversion of the Catholic Church. The book accounts an attempt to infiltrate and subvert the highest levels of the organisation of the Catholic Church, use of sex-abuse at early stages of that mission, would potentially frustrate it's end objective. The nature of Covert Aggression, is that it is highly compartmentalised, it is not normal for an operative to have a birds-eye view of Covert Operations.

    "Venerable Brethren, you see clearly enough how sad and full of perils is the condition of Catholics in the regions of Europe which We have mentioned. Nor are things any better or circumstances calmer in America, where some regions are so hostile to Catholics that their governments seem to deny by their actions the Catholic faith they claim to profess. In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging.... Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength." - Syllabus of Errors. The inclusion of the father of all lies, is obligatory, since it is ultimately from him that all error enters the world.

    Sincerely.
    CatholicScout.wordpress.com

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    1. It is patently obvious from the style that it is fiction, in all sorts of ways. And not very sophisticated fiction. The bits by the nurse and the bits by the agent are evidently from the same pen, for example.

      As for the disclaimers *inside* the book, they are part of the fiction. See C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters for a parallel.

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    2. I would be indebted if you refute my points, and then bring in your evidence for "patently obvious from the style that it is fiction, in all sorts of ways".
      Bearing in mind:
      1. That my first objection at first refers to the flyleaf text that you use to claim that the text is fiction.
      2. That the text is a translation from French, by a single translator (hence "the same pen").
      Sincerely.

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    3. It says it is fiction on the flyleaf. If you won't accept that I'm not going to waste my time with more subtle arguments. 'A dramatised presentation of certain facts' means fiction.

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    4. Since "For Greater Glory" is clearly a dramatized presentation of the Cristeros War, it is therefore "pure fiction"?

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  6. Does your flyleaf also contain what mine says (published by TAN books), because after "the dramatized presentation of certain facts..." it goes on with saying "which are occuring in the Church and which are perplexing to many of the faithful. All resemblance to persons or contemporary events are NOT (emphasis mine) to be considered as purely incidental."

    Doesn't sound like pure fiction.

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