The Next Scott Hahn
by E. Michael Jones
It is a perversion for people to want to enjoy money, but merely to make use of God. Such people do not spend money for the sake of God but worship God for the sake of money.
St Augustine, City of God, Book XI, chapter 26
It was a moment that Ruby Keeler might have savoured. Myra Sletten, organiser of the Phoenix Call to Holiness Conference in November 1997 took me aside at that city’s huge civic arena and announced that one of their speakers had unexpectedly cancelled at the last minute. Could I speak in his stead? Actually the situation wasn’t quite so dramatic. I was already scheduled to speak once that day, so the question was, could I speak twice?
I agreed to speak twice – once before lunch and once after lunch. Since a written speech was pointless, unless I spoke very slowly, I abandoned what I had brought with me and gave an expanded version of what I had on my mind anyway, which was the story of how Catholics lost the Cultural Revolution. I began by talking about how the west bank of Mostar reminded me of North Philadelphia and went on from there to talk about how Paul Blanshard, who said that Bertrand Russell’s greatest fear was that America was going to become a Catholic country and that they were going to do it by the numbers, i.e by outprocreating the until-then dominant ethnic group, the one which produced the ruling class elite. The main instrument the other side came up with in this struggle was the contraceptive. The Sexual Revolution was the solution to the Catholic Problem. Culture Wars readers are familiar with the thesis.
The average Catholic, however, is not. Nor was the average attendee at the Phoenix Call to Holiness Conference. The audience was, in my opinion – I may be biased, but there is a tape of the talk for those who want to judge for themselves – electrified by what they heard. They had never heard anything even remotely like this before, and, more importantly, it all made sense to them the first time they heard it. Especially touching was the testimony of the Hispanic participants, who felt in general that what happened to the Irish during the 1960s was happening to them now. One Hispanic gentleman suggested that I run for president A young Hispanic woman said that the talk gave her goosebumps; everything I said was true, she said, but why had no one said this before. A good question, I thought at the time. Little did I know that before the year was up I would get the answer to that question in an unexpected way.
So a lot of fired-up people came up to me after the talk – people who wanted to know why the truth had been kept from them for so long, people who wanted to invite me to speak to other groups. One of the people who came up afterward, just as enthused as the rest of the crowd, was a little bald guy by the name of Terry Barber. Terry was there with his family running the tape machines for St Josephs Communications, the firm that was taping the conference. Terry lost no time in telling me that he liked my talk too. In fact, he liked it so much that he wanted to offer me a contract according to which I would produce tapes for St Josephs Communications and he would market those tapes to his people. Lest I think this was some small inconsequential operation, Terry told me that he produced Scott Hahn’s tapes. Hahn, the Presbyterian minister who went on to fame of sorts as a convert to Catholicism, had made hundreds of thousands of dollars through St Josephs Communications, and now Terry Barber was going to do the same thing for me. In fact, Barber assured me that I was going to be “the next Scott Hahn.” I was going to do tapes; I was going to speak at their upcoming conference in California.
To be honest with you, I have reached the age at which I can say that I’ve heard this thing before. I remember a wealthy businessman once telling me that he was going to devote a significant part of his fortune into making me “the next Rush Limbaugh.” By now, I feel like telling these people that I have enough trouble being the first Mike Jones; I also feel like telling them that if they hang round me long enough, they find out what I mean when I say that. So I didn’t say it then. In the meantime, Terry was still enthused, telling other people that the talk I gave was “exciting,” full of facts, dates and places – unlike the usual conference talk. It was history. It was true.
A few days later, when I got back to South Bend, I got a call from Terry Barber, who was still interested in promoting my talks. During the course of our conversation, he essentially fleshed out the terms of the contract, all of which were amenable to me, with the exception of one or two details which I specified in a return letter. Not only was I to tell Catholics how they had been ambushed unawares by the Cultural Revolution of the 60s, I was also to tell them, in a separate taping which he would arrange, what they could do about it – ten things they could do to bring the liberal regime to its knees, or something like that. The details became vague at this point because the negotiations suddenly stopped. There was no answer to my letter. A few weeks later, in early March, I got disinvited to the conference Barber had invited me address while still under the spell of what I said in Phoenix. The letter was brief, if awkward: “we regret to inform you that due to some unforeseen circumstances, we will not be able to place you on the speakers list for the 1998 Call to Holiness Conference in Pomona, California” but I was not to worry because I would be kept in mind for future conferences because they had very much enjoyed my presentations.
I was never contacted for future conferences. So it looks as if I’m not going to be the next Scott Hahn after all. End of story. Right? Well, not quite. God often sends you where you would not otherwise go for purposes you oftentimes do not understand at the time. And so, in the fullness of time, I ended up at another Terry Barber conference anyway, not as a speaker this time but as an exhibitor, selling, or attempting to sell, among other things copies of my book The Medjugorje Deception. I also got to meet Terry Barber again. This time, however, he didn’t come up to congratulate me for giving a great talk. This time he showed up with a phalanx of security guards considerably larger than he to throw me out of the exhibit hall. So like Jesus who went from Hosannas on Palm Sunday to being crucified five days later, I went from being promoted as “the next Scott Hahn” in November 1997 in Phoenix to being thrown out of the St Josephs Communications conference in Long Beach in July of 1998 by Terry Barber himself, the same man who was going to make me the next Scott Hahn eight months earlier.
Sic transit gloria mundi, the Romans used to say.
Before getting kicked out of the conference I tried to reason with Terry, who was waving a contract, signed by someone else, which I was seeing for the first time. It specified that the “Catholic Resource Center reserves the right to pull any and all materials which do not adhere to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church; this also includes any private apparitions not approved by the Church.” It wasn’t great prose, but insofar as I could understand it, it didn’t seem to apply to me. Feeling as if I were somehow the victim of mistaken identity, I tried to explain to Terry that his caveat did not apply because my book was most certainly not promoting an apparition – it was in fact warning people against them – and it was, in addition to that, promoting Church teaching on the matter, Church teaching being ostensibly the raison d’etre of conferences like this.
“Terry,” I said, pulling out the contract and pointing to the crucial sentence, “This doesn’t apply. We are supporting the Church’s teaching on Medjugorje.” I mentioned the statement of the Yugoslavian Bishops at Zadar in 1991. I mentioned meeting with Bishop Peric of Mostar in March and June of 1997 and his claim that he had changed his view from non constat de supernaturalitate to constat non de supernaturalitate. The authority of the local bishop was given new emphasis by the papal document Suos Apostolos which specified that bishops within an episcopal conference do not lose their authority and that any bishop who disagrees with the conference still retains his authority. Both Bishop Ratko Peric, the current bishop of Mostar and Pavao Zanic, his predecessor, have condemned Medjugorje as a fraud.
Terry, however, would have none of this. “The people I have talked to said that the Church hasn’t made a pronouncement”. At this point, Phil Kronzer, who had paid for the tables and who had met with Bishop Peric too and so knew where the Church stood, lost his cool and threatened to sue Terry if he kicked us out. That, of course, was the end of the discussion
Try as I might, I still can’t understand the rationale behind his contract. If he were simply saying that exhibitors were not allowed to promote “unapproved” apparitions, that would be simple enough and understandable enough and, according to those criteria, I should have been allowed to sell The Medjugorje Deception. But that is not his position. He wants to prohibit all discussion, which means prohibition of the Church’s position as well, which can only mean keeping people in the dark under the guise of educating them. Education at fora like this is a selective process, one whose criteria are not apparent at first glance. As The Medjugorje Deception makes clear, people like Phil Kronzer and Robert Stevenson became exposed to the apparitions which destroyed their marriages by attending conferences like this one. The people who call themselves “conservative” Catholics are the people who need to be warned most about the dangers arising from phony apparitions, which are not a big issue as far as I can tell among the Call To Action crowd. That’s why Phil was there. That’s why I was there. That’s why people were coming up to the table in the few minutes we were allowed. That’s why he and I got kicked out. The discussion got suppressed in the interest of other values.
Apostolates make money when they tell people what they want to hear. This is a fundamental law of the spiritual life. Everyone has to learn it. Even Jesus had to learn it when he told his followers that unless they ate his flesh and drank his blood, they would not have eternal life. The City of God tells people the truth even if it is unpopular; the City of Man tells people what is popular, even if it is a lie. The City of Man has many organisations; all of them are in the business of subordinating the truth to some desire. Conservative Catholic apostolates specialize in leading the people who patronize them that they are the “real” Catholics because – and what follows at this point is a political agenda. Ultimately it makes no difference whether the agenda is of the left or the right. In both instances, truth is suppressed by desire for political power, for popularity, or money. We are the real Catholics, they tell us, because we don’t discriminate against women or because we attend a Mass said in Latin etc, etc. This in turn becomes an excuse in extreme cases to refuse to associate with the impure, which is another word for schism, or in less extreme cases in feeling superior to those who don’t go along with an agenda that is being manipulated for financial gain.
Apostolates lose money when they tell their people what they don’t want to hear. I learned this first hand at another Call to Holiness conference when I was asked not to mention Medjugorje because, I was told, “they all support it.” If we tell them the truth, in other words, they won’t support us. So in order to be effective, we must suppress the truth. So’ let’s just not talk about Medjugorje. It’s not that important anyway compared with – and what follows is the whole list of conservative gripes. Well, things aren’t that simple. We begin by suppressing truths we find financially inconvenient without realizing that in doing so we have substituted money for truth as the thing in life we hold most important.. Once that transaction gets made all the rest follow from it because in making it we have established beyond doubt what we value most, namely money or popularity or political power and not truth. What follows next is the suppression of people who do not share those values. Even though those people say many things we agree with, we have to prevent them from speaking because anyone who associates with them or promotes them will be threatened with the same sort of financial retaliation. All of this follows naturally from the inversion of the natural order of things that occurs when truth gets subordinated to money, which is another form of truth being subordinated to desire. We begin by suppressing the discussion of the main thing that needs to be discussed and, when that doesn’t work we begin to suppress the people who do the discussing.
Which is a pity because there are many other things that need to be discussed. To begin with, there is the fact that Scott Hahn – the first Scott Hahn – promotes Medjugorje in his tapes. He also promotes the doctrine of Mary as co-redemptrix, a notion recently disapproved by the Vatican. In addition to promoting Scott Hahn, Terry Barber also rented table space to EWTN so that they could sell their satellite dishes at his conference. Now a satellite dish is not a phony apparition, but neither is a book. If you use the EWTN satellite dish to tune into Mother Angelica’s network, however, you will see that EWTN promotes both Medjugorje and Garabandal. So how is that different than a book, especially a book that does not promote phony apparitions, but in fact warns people about their dangers? How is it that EWTN is allowed to stay, when they promote phony apparitions, and I am asked to leave for promoting the Church’s teaching on these same phony apparitions?
The answer is simple enough. Medjugorje has made huge inroads into precisely the type of crowd that would attend a Catholic family conference. If you told them the truth about Medjugorje, they might not like it and, as I have found out, might threaten financial reprisals. So the statement in the contract isn’t as simple as Terry Barber makes it out to be. It’s not that people like Terry Barber don’t want to have anything to do with phony apparitions. If that were the case he would cut his ties to Mother Angelica. It’s more that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with the truth about phony apparitions. Like Daisy Miller, he says, “I don’t think I want to know what you mean” and hopes he can leave it at that. But it’s not that simple. Nor is Terry Barber alone in feeling that way. He is part of a network which calls itself “orthodox” or “conservative” which knows that Medjugorje is an integral part of what it means to belong to that crowd. This was obvious from the few moments we were allowed to man the booth. A lady wearing a Steubenville T-shirt came up and handled the book nervously asking what it was about “in three sentences or less.” I gave her an answer in three words or less. To paraphrase the Kinks, “she’s not there.” She then dropped the book and scurried off, and shortly thereafter the first security guard arrived.
Something similar happened at the Church Teaches Forum in Louisville on July 11th 1998. The Medjugorje ladies arrived at our booth – I was upstairs at the time – and started threatening my wife and daughters. My 10-year-old daughter was so frightened she ran out of the hall. The difference between the people who ran the conference in Louisville and Terry Barber is simple enough and can be expressed in one word: leadership. Abbot McCaffrey, Pat Monaghan, William Smith know what the Church teaches on Medjugorje and are willing to stand up for that in the face of the angry ladies who threaten financial reprisal. Terry Barber is not.
The more things change the more they remain the same. It used to be that only the liberals would fire you from your job or kick you out of a conference if you supported the Church’s teaching. Now the soi disant orthodox are doing the same thing. The purpose of their conferences is to suppress the very truth that their constituency needs to know. Why? For the same reason that anyone suppresses the truth, as a form of control, as a form of exploitation, as a way of making money off of religion.
If we were just talking about suppressing the truth about Medjugorje that would be bad enough, but Terry Barber is willing to go beyond that. Remember he is the one who approached me in Phoenix; he is the one who told me that the Ethnic Cleansing/Catholic Problem talk was a great talk and that Catholics needed to know what I had to say. Why did he feel that way? Why did he like the talk that was, in his words, full of facts and dates? I can only come up with one explanation. He felt that what I had to say was important and it could only be important because it was true. If that’s the case then – and what else could be the case? – Terry Barber is willing to suppress the truth. And why? Well, for some people some things are more important than the truth. As I said before, there are two kinds of people in the world: those who subordinate their desires to the truth and those who subordinate the truth to their desires. Lust isn’t the only desire. There is the desire to be well-thought of; there is the desire for money which St Paul calls the root of all evil.
Terry Barber is not alone here. Father Paul Marx of Human Life International called a few weeks back and told my wife that he would love to invite me to speak at HLI conferences – not about Medjugorje but about other things more germane to HLI – but the Medjugorje faction in his own organization won’t let him. Medjugorje, in other words, has become the litmus test for being antiabortion. How else explain the blockage here between an organization which opposes abortion and a speaker who opposes the same thing. The answer is that it is not enough to oppose abortion. You must also not oppose Medjugorje or you will not be invited to speak. Medjugorje, which has nothing to do with abortion, has taken over at least one anti-abortion apostolate. It has also taken over the entire conservative Catholic movement which arose in protest to Catholic collaboration in the sexual revolution in the 60s. This movement lost its soul at some time in the last 30 years when it decided that some things were more important than the truth. You may not have to burn incense to this idol – not yet at least – but you are also not allowed to criticize those who do. Anyone who criticizes this idol will not be allowed to address the assembly – on any topic whatsoever. That’s the real bottom line. Terry Barber liked what I had to say on Philadelphia and the 60s in Phoenix but was willing to suppress what I had to say in Long Beach. A truth was suppressed, a truth he must have recognized as such, or else why would he have invited me in the first place, why offer me a contract, why volunteer to make me “the next Scott Hahn”?
This story is not about Terry Barber. It is about the wreck of a reform movement that was colonized by a vampire from southeastern Europe. The people who opposed the liberals made the mistake of thinking that there was something more effective than the truth in opposing error, that somehow the fruits, the numbers of pious actions, and the money could be disconnected from the lie which begat them. St Augustine has a way of dividing the world up into two camps – the City of God and the City of Man. The former is involved in love of God to the exclusion of self; the latter involved in the love of self to the exclusion of God. Love of God, Augustine makes clear, is intimately bound up with the truth. “When a man lives according to truth, he lives not according to himself but according to God. For it was God who said: “I am the truth.”
Conversely, when a man does not live according to the truth, he lives according to himself and not according to God. Catholic leaders who suppress the truth can only think, therefore, that something in this life is more important than God. We all know what those things are: money, sex, esteem in the eyes of men, political power – things which are good in themselves but evil when used as a substitute for the highest good. In the name of serving the Church, this movement ended up serving an idol, and idol worship, as the Bible makes clear, always involves punishment of those who will not serve. Idols symbolize the exaltation of appetite over truth. The priests of Dagon also promote idol worship as a way of consolidating power over their followers. They do not proclaim the truth as service to the people who follow them. They suppress the truth as a service to themselves. They also do it to keep their followers in the dark. They are to the priests of the Lord God what Dracula is to Jesus. Jesus shed His Blood so that we might have eternal life. Dracula sheds our blood so that he might have eternal life at our expense.
Medjugorje, like Dracula, came out of southeastern Europe and started feasting on the teeming population here. Like Dracula, Medjugorje is a vampire which has inverted the order of being and can never be satisfied no matter how many victims it claims. All that’s left behind is the bloodless corpse of those who thought that orthodoxy was one thing and the truth something else and ended up being too stupid to know they were one and the same.
E. Michael Jones is editor of Culture Wars.
This article was published in September 1998 issue of Culture Wars.
The Medjugorje Deception breaks the conspiracy of silence that has surrounded one of the biggest hoaxes of our times. The Medjugorje Deception tells the full truth from beginning to end, from the bloody atrocities during World War II on the other side of Apparition Hill to their bloody sequel in the ethnic cleansing of Mostar's Muslims with money raised by Medjugorje groups. The Medjugorje Deception is more than a book; it's a spiritual work of mercy, and it's available now for $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Fidelity Press. [When ordering for delivery outside the U.S., the price of the book is increased to offset increased shipping charges.]
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