Copies of the Social Justice newspaper, founded by Father Coughlin, being sold in New York City in 1939 (Dorothea Lange/Flickr)

When the rabble-rousing Fr. Charles Coughlin began getting his comeuppance in 1938 for the anti-Semitism he preached to a huge audience on national radio, he was quick to invoke a respected Irish theologian as the source for his claims. More than eighty years later, the writings of Fr. Denis Fahey are back in print, and his claim that communism is a plot to create “a world-state in which the Jewish race will be supreme” and “have control of the wealth of the nations” is finding a new audience, this time on well-trafficked websites catering to conservative Catholics.

Coughlin introduced Fahey’s writings to his vast American audience as he tried to explain away his own rationalizations for the Nazi Kristallnacht pogrom against German Jews on the night of November 9–10, 1938. “Nazism was conceived as a political defense mechanism against Communism,” he contended in his weekly Sunday afternoon radio address on November 20, shocking many people by blaming the victims for the attack. Proceeding “in a scientific spirit” but twisting the facts, he falsely claimed that almost all the Communist inner circle in Russia consisted of “atheistic Jews.” Thus, according to the radio priest, the solution to ending Nazi persecution of German Jews was for Jewish leaders in finance, synagogues, and the media to stand up to the “atheistic” Jews and to “attack the cause; attack forthright the errors and the spread of Communism together with their co-nationals who support it.”

After an uproar led the New York radio station WMCA to insist on reviewing his scripts before broadcast, Coughlin announced the following Sunday that “since I am forced to defend myself, not for myself, but for the cause I uphold, let me introduce into court as my witness the scholarly Professor Denis Fahey.” Coughlin declared that the Dublin priest had provided the detailed “proof” for his claims about Jews and communism in his 1935 book, The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World. In that book, Fahey claimed that Jews were

opposed to the whole order of the world, built on the Divinity of Jesus, and their influence in every sphere, in Freemasonry and in Communist movements, in Finance, in the Press and the Film-world, will favour the naturalistic aims of Masonry and of revolutionary societies, while at the same time impelling them in the direction of a world-state in which the Jewish race will be supreme.

This book and thirteen other Fahey works have been published in recent years by a company with apparent ties to the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary of St. Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire, a traditionalist group that Church authorities have determined should no longer be considered Catholic. Loreto Publications reissued the books—the one Coughlin quoted was republished in 2018—with the call, “Arm yourselves for battle!”, the online journal of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at Saint Benedict Center, promotes the books, calling Fahey “such a great man.” The site received 242,300 visits from May through July, according to Similarweb analytics.

Coughlin introduced Fahey’s writings to his vast American audience as he tried to explain away his own rationalizations for the Nazis’ Kristallnacht pogrom against German Jews.

Other sites, such as Fatima Crusader (379,000 visits during the same period) and Virgo Sacrata (254,800 visits) have helped spread Fahey’s work. EWTN, the giant of Catholic media, maintained a reading list on its website that touted Fahey’s anti-Semitic book The Rulers of Russia. (354,000 visits, June through August), the website of a breakaway monastery in upstate New York, adds to the discussion by arguing that Fahey wasn’t harsh enough on Jews. And drawing from various extremist websites, the European-based Gloria.TV (10.2 million visits) has been used to promote Fahey’s work.

Fahey’s writings fused Catholic piety and conspiratorial falsehoods framed by fringe sources such as the notoriously anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Coughlin popularized Fahey’s work in the United States, featuring The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World on the cover of the December 12, 1938 issue of his newspaper Social Justice. It called Fahey’s book “the most significant contribution to Christian civilization in this year, if not this decade.” Inside that issue were articles such as “The Talmud as a Cause of Persecution” and one in which Henry Ford “stated his belief that, substantially, there was no persecution of the Jews in Germany.”

One of the most startling aspects of the anti-Semitism that bonded Fahey and Coughlin was their acceptance of the claims in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion—even though both admitted that it may have been a forgery, rather than the purported work of a cabal of Jewish leaders who gathered near the end of the nineteenth century to plot a plan to take over the world. Both men claimed it didn’t matter if the document was real—an “accidental consideration,” in Fahey’s words—because the plot it alleged, the joint effort of Jewish bankers and Communists to take over the world, was purportedly being fulfilled. Coughlin published the document in weekly installments in Social Justice during the summer of 1938.

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The bogus origin of the Protocols was already well established at the time; a series of articles in the Times of London in 1921 showed how it was circulated as a propaganda tool of the tsar’s forces in 1905. Both Fahey and Coughlin used their clerical status to legitimize the Protocols and other paranoid lies circulated through extremist circles, fueling resentment in a large, Depression-era audience searching for villains to blame for economic hardship and looming war. Fahey provided the cladding of academic respectability to the armor that political crusader Coughlin wore in the public square.

Fahey’s writings have found a contemporary audience at venues that promote Christian nationalism, conspiracy theories involving the “Great Reset” and globalism, and the rejection of the Second Vatican Council, particularly its document on interreligious relations. As the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) said in a 2007 report on radical traditionalist Catholic groups, this movement is “far from unified, with these groups engaging in seemingly endless infighting.” (SPLC said “only a handful” of the many traditionalist Catholic groups advocated anti-Semitic views.)

EWTN, the giant of Catholic media, maintained a reading list on its website that touted Fahey’s antisemitic book The Rulers of Russia.

“It’s nothing new, and I think it’s incumbent on us to recognize that this happened in the past, and sort of reckon with how we handled it then—because it’s obviously insufficient,” said Alon Milwicki, a historian and senior research analyst at SPLC. “It’s happening again.” What’s new in comparison to Coughlin’s era is the internet, which makes it possible to spread the message far and wide.

Gloria.TV, an online news-sharing platform and social-media network operating under the motto “the more Catholic, the better,” is providing one of the larger stages for Fahey’s anti-Semitic claims. It carried a five-part reading of Fahey’s 1938 book, The Rulers of Russia, last April and May, posted by an outlet called Defeat Modernism, which has 42,300 YouTube subscribers and more than 6.6 million views since its founding a decade ago. (Gloria.TV and Defeat Modernism did not respond to emails requesting comment.)

The Rulers of Russia repeats much of what Fahey had written earlier in The Mystical Body of Christ in the Modern World, building on Fahey’s gross exaggeration of the role of Russian Jews in the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Fahey used false information from extremist sources to claim that nearly the entire Bolshevik leadership was Jewish—or as Fahey put it, that “Bolshevism is really an instrument in the hands of the Jews for the establishment of the future Messianic kingdom.” Bolshevism, according to Fahey, was simply “the most recent development in the age-long struggle waged by the Jewish Nation against the Supernatural Massias, our Lord Jesus Christ, and His Mystical Body, the Catholic Church.”

The Rulers of Russia was listed twice on EWTN’s website as part of the network’s library of “enlightened reading” on Catholicism. It said of The Rulers of Russia: “This book exposes the real forces behind the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, and shows that its ramifications extended far beyond the borders of Russia. This book is important reading to one who wishes to understand the real threat of Communism.”

What’s new in comparison to Coughlin’s era is the internet, which makes it possible to spread the message far and wide.

In response to questions from Commonweal, EWTN removed the listings. They “were part of a prolife encyclopedia of historical and other material acquired by EWTN from the American Life League in the 1990s in the early stages of developing our website and online library,” EWTN Communications Director Michelle Johnson said in an email. “The reference was never endorsed by EWTN.” (American Life League, which describes itself as “the oldest grassroots Catholic pro-life education organization in the United States,” didn’t respond to a request for comment. Fahey’s books do not appear in the library on its own website.)

Promoters of Fahey’s work brush aside the notion that it is anti-Semitic, saying his challenge was to the Jewish religion and was not race-based. “These are the pathetic terms of opprobrium hurled with such energy by those enemies of Christ whose plans he has effectively opposed,” Loreto Publications says on its website.

Loreto Publications’ exact relationship to the St. Benedict Center isn’t clear, but the two work on a parallel track, with Loreto offering books that support the community’s unorthodox views (as well as many classic Catholic books). The president of the company, Douglas Bersaw, is reportedly active in St. Benedict’s Center, as was a previous editor-in-chief.

In 2019, the local Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester, New Hampshire, determined that the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary at St. Benedict’s Center in Richmond is “not a Catholic organization.” This separation results from St. Benedict Center’s opposition since the 1940s to Catholic teachings that set out a possible route to salvation for non-Catholics, sometimes called a “baptism of desire.”

Loreto Publications calls itself “a Catholic missionary apostolate specializing in the publication and distribution of Catholic books designed to aid Catholics in their efforts to convert America to the Catholic religion.” Despite that Catholic-centric description, the company was unable to convince the New Hampshire Supreme Court that it was a part of the Roman Catholic Church after the Diocese of Manchester maintained it was not.

Bersaw declined to comment for this article. Brother André Marie Villarrubia, the prior of Saint Benedict Center, didn’t return a message seeking comment. He has used his radio show Reconquest,, and his substantial social-media presence to promote Fahey’s work.

This remains a far cry from the mass-media promotion Coughlin gave Fahey through his multimedia empire: national radio, magazine, and book-publishing platforms. Within a month after Coughlin announced that Fahey’s work was “proof” of his own claims about Jews and communism, the prominent Msgr. John A. Ryan published an article in a little magazine—Commonweal—that detailed the falsehoods in Fahey’s work. For example, Fahey based some of his claims on a report in an anti-Semitic British periodical called the Patriot. It cited a French journal from 1920, which in turn claimed to have gotten information about the Bolshevik revolt from an “American Secret Service” report to French authorities. But the head of the federal agency said, after a careful search of records, that “it is quite certain that no such report was ever made by the United States Secret Service.”

Fahey provided the cladding of academic respectability to the armor the political crusader Coughlin wore in the public square.

The archbishop of Detroit, Edward Mooney, ordered Coughlin to cease his activities in 1942 after learning that he faced possible federal sedition charges. The late historian Sr. Mary Christine Athans wrote in her 1991 book, The Coughlin-Fahey Connection, that Coughlin continued to correspond with the Irish theologian, at several points urging him to write a treatise on the “Mystical Body of Satan,” the enemies of Christ. He implied in a private letter to Fahey that this included Jews: “Definitely, those who have rejected Christ beyond all doubt are those advocating the heresy of Judaism.”

Fahey, a member of the Holy Ghost Congregation, didn’t do that. But even after the Second World War and Holocaust made painfully clear the result of anti-Semitic hatred, he continued on the same path. In a book he published in 1953, a year before his death, he minimized the number of Jews murdered by the Nazis. He wrote that

the disordered National-Socialist reaction against the corroding influence of Jewish Naturalism on German national life led not only to measures of repression against the Jews, with regrettable violations of their personal rights, but also to persecution of the Catholic Church. Comparatively little information ever reached the great newspaper-reading, cinema-going public, while hardly anyone could fail to be aware of what was done to the Jews.

By reviewing a cache of Fahey’s correspondence, Athans documented how Fahey maintained contact with like-minded Americans. This included the demagogic preacher Gerald L. K. Smith, leader of the Christian Nationalist Crusade, and Jack B. Tenney, a California state senator who led the legislative Committee on Un-American Activities. As Athans wrote, “Fahey provided a substantial group of Americans, both Catholic and Protestant, with a theological rationale for their anti-Semitic orientations.”

Paul Moses is the author, most recently, of The Italian Squad: The True Story of the Immigrant Cops Who Fought the Rise of the Mafia (NYU Press, 2023). He is a contributing writer. Twitter: @PaulBMoses.

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